Obrazy na stronie

forfeited at the battle of Pharsalia. Indeed, Cæsar not only gave him that life which he had forfeited by joining the party of Pompey, (who had murdered his father,) but Cæsar's affection and partiality towards him was such, that Plutarch says he gave particular orders to his officers, after the abovementioned battle, that if they met with Brutus, by no means to kill him ; and if he would not surrender himself, to let him escape. Though, from the erroneous principles of Pagan philosophy, Brutus thought he acted right, in reality he acted very wrong; and his wrong conduct was the cause of his enduring a great deal of inişery whilst he lived, of his suffering a violent death, and his making this false exclamation prior to it; "O virtue, virtue, I have worshipped thee,

ás a sovereign good; but I find thou art "only an empty name.” This misery, whilst he lived, his violent death, and the bitter exclamation he made at his decease, were all owing to his real ignorance of the nature of true virtue, and would have been avoided, had he been better instructed.. Cato's selfmurder is another instance of mistaken virtue.

In the same erroneous manner was virtue


[ocr errors][ocr errors]

considered by Stilpo, the celebrated Megarean philosopher. When the city in which this man lived was destroyed, with his wife and children, and he alone escaped from the fire, being asked, whether he had lost any thing? he replied, All my treasures are still with me; justice, virtue, prudence, temperance, and this inviolable principle, not to esteem any thing as my proper good which can be ravished from me. Nothing, I think, can better evince the superiority of the doctrines of Jesus Christ over those of philosophy, than the different conduct prescribed by each under such a heavy calamity as the one above mentioned. This philosopher, whom Diogenes Laertius places at the head of the Stoics, considered the stifling and overcoming the natural feelings of tenderness, love, and affection, as the height of virtue; and the indulgence of those amiable feelings which imply goodness of heart, and whose existence in the human mind makes it, in some degree, resemble the divine, he considered beneath the dignity of philosophy. Now the Christian religion does not require the extinction of the affections, it only enjoins their due and reasonable regulation; it requires us to rejoice with those that rejoice,

[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

and to weep with those that weep, and to be kindly affectioned one to another; in short, it every where encourages a tender, benevolent, sympathetic. attention equally to the happiness and to the misery of our fellow-creatures; and, instead of the vain and unnatural effort made by this man to suppress all feeling of grief for the loss of his wife and children, and to glory, as it were, in his savage apathy, it dictates to us in so distressing a situation to relieve our agony by humbly opening our heart, and submitting our grief to that merciful and gracious God, who does not despise a broken and a contrite heart, imploring him to pity and relieve our anguish by the effusion and operation of his grace and holy Spirit. Reason likewise suggests, that we should endeavour to assuage it by communicating our affliction to some feeling friend; for, as Lord Bacon observes in his Essay on Friendship, it is very unwise to let the heart prey on itself; and that one of the principal fruits of friendship is the ease and discharge of that painful fulness which the soul feels under affliction by imparting it. He further observes, that “whosoever, in the frame of his “ nature and affections, is unfit for friend


ship, he taketh it from the beast, and not “ from humanity.” Such a man as Stilpo may, if he pleases, call himself a philosopher; but if the principles of his philosophy are such as to annihilate every tender, friendly, and generous feeling, it shews, however highly the word philosophy may sound in theory, what a poor system it is when reduced to practice; and that a set of precepts more congenial to the frame of human nature than it could communicate was absolutely wanting, that mankind should possess that portion of temporal as well as eternal happiness, which a gracious God in his goodness and mercy intended it should enjoy. But the happiness of the most literate heathens was eminently defective in this respect, that it was wholly centered in this life; for, excepting Socrates, Plato, Cicero, and a very few others*, we have every reason to be of opinion they had no serious persuasion of a future' state. Sallust tells us, that in an oration which Julius Cæsar made to the Roman Şenate, he affirms, that

[ocr errors]

. * Bishop Warburton, in his Divine Legation, assigns many solid reasons to induce a belief, that Socrates alone had


firm and constant faith in a future state.

no man of a liberal education believed in it.
Now by what charm, I should be glad to
know, if our Saviour had been only the son
of a carpenter, could he have inculcated so
general a belief in a future state, that as
formerly, and before his doctrines were di-
vulged, scarcely any literate man believed in it,
since their promulgation, no man hardly is to
be found, literate or illiterate, who does not
believe in it. Let any man consider, with
heartfelt thankfulness consider, what a trea-
sure of happiness bis mind is possessed of
in consequenee of the blessed doctrines of
Revelation! When the ship is tossed, dread-
fully tossed, what a charming reflection it is
to think the anchor is safe, and the harbour
secure! When the affairs of this life are in
all respects cross and perverse, when the
body is ill, the mind oppressed, and the
spirits dejected, what consolation, whạt in-
expressible happiness to man, to be able to
cheer his soul with the consideration, that,
he believes in and practises the doctrines of
the Gospel, and will endeavour, as well as he
can, to love, honour, and obey his Maker,
in a few years, through the goodness of
God and the merits of his Redeemer, he will
be admitted to a participation of those plea-

[ocr errors]
« PoprzedniaDalej »