Sivut kuvina

lity and firmness with which all the true believers followed the injunctions and example of their divine Master; and, on the other, to the ignorance under which the most accomplished among the pagans laboured, in regard to the principles of toleration, and the right of private judgment. "In the mean time," says he, "I have taken this course with all who have been brought before me, and have been accused as christians. Upon their confessing to me that they were, I repeated the question a second, and a third time, threatening also to punish them with death. Such as still persisted, I ordered away to be executed for it was no doubt with me, whatever might be the nature of their opinion, that contumacy and inflexible obstinacy ought to be punished."

Pliny, we may well suppose, was not the first in thus charging the christians with obstinacy and infatuation, and punishing them for their supposed guilt in this respect. The book which Philo published concerning the Esseans is, in many parts, employed to refute it; and hence it derives a singular value and importance. The author, with uncommon eloquence and energy, calls on the followers of Jesus to suffer and to die in support of their principles, and justifies them in undergoing the fiercest tortures rather than giving up their spiritual freedom. The

train of reasoning he uses, is that which seemed most likely to impress the minds of the pagans. Instead of recurring to the Jewish writings for examples to justify the sufferers, he appeals to those philosophers whom the Greeks themselves admired and esteemed; and shews that their sayings and their example, in many instances, breathed the same magnanimity, the same noble love of freedom, the same contempt of danger and of death, which the Jews had lately displayed in Egypt. This work, as I have already observed, is altogether founded on the persecutions of the Jews in Egypt during the three last years of Caligula's reign. It supposes not only that the Esseans suffered torture and death in support of their principles, but that they were deemed by their enemies foolish and obstinate. for doing so. Philo refutes this opinion: he represents the profession of the Jews as a prize, as a conflict, in which defeat was disgraceful, and the victory far surpassing the glory of those, who fought and conquered in the Olympic games. One extract of this important work it is here expedient to translate; and I shall conclude the chapter with a few remarks in illustration of it—" Pythagoras, it is said, inculcated on his venerable sect, that they should not walk in the public way. The precept is not to be understood in a literal sense as meaning that, when we journey, we should prefer

devious or rugged path; but in a metaphorical sense, that we should avoid the trite opinions of the vulgar. Those who have sincerely embraced philosophy, regard this precept, not only as reasonable, but sanctioned by the most sacred authority. Separating, therefore, from the herd of vulgar notions they have made a new path, inaccessible to such as are strangers to genuine wisdom, and have imbibed ideas which the impure alone are unable to entertain. I mean by the impure, those who have never tasted the feast of knowledge, or tasted it in an indirect and superficial manner, and hence have perverted the beauty of wisdom into base sophistry. Men of this sort being unable to perceive the intellectual light through the weakness of their understanding, the eye of which is necessarily dazzled by its excessive brightness, disbelieve, as if they lived in continued darkness, the things seen in the clearest light, thinking them to be mere prodigies or appearances not unlike the wonders, which jugglers perform to excite astonishment."

"Is it not absurd and astonishing to brand as fugitives those, who not only live in the midst of society, but fill several of the highest and most public offices; and, on the other hand, to compliment as citizens, men who have never been regarded as such, who have been sentenced to punishment and to exile, and who, so far from being able to return to their native land, cannot

even take a distant view of it without meeting death in its most frightful forms. For thousands are ready to seize and to tear them, being exasperated by a sense of the injuries done them, and at the same time acting in obedience to the laws? Is it not irrational, impudent, brutal, and something worse, not to be described for want of a name, to hold up, as overgrown in wealth, those who are destitute even of necessaries; who lead a life of toil and hardship, and earn scarcely their daily bread; who, in the midst of public plenty, plenty, submit to voluntary famine, feeding on virtue, as they say grasshoppers feed on air; and, on the other hand, to stigmatize as poor, those who are surrounded with ample possessions, large revenues, and abundance of all blessings; whose wealth, extending beyond their own families, supports large districts of indigent people, and supplies even whole communities with such things as are requisite in peace and in war. To the same folly it is owing, that they have dared to degrade as slaves men, who have derived distinction and freedom from the remotest ancestors; and to extol as free those who were born and educated in the meanest slavery. Things like these are the perverse fictions of men, who are blind in understanding, the slaves of interest, ambition, and

prejudice, which never fail to bias and to pervert the sober dictates of reason."

"It behoves the persons who are thus disordered in mind, if they have any zeal for truth, to act with the wisdom of those who, labouring under bodily disorders, consign themselves to the care of physicians to effect their recovery. But they are unwilling to cure their ignorance, that sad malady of the soul, by ranking among the disciples of wise and good men, who are desirous to unteach them their follies, and to furnish them with wisdom, as the only possession most worthy of man. For as Plato most eloquently writes, Envy (unwillingness to teach others) has no place in the assemblies of God. On the contrary, Wisdom, as being truly divine, is communicative and beneficent, excludes none from her sanctuary, but receives, with doors widely open, all who seek admission. For these her guests she draws copious draughts of pure instruction, and invites them to be inebriated with her sober streams. Those who are introduced, and who have drunk of her inspiring doctrines, now reproach themselves, that through contempt or aversion, they had so long wasted their days, and led a life that might be deemed lifeless, as a life destitute of reason. It is therefore the incumbent duty of every person to cultivate know

« EdellinenJatka »