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hardened and the ocean was disclosed He introduces Anchises also relating to Eneas in the Elysian fields, that in the beginning a divine Spirit sustained the universe, which was of celestial origin, and pervaded every part; employing a language derived from Platonic notions, and common to the poets.
It appears then, that though many of the Heathens were materialists, yet that the writers most eminent among them asserted the creation of the world by an omnipotent Being.
* Virg. Ecl. vi.
On the General Belief of the Divine Origin and Immortality of the Soul among the Heathens.
A BELIEF in the divine origin and immortal nature of the soul is to be found among the earliest and most general persuasions of all nations. There is no antiquity so remote, and no people so barbarous, as not to manifest some indications of these persuasions: they are to be regarded, however, rather as speculative opinions, mixed with error, than as pure and efficacious principles. Homer opens in his poem some intimations of a future state, in which his heroes were to exist. Herodotus relates that the Egyptians first believed in the immortality, together with the transmigration of the soul*, and the same persuasions were received by the Brahmins †,
Indians, and Thracians. Cæsar represents the Druids to have anxiously instilled the doctrine of the unperishable nature of the soul, which they also supposed to pass from one body to another, after death *.
The belief in a transmigration, here ascribed to the Egyptians and Druids, is illustrated by Virgil, who represents Æneas to have contemplated in the Elysian fields, souls preparing to enter into other bodies, by drinking of the oblivious streams of Lethe; and in a noble episode which Milton, (and perhaps Shakespeare) has imitated, the succession of the distinguished descendants. of the Trojan prince is made to pass in review before him, The conviction, however, was not so general, as not to require a frequent renewal of argument upon the subject, nor so strong as to exclude doubt, even from minds, of enlarged capacity and considerable attainments. Individuals often expressed their scepticism or their fears, and some sects publicly denied the doctrine. The best and ablest men, however, maintained it with the strongest assurance, The reasonings of So
* Lib. vi. cap. 13. Strabo, lib. iv. Amm. Marcell. lib. xv. cap. 9.
+ Sallust Bel. Cat. Orat. C. Cæsaris,
crates, Plato*, and Xenophon†, were urged with the greatest impression among the Grecians, and Cicero deemed himself justified in considering it as a doctrine admitted by the consent of all nations.
Juvenal speaks of man as capable of divine things, and as having derived an understanding from heaven such as brutes do not possess §.
Pliny commends Hipparchus for having proved the relation of man' with the stars, and maintained that the soul was a part of heaven. Lucian also supposes the soul to have emanated from divine wisdom.
The learned among the primitive Christians insisted with great effect on these and other passages, which contained intimations of the divine nature and immortality of the soul, received as axioms, or xowas evocar, observing that the main particulars and foundations of Christianity were thus granted by the philosophers as universal truths. It must, however, always be remembered, that
*Phædo, et passim Mela, lib. ii. Grot, de Verit. lib. i. cap. 22.
↑ Memorabilia et Cyropædia. Tuscul. Quæst. lib. i. cap. 16.
§ Sat. xv. 1. 148-156.
Nat. Hist. lib. ii. cap. 24.
these persuasions were received only as reasonable and probable conjectures, and did not generally operate to practical and moral effects. They were supported by poets and philosophers, but they wanted the confirmation of divine authority. It is to revelation alone, that we are indebted for that assurance which has left no excuse for doubt. The persuasions were affirmed with increased confidence among the Heathens, after the promulgation of the Gospel.