« PreviousContinue »
BOOK the great men of those parts, what it was he professed,
he said, nothing but philosophy, or a love of wisdom; which he made to consist in two things, a search after truth, and a pursuit of virtue. But by truth he did not understand the physical causes of things, but abstracted and metaphysical speculations; for his notion was, that there was no certainty to be had from mere sensible things, which rather perplexed and confounded men's minds, which were apt to judge by the impressions of sense; (and his opinion was, that the sense only transmitted the objects, but it was the mind which saw and heard, &c.) therefore, to prevent false judgments, he thought it necessary to draw off their minds from sensible objects: to this end he bethought himself of the way of reasoning by figures and numbers, (as before observed,) which were so soon and so grossly misunderstood. He had learnt, saith Porphyry, from the Eastern Magi, that God was light and truth; and therefore he looked on a search after truth as one way of assimilation to God. But the main thing was in the practice of virtue; of which there is a short abstract in the Golden Verses; and Hierocles declares in the beginning, The design of them all was to bring mankind
to a likeness to the Divine nature. And in this, saith Stob.Eclog. Eudorus in Stobæus, Socrates and Plato agreed with ed. Cant. Pythagoras, That this was the chief end of philosophy;
but Plato added, Katà tò duvaròv, as far as mankind
could attain to it. And so Alcinous expresses the sense Alcin.c. 27. of Plato : but he tells us, That Plato sometimes set it
forth by being wise, and just, and holy; sometimes by following God; because, according to the ancient saying, God is the beginning and end of all things. This, saith Hierocles, is the end of the Pythagorean philosophy, to give wings to our souls, that, when death comes, we may leave a mortal body behind us, and fly
to the immortal mansions above, and partake of a Di- CHAP. vine nature, as far as we are capable of it. And Simplicius, in the beginning of his Commentaries on Simplic.in
Categor. Aristotle, saith, The end of philosophy is to attain to our most perfect happiness ; and if a man arrived to the top of philosophy, he might be a God and not a man. These things I mention to shew that philosophy, as it was understood by the ancients, was far from excluding final causes, or moral considerations of things; since its great end was to bring men to a likeness to God.
This being then the true original end of philosophy, to improve men's minds in order to their happiness, how came the consideration of the great ends of God in the world to be thought unbecoming philosophical speculations ? The reason was, that the immortality of the soul hath been excluded too. For although, according to the doctrine of Des Cartes, its distinction from the body be asserted and proved, yet its immortality is passed over, under this pretence, that God may fix its duration by his will; and therefore, unless we know the will of God in it, we can determine nothing in philosophy about it. But the ancient philosophers made the immortality of the soul the foundation of all their inquiries, and therefore took in all such considerations as tended to improve, and refine, and purify the minds of men. For which end moral considerations are most proper : and therefore it cannot but seem strange to any thinking man, to observe these to be so industriously set aside, on pretence that we cannot find out the ends that God had in framing the world, and the several parts of it; and yet at the same time they pretend to have found all the mechanical powers of matter, which is much more difficult to comprehend. But of that afterwards; we now consider final causes. And have we
BOOK not reason to conclude, from the present frame of the
world with respect to mankind, that the Maker of it intended to dispose things for their advantage ? Let men consider the faculties of their minds, together with the materials about them, and the organs God hath given them to make use of them; and can they think otherwise but that God hath abundantly made up
to them what other creatures seem to exceed them in? Their understanding, and contrivance, and artificial inventions, go far beyond the natural strength and sagacity of brutes, as to the comfortable way of subsistence. They can make the brutes to be very serviceable to them, as to diet, clothing, journeying, habitations, &c. They can find out ways to communicate their thoughts to each other at a great distance, and entertain commerce in the remotest parts, by the help of their own inventions as to navigation. So that if one country be not sufficiently furnished, they can bring home the products of others. And so all the benefit of trading (which in these later ages is grown to so mighty a reputation above what it had in elder ages) is owing to the happy invention of the use of the magnet. But set aside these modern improvements, and consider mankind as mere natives of their several countries, take all together, and the inhabitants of the earth have no cause to complain of Providence; which makes up what is wanting in one thing, by such advantages
another way, that most nations are fond of their own Herod. I.i. countries, and would not change them. The ancient Mela, l. i.
geographers indeed mention people who cursed the risPlin. l.v. ing and setting sun, because his heat was intolerable
to them; and the philosophers thought they had great reason to conclude the torrid zone uninhabitable. But the experience of these latter times has found it quite otherwise, and that the places there were fully peopled,
and their condition tolerable enough, and in some re- CHAP. spects pleasant to them; as to the fruitfulness of land, and numbers of rivers, and plenty of commodities. And as to heat, that is very much qualified by the constant breezes in the day-time, and coolness of the nights; and the particular situation of some places, which at a very little distance have winter and summer; which shews that the seasons do not merely depend upon the sun, but upon the motion of the air ; for where that is stopt by the height of mountains, there is winter on one side, and summer on the other; as Is. Vossius observes on the coast of Malabar, and Is. Voss. de
Nilo, c. 12. about the mountains of Arabia, Congo, and Bengala, Ludolph. and other places: and Ludolphus confirms it concerning ad Hist. the mountains of Malabar; insomuch that, he saith, p. 101.
Æthiop. the king there may keep a perpetual summer, only by crossing the mountains. Others have given a more Philosophi. particular account of it, and tell us, that the Chersonese, between the rivers of Indus and Ganges, is divided in the middle by a ridge of high hills, which they call the Gate: on the one side is Malabar, and on the other Coromandel; and that it is winter on one side from April to September, and summer on the other, and that not above twenty leagues distance in crossing the mountains. And the same is said to be at Cape Razalgate in Arabia, and in Jamaica; which is imputed to the mountains stopping the current of vapours, wherein the particles of them are driven together, and fall down into drops of rain ; and so the seasons depend upon the monsoons or fixed winds in those parts; the north-east blowing on one side from November to April, and the southerly on the other from April to November. Sir H. Middleton speaks of so great cold Purchas, on the mountains of Arabia, that he could not have believed it, unless he had felt it himself; for he
Transac. n. 175.
Pil. tom. i. p. 255.
BOOK despised their information at Mecca, who knew the
country far better. But he thought he went according to reason, as the ancients did ; but experience hath plainly discovered their mistakes. For heat and cold are found not to depend merely upon the nearness or distance of the sun; for other things, we find, may
not only qualify that heat, but produce cold where it Acosta of was least expected. Acosta tells us, that the old phi1. ii. c. 2, 3. losophers went upon principles of common reason,
when they supposed the torrid zone was uninhabitable; but notwithstanding he found it so far from being so, that he thought it pleasant and agreeable, and saw it full of people : and he saith, that the air is clearest when the sun is farthest off, and fullest of clouds and rain when the sun is nearest : as he shews at large from the experience himself had in those parts. Some places of the torrid zone he observes to be temperate, as in Quito, and the plains of Peru; some very cold, as at Potosi ; some very hot, as in some parts of Æthiopia, Brazil, and the Moluccas. The temperateness of it he imputes to the rains, to the shortness of the days, the nearness to the ocean, the height of lands and mountains, but especially to the winds. For he saith, The providence of God hath so ordered it, that the fresh
and cool winds do qualify the excessive heat of the sun. L. iii. c. 8. But he observes, That, besides the breezes from the
sea by day, there are land winds by night, which serve very much to temper the heat of the air.
It looked like an objection against Providence, when men concluded, that, by the nearness of the sun within the tropics, so great a part of the earth as the torrid zone should be scorched by the sun, as not to be capable of habitation by mankind: but when the contrary is now found most certainly true, and such reasons are given for it, which mankind could not have thought of,