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dissertation is to be found in the adages of Erasmus, and has been printed apart under the title of Bellum.
Art. ERASMUS. PELANTRY. SOME critics have contemned the Latin of Ovid. Passerat owns, that he had professed the Belles Lettres a long time before he explained any of Ovid's pieces; and that because he found a reigning prejudice against that poet. Balzac was not ignorant of the whimsical taste of this Italian. “I knew,” says he, " that under the pontificate of Leo X., a Venetian gentleman that was much esteemed by Fracastor, and by whose name he called his Dialogue of Poesy, had a custom on his anniversary birth-day of solemnly burning the works of Martial, as an annual sacrifice to the manes and memory of Catullus. I knew equally well, that another refined critic of the same time maintained, that the corruption of the Roman language commenced in the person of Ovid, whose Metamorphoses he translated for the use of his son, that he might learn the Fables without the danger of adopting Ovid's way of speaking, and that in seeking out the riches of poetry, he might not endanger the nobleness of his own style by a contagious reading. Scaliger observes, that Peter Victorius and Lambinus contemned Ovid extremely.” Another learned critic complains in the same strain without mentioning any body.- Art. OVID.
(His Idea of Godlike.) PERICLES a little before he died, said a very judicious thing, which has given Plutarch occasion to make a solid reflection upon the nature of God; but that author went too far; he overstrained the idea of infinite goodness; he affirmed that it could do no
harm, and he would rather impute evil to another
“ When he was drawing on, and near his time," writes Plutarch, “the best of the citizens, and those of his friends who were left alive, sitting about him, were discoursing of his virtue and authority, how great it was, and were reckoning up his famous actions and achievements, and the number of his victories; for he had gained nine battles, and there were no fewer than nine trophies, which he, as their chief commander and conqueror of their enemies had set up for the honour of the city and state. These things they talked of together among themselves; as though he did not understand, or mind what they said, but had been utterly deprived of his senses; but he had listened all the while, and given good heed to all their discourse, and speaking out,
aid, that he wondered they should commend and take notice of those things in him, which were as much owing to fortune as to any thing else, and had happened to many other captains in former times, as well as to himself, and that at the same time they should not speak or make mention of that which was the most excellent and greatest thing of all: for said he, there was never any of all my fellow citizens that ever wore black, or put on mourning upon my account.”
Here follows Plutarch's reflection : “ To me it pears, that this one thing of him, made that otherwise childish and arrogant title which they gave him by nicknaming him Olympian, (that is, the Heavenly, or Godlike) truly become him: I mean his kind and courteous carriage, and pure and unblemished conversation in the height of power and place. According to the notions that we have of the gods themselves, in their kind ; who because they are naturally the authors of all good things, and are not the authors of any evil, we think worthy to rule and govern the world. Not as the poets rudely fancy, who, confounding us with their foolish unmannerly
apconceits and opinions, contradict themselves in their own poems and fictitious stories. First, they call the place wherein they say the gods make their abode, a secure and quiet seat, free from all hazards and commotions, not troubled with winds, nor darkened with clouds, but at all times alike, shining round about with a soft serenity and a pure light; inasmuch as such tempered station is most agreeable and suitable for a blessed and immortal nature to live in; and yet at the same time affirm, that the gods themselves are full of trouble, and enmity, and anger, and other passions, which no way become or belong even to men that have any understanding.”
What Plutarch says here against the poets is very fine and solid; the rest is a deceitful beauty, and may be compared with poisoned flowers, that cover a serpent, "latet anguis in herba.” Perhaps it will be thought that I mean that there are in those words some seeds of the false doctrine of Epicurus, concerning the tranquillity of the gods, free from hatred and anger; but it is not that: Plutarch does not present us the poison of Epicurus, but that of Manicheism: we have seen elsewhere, that he positively declared for the doctrine of two principles. He mentions it again in this reflection
Pericles' anHe does not believe, as Epicurus did, that God enjoys an idle rest; he ascribes to him action and providence; but it is only a bountiful providence, which distributes favours and happiness. It is not a providence which grows angry sometimes, which punishes and corrects, and oppresses mankind with miseries. He does not approve that Pericles should have had the sirname of the Olympian, that is to say, divine and heavenly, because his elnquence lightened, thundered, and fulminated, but because he never made use of his authority to revenge bimself, and not one family ever put on mourning upon his account. Plutarch's opinion was not the most common; most people knew the divinity of Jupiter better by thunder and lightning than by the distribution of benefits. The religious ceremonies of the Heathens were rather appointed to avert the anger of the gods, than to obtain favours from them; yet there was a general notion, which prevailed every where, that nothing is more agreeable to the divine nature than to do good. The epithet of optimus (best) went before that of maximus (greatest) when they praised Jupiter. “Sed ipse Jupiter, id est juvans pater, quem conversis casibus appellamus à juvendo Jovem à poëtis pater Divumque, hominumque dicitur ; à Majoribus autem nostris Optimus, Maximus, et quidem ante Optimus, id est beneficentissimus, quàm Maximus : quia majus est, certeque gratius prodesse omnibus, quàm opes magnus habere. *—But Jupiter, that is, helping father, whom we call so because he relieves us in our afflictions, is called by the poets the father of gods and men: but by our ancestors he was styled Optimus Maximus; the epithet optimus, which signifies the most gracious, being put first, because it is better to be good than great.
The philosopher Antipater defined God an animal, happy, immortal, and good to all men. Persæus, the disciple of Zeno, attending to Cicero, says,
" that those were accounted gods who were the authors of useful inventions, and that the inventions were called by the names of gods : he does not style them the inventions of gods, but divine inventions.” It was also the way of obtaining the Apothcosis, if we believe Pliny:t " It is god-like for one man to help another; it is the road that leads to eternal glory. In this way the Roman heroes travelled, and in this heavenly path the most excellent prince Vespasian, with his children, now walk, relieving those that are in misery. It was the custom of the ancients to shew their gratitude, by deifying those who had done great and good actions. For the names of all the other gods, and of the constellations I have above recited, take their rise from the good offices performed by men.” Others giving a more reasonable turn to it, have said that the gods had inspired men with the invention of arts. The Scythians told Alexander : “ If thou be a god, thou must do good to men, and not take from them what is their own; si Deus es, tribuere mortalibus beneficia debes, non sua eripere.” Sound theology agrees with all these notions of the ancient Heathens. There are innumerable passages in the Scripture, whereby it appears that God is infinitely more inclined to use mercy than severity.
* Cicero, de Nat. Deor. liv. ii, cap. xxv. * Plin. lib. ii. cap. vii. pag. m. 143, 144.
I have read in the voyage of Sir Francis Drake, that the inhabitants of New Albion took the English for gods, and paid divine honours to them, because when they shewed their wounds to them, they received plaisters and salves which cured them. On the contrary, the Spaniards were looked upon as gods in America, because they did a great deal of mischief with their cannons. Their ship was taken for a bird that brought them down from heaven ; which shews that two opposite things lead men to the knowledge of God, viz. the power to do ill, which he exercises so severely, and the goodness wherewith he bestows a thousand benefits upon mankind. It may be a question, whether one of those two attributes be more knowable than the other. Tacitus pretends, that the gods are more inclined to punish men, than to let them be quiet.* “Nec enim unquam,” says he, "atrocioribus populi Romani cladibus magisve justis judiciis approbatum est, non esse curæ deis securitatem nostram, esse ultionem.
The dreadful calamities of the Roman people evidently (prove, that the gods desire not our quiet but our misery." A journalist maintains that the effects of goodness are
* Tacit. Hist. lib. i. cap. iii.