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stitious idolatry, and to undermine the decprooted prejudices, which the influence of many centuries had established. The edifices which heathen superstition had erected for the worship of false gods, were converted into temples, wherein the supplications of repentant and contrite hearts, were offered upon altars consecrated to the service of the one true God.
Besides the wonderful effect wrought in the moral and religious world, the promulgation of christianity, by pointing to new. objects, introduced new modes of thinking, and suggested new subjects for discussion and investigation. It presented a much more extensive field for speculation, and a much wider range for thought, and for the exercise of those reasoning faculties with which man is so liberally endowed, and which are given him to be employed not for bis own exclusive benefit, but for the good of the whole human family. At the important period of which we are speaking, the schools of philosophy exercised a very great influence over the minds of men, and the doctrines of some by enlightening the understandings of their disciples, prepared them, in some degree, to the reception of the principles of the christian faith. Some of the ancient systems, particularly that of Plato, inculcated opinions in morals remarkable for sublimity, and not a few approached very nearly to some of the great and fundamental doctrines taught by the apostolic teachers.. It was for this reason, that the philosophy of Plato, not only became a favorite system among the early christians, but many of the fathers incorporated the opinions of that philosopher with the doctrines of divine truth, thus, indeed, corrupting the purity of the christian faith, and giving to their pagan adversaries the opportunity of asserting, that Christ was indebted for his doctrines to the heathen philosophers and not to divine inspiration; that his principles were the “enticing words of man's wisdom-the philosophy and vain deceit after the traditions of men,” not the “demonstration of the spirit.” The corruptions which thus crept into the system through ignorance, have not only caused much trouble to divines and theologians in after-times. to explain away, but have been productive of many of the unfortunate disputes which have divided, and still continue to divide, the christian church.
Jesus Christ, as the founder of the christian system of religion, ras regarded, even hy his enemies, as one gifted with great
powers of intellect, to which most of the heathen writers of the time bear testimony. He was ranked among philosophers, and although his doctrines were different from those to which the world had been accustomed, he held no inconsiderable rank, as one to whom mankind were greatly indebted for many important discoveries as one who had rendered many things perfectly intelligible, which before were dark, mysterious and impenetrable. The mystery which enshrouded many of the operations of nature was removed, and what was inexplicable, according to the previous conceptions of men, when viewed by the brilliant light of christianity, was rendered perfectly clear. Many of the christian fathers, when addressing the heathens, spoke of christianity as the true and evangelical system of philosophy, as distinguished from the philosophy of the pagan world, thus ingeniously turning their attention towards it, without alarming their prejudices. By this means they were gradually initiated into a knowledge of the great scheme of Divine Providences for the pardon and redemption of man, and were assured of the resurrection of the body at the last day, as well as of that impor. tant and consoling truth, that death is the suspension, not the extinction of our being”—that the soul does not perish, but after death will pass into another world and there bloom in eternal spring-great and important truths which were but dimly seen, and not at all understood, by the lofty and aspiring minds of Socrates, Plato or Aristotle.
Among the philosophers of the different schools we have menționed, Lucius Seneca holds a distinguished place. Like Quintillian he was born at Corduba (now Cordova,) in Spain, about fifteen years before the death of Augustus, and was taken to Rome while yet a child. His father, Marcus Seneca, had considerable reputation as an orator, and the first studies of Lucius were directed to the same object. His genius, however, pointed in a different direction, and he became a disciple of Attalus, a philosopher of the stoic school, under whose instructions he continued until the doctrines of Zeno had taken deep root. Although a stoic in principle, he examined with care the doctrines of other sects, and the result of his examination was, a confirmation of the stoical doctrines. The mind of Seneca was well stored with the learning of the times, and although the study of oratory occupied but a small portion of his time, he was far from
being a contemptible orator. The first public office with which he was invested, was that of questor, after which he rose to some distinction in the court of Claudius, but was soon banished, through the influence of the infamous Messalina, the wife of Claudius, to the island of Corsica, where he continued eight years. In this retirement he devoted himself to the study of philosophy, and, as appears from a letter to his mother, he was "as cheerful and happy as in the days of his prosperity.” Influenced by his second wife Agrippina, Claudius recalled. Seneca from banishment, invested him with the office of pretor, and entrusted him with the education of Nero. In this task he was associated with Burrhus. By endeavoring to inculcate upon
his pupil just and equitable sentiments, and instructing him in the precepts of wisdom and virtue, they hoped to fit him for the head of a great empire. As long as Burrhus lived, Nero was restrained from the indulgence of those propensities and intemperate passions, which afterwards broke out with so much violence. After Nero's accession to the throne, Seneca enjoyed his favor, until envy and jealousy involved him in the conspiracy of Piso, and Nero embraced this opportunity of ridding himself of his preceptor, by ordering him to destroy himself, which event occurred A. D. 65, in the 534 year of his age.
The writings of Seneca, which have been handed down to us, are principally on subjects of philosophy and morality; and.consist of one hundred and twenty-four epistles, and several treatises on a variety of subjects. His writings have been censured by Quintillian, and other critics who have followed him, as corrupt and inelegant in their style. They are, however, highly valued at the present day for their excellent moral precepts, notwithstanding they are the produetions of a heathen philoso-pher. Seneca is also supposed to have written several tragedies, none of which are now extant.
The philosophy of the stoics appears to have made greater progress and secured more disciples, in the days of the empire, than any other sect. It acquired a great degree of credit in consequence of the heroic conduct of many persons of both sexes. who embraced its doctrines, and who supported by them in time of need, bravely encountered the terrors of death, to which they had been doomed by sanguinary tyrants, who delighted in the torrents of blood, they caused to be shed. Besides Seneca,
Rome could boast of several distinguished philosophers of this school, who flourished before the schools of heathen philosophy were swallowed up by the christian schools, among them we find the celebrated Epictetus, and the illustrious Marcus Aurelius Antoninus.
Epictetus was a Phrygian by birth, and was sold as a slave to Epaphroditus, one of Nero's domestics. He flourished from the time of Nero to the latter end of the reign of Adrian. He is sạid to have been an “acute and judicious observer of manners. His eloquence was simple, majestic, nervous and penetrating. His doctrines inculcated the purest morals, and his life was an admirable pattern of sobriety, magnanimity and the most rigid virtue.” Having fallen under the displeasure of Domitian, he was banished from Italy and fixed his residence at Nicopolis, where he delivered the precepts of his philosophy. They were so much admired by his disciples, that they committed them to writing, and it is to this circumstance the world is indebted for his “Enchiridion," or "Moral Manual,” collected by Arrian, the historian of Alexander the Great.
Marcus Aurelius Antoninus was the successor of Antoninus Pius, and was no less distinguished for his learning and virtue, than his imperial dignity. He early studied the stoic philosophy under Sextus Junius, and, at twelve years of age, appeared in the habit of a philosopher, and practised all the austerities of the stoic school. On the death of Antoninus Pius, being advanced to the empire, he governed with so much clemency and justice, that he obtained the general love of his subjects. Indefatigable in his attention to the duties of his high station, he still found leisure to devote to the pursuits of philosophy. Throughout his whole life, he is said to have exhibited a shining example of that equanimity of temper, it was the object of the stoic philosophy to produce in its disciples. His “Meditations” are still extant, and are regarded as valuable remains of that celebrated system of philosophy to which he was attached.*
* Enfield's Hist. of Phil.; Meditations of Mar. Aure.
History of literature from the accession of Commodus to the reign of
Constantine, including pagan and christian writers.
BETWEEN the accession of Commodus and that of Constantine, who removed the seat of empire from Rome to Byzantium, and thus contributed to the prostration of Roman glory, intervened a period of one hundred and twenty-six years. So unsettled were the affairs of the empire, that in this short interval no less than twenty-one princes were elevated to the dangerous height of the imperial throne, and, although a few of this number were able men, they had too much to occupy their attention in the preservation of their own power, to permit much time to be devoted to the concerns of literature. So lost were the Roman people to the principles of virtue--so little remained of their ancient generous spirit to animate their bosoms——so entirely were they ruled by the army and the pretorian guards, that they submitted their necks to the yoke, and the chains that tyranny had forged for them, without daring to raise their voices or their arms against such degradation. The conscript fathers, whose decrees were once obeyed over almost the whole of the known world, were now mere instruments—the obedient slaves of a tyrant's will. The noble spirit which once animated a Roman senate, and induced them to submit their necks to the swords of the Gauls, rather than become their slaves, had long since departed. When we look back to the origin of the republic, and follow its progress from the most 'humble beginning to the very pinnacle of renown-when we contemplate the Roman people in the splendor of their fame, the conquerors and arbiters of the world, in the full enjoyment of their civil and political liberty, the encouragers and promoters of science, literature and the arts-it becomes a matter of astonishment how such a people could submit to the rule of such profligate and contemptible tyrants as Commoduś, Caracalla and Heliogabalus. But nations, as well as individuals, have their seasons of prosperity and decline; and the ways of God are so inscrutible, that what appears to our limited view as strange and even unjust, may be