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BOOK been the most certain account of the origin of the world.
For this opinion of Thales seems to have been part of that universal tradition which was continued in the world concerning the first principles of things ; for I do not see any reason to aver, with so much confidence as some do, that those philosophers who spake any thing consonantly to Moses, must presently converse with the Jews, transcribe their opinions out of the Scriptures, or have them conveyed to them in some secret cabala of the creation, as it is affirmed of Pythagoras and Plato, and may with no less reason of Thales But this I suppose may be made evident to any considerative person, that those philosophers of Greece, who conversed most abroad in the world, did speak far more agreeably to the true account of things, than such who only endeavoured by their own wits to improve or correct those principles which were delivered by the other philosophers; which I impute not so much to their converse with the Mosaic writings, as to that universal tradition of the first ages of the world, which was preserved far better among the Phænicians, Egyptians, Chaldeans, and others, than among the Greeks. For which we have this evident reason, that Greece was far more barbarous and rude in its elder times, than those other nations were, which had means of preserving some monuments and general reports of the first ages of the world, when the Grecians wanted them: and therefore we find that Greece, from its beginning, shined with a borrowed light; and saw not by an extramission of rays of knowledge from itself, but by an intromission of those representations of things which were received from other nations. Those who formed Greece first into civil societies, and licked it into the shape of well ordered commonwealths, were such who had been traders for know
ledge into foreign parts. To which purpose Diodorus Diodorus, Siculus informs us, that Lycurgus and Solon, as well as La Comb. the poets Orpheus, Museus,
Melampus, and Homer, and Ed. Wesseling.
the philosophers, afterwards Pythagoras, Plato, and others, V. Euseb. had gained most of their knowledge and wisdom out of Præp.
Egypt; nay, he saith in general, 6o 01 Tūv wap? "Eranou Evangel.
δεδοξασμένων επί συνέσει και παιδεία, σαρέβαλον εις Αίγυπτον εν
and homebred Greeks, such as Aristotle and Epicurus, CHAP. but from those who took the pains themselves to search
II. into those records which were preserved among the elder and more knowing nations : and although the nations they resorted to sought to advance their own reputation in the histories of their ancient times, of which we have already given a large account, yet they were more faithful in the account they gave of the origin of the whole universe. For it appears from Diogenes Laertius, that the Egyptians did constantly believe that the world had a Diog. Labeginning, and was corruptible; that it was spherical, and ert. Proæm. the stars were of the nature of fire; that the soul was of P. 7. an immortal nature, and did pass up and down the world : which Laertius cites from Hecatæus and Aristagoras. So that we need not make Pythagoras acquainted with such a cabala of the creation, which in all probability neither the Jews nor he ever dreamt of: we find a fair account may be given of most of the opinions of Pythagoras, and whence he derived them, without forcing the words of Moses into such a sense, which the plainness and perspicuity of the writings of Moses argue them not capable to admit of. But I will not deny, from those concurrent testimonies of Hermippus and Aristobulus, besides Ori-V. Selden. gen, Porphyry, Clemens Alexandrinus, and others, that deJure Nat. Pythagoras might have had an opportunity of conversing apud Ebræwith the Jews, (which it is most probable was in Chal-os, l. i. c. 2. dæa, after the captivity, at which time Pythagoras was there among them;) but that Pythagoras should converse with the successors of Elisha on Mount Carmel, as Vos-Voss. de sius thinks; or that Moschus, the Sidonian philosopher,
losoph. c.6. in Iamblichus, should be Moses, as others fancy; or that sect. 5. preexistence of souls should be part of the Mosaic cabala; or that the Pythagoric numbers, as they are explained by Nicomachus Gerasenus in Photius, should be adequate to the days of the creation, cabalistically understood, are fancies too extravagant and Pythagorean to be easily embraced. If Pythagoras was circumcised, it was more for love of the Egyptians than the Jews, among whom he spent twenty-two years; if preexistence of souls be a rational hypothesis, we may thank the Egyptians for it, and not Moses; if numbers be so expressive of the work of creation, we are beholden to the arithmetical hieroglyphics of Egypt for them. But although Pytha- V.Mathem. goras might not be acquainted with such a philosophic Hierogł:
Kircheri, cabala of the creation, which none of the Jews, as far as we can find, understood, till one more versed in Plato and Oedip. B 3
Plat. Philos. 1. i. cap. 5.
BOOK Pythagoras, than in the learning of his own nation, viz.
Philo of Alexandria, began first to exercise bis wit on the text of Moses, with Platonic notions ; yet I shall easily grant that Pythagoras, by means of his great industry and converse with the learned nations, might attain to far greater knowledge of many mysterious things in natural philosophy, and as to the origin of the universe, than any of the homebred philosophers of Greece, or it may be, than
any one of the nations he resorted to, because he had the advantage of comparing the several accounts of
them together, and extracting out that which he judged Plutarch.de the best of them. And hence Plutarch tells us, that the
first principles of the world, according to Pythagoras,
were these two : the one was το ποιητικόν αιτίων και ειδικών Ed. Franc. (omepési voūs & Jeos) an active and forming principle, and
that was God, whom he called mind (as Anaxagoras
And thus we see these two renowned founders of the Ionic and Italic societies of philosophers, both giving their concurrent testimony with Moses as to the true
origin of the world, and not at all differing from each Diog. Laer. other; for thus Thales speaks in Diogenes Laertius, V. Thalet. πρεσβύτατον των όντων, θεός: αγέννητον γάρ. κάλλιστον κόσμος, Ed. Lond. Toimuce ydp Dego God is the eldest Being, because unbegotten;
the world the most beautiful, because it is God's workmanPlato in ship. To which those expressions of Plato, in his Time
us, come very near, (whose philosophy was, for substance, Ed. Ficini. the same with the Pythagorean,) when he had before as
cribed the production of the world to the goodness of God; which goodness of his did incline him to make all other things like himself. Θέμις έτ' ήν έτ' εςι τα αρίσω δράν άλλο Adju tò xáraisov. For the most excellent Being cannot but produce the most excellent effects. And as to the material principle out of which the world was made, there appears no great difference between the cowg of Thales, and the úan of Plato and Pythagoras; for Plato, when he tells us what a kind of thing the material principle was, he describes it
thus, ουχ ήσυχίαν άγον, αλλά κινέμενον πλημμελώς και ατάκτως, Chalcid. which, as Chalcidius renders it, is motu importuno fluctuTim. p. 24. ans neque unquam quiescens, it was a visible corporeal
thing (tãy őov opatóv.) which was never at rest, but in continual disorderly motion and agitation : which is a full explication, I suppose, of what Thales meant by his water, which is the same with that inùs, or mixture of
mud and water together, which others speak of as the CHAP. principle of the universe; as Orpheus in Athenagoras,
II. and the scholiast on Apollonius, cited by Grotius and others. Which we have the more reason to believe, be- not. in l.i. cause the successors of Thales, Anaximander and Anax- de Ver. agoras, express themselves to that purpose. Anaximander Christ. Rel. called the sea, της πρώτης υγρασίας λείψανον, the remainder of the primitive moisture: and Anaxagoras says, before the Nós, or God, set things in their order, Trávtu xpýuatu yn biješ nepugléve, all things were at first confused together; which must needs make that which Chalcidius tells us Chalcid. in Numenius attributes to Pythagoras, which his translator Tim.p. 394. calls sylvam fluidam, or fluid matter. Which is the same likewise with the Phænicians' MWT, which, as appears by Eusebius, some call inur, others uaTibbous uitews cow, Euseb. some, mud or slime, others, the putrefaction of watery mix- Præp. tures, which they say was σπορα κτίσεως, και γένεσις των Evang. 1. . őrwv, the seed-plot of the creation, and the generation of Ed. Par. things. Thus we see how Thales, with the Phænicians, from whom he was derived, as Laertius tells us, and Pythagoras, with the Egyptians and others, concur with Moses, not only in the production of the world, but in the manner of it, wherein is expressed a fluid matter, which was the material principle out of which the world was formed; when we are told, that the earth was Gen.i. 2. without form and void, and the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters, i. e. that all at first was but fluid matter; for P. Fagius, from R. Kimchi, renders 77 by úrn, which fluid matter was agitated and moved by the Divine Spirit, or the vis plastica mundi ; so Chrysostom calls it évépyssa SwTixù, and so Drusius and P. Fagius explain 777 by motion or agitation. And herein we have likewise the consent of those forenamed excellent philosophers, who attribute the origin of particular things in the world to this agitation or motion of the fluid matter. For Chalcidius, speaking not only of Thales, Pythagoras, Chalcid. in Plato, but of Anaximenes, Heraclitus, and others, says 378. thus of them, omnes igitur hi--in motu positam rerum originem censuerunt: they all agreed in this, that the origin of things was to be ascribed to the motion of the parts of matter. So the Phænicians called this motion of the particles of matter αέρα ζοφώδη και πνευματώδη, α dark and blustering wind. And how suitable this explication of the origin of things, from the motion of fluid matter, is to the history of nature, appears by those many experiments by which mixed bodies are shewed to spring from no
in Chal. P: 37.
1. i. c. 3.
BOOK other material principle than the particles of fluid matter :
of which you may read a discourse of that ingenious and Boyle's
learned gentleman, Mr. Boyle, in his Sceptical Chymist. Sceptical Only thus much may here suffice to have made it appear Chymist, thať all those philosophers, who were most inquisitive P. 115, &c.
after the ancient and genuine tradition of the world concerning the first beginning of things, did not only concur with Moses in the main thing, that its beginning was from God, but in the particular circumstances of it, as to the fluid matter and motion thereof. Concerning which I may yet add, if it be material, the testimony of Homer
in Plutarch. Homer.
'Ωκεανός, όσπερ γένεσις πάντεσσι τέτυκται. Iliad. V. 246. And in Chalcidius: Inque eadem sententia Homerus esse Odyss. 6. invenitur, cum Oceanum et Thetin dicat parentes esse geni
turæ ; cumque jusjurandum Deorum constituat aquam, P. 378. V. Meurs. quam quidem ipse appellat Stygem, antiquitati tribuens re
verentiam, et jurejurando nihil constituens reverentius. To
which purpose likewise Aristotle speaks in his MetaphyAristot. Metaphys.
sics, that the reason why Styx was made the oath of the Gods, was because water was supposed to be the material principle of things; which he saith was dipxais tis aŰtn xai mañand wepi tñs purews oóča, a most ancient tradition concerning the origin of the universe. And tells us before, that some were of opinion, τες παμπαλαιές, και πολύ προ της νύν γενέσεως και πρώτους θεολογήσαντας, that the most ancient and remote persons, and first writers of theology, held this opinion of water being the first material principle of things.
Having thus made it appear what a consent there was between the ancient tradition of the world, and the writings of Moses, concerning the origin of the world, I now come to consider upon what pretence of reason this tradition came to be contradicted, and the eternity of the world asserted. For which we are to consider, that the difference of the former philosophers of the Ionic sect, after the time of Thales, as to the material principle of the world, one substituting air, another fire, instead of water, rendered the tradition itself suspected among other philosophers, especially when the humour of innovating in philosophy was got among them; and they thought they did nothing unless they contradicted their masters : thence came that multiplicity of sects presently among them; and that philosophy, which at first went much on the original tradition of the world, was turned into dis