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ces, and the worship cf the gods: the first was instituted by Romulus; the second by his succeilbr, Numa ; who drew up a ritual, or order of ceremonies, to be observed in the disk-rent saciifices of their several deities: to these a third part was afterwards added, relating to divine admonitions from portents; monstrous births; the entrails of beasts in sacrifice; and the prophecies of the sybils. The College of Augurs presided over the auspices, as the supreme interpreters of the will ofjo-vc; and determined what signs were propitious, and what not: the other priests were the judges of all the other cafes relating to religion, as well of what concerned the public woistiip, as that of private families.
Now the priests of all denominations were of the first nobility of Rome, and the augurs especially were commonly senators of consular rank, who had passed through all the dignities of the republic, and by their power over the auspices, could put an immediate stop to- all proceedings, and dissolve at once all the assemblies of the people convened for public business. The interpretation of the sybils prophecies was veiled in the decemviri, or guardians of the sybilline" books, ten persons of distinguistied rar.k, chosen usually from the priests. And the province of interpreting prodigies, ard inspecting the entrails, belonged to the harufpices; who were the servants of the public, hired to attend the magi.lrates in all their sacrifices; and who never failed to accommodate their answers to the views of thole who employed them, and to whose protection they owed their credit and their livelihood.
This constitution of a religion among a people naturally superstitious, necessarily threw the chief influence of affairs into the hands of the senate, and the better sort; who by this advantage frequently checked the violences of the populace, and the factious attempts of the tribunes: so that it is perpetually applauded by Cicero as the main bulwark of the republic; though considered all the while by men of sense, as merely political, and of human invention. The only part that admitted any dispute concerning its origin, was augury, or their method of divining by auspices. The Stoics held that God, out of his goodness to men, had imprinted on the nature of things certain marks or notices cf future events; as on the entrails cf beasts, the flight of birds, thunder, and other ce/estialsigns, which, by long observation, and
the experience of ages, were reduced into an art, by which the meaning of each sign might be determined, and applied to the event that was signified by it. This tr,cv called artificial divination, in distinction from the natural, wiiich they supposed to flow from an instinct, or nati ve power, implanted in the soul, which it e.xei ted always with the greatest efficacy, when it was the most free and disengaged from the body, as in dreams and madness. But this notion was generally ridiculed by the other philosophers; and of all the College of Augurs, there was but one who at this time maintained it, Appius ClaLdius, who was laughed at for his pains by the rest, ar.d called the Pisidian: it occasioned however a smart controversy between him and his colleague Marcellus, who severally published books on each side of the question; wherein Marcellus asserted the whole affair to be the contrivance of stairs \en; Appius, on the contrary, that there was a real art and power of divining fubststing in the augural discipline, and taught by the augural books. Appius dedicated this treatise to Cicero, who, though he preferred Maicellus's notion, yet did not wholly agree with either, but believed that augury might probably be injilulcd at firjl upon a persuasion cf its divinity; and when, by the improvements of arts and learning, that opinion was exploded in succeeding ages, yet the thing itself was •wifely retained for the fake of its use to the republic.
But whatever was the origin of the religion of Rome, Cicero's religion was undoubtedly of heavenly extraction, built, as we have seen, on the foundation of a God; a providence; an immortality. lie considered this short period of our life on earth as a slate of trial, or a kind of school, in which we were to improve and prepare ourselves for that eternity of existence which was provided for us hereafter; that we were placed therefore here by our Creator, not so much to inhabit the earth, as to c.nternplate the heavens; on which were imprinted, in legible characters, all the duties of that nature which was given to us. He observed, that this spectacle belonged to no other animal but man: to whom God, for that reason had given an creel and upright form, with eyes not prone or fixed upon the ground, like these of other animals, but placed on high and sublime, in a situation the most proper for this celestial contemplation, to remind him perpetually of his talk, and to acquaimt him with the place on which he sprung, and for which he was finally designed. He took the system of the world, or the visible works of God, to be the promulgation of God's law, or the declaration of his will to mankind; whence, as we might collect his being, nature, and attributes, so we could trace the reasons also and motives of his acting; by observing n/hat he had done, i'je might learn TJihat iuc ought to do, and, by the operations c/ the divine reason, be injlrlifted bo-iv to ferfeel our rum; since the perfection of man consisted in the imitation of God.
Prom this source he deduced the origin of all duty, or moral obligation; from the nvill of God manifested in his works; or from that eternal reason, fitness and relation us things, which is displayed in every part of the creation. This he calls the original, immutable laiv; the criterion of good and ill, of just and unjust; imprinted on the nature of things, as the rule by which .all human laws are formed; which, whenever they deviate from this pattern, ought, ■he lays, to be called any thing rather than laws, and are in effect nothing but ads if force, 'violence, and tyranny. That to imagine the distinction of good and ill mt to he founded in nature, but in custom, opinion, or human institution, is mere folly and madness; which would overthrow all society, and confound all right and justice amongst men: that this was the constant opinion of the wisest of all ages;Who held, that the mind of God, governing all things by eternal reason, <was the principle and j'overeign law; 'whose substitute on earth vias the reason or mind of the wife: to which purpose there are many strong and beautiful passages scattered occasionally through every part of his works.
"The true law," fays he, " is right rea"son, conformable to the nature of things; "constant, eternal, diffused through all; "which calls us to duty by command"ing; deters us from sin by forbidding; "which never loses its influence with the "good, nor ever preserves it with the "wicked. This cannot possibly be over"ruled by any other law,. nor abrogated "in the whole, or in part: nor can we be "absolved from it either by the senate or "the people; nor are we to seek any "other comment or interpreter of it but "itself: nor can there be one law at "Rome, another at Athens; one now, "another hereafter; but the fame eter
"nal, immutable law, comprehends all "nations, at all times, under one common "Master and Governor of all, GOD. '• He is the inventor, propounded enactor "of this law; and whosoever will not "obey it, must first renounce himself, and "throw ofF the nature of man; by doing 14 which, he will suffer the greatest pu"niihment, though lie should escape all "the other torments which are com"morrly believed to be prepared for the "wicked."
In another place he tells us, that the study of this law was the only thing which could teach us that molt important of all lessons, said to be prescribed by the Pythian oracle, To Know Ourselves; that is, to know our true nature and rank in the universal system, the relation that we bear to all other things, and the purposes for which we were sent into the world. '* When a man," says he, '* has atten"tenlively surveyed the heavens, the earth, "the sea, and all things in them, ob"served whence they sprung, and wiiither "they all tend; when and how they are "to end; what part is mortal and perish"able, what divine and eternal: when he "has almost reached and touched, as it "were, the Governor and Ruler, of them "all, and diicovered himself not to be "confined to the walls of any certain "place, but a citi/.en of the world, as of "one common city; in this magnificent "view of things, in this enlarged pro. "fpect and knowledge of nature, good "gods! how will he learn to know bim"self? How will he contemn, despise, and "set at nought all those things which "the vulgar esteem the most splendid and "glorious?"
These were the principles on which Cicero built his religion and morality, which shine indeed through all his writings, but were largely and explicitly illustrated by him in his Treatises on Government and oil Laws; to which he added afterwards his book of OHices, to make the scheme complete: volumes which, as the elder Pliny fays to the emperor Titus, ought not only to be read, but to be got by heart. The first and greatest of these works is lost, except a few fragments, in which he had delivered his real thoughts so profeslbdly, that in a letter to Atticus, he calls thoje fix books on the republic, so many pledges given to his country for the integrity of his life; from which, if ever he swerved, he could never have the face to look into them 3 A \ again. again. In his book cf Laws, he pursued the same argument, and deduced the origin of law from the will of the supreme Gcd. These two piec?s therefore contain his belief, and the book os Offices, bis practice: wh?re he has traced out all the duties of man, or a rule of life conformable to the divine principles, which he had establilhed in the other two; to which he often refers, as to the foundation of his whole system. This work was one of the last that he finished, for the use of his son, to whom he addressed it; being desirous, in the decline of a glorious life, to explain to him the maxims by which he had governed it, and teach him the way of passing through the world with innocence, virtue, and true glory, to an immortality of happiness: where the strictness of his morals, adapted to all the various cafes and circumstances of human life, will serve, if not to instruct, yet to reproach the practice of most Christians. This was that law, which is mentioned by St. Paul, to be taught by nature, and 'written on tie hearts cf the Gentiles, to guide them through that state of ignorance and darkness, of which they themselves complained, till they mould be bless.d with a more perfect revelation of the divine will; and this scheme of it prof sled by Cicero, was certainly the most complete that the Gentile world had ever been acquainted with; the utmost effort that human nature could make towards attaining its proper end, or that supreme good for which the Creator had designed jt: upon the contemplation of which sublime truths, as delivered by a heathen, Erasmus could not help persuading himself, that the breast from ivbich they flowed, must needs have been inspired by the Deity.
But aster all these glorious sentiments that we have been ascribing to Cicero, and collecting from hi? writings, some have been apt to consider them as the flourishes rather of his eloquence, than the conclusions of his reason, since in other parts of his works he seems to intimate rot only a diffidence, but a disbelief os the ■•■I-urtality cs the soul, and a suture state os rfis. dt and punishments; and especially in his letters, where he is supposed to declare his mind with the greatest frankness. But in a!! the pasiages brought to support this objection, where he is imagined to speak cf death as the end of all things to man, as they are addressed to friends in distress by way of consolation; so seme
commentators take them to mean notiing more, and that death is the end as all things here below, and 'without any farther fense of 'what is done upon earth; yet should they be understood to relate, as perhaps they may, to an utter extinction of our being; it must be observed, that he was writing in all probability to Epicureans, and accommodating his arguments to the men; by offering such topics of comfort to them from their own philosophy, as they themselves held to be the most effectual. But if this also should seem precarious, we must remember always, that Cicero was an academic; and though he believed a future state, was fond of the opinion, and declares himself resolved never to part with it; yet he believed it as probable only, not as certain; and as probability implies some mixture of doubt, and admits the degrees of more and less, so it admits also some variety in the stability of our persuasion: thus, in a melancholy hour, when his spirits were depressed, the fame argument will not appear to him with the fame force; but doubts and difficulties get the ascendant, and w hat humoured his present chagrin, find the readiest admission.
The paslages alledged were all of this kind, and written in the season of his dejection, when all things were going with him, in the height of Cæsar's power; and though we allow them to have all the force that they can possibly bear, and to express what Cicero really meant at that time; yet they prove at last nothing more, than that, agreeably to the characters and principles of the Academy, he sometimes doubted of what he generally believed. But, after all, whatever be the fense of them, it cannot surely" be thought reasonable to oppose a few scattered hints, accidentally thrown out, when he was not considering the subject, to the volumes that he had deliberately wiitien on the other side of the question.
As to his political conduct, no man was ever a more determined patriot,or a warmer lover of his country than he: his whole character, natural temper, choice of life and principles, made its true interest inseparable from his own. His general view, therefore, was always one and the fame; to support the peace and liberty of the republic in that form and constitution of it, which their ancestors had delivered down to them. He looked upon that as the only foundation on which it could be supported, and used to quote a verse of old Ennius, is the dictate of an oracle, which derived all the glory of Rome from an adherence to its ancient manners and discipline.
Moribtu antiquis stat res Romina virifque.
Fragm. de Rcpub. 1. 5.
It is one of his maxims, which he inculcates in his writings, that as the end of a f ilet is a prosperous voyage; of a phyfician, tit health of his patient; of a general, victory, ft that of a statesman is, to make his citizens happy; to make them firm in power, rich in wealth, splendid in glory, eminent is vii tue, "which he declares to be the greattfl and hcjl of all works among men: and as this cannot be effected bat by the concord and harmony of the constituent members of a city; so it was his constant aim to unite the different ordeis of the state into one common intere', and to inspire them with a mutual confidence in each other; so as to balance the supremacy of the people by the authority of the senate; that the Om should cnail, but the other advise; the one have the last resort, the other the chief influence. This was the old constitution of Rome, by which it had been raised to all its grandeur; whilst all its misfortunes were owing to the contrary principle of distrust and distension between these two rival powers: it was the great object, therefore, of his policy, to throw the ascendant in all affairs into the hands of the fatate and the magistrates, as far as it was consistent with the rights and liberties of the people; which will always be the general view of the wife and honest in all popular governments.
This was the principle which he espoused from the beginning, and pursued to the end of his life: and though in some passages of his history, he may be thought perhaps to have deviated from it, yet upon an impartial view of the cafe, we (hall find that his end was always the fame, though he had changed his measures of pursuing it, when compelled to it by the violence of the times, and an over-ruling force, and a necessary regard to his own lafety; so that he might fay with great troth, what an Athenian orator once said in excuse of his inconstancy; that he had etted indeed on some occasions contrary to himMf, but never to the republic: and here also his academic philosophy seems to have shewed its superior use in practical as well as in speculative life, by indulging that liberty of acting which nature and reason require; and when the times and things
themselves are changed, allowing a change of conduct, and a recourse to new means for the attainment of the fame end.
The three sects, which at this time chiefly engrolied the philosophical part of Rome, were the Stoic, the Epicurean, and the Academic; and the chief ornaments of each were, Cato, Atticus, and Cicero, who lived together in strict friendship, aod a mutual esteem of each other's virtue; but the different behaviour of these three, will shewby fact and example, the different merit of their several principles, and which of them was the best adapted to promote the good of society. The Stoics were the bigots or enthusiasts in philosophy, who held none to be truly wise but themselves; placed perfect happiness in virtue, though stripped cf every other good; affirmed all fins to be equal; all deviations from right equally wicked; to kill a dunghill cock without reason, the fame crime as to kill a parent % a wife man could never forgive, never be moved by anger, favour or pity; never be deceived; never repent; never change his mind. With these principles Cato entered into public lisa, and acted in it, a? Cicero fays, as if he had lived in the polity of Plato, not in the dregs of Romulus. He made no distinction of times or things; no allowance for the weakness of the republic, and the power of those who oppressed if. it was his maxim to combat all power, not built upon the laws, or to defy it at least if he could not controul it: he knew no way to this end but the direct, and whatever obstructions he met with, resolved still to push on, and either surmount them or perish in the attempt; taking it for baseness and confession of being conquered, to decline a tittle from the true road. In an age, therefore, of the utmost libertinism, when the public discipline was lost, and the government itself tottering, he struggled with the same zeal against all corruption, and waged a perpetual war with a superior force; whilst the rigour of his principles tended rather to alienate friends, than reconcile enemies; and by provoking the power that he could not subdue, helped to hasten that ruin which he was striving to avert; so that after a perpetual course of disappointments and repulses, finding himself unable to pursue his own way any farther, instead of taking a new one, he was driven by his philosophy to put an end to his life.
But as the Stoics exalted human nature too high, so the Epicureans depressed it * too too low; as those raised to the heroic, these ..debased it to the brutal state; they held ■pliasuic to be the,chief good cf a man; drath the extinction of his being; and placed iheir happiness consequently in the secure .enjoyment of a pleasurable life, esteeming virtue on no other account, than as ft was a. hand-maid to pleasure; and helped to insure the possession of it, by preserving health and conciliating friends. Their wile man had therefore no other duty, but to pro-vide for his ow n ease; to decline all struggles; to retire from public affairs, jird to imitate the Use cf their go.ds; by passing his days in a calm, contemplative, undisturbed repose; in the midst of rural Jhades and pleasant gardens. This was the scheme that Atticus followed: he had all the talents that could qualify a man to he useful to society; great parts, learning, judgment, candour, benevolence, generohty; the fame love of his country, and • the fame sentiments in politics with Cicero; whom he was always advising and urging to act, yet determined never to act himjself; or never at least so far as to disturb his ease, or endanger his safety. For though he was so strictly united with Cicero, and valued him above all men, yet he managed an interest all the while with the opposite party faction, and a friendship even with his mortal enemies, Clodius and Antony; that he might secure against all events the grand point which he had in view, the peace and tranquillity of his life.
Thus two excellent men by their mistaken notion cf virtue, drawn from the principles of their philosophy, were made uselei. in a manner to their country, each in a dissyent extreme of life; the one always acting and exposing himself to dangers, without the prospect of doing good; the other without attempting to do any, resolving never to act at all. Cicero chose the middle way between the obstinacy of Cato, and the indolence of Atticus: he preferred always the readiest road to what was right, if it lay open to him: if not, took the next; and inpolitiesas in morality, when he couid not arrive at the true, contented himself with the probable. He ■often compares the salesman to the pilot, whose art consists in managing every turn of the winds, and applying even the most perverse ta the progress of his voyage; <o that by changing his course, and enlarging his circuit ot failing, to arrive with safety at his deiiined port. He men'.ioas
likewise an observation, which long experience had confirmed lo him, that none cf the popular and ambitious, ivho aspired to extraordinary commands, and to be leaders in the republic, ever chose to obtain their ends from the people, till they had first been repulsed by the senate. This was verified by all their civil dissensions, from the Gracchi down to Cæsar: so that when lie saw men of this spirit at the head of the government, who by the splendour of their lives and actions had acquired an ascendant over the populace; it was his constant advice to the senate, to gain them by gentle compliances, and to gratify their thirst for power by a voluntary grant of it, as the best way to moderate their ambition, and reclaim them from desperate counsels. He declared contention to be no longer prudent, than nubile it either did service, or at least not hurt; but when faction was grown too strong to be withstood, that it was time to give over sighting, and nothing left but to extract seme good out of the ill, by mitigating that power by patience, which they could not reduce by force, and conciliating it, if possible, to the interest of the state. This was what he advised, and what he practised; and it will account, in a great measure, for those parts of hit conduct which are the most liable to exception, on the account of that complacence, which he is supposed to have paid, at different times, to the several usurpers of illegal power.
Ke made a just distinction between bearing ivhat w cannot help, and approving •what ive ought to condemn; and submitted therefore, yet never consented to those .usurpations; and when he was forced to comply with them, did it always with a reluctance, that he expressed very keenly in his letters to his friends. But whenever that force was removed, and he was at liberty to pursue his principles and act without cortroul, as in his consulfiipr\n his province, and after Cæsar's death, the only periods of his life in which he was truly master of himself; there we fee him shining out in his genuine character, of an excellent citizen; a great magistrate; a glorious patriot: there we see the man who could declare of himself with truth, in an appeal to Atticus, as to the best witness of his conscience, that he had always done the greatest service to his country, •when it n.us in his po-iuer; or --when it -was not, had never harboured a thought of it, but u hat was divine. If we mult needs compare hinj