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us f/], you know, talk of them exactly in the fame Manner.
In short, all the Records of Antiquity affirm, that in the first Ages, the Conceptions of Mankind, their Manners and Dispositions were rude, barbarous, and brutal; that their Attainments went no higher than fatisfying, at any rate, the coarse Demands of their unrestrained Appetites: And thus being under no Controul in the Gratification of their selfish Passions, they ran into the most violent Excesses, and were perpetually invading and seizing each other's Property. This U the despicable Figure Mankind make, in the several ancient Pictures of their original State.
I acknowledge, faid Pbiloclts, that this was the Doctrine of the Epicureans; but the Principles of a particular Sect cannot be looked upon as the Standard of Antiquity. It is usual with the learned, when they are endeavouring to establish some favourite Hypothesis, to pick out a Passage from a Greek or Roman Author, that happens to coincide with the Notion to be advanced, and then argue from it, as a received Principle among the Ancients. Superficial Reasoners and minute Philosophers may be thus deceived; but Sopbranius, I am sure, is not so easily imposed upon. And if he had been in the Humour, he could have drawn up a long List of classical Names, to throw into
Mutum & turpe pecus.glandem atquecubilia propter, Unguibus & pugnis. dein fustibus, atque ita porro Pugnabant armis, &c. Hor. Sat. lib. i.
Nemora atque cavas monies fylvasque colebant, Et srutices inter condebant squallida membra,Lucret.
i. .- - - \ the
the Scale against those he just now mentioned.
What think you os the Golden Age, when
Nay, interposed ' Sopbronius, is pu are for soaring to the airy Regions of Romance, I will not endeavour to attend your Flight. I can follow you well enough, whilst you keep within the humble Paths of sober Reasoning; but the Towerings of an heated Imagination .are much too elevated for my Reach. '• •
— Have Patience, good Sopbronius J I was only going to mention wli3t some of the Ancients have thought concerning the State of Man, when 'he was yet new to Being, and fresh from the Hands of his Creator. The Description Ovid gives of his Situation, in that first Period of his Existence, seems (some poetical Embc.iishments excepted) such as, were we to reason a priori, we 'should conclude he was placed in. The first Characteristic he gives cf It.is Innocence— .
[d] Fir/? rose a golden Age! the human Mind
Seneca likewise gives an Account of the State of Nature.. as it stood in Saturn's Reign, exactly conformable to this Notion of social Virtue being then exercised in all its Purity and Peace [e] —
[d] Aurea prima fata est xtas, quæ vindice nullo, Sponte sua sine lege fidem rectumque colebat: Pœna metusque aberant, &c.
[e]" Tune ilia virgo, numinis magni dea, "Justitiacœlo missa, cum fancta Fide,
Nor does it seem in the least improbable, that such a Happiness might once have been the Lot of Mortals; though their present degenerate State is so different from it, as to need the strongest Restraints, to keep up any tolerable Degree of Order • in the World. The Lust of Avarice and Ambition now indeed divide Mankind, and destroy their mutual Harmony. But before Covetousness crept into the World; before Men had any Temptation to invade the Rights of Equality; when Titles, Distinctions, and Pre-eminences were yet unknown; why might not a Number of People have lived together in Amity, enjoying every thing in common, and content with the natural Products of the Earth in some happy Climate?
Because it is inconsistent with the Nature of human Creatures, answered Sopbronius^ that any Number of them should live together in Con
"Terras regebat mitis. Humanum genus
"Non bella norant &c."
Then Justice, Virgin pure, of sovereign .Power, With sacred Faith, attendant Handmaid, sent To this our Globe, Dominion held o'er Men, And rul'd w'nh absolute, but gentle Sway. Unheard was Discord's Voice, and Din of War, The Clash of Arms, and Trumpet's direful Sound. Nor Walls, nor Bulwarks, Cities yet had rais'd; Pervious and fase each unsenc'd Entrance lay. Peculiar Rights were then unknown to Men; One common Stock suppl/d the friendly Race. The teeming Earth pour'd out her fruitful Stores
Spontaneous to her Sons kind Parent (he,
And tender Guardian! pious Children they!
Seneca, Trag. Octav. Act. ii.
cord, cord, without the Curb of Government. Had we come into the World with such Dispositions, as our first Parents are faid to have poslefled before their Fall; then indeed those tranquil Joys, which have (it should seem) flourished only in Song, might have existed in reality. But as to their unhappy Offspring, born, as they are, with depraved Appetites, and inordinate SelfrPassions, it is absolutely impossible, that either Order, Peace, or Justice could ever have prevailed amongst them, without the Aid of some restraining .Force. Let a Man fairly examine Human Nature, the Tendency and Effects of our Passions; and he must allow this to be the Case.
It is in v«in to produce any Authority against the Nature of Things; and least of all, that of the Poets. They, ypu know, are not generally the strictest Reasoners; their Aim being rather to please thin inform. And though there is a Thing, which we call Truth in their Art; yet not being tied down\o severe historical Matter of Fact, they are at Liberty to create Scenes, which exist only in Imagination. But if Names are of any Force, I could produ.ce [/] Ifacrates, [g] Diodcrus, and Numbers of the most celebrated Ancients, who represent the Infancy of the World as rude and barbarous, as Hobbs, or any of the Moderns suppose it to have been. Seneca, I will not deny, seems to favour your Opinion: And in one of his Epistles, the Philosopher is not less warm than the
[/] Isocrates, Orat. iii. ad Nicoclem.
[g] Diodorus Siculus, lib. i. ^ ^
Poet, in the Description of a Golden Age [h]. But After he had Indulged ••his lively Genius in the Sallies of Imagination, Reason reaflumes her Seat, and he freely owns, that Philosophy was 'unknown to the World in that early- Period; that 'it was indeed an Age of Innocence, but riot of Wisdom; and that the moral Character was not then thoroughly-understood. For Virtue,'fays he, is not the Gift of Nature, but the Product of Art. The Seeds of it are indeed sown in our Hearts; but if they are not cultivated with the utmost Diligence and Care, they will for ever remain in a dormant and inactive State.
Does not this Concession entirely demolish the fine Fabric he had just before erected? For surely Mankind must have been absolutely incapable of living together in social Harmony, whilst the Mind had not yet received that Cultivation, which is requisite to unfold those latent Principles of Virtue; without which, it is impossible that Numbers can live together with any Sort of Comfort, or maintain any tolerable Degree of Peace and
[b] Quamvis egregia illis vita fuerit, & carens sraude, non suere fapientes-^-Non erant ingenia omnibus consummata—Non enim dat natura virtutera j ars est, bonum fieri— Ignorantia rerum innocentei erant. Multum autem interelt, utrum peccare aliquis nolit, an nefciat. Deerat illis jullitia, deerat prudentia, deerat temperantia '& fortitudo. Omnibus his virtutibus habebat similia quædam rudis vita: virtus non contingit animo, nisi institute & edocto, &;ad summum assiciua cogitatione perducto. Ad hoc quidem, fed sine hoc nalcimur: & in optimis quoque antequam erudias, virtutw niateria, non virtus est. v <"
Sin. Epist. 90.