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place it is, that this author has more severely handled our belief, and more at large, than in any other part of all his writings, excepting only the Dialogue of Triephon and Critias, wherein he lashes his own false gods with more severity than the true; and where the first Christians, with their cropped hair, their whining voices, melancholy faces, mournful discourses, nasty habits, are described with a greater air of Calvinists or Quakers, than of Roman Catholicks or Church of England-men.
After all, what if this discourse last mentioned, and the rest of the Dialogues wherein the Christians are satirized, were none of Lucian's? The learned and ingenious Dr. Mayne, whom I have before cited, is of this opinion ; and confirms it by the attestation of Philander, Obsobæus, Mycillus, and Cognatus, whom since I have not read, or two of them but very superficially, I refer you, for the faith of his quotation, to the authors themselves.
The next supposition concerning Lucian's religion is, that he was of none at all. I doubt not but the same people who broached the story of his being once a Christian, followed their blow upon him in this second accusation.
There are several sorts of Christians at this day reigning in the world, who will not allow any man to believe in the Son of God, whose other articles of faith are not in all things conformable to theirs. Some of these exercise this rigid and severe kind of charity, with a good intent of reducing several sects into one common church; but the spirit of others is evidently seen by their detraction, their malice, their spitting venom, their raising false reports of those who are not of their communion. I wish the ancientness of these censorious principles may be proved by better arguments, than by any near resemblance they have with the primitive believers. But till I am convinced that Lucian has been charged with atheism of old, I shall be apt to think that this accusation is very modern.
One of Lucian's translators pleads in his defence, that it was very improbable a man who has laughed Paganism out of doors, should believe no God; that he who could point to the sepulchre of Jupiter in Crete, as well as our Tertullian, should be an Atheist. But this arguinent, I confess, is of little weight, to prove him a Deist, only because he was no Polytheist. He might as well believe in none, as in many gods; and on the other side, he might believe in many, as Julian did, and not in one. For my own part, I think it is not proved that either of them were apostates; though one of them, in hopes of an empire, might temporize, while Christianity was the mode at court. Neither is our author cleared any thing the more, because his writings have served in the times of the heathens to destroy that vain, unreasonable, and impious religion : that was an oblique service, which Lucian never intended us ; for his business, like that of some modern polemicks,
was rather to pull down every thing, than to set up any thing. With what show of probability can I urge in his defence, that one of the greatest among the fathers has drawn whole homilies from our author's Dialogues, since I know that Lucian made them not for that purpose? The occasional good which he has done, is not to be imputed to him. St. Chrysostom, St. Augustin, and many others, have applied his arguments on better motives than their author proposed to himself in framing them.
These reasons therefore, as they make nothing against his being an Atheist, so they prove nothing of his believing one Gov; but only leave him as they found him, and leave us in as great an obscurity concerning his rcligion as before. I much mistaken in my opinion as these great men have been before me; and this is very probable, because I know less of him than they ; yet I have read him over more than once, and therefore will presume to say, that I think him either one of the Eclectick school, or else a Skeptick :4 I mean, that he either formed a body of philosophy for his own use, out of the opinions and dogmas of several heathen philosophers, disagreeing amongst
may be as
4 The great inaccuracy with which this piece is printed has already been mentioned. We here find the word elective, which I conceive to be a mistake of the printer for eclectick, a word which he certainly did not understand. Our author has more than once used it, speaking of the ancient sects of philosophy,
themselves, or that he doubted of every thing; weighed all opinions, and adhered to none of them ; only used them as they served his occasion for the present Dialogue, and perhaps rejected them in the next. And indeed this last opinion is the more probable of the two, if we consider the genius of the man, whose image we may clearly see in the glass which he holds before us of his writings, which reflects him to our sight.
Not to dwell on examples, with which his works are amply furnished, I will only mention
In one, Socrates convinces his friend Chærephon of the power of the gods in transformations, and of a supreme Providence which accompanies that power
in the administration of the world. In another, he confutes Jupiter, and pulls him down from heaven to earth, by his own Homerical chain ; and makes him only a subservient slave to blind eternal Fate. I might add, that he is, in one half of his book, a Stoick, in the other an Epicurcan; never constant to himself in anyscheme of divinity, unless it be in despising his gentile gods. And this derision, as it shews the man himself, so it gives us an idea of the age in which he lived; for if that had been devout or ignorant, his scoffing humour would either have been restrained, or had not passed unpunished ; all knowing ages being naturally Skeptick, and not at all bigotted; which, if I am not much deceived, is the
proper character of our own. To conclude this article ; he was too fantastical, too giddy, too irresolute, either to be any thing at all, or any thing long ; and in this view I cannot think he was either a steady Atheist, or a Deist, but a doubter, a Skeptick, as he plainly declares himself to be, when he puts himself under the name of Hermotimus the Stoick, in the Dialogue, called the DIALOGUE OF THE SECTS.
As for his morals, they are spoken of as variously as his opinions. Some are for decrying him more than he deserves: his defenders themselves dare not set him up for a pattern of severe virtue. No man is so profligate as openly to profess vice; and therefore it is no wonder, if under the reign of Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, and the two Antonines, of which the last was his patron and benefactor, he lived not so much a libertine as he had it to be in his nature. He is more accused for his love of boys than of women. Not that we have any particular story to convincc us of this detestable passion in him ; but his own writings bear this record against him,--that he speaks often of it, and I know not that ever he condemns it. Repeated cxpressions, as well as repeated actions, witness some secret pleasure in the deed, or at least some secret inclination to it. He seems to insinuate, in his Dialogue of Loves, that Socrates was given to this vice; but we find not that he blames him for it, which if he had been wholly innocent himself, it became a philosopher to have done. But as we pass over a foul way as hastily