∴ The investigation of the quadrature of the circle indicates the knowledge of the four vulgar elements, which are themselves composed of elementary spirits or chief principles; as the circle, though round, is composed of lines, which escape the sight, and are seen only by the mind.
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The People of Pegu believe in two Principles, one author of Good and the other of Evil, and strive to propitiate the latter, while they think it needless to worship the former, as he is incapable of doing evil. The people of Java, of the Moluccas, of the Gold Coast, the Hottentots, the people of Teneriffe and Madagascar, and the Savage Tribes of America, all worship and strive to avert the anger and propitiate the good-will of the Evil Spirit.
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Therefore, according to the idea of Saint Thomas, the moral laws are the of the Divine WILL, only because they are the of the Absolute WISDOM and REASON, and the of the Divine NATURE. In this alone consists the of Deity to enact them; and thus only do we attain the certainty in Faith that the Universe is one Harmony.
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A general idea of purpose and regularity in nature had been suggested by common appearances to the earliest reflection. The ancients perceived a natural order, a divine legislation, from which human institutions were supposed to be derived, laws emblazoned in Heaven, and thence revealed to earth. But the divine law was little more than an analogical inference from human law, taken in the vulgar sense of arbitrary will or partial covenant. It was surmised rather than discovered, and remained unmoral because unintelligible. It mattered little, under the circumstances, whether the Universe were said to be governed by chance or by reason, since the latter, if misunderstood, was virtually one with the former. "Better far," said Epicurus, "acquiesce in the fables of tradition, than acknowledge the oppressive necessity of the physicists"; and Menander speaks of God, Chance, and Intelligence as undistinguishable. Law unacknowledged goes under the name of : perceived, but not understood, it becomes . The wisdom of the Stoic was a dogged submission to the arbitrary behests of one; that of the Epicurean an advantage snatched by more or less dexterous management from the equal tyranny of the other.
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The last stage is that in which the religion of action is made legitimate through comprehension of its proper objects and conditions. Man becomes morally free only when both notions, that of Chance and that of incomprehensible Necessity, are displaced by that of Law. Law, as applied to the Universe, means that universal, providential pre-arrangement, whose conditions can be discerned and discretionally acted on by human intelligence. The sense of freedom arises when the individual independence develops itself according to its own laws, without external collisions or hindrance; that of constraint, where it is thwarted or confined by other Natures, or where, by combination of external forces, the individual force is compelled into a new direction. Moral choice would not exist safely, or even at all, unless it were bounded by conditions determining its preferences. Duty supposes a rule both intelligible and certain, since an uncertain rule would be unintelligible, and if unintelligible, there could be no responsibility. No law that is unknown can be obligatory; and that Roman Emperor was justly execrated, who pretended to promulgate his penal laws, by putting them up at such a height that none could read them.
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The worship of abstractions continued the error which personified Evil or deified Fortune; and when mystical philosophy resigned its place to mystical religion, it changed not its nature, but only its name. The great task remained unperformed, of reducing the outward world and its principles to the dominion of the intellect, and of reconciling the conception of the supreme unalterable power asserted by reason, with the requisitions of human sympathies.