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PRELIMINARY DISSERTATION

OCTAVIUS

OF

MINUCIUS FÈLIX.

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ROM the Wildes of Africk, come we now into the Gardens of Italy; from the Ruggednesses of Teriullian, into the Plains of Minucius, en

rich'd with all the Delicacies of an easy and flowing Eloquence. For these two Apologists, tho they differ not in Countręy, and very little in Time, yet are they very much different in Dress, or in their Mode of Diétion.' In Tertullian; you see the Air of Carthage almoft in ev'ry Particle, a vast stock of Science of all forts, with a mighty Weight of Argument, and a very plentiful Vein of Salt and Poignancy, that runs thro', and highly Seasons all his Discourses. But tho' the Ore is very valuable, and worth digging for, yec is it extremely hard to come at; the Treasure is guarded about with a nost formidable Stile, and Men care not for Converfing much upon hard Terms, where they can't do it without the trouble of an Interpreter.

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But now in Minuciu, pure Gold lies just upon the Surface ; you find an extensive Genius at work, with all the Advantages of Politeness as well as Literature ; an agreeable infusion of Wit and Argument in the most pleasing Vehicle ; for he wants not Tertullian's Strength, and out.does him much in beauty and easiness of Expression. The Sweetness of his Stile, and the grateful Bitterness of his Satyr, like the happy Temperament in Arch-Bishop Tillotson's Writings, seem to be no ill Comment upon his Nature, but speak him Good and Gracious, Frank and Affable, a great Master of Address, and perfe&tly well skill'd in the Art of Persuafion; for his hard arguments, and soft Tongue, in Solomon's Phrase, break ihe Bone, and infinuate like Oyl: He Reasons severely, and Rallies delightfully, and Cuts and Cures with a gentle Hand. In a word, he was a most able Advocate, and the Christian Cause cou'd hardly fall into better Hands; for he seems made to Charm his Reader, and to carry him where he pleases. The Correctness and Beauty of his Language, I take to be much owing to his Profession; by Converling at Rome, and Pleading at the Bar, he in a great measure wore off the Afperities of the African Dialect, and polish'd up his strange Tongue to the Purity and Standard of the Latin Idiom.

In the Structure of this Dialogue, the Defign and Order are extremely Beautiful and Taking, and speak a Master-builder ; for in the very entrance, he insensibly lays hold upon our Passions with such bewitching words in the Chara&ter of his beloved Oilavius, and leads on to the occasion of the Conference with such awaking Descriptions, and fets off the minutest Matters with such surprising Imbellishments, that he has in a man. ner got our Hearts, before he comes to open his Cause. Had the Substance of this Conference been thrown into a single solitary Relation, the Discourse had not been halt to lively or affečting; but now in the Dialogue, w2 our felves seem to be present at the Debate, our

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Passions are engag’d, and all intent upon the issue of the Battel, we fee, and hear, and sympathize all the way, and at length bear part in the Triumph, at the Converfion of a Sinner.

Cæcilius called Natalis, and O&avius, who goes also by the Name of Januarius, are the two Difputants in the Dialogue, the first a Heatben, the other a Christian; between whom, our Minucius Felix Márcuś sits as Moderator. The most probable Conjecture, and not obscurely hirted at in the Text is, that they were all three * Africans; and whoever compares Tertullian, St. Cyprian, and Arnobius, with this of Minucius, will find the Tang and Shibboleth of Africk to be more or less a distinguishing Character in them all; fo fruitful has Africk been, (the noted Mother of Prodigies) in the Production of extraordinary Defenders of the Faith. The Triumvirat in this grand Affair of Religion had been all Heathens, and all profoundly practic'd in the Heathen impurities. Ottavius, and Minucius were both

Lawyers, and had let out their Tongües in the Pa. tronage of the vileft · Causes, and had both persecuted the Christians to the utmoft power of a malicious Eloquence. They had been sworn Brothers in iniquity, and by their own confession taken a long run in * Amours, in the Intreagues and Gallantries of the Age. O&avius's Eyes were the first opened, but like a true Christian Friend, he cou'd not be content to enjoy the Divine Light alone, and see his Minucius, his other half, lye in Darknefs, and the shadow of Death: They had, it seems, been lovely and pleasant in their former lives, and their love was wonderful, passing the love of Women; por were they divided in their Death, either as that implies a Death unto Sin, and a new Birth unto Righteousness

, or a real Death by the divorce of Soul and Body; for Olavius was no sooner enlighten'd, but

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he haftens with the glad Tidings to his Minucius; and Minucius on the other hand well knew that his second Self, his dear Oilavius, cou'd have no Defign upon him but his Happiness; and such an assurance, no doubt, fully prepar'd his Mind for the impressions of Reason; for words from the Mouth of such a Friend; drop like Honey from the Honey.coinb; when, from the Mouth of Micaiah, or a Prophet whom we hate, Truth it self becomes unacceptable. We are now then to look upon this blessed Paif as one in Religion, as well as Friendship; and their Christianity, we may well conclude, made no Abatements in Friendship, but only refin'd their Love, and made the Passion burn the Purer. Accordingly, we find these two heavenly Friends congratulating each other upon their new Life, and with all their Oratory, seeming to want words for the Joy. They look back upon the past pleasures of Sin with diftafte, shame, and forrow, and can relish nothing for the future, but the severities of the Christian Religion; the Transports they now exprefs, are like those of poor Wretches in fight' of Land after a fruitless and tempestuous Voyage, they are now in the Haven where they wou'd be; they both turn Advocates for the Faith ; and Racks and Tortures they overlook with Triumph; and without any other retaining Fee, but the prospe&t of a Happiness beyond the Grave, the two Lawyers ftrenuously maintain and plead the Cause of the Crucify'd Jesus.

The coming over of two such Advocates, gave a new Accession of Luftre to the Christian Party, and help'd to take off from that popular Obje£tion of Poverty and Ignorance, fo perpetually urg'd againft 'em; and there. fore · Arnobius, in a kind of Insult, lets ithe Heathen know, that Orators and Lawyers' of the first Magnitude had embraced the Doctrine of the Cross; and that he had his Eye upon our Minucius in this Encomium, is

Lib. 1.

no AO improbable Conjeéture. O&avius and Minucius feem now to be under no want but to reduce their ftraggling Friend, and make Cecilius as happy as themselves.

But this was a Work of Difficulty, and seemd to call for the last efforts of Reason and Friendship; for he was a Man of Latitude, and therefore hardly to be come at with Argument'; he was his own Idol, and had no Religion but to serve himself; he was loud, empty, and inconsistent, and in a word, a swaggering Atheistical Wit; for one while we find him for neither Gods nor Providence, and then again for both; for all the Gods in vogue, all the World over; a mighty stickler for implicit Faith, and blind Devotion, for Antiquity, Universality, and Temporal Success and Felicity, as Demonstrations of the Truth of the Roman Hearbenism; the very Three Notes, according to Bellarmine, of the Truth of the present Roman Church. And to compleat his Chara&ter, he had imbibed Philosophy enough to raise his Vanity, and corrupt bis Mind; enough only to intoxicate his Head with Conceit, and to set him at the greatest distance from the reach of Argument. But notwithstanding this seemingly inaccessible temper of Mind, we find Cecilius at length by the Grace of God and good words, a glorious Convert; and in all probability, the Converter of the Great St. Cyprian; for a farther Account of which I refer to Section the first, and Note the 3d in the following Treatise.

O&avius departed this Life first, and as I said before, in this Death also they were not divided; for Minucius persues him beyond the Grave, and in his Mind goes along with him into the other World ; he raises him again as it were by the Powers of Gratitude, and is never well without him in his thoughts; he blesses God for his Example, and keeps his good Instructions alive upon his Soul, and digests 'em into Spiritual Nourishment; and in short, reads us an admirable Lecture on a Primitive Duty, much out of Fashion and Repute at

present,

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