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Inquiry into the different kinds of numbering in use
among the ancients-Determination of that species of computation (alluded to by the Holy Spirit) which is to be used in numbering the Beast.
Having shewn in the preceding chapter that the number of the Beast is to be calculated according to some mode of numbering with which men are acquainted, we come now to consider the different modes of computation in use among the ancients, in order to discover, if possible, in what way the Beast's number should be reckoned. It is a well known fact among the learned, that long before the commencement of the Christian æra, the Greeks held numbers in very high veneration. Pythagoras, who lived upwards of five hundred years before the Incarnation, was the first that we read of, who reduced the mystery of numbers into some sort of system; and Plato, who flourished about a century later, put himself to incredible pains in explaining the Pythagorean mysteries with respect to numbers; but in many places Plato himself is very obscure, and in some parts of his works upon this subject his meaning is totally unintelligible, notwithstanding the great endeavours both of ancients and moderns to apprehend it. The Pythagorean and Platonic philosophers held that God, our souls, and
all things in the world, proceeded from numbers; and that from their harmonies, all things were produced.* Cicero says, that the Pythagoreans conceived that all things are the product of numbers and the mathematics. † And in his epistle to Atticus he observes, that the numerical system of Plato is an obscure thing. I W. Morell, in his Treatise upon the Origin of the Ancient Philosophers, says that“ Pythagoras, the prince of the Italian philosophers, and pupil of Pherecydes, taught, about the 60th Olympiad, that all things consist of numbers, that the monad is the beginning of things; that the dyad is the basis of every thing, from whence spring numbers, points, lines, planes, bodies, &c. &c."'S Aristotle || speaks of the opinion of the Pythagoreans in words to the following effect: “ These philosophers," says he, “ seem to imagine that number is the beginning of every
* Augustine's City of God, with notes, by L. Vives, Book vi. €. 5, note d.
+ Pythagorei ex numeris, et Mathematicorum initiis, proficisci volunt omnia. Cic. Acad. Quæst. Lib. iv. c. 37.
Augustine's City of God, by L. Vives, B. vi. c. 5, note d. $ Pythagoras, Italicorum philosophorum princeps, auditor Pherecydis, Olymp. LX. docuit: Ex numeris omnia constare; Monadem initium rerum esse; Dyadem rerum esse materiam. Inde numeros nasci, puncta, lineas, plana, corpora, &c. Antiq. Græcar. Tom. X. Col. 337, 338.
Η Φαίνονται δε και ούτοι τον αριθμόν νομίζοντες αρχήν είναι του δε αριθμού στοιχεία το άρτιον και το περιττόν· τούτων δε το μεν πεTrepaquévoy, TÒ È atteicoy. Lib. i. c. 5. See also, Iren. Lib. ii. c. 19, p. 142. Edit. 1702, à Grabe.
thing; and that the elements of number are even and uneven, the former of which is infinite, the latter finite.” Eustratius, in his first book of Ethics, speaks of the opinion of the Pythagoreans with respect to numbers in very nearly the same words with Aristotle, when he tells us, that “
that “ Pythagoras divided numbers into two orders, one of which is finite, or uneven, the other infinite, or even.” * Thus we find, from the testimony of several ancient writers, independently of the great work of Plato still extant, that the Greeks imagined numbers to be of the utmost consequence, and to contain the most sublime mysteries, as, in their estimation, there existed not one thing in the whole compass of nature, which had not a reference, directly or indirectly, to some particular number or num
Of all numbers, under which a mystery or mysteries were supposed to be couched, the Pythagoreans appear to have had the greatest predilection for those of three, four, seven, nine, and ten. Of each of these the most extravagant things have been asserted; and though, in favour of these numbers, many curious and, it must be allowed, singularly coincident circumstances have been brought forward; yet it must be granted that the great majority of the observations of the ancients upon not only these, but almost all other numbers which they have deemed mysterious, are ridiculous and absurd.
* Δύο συστοιχίας ο Πυθαγόρας εξέθετο, μίαν μεν ταύτην πέρας, περιττόν· ετέραν δε ταύτην άπειρον, άρτιον. Iren. Lib. ii. c. 19.
Aristotle tells us, that "it was a saying of the Pythagoreans that the whole and all things are terminated by threes, for,” say they,
say they, “ this number has the beginning, middle, and end of every thing." * With respect to this number there are numerous passages f in ancient authors. There were three Graces, three Fates, three Furies, the Muses were three times three, the bolt of Jove was trifid, the sceptre of Neptune was a trident, and the dog of Pluto had three heads. In this number the Pythagoreans also placed perfection, and made great use of it in their religious ceremonies. Virgil seems to have copied this sentiment, when he says in his eighth Eclogue: 1. 73, &c.
Terna tibi hæc primùm triplici diversâ colore
DRYDEN. The tetrad or quaternion number was emphatically called the mysterious number of Pythagoras,
* Καθάπερ γαρ φασι και οι Πυθαγόρειοι, το πάν, και τα πάντα τοϊς τρίσιν όρισαι· τελευτη γαρ και μέσον και αρχή τον αριθμών šXEI TOY ToŰ TÚvtos.-Aristot. Stagiritæ, De Cælo, Lib. i. c. 1,
+ Aulus Gellius's Attic Nights, by the Rev. W. Beloe, B. iii.
comprehending, according to him, all perfection, referred by some to the four elements, by others to the cardinal virtues. * “ The Pythagoreans, and with them Plato, attached to the number seven the mystery of a great revolution; and that when it had run through all its periods, nothing farther could be added, but the pristine state of things being then changed, a new one would commence." + Plato and others made a subtle distinction betwixt the numbers seven and nine, supposing the former to influence the body, the latter the mind. I Particular numbers were also supposed applicable to virtues, as four was called the number of justice, &c. &c. the world was also said by the Pythagoreans to have ten for its number. S “ The heathen deities had also peculiar numbers assigned them; as one was called the number of the chief god, two that.of Pallas, three that of Minerva, four that of Apollo, five that of Isis, six that of Osiris, seven that of Mercury, eight that of Ammon, &c. Hence a grass or flower that has a particular number of leaves clustered together was consecrated to that god to whom the respective number was appropri
* Attic Nights of Aulus Gellius, by Beloe, B. iii. c. 10.
+ Pythagorei, et cum illis Plato, in septenario numero mysterium petaßorñs usydams ponunt, ut illo per spatia sua confecto, amplius nihil addi possit, sed mutato pristino rerum statu, novus incipiat.-Georgius Schubartus de Diluvio Deucalionis, c. 2. Antiq. Græc. Gronov. Tom. X. col. 709.
# Attic Nights of Aulus Gellius, by Beloe, B. iii. c. 10. $ Beverley's Great Line of Prophetical Time, p. 134.