« PreviousContinue »
What more shall we say ? Look at it, – look at this inward being, and say -- what is it?
- what is it ? Formed by the Almighty hand, and therefore formed for some purpose ; built up in its proportions, fashioned in every part, by infinite skill; an emanation, breathed from the spirit of God, — say, what is it? Its nature, its necessity, its design, its destiny, - what is it ? So formed it is, so builded, so fashioned, so exactly balanced, and so exquisitely touched in every part, that sin introduced into it, is the direst misery; that every unholy thought falls upon it as a drop of poison; that every guilty desire, breathing upon every delicate part and fibre of the soul, is the plague-spot of evil, the blight of death. Made, then, is it for virtue, not for sin,
- oh! not for sin, for that is death ; but made for virtue, for purity, as its end, its rest, its bliss ; made thus by God Almighty.
Thou canst not alter it. Go, and bid the mountain walls sink down to the level of the valleys ; go and stand upon the seashore and turn back its swelling waves; or stretch forth thy hand, and hold the stars in their courses: but not more vain shall be thy power to change them, than it is to change one of the laws of thy nature. Then thou must be virtuous. As true it is, as if the whole universe spoke in one voice, thou must be virtuous. If thou art a sinner, thou “must be born again.” If thou art tempted, thou must resist. If thou hast guilty passions, thou must deny them. If thou art a bad man, thou must be a good man.
There is the law. It is not our law; it is not our voice that speaks. It is the law of God Almighty ; it is the voice of God that speaks, - speaks through every nerve and fibre, through every power and element of that moral constitution which he has given. It is the voice, not of an arbitrary will, nor of some stern and impracticable law, that is now abrogated. For the grace of God, that hath appeared to all men, teaches, that, denying all ungodliness and every worldly lust, they must live soberly, and righteously, and godly in this present evil world. So let us live ; and then this life, with all its momentous scenes, its moving experiences, and its precious interests, shall be but the beginning of the wonders, and glories, and joys of our existence. So let us live; and let us think this, that to live thus, is the great, urgent, instant, unutterable, allabsorbing concern of our life and of our being.
ART. II. - The Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius Pamphi
lus, Bishop of Cesarea, in Palestine. In Ten Books. Translated from the Original by the Rev. C. F. CRUSE, A. M., Assistant Professor in the University of Pennsylvania. Philadelphia : Rev. R. Davis & Brother. New York: Swords, Stanford, & Co. 1833. 8vo. pp. 439. In briefly discussing the question, as we promised, * of the degree of credit to which Eusebius is entitled as an historian, we shall endeavour to proceed with due impartiality and caution. We are aware of the very great
fficulties which surround it, and of the impossibility, within the limits we have prescribed to ourselves, of doing the subject any sort of justice. But what we can we will attempt.
With a certain class of writers, it is well known, the authority of Eusebius is rated very low, and the attempt has been made to throw suspicion over his whole narrative, by the insinuation, that, having professedly suppressed the truth from motives of expediency in some instances, we have no certainty that he may not have allowed himself to violate it in others, since he that does the one proves himself capable of doing the other. And those who are disposed to think more favorably of him are pressed with the difficulty, that, while they are compelled by the laws of the understanding and common sense to reject some of his statements, as founded in misapprehension or error, they are accustomed to appeal to his testimony in other particulars as that of an unimpeachable witness. Now the inquiry occurs, Is this authorized ? Is it a mode of proceeding which is justified by the received laws of evidence ?
Before we enter on our discussion, however, we beg leave to offer a single preliminary remark. The importance of the writings of Eusebius considered as embodying testimony of the miraculous origin and truth of Christianity, we are inclined to think, is by some greatly overrated. Unquestionably, as we have said, we derive from him much information in regard to the progress of Christianity and the condition and writings of the earlier Christians, which it is exceedingly desirable to possess, and of the accuracy of which there can be no reasonable doubt. But we are not aware of a single fact forming part of the historical evidence of Christianity, and in stricts
* Christian Examiner for March, 1835, p. 100.
ness of speech necessary to establish its truth, which rests solely on the testimony of Eusebius, or the reality of which would be brought into doubt, were his credit for veracity as an historian completely destroyed. The rise of Christianity about the time at which it is reported to have originated; its speedy and wide diffusion; the dangers and sufferings to which its early converts were exposed; and the existence of several writings reputed to be the genuine productions of the Evangelists and Apostles, and which, as such, were generally read and commented on by Christians, as books containing an authentic record of their faith, and the repository of their religion, are facts the proof of which we do not derive from Eusebius. We derive it from public monuments, from the productions of a long and unbroken series of writers who lived before Eusebius, from Justin Martyr down to the end of the third century. Had his writings shared the fate of many others before and after his time, and been buried in oblivion, the Christian world would certainly have sustained a great loss, but the foundation of our faith would have remained firm as now.
We proceed to our main subject, the degree of respect to which Eusebius is entitled as a historian. He has been charged with negligence, suppression of the truth, deliberate fraud and forgery. The first of these charges we shall consider hereafter. The second is founded on two passages which occur in his “ History,” and “ Book of the Martyrs of Palestine,"'* in reference to which Gibbon has the following remarks. Speaking of the sufferings of the martyrs during the persecution under Diocletian, he says, “But I cannot determine what I ought to transcribe, till I am satisfied how much I ought to believe. The gravest of ecclesiastical historians, Eusebius himself, indirectly confesses, that he has related whatever might redound to the glory, and that he has suppressed all that would tend to the disgrace of religion. Such an acknowledgment will naturally excite a suspicion, that a writer who has so openly violated one of the fundamental laws of history, has not paid a very strict regard to the observance of the other." +
Nothing can be more disingenuous than this insinuation. We are aware that as much injury may be done by the sup
* Hist. viii. c. 2. Mart. Palest. c. 12. + Decline and Fall, c. xvi. Vol. II. p. 479. ed. Lond. 1821.
pression of truth, as by the utterance of falsehood. A writer may equally mislead in both ways. But we are by no means authorized to infer that a writer, who, for reasons he deems good and sound, avowedly passes over some incidents little to the credit of those of whom he is speaking, and tending in his view to weaken the effect of their example, is capable, as Gibbon would insinuate, of deliberately substituting fiction for fact. He may choose to write as a panegyrist, or, if he write with a moral purpose, may tell only so much of the truth as he may deem useful, and in so doing undoubtedly departs from the province of the mere historian. But if impartiality consists in saying every thing, good and bad, of characters and times brought under review, how many writers of narratives, historical or biographical, especially cotemporary narratives, we would ask, in the first place, will be found to exhibit it? And in the second place, we will venture to put the question, whether such impartiality, if that be the word, is, in all cases, desirable.
The biographer especially, we believe, is not considered as under obligation to divulge all the imperfections and foibles with which the habit of familiar and confidential intercourse, perchance, makes him acquainted in his subject. There are weaknesses, the memory of which may be allowed to perish when men are gone. The hand of friendship may be permitted to throw a veil over their imperfections ; nor do the interests of virtue or humanity require or authorize us, in all cases,
draw their 6 frailties from their dread abode.” Let Eusebius have even-handed justice. Let it be remembered, that, when he utters the obnoxious language alluded to, he is writing cotemporary history, — always a task of great delicacy; that of the actors in the scenes he is describing many yet survived, and others had left friends and family connexions, whose feelings would be wounded by too great freedom of speech ; that he wrote professedly with a moral purpose, with a design to recommend piety and virtue by dwelling on the lives and examples of the good and faithful, and some apology, we think, will be found for his omissions. The silence he professes to observe concerning certain characters and transactions neither creditable to religion, nor to humanity, if not a virtue, will appear at least no crime, and is no impeachment of his historical veracity. Because he tells us that he shall not relate all he saw and heard, it by no means follows that he is entitled to no credit for what he does relate. He is
quite frank and open in the business. He states to us plainly on what principle he proceeds; he uses no disguise, and no artifice, a circumstance which tends more than any other to strengthen our conviction of his honesty.
To what, after all, do the confessions of the grave historian amount ? He had brought down his narrative to the commencement of the fourth century, a period still fresh in his recollection, for he was then in middle age; and was now, probably, about twenty years after, or a little more, culling from bis reminiscences such facts as he deemed most worthy of preservation. Never perhaps had the affairs of Christians been more prosperous than at the period referred to, under the four associated Emperors. Eusebius labors to find words to describe their happy condition. * They were found in court and camp; they held offices of the highest civil dignity about the person of their sovereign, were admitted among his confidential advisers, and became in some instances governors of provinces. Their numbers rapidly increased, each day brought fresh accessions to their ranks, and they filled all parts of the empire. Everywhere churches rose without opposition, and of a magnitude and splendor before unknown. The consequences were such as might have been anticipated. Prosperity brought with it temptations which were but too feebly resisted. Security and ease begat luxury; and pride, effeminacy, and corruption crept in apace. To “ looseness and sloth,” the effect, says Eusebius, of too much liberty, were added dissimulation, hypocrisy, envy, and strife, each assailing others with words as with darts, and multitudes proceeding to add impiety to impiety, living more like atheists than like Christians. Many of the clergy, neglecting the duties of their calling, became the fomenters of discord, and thought of little but the means of gratifying their pride, ambition, and other passions.
Such, according to the testimony of Eusebius, was the state of Christians, when they were overtaken by the “just judgments of God," and the storm of persecution swept with tremendous fury over their devoted heads. Diocletian, excited by the inachinations of the cruel and ambitious Galerius Maximianus, issued several edicts, each more severe than the preceding, requiring that the sacred books of Christians
* Euseb. Hist. viii. 1.