« PreviousContinue »
sembled the Arians, on the other hand, and what use its tenets were to them, are the next points to consider.
The Arian school has already been attributed to Antioch as its birth-place, and its character determined to be what we may call Aristotelico-Judaic. Now, at very first sight, there are striking points of difference between it and the Eclectics. On its Aristotelic side, its disputatious temper was altogether uncongenial to the new Platonists. These philosophers were commonly distinguished by their melancholy temperament, which disposed them to mysticism, and often urged them to eccentricities bordering on insanity'. Far from cultivating the talents requisite for success in life, they placed the sublimer virtues in an abstraction from sense, and an indifference to ordinary duties. They believed that an intercourse with the intelligences of the spiritual world could only be effected by divesting themselves of their humanity; and that the acquisition of miraculous gifts would compensate for their neglect of rules necessary for the well-being of common mortals. In pursuit of this hidden talent, Plotinus meditated a journey into India, after the pattern of Apollonius; while bodily privations and magical rites were methods prescribed in their philosophy for rising in the scale of being. As might be expected from the professors of such a creed, the science of argumentation was disdained, as beneath the regard of those who were walking by an internal vision of the truth, not by the calculations of a tedious and
progressive reason; and was only employed in condescending regard for such as were unable to rise to their own level. When Iamblichus was foiled in argument by a dialectician, he observed that the syllogisms of his sect were not weapons which could be set before the many, being the energy of those inward virtues which are the peculiar ornament of the philosopher. Notions such as these, which have their measure of truth, if we substitute for the unreal and almost passive illumination of the mystics, that instinctive moral perception which the practice of virtue ensures, found no sympathy in the shrewd secular policy and the intriguing spirit of the Arians; nor again, in their sharp-witted unimaginative cleverness, their precise and technical disputations, their verbal distinctions, and their eager appeals to the judgment of the populace, which is ever destitute of refinement and delicacy, and has just enough acuteness of apprehension to be susceptible of sophistical reasonings.
On the other hand, viewing the school of Antioch on its judaical side, we are met by a different but not less remarkable contrast to the Eclectics. These philosophers had followed the Alexandrians in adopting the allegorical rule; both from its evident suitableness to their mystical turn of mind, and as a means of obliterating the scandals and reconciling the inconsistencies, of the heathen mythology. Judaism, on the contrary, being carnal in its views, was essentially literal in its interpretations; and, in consequence, as hostile from its grossness, as the Sophists from their dryness, to the fanciful fastidiousness of the Eclectics. It had rejected the Messiah, because He did not fulfil its hopes of a
temporal conqueror and king. It had clung to its obsolete ritual, as not discerning in it the anticipation of better promises and commands, then fulfilled in the Gospel. In the Christian Church, it was perpetuating the obstinacy of its unbelief in a disparagement of Christ's spiritual authority, a reliance on the externals of religious worship, and an indulgence in worldly and sensual pleasures. Moreover, it had adopted in its most odious form the doctrine of the Chiliasts or Millenarians, respecting the reign of the saints upon earth, a doctrine which Origen, and afterwards his pupil Dionysius, opposed on the basis of an allegorical interpretation of Scripture'. And in this controversy, Judaism was still in connexion, more or less, with the school of Antioch ; which is celebrated in those times, in contrast to the Alexandrian, for its adherence to the theory of the literal sense 4.
It may be added, as drawing an additional distinction between the Arians and the Eclectics, that while the latter maintained the doctrine of Emanations, and of the eternity of matter, the hypothesis of the former required or implied the rejection of both tenets; so that the philosophy did not even furnish the argumentative foundation of the heresy, to which its theology outwardly bore a partial resemblance.
3. But in seasons of difficulty men look about on all sides for support; and Eclecticism, which had no attrac
3 Mosh. de Rebus ante Const. sæc. iii. c. 38. + Conybcare, Bampt. Lect. iv. Orig. Opp. ed. Benedict. vol. ii. præf.
tions for the Sophists of Antioch while their speculations were unknown to the world at large, became a seasonable refuge (as we learn from various authors 5), in the hands of ingenious disputants, when pressed by the numbers and authority of the defenders of orthodoxy. First, there was an agreement between the Schools of Ammonius and of Paulus, in the cardinal point of an inveterate opposition to the Catholic doctrine of our Lord's Divinity. The judaizers admitted at most only His miraculous conception. The Eclectics, honouring Him as a teacher of wisdom, still, far from considering Him more than man, were active in preparing from the heathen sages rival specimens of holiness and power. Next, the two parties agreed in rejecting from their theology all mystery, in the ecclesiastical notion of the word. The Trinitarian hypothesis of the Eclectics was not perplexed by any portion of that difficulty of statement which, in the true doctrine, results from the very incomprehensibility of its subject. They declared their belief in a sublime tenet, which Plato had first propounded and the Christians corrupted; but their Three Divine Principles were in no sense one, and, while essentially distinct from each other, there was a successive subordination of nature in the second and the third. In such speculations the judaizing Sophist found the very desideratum which he in vain demanded of the Church; a scripturally-worded creed, without its accompanying difficulty of conception. Accordingly, to the doctrine
5 Vide Brucker, Hist. Phil. per ii. part ii. i. 2. & 8. Baltus, Défense des Pères, ii. 19. 6 åpxual Únoordoeis. Cudworth, Intell. Syst. i. 4 $ 36.
thus put into his hands he might appeal by way of contrast, as fulfilling his just demands; nay, in proportion as he out-argued and unsettled the faith of his Catholic opponent, so did he open a way, as a matter of necessity and without formal effort, for the perverted ereed of that philosophy which had so mischievously anticipated the labours and usurped the office of an ecclesiastical Synod.
And, further, it must be observed, that, when the Sophist had mastered the Eclectic theology, he had in fact a most powerful weapon to mislead or to embarrass his Catholic antagonist. The doctrine which Ammonius professed to discover in the Church, and to reclaim from the Christians, was employed by the Arian as if the testimony of the early Fathers to the truth of the heretical view which he was maintaining. What was but incaution, or rather unavoidable liberty, in the AnteNicene theology, was insisted on as apostolic truth. Clement and Origen, already subjected to a perverse interpretation, were witnesses provided by the Eclectics by anticipation against orthodoxy. This express appeal to the Alexandrian writers, seems, in matter of fact, to have been reserved for a late period of the controversy ; but from the first an advantage would accrue to the Arians, by their agreement (as far as it went) with received language in the early Church. Perplexity and doubt were thus necessarily introduced into the minds of those who only heard the rumour of the discussion,' and even of many who witnessed it, and who, but for this apparent primitive sanction, would have shrunk from the bold, irreverent inquiries and the idle subtleties