« PreviousContinue »
The mode of arguing and teaching in question which is called economical? by the ancients, can scarcely be disconnected from the Disciplina Arcani, as will appear by some of the instances which follow, though it is convenient to consider it by itself. If it is necessary to contrast the two with each other, the one may be considered as withholding the truth, and the other as setting it out to advantage. The Economy is certainly sanctioned by St. Paul in his own conduct. To the Jews he became as a Jew, and as without the Law to the heathen“. His behaviour at Athens is the most remarkable instance in his history of this method of acting. Instead of uttering any invective against their Polytheism, he began a discourse upon the Unity of the Divine Nature; and then proceeded to claim the altar", consecrated in the neighbourhood to the unknown God, as the property of Him whom he preached to them, and to enforce his doctrine of the Divine Immateriality, not by miracles, but by argument, and that founded on the words of a heathen poet. This was the example which the Alexandrians set before them in their intercourse with the heathen, as may be shown by the following instances.
Theonas, Bishop of Alexandria (A.D. 282-300), has left his directions for the behaviour of Christians who were in the service of the imperial court. The utmost
3 kat' oikovoulav.
4 [On the economies of St. Peter and St. Paul, vide Lardner's Heathen Test. ch. xxxvii. 7.7
5 [Vide this argument in the mouth of Dionysius (in Euseb. Hist. vii. 11, oỦ Távtes távtas, &c.) as his plea for liberty of worship, with the neat retort of the Prefect.]
caution is enjoined them, not to give offence to the heathen emperor. If a Christian was appointed librarian, he was to take good care not to show any contempt for secular knowledge and the ancient writers. He was advised to make himself familiar with the poets, philosophers, orators, and historians of classical literature; and, while discussing their writings, to take incidental opportunities of recommending the Scriptures, introducing mention of Christ, and by degrees revealing the real dignity of His nature.
The conversion of Gregory of Neocæsarea, (A.D. 231) affords an exemplification of this procedure in an individual case. He had originally attached himself to the study of rhetoric and the law, but was persuaded by. Origen, whose lectures he attended, to exchange these pursuits, first for science, then for philosophy, then for theology, so far as right notions concerning religion could be extracted from the promiscuous writings of the various philosophical sects. Thus, while professedly teaching him Pagan philosophy, his skilful master insensibly enlightened him in the knowledge of the Christian faith. Then leading him to Scripture, he explained to him its difficulties as they arose ; till Gregory, overcome by the force of truth, announced to his instructor his intention of exchanging the pursuits of this world for the service of God'.
Clement's Stromateis (A.D. 200), a work which has already furnished us with illustrations of the Alexandrian method of teaching, was written with the design of converting the learned heathen, and pursues the same plan which Origen adopted towards Gregory. The author therein professes his wish to blend together philosophy and religion, refutes those who censure the former, shows the advantage of it, and how it is to be applied. This leading at once to an inquiry concerning what particular school of philosophy is to be held of divine origin, he answers in a celebrated passage, that all are to be referred thither as far as they respectively inculcate the principles of piety and morality, and none, except as containing the portions and foreshadowings of the truth. “By philosophy," he says, “ I do not mean the Stoic, nor the Platonic, nor the Epicurean and Aristotelic, but all good doctrine in every one of the schools, all precepts of holiness combined with religious knowledge. All this, taken together, or the Eclectic, I call philosophy : whereas the rest are mere forgeries of the human intellect, and in no respect to be accounted divine 8.” At the same time, to mark out the peculiar divinity of Revealed Religion, he traces all the philosophy of the heathen to the teaching of the Hebrew sages, earnestly maintaining its entire subserviency to Christianity, as but the love of that truth which the Scriptures really impart.
The same general purpose of conciliating the heathen, and (as far as might be,) indulging the existing fashions to which their literature was subjected, may be traced in
8 Clein. Strom. i. 7.
the slighter compositions' which the Christians published in defence of their religion", being what in this day might be called pamphlets, written in imitation of speeches after the manner of Isocrates, and adorned with those graces of language which the schools taught, and the inspired Apostle has exhibited in his Epistle to the Hebrews. Clement's Exhortation to the Gentiles is a specimen of this style of writing; as also those of Athenagoras and Tatian, and that ascribed to Justin Martyr.
Again :—the last-mentioned Father supplies us with an instance of an economical relinquishment of a sacred doctrine. When Justin Martyr, in his argument with the Jew Trypho, (A.D. 150.) finds himself unable to convince him from the Old Testament of the divinity of Christ, he falls back upon the doctrine of His divine mission, as if this were a point indisputable on the one hand, and on the other, affording a sufficient ground, from which to advance, when expedient, to the proof of the full evangelical truth. In the same passage, moreover, as arguing with an unbeliever, he permits himself to speak without an anathema of those (the Ebionites) who professed Christianity, and yet denied Christ's divinity. Athanasius himself fully recognizes the propriety of this concealment of the doctrine on a fitting occasion, and thus accounts for the silence of the Apostles concerning it, in their speeches recorded in the Book of Acts, viz. that they were unwilling, by a disclosure of it, to prejudice the Jews against those miracles, the acknowledgment of which was a first step towards their receiving it.
9 nóyou. [Such are those (Pagan) of Maximus Tyrius. Three sacred narratives of Eusebius Emesenus are to be found at Vienna. Augusti has published one of them : Bonn, 1820. Vide Lambec. Bibl. Vind. iv. p. 286.]
i Dodwell in Iren. Diss. vi. § 14. 16. 2 Vide Bull, Judic. Eccl. vi. 7.
Gregory of Neocæsarea (A.D. 240—270), whose conversion by Origen has already been adduced in illustration, furnishes us in his own conduct with a similar but stronger instance of an economical concealment of the full truth. It seems that certain heretical teachers, in the time of Basil, ascribed to Gregory, whether by way of censure or in self-defence, the Sabellian view of the Trinity; and, moreover, the belief that Christ was a creature. The occasion of these statements, as imputed to him, was a vivá voce controversy with a heathen, which had been taken down in writing by the bystanders. The charge of Sabellianism is refuted by Gregory's extant writings; both imputations, however, are answered by St. Basil, and that, on the principle of controversy which I have above attempted to describe. “When Gregory,” he says, “declared that the Father and Son were two in our conception of them, one in hypostasis, he spoke not as teaching doctrine, but as arguing with an unbeliever, viz. in his disputation with Ælianus; but this distinction our heretical opponents could not enter into, much as they pride themselves on the subtlety of their intellect. Even granting there were no mistakes in taking the notes (which, please God, it is my inten
3 Athan. de Sent. Dionys. 8. Theodoret, Chrysostom, and others, say the same. Vide Suicer. Thesaurus, verb. otoixelov, and Whitby on Heb. v. 12.