Page images
PDF
EPUB

Accordingly, the mind is often compared to a tablet or paper: a state of it is contemplated of absolute freedom from all prepossessions and likings for one system or another, as a first step towards arriving at the truth; and infidelity represented as that candid and dispassionate frame of mind, which is the desideratum. For instance, at the present day, men are to be found of high religious profession, who, to the surprise and grief of sober minds, exult in the overthrow just now of religion in France, as if an unbeliever were in a more hopeful state than a bigot, for advancement in real spiritual knowledge. But in truth, the mind never can resemble a blank paper, in its freedom from impressions and prejudices. Infidelity is a positive, not a negative state; it is a state of profaneness, pride, and selfishness; and he who believes a little, but encompasses that little with the inventions of men, is undeniably in a better condition than he who blots out from his mind both the human inventions, and that portion of truth which was concealed in them.

Again : it is plain that the tenderness of dealing, which it is our duty to adopt towards a heathen unbeliever, is not to be used towards an apostate. No economy can be employed towards those who have been once enlightened, and have fallen away. I wish to speak explicitly on this subject, because there is a great deal of that spurious charity among us which would cultivate the friendship of those who, in a Christian country, speak against the Church or its creeds. Origen and others were not unwilling to be on a footing of intercourse with the heathen philosophers of their day, in order, if it were possible, to lead them into the truth; but deliberate heretics and apostates, those who had known the truth, and rejected it, were objects of their abhorrence, and were avoided from the truest charity to them. For what can be said to those who already know all we have to say ? and how can we show our fear for their souls, nay, and for our own steadfastness, except by a strong action ? Thus Origen, when a youth, could not be induced to attend the prayers of a heretic of Antioch whom his patroness had adopted, from a loathing', as he says, of heresy. And St. Augtine himself tells us, that while he was a Manichee, his own mother would not eat at the same table with him in her house, from her strong aversion to the blasphemies which were the characteristic of his sect. And Scripture fully sanctions this mode of acting, by the severity with which such unhappy men are spoken of, on the different occasions when mention is made of them?

Further : the foregoing remarks may serve to show us, with what view the early Church cultivated and employed heathen literature in its missionary labours ; viz. not with the notion that the cultivation, which literature gives, was any substantial improvement of our moral nature, but as thereby opening the mind, and rendering it susceptible of an appeal; nor as if the heathen literature itself had any direct connexion with the matter of Christianity, but because it contained in it the scattered fragments of those original traditions which might be made the means of introducing a student to the Christian system, being the ore in which the true metal was found. The account above given of the conversion of Gregory is a proof of this. · The only danger to which the Alexandrian doctrine is exposed, is that of its confusing the Scripture Dispensations with that of Natural Religion, as if they were of equal authority; as if the Gospel had not a claim of acceptance on the conscience of all who heard it, nor became a touchstone of their moral condition; and as if the Bible, as the pagan system, were but partially true, and had not been attested by the discriminating evidence of miracles. This is the heresy of the Neologians in this day, as it was of the Eclectics in primitive times; as will be shown in the next section. The foregoing extract from Clement shows his entire freedom from so grievous an error; but in order to satisfy any suspicion which may exist of his using language which may have led to a more decided corruption after his day, I will quote a passage from the sixth book of his Stromateis, in which he maintains the supremacy of Revealed Religion, as being in fact the source and test of all other religions; the extreme imperfection of the latter; the derivation of whatever is true in these from Revelation; the secret presence of God in them, by that Word of Life which is directly and bodily revealed in Christianity; and the corruption and yet forced imitation of the truth by the evil spirit in such of them, as he wishes to make pass current among mankind.

5 BdEdutthuevos. Eus. Hist. vi. 2 (vii. 7, Eulog. ap. Phot. p. 861]. 6 Bingham, Antiq. xvi. 2, § 11. 7 Rom. xvi. 17. 2 Thess. iii. 14. 2 John 10, 11, &c.

“Should it be said that the Greeks discovered philosophy by human wisdom,” he says, “I reply, that I find

the Scriptures declare all wisdom to be a divine gift: for instance, the Psalmist considers wisdom to be the greatest of gifts, and offers this petition, 'I am Thy servant, make me wise.' And does not David ask for illumination in its diverse functions, when he says, "Teach me goodness, discipline, and knowledge, for I have believed Thy precepts'? Here he confesses that the Covenants of God are of supreme authority, and vouchsafed to the choice portion of mankind. Again, there is a Psalm which says of God, 'He hath not acted thus with any other nation, and His judgments He hath not revealed to them ;' where the words, 'He hath not done thus, imply that He hath indeed done somewhat, but not thus. By using thus he contrasts their state with our superiority; else the Prophet might simply have said, "He hath not acted with other nations,' without adding thus. The prophetical figure, 'The Lord is over many waters,' refers to the same truth; that is, a Lord not only of the different covenants, but also of the various methods of teaching, which lead to righteousness, whether among the Gentiles or the Jews. David also bears his testimony to this truth, when he says in the Psalm, 'Let the sinners be turned into hell, all the nations which forget God;' that is, they forget whom they formerly remembered, they put aside Him whom they knew before they forgot. It seems then there was some dim knowledge of God even among the Gentiles. . They who say that philosophy originates with the devil, would do well to consider what Scripture says about the devil's being transformed into an Angel of light. For what will he do then ? it is plain he will prophesy. Now if he prophesies as an Angel of light, of course he will speak what is true. If he shall prophesy angelic and enlightened doctrine, he will prophesy what is profitable also; that is, at the time when he is thus changed in his apparent actions, far different as he is at bottom in his real apostasy. For how would he deceive, except by craftily leading on the inquirer by means of truth, to an intimacy with himself, and so at length seducing him into error?.. Therefore philosophy is not false, though he who is thief and liar speaks truth by a change in his manner of acting. . . The philosophy of the Greeks, limited and particular as it is, contains the rudiments of that really perfect knowledge which is beyond this world, which is engaged in intellectual objects, and upon those more spiritual, which eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, before they were made clear to us by our Great Teacher, who reveals the holy of holies, and still holier truths in an ascending scale, to those who are genuine heirs of the Lord's adoption."

ور 8

6.

What I have said about the method of teaching adopted by the Alexandrian, and more or less by the other primitive Churches, amounts to this; that they on principle refrained from telling unbelievers all they believed themselves, and further, that they endeavoured to connect their own doctrine with theirs, whether Jewish or pagan, adopting their sentiments and even their language, as far as they lawfully could. Some

8 Strom, vi. 8.

« PreviousContinue »