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CHRISTIAN LIBRARY. tin, Irenæus, and Tertullian, we may first reply, that this hy- relating to the divinity of the Son, of the Personality of the pothesis is directly contrary to the witness of such primitive, Holy Ghost, of a nature which affords even the slightest in or, as they are usually called, apostolic writers, as have ternal reason to suspect interpolation or imposture. They are transmitted any portion of their work to posterity: The pass- either pious ejaculations under circumstances wherein the ages are well known which have been produced from these soul of man would naturally revert to prayer; or they are ar. venerable relics in affirmation of the divinity of our Lord guments or illustrations connected with the discourse which Jesus Christ. It is more to my present purpose to observe, contains them, and, therefore, not to be excluded without inthat, on the personality of the Holy Ghost, their testimony is jury to its general texture. And, above all, the comparative equally decisive.
vagueness of their expression may prove them to have proHermas, whom St. Paul salutes by name in his Epistle to ceeded from devout and simple minds, while incidentally the Romans, opposes in his “ Shepherd” the Spirit of God to speaking of truths which it was not their immediate business the evil demon, in terms which can only suit the opposition to defend. The hand of interpolation would have been coarser of one real person to another. The work of Hermas is, in- and more decisive; and, if the object had been to enforce the deed, confessedly allegorical ; yet is it, apparently, to an at-Trinitarian opinions, the expressions employed, we may be tentive reader, no difficult task to distinguish in what parts sure, would have been far more technically orthodox. The he is speaking by a figure, and in what expressing his own moderate tone and general nature of those passages where the serious conviction; and when the good or evil genius is Triune Godhead is implied, may convince us at once that the spoken of, we have no reason to believe that he is not in ear-text is not in these instances corrupted, and may induce us nest, or that any other individuals are intended than Satan also to believe that those tenets had been hitherto very little and the Spirit of God.
questioned, which are mentioned thus unguardedly. But, whatever doubts may exist as to the meaning of Hermas, If, then, we should admit the assertion to be accurate, that none can be entertained as to that of Clement, the fellow- a majority of Christians were, in the days of Justin and Terlabourer of the same great apostle; who, as quoted by Basil, tullian, averse from the orthodox doctrine, we might rather no less than in that epistle which only now exists in the Sy- conclude that a departure from ancient principles had taken riac translation, but of which Wetstein, no incompetent judge, place among the more ignorant believers, than that, in the so strongly urges the authenticity, attributes life, and anxiety, second century, those doctrines were new to Christian ears, and active agency to the Holy Ghost, in the same manner as which had been taught in the church by Clement and Ignato the Father and the Son.
tius and Polycarp. Ignatius, in like manner, in his Epistle to the Magnesians, In truth, however, those passages of Justin and Tertullian, (a work which has stood the severest test of criticism,) de- which have been advanced with much parade of learning and scribes the apostles as rendering a like obedience to all the no little scorn of those who have ventured to explain them several persons of the Trinity. And the blessed Polycarp, in differently, may be proved, on a candid inquiry, to apply to his expiring prayer, as preserved by those brethren of the purposes far different from that for which they are ordinarily Church of Smyrna who attended his captivity and wept around |cited, and, instead of convicting the orthodox doctrine of the flames of his martyrdom, gives glory to the Holy Ghost novelty, are, on the other hand, very strongly in its favour. in almost the very words of our present doxology,
Tertullian complains in his treatise against Praxeas, that This form of praise, indeed, which was recognized by Dio- certain Christians, whom he grants to be the majority of the nysus of Alexandria as the ancient order of Christian invo- church, though he at the same time objects to them, that they cation; which concluded the hymn of the martyr Athenogenes; were, “ simplices, imprudentes et idiotæ,” having been conand that yet more ancient Canticle is szunuzved, which was verted from the worship of many false divinities to that of the in the fifth century of universal and immemorial usage among one true God, and not understanding how this unity was to the meaner Christians; is in itself an illustrious evidence of be believed together with the trinitarian distinction of perthe ancient opinion of the church, and may prove that in the sons, were alarmed at the thoughts of such distinction. Ånd earliest times, as now, the unlearned majority were orthodox. hence it is inferred (to use the words of one, who, if not the It was, we learn from Basil, a pious and popular custom to most distinguished, is at least the most forward of the modern return thanks in this form to the three persons of the Godhead apostles of unitarianism,) that, "the majority of Christians, by name, when first the lamp was lighted in the evening, being plain unlearned men, zealous for the divine unity, warmly Now, to customs of this sort, when they are universal, and resisted the trinitarian doctrine which some philosophic Chrisabove all, perhaps, when they are confined to the uninstructed tiuns were then endeavouring to introduce.” and the poor, we can hardly ever err in imputing a very high It is impossible not to regret that this ingenious person, degree of antiquity. For an unwritten prayer to grow into no less than several greater names on both sides of the congeneral usage may require, as it should seem, the lapse of troversy, have referred to Tertullian for the purpose of contromore than a single century; and those of our order, whose versy only, and have, therefore, regarded the present passage duty has thrown them among the peasantry of the remoter as distinct and insulated, not only from the general purpose provinces, will have had ample occasion to observe their te- of that work to which it belongs, but from the immediate and nacity of ancient customs. In the hymns, the legends, and necessary context. To this we owe those idle verbal criticisms the artless devotions of our English poor, it is often not im- on the insignificant word “idiotæ,” and the application of possible to trace the relics of superstitions long since passed those rules of language and propriety to the fiery presbyter of away, of Pagan and Roman Catholic prejudices; but seldom, Carthage, which would have been applicable, perhaps, to a indeed, can we find a form of recent introduction among those Roman of the Augustan age. But if, instead of tearing in habitual ejaculations of prayer or praise, which lull poverty pieces a detached expression, we refer to the work itself, we to rest on her rugged couch, or welcome in the hard and shall find that Tertullian was not complaining of the diffiwholesome repast of labour. In a cottage family the religious culty which he experienced in introducing a new doctrine instruction of the young invariably devolves on the aged; the into the church, but that he was deploring the progress child is taught by his grandmother the same words which she which a recent (a very recent) error was making in the west herself had, in like manner, learned during her infancy; and of Christendom. thus, from year to year, the same address goes on, acquiring Far from complaining that those opinions which were adan additional sanctity in each successive generation. It will verse to a faith in the trinity, were the result of deeply rooted not be pretended by our learned antagonists, that the use of prejudice, he speaks of them as “ a novelty of yesterday," and the Doxology can possibly have been of Pagan origin; and reminds his fellow-Christians that this, " like every former they will be perplexed, I apprehend, to assign to a custom heresy, may be confuted on the simple principle, that whatwhich, in the days of Basil, was popular and immemorial, a ever has been from the beginning is true.” Now, without less than apostolic antiquity.
discussing the truth or falsehood of his principle, it is evident, But, be that as it may, the sentiment which it conveys is that the simple fact of his adducing such a rule of faith is althe same, as we have seen, which, amid the smoke and ashes together inconsistent with the conduct of one who was labourof martyrdom, could raise the hopes and inspire the courage ing either to corrupt or reform an ancient opinion, or who of the last surviving disciple of the last apostle, the beloved had offended the ears of the church by the introduction of hearer of him who was himself the beloved of the Lord. If philosophical novelties. His language is that of the jealous Polycarp were mistaken, who shall hope in these latter days asserter of antiquity, the strenuous guardian of established to unriddle an evangelist's meaning? If St. John himself doctrines: it is (and in their contest with heretics, this is the had erroneously expounded the promise of his friend, we may almost uniform characteristic of the Catholic party) the dewell close the volume of Scripture in despair, till the lion of fender, not the assailant, who addresses us. But, it a Prothe tribe of Judah shall return to open its seals.
testant in Rome, or a Socinian in England, were endeavourNor are the testimonics of the Apostolic Fathers, whether ing to disseminate his tenets among the people, he would
not, we may be sure, exhort his hearers to stand on their Jesus was a prophet sent from God, and that he was an eterancient paths, and beware of new-fangled teachers ;—his nal and almighty Person incarnate.” arguments would be directed against the folly of inveterate That this is the general tendency of Justin's argument, our prejudice, and he would urge the necessity and reasonableness antagonists themselves will not, I apprehend, deny: nor, from of judging for ourselves, without regard to the canons and such a statement can it by any means appear, either that precedents of our fallible predecessors. Tertullian has been Justin thought (which we know from his strong expressions called by Mr. Belsham a philosophic Christian: but he must elsewhere he certainly did not think) the doctrine of the have been an idiot in the strictest modern meaning of the Trinity unimportant to Christianity, or that the persons whom term, to have spoken as we find him speaking, had not the he mentions as holding opinions adverse to that doctrine doctrine of the trinity been already in prescriptive possession were, in his time, the majority of Christians. Whatever, of the minds of men.
indeed, were their number, it is apparent that those individWhat, then, is the meaning of his complaint? Exactly uals denied not only the Divinity of Christ, but his birth from that which every jealous supporter of established doctrines a virgin, and that they must therefore have differed not from brings forward, with whatever reason, on the appearance of a Justin only, and the orthodox Christians of later times; but new religion,—the progress which it makes among the vulgar. from Socinus and Crellius themselves. And though the And this progress, exaggerated, as usual
, in such cases, by modern Unitarians have made so large advances on the scephis fears and jealousies, he ascribes, with sufficient candour, ticism of their more cautious and more learned predecessors, to the inherent and admitted difficulties of the established yet have few of them, as yet, attained so lofty a pitch of freecreed, and the consequent eagerness with which the lower thinking as to reject the authority of St. Matthew and St. orders flocked to a preacher who professed, like Praxeas, to Luke, and to degrade our Saviour to the mortal son of Joseph vindicate the unity of God, and to reconcile, as he undertook the carpenter. to do, that attribute with the divinity of the Lord Jesus. But, further, it is apparent, that it was the interest of Justin,
For, let not the modern Unitarian expect to find in Praxeas so far as the success of his argument was concerned, to asor Noetus a precursor of Socinus or Priestley; or anticipate, sign as much of weight as could with truth be assigned to from the transient success of the ancient heretics, an abun- the number and authority of these dissidents, since we find dant harvest of converts to the modern reformation! What- him urging their example on Trypho. He calls them, however were the opinions of Sabellius, (of which our accounts ever, Tiràs not roanes, far less axsoves or wisst&s—"certain," are too contradictory to enable us to form any adequate judg- that is, not “ many persons." And the force of the word Tires ment,) the doctrines of Praxeas are sufficiently known, and is so far opposed to the notion of any considerable number, have no parallel, perhaps, in modern error, except the visions that it is known to be almost equivalent to iniquo, " a few.” of Emanuel Swedenborg. He taught, indeed, one only per- Justin repeats, however, and repeats it with considerable son in the Godhead; but he taught that this person was no earnestness, that he himself was far from assenting to an other than that God who was, at once, the Creator, the Re- opinion so degrading to the Lord whom he worshipped ; and deemer, and the Comforter of mankind'; who was born of a he concludes by declaring, as our antagonists themselves unvirgin, crucified under Pontius Pilate, and afterwards de- derstand the following sentence, that he should continue in scended in a shower of fire on the apostles in the day of Pen- his present sentiments, even though the majority of Christecost. In other words, he united the several offices of the tians should maintain the contrary. trinity in the single person of our Lord Jesus Christ. According to their own interpretation, then, the sentence
To that Unitarianism, which, as described by Mr. Belsham is obviously hypothetical ; “ In case it should so happen,” he himself, would rob us of every rational ground of confidence is made to say, " that the majority of Christians should emin the mercy of heaven; which casts on us again the burthen brace such an opinion, even in that case I would not assent of those iniquities, under which the whole creation hath to it.” The Syrian martyr, then, might rather seem to congroaned and travailed; which reduces the Messiah to an template the future possibility of encroaching heresy, than to earthly prophet, of whom we are ignorant whether he is in acknowledge that tenets similar to those of Socinus and Dr. Heaven or no, to whom we owe no gratitude for favours now Priestley were, at that time, the prevailing sentiment of the received, from whom we have nothing to hope or to fear,— church. to that Unitarianism the Christians of Rome and Africa were, It may be doubted, however, with reason, whether the in the age of Tertullian, strangers. The tenets of Noetus and words themselves of Justin be capable of that rendering Praxeas I am far from being inclined either to believe or de- which Thirlby and Waterland have given them, and which fend; their inconsistency I shall have occasion, in the course only, though those learned men contemplated no such conseof these lectures, to expose: but thus much may, at least, be quence as possible, can be applied to support the Socinian hyurged in favour of their comparative innocence, that the foun- pothesis. The sentence, cos o curtidaucas 88 av anastot Troja tain of salvation is not, by their means, rendered dry; and use dotazovT95 BřTOW,—which Waterland translates, “ whom that, while they strangely confound the person of the Re- I assent not to, no not though there were ever so many condeemer with those of the Father and the Comforter, they curring to tell me so,"—is convicted by such a rendering of leave us, nevertheless, the consolation of an almighty Sa- a solecism of the most obvious kind, inasmuch as curtidouds
, viour, and an all-sufficient sacrifice for sin.
a verb in the indicative mood, can with no propriety be placed The complaint, then, of Tertullian, cannot, if rightly un- in opposition to sito in the optative. If Justin, then, had derstood, be regarded as adverse to the antiquity or univer- desired to express the sentiment which they impute to him, sality of those opinions for whose orthodoxy I now am his words, if he had spoken good Greek, would not have been pleading. And the words of Justin, in which he admits that ois o curtit specs
- -δ' αν είπoιεν, but oις και συντίθειμην, εδ' αν some revered the virtues of Christ, who refused to believe αλείστοι ταύτα μοι δοξάζουσες οίποιεν. that the Supreme Being should be born of a woman, and But though the language of the Syrian martyr is doubtless suffer by a shameful death, will be found, on examination of far from classical, yet will not it be easy to find in his works their context, and the occasion on which they were spoken, any similar instance of contempt for the rules of grammar; altogether as little favourable to the system of our antagonists. nor can that be considered as judicious criticism, which,
Justin, it will be recollected, having already nearly worsted whether for the sake of avoiding a fancied tameness of exhis Jewish adversary on the point that Jesus was the expected pression, or of serving the ends of a sect, will adopt an unMessiah, the rabbin, as usually happens with the weaker grammatical sense, when another may be obtained without party, diverts the arguinent to that which had only incident- violating any principle of diction. The particle ay is, in the ally become a question, our Lord's pre-existence and divinity. present passage, plainly, not disjunctive, but expletive; and Justin, therefore, reminds him, as any disputant would in the only sense of which the words are capable, is one disuch a case have done, that the Deity of Jesus was not the rectly adverse to that which the Socinians would have them point onder immediate discussion; that, on whichever side convey, -an assurance, namely, that there were not many ihe truth might lie as to the peculiar tenets which Justin who, in the days of Justin, disbelieved our Saviour's Deity. himself maintained on this mysterious subject, Trypho was oίς και συντίθεμαι, εδ' αν πλείστοι μοι ταύτα δοξάζοντες είποιεν. not therefore justified in resisting the arguments drawn from “ Quibus,neque ipse assentior, nec multi sane hæc mihi the ancient prophets, to prove the general fact of our Saviour's opinione ducti dixerint." mission from God. “ There are some," he continues, “ I do And that this is the proper rendering is apparent, if we not think them right in such their opinion, but there are some consider, that in the days of Justin, and little more than a who allow that Jesus is the Christ, though they deny his century from the death of our Lord, it is contrary to all evi, miraculous incarnation. We may, then, discuss the first of dence to suppose that the authority of the church was carried these questions distinctly from the other, since there is, in to a height so pontifical, as that even a question could sug. fact, no necessary connexion between the proposition, that gest itself of a man's submitting his faith to the decision of the majority, or of guiding his conscience in a point of such teach this Gospel to us, and the Prophetic Spirit, we with a importance by any but the written or traditional words of true and reasonable service worship and adore !" inspiration. The words which follow, therefore, and which Such, in the days of the elder Antoninus, and barely half have been sometimes supposed to be the reason given by the a century from the death of St. John, was the confession of Syrian martyr, for dissenting from the usual doctrine of the the Greek and Syriac Churches. Forty years later, we church, are, in truth, no more than the reason why the uni- have seen, on the authority of Tertullian, that a belief in the versal church were so earnest to inculcate those opinions Trinity was the predominant and prescriptive creed of the which were a stumbling-block in the way of Trypho's con- Christians in Western Africa; nor can we better sum up the version, but which, as received from the Deity himself, their result of these testimonies than in the words of Irenæus, who principles would neither allow them to suppress nor to com- was contemporary both with Justin and Tertullian and Polypromise. 'Etuida óx ùy Igoriseus didáqueador xex ea sú o ustan úr' dită carp himself, and who, as a native of Syria and a Gallic τα Χριστή πείθεσθαι, αλλά τους δια των μακαρίων αξοφητών κηρυχ-bishop, was enabled to speak with greater certainty of the θώσι και δι αυτα διδαχθείσι.
predominant opinions in the Eastern as well as the Western That the Son, indeed, and the Holy Ghost, were, as well world. as the Father, adored in the days of Justin, by the great body " This doctrine," he tells us, after a clear and copious exof Christians, we learn from Justin himself, in a treatise, position of all those points for which the orthodox are now where, of all others, a mis-statement of their opinions in this contending, “ this doctrine and this faith the Church, though respect would have been most wicked and most useless,- scattered through the earth, has received, and guards as if his Second Apology for the Christians; a work wherein he her members were one single family. This she believes as justifies the great body believers from the charges of with one single heart; this as with one single voice she atheism and superstition brought against them by their Pagan proclaims and teaches, and delivers to her progeny. There enemies; and wherein he professes to give an accurate ex- are many languages in the world, but the tenour of our tradiposition of those doctrines which they really believed and tion is the same. The Churches in Germany believe and maintained.
teach no otherwise; nor in Spain, nor in Gaul, nor in the Now I am convinced, that in those numerous apologies East, nor in Egypt, nor in Lybia, nor those which are in the and (to use a word which has, during these few last years, midst of the world, and in the central provinces of Italy. become popular and almost technical) those “portraitures,” But as all the world is enlightened by the self-same sun, so which the advocates of different sects have, in our times, sent does the doctrine of truth shine every where, and enlighten all forth in commendation or defence of their respective tenets, who desire to come to it. Nor will the most eloquent of our no instance can be found in which the Apologist has ventured Christian teachers add to this tradition, nor the weakest in to ascribe, as an article of faith, to the universal sect, those the Gospel diminish aught from it. For when the faith is opinions which were confined to a small though learned part one, ne can an eloquent exposition add to its doctrines, of it. Not even where the tenet was of a popular character, nor the briefest statement detract from them." and likely to conciliate the good will of those for whose It may seem, then, that little either of modesty or learning perusal the Apology was intended, would such a conduct be is shown in the assertion of the same surviving chief of hazarded. There are Quakers who dress themselves like Unitarianism whom I have already quoted, that one hundred other men; but would any of these, in controversy with an and twenty years after Christ, “ the majority of Christians, Episcopalian, maintain that this harmless conformity to the being plain and unlearned men, warmly resisted the Trinitaworld was the general opinion and practice of the society for rian doctrine.” And not only will this supposed majority whom he was pleading? There are Protestants who rever- dwindle down into a comparatively small proportion, so ence the Episcopal institution as of primitive and apostolical small, indeed, as to have been alike unworthy the mention or appointment; but should I, or any other Protestant who holds knowledge of the defenders of the Church and its persecuthis opinion, maintain, in a friendly conference with a Ro-tors, so small as to have been unknown to Pliny and unnomanist, that the universal body of Reformed and Lutheran ticed by Justin, but of that proportion the tenets may, perhaps, churches in this respect agreed with me? Still stronger, appear to have been such as will by no means furnish a prehowever, does the case become, when the tenet in question cedent to the modern Unitarian confession. has been the subject of derision or persecution; when it is This inquiry, however, must be deferred to a future Sunesteemed the most offensive peculiarity of the sect, and that day, when I propose to examine the probable source of those from which their enemies have taken most occasion to accuse opinions which are peculiar to orthodoxy, no less than the them of blasphemy or madness. The doctrines of material- recorded doctrines of those who, in the first and second ism and necessity have been maintained, we know, by many of centuries after Christ, dissented from the majority of their the leading members of that sect which chiefly, in the present brethren. age, opposes the opinion of a Trinity; yet how explicitly do their ingenious supporters disclaim both materialism and necessity as essential or universal doctrines of the infant church; how strongly are we assured, that, whatever be the notions of individuals on these important subjects, such notions are neither taught nor received by the majority of freethinking
LECTURE III. Christians.
But the divinity of a crucified Man was a doctrine more I tell you the truth; it is expedient for you that I go away, for if I revolting to the Greeks and Romans than the materialism of go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I dePriestley to the majority of modern believers: the injurious part, I will send him unto you. ---John xvi 7. manner in which the influence of the Holy Ghost and the notion of a Trinity in Unity were derided by the Heathen, is I have shown in a former Lecture, and shown, in part, apparent from the few ancient libels against our faith which from those very authorities to which our adversaries chiefly have descended to the present generation. It was incumbent, appeal, that, in the second century of the vulgar æra, and less therefore, on the Apologist of Christianity to show, that those than one hundred years from the resurrection of Jesus Christ, opinions (whether he himself adopted them or no,) were the the doctrine of a Trinity of persons in the Godhead (in which opinions of a small party only; that they were points on which doctrine the Personality of the Spirit of God is completely the church permitted every man to think as he pleased; and and recessarily included) was too widely diffused and too that ignorance only or malignity could visit their supposed firmly seated in the churches both of the East and West, to impiety on the universal body of Christians.
have been, as our antagonists pretend, a heresy of recent inSuch would, such necessarily must have been the conduct troduction. of the eloquent and (our adversaries themselves being judges) But neither can it be urged with any show of likelihood, the honest and candid Justin, were the Unitarians correct that this opinion, or the other features of that faith which we in their hypothesis, that their present opinions were, in his call Catholic and orthodox, were derived from that little band time, those of a great majority in the Christian world. But of philosophical converts whom Christianity received, in how different is the declaration of faith which, not in his those early ages, from the Platonic school of Alexandria. own name only, but as defender of the Catholic religion, he The mixture of that leaven with the church, if it ever took advances in his Second Apology!
place at all, must, doubtless, then have been of a date too re"In gods like these,” (he is speaking of the Pagan dei-cent to produce the effects which we have contemplated; and ties,) " we own ourselves to be unbelievers; but not in the the scanty infusion of learning, which was at no time suffimost true and faultless God, and Father of justice and pu- cient to rescue her from the imputation of barbarisin, can rity, and all other virtues. Him, and the Son who came to hardly have been an ally so dangerous as it is sometimes
represented, to the primitive simplicity of religion. In eccle- holy things and beings like himself could issue. The light siastical history the Platonists are conspicuous, because the itself and the inhabitants of light were all alike his offspring; share of knowledge which they possessed is advantageously all which, on earth, was virtuous or fair, or wise, was only contrasted with the general ignorance of contemporary be- so far fair and wise and virtuous as it emanated from his perlievers; but that very ignorance would present an effectual fection; and the time was anticipated when the final triumph barrier against the extension of their influence in the church. of holiness and wisdom should be no longer delayed; and A jealousy of carnal learning and metaphysical refinement when the God of goodness should destroy or conquer all has been, in every age, the usual characteristic of men in by which his gracious designs had been hitherto opposed or that situation of life, and with those means of information, impeded. which we may reasonably ascribe to the primitive ministers But though their notions of the deity were thus pious and of the gospel; nor is it likely that the poor and simple reasonable; and though, in some obscure expressions of their bishops of Gaul, of Pontus, or of Spain, should purchase the master, we may trace a yet nearer approach to the truth, in costly manuscripts, or attend to the airy reveries, of an East- the adumbration of a Threefold existence in the Godhead: yet ern or Egyptian philosopher.
did they not, in practice, honour him as God of whose esThe power of making proselytes on a rapid or extensive sys- sence they had so clear a knowledge; and, by a prudent contem is seldorn, indeed,
possessed by the recluse, the studious, formity with the superstition of the times, they paid a willing or the refined. The habits of science are unfavourable to that reverence to the gods and idols of their ancestors, as viceactivity which is the leading characteristic of the religious gerents of the One Supreme, and as those to whom he had no less than the political reformer; and while Clemens or committed all care of that mortality which was beneath his Pantænus or Origen were wearing ont their days and nights own attention. in the composition of elaborate volumes, which few would Their opinions as to the material principle were of a nature read at all, and still fewer would read with unqualified as- still less conformable to religion or to reason. They did not, sent, the banners of Christ were triumphantly carried through indeed, at the time of which I am speaking, (it is, perhaps, a the world by those honest and unlearned missionaries, whose vulgar error to suppose they ever did), ascribe to any thing qualifications were confined to the courage of an ardent faith, evil or material either the name or characteristics of Deity. and the untaught eloquence of feeling.
But to matter they nevertheless imputed an eternal being, a It is a problem, indeed, which the present is not the place perception of pleasure and of pain, and a blind and stubborn to solve, to what extent the learning of a rising sect may con- instinct of self-preservation, which, inasmuch as its very extribute to its progress in the world. That some of its pro-istence was impure and opposed to the spiritual life, was fessors should be raised, by their acquirements, above the exerted always in afflicting or debasing those spiritual creaordinary level of mankind, is a circumstance which may, tures which were entangled in the vortex of its influence. doubtless, raise the general party in their own estimation, and Of the evil demons, to whose agency no small proportion in the estimation of other men; it may fling a grace and dig- of the natural and moral phenomena of the present life were nity over the adoption of their creed, and redeem their con- ascribed, two different opinions were held. Some there were verts from those formidable imputations of enthusiasm or who supposed them to be human souls or heavenly spirits, vulgarity by which every rising sect has, to a certain extent, who by intercourse with matter had depraved their habits and been assailed. But learning to a rising sect is less a weapon affections: by others they were regarded as exhalations from than an ornament. The plume of the soldier, and the other the more fiery and vivacious particles of matter itself; a little pageantry of war, may illustrate, indeed, his triumph ; but elevated, indeed, above the lion or serpent of the visible it is by the sword, not by the crest, that his triumph must world, but to be controlled, like their brother monsters of the first have been purchased : and it is by unlearned zeal and forest or the fen, with menaces, or flattery, or food; to be unpolished energy only, that a new opinion, or an infant state, bound by exorcism and allured or chased by odours. can hope to conquer,
But, whatever were their differences in these and other cirbe doubted, perhaps, whether the students of Alex- cumstances of superstitious detail, in one leading principle the andria would have even desired to extend their peculiar tenets several parties agreed ; that matter was, in itself, incurably beyond the narrow bounds of Platonism. It is certain that corrupt, the origin of all moral evil; that “the drop of heathey were neither qualified by their numbers nor their per- venly dew" (for so Synesius calls the soul) was degraded sonal resources to extend a new opinion, in so short a space and enslaved by its confinement in this earthly cistern; that of time, through the numerous and scattered communities of the thoughts and wishes of the sage were capable of only one the faithful.
direction; and that his spirit coveted incessantly to exhale And though some learned converts from the Platonic sect once more to that region whence she had descended. have, doubtless, adorned Christianity with some of the no- From this opinion, when applied to practice, two very opblest monuments of genius and piety which our religion has posite systems took their rise. The professors of the one, to show; yet is it by no means true ihat a general approxima- regarding the body as an obstinate and malicious slave, ention took place between the tenets of the academy and the joined their followers to macerate him with abstinence, and gospel, or that any considerable influx of learning or talent to punish him with stripes and chains; while the defenders was derived to the latter from the former. There was too of the other, detached from the world, and occupied without much of interested monopoly, too much of priestcraft among ceasing in the contemplation of the Divine Essence, professed the latter Platonists, to allow them to discover truth or merit to abandon the outward man to the guidance of his own inbeyond the limits of their sect; and the examples of Apuleius, stinct or passion, as one in whose sensual pursuits the soul Jamblichus, and Apollonius of Tyana, may prove that their had neither interest nor responsibility, and whose brutish leaders were more inclined to pretend to divinity themselves gambols were beneath the notice of a pure and abstracted than to acknowledge the divinity of Jesus. And the follow- spirit. ing short review of the leading tenets of the modern Platonic, It is evident, however, that these previous notions would or, as it is called, the Pythagorean philosophy, may convince conduct the Platonists to conclusions directly at variance ns, that their system can by no means be regarded as the with those peculiar opinions of which the introduction has parent of that which we now profess; and that much of been ignorantly ascribed to their influence. prayer and more of grace was needful before a pagan philoso- 1. As the reduction of matter into form was regarded as an pher could subdue his pride to the standard of the orthodox office unworthy the immediate hand of God; and as the imconfession.
perfections which they found or fancied in the visible The leading question which, at the particular time of world made them still more unwilling to ascribe its fabric to which I am speaking, divided the opinions and occupied the the Allgood and Allwise; they were accustomed to refer this attention of the educated part of mankind, was the nature and work to a subaltern, perhaps an evil, agent, whom their origin of evil; a problem which the eastern Magi and the hatred of the Jews induced them readily to identify with the Alexandrian Platonists alike undertook to solve by the bril. Jehovah of that unpopular nation. liant but unsubstantial theory of two opposing principles, to II. Having assumed as a principle the utter impurity of whose struggles they ascribed that chequered face of creation, matter and all its accidents, the union of the soul with the of which the acknowledged beauties and apparent faults for-body of man was regarded as a crime in itself, or as the bade them to ascribe the whole to either a good or evil foun- punishment of former offences. They absolutely, therefore, tain.
refused to believe that a pure and perfect Being could subject Of these two warring powers, this perfect and living light, itself to an union so unnatural; that the Divine nature could this deadly and impenetrable darkness; this unaltered boun- become incarnate, and as incarnate, so susceptible of hunger, ty, and this wickedness untameable; the first was God, the of thirst, of bodily infirmities, and death. pure, the perfect unity, from whose creation only pure and Lastly, they denied altogether that the body once deceased
could be raised to happiness or glory; much more that alcommon sense of mankind, that a sect would hold in honour, person clothed with such an incumbrance could be admitted as their teacher and spiritual father, that person from whom into the presence or enthroned at the rignt hand of God. they had received their peculiar opinions, not those by whose
They were principles like these which produced, in Por- authority such opinions had been originally opposed and anphyry, the most formidable antagonist whom Christianity athematized? Do the Calvinists call themselves after the ever encountered; they were these which raised the empiric name of Luther, or will the Protestants appeal to the tradiApollonius to his subsequent fabulous eminence; which are tional sentiments of Bellarmine? Is it Ali or Omar whom sometimes supposed to have withdrawn the great Ammonius the Sunnites reverence? and if Cerinthus or Carpocrates had from the communion in which he was educated; which se- superceded in the Church the authority of Peter and John, duced the acute but pedantic Julian to the forgotten super- would the latter or the former names have stood conspicuous stition of his ancestors; and which kept Synesius, beneath in the Christian rubric, and assumed, in our temples and our the mantle of episcopacy, more than half a Pagan still. manuals of devotion, the attitude and halo of sanctity?
Among those few Platonists, indeed, who embraced a nom- Would not the Gospel of Leuce have in such a case supinal Christianity, the same preconceptions led them for the planted that of Luke ? and would not those who, sixty years most part to join any sect of Christians, rather than those afterwards, professed the same opinions, (instead of appealwhose tenets I am now defending; to deny, with the Docetæ, ing to the real or pretended sentiments of those Apostles the bodily existence of Christ; or to degrade him, with the from whom they had revolted,) have told us of his triumphaut followers of Carpocrates, into a merely human philosopher. zeal who had extricated, from the mists of Jewish error, that And, while almost all the heresies which distracted the genuine religion which the original followers of Jesus had church during the three first centuries are deducible from obscured or betrayed ? Platonic principles, the small number of philosophers who For those whom we call Apostles or Evangelists the hereembraced the Catholic faith were rather orthodox in spite of tical sects had no such implicit reverence. St. Paul was their Platonism, than conducted by Platonism to orthodoxy. styled Apostate by the Ebionites; and in like manner, beThe words of Tertullian are well known, in which he calls yond a doubt, would the Trinitarians have proceeded, had the great master of the Academy, “ the seasoner of all her- they derived their origin from any of those whom the twelve esies ;” and the contumely to which Origen himself was had delivered to Satan. exposed in the ancient church may prove, that the allegiance “ But the heresy," it will be said, “is the error of a later of the Alexandrian school to Christianity was at no time period; and the last of the Apostles had gone to his reward free from suspicion among the more rigid and less learned before Christ was worshipped as a God, or the Holy Ghost believers.
revered as a distinct intelligence.” But if the Platonists had really sufficient influence with I will not now remind our learned antagonists, that not the Christian world to infect, as our antagonists maintain, only had these doctrines been taught by Clemens, Ignatius, their faith with the doctrine of the Trinity, why, it may be and Polycarp, but that in the days of Justin and Irenæus asked, was the contagion limited to this one peculiar opinion ? they were the prevailing and prescriptive opinions of Chris
Were the ceremonies of magic or the notion of the metemp-tendom. I will not ask them to calculate what time is needful sychosis less likely to seduce an ignorant multitude than a to disperse an idolatrous creed (for such they esteem it) speculation as to the manner of the Divine existence; or through the many thousand Unitarian churches which must were they more at variance with the spirit of Christianity have arisen, during the lifetime of the apostles, in every rethan, if we believe our antagonists, the adoration of the Holy gion of the empire. But whenever the innovation was Ghost and the Son? Or how can we believe that the Pla-effected, it must, doubtless, have had a beginning; and if tonist, who, to gain admission into the Church, had renounced that beginning had been opposed by the scholars and immehis more obvious peculiarities, should have raked out, from diate successors of the twelve, supported by their recent authe darkness of the Timæus and the Parmenides, a doctrine thority, the apostles, it is plain, would not have been held in which, far from being a conspicuous tenet of the Academy, such exalted reverence by the fathers of the succeeding age. was hardly known, it may be thought, to its students, till it We may perhaps be answered, that “the crafty heretic who was quoted against them by the Christians ?
sowed such tares in the evangelical field, professed no novThat a doctrine, however, may be found in the works of elty, but the revival of ancient opinions; that he grounded Plato which bears a resemblance, though an imperfect one, his system on the alleged authority of the apostles themto the Catholic faith of one Divine Being displayed in three selves, which the universal church, as he pretended, had Hypostases, is a truth acknowledged by all. And though subsequently corrupted or mistaken.” the above considerations may prove, that the Christians can- That this should be attempted, and attempted with sucnot have borrowed it from the Academy, the Socinians may cess, at a time when the last of the apostles was hardly cold do well to reflect, whether that opinion, which was espoused in his grave, and while many thousands were yet alive who by the deepest thinkers of the ancient world, can be, in itself, had received from his living lips instruction, and from his so repugnant to natural reason or natural religion as its oppo- hands ordination and authority, is a mystery, it may seem, as nents would have us believe.
hard to be believed as any one of those for which the SocinBut, not only is it highly improbable that the orthodoxians despise and revile us. If we granted, however, what opinion should have been introduced into Christianity by the can only be granted for the sake of argument, that this reply Platonist, it may be shown, that we must, on every rule of might solve the difficulty which arises from the frequent relikelihood (and independently of those proofs which it is in ference of the early fathers to apostolic tradition and authoour power to produce from the Apostolic writings,) assign its rity, yet will another remain, which Unitarian ingenuity, I introduction to the Apostles themselves.
apprehend, can hardly obviate. For, first, we have already seen the confidence with which For, 2dly, the appeals of Tertullian, Irenæus, and Justin, Justin and Irenæus and Tertullian appeal to Apostolic tradi- to apostolic authority, are perfectly silent as to any interruption and authority.
tion of that tradition to which they lay claim, or to any loss To the general weakness of such appeals in themselves I and subsequent revival in the church of those tenets which must not be supposed insensible: I am far from denying that, they profess to have been the tenets of our Lord's immediate in the space of half a century, many actions or assertions might followers. be fathered on the Apostles, of which the Apostles were alto- But if the orthodox opinions arose in the church from any gether guiltless. But though Apostolic tradition be not alone other teaching but that of the apostles themselves, there sufficient to establish the truth of any particular doctrine, yet, must, doubtless, have been a time at which they were unfrom the frequency of these appeals two facts will necessarily known. And on whatever pretence and by whatever artifice follow: 1st, That the orthodox regarded the Apostles as the their introduction was effected, its author, whether reformer original founders of their sect; and, 2dly, That they acknow-or innovator, could not, we may be sure, have produced so ledged no interruption in the tradition of the Church; no sub- great a change, without a painful struggle against previous sequent loss and revival of the Apostolic tenets.
opinion, and a display of talents of some kind or other which But as every innovation must have had its beginning, every must have ensured him the veneration of his followers. religious sect its heresiarch, so will it also be allowed, that The name of reformer or restorer, in the general estimation the doctrine of the Trinity (if it were indeed an innovation of mankind, is little less illustrious than that of first disand a heresy,) must needs have been introduced, if the Apos- coverer. Luther, we know, as well as Melancthon and tles were still alive, in opposition to their authority; if after Calvin, professed to teach no novelties; but to inculcate a their decease, in opposition to the general sense of that return to the primitive models of doctrine and faith and worChurch which they had established.
ship. Manes and Mohammed revived, as they pretended, the Is it not plain, however, from the common custom and original tenets of the Messiah ; yet when will these men or