designed for the wisest and best of ends. Could a sense of former glory, or the heroic achievements of their fathers, have stimulated to deeds of heroism and acts of generous valor, under such princes as Alexander, Aurelian and Tacitus, who were virtuous, just and merciful, they might have shaken off the yoke of tyranny and oppression, and regained a portion of their former fame.

Under this state of the Roman government, it is not to be expected that general literature and science would flourish and extend their branches abroad. The tree of science and literature best flourishes by the side of the tree of liberty; the soil which supports the one, furnishes the best nutriment to support the other. About this time, christianity had made considerable progress, and had taken hold upon the hearts and affections of many of the people. Fears were entertained by the adherents of the ancient religion, that their system would be overturned; hence, literature assumed a new form, and, instead of investigating the wonders of nature, singing the praises of gods and heroes in measured verse, or recording the events of the times, in the free, manly and energetic style of Tacitus, the pen was employed in unprofitable contests between the christians and pagans. The one party were seeking to uphold the ancient religion, by all the arguments philosophy could devise or ingenuity invent, and appealing to long established usages; the other to overturn the altars of pagan superstition--the one endeavoring to support the philosophy of the schools and the system of morals they taught; the other to establish the more sublime system of the son of God. The contest was conducted on both sides, with much warmth and zeal, and no small degree of acrimony. On the side of polytheism, the most distinguished advocate, and, in truth, the only one whose objections and arguments against the christian religion, seem to have deserved a serious resutation, was Celsus, a philosopher who, having studied all the different systems of philosophy, adopted that of Epicurus.

Celsus was born about the close of the reign of Adrian. The place of his birth, and the history of his early life, are alike involved in obscurity, and his writings, celebrated as they were in his time, are lost, except so much of his work against christianity as is preserved in the work of Origen, who, having set forth his principal arguments and objections, triumphantly and

successfully refutes them. Celsus was familiarly acquainted with the doctrines of the various schools of philosophy, and was, no doubt, well versed in the arts of controversy. His work too, must have been at least ingeniously composed, or its réfutation would not have engaged the pen of Origen, who was a distinguished father of the church, and a zealous and intrepid defender of what he considered the truths of the gospel dispensation. To the character and conduct of the primitive christians, Celsus, notwithstanding his prejudices, and even hatred, bears honorable testimony, acknowledging that amongst them, were many who were temperate, modest, virtuous and regular in their lives. The literary labors of Celsus were not confined to his controversies with the christian fathers; he was the author of some other works, of which, however, none are at present extant.

About this time a new sect of philosophy arose, whose tenets, in consequence of the apparent candor with which they were promulgated, spread with rapidity throughout the empire. This sect had its origin at Alexandria in Egypt, then the seat of learning. Its founders collected from different sects such doctrines as they thought conformable to truth, and adopted most of the leading doctrines taught by Plato and his followers, and hence assumed the name of Platonics; they were also called Eclectics, from the circumstance of their selecting and adopting such of the doctrines of different sects as they approved.

The founder of this sect was Potamo, a disciple of the school of Plato, who flourished, as is supposed by some, under Augustus, by others towards the close of the second century. This system of philosophy, although compounded of the doctrines of the Egyptian, Platonic, Pythagorean and other sects, intermixed with the doctrines of Christ and the Persian Zoroaster, found many advocates among the Alexandrian christians, who were desirous of retaining the title and habit of philosophers, with their character as christians. After Potamo, the eclectic school was supported by Ammonius, who considered the ancient philosophy of the east, as preserved by Plato, to be the primitive standard of all religions, and to restore it to its original purity was the great design of Jesus Christ upon earth. Ammonius was born of christian parents, and was early instructed in the learning of the Alexandrian schools. When he arrived to man's estate, he apostatized from the faith in which he had been edų

cated, at least so far as to adopt the general principles of philosophy taught by Potamo, making, however, such additions and alterations as conformed with his own ideas. Although educated in the christian faith, his leading object seems to have been to obstruct the progress of christianity by combining the principal tenets of the pagan and christian schools, and thus to bring about a coalition of all the philosophical sects, and all the different systems of religion that prevailed in the world. To reconeile the various systems of religion, and particularly the chris

tian, with his own, he turned into a mere allegory the whole his#tory of the gods, and maintained that those beings whom the

priests and people dignified with this title, were no more than celestial ministers, to whom a certain kind of worship was due; but a worship inferior to that which was to be reserved for the Supreme Deity. He acknowledged Christ to be a most excellent man, the friend of God, the admirable theurge; he denied, however, that Jesus designed to abolish entirely, the worship of demons, and of the other ministers of divine Providence; and affirmed, on the contrary, that his only intention was, to purify the ancient religion, and that his followers had manifestly corrupted the doctrines of their divine master.* This combination of heathen and christian philosophy, was the cause of innumerable corruptions which subsequently flowed into the channel of the christian church, impairing the beautiful simplicity of its doctrines, and, in the dark ages which followed the decline of learning, produced a superstition as blind, as ever disgraced the altars and temples of paganism. Too many of those who are called fathers of the church, and whose opinions were reverenced as divine, were educated in the principles of the eclectic school—this mixture of truth and falsehood. After the revival of learning, the eclectic philosophy was attempted to be revived by Jerome Cardan, a physician of Pavia, who is represented to have been a wonderful compound of wisdom and folly, and it afterwards found advocates in the celebrated Francis Bacon, Camapanella, Hobbes, Des Cartes, Leibnitz and others.

After this brief notice of a system of philosophy, which was. destined to have a considerable influence upon the state of reli gion and science, we will return to the most celebrated writers *

* Mosheim's Ecc. His. vol. 1.

of that period, who were all more or less tinctured with its principles. Tertullian was a native of Carthage, and was the contemporary and opponent of Celsus. After he renounced the errors of paganism and embraced christianity, like Saul of Tarsus, he became one of its zealous advocates. Although he was not brought up at the feet of Gamaliel, he was instructed in the learning of the times, and was intimately acquainted with the doctrines and opinions of the different sects of Grecian philosophy. As many christians, who had been educated in pagan schools, mingled the doctrines of philosophy with the doctrines of the church, he attributed most of the heresies which had then crept into its bosom, to their influence, and styles philosophers the “patriarchs of heretics." Tertullian possessed a lively and vivid imagination, rather than a strong and discriminating mind, and, in his zeal against what he esteemed a vain philosophy, he adopted and gave currency to opinions almost as much at war with the sober dictates of reason, as the wildest theories of those against whose doctrines and opinions he was contending. Of this we might cite many instances, did our limits permit. The most celebrated of his works is his “Apology for the Christians," in which he refutes the various calumnies that were circulated against theni.

About this time flourished Clemens Alexandrinus. He received his education in the schools of Alexandria. He bad various preceptors, by whom he was initiated into all the learning of the cast, as well as the philosophy and literature of the Greeks. Although celebrated as a christian father, and one of the supporters of the church in perilous times, in consequence of blending the tenets of the heathen philosophers, with the christian doctrines in his writings, he was, in many respects, injurious to the cause he supported; and particularly in after ages, when the opinions of the primitive fathers were regarded as divine, and of equal authority with the scriptures themselves. Like others, he transferred many of the opinions of the Platonic and other schools to the christian, and thus contributed to impair the symmetry of the christian edifice. To such writers and such theologians, who mingled the doctrines of contrary and opposing systems, most of the errors which disfigured the rites, ceremonies and doctrines of the church, may be traced, which overspread the whole christian world with darkness, until illuminated

by the glorious rays of the sun of the reformation. So much was Clemens captivated with the Grecian philosophy, that he declared, that “philosophy was communicated to the Greeks from Heaven, as their proper testament or covenant, and that it was to them what the law of Moses was to the Hebrews.”. Among the peculiar doctrines taught by Clemens, are the following, which will show to what extent he mingled the doctrines of Plato with those of Christ. He taught that the Logos is the image of the Father, and man the image of the Logos--that the Logos proceeded from God for the purpose of creation that the world was produced from God, as a son from a father-that there are two worlds, the sensible and the intelligible that angels are corporeal-that man has two souls, the rational and irrational, and that the stars are animated by a rational soul.

Origen, the celebrated opponent of Celsus and the zealous defender of christianity, was born at Alexandria A. D. 184, during the reign of Commodus. He was a pupil of Clemens of Alexandria, and was instructed in the tenets of the several sects of philosophy, as preparatory to the study of the sublime doctrines of christianity--a course of instruction which the christians of the present day, would consider as not very well adapted to prepare the mind for the reception of the truths of the gospel. Origen afterwards became a disciple of Ammonius, an eclectic philosopher, whose school was attended by christians as well as pagans, who equally received the benefit of his instructions. In this school Origen continued until he made himself master of the learning of the times, and at eighteen years of age, he opened a school himself, for the double purpose of teaching, and procuring the means of subsistence for his mother and her family of six children. His school soon became celebrated, and was crowded with pupils, both christian and pagan, so that he was not only enabled to support his mother and family, but gained a considerable surplus. On the death of Clemens, he took possession of the christian catechetical school which he had established, and in: this new situation he employed every means to convince his pupils of the superiority of the christian, over every other system of religion, and, at the same time, inculcated, by precept and example, a most rigid system of morals. Some of his opinions, however, partaking of that mixture of pagan philosophy and christianity, which he imbibed from Clemens and Ammonius, are


« ForrigeFortsett »