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at variance with the doctrines of the bible, at least as we understand them, and his fanciful mode of interpeting certain pas- : sages, was the fruitful source of many errors.
This mode of interpretation—this "spiritualising" the scriptures, arose from an opinion he adopted, that “wherever the literal sense of scripture was not obvious, the words were to be understood in a spiritual and mystical sense.” This same mode of spiritualising," we have heard employed by modern divines, and carried to a ridiculous extent. As Origen possessed lively talents, and a ready and fluent manner of delivery, he was successful in the dissemination of his opinions and gained many proselytes. He taught that the divine nature is the fountain of matter, and is, in some sense, material—that God, angels and the souls of men, are of one and the same substance—that the son proceeding from the Father like a solar ray, differs from, and is inferior to himthat every man is attended by a good and bad angel, and that human souls were formed by God before the bodies, into which they are sent as into a prison, for the punishment of their sins, and that they pass from one body to another. Origen was the first who taught the doctrine of universal salvation, a doctrine that has gained, and is still gaining, many followers. Origen died A. D. 254.
Plotinus, a celebrated disciple of the eclectic school, was borni at Lycopolis in Egypt, about the year 205. After attending the different schools of Alexandria, he attached himself to Ammonius, with whom he continued eleven years. Before he became a public teacher, he travelled into Persia and India, for the purpose of making himself acquainted with the philosophy of the Magi and Gymnosophists, which he had beard highly commended. Plotinus was enthusiastically attached to the eclectic system, and for ten years confined himself to oral instruction, always conversing freely with his disciples, encouraging them to propose questions on every subject. He afterwards committed the substance of his lectures to writing, as well for his own convenience, as that of his disciples. His disciples were not very numerous, but he was so highly esteemed for his wisdom and probity, that the most difficult controversies between individuals were referred to his decision. He died A. D. 270, aged sixty-eight years; and just before he breathed his last, repeated a leading doctrine of his system, that “the divine principle; within was, hastening to unite itself with that Divine Being which animates the universe,” intimating that the human soul is an emanation from the divine nature, and will return to the source whence it proceeded.
To the same school belonged Porphyry, a learned and zealous supporter of the pagan theology. He was born A. D. 233, and was first placed under the instructions of Origen, but his education was completed by Longinus, to whom he is supposed to be indebted for a certain elegant and artificial style, which distinguishes bis writings from most of the writings of the times. · At thirty years of age, he became a disciple of Plotinus, then
celebrated as a teacher, and made great proficiency in the acquirement of general knowledge, and particularly of the philosophy of the eclectics. He was esteemed by Plotinus as one of the greatest ornaments of his school, and was frequently employed, not only in explaining the difficulties of his system, but in refuting the objections of his opponents. After the death of Plotinus, he appeared as the open and avowed enemy of christianity, even more rancorous in his hatred than Celsus, and in opposition to its doctrines, he wrote fifteen distinct treatises, which the emperor Theodosius, in his mistaken zeal, ordered to be destroyed. A few fragments are preserved in the writings of his contemporaries. Like some of our modern enthusiasts, he pretended to have been favored with communications from Heaven, and to have beheld the Supreme Being. He died A. D. 304. Porphyry was a voluminous writer, independent of his writings against the christians, and was esteemed a man of great learning, but deficient in judgment and integrity.
The immediate follower of Porphyry, in the eclectic school, was Jamblichus, a native of Chalcis in Syria. He taught the 'eclectic pbilosophy with so much success, that his school was crowded with disciples, whom he attached to himself by the freedom with which he conversed with them-laying aside the authority of the master and appearing in the amiable character of friend. He differed but little from his predecessor.
We might introduce many other christian fathers and philosophers, whose names have swelled the long list of saints in the Romish calendar, whose works were held in high esteem in the dark ages, but which were so interpreted by an assuming clergy, as to corrupt the most beautiful system of religion ever offered
to man, and instead of diffusing light and knowledge among the people, rendered them the obedient slaves of the mitre. But, as it would greatly exceed our limits, we will conclude the view we designed to take of the history of literature, to the reign of Constantine, with a brief notice of Longinus, the celebrated au- > thor of the “Treatise on the sublime.”
Longinus is supposed by some to have been an Athenian by birth, by others, a native of Emessa in Syria, and was educated by Cornelius Fronto, a nephew of Plutarch. His youth was dew voted to study, and for the acquirement of knowledge he visited various cities, and attended the most eminent teachers in eloquence and philosophy. At Athens, where he fixed his residence, he acquired so great a reputation as a writer, that every literary production was approved or rejected according to his decision; and in consequence of his extensive learning, he was distinguished by the title of the “living library.” His reputation having reached Zenobia, queen of Palmyra, she invited him to her court, and not only placed her sons under his care, but took lessons herself in the Greek language, being already conversant with the Latin, Syriac and Egyptian. Longinus having enjoyed the bounty, shared the misfortunes of Zenobia, who having been defeated by the emperor Aurelian, near Antioch, shut herself up in Palmyra. The city being taken, the queen and Longinus attempted to escape into Persia, but were taken in crossing the Euphrates. Zenobia was reserved to grace the triumphal entry of Aurelian into his capital, but Longinus, through the weakness of the queen, was sacrificed to his resentment. “Genius and learning,” says Gibbon, “were incapable of moving a fierce and unlettered soldier, but they had served to elevate and harmonise the soul of Longinus. Without uttering a complaint, he calmly followed the executioner, pitying his unhappy mistress, and bestowing comfort on his afflicted friends."*
Longinus was the author of many philosophical and critical works, only one of which, his "Treatise on the sublime," has escaped the ravages of time, and the more destructive ravages of Gothic violence and ignorance. At the present day this celebrated treatise enjoys, perhaps, a much higher reputation than when first published, not only on account of its intrinsic
* Gibbon's Rom. Emp. vol. 1, ch. 11,
merit, but a certain veneration we feel for the proud remains of ancient learning. It is a standard work in our seminaries of learning, and is regarded as a monument of the critical acumen of the author, as well as the best work on sublimity of writing, that has ever been published. A learned writer has observed, that he “not only discovers a lively relish for the beauties of fine writing, but is himself an excellent, and in several passages, a truly sublime writer." From his remarks upon the influence of free institutions upon literature, and particularly upon orato-, ry, it would appear, that he knew how to estimate that liberty for which Greece was once so renowned. “Liberty," says he, “is the nurse of genius; it animates the spirit and invigorates the hopes of men; it excites honorable emulation and a desire of excelling in every thing that is laudable and praiseworthy." These sentiments, so accordant with the genuine spirit of liberty, were advanced long after the liberties of Greece had been sacrificed at the shrine of Roman ambition, and the liberties of Rome herself were prostrated at the feet of her emperors.*
History of literature, from the accession of Constantine, to the founda
tion of the French monarchy by Clovis.
Constantine the great, ascended the imperial throne on the abdication of Dioclesian and Maximian A. D. 306, and soon after, christianity became the religion of the empire; that is, instead of christians being the subjects of persecution, they were protected by the emperor, and the pagan institutions proscribed in their turn.
The conversion of Constantine from the errors of idolatry to the true religion, was caused, it is said, by one of those extraordinary circumstances, which, if true, was well calculated to strike the mind with great force in a superstitious age. But, whether his conversion was really occasioned by the miraculous
* Mosh. Eccl. Hist.; Enf. Hist. of Phil. ; Cours de Lit. par Laharpe; Abbé Maury op Oran; Gibbon', Rom. Emp.
light he is represented to have seen in the heavens, or, as with
The political and religious character of Constantine is variously estimated, as the particulars of his history are drawn from christian or pagan writers. By the one he is represented as a glorious prince, the friend of learning and the arts, possessing every quality necessary to constitute a great man; by the other he is represented as destitute of every principle of virtue and honor, a bigot in the new religion he had embraced, and often
* Gibbop's Rom. Emp.; Euseb. Life of Cons. Mosh. Ecc. Hist.