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belonged to the mysteries of revelation; they put evil for good, and good for evil, darkness for light, and light for darkness. St. Paul himself, though of the very strictest sect, and taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers, ' verily thought with himself that he ought to do the things which he did, while persecuting Jesus of Nazareth in the sons of his followers. And when a change had been wrought in his mind through divine grace, and the errors which had obscured his understanding were removed, he received a commission from God to the Gentiles for the express purpose of opening their eyes, and turning them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God. In the same spirit, and with the same view of the state of degradation in which the world was sunk, St. Peter calls upon the believers to “shew forth the praises of him who had called them out of darkness into his marvellous light?.'
B Acts, xxvi. 18.
7 1 Pet. ii. 9.
But although Scripture gives this humbling representation of the face of the world in a general view, it may be asked whether a remnant of a purer religion might not have been preserved among the philosophers of the more enlightened nations, previous to the promulgation of Christianity.
It was certainly the wish of the early Christians to enlist some of the Pagan writers among the teachers of evangelical truths. And even in later times it has been insinuated, that Plato began to write about the time when prophecy ceased; and that this was divinely contrived, in order to prepare the world for the Gospel by an intermediate teaching of most of its principles".'
There is at first sight something plausible in an idea which bears a close analogy to the mode in which it has pleased God in general to communicate successive revelations of his will to mankind, after adequate gradual preparation. But when we examine into the grounds upon which the hypothesis rests, there can be no doubt that the amount of Plato's knowledge of the Deity has been greatly overrated, as well by those whose design it was to depreciate holy writ, as by those who have injudiciously wished to borrow for Christianity the support and countenance of human wisdom. The supposed coincidence of Platonism with revelation will vanish when it is separated from the misrepresentations and additions of the followers of the Alexandrian school. Their object was to raise the character of philosophy by the secret aid of Christianity, adopting scriptural expressions and ideas, and attributing them to Plato by means of artful interpretations and a forced similitude of phrase'. On the whole, it may be safely concluded, even without having recourse to the
8 See Dr. Ireland's Paganism and Christianity compared,' p. 242, &c. and 323, for an able and judicious examination of the claim set up by the admirers of Plato to the introduction of a doctrine by that philosopher hardly inferior to the doctrine of Christ and the apostles.
9 Among these, Ammonius and Plotinus appear to have been most diligent in their insidious attempts; and they were very successful in enlisting under their banners such as were şufficiently enlightened to be disgusted with the absurdities of polytheism, but who yet continued adverse to Christianity.
testimony of revelation, that there was nothing attained by the wisest and best of that people who erected an altar to the unknown God, which could supersede the necessity of divine teaching, or detract from the originality of our Lord as a preacher of spiritual truths.
Observation and inquiry, therefore, tend to confirm the unwelcome statement, which Scripture so unequivocally asserts, that the world by wisdom knew not God'',
But in the midst of moral darkness, in the midst of the grossest mistakes respecting the object and the nature of religion, that true light began to shine which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. In pity to the ignorance that prevailed, Christ took upon himself the task of spiritualizing the worship paid to the Supreme Being, and gave a meaning and a purity to the precepts of the divine law, of which the corruptions of the Jewish teachers had long deprived
1 I Cor. i. 21.
them. The preparatory dispensation under which man was taught to live - by sight, had proved inadequate to raise his affections to true holiness, and therefore in the fulness of time Christ came, the minister of a better covenant. For that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural, and afterward that which is spiritual. Hence it became a part of the office of that holy instructor, to remove the errors of those who taught for doctrine the commandments of men, and to introduce a criterion of purity and perfection, of which the world had previously no conception.
* 1 Cor. xv. 46. “ An appeal directed wholly to the better part, to the spirit of man; to motives, and hopes, and faculties of a character altogether spiritual, refined, and unseen; appears to have been reserved, until the ministration of death and condemnation, put to proof, and found wanting, might itself stand forth, in its wreck and insufficiency, an additional and most convincing argument, that to live by sight is not the way to conquer the perverse will, nor to bring the heart of man unto that extent of obedience and of purity, of which, even in this present life, God is pleased to make it capable.'Miller's Bampton Lectures, p. 41.