Page images

obliged to spend in receiving nourishment, he is employed in continual and mental prayer. He is mild, affable, patient, but at the same time so rigid as not to be tempted, neither giving way to pleasure nor pain.” But enough of these views. Pseudo-religionists have since his time dealt largely in these reveries, so inconsistent with that humbling sense of imbecility, and that sincere conflict against the sin of our nature, which is peculiarly chriftian. In truth, if his knowledge of christian doctrine was defective any where, it lay in the point of original fin. Of this his philosophers knew nothing aright; and it must be owned he speaks of it in a confused manner at least. On the whole, such is the baneful effect of mixing things which will not incorporate, human inventions with christian truth, that this writer, learned, laborious, and ingenious as he was, in the subject of real christian knowledge and in the experience of divine things, according to the light of scripture, may seem to be far exceeded by many obscure and illiterate persons at this day : his being a truly pious person, in the main, is no objection to this account; it only demonstrates, in a stronger manner, the danger of admitting the peftilent spirit of human felf-sufficiency to dictate in chriftian religion.

[blocks in formation]




HE lives of the four persons, we have reviewed,

seem proper to be prefixed to the general history of the third century, partly because they were studious men, not very much connected with the public state of christianity; and partly because their views and taste in religion being known, may prepare the reader to expect that unhappy mixture of philosophical self-righteousness and fuperstition, which much clouded the light of the gospel in this century.

were his Euseb, B. 6. C. S.

Severus, though in his younger days, it should feem, a bitter persecutor of chriftians at Lyons, was yet, through the influence of the kindness which he had received from Proculus, favourably

toward the christians. It was not till about the tenth year of his reign, which falls in with the year two hundred and two, that his native ferocity of temper brake out afresh, in kindling a very severe persecution against the christians. He was just returned victorious, from the East, against Niger, and the pride of prosperity induced him to forbid the propagation of the golpel. Chriftians ftill thought it right to obey God rather than man. Severus would be obeyed, and exercised the usual cruelties. The perfecution raged every where, but particularly at Alexandria. From various parts of Egypt the christians were brought thither to suffer, and expired in torments. Of this number was Leonidas, father of the famous Origen; he was beheaded, and left his son very young. Our author * selects from the letters and narrations of his friends fome account of him, which it will be proper to take from his own narrative.

Lætus was at that time Governor of Alexandria and the rest of Egypt, and Demetrius was just elected Bishop of the christians in that city. Great numbers now suffering martyrdom, young Origen panted for the honour, and needlessly exposed himself to danger. His mother checked his imprudent zeal at first by earnest entreaties; but perceiving that he still was bent on suffering with his father, who at that time was closely confined, the very properly exercised her motherly authority hy confining him to the house, and hiding from him all his apparel. The vehement fpirit of Origen prompted him, when he could do nothing else, to write a letter to his father, in which he thus exhorted him, “ Father, faint not, and don't be concerned on our account.” He had been carefully trained in the study of the scriptures under the inspection of his pious father, who, together with the study of the liberal arts, had particularly superintended this most important part of education. Even before he suffered him to be exercised in profane learning, he instructed him in scripture, and gave him daily a certain task out of it to repeat. The penetrating genius of Origen led him, in the course of his employment, to investigate the sense of scripture, and to ask his father questions beyond his ability to solve. The father checked his curiosity, reminded him of his imbecility, and admonished him to be content with the plain grammatical sense of fcripture, which obvioully offered itself; but inwardly rejoiced, it seems, that God had given him such a ton. And it would not have been amirs, had he rejoiced with trembling; perhaps he did so, and Origen’s early loss of such a father, who probably was more simple in christian faith and piety than he himself ever was, might be an extreme disadvantage to him. Youths of

and uncommon parts, accompanied, as is generally the case, with much ambition and boundless curiosity, have often been the inftruments of Satan in perverting Divine truth; and it is not so much attended to as ic ought to be by many truly pious and humble x


souls, company

fouls, that the superior eminence of youths, whom they respect, in parts and good sense, is by no means a prognostic of the like superiority in real spiritual knowledge and discernment in Divine things. Men of genius, if they meet with encouragement, will be sure to distinguish themselves in whatever line of life they move. But persons even of remarkable endowments, though fincere in christianity, may not only in the practice, but even in the perception of gospel-truths, be far out-stripped by others who are naturally much their inferiors, because the latter are by no means fo exposed to the crafts of Satan, are not so liable to be warped, in their judgments, from christian fimplicity, are more apt to look for understanding from above, and are less disposed to lean to an arm of flesh.

We seem to discover, in the very beginning of Origen, the foundation of that presumptuous fpirit which led him afterwards to philosophize so dangerously in christian religion, never to content himself with plain truth, but to hunt after something fingular and extraordinary, though it must be acknowledged his sincere desire of serving God appeared from early life; nor does it ever seem to have forsaken him, fo that he may be considered as having been a child of God from early years,

His father dying a martyr, he was left an orphan, aged seventeen years, with his mother and other children, fix in number. His father's substance being confiscated by the Emperor, the family was reduced to great distress. But Providence gave him a friend in a rich and godly matron, who yet supported in her house à certain person of Antioch, who was noted for heresy. We cannot at this distance assign her motives for this; but Origen, though obliged to be in his company, could not be prevailed on to join in prayer with him. He now vigorously applied himself to the improvement of his understanding; and having no more work at school, it seems, because he soon acquired all the learning his master could give him, and finding that the business of catechizing was deserted at Alexandria, because of the persecution, he undertook the work himself, and several Gentiles came to hear him and became his Disciples. He was

now in his eighteenth year, and in the heat of the persecution distinguished himself by his attachment to the Martyrs, not only those of his acquaintance, but in general those who suffered for christianity. He visited such of them as were fettered in deep dungeons and close imprisonment, and was present with them even after their condemnation, boldly attending them to the place of execution, to the great peril of his own life, openly embracing and Talucing them, and was once in imminent danger of being stoned to death on this account. This danger of his was often repeated, insomuch that soldiers were commanded to watch about his house, because of the multitudes that crowded thither for instruction. As the persecution daily prevailed, it seemed however impossible, humanly speaking, for him to escape : he could no longer pass safely through the streets of Alexandria ; but often changing lodgings, he was every where pursued, yet his instructions had great effect, and his zeal incited numbers to attend to christianity.

The charge of the school was now, by Demetrius the Bishop, committed to him alone, and he converted it wholly into a school of religious instruction, maintaining himself by the sale of the profane books which he had been wont to study. Thus he lived many years, an amazing monument

« PreviousContinue »