« PreviousContinue »
signs of real christian proficiency, in experimental and practical religion, as the fruit of his labours. But we must be content with such matter as ecclesiastical materials afford us.
One Ambrose, addicted to the Valentinian herefy, an extremely fanciful and romantic scheme, not worth the trouble of an explanation, either for authors or readers, found himself confuced by Origen, and was brought over to the church. Many learned men also felt the force of his argumentations. Heretics and philosophers attended his lectures, and he took, no doubt, a very excellent method to win their regard to himself at least, by instructing them in profane and secular learning. When philosophers pressed him with their opinions, he confuted them by arguments drawn from other philosophers, and commented on their works with so much acuteness and fagacity, as to deserve among Gentiles the reputation of a great philosopher. He encouraged many to study the liberal arts, assuring them, that they would, by that means, be much better fur. nished for the contemplation of holy fcripture, and was entirely of opinion, that secular and philosophical institutes were very necessary and profitable for himself.
Does not the reader see how much we are als ready, in the course of christian annals, departed, though by insensible degrees, from christian simplicity ? Here is a man looked up to with reverence as the greatest light, at least in the eastern church, a scholar himself, in his younger days, of che amphibious Ammonius, mixing christianity and philosophy, lecturing pagan philosophers, and drawing them over, in form at least, to embrace the religion of Jelus. His success among them appears very great. reat. In their books the philoso
phers of those days often mention this man; fome dedicate their books to him, others respectfully deliver their works to him as their master. All this Eusebius tells us with much apparent fatis. faction. To him the gospel seems to have triumphed over Gentilism by this means. I own I cannot but think that it was rather corrupted by Gentilism. What can Origen mean by asserting the utility and even * necessity of philosophy for himfelf as a christian ? Are not the scriptures able to make a man wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus, that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished to every good work ? Suppose a man of common sense, perfectly unacquainted with all the learned lore of Ammonias, to study only the sacred books, with prayer, dependence on Divine guidance and illumination, and with selfexamination? Is it not conceivable that he
may acquire a competent knowledge; may he not ob. ftain an eminent knowledge of the scriptures? Certainly an acquaintance with the classics and philosophers may furnish him with strong arguments to prove the necessity and excellency of Divine Revelation, and deserves seriously to be encouraged in all who are to instruct others, for their improvement in taste, language, eloquence, and history. But if they are to dictate-in religion, or are thought capable even of adding to the stock of theological knowledge, the scriptures (with reverence be it spoken) may seem to have been defectively written. In truth, we hear nothing now of conviction of sin, of converfion, of the influence of the Holy Spirit, of the love of Christ, among these learned converts of Origen. They are pleased with him, and fuperior parts and learning are sure to command the esteem of mankind. What are all the labours of
Origen, * Euseb. B. 6-]7.
Origen, which we have now before us, but vain attempts to mix things which the Holy Ghost has declared will not incorporate? One certain mischief would naturally follow; characters would be confounded ; among the learned henceforward the distinction between godliness and philosophy is too faintly marked. If Origen had simply and plainly expounded to these men the peculiar and vital truths of the gospel, I cannot but suspect that many of them would have ceased to attend his instructions:
The famous Porphyry, than whom christianity had never a more acrimonious enemy, takes notice of Origen's allegorical mode of interpreting scripture, observes that he was acquainted with him when young, and bears testimony to his rapid improvements under Ammonius. He asserts, what indeed Eufebius, who must have known, contra. dicts, that Ammonius, though brought up a chriftian, turned afterwards a Gentile. He acknow. ledges that Origen continually perused Plato, Numenius,and the rest of the Pythagoreans; that he was well versed in Chæremon the Stoic, and Cornutus, whence he, borrowing the Græcian manner of allegorical interpretations, applied it to the Jewish scriptures.
We have seen before the wanton spirit of allegory introduced by Ammonius. It is very probable that Origen thence learnt to treat the scriptures in the same manner as Porphyry affirms. He had the candour to confess that he had been mistaken in his literal interpretation of our Saviour's words concerning the eunuchs. He afterwards learnt to allegorize all the three clauses in the palfage, falling into a contrary extreme*; and in general he unhappily introduced such a complicated
scheme * Mat. xix. 126
scheme of fanciful interpretation, as for many ages after, through the excess of respect paid to the man, much clouded the light of scripture.
There wanted not, however, those who found fault with Origen for all this attachment to philosophy. Probably simple souls who desired to be fed with the fincere milk of the Word, that they might grow thereby, found themselves itarved amidft all this heterogeneous doctrine. He thought himself called on to vindicate his practice, which he only does by observing the use of philosophy in confusing heretics, and by the example of Pantænus, and of Heraclas, an Alexandrian pastor, I suppose his coadjutor, who formerly had worn the common dress, and afterwards took up the philosopher's garb, and still studied earnestly the books of philosophers. What does all this prove but the epidemical progress of the disease ? The governor of Arabia sent to Demetrius, de
, firing the instruction of Origen, who journeyed for that purpose into Arabia and returned to Alexandria.
The elegant publication of Minucius Felix, a work deserving even to be ranked among the Latin classics for its neatness and purity of style, was an ornament to the Latin church. The arguments against Paganism are well pointed and well adapted to the state of the world at that time; it is only to be regretted that we see not more of the real nature of christianity in the work.
In the year two hundred and fourteen Macrinus succeeded Caracalla, who reigned seven years and fix months.
CHAP, CH A P. VI.
CHRISTIAN AFFAIRS DURING THE REIGNS OF MA
CRINUS, HELIOGABALUS, ALEXANDER, MAXIMIN NUS, PUPIENUS, GORDIAN, AND PHILIP.
ACRINUS reigned not quite a year, and
was succeeded by Heliogabalus, who was Nain after he had swayed the sceptre three years and nine months. He died in the year two hun. dred and twenty-two. His follies and vices are infamous, but he perished at the age of eighteen. The church of God suffered nothing from him, nor does he appear to have conceived any particular prejudices against it: on the contrary, he expreffed a desire of removing the rites of christian worship to Rome. It is not worth while to attempt an explanation of the views of so senseless and foolish a prince. He was succeeded by his cousin Alexander, who was as yet in the 16th year of his age, and was one of the best moral characters in profane history.
His mother, Mainmæa, is called by Eusebius a woman most godly and religious. I am at a loss how to vindicate the expression. It does not appear that she received the faith of Christ. But neither she nor her son persecuted; they rather approved and countenanced the christians. Persons of candour and probity themselves, they saw that, in ethics at least, the people of God concurred with their own views. Their conduct was laudable ; but see the mischief of uniting chriftianity with philofophy! how cheap and common is the term godly grown in the eye of Eufebius!
The Euseb. L. 6. Fleury, B. V. IV.