« PreviousContinue »
many correct notions of religious truth, perceived, that the mythic fictions contained much that was absurd and equally unworthy of gods and men, favored the idea, that the worship of the Deity depended on the state of the mind, rather than on the performance of external services, and distinguished very justly between ευσεβεια and δεισιδαιμονια. In the works of Plutarch especially there occur many noble sentiments on religious subjects, showing that he and those like him had advanced beyond the multitude in their conceptions of truth, and taught not a few principles very similar to those of the christian religion. But most of these philosophers were unwilling, that the established forms of worship should be abandoned, and others substituted for them. They revered them, because they were supported by law and custom ; and feared, lest if their national and ancient institutions should give place to those of foreign and recent origin, it might derange the whole order and frame of society. For this reason they either considered it the part of a wise man to follow philosophy as his guide in private life, but in public life to conform to the laws and worship in the ancient manner, or to endeavor, by divesting the received mythology of its literal sense, and understanding it to teach only physical and moral truths, or by distinguishing between daemons and gods and referring to the former every thing of an unworthy nature, to improve the public religion and harmonize it with the doctrines of philosophy. Those now, who thought and did thus, could not have patronized the cause of the Christians, nor have appeared as the eulogists of those, who were despising the public rites, who were censuring, and ridiculing them, and preparing the way for their ruin.
for their ruin. Many things indeed taught by the Christians they approved as perfectly agreeable to right reason. But they were of the opinion, that a knowledge of divine and human subjects was to be sought, not from the Christians, but from the philosophers of their own country, far excelling in their estimation both in acuteness and eloquence the prophets of the Jews and the apostles, founders of the christian church. Thus the cause of the Christians was not favored even by those philosophers, who approached very nearly to them in the sentiments which they entertained.
But those, by whom sacred rites of every description were despised, and all religion accounted as superstition, had still other reasons either for neglecting or censuring the followers of Christ. To this class belonged the Epicureans, and Cynics; which is learned not only from Plutarch, who frequently characterizes the Epicureans as atrous, and censures severely* their γελωτας and χλευασμου, but also from the example of Lucian, who embraced the Epicurean philosophy. For Lucian not only ridiculed the heathen mythology, exhibited the Grecian gods in a ridiculous light and held up to contempt the public ceremonies, but also especially in those treatises, of which one is entitled ZEUS éney Zouevos, the other Zeus Towyodos, argued against religion itself, and endeavored to subvert the doctrine of a Divine Being, who is interested in the concerns of men.f Philosophers now, discarding thus the idea of a Divine power, could not but have extended that contempt which they felt for all religion, to the christian religion also, and have turned with abhorrence from those, whom they considered either as the authors or supporters of a new superstition. Nor did those attacks, which were made by the Christians upon the prevalent errors, have any special tendency to conciliate their favor. They supposed, that they themselves, following in the steps of Evemerus and other philosophers of past times, had fully discovered and proved the vanity, senselessness and absurdity of the mythic system.
It is therefore sufficiently accounted for, that the Christians even at that time, when they had now become generally known, found, not a few followers indeed, but no eulogists and advocates among the philosophers.
But those of these philosophers, who felt such a dislike to the Christians, because they were unwilling, that the public rites, established by law and custom, should be disturbed and abolished, appear to have had appropriate reasons, not so much for neglecting to speak of their affairs, as for arraigning the correctness of their opinions. For the Christians surely were preparing the way for the ruin of those rites: their poets, known by the name of Sibyllists, were, in imitation of the author of the Apocalypse, predicting it ; and their apologists, seeking the same result in every possible way, made no secret of the fact, that they too desired it, that they prayed and labored, that all would abandon the temples and altars of idols and turn to the true God. It may therefore be very properly asked, why no one, except Celsus, (for Crescens and Fronto appear to have merely personated the character of assailants and accusers), endeavored to convict the Christians of error, and defend the public religion against them. Those, who might have done this, we answer, appear to have neglected it, because they supposed, that there was but little to be feared from the Christians. Foreign religious rites had been often introduced, and the Jewish ceremonies had already been a long time practised without any danger to the public religion. The Christians, few in number, suspected by the magistrates, odious to the multitude, and not protected indeed by public law from the fear of punishment, seemed not to be the persons, who were to overturn those institutions, which had been received from their fathers, which were guarded by the authority of the State, which had become sacred through the veneration of ages. No one could at that time have easily predicted, that domestic usages were soon to give place to foreign ; ancient, to modern ; Greek and Roman, to those, which had sprung from Judea, and that the opinions of mänkind, the laws of the empire, and the religion of the whole Roman world, were about to be changed by the efforts of the Christians. The christian church, in all its early progress, was weak; and even in the age of the Antonines was so destitute of the influence, arising either from numbers or the support of literary men, that it could have presented no very threatening aspect towards the rites of paganism, with whatever earnestness it might have sought their overthrow. There seemed to be no occasion for the pen in opposing those, who were falling by the sword. There were a few indeed of such sagacity, that, like Celsus, they saw, that the elements of a mighty revolution were concealed in the principles of the Christians; but for the most part they were deceived by the external appearance of things, and supposed that their few and feeble churches would soon be exterminated. It was a mistake, into which men are liable to fall, who estimate by number and weight the power of what depends upon human thought and volition.
* See bis book de Oraculorum Defectu, c. 19.
+ See particularly his Zeus Tragoedus, c. 42-49. p. 694—698. Tom. II. ed. Reitz.
Still further; those, who were unwilling that the public rites should be disturbed and abolished, are not to be considered as having been so attached to them, that they would not suffer any thing to be said in disparagement of them. Neither against Oenomaus, who in the time of Hadrian assailed the art of divination,* nor against Lucian, who in the age of the Antonines
* His book, of which fragments by no means inconsiderable have been preserved by Eusebius in his Praeparatio Evangelica, L. V. cap.
ridiculed and exposed the gods, did any come forward to defend the religion of their fathers. Besides, it was no easy matter to restore the Grecian theology, neglected as it had long been, and reconcile with philosophy a religion, which was founded upon the senses and in many respects directly at variance with correct reason. It cannot therefore appear singular, that in the age of the Antonines no one, except Celsus, supported the cause of the public religion by attacking the opinions of the Christians. For although the Platonists were every where numerous, yet it was not until the third century that the NeoPlatonic philosophy, which furnished the defenders of the national faith with the most convenient weapons, began at length to prevail.
The examination, into which we have thus gone, furnishes a satisfactory answer, we think, to the question, which we proposed to consider. It has been our design to treat it in such a way, that it might be seen, that it is no discredit to Christianity, that it so rarely attracted the attention of Greek and Roman writers. Unless we are deceived, we have not failed to accomplish our purpose. For we think, that it is abundantly evident from what has been said, that the authors, of whom we have spoken, bad either absolutely no reasons for mentioning the Christians, or such as would lead them to do it but very seldom.
But the fewer the facts, which we learn from these authors, in reference to the christian cause, the more highly should we prize the writings of the apostles, apostolic fathers, and apologists, of which, fortunately we have such ample remains. By the perusal and study of these records of early Christianity, we may fully acquaint ourselves with the progress and arguments of the primitive believers. So far from its being adverse to the truth, nothing, on the contrary, contributes so much to excite the mind to its contemplation, as familiarity with the history of the ancient church.
18 sqq. L. VI. c. 6 sqq., was entitled, popa yontov, detection of impostors. Cf. Fabricii Bibl. Graec. Vol. III. p. 522 sq. ed. Harles.
CONNECTION OF THE OLD AND New Testaments.
Translated from the German of Professor T'westen of Berlin. By B. B. Edwards, Professor
of Hebrew, Theological Seminary, Andover,
Introductory Remarks, by the Translator. [Professor Twesten, now in the chair of theology recently filled by Schleiermacher in the university of Berlin, is one of the most distinguished evangelical theologians of Germany, though his writings are not very numerous. He was born at Glückstadt on the 11th of April, 1789. His earliest education was acquired at the Latin school of his native place ; he then pursued the study of philology and theology at the university of Kiel, in Denmark, from which he received, in 1812, the honorary degree of doctor in philosophy. He then went to Berlin, where he came into particular connection with Schleiermacher from whose theological turn of mind, he received an important influence. In the same year he became a teacher of a gymnasium in Berlin, and, in 1813, inspector in a similar institution. In 1814, he left Berlin, and became professor extraordinarius of philosophy and theology at Kiel. In 1819, he became professor ordinarius of theology in the same university. In 1826, the university of Bonn gave him the degree of doctor in theology. In the same year, he received the order of knighthood, and in 1827, he was chosen a member of the philosophical society of Copenhagen. He declined several invitations to professorships from various universities, among which were Bonn and Göttingen. In 1836, on the decease of Schleiermacher, he removed to Berlin. His not very numerous publications are confined to philology, theology, and philosophy. His only publication in the first named branch is a critical commentary on Hesiod's Works and Days, Kiel, 1815. In 1818, he published a book on Symbolik, and in 1819, in conjunction with the pastor Harms of Kiel, a work on the Augsburg Confession, in German and Latin. He showed himself to be a clear and profound thinker by his Logic, printed at Sleswig in 1825. In 1826, he published an account of the Evangelical Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg, Pa. From 1815 to 1819, he was