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cannot help feeling, that it would be doing those distinguished men (many of whom sealed with their blood the sincerity of their Christian profession) great injustice, to pass on without making some apology for them in respect to their opinions, and endeavouring to show how they were led to embrace them. This I will do, in as brief a manner as the nature of the case will permit.
1. Every man, in all his reasonings about psychological and metaphysical subjects, is influenced more or less by the current philosophy of the times in which he lives. In cases where he is no devotee to any system of philosophy, or not particularly given to the study of it, this influence, though insensible to him, is still very considerable. Who, for example, in the English world, is not influenced in whatever he says about the intellectual and metaphysical nature of man, by the philosophy of Locke, or Stewart, or Brown? And in all our final views of the nature and operations of the divine Being, are we not greatly influenced by the previous deductions of pure reason, in respect to his nature and attributes?
Such too was the case of the fathers, whose sentiments have been produced in the preceding pages. Most of them had been, in earlier life, Platonic philosophers; at least, they were adherents to the New Platonic School, which by a selection from various systems of philosophy, and a combination of them with some of the leading doctrines of Plato, had formed what is called Syncretism, i. e. mixed or eclectic Philosophy.
The charge has been often made against these fathers, of corrupting the Christian religion by the introduction of Platonic philosophy. They have had some learned vindicators also. Both sides have gone to ex
tremes as it often happens in disputes, not among the unlearned only, but among the learned; specially when men of ardent feelings become engaged in them. More recent, thorough, and impartial investigation has shewn, I believe to the general satisfaction of the learned, that the fathers cannot be justly charged with designed corruption of the doctrines of Christianity, in any respect, through the introduction of Platonic philosophy. The late Professor Keil, of Leipzick, has nearly put an end to this question.*
But still, as the great body of the Antenicene fathers were attached to the Platonic philosophy, like all other men who reason on subjects where an appeal to philosophy is made, they were unquestionably influenced in their modes of explanation, by the philosophy which they
2. In answering the objections that are made to the system of religion which men embrace, an appeal is usually made to those arguments, which will put to silence the opponents of it; and of course, to those principles of philosophy or reasoning, which both parties hold in common. Even in silencing the speculative objections which arise in our minds, we appeal to principles of reasoning that have usually satisfied us; and when we have done this, it is common to rest contented with it, and to push our inquiries no farther.
Let us now go back, and place ourselves, if possible, in the condition of the Antenicene fathers. They lived at a time, when the doctrines of the New Platonic School had an almost universal influence, in all the countries where they resided. If now this philosophy admitted
Keil, de Doctoribus Vet. Eccles. culpa corruptae per Platonicas Sententias Theologiae liberandis Exercitationes.
and advocated a Logos, which emanated from God, was the creator of the world, and possessed divine attributes, nothing was more natural than to fall into the belief, that the same Logos was intended by John in his writings although he was revealed by this apostle as they all believed, in a manner far more perfect than what was known to the philosophers; and as clothed with attributes far more noble and exalted, than they in general assigned to him.
Plato himself often speaks of a Logos or Nous, to which he ascribes the creation of the world, and which he calls o naviшv Orioratos, the most divine of all things. His poetic personifications of this Logos have been understood by many of his interpreters, both in ancient and modern times, as representations of a real hypostasis. But though more recent investigators have shewn that this is not his real meaning, but that he merely designs to personify the attributes of the Deity; still, his language is such as might easily give rise to the belief, that he viewed the Logos as a real hypostasis. No wonder, then, that when the oriental emanation-philosophy came to be intermixed with his system, (as it did after the conquests of Alexander, and in consequence of the frequent intercourse that followed of the Greeks with the East,) that the New Platonics, or Eclectic philosophers should maintain the real personality of Plato's Logos. The Oriental philosophy inculcated, as a first principle, the doctrine of emanation from the Deity. God was represented as original light; and from him, as beams from the Sun, flowed subordinate divinities or Eons, who created and governed the world. The Platonic school of Alexandria amalgamated this principle, in part, with their own philosophy. It is found most fully develop
ed, in the works of Plotinus and Porphyry, New Platonics of the third century. But Numenius of Apamea, a Syrian by birth, who lived in the time of the Antonines, was undoubtedly a disciple of this school; which shows that the sentiments are of much earlier date than the time of Porphyry. Numenius speaks of a second God, whom he calls λογος and δημιουργος, and whom he represents as an emanation from the supreme God. And to prove that the supreme God suffered no change by such an emanation, he employs the very same metaphors or comparisons, that were so commonly employed by the Antenicene fathers. "A torch," says he, "still remains the same, although it kindles another torch. Instruction can pass from a teacher to his pupils, and yet the teacher suffer no change. So the dougyos could emanate from the supreme God, and yet the latter remain unchanged in his perfections.
There are abundant proofs, that this mode of representing the Logos as an emanation from God, was much older than Numenius; aud that it was not by any means confined to heathen philosophers. The book of Wisdom, written before the Christian era, (which most of the Antenicene fathers received as canonical,) represents Wisdom or the Logos as the breath of the Almighty, an emanation of the Godhead, the pure radiance of the majesty of the Almighty, the irradiation of the eternal light, the spotless reflection of divine operating power, the image of the All-Good. By it is thing created; it overlooks and penetrates through all things; it preserves and directs all things, in the best.
* Vide in Euseb. Praep. Evang. Lib. XI. c. 18; who has given a long extract from Numenius, that deserves to be read throughout.
manner. It knows the secret thoughts of God, and is the leader in all his works.*
If here be not an absolute hypostasis of wisdom or the Logos, (as most of the learned have been inclined to believe,) there is certainly so close an approximation to it, that the fathers might easily mistake it for one, and apply it (as they did) to the explanation of the Logos of John.
But in a special manner, the writings of the celebrated Alexandrine philosopher, Philo Judaeus, a cotemporary during the latter part of his life with the apostles, contributed to spread wide the speculations of the New Platonics about the Logos. Philo amalgamated the Jewish with the Platonic philosophy; so that being a writer more rational, Scriptural, and elevated in his moral and religious maxims, than the heathen philosophers, his works would necessarily be read with more avidity, by that class of the new Platonists, who admitted the authority of the Jewish Scriptures. Philo distinguishes between the λογος ενδιάθετος and λογος προgopios; the latter of which he represents as a being emenated or begotten, not uncreated like the great Supreme, nor created like other beings, but a medium between the two. This Logos he calls first born Son,§ and represents all things as created, preserved and governed by him. This is he, who appeared to the patriarchs of the Old Tesament; for the Supreme God, * Vid. Chapters VII. VIII. IX.
† De vita Mosis, III. 672. C. edit. Paris.
Quis rer. div. haeres? Tom. IV. p. 90. edit. Pfeiffer.
§ De Agricult. Tom. III. p. 26. De Somn. Tom. V. p. 98. Vide useb. Evang. Praep. Lib. VII. c. 13.-extracts from Philo.
De Mundi Opific. Tom. II. p. 66. Ibid. p. 20. De Somn. Tom. V. p. 272.