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Christian writers and teachers, not excepting even Irenæus himself, who, at the same time that he was employing the whole energies of his mind, and the stores of his learning to refute and confound the crowd of Gnostic heretics, adopted in some respects the ideas and language of the Alexandrian Platonists.*
Next after Justin Martyr comes Tatian, his faithful disciple, whom Brucker denominates one of the Christian fathers, although after the martyrdom of Justin, he fell into such a variety of absurd opinions. His system was full of the Oriental philosophy, manifested eren in his apology for Christianity, entitled Oratio ad Græcos, which his contemporaries greatly admired. He founded the heresy of the Encratitæ, and in him, it would seem, there was a nearer alliance of Christianity and Gnosticism, than ever elsewhere came to a practical focus in the Christian church, -except, perhaps, in Origen,--for he condemned the use of wine, denied the lawfulness of marriage, disbelieved the reality of Christ's sufferings, embraced the Æons of Valentinus, and even, it is said, asserted with Marcion that there are two Gods.t He was a Syrian, and derived his sentiments from the Egyptian and Cabbalistic philosophy. Theophilus of Antioch, Athenagoras, Irenæus, Tertullian, and Clemens Alexandrinus follow in the Platonizing train. Clemens Alexandrinus, by being the successor of his master, Pantænus, over the old Eclectic school of philosophy in Alexandria, as well as by his great ability and eru lition, exerted a prodigious influence over all Christian antiquity, and not merely for good, but, by his Gnostic and Platonic tendencies, an influence for evil inferior only to that of his celebrated pupil, Origen. He was the last of the Christian Eclectics, previous to the new establishment of the school of Alexandria under Ammonius. “I espoused not,” he says, “ this or that philosophy, Stoic, Platonic, Epicurean or Aristotelian, but whatsoever any of these sects had said that was fit and just, and taught righteousness with a divine and religious knowledge, toùto ovunav TÒ Érdextıxov, all that being selected, I call philosophy.”I
Ammonius was born of Christian parents, and instructed in Alexandria under Athenagoras, Pantænus and Clemens Alexandrinus. Brucker supposes that Porphyry's relation is true in
* Brucker, Tom. III. 408. Tenneman, 177, 202.
regard to his apostatizing from the Christian faith, and as a proof of it urges his acceptance of the chair of philosophy in a Pagan school, and the crowd of disciples opposed to Christianity, who followed him. He had eminent followers, both Pagan and Christian, Longinus and Plotinus among the first, and Origen of the last. In the seminary of Ammonius, Origen completed his theological education. What an anomaly it exhibits ! A student of Christianity, preparing for the Christian ministry under the instructions of a heathen philosopher! For aught we can see, however, the seminary of Ammonius was as truly a theological seminary, as that of Pantænus and Clemens; the difference seems to have consisted simply in the different sides from which each made his advances, and perfected his Eclecticism, towards the other system. The Christian philosophers and theologians took their stand in Christianity, and eclecticised from heathenism; the Pagan philosophers and theologians took their stand in heathenisin and eclecticised from Christianity; and the last claimed to be the most perfect, finished and universal form of Eclecticism, and, therefore, the most enlightened and liberal school of theology; for it comprehended Christianity, as well as all other theological and philosophical systems. Here, at any rate, Origen seems to have finished his preparation for the ministry.
The philosophic enthusiasm reached its height in Origen, after the establishment of the school of Ammonius, and, through him,by means of that allegorizing method of interpretation learned from the Orientals, adopted by the Cabbalists and Alexandrian Platonists, and applied to the Scriptures,-poured like a deluge into the Christian church. The followers and disciples of Origen, and those, in the language of Brucker, quos doctrina sua pascebat, were almost innumerable, and some of them of great celebrity. The errors and evils, with which the principles and modes of interpretation and teaching, adopted by this father, afflicted the Christian church, form an important material in ecclesiastical history. Origen took the charge of the Christian catechetical school in Alexandria, after the death of Clemens, and, like Clemens, taught philosophy as an introduction to Christianity, among a great multitude of pupils, who, according to the testimony of Gregory Thaumaturgus, day and nighhung upon his lips. In this way he had great opportunity for diffusing his peculiar sentiments, -an opportunity enjoyed up to the close of his life in Cesarea, where also, as be
fore in Alexandria, he taught philosophy, sacred and profane, to numerous pupils. A thorough compendium of the tenets of Origen may be found in Brucker's Historia Critica Philosophiæ, with some computation of the wide-spread and longcontinued evils consequent upon them. They are to be traced to the schools of Alexandrian philosophy, and to that same Oriental system of emanations adopted by the Gnostics and the Jewish Cabbalists.*
After the period of Origen, from the third century down to the sixth, and onward almost indefinitely, a succession of Christian Platonists is traced in the history of theology and philosophy, till all distinctive forms of both are merged and lost in the superstitions and ignorance of the Romish hierarchy. A survey of the history of philosophy, during these six centuries, will do more than any thing else towards solving the question as to the causes and extent of the influence of Gnosticism on Christianity. Nor is it possible for any man to consult the pages of such a historian as Brucker, and not be astonished at that worship of the Christian fathers, which of late, as a part of the singular ascetic outburst in the English church, and for the sake of supporting the detestable tenet, that tradition from the fathers, and not private opinion, is to be the interpreter of Scripture, some men of Popish affinity have attempted to revive. It were easy to illustrate by examples their weak and farfetched reasonings, their interpretations contrary to all laws of hermeneutics;† the innumerable supposititious books adınitted by them for true and genuine, and their ignorance of that critical art and acumen by which to distinguish what is genuine from what is spurious ;g their affected and allegorical style, loaded with false ornaments; their entire ignorance of natural philosophy and physical science; their belief in the divine inspiration of the Septuagint translation,|| and the errors and false reasonings consequent thereon; their absurd and superstitious rigor in some details of moral discipline, their looseness, at the same time, in important matters of moral principle,-holding for instance that
* Brucker, Tom. III. 338, 458. Ita vero novo exemplo do cendi lectorem occasionem nacti sumus, quos pestilentes fructus Orientalis illa philosophia in Ægypto Platonismo adaptata tulerit, et quam gravia inde damna in Ecclesiam profecta sint.
+ Brucker, Vol. III. p. 349. † Idem, 354. § Idem, 359.
|| Idem, Tom. III. 362.
ivis lawful to defend the truth by deceit and fraud ;* their inculcution of a holiness diverse from, and arrogantly pretending to be supererogatory above, that which is commanded in the Seriptures, and all the evil consequences flowing from it in monasticism, celibacy, and the whole train of connected Roman Catholic monstrosities.† These weaknesses and errors are common to the best of them. We may hear Lactantius arguing gyainst idolatry; “ because God dwells in the regions above and not beneath, whereas idols are made out of stones dug from the earth, and, therefore, cannot be proper objects of worship.”I We may hear Chrysostom arguing that “second marriages are
public fornication, licensed and permitted by God.”'s We may hear Clemens Alexandrinus forbidding the use of mirrors to females, and not blushing eas meretrices vocare, if they form an image of their countenance;.“ because they violate the law of Moses, not to make any image of any thing in heaven above or earth beneath.”| We may see Augustine offering up prayers for the souls of his dead parents, 1 and we may hear the same father dtclaring that “it is an infinitely smaller crime to return drunk from celebrating the memories of the martyrs, than to sacrifice to them while fasting !""** These, however, are mere details. If any of our readers wish for a farther and more powerful elucicátion of the preaching and teaching of the fathersin its spirit and nor, they have but to peruse a few chapters in the recent publication of Mr. Taylor's exposition of Ancient Christianity.
* Brucker, Tom: II1. 362. * Idem, 363. I Idemy. 351.. $ Idem, 360. l. Idem, 361.. * Aug. Confessions, L. 11. 32-37. ** Beausobre, Hist. du Manichæisme, Tom. Il. 687. In Augustine's Confessions, in the account of the offerings of his mother, Monica; at the tombs of the martyrs, tho Roman Catholic worship of saints may be seen in progress. Augus" tine and his mother seem both to have supposed that wine, placed upon the tomb of a martyr, communicated grace to him who slould drink it. Augustine praises the piety of his mother, i visiting all these sacred shrines, but as, if she had swallowed a glass of wine at each of them, after getting it sanctified by contact with the tomb, and had done this for all the naartyrs in Milan, she “would have run the risk of getting drunk with wine rather than with grace," Augustine praises her watchfulness and sobriety in taking but a very little swal. low.at each altar. Aug. Conf. L. VI. 3, as quoted by Beausobre:The author of this able and admirable work, in answer to the Oxford tracts, has traced the influence of Gnosticism in the church, and of “that awful mistress of the ancient world, the Oriental theosophy," with more discernment and acuteness than any other writer on the subject. It is the knowledge of Gnosticism, not as a heresy, but as a feeling, with which he investigates the labyrinth, and traces the progress of that “ Gnostic sentiment, which, even when the Gnostic heresies were the most strenuously resisted, held possession of the religious mind, almost universally, along the shores of the Mediterranean, and during a full seven hundred years.” “It is to this Gnostic feeling, preoccupying all minds religiously disposed, that we must trace most of those peculiarities of sentiment and practice, which make up the striking contrast between the apostolic and the Nicene church.”
GNOSTICISM IN THE ROMISH CHURCH. A more severe yet just delineation of the Romish system never was penned in so short a compass as the following sentence. “Gnosticism surviving in principle, and polytheism in ritual, make up together the bastard religion of the middle ages, otherwise called Popery.” It would not be difficult to prove this in detail, by tracing the extent and influence of the errors of the Gnostics as adopted and canonized in the mighty kingdom of the Man of Sin. They deserve also to be traced and noted as, in essence, the same with the systems of modern Unitarianism and Antinomianism. Not unfrequently modern heresies are now thing but the old ones cobbled and vamped, or put together with more ingenuity and refinement.
The first and grandest in the combination of error and ini. quity, in the monstrosities of Gnosticisin, was its utter annihilation of the doctrine of the atonement. This was practical and pervading. And whatever influence Gnosticism, in the mass, exerted upon Christianity, this feature of its errors must have been powerful. One would think there had never been any spiritual idea of an atonement for sin developed in the minds of the authors of some of these systems, that they had never formed a conception of this as the grand truth of Christianity. And we doubt if they ever had. There must, otherwise, have been some little care taken to preserve something like an avowal of this doctrine, some little appearance of regard for it. And we