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THE cloud lay low in the heavens, Such a little cloud it seemed;
Just lightly touching the sea's broad breast,
It looked such a harmless cloudlet,
Yet the keen-eyed mariner shook his head,
And or ever the eve was midnight,
And were the spring indeed more perfect-drest In warmer colors and gradated hues,
What then were left for summer's sun and glow?
Of autumn's red, and breezy blue, what use? Each season hath its own peculiar show, And each atones the failures of the rest.
AND SO in life: man's spirit, ever prone
In nothing is perfection: all doth own
The "little rift" that, widening, soon or late Will make the beauty that we contemplate But dust and ashes. Thus new seeds are sown :
The object of this and a following paper is to indicate some features in the second of these victories, the victory of thought. And, before going further, we would ask the reader to observe that this victory of thought is the second, and not the first, in
involves a principle. The Christian victory of common life was wrought out in silence and patience and nameless agonies. It was the victory of the soldiers and not of the captains of Christ's army. But in due time another conflict had to be sustained, not by the masses, but by great men, the consequence and the completion of that which had gone before.
THE progress of Christianity can best be represented as a series of victories. But when we speak of victories we imply re-order of accomplishment. The succession sistance, suffering, loss: the triumph of a great cause, but the triumph through effort and sacrifice. Such in fact, has been the history of the faith a sad and yet a glorious succession of battles, often hardly fought, and sometimes indecisive, between the new life and the old life. We know that the struggle can never be ended in this visible order; but we know also that more of the total powers of humanity, and It is with the society as with the individmore of the fulness of the individual manual. The discipline of action precedes the are brought from age to age within the effort of reason. The work of the many domain of the truth. Each age has to prepares the medium for the subtler operasustain its own part in the conflict, and tions of the few. So it came to pass that the retrospect of earlier successes gives to the period during which this second conthose who have to face new antagonists flict of the faith was waged was, roughly and to occupy new positions, patience and speaking, from the middle of the second the certainty of hope. to the middle of the third century.
In this respect the history of the first three centuries — the first complete period, and that a period of spontaneous evolution in the Christian body is an epitome or a figure of the whole work of the faith. It is the history of a threefold contest between Christianity and the powers of the Old World, closed by a threefold victory. The Church and the Empire started from the same point and advanced side by side. They met in the market and the house; they met in the discussions of the schools; they met in the institutions of political government; and in each place the Church was triumphant. In this way Christianity asserted, once for all, its sovereign power among men by the victory of common life, by the victory of thought, by the victory of civil organization. These first victories contain the promise of all that later ages have to reap.
*A Letter of Resolution concerning Origen and the chief of his Opinions.. .. 1661. By G. RUST, afterwards Bishop of Dromore.
HUET, P.D. (Bishop of Avranches + 1721): Orige
SCHNITZER, K.F.: Origenes ueber die Grundlehren
HUBER, J.: Philosophie d. Kirchenväter, 1859.
This period, from the accession of Marcus Aurelius (A.D. 161) to the accession of Valerian (A.D. 253) was for the Gentile world a period of unrest and exhaustion, of ferment and of indecision. The time of great hopes and creative minds was gone. The most conspicuous men were, with few exceptions, busied with the past. There is not among them a single writer who can be called a poet. They were lawyers, or antiquarians, or commentators, or grammarians, or rhetoricians. One indeed, the greatest of all, Galen, would be ranked, perhaps, in modern times, as a "positivist." Latin literature had almost ceased to exist: even the meditations of an emperor were in Greek. The fact is full of meaning. Greek was the language not of a people, but of the world. Local beliefs had lost their power. Even old Rome ceased to exercise an unquestioned moral supremacy. Men strove to be cosmopolitan. strove vaguely after a unity in which the scattered elements of ancient experience should be harmonized. The effect can be seen both in the policy of statesmen and in the speculations of philosophers, in Marcus Aurelius, or Alexander Severus, or Decius, no less than in Plotinus or
We have a picture of the people from an imperial pen. The emperor Hadrian, who himself entered the lists with the professors at the Museum,* has left in a private letter a vivid account of the impression which they produced upon him as he saw them from the outside. "There is" [at Alexandria], he writes, "no ruler of the synagogue among the Jews, no Samaritan, no Christian, who is not also an astrologer, a soothsayer, a trainer. The inhabitants are most seditious, inconstant, insolent: the city is wealthy and productive, seeing that no one lives there in idleness. Some make glass, others make paper. . . The lame have their occupation; the blind follow a craft; even the crippled lead a busy life. Money is their god. Christians, Jews, and Gentiles combine unanimously in the worship of this deity.
Porphyry. As a necessary consequence, | confident in their resources, and trusting the teaching of the Bible accessible in to the future. Greek began to attract serious attention among the heathen. The assailants of Christianity, even if they affected conempt, showed that they were deeply moved by its doctrines. The memorable saying of Numenius, "What is Plato but Moses speaking in the language of Athens?" shows at once the feeling after spiritual sympathy which began to be entertained, and the want of spiritual insight in the representatives of Gentile thought. Though there is no evidence that Numenius studied or taught at Alexandria, his words express the form of feeling which prevailed there. Nowhere else were the characteristic tendencies of the age more marked than in that marvellous city. Alexandria had been from its foundation a meeting-place of the East and West-of old and new the home of learning, of criticism, of syncretism. It presented a unique example in the Old World of that mixture of races which forms one of the most important features of modern society. Indians, Jews, Greeks, Romans, met there on common ground. Their characteristic ideas were discussed, exchanged, combined. The extremes of luxury and asceticism existed side by side. Over all the excitement and turmoil of the recent city rested the solemn shadow of Egypt. The thoughtful Alexandrine inherited, in the history of countless ages, sympathy with a vast life. For him, as for the priest who is said to have rebuked the pride of Solon, the annals of other nations were but episodes in a greater drama in which he played his part with a full consciousness of its grandeur. The pyramids and the tombs repeated to him the reproof of isolated assumption often quoted from Plato by Christian apologists: :* "You Greeks are always children; you have no doctrine hoary with age." While it was so with the thoughtful Alexandrines, others found in restless scepticism or fitful superstition or fanatical turned their mind (rò nуεμоVIкóv) suddenly passion, frequent occasions for violence. from hating the Word to being ready to All alike are eager for movement, sympa- die for it, and showed them visions either thizing with change, easily impressed and bold in giving utterance to their feelings,
Comp. Potter, CLEM. ALEX. Strom. i. 15, p. 356.
One element in this confusion, indicated by Hadrian, is too remarkable to be passed over without remark. The practice of magic, which gained an evil prominence in the later Alexandrine schools, was already coming into vogue. Celsus compared the miracles of the Lord with "the feats of those who have been taught by Egyptians." Such a passion, even in its grosser forms, is never without some moral, we may perhaps say, some spiritual, importance. Its spread at this crisis can hardly be misinterpreted. There was a longing among men for some sensible revelation of the unseen; and a conviction that such a revelation was possible. Even Origen appears to admit the statement that demons were vanquished by the use of certain names which lost their virtue if translated,§ and he mentions one interesting symptom of the general excitement which belongs to the better side of the feeling. "Many," he says, "embraced Christianity, as it were, against their will. Some spirit
Spartianus, Hadr. p. 10.
t Vopiscus, Saturn. c. 8.
§ Ibid., v. 45.
waking or sleeping." * One who is reck- How did rational creatures come into oned among the martyrs whom Origen being? How, that is, can we reconcile the himself trained furnishes an example.t co-existence of the absolute and the Basilides, a young soldier, shielded a finite? And again: How did rational creatChristian maiden from insult on her way to ures fall? how, that is, can we conceive of death. She promised to recompense him. the origin of evil? Or, indeed, are not A few days after he confessed himself a both these questions in the end one? and Christian. He said that Potamiana, such is not limitation itself evil? To some perwas the maiden's name, had appeared to haps such questions may appear to be him three days after her martyrdom, and wholly foreign to true human work, but placed a crown upon his head, and as- they were the questions which were uppersured him that he, in answer to her most in men's minds at the time of which prayers, would shortly share her victory. we speak; and for the sake of clearness it So then it was that argumentative scepti- will be well to distinguish at once the three cism and stern dogmatism, spiritualism, as different types of answers which are renit would be called at the present day, and dered to them, two partial and tentative, materialistic pantheism, each in its meas- answering respectively to the East and ure a symptom of instability and spiritual West, the gnostic and neo-Platonic: the unrest, existed side by side at Alexandria third provisionally complete for man, the in the second century, just as may be the Christian. The differences will be most case in one of our cities now, where the clearly seen if we refer the other answers many streams of life converge. But in all to the Christian as a standard of comparithis variety there was a point of agreement, son. As against the gnostic, then, the as there is, I believe, among ourselves. Christian maintained that the universe was Speculation was being turned more and created, not by any subordinate or rival more in a theological direction. Philoso- power, but by an act of love of the one phers were learning to concentrate their Infinite God, and that evil is not inherent thoughts on questions which lie at the ba- in matter but due to the will of free creatsis of religion. In very different schools ures. As against the neo-Platonist, he they were listening for the voice, as Plato maintained the separate, personal existsaid, "of some divine Word.” ence of God as one to be approached and worshipped, who thinks and loves; the reality of a redemption consequent on the incarnation; the historical progress of the sum of life to an appointed end. As against both he maintained that God is immanent in the world, and separate though not alien from it: that the world was originally and essentially good: that it has been and is disturbed by unseen forces: that man is the crown and end of creation.
It is easy to see what was the natural office of Christianity in such a society. Alexandria offered an epitome of that Old World which the faith had to quicken in all its parts. The work had been already recognized. Early in the second century manifold attempts were made there to shape a Christian solution of the enigmas of life which thought and experience had brought into a definite form. The result was seen in the various systems of gnosticism, which present in a strange and repel- And yet further: gnostic and Platonist lent dialect many anticipations of the despaired of the world and of the mass of transcendentalism of the last generation. men. Both placed safety in flight: they Such speculations were premature and knew of no salvation for the multitude. ended in failure; but they rendered an im- The Christian, on the other hand, spoke, portant service to Christian philosophy. argued, lived, with the spirit of a conThey fixed attention upon those final prob-queror who possessed the power of translems of life, of which a religion which claims to be universal must take account.
c. Cels. i. 46.
† Euseb. H. Ę. vi. 5.
figuring to nobler service what he was charged to subdue. Others sought for an abstraction which was beyond and above all comprehension and all worship, an abstraction which ever escaped from them: