« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »
twenty to thirty years older than Christ, and is therefore an unexceptionable witness for the oldest Christian writers.*
15. According to Philo's doctrine, God is the unapproachable light, the source of all other light, the archetype of the light in all souls. This image is the personified understanding, (logos.) This dwells in God, while God fashions in his understanding the plan and pattern of all which he will make or bring out. This too is the medium through which God works upon the sensual world, like the speech of men. So far it is ihe personified word, the collective substance of all the operative powers of the Deity, according to their counsel and will.
This personified understanding, Philo calls the oldest Son of the Deity, while his expressed image, the sensual world, is the younger Son. With the former he places all the attributes of the Deity in close relation Power and Goodness stand ever at the side of the Alone Good: Wisdom is the mother of the Creation, who begat to the Everlasting Father, his younger, beloved Son, ths sensual world. The oldest Firstborn (logos) was the architect of the world, who created as many varieties of things as he saw original forms and patterns in the ideal world of God. He is the instrument whereby God upholds and governs all, the teacher and guide of men, their law and high priest. Philo believed that if ever the law of God, harmony and virtue, should rule over the nation, then they would return to their fathers' land, under the guidance of a heavenly form, invisible to all but them; a leader, who, through a bloodless victory, had won for his people and for all who subject themselves to him, freedom, security, permanent well-being and leisure for a contemplative, a Godlike existence.t
16. Could it be a matter of indifference to the Apostles, how such ideas and personifications were introduced in to Chris.
The Apocrypha, which is excluded from our Old Testament, proves this. The fourth Book of Ezra is one of the later Jewish-Christian Books. Philo scarcely mentions the hope of a future Redeemer and Benefactor of the nation.
+ The Hellenistic Jews, through their whole way of living, their language, their translation of the Old Testament, the expanded circle of ideas, in which they lived above three centuries among Grecian people, and rejected the narrow notions of Palestine, in the succession of ages are to be regarded not only as the forerunners, but as the medium which united the ideas of Palestine with those of other nations. A mere Syro-Chaldaic Chri nity would have remained probably, like the school of John, an ineffectual Ebionism.
tianity? And yet they were crowding upon it irresistibly. At Ephesus, for instance, where lately John had lived, there appeared very early, Apollos, an eloquent Alexandrian and a man of weighty learning, who as yet knew only of the baptism of John, and (probably in the spirit of Philo,) was advancing the cause of his master with the most eager zeal and the greatest success. Two Christians took him to themselves and informed him: Thenceforward he preached that Jesus was the Christ, (Acts, xviii. 24-28, certainly in the Alexandrian manner. For we know, from the epistles of Paul, that he introduced divisions in Corinth, so that some called themselves of Apollos, of Paul, and of Christ; and others perhaps, in the spirit of the times, might have called themselves of Philo, Pythagoras, or Plato. The simple formula of Christianity, “ Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God,” was never meant to be such a patched-up mantle of strange opinions: hence Paul always opposed simplicity and truth to such oratory and inventive wisdom, maintaining that no one can lay any other foundation of faith than that which is already laid; and that every work, which is built on this foundation, time will either establish or annihilate.
17. And so it appears that it was necessary, from the circumstances of the case, to keep the simple creed of Christianity, “Jesus is the Son of God," free from the interpretations and fictions which were pouring in upon it from east, south and west, out of the prevailing ideas and modes of thought of other nations. If all the nations brought together in the acts from all quarters of the Roman-Jewish world, could have added with impunity" whatever seemed to them good” to the lew letters on this white tablet, (viz. Icthus.)* (Jesus, Son of God, Saviour of the world)— Parthians, Medes and Elamites," their notions received from Zoroaster, “we who dwell in Mesopotamia and in Judea,” our Talmudical traditions " in Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia aud Pamphylia, Egypt aud Lybia, Jews and Proselytes, Cretans and Arabian," what they learned from the Grecian Schools,—there would have been an end of Christianity for us.
18. Besides the older merely historical Gospels, another was absolutely needed, which should be dogmatical as well as historical, like John's: After the death of James and Peter, who could write it but this Apostle? The oldest of the Church, he possessed experience enough to know what opinions were intruding upon Christianity, and how far they were consistent with it. He had enough of the impartial spirit of accommodation to retain, of those modes of representation, all which was not contrary to the rule of faith, or which expressed it more powerfully: but at the same time he had the simplicity and the zeal to adopt nothing which could not be reconciled with it. His epistles are sufficient evidence of his mildly sparing, but 'sternly discriminating spirit. (i. John ii: 18–27. iv:1–3. ii: John 7–11.)
* Iesous Christos theou vios sotar. It is known that the word Icthus, was the abbreviated symbol of the Grecian Christians: hence they were called by the Heathens, in ridicule, Pisiculi, (little fishes.)
(TO BE CONTINUED.)
CONSCIENCE. What is conscience?
Conscience, in a common sense of the word, means our convictions of right, our views of duty, our code of law for self-regulation, the principles which govern our action, our notions of that course of conduct which is just and becoming and praiseworthy. In this sense of the word, many an act of violence and atrocity has been committed for conscience sake. The mother has thrown her child into the sacred stream; the child has hung its aged parent to the tree, to die from hunger and exposure; a whole religious sect have pledged themselves to murder; the sword has been bared, the dungeon opened, the fagot lighted, for conscience sake: That is to say, in other words—men's views of right have been wrong; men's notions of good have been evil. In looking over the manners and customs of nations, we find such a variety of judgments prevailing, as to what is just and right, one age and country approving what another condemns, that we are led to doubt whether there is any test of correct views of duty. But equally various views have prevailed in relation to the useful and beneficial, the pleasant and agreeable, the beautiful. But we do not, on the account of these differences of judgment, suppose that there is no real standard of what is useful for individuals or nations, or agreeable or tasteful. We say that judgment acquires accuracy in proportion to its extended experience. The error is of the head.
The sentiment is right; but the materials upon which the judgment acts, are deficient.
It is the same with conscience. Men never choose evil for evil's sake, but because it appears good, or because good is mingled with the evil. Mistaken and perverted as men's views of right may have been, we cannot, in the annals of the human race, or in the biographies of individuals, find a community, or a single being without the sentiment of right. Conscience may sanction outrages, but still there is the feeling of a sanction. Men may feel that they ought to do what we never think wrong; but still this feeling of right, of obligation, has governed their conduct. A man may have a bad conscience in the sense of having mistaken views, false notions of what is just and right, while at the same time he is quite conscientious in the sense of obeying what appears to him duty. This first sense of the word conscience, as representing our summary of rules, our code of principles, our intellectual views of the good or evil of certain courses of conduct, is not the sense in which the Apostle uses it in our text.
There is a second meaning of the word conscience, in which it represents the universal sentiment of good and right, which lies at the basis of all our moral judgments. It is the law written in the heart. It is a primitive perception of the distinction which there is between good and evil-a spontaneous prescience of the good-a sense of obligation to do the right and choose the proper. It is the sentiment of the venerable, the holy, the worthy, the meritorious, the morally lovely, the morally agreeable. It is called the moral faculty, the moral sense, the inward light, the monitor, the law-giver. All men are conscious of a wholly peculiar feeling of obligation, of sacredness, of worthiness. This feeling is quite different from that of the agreeable and pleasant. A man judges himself and is judged of by others as free to choose what is agreeable or disagreeable. We even sometimes honor him for taking the course which tends to painful sacrifice, rational as we feel his desire of pleasure is. But a man is not free to choose right or wrong. We feel that he is bound to choose the right. Again, this feeling of good and evil is very different from that of utility. A man is foolish indeed who prefers of two courses the useless or iujurious one. But where he hesitates between right and wrong, or chooses the wrong, he is more than foolish-he is bad. We have all of us then this peculiar and distinct sentiment of the right, the just, the good, the proper, the worthy: And this is conscience. This is the most common use of the word, and denotes an inward faculty and senti
ment of moral distinction; but neither is this the sense in which the Apostle employs it.
There is a third sense of the word conscience, in which it represents the voluntary obedience of this sentiment of right. We say that a man has a conscience, that he acts according to conscience; that he is conscientious, meaning that he follows his own sense of justice; that he is acting, not from passion, not from expediency, not from taste, but from duty; that he is obeying, not habit, not custom, not the will of others, but his own conviction of right. When we say that a man is conscientious, we do not mean that his principles and opinions are all right-we do not mean that he has greater or less purity and vividness of moral sentiment: but we mean that he follows his light, such as it is; that he purposely obeys his sentiment of duty, whatever it may be. And this is what we suppose the Apostle meant in our text by having a good conscience. That man has a good conscience, who purposely, willingly, by preference and habit, looks within to his own convictions of duty, as his guide. In this sense of the word, as denoting conformity to our feeling and judgment, we all feel instinctively that the man is not a man who has not a good conscience. He who follows impulse, passion, is a piece of a man, a deformed man, a monstrous outgrowth. Perfect proportion is felt to be possible only for him who is true to the voice of right. He who is determined by prudence, interest, expediency, seems to us again a man half developed, cramped, narrowed, frosted. We know that the only condition of full growth is the life of this central principle of obedience to duty. And again, strange and contradictory as it may appear, we all recognize that this voluntary subjection to the law of goodness in our own heart, is the only true liberty. He only is free, free from men, from circumstance, free from influence and accident and conditions, who is perfectly resolved to do the right,—and he is free: the assembled powers of evil cannot subdue him. Yet more: it is this having a good conscience which alone excites our respect or claims our confidence. Genius may dazzle, passion may animate and excite, will may sway; but conscientiousness alone cures and subdues. A man trembles more before the pure, innocent eye of a true-hearted child, than before an arrayed multitude of passionate or wilful men. Right claims the sceptre, and we acknowledge her legitimacy; and he who is clad with her robe, and wears her crown, and bears her signet ring, invariably is reverenced for his delegated sovereignty. We can battle opinion against opinion, argument