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simple annals bring down the history of true religion from its first revelation in Paradise to its final establishment in the kingdom of Christ.
In the mean while we will devote a chapter to the consideration of ancient philosophy, as cultivated among the more enlightened heathen nations, as an element of progress, and a preparation for Christ.
TIIE CENTRAL IDEA, OR CHRIST IN ANCIENT
The human mind is under the necessity of bringing all things into unity: it is itself a unit; nature therefore must appear to it as a unit, or universe. Again, each man, as well as each society, and of course the entire race, stands, so to speak, between two infinites, or two eternities; though these are only one, in which we are embosomed, like islands in a boundless sea. And as nothing can happen without the supposition of an adequate cause, mankind must ascribe their origin to the One Supreme Power, whether named Mind, Reason, Spirit, Creator, or God.
Thus man, the moment he begins to reflect profoundly, finds himself pressed on all sides by the idea of the Infinite and Eternal. Thought presupposes and necessitates this idea. It begins with this, ends with this; for it ever starts from a limit, as it comes to a limit, beyond which it must acknowledge the presence of
This chapter, with some modifications, was published as an article in the January number of the Christian Review for 1853.
absolute and eternal being; precisely as a part begins with a whole, ends with a whole. The segment of a circle, nay, its slightest line or radius, presupposes the existence of that circle; time presupposes eternity; the mind of man presupposes the mind of God.
the mind of God. For if there be a finite, there must also be an infinite mind. The temporary thought of man necessitates the eternal thought of God. This is the mysterious circle, within which, whether he sees it or not, all the reasonings of man revolve.
There are those, indeed, who, in their investigations, keep assiduously within the fragmentary and mechanical; notwithstanding their inquiries are always coming to a limit, beyond which may be descried that infinite ocean into which they so much fear to plunge. As finite minds they lean upon God and eternity, as all their science, else limited and perishable, leans upon God and eternity, even at the moment that they hesitate to acknowledge the stupendous fact. Their philosophy, however, is shallow and transient; and though useful perhaps to material interests, leaves them without any real beauty or grandeur of thought.
But the great majority of thinkers will con. stantly transcend such narrow bounds, and press the inquiry, Whence are we, and whither do we
This is the real origin of speculative philosophy, especially in its higher range - a philosophy ever
. soliciting attention, ever attracting thinkers. The ocean of thought, indeed, is boundless, and
many swift ships go down into its mysterious depths; nevertheless all human souls, freighted with any great ideas, must sail thereupon. Shore or no shore, they must adventure their all upon its heaving billows. Hence one of the most interesting elements of ancient civilization, especially in the more enlightened communities, is speculative philosophy. Its relation to Christ, though hinted at already, deserves our candid consideration.
The early fathers of the church, Justin Martyr, Clement of . Alexandria, the author of the Epistle to Diognetus, (sometimes ascribed to Justin Martyr, but assigned, by Semisch and Neander, to another,) Tertullian, Origen, and others, while acknowledging its obvious defects, allow that it embodied portions of the truth, and formed a preparation for Christ. The apostle Paul himself refers to the manifestation of God in the mind of the heathen, as rendering them “ without excuse” in departing from the truth. “Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath showed it unto them; for the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and godhead; so that they are without excuse." He affirms, indeed, in another place, that “the world , by wisdom knew not God," that is, adequately and satisfactorily; for, after all, philosophy, especially in its later developments, was a failure. It gave no rest to the weary conscience of man, and left the way of life in the greatest obscurity. Still it nourished a few great characters, and produced a dim and often passionate longing for a higher light. Some pious and learned men have even gone so far as to regard Socrates, Plato, Plutarch, and some others, as a sort of Christians by anticipation. So charmed was Erasmus with the character of Socrates, that we find him on one occasion exclaiming, Sancte Socrates, ora pro nobis !
This, doubtless, is carrying the matter too far; nevertheless, it must be allowed that many of the Grecian sages, considering their circumstances, made some remarkable approximations to the central truths of the divine unity and supremacy, and the possibility, on the part of man, of union and fellowship with God. In his Stromata, Clement of Alexandria uses the following remarkable language: “Indeed, before the coming of the Lord, philosophy was needful to the Greeks, for the reformation of their lives; and
Rom. chap. i. v. 19, 20.