« ПредишнаНапред »
WHEN the chapmen of Rome are displaying the wares of the great mystic manufacturer in their front shops and shew rooms, set out with every attraction which unshackled ingenuity can invent and consummate art execute; at the same time concealing, or, if questioned, denying, that they have any other articles in other rooms than those which are public, or indeed any other rooms at all—the attempt ought not to be considered as superfluous, to discover, whether all this be strictly the fact; whether there are not back and secret, possibly underground premises, where engines and machinery may exist and be at work, to produce the exhibition in the public rooms; whether there be not an apparatus for the sole and direct purpose of manufacturing articles of false and deceptive quality; and, above all, whether there are not in the apartments, not exposed to common view, a store of odious, noxious, and destructive things, vials of intoxicating draughts, and poisons of all descriptions, instruments of torture and death, illusive optic-glasses, and abun
dance of revolting filth. If such things are, it is imperative upon those who would not fail in their highest duty to their fellow creatures, to throw open the imposture to the light of day, and not, by their own unfaithful omission, allow the simple and trustful to be deceived to their spiritual mischief or perdition. They are bound to expose and warn, as occasion may present; and plainly to tell every passenger who may be wistfully gazing at the windows, and tempted to enter the doors, of the enchanted shop, and at least glance at the seductive furniture within, which the mercantile sorceress offers at the reasonable price of his understanding and conscience, that “ her house is the way to hell, going down to the chambers of death.” Prov. vii., 27.
Amidst the cross-firing of different parties now existing, such a procedure is not in eminent favour. There seems to prevail at present a very extensive tenderness for falsehood and irreligion, a concern that they should not be too severely handled. Men, whatever they are, should not, by exposure, be made
Desperate, if they once are bad. The old, honest, straightforward way, however, appears on the whole the best. And without endeavouring to fortify myself in following it by other authority, I will at once take shelter under that of the individuals, who are generally known by the appellation of the Fathers of the Church. These
exemplary men, as writers, are returning to high sway in popular estimation. Not only are their decided merits enthusiastically admitted and proclaimed, but a veil is indulgently thrown over what are decidedly and obviously their infirmities, and no slight ones—their best side is almost exclusively presented they have been elevated from a station of comparatively and certainly very unjust contempt to one of distinguished honour—the genuineness of particular writings is shyly dealt with-scholars shrink with a sensitive aversion from such works as open the fountains of criticism on this subject.* Such conduct might be entitled to more praise if it were not vitiated by what, in compliance with modern usage, we must call Ultraism. It will, however, with all competent judges, be admitted, that the earlier Christian writers have been as unduly depressed as they are now unduly exalted. Themselves, were they to return among us, would be the first to reclaim against the modified idolatry with which they are now venerated and abused. They would direct the “ wholesome advice to their indiscreet admirers,” (I do not say “ worshippers,") not to deprive them of their due honour by claiming for them extravagant. The honour to which they are legitimately intitled is indisputably great, principally as reporters of the facts and belief of their own early age, as far as their probable information, judgment, and integrity qualified them so to be; and the advantage above them which many moderns possess is to be ascribed to the clear present which they have made of their own acquisitions. Those who qualify their admiration of the primitive writers of Christianity bestow upon them the greatest and purest honour. By such, their authority is justly, and therefore highly, appreciated.
* In the British Magazine for May, 1839, pp. 511, and following, may be read a well written and seasonable letter, which proves, in the case of the British Critic, a Quarterly now under the sole conduct of the sect at Oxford, how naturally the approximators to the theology of Rome adopt the disingenuousness of her criticism in the interpretation of the Fathers, as well as all other works affecting her creed..
These individuals, however estimated, felt no restraint in exposing and denouncing both falsehood and impiety, wherever they were found, in the terms properly belonging to them. The Apologists in particular, as their subject would lead them, were distinguished by this openness of dealing. They were apologists for themselves, as they had a right to be, but none for the iniquities of their enemies and persecutors. They had no soft, palliating, words and phrases for them. They exposed heathenism with the mercy which alone it deserved, that is none. Without ceremony they tore away all its specious disguises, and left the defendants to call for candour and liberality where they were due. And they never desisted from stigmatizing vice and
idolatry in terms which would throw modern delicacy into convulsions. They never feared the imputation of ultraism, nor were they sharp enough to understand, that much danger was to be apprehended to public morals by most intelligibly and effectually attacking that which was the grossest violation of them. That grave people might make the pretence they were perhaps fully aware, and that perverse people might make the abuse they were probably fully aware also. But this did not deter them from the straightforward performance of an obvious and necessary duty.
I will give the names of the individuals so honourably distinguishing themselves, and the places in which they have so done in notes. The persons are—Justin the Martyr,* Athenagoras,f Theophilus,f Clement the Alexandrine, Tertullian,|| Minutius Felix,** Arnobius,tt Lactantius. II
* Apol. I., $ 33, 36 ; pp. 51, et seqq. 55, et seqq. Ed. Ashton, Cant. 1768.
* Leg. pro Christ. $ xvii., pp. 74, seqq. & end of xxvi. to the end, pp. 123, seqq. Ed. Dechair, Oxon. 1706.
I Ad Autol. iii., 4–6, in Justin ed. Venet. 1747, pp. 409, 10.
$ Cohort, $ ii., ed. Potter, pp. 10_36, where the indignant writer exposes the Mysteries of the heathen, as Mr. M'Ghee does the abominations of the confessional of the Romish priesthood.
1. Apol. § 9, 15, 35, 39, towards the end.
++ Adv. Gentes, iii., 10–12, where the vitiosity of the heathen deities is denounced ; iv., 26, 7; V., 5–7 ; 18—31 ; 32 proceeds in exposing the allegoric apology of heathenism to the end of the book, In book vi., 17-19, is an exact counterpart to the