Images de page
PDF
ePub

whom Alonso the Wise, himself an astrologer and adept, may be proposed as the model and perfection. With these subjects were naturally associated those arts of magic and dæmonology, which bear strong traces of their Oriental origin.

In considering the theological character of the being or beings by whose influence, and by alliances with whom it was supposed that the laws of the Creator of the universe might be controuled, the current superstitions will be better understood, when we consider the prevalence of those opinions on the nature and power of the principle of evil, in which many sects, both of Mahometan and Christian Orientalists concurred.

Neither the opposing principle of evil, as recognized by the Islamite and the Christian Manichæan, nor that with which the forbidden alliances of the middle ages were supposed to be entered into as a constantly active belligerent power, seem, in many respects, to coincide with the theological Lucifer. It is true, that, in the popular mythology of much remoter times, in the heathen days of Europe, the principle of evil, as a fatality, as an almost equally-balanced existence of conflicting power, seems every where a predominant article of belief; but the perfect and scientific character afterwards given to the operations of the same principle, seems to be the product of the conjoined efforts of the Talmudist, Gnostic and Mahometan speculators, in the schools where unbounded licence of inquiry was encouraged. From these arose the laboured, wiredrawn treatises on spiritual and damoniacal essences and intelligences, and the systems of popular tactics, on which was to be carried on the unceasing combat between the two principles which they represented.

As might have been expected, the countries most exposed to the influence of Hispan-Arabic opinions, were the first to be singled out as the subjects of persecution, as soon as the jealousy of the church was awakened. The Albigeois were acknowledged as Manichæans; and it was a short step to charge them with unholy alliances with the power whose active energies they were supposed most heretically to admit, though it seemed to be forgotten that those became the real

Manichæans, who, by their zeal to extirpate these dangerous intimacies, admitted their power to influence the temporal and spiritual fortunes of mankind. The South of France was accordingly early and long the chosen seat of all witchcraft and magical operations, and many fell victims to the rage which seemed every where to expect that the Devil's kingdom was sure soon to be uppermost, unless his subjects were most vigorously put down. The same spirit seems to have dictated the charges on this head which were brought against the Templars.

It is rather singular, that the belief in communion with the evil spirit, magical incantations and witchcraft should have survived, nay, have acquired for a time deeper influence over the mind, from the Reformation. But, perhaps, this is ascribable (in the same way, as we shall hereafter observe, concerning several matters of opinion which, from being speculative, became then dogmatic), to the new light in which men began to consider opinions and prejudices, which had been too deeply rooted in the popular creed to be at once discarded. Luther admitted and enforced the belief of the existence and constantly active energies of an evil principle, though by discarding all the legendary speculations, on which it had long been founded, he recognized it merely under the character of the theological Satan, and gave it a dogmatic weight and solemnity, by basing it on scriptural authority. In this light, the persecution of dealers in black arts was as perseveringly and unrelentingly pursued by professors of the Reformed faith, as even in darker ages, by those who had handled the same subject as one of a more speculative character. There was a species of joviality attached to the older popular demons, to the pucks, swart-elves and goblins, the bogles, nekkers and nixes, who vexed and crossed the victims of their wayward antics. This disappeared with the Reformation; but the principle of controul over the benevolent agency of Providence was still admitted, and all its operations transferred to the account of the Devil and Antichrist.

In more important theological opinions, Europe has been greatly affected by the direction given to its studies,

and to the cultivation of the human mind, by the Moorish schools. The scholastic philosophy is almost exclusively derived from thence. I need not observe, that the philosophy of Aristotle was early and ardently embraced by the schools of Bagdad and Spain, and gave birth to those subtle metaphysical reasonings, which scandalized many of the more orthodox believers, and produced an infinite variety of sects, who disputed on all the intricacies of predestination, liberty, free grace, necessity, &c. The Mahometan doctors had, most conveniently for the peace of their church, an admirable plan of preventing schism, by at once declaring the field of these controversies neutral ground, and thus allowing space for their most ardent spirits to expatiate, without coming into collision with the essentials of its faith. Among them we hear of such things as orthodox sects. In this way, too, the union with Jew and Christian believers, in the prose cution of similar inquiries, was greatly facilitated. Points of difference were avoided, and we have the singular spectacle, which these ages afforded, of the most hostile sects pursuing the deepest theological speculations in perfect unity, and Christian doctors, openly educated in Mahometan schools, writing on the subjects, and professing the opinions, there discussed and inculcated. There is, I believe, now no question that the whole system of the schoolmen is to be found in the speculations of the Mahometan metaphysicians and commentators. Even the precise dispute, which so long agitated the European schools, between the - contending sects of Nominalists and Realists, is stated and discussed by Al Gazel.

[ocr errors]

The original scholasticism of the Arabian schools required little or no accommodation to the specific objects of the Christian. Their doctrines on the Divine Being and his attributes, observes Denina, on Grace, Free Will, Human Actions, Virtue and Vice, Predestination, Eternal Punishment and Heaven, even the very titles of the works of the Arabians and the schoolmen on these subjects are so similar, that one cannot doubt that the one was copied from the other. Indeed, some of the names which stand foremost in the ranks of

the European schoolmen are intimately connected with, many of them educated in, the Spanish schools; at the head of whom, in order of time and influence we may, perhaps, place Gerbert, afterwards Sylvester II. Even so late as the age of Petrarch we find from him, that the learned exalted Averroes above the Christian fathers in no very courteous terms: “Utinam te Averroem pati posses, ut videres quanto ille tuis his nugatoribus major sit."

The adoption of the scholastic philosophy, by the Dominican and Franciscan brotherhoods, comtemplated its ascendancy throughout the whole circle of European literature; but still we find the church and many of her more wary sons protesting against the latitude assumed by these inquirers, who, on the other hand, not being allowed, (as the Mahometan philosophers had wisely been, under similar circumstances,) to treat these subjects as neutral ground, sometimes denied the tendency of the latitude claimed, and at other times boldly met the Biblicists, as they were called, and sought to establish a distinction between reason and revelation, contending that tenets, which were philoso phically true, might still, with perfect consistency, be theologically false, or contrary to the orthodox faith.

As

In pointing at the coincidence between the theological pursuits of the Arabian and the scholastic systems, and the consequent probability that the one was indebted to the other, I do not mean to assert that the same subjects had not agitated the controver sialists of the Latin Church before the proper age of the schoolmen. early as the 9th century, in the days of John Erigena and Hincmar, the same subjects were the occasion of eager controversy (though Anselm, in the 11th century, is called the first metaphysician since the days of Augustin); but it is to be observed, that this was the precise æra when the freest intercourse with the Mahometan Universities was established. In tracing the history of the scholastic philosophy, it would be difficult to deny that many of its branches were cultivated in the form of comments and reasonings from Boethius and St. Augustin, before the Aristotelian philosophy came into vogue; but it is

certainly true that the scholastic system owes all its perfection and scientifc establishment to the Arabian schools, and this fact is sufficient for my purpose. It must further be admitted to me, that a principal branch of the studies thus brought into vogue, consisted of the theological speculations in question, and the popular importance of the latter would certainly be greatly increased by such a connexion, if they did owe their existence to it.

However absurd many of the speculations of the schoolmen, it is impossible to refuse them their utility in exercising the human mind, in preparing it for more serious investigations, and, above all, in stimulating it to resistance to the shackles which it was the tendency of the Papal government to impose. If the scholastic reasoners had only given rise to the Biblicists, (who laboured, and in the end effectually, to expose their sophistries, and draw the mind to nobler objects,) they would have deserved some gratitude at our hands. The orthodox Biblicists little thought that, in vindicating the Scriptures as the test of theological and moral truth, they were laying the foundation for heresy much more dangerous to the church, than could have been brought upon it by those who were content to give outward submission to its authority, in exchange for free liberty to pursue their subtle disputations in nonessentials.

The cultivation of the scholastic taste, however, continued to the æra of the Reformation. Huss was a zealous Realist, Luther a Nominalist. Immediately previous to this epoch, it met a powerful corrective in the revival of Greek learning; and a beneficial result would doubtless (independently of the actual Reformation) have shewn itself in the formation of minds who would have extracted the marrow of the ancient "philosophy, illustrated it by the aids of genuine literature, and the rules of good criticism, and corrected it by the dictates of right reason, and the doctrines and principles of true religion." Even if the German Reformation had not broken out, this collision must have etablished, in the bosom of the church, a liberal, enlightened and eclectic spirit, which, in many respects, the violence of the

Reformers checked. We are not to look to the Reformers as immediately introducing any great extension of freedom of inquiry on those religious subjects, at least, which had not been considered as immediately essential to the interests of the church. The peculiar doctrines which they enforced, may all of them be said to belong to the schoolmen; and, of course, (if the origin of that school is correctly placed,) primarily to the Arabian Universities. Instead of increasing the freedom with which these points were to be canvassed, the immediate effect of the Reformation was to limit the boundary, (at least so far as the church itself was considered,) and it will be difficult to say, that the peculiar doctrines which it made essential to salvation, and based on scriptural authority, had not a contracting influence on the mind.

It is true, that some of the Reformers, in the difficulty which they might well feel in warranting their peculiar dogmas from the Scriptures, professed to found much on the authority of St. Augustin, preferring a Christian father to a Mahometan doctor or his scholastic disciples and if these Reformers had been the first broachers of the opinions they so zealously enforced, as essentials to salvation, and had not merely adopted doctrines which had been for many ages the common subject of discussion in the schools, we might have overlooked the intermediate progress of opinion, and admitted, that the doctrines now broached arose from actual investigation, and early Christian authority, however obscurely developed. present there seems no reason why the Motazalite sectary should not at least equally share the credit of them with the Christian father.

[ocr errors]

The distinction between the tenets held by Luther and his followers, and the same opinions in the mouths of the Arabians and schoolmen, seems only to be, that the latter had treated them merely as matters of philosophic speculation; the former warranted them solely from Scripture, and thereby gave them a deeper, and, if erroneous, a more pernicious influence. In this view, the good effects of the Reformation are to be sought not in its immediate results, not in the superiority or originality of the dogmas

which it delighted to inculcate, but in the principle which it cherished, to be in time the destroyer of its own absurdities, and in the recognition of biblical authority as the ultimate argument, which, when falsely applied, might, for a while, only sanctify and give weight to error, but must in the end complete its work, in overturning the systems of those who brought it into operation.

The early Biblicists who stood forward, perhaps in a bad cause, and to support the dogmatic corruptions of the church, were the persons whose efforts first led the way to the overthrow of that fabric which they sought to protect, and their successors have, in like manner, furnished a corrective for the absurdity of their creed, in the very authority on which they sought to place it, and in the testimony of the witnesses by whom they intended to give it a more durable existence. E. T.

SIR,

VAL

VALCKENAER, in his Schola on the first Epistle to the Corinthians, p. 153, thus renders part of the last verse of the fourth chapter of the Epistle to the Ephesians: Amabiles et gratiosos vos exhibete inter vos invicem, sicuti Deus in Christo sese vobis exhibuit gratiæ plenum. It is, indeed, well known that the Common Version is wrong; but the authority of Valckenaer is not without its value, as his orthodoxy will not be called in question, and his profound skill in Greek is the just admiration of the literary world. But when this verse is properly translated, there remains no passage in the Christian Scriptures in which God is said to bestow any blessing on mankind for the sake of Christ. Whence, then, did this expression intrude itself into the Received Version of the New Testament, and whence has it found its way into the ordinary language of professing Christians? The answer is at hand; because it naturally arises out of the views which have been entertained of the end proposed and effected by the mediation of Christ. It flows from the orthodox doctrine of the Atonement, as the stream from its fountain; and I am much mistaken if any force of criticism or of argument could induce our Calvinistic

brethren to lay this phraseology aside. But what is the just conclusion to which we are led by the absence of this phraseology from the sacred volume, contrasted with its prevalence in the dialect of modern Christians? That the views, of which it is the natural expression, were not the views of the sacred writers. The same ideas will and must give rise to the same language; and no stronger argument can be brought to prove that two persons do not think alike on any topic than that when treating of this topic they do not speak alike. And it will appear incredible to any man, who is at all acquainted with the constitution of the human mind, that if the apostles had regarded the death of Christ as the procuring cause of every spiritual blessing, they should never have adopted that phraseology which is so frequently in the mouth of every Christian who holds this doctrine. I know that the mere sound of one text of Scripture will weigh, with the generality of Christians, more than fifty negative arguments, not less convincing than that which has now been stated; but to an impartial man who possesses comprehension of mind to estimate the force of such arguments, this reasoning will appear to fall little short of demonstration.* But this is not the only instance in which our orthodox brethren confute themselves, by deviating from the language of Scripture. When they talk of God the Son and God the Holy Ghost, when they speak of an infinite satisfaction made to infinite justice for the sins of mankind, when they speak of God as being reconciled to the world by Jesus Christ, &c. &c., they speak as Scripture never speaks. And why?

*This reasoning applies to every view which has been taken of the doctrine of the Atonement. Whether Christ be supposed to have paid a full satisfaction to the offended justice of God, or by his obedience and death to have viadicated the honour of the Divine government, so that sin may, with propriety, be forbe forgiven on account of what he has given, in either case sin may be said to done and suffered, in other words, for his sake. And if the apostles never used this language, the obvious conclusion is, that they did not entertain the views of which this language is the symbol.

Because they think as the writers of the New Testament never thought. Much as they reproach their theological adversaries with wresting the declarations of Scripture from their obrious meaning, they themselves use a phraseology, inseparable indeed from their system, but which is no where to be found in the sacred volume; and a phraseology which, were they to cease to use, their doctrine, I verily believe, would not long survive its disuse. They make it their constant boast that their views of Christianity are conveyed in the New Testament from beginning to end, as though their doctrines were there expressed with the same clearness with which they are sometimes expressed in their own creeds and confessions; and it never seems to occur to them that their system (granting for a moment that it is not unscriptural) is laid down in no part of the sacred volume as a connected scheme, and that no one article of it is promulgated in terms which do not at least admit of a different interpretation. And yet their doctrine is capable of being laid down, and is laid down by themselves, in language which no man can misunderstand. For instance, that all mankind were sentenced to everlasting misery in consequence of the sin of their first parents, is a proposition, the terms of which are perfectly intelligible. And it would have been as easy for an

man, to have stated this proposition in language which would have equally precluded mistake and evasion. And if the belief of the Calvinistic doctrine is essential to our future happiness, the least that we might have expected would have been, that it should be clearly defined in that volume which is intended to make us wise unto salvation, and not be left to be inferred from it by the interpretations of fallible men. The orthodox divine, indeed, will tell us that his interpretations of Scripture are obvious and certain, and can be rejected only by a mind which is perversely and wilfully blind to the truth. So says the Catholic; and so, if he pleased, the Unitarian might say too. But who is to judge between them? In truth, the whole Calvinistic system is neither more nor less than an hypothesis to explain a certain phraseology which is found in

[blocks in formation]

the New Testament, and an hypothesis so abhorrent to reason as (previously to all inquiry) to afford no small presumption of its falsehood. And granting that it would explain some passages in the volume, there are many others (to say nothing of the general tenor and spirit of the book) to which it stands manifestly and diametrically opposed.

When I said that the Calvinistic system is abhorrent to reason, I said nothing more than what is acknowledged by some of its advocates, who vehemently object to reason as an arbiter in matters of religion. But reason is like nature, expellas furcâ, tamen usque recurret. It may indeed be misemployed, but employed it will be. Calvinists themselves reason in behalf of their doctrine, though, in my judgment, they reason ill. Their system is deduced from Scripture by reasoning, though reason impartially exercised will never find it there. Reason, indeed, we must, if we wish to reconcile the sacred volume with itself. Otherwise, we may believe any thing and every thing; as there is no doctrine which certain passages of Scripture, detached from their connexion, will not appear to support.

SIR,

*E. COGAN.

Birmingham, December 6, 1822. AVING many applications for

nagement and success of the SundaySchools belonging to the Old and New Meeting Societies in this town; and each such request subjecting me to a lengthened detail in writing of particulars, which even leisure itself would rather avoid, I beg leave to trouble you with the insertion of the following proposal in your liberal Miscellany.

Some time ago, I published a statement of the establishment and progress of the said institution, with the display of its laws and management, together with a few lectures prepared for and delivered to the youths therewith connected, under the title of "Moral Culture." [See Mon Repos. XIII. 767.] This contains all the general information in my power to give, as it was not intended to enter into the minutia of the arrangements, but rather to exhibit such an outline as would be better filled up by the

« PrécédentContinuer »