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Origen speaks in general terms of the necessity of divine grace, to enable us to attain to the perfection of the Christian character, but it was his belief that this grace is granted as the reward of our goodness, that it is in no sense the exciting cause, and that the measure of it is determined by the exercise of our own wills, that is, it is bestowed in proportion to our previous merits, and not by an arbitrary act of God's sovereignty. He seems afraid, almost, of attributing too much to
Holiness originates in our own wills; we must sow the seeds, but, the plant once introduced, God fosters and cherishes it.
God thus grants the assistance of his spirit, as Origen supposed, in proportion to our merits, and in consideration of them. But in our merits, are included the good actions done in a preëxistent state, as well as those performed in the present; so that God may make a distinction between one and another, bestowing his grace on one, and withholding it from another, loving one, and hating another, before they have done good or evil,' that is, in the present life, as in the case of Jacob and Esau. Rom. ix. 11 – 13.*
Origen admits of no unconditional election, but makes predestination depend altogether on our works foreseen. † God is said to make one vessel to honor, and another to dishonor'; but the cause, says Origen, is in ourselves. He who himself from -impurity, is made a vessel of honor; he who suffers himself to remain polluted with sin, is made a vessel to dishonor. “Each one is made by God a vessel of honor, or of dishonor, according to his merits' in this, or a preëxistent state. It is just,' he adds, and in every respect agreeable to piety, that each one should be made a vessel of honor, or of dishonor, from preceding causes, and these, he insists, are our merits, our actions. These, foreseen, are the ground, and the only ground, of predestination. I
We have treated of the opinions of Origen, relating to the past and present character and condition of rational natures, and especially man. We now turn to his representation of the future.
His views of the resurrection have been a subject of con* De Princip. L. III. c. 1. Also Lib. I. c. 7. † Huet. Orig. Lib. 11. c. 2. Quæs. 7.
| De Princip. L. III. c. 1. Comment. in Rom. Lib. 1. vii. Opp. T. iv. pp. 464, 604, 616.
He who purges troversy. He was accused by several subsequent Fathers, and by Jerome among the rest, of denying it in reality, and retaining only the name. And if by the resurrection we are to understand the restoration of the flesh of the present body in substance and figure, he undoubtedly did deny it, thinking with St. Paul, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.' He could, in consistency with himself, entertain no other opinion. For, according to his system, the flesh is the prison-house of the soul, which it is doomed to occupy for the punishment of its sins. All spirits become clothed with bodies more or less gross, according to their degree of moral pollution. They remain, however, in a state of discipline, and may be restored. When they shall have purified themselves from their stains, and regained their pristine beauty and excellence, they will drop the incumbrance of their material or fleshy chains, and become once more subtile and ethereal. So Origen undoubtedly thought. The souls of the faithful, at death, will part for ever with their present earthly and corruptible integuments; the body, compacted as it now is, will not be restored; it will rise, but other and different, more pure and splendid. The present is but the germ of the future, according to the illustration of Paul, who says, “it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.'
With regard to the form of the future body, it has been generally inferred, from the manner in which Origen has expressed himself, and from the analogy of his system, that he regarded it as round. Such is the figure esteemed most perfect; such that of the heavenly bodies, those more glorious intelligences; and such, as he seems to have supposed, will be ours, though he has not, we believe, directly asserted it in any of his writings we now possess. Certain it is, that his followers professed to have derived the doctrine from him, and it was prevalent among the Orig
the Origenian monks of Palestine, in the time of Justinian. *
Origen believed in the final restoration of all beings to virtue and happiness. All are subjected to influences, which, sooner or later, will prove successful. Superior orders of
Among the anathemas subjoined to his Letter to Menas, on the subject of the errors of Origen, is the following ; Whoever says, or thinks, that our bodies will be raised spherical, and not erect, let him be anathema.' VOL. VI.
VOL. XI. -N. S.
intelligences are appointed to instruct, guide, and perfect the lower. Of the glorious spirits, who have imitated the divine perfections, some, as the reward of their merits, are placed in the order of angels, others of virtues, others of principalities, others of powers, because they exercise power over those who require to be in subjection; others of thrones, exercising the office of judging and directing those who have need.' To the care and rule of these noble orders, the race of man is subjected, and, using their assistance, and reformed by their salutary instructions and discipline, will, in some future, though perhaps, distant age, be restored to their primitive state of felicity.*
The sufferings of a future life, as Origen taught, are all piacular and remedial. We shall all, he says, be subjected to trial by fire. But those who have few impurities, and many virtues, will escape with slight pain; but the fire will take hold of the wicked, and their iniquities will be burned, and their evil affections purged away. Some, however, in consequence of inveterate habits of sin, will be reserved to a great intensity and long continuance of suffering. +
So he sometimes expresses himself. But in other parts of his writings, he is careful to teach us, that this, and similar language, is altogether metaphorical. By the fire, which shall burn the wicked, he tells us, is meant the worm of conscience. The evil of their whole lives will, by an act of divine power, be vividly presented to their thoughts. The picture of all the wrong they have done, or intended, will be spread out before their eyes; forgotten things will be remembered, and they will have a horrible consciousness of guilt. This is the flame by which they are to be tormented, not an outward and material, but an inward fire, of which their sins furnish the fuel, just as the peccant humors of the body, consequent upon excess and repletion, furnish the fuel of fever. I These humors may be purged away, and the patient restored, after a season of suffering. Just so with regard to the impurities of sin, which occasion so much anguish. By the salutary discipline of suffering, the soul may, and will, be cleansed
* De Princip. L. 1. c. 6. Jerome, Epist. 94, ad Avitum.
+ Exod. Hom. vi. Opp. T. 11. p. 148. In Psal. 36. Hom. III. Opp. T. 1. p. 664.
| De Princip. Lib. II. C. 10. Jerome, Epist. ad Av. 94.
from them. Such is its design, such its tendency, and such will be its result. All will be chastised exactly in proportion to their demerit, but their sufferings will have an end, and all will be finally restored to purity and to love. This, Origen repeatedly asserts.
The end and consummation of all things, he observes, is the perfection and happiness of all. To this one end, condition, or state, he says, 'we think that the goodness of God, through his Christ, will recall his universal creation, all things becoming finally subjected to Christ. “For all things must be subject to him.”* Now, what is this subjection,' he asks, with which all things must be subject to Christ?' I think, the same with which we also desire to be subject to him, with which the Apostles, and all the saints, who have followed Christ, are subject to him. For the very term subjection, in this case, implies, that they who are subject, have obtained the salvation which is of Christ.' Then it is, that Christ himself shall also be subject to the Father, with and in those who have been made subject.? This, he observes, is asserted by the Apostle, when he says, ' And when all things shall be subdued to him, then shall the Son, also, himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.' And this subjection of all Christ's enemies to himself, as that of himself to the Father, Origen contends, is a good and salutary' subjection; if the latter is such, the former is so too, and hence, as, when it is said, the Son is subject to the Father, the perfect restitution of the universal creation is declared, so when the enemies of the Son are said to be subject to him, the salvation, through him, of those subject, and the restitution of the lost, are implied.'t
Again, in his seventh homily on Leviticus, he contends, that subjection to Christ implies subjection of the will and affections, and that as long as any thing remains opposed to him, in other words, as long as there is sin, his work is not consummated. * But,' he adds, “when he shall have consummated his work, and brought his universal creation to the summit of perfection, then he himself shall be subject in those, whom he has subdued to the Father, and in whom he has consummated the work which the Father gave him to do, that God may be all in all.' I
* 1 Cor. xv. 24 - 28. † De Princip. L. I. c. 6. Lib. iii. c. 5. † Opp. T. 11. p. 222.
Such, according to Origen, will be the end, or final consummation of all things. His train of reasoning throughout, as it will be perceived, implies his belief of the final restoration and happiness, not merely of the human race, but of all rational natures, including demons, and fallen spirits of darkness, otherwise the universal creation could not be said to be subjected and made perfect. When, in connexion with the train of reasoning above exhibited, we take the fact before stated, that he supposed Christ died for the heavenly hosts, and for demons, for all rational beings who had sinned, we cannot doubt that such was his belief. Such it was understood to have been, in the time of Theophilus above referred to, and of Jerome, both of whom make it one of the capital articles in the catalogue of his heresies, that he taught that
the devil' would be finally saved. In fact, there are passages in his writings, which appear expressly to inculcate this doctrine. Thus, he observes, · The last enemy, which is called death, is spoken of as destroyed.' By death, it seems, he understood the devil, or him that had the power of death, Heb. ii. 14; and he proceeds to explain what is meant by his destruction. The last enemy,' he says, 'is not to be understood as so destroyed, that his substance, which was derived from God, shall perish; but only that his malignant will and purpose, which proceeded not from God, but from himself, shall cease to exist. He shall be destroyed, therefore, not so that he shall not continue to be, but so that he shall not continue to be an enemy, and death.'* Nothing more needs be said, to show that a belief of the final restoration of all fallen beings formed part of the creed of Origen. † The more deeply fallen, however, will be subjected, as he taught, to protracted and severe sufferings, and God alone knows their termination. But all will mount, step by step, till they attain to the invisible and eternal state, some in the first, some in the second, and some in the last ages; corrected and reformed, by rigorous discipline and very great and grievous punishments, by the instructions of angels, and afterwards by superior orders of intelligences.'
The rewards of the blessed, Origen makes to consist in an intimate union, or oneness, with God, according to the prayer
* De Princip. L. III. C. 6. See also Lib. 1. c. 6. t ee on this point the Letter of Jerome already repeatedly referred