« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
of Christ, John xvii, 21 - 24. They do not, however, rise to the summit of this felicity at once, but through several successive steps, as first by knowledge and instruction, which remove the darkness of their understandings, then by being brought into a moral resemblance to God, then by being taken into union with him, in which consists the supreme good. This union is explained as a union of affection, will, and purpose. The soul, on leaving the body, is first conducted, as he tells us, to a part of the earth called Paradise,* where it remains for some time, enjoying the instruction of angels, and gradually depositing its earthly concretions. It then mounts into the air, and afterwards into various regions of the heavens, continuing in these several places, under different masters of the superior orders of intelligences, for a longer or shorter term, according to the degree of impurity to be purged off, till, by various progressions, it reaches the invisible and incorporeal heavens, where God resides, where, as we have said, it becomes united with him, as in its first state of felicity and love, and he becomes all in all,' dwelling in all, and all in him. Matter will then become spiritualized, and be reabsorbed in God, from whom it flowed. Thus all ends where all began;
*From thee, great God, we spring, to thee we tend.' Such was Origen's great system, yet he occasionally expresses views which appear in some respects to militate against it. Thus he seems to say that there will be perpetual lapses and returns, from sin to holiness, and from superior orders of beings to inferior, and the reverse, in consequence of that moral liberty, which all will retain, and which they may for ever use or abuse. Thus Peter may, at some future time, become a Judas, and Judas a Peter; Paul a Caiaphas, and Caiaphas, Paul; men may become angels or demons, and angels or demons, men; demons and angels may change characters; the devil may become an archangel, and archangels devils, all things mingling and revolving in unceasing succession. Upon this hypothesis, there can be no fixed condition, either of happiness or suffering ; neither the punishment of the damned, nor the joys of the blessed, are necessarily eternal; all beings are in a state of perpetual progression and retrogression. The material universe will undergo corresponding changes. There was a succession of worlds before the present, and will be a succession after it, the new springing from the old, as the bird of fable from the ashes of its sire. Souls will fall into sin, and, for their punishment, must be again imprisoned in gross bodies; and this will always create a necessity for the existence of matter, which will be absorbed and produced, reabsorbed and reproduced, in successive and never-ending periods.* It may well be doubted, however, whether such was Origen's fixed opinion.
* It is curious to observe, that Origen, while he places Eden or the terrestrial Paradise, in the third heavens, imagining that by Adam and Eve dwelling in it, we are to understand souls residing in heaven, and by their expulsion, the exile of souls, doomed, as the punishment of sin, to be clothed with bodies, he supposes the future, or celestial Paradise, to be situated somewhere on the earth. I think,' says he, “that saints departing this life, will remain in a certain part of the earth called in the Scriptures Paradise, as in a school of instruction. The same, he supposed, was intended by Abraham's bosom.' Here, all which they have witnessed on earth, is to be explained to them, and they are to receive revelations of the future not now permitted. This place, the more pure will soon leave, and mount through various mansions, called by the Greeks, spheres, but in the Scriptures, heavens. De Princip. L. II. c. 11. § 6.
On many points, he is uncertain and vacillating. But with regard to the final restoration of all beings to a union with the fountain of Divinity, when Christ shall deliver up the kingdom to the Father, and God shall be all in all, he is clear and express. He often recurs to the topic, and his views on the subject are fully unfolded. We may be pardoned, if we hesitate to admit, upon the evidence of a few slight expressions, his belief of a doctrine, which, in opposition to the general tenor of his reasonings, teaches that sin shall never be abolished, and the time will never come, when all things shall be subdued to the Son,' and all shall be of one heart, and of one mind.' It would be no easy task, however, to defend Origen against the charge of inconsistency and self-contradiction. It was his fate to lose himself in the mazes of a wild and wandering philosophy. How deeply he had drunken into its spirit, the foregoing summary of his Opinions, abundantly shows. We mean not to be his apologist. Our aim has been, to be, simply, the historian of his opinions, not to combat or defend them.
* De Princip. L. I. C. 6. Jerome, ad Avitum.
We have now done with our enumeration. Is it asked, to what does all this labor tend? These are but the opinions of an individual ; in what way do they concern us? We can only say, in reply, they form a chapter in the history of the human mind. They illustrate the modes of thinking and reasoning in former times. Above all, they make us acquainted with the source and progress of those corruptions of the Christian doctrine, the effects of which we still witness and deplore. They show us that the great principle of the divine unity, the foundation stone of both the Jewish and Christian dispensations, was, however, as yet, held sacred, though errors were creeping in, which were destined soon to overshadow it. They show us, that doctrines, now esteemed by many the chief glory of Christianity, doctrines illustrated and defended by the acuteness and eloquence of our Calvins and Edwardses, our Princeton and our Åndover Theologians, doctrines, without the belief of which, we are gravely told that we have no title to the name of Christ's followers, were unknown to Christian antiquity; that the sects, which came nearest embracing these doctrines, were certain heretics of the Gnostic school. We thus derive from them, both admonition and solace; we derive, also, lessons of forbearance and charity, and we learn to pity the spirit of exclusion, denunciation, and bitterness, which has been justly pronounced one of the gross immoralities of our times.'
It is humiliating to reflect, that however the improved philosophy of the age has led us to reject many of the strange opinions of the Fathers, yet in freedom of discussion, independence of thought, and latitude of sentiment and expression, they were greatly in advance of modern times. There was less of narrowness and bigotry then, vastly less, than now. We smile at their errors, and their violent contentions about things, as we think, of little moment; but we should do well to take example of their piety, and often, indeed, of their charity. Judged by the standard set up by the exclusionists of the present day, nearly all the Christian writers, for three centuries after the birth of the Saviour, must descend to take their place in the rank of infidels. So has Christian charity become narrowed.
The fate of the Origenian doctrines, after the brilliant, but erratic spirit, which had contributed to give them currency, had been withdrawn from the earth, is exceedingly interesting. The storm raised against him, during his life, as has been already shown,* had no reference whatever to doctrine; nor have we any evidence that his orthodoxy was formally impugned, until long after his death. † The first writer, who ventured to censure the doctrines of Origen, after his decease, as we are informed by Socrates, the historian, I was Methodius, bishop of Olympus in Lycia, afterwards of Tyre, who died early in the fourth century, fifty years after Origen left the world. He wrote a book on the Resurrection, against Origen, and another, says Jerome, s on the Pythoness,' 1 Sam. xxviii. The attack on Origen, however, seems to have been deemed a rash one. Origen's writings were now held in unbounded admiration, and Methodius found it convenient to recant.
Origen's reputation for orthodoxy continued unsullied, till the celebrated Arian controversy broke out, when he was claimed by both parties, though his opinions coincided with neither. The Arians could, of right, claim him, as asserting that the Son was inferior to the Father, and born in time, but not as affirming that he was made out of nothing, which was their distinguishing dogma. The Athanasians could claim him, as asserting, with the Ante-Nicene Fathers generally, that he had an existence from eternity, not with, but in, the Father, not as a real being, or person, but an attribute. On the whole, the orthodox had, at this time, receded further from the views of Origen, if not in letter, at least in spirit, than the Arians. The former, however, regarded him as too important an ally to be surrendered. They continued to defend him as long as with decency they could, and even Athanasius quotes him with approbation. From this time, however, Origen had a strong party against him, though his friends and admirers were yet numerous, and many of them among the most learned and accomplished writers of the age. Eusebius and Pamphilus, with a tender regard for his memory, composed an Apology for him, in six books, and his .writings were collected and deposited in the Library at Cæsarea.
* See The Christian Examiner for July, 1831, p. 315.
† We are aware that Eusebius, Lib. vi. c. 36, alludes to a letter written by Origen to Fabian, Bishop of Rome, concerning his own orthodoxy,' which would seem to imply that it was by some drawn into suspicion ; but on what points, we are not told. The matter appears to have produced no excitement. If so, it was soon allayed. Among the charges brought against him by his enemies at Alexandria, in consequence of which he was deposed and banished, not one related to doctrine ; which is sufficient evidence that he was not regarded as deviating, in any essential particular, from the popular faith.
Again, in the fragment of a letter to some Alexandrian friends, still extant, he speaks of those who ascribed to him blasphemous doctrine; but this was said, as it appears from the letter, in reference to some books, which had been wholly, or in part, forged in his name, and circulated by heretics. It was these books which contained the blasphemous doctrine. To one charge, however, he distinctly alludes, and to one only, and that relates to the salvation of the devil. See Opp. T. 1.
| Lib. vi. c. 13. § Col. Script. Eccles. Jerome also mentions a treatise of Methodius on ‘Free Will.' This, it seems, was written in the form of a dialogue between a Valentinian and a Catholic, and was designed to prove, that evil arises from abuse of liberty in free agents, which was also the doctrine of Origen.
pp. 5, 6.
It appears, then, that the soundness of Origen's opinions on the
subject of the Trinity, first began to be called in question after the rise of Arianism. But the defection from him was by no means general, even then. The majority, even, of the orthodox, were still friendly to his memory. Socrates, it is curious to observe, after mentioning some authors, who had written against him down to the close of the fourth century, says, that though they collected whatever they supposed blameworthy in Origen, some mentioning one thing, and some another, yet they found no fault with him on the subject of the Trinity. † This assertion, we suppose, must be taken with some qualification. From the days of Arius,
* In this Apology, nine charges are mentioned as brought against him by his enemies. Some of these, however, are evidently unfounded, and a part inconsistent with the rest. Thus he was accused of saying, that the Son of God was not begotten’; of retailing the fabulous opinions of Valentinus, concerning his birth ; of maintaining, with Artemon and Paul of Samosata, that he was a mere man; of saying that the account of him, given by the Evangelists, is a mere allegory, and not a history of events that actually occurred; of asserting that there were two Christs ; of allegorizing, generally, the lives of the saints recorded in the Scriptures; of holding some unsound opinions concerning the resurrection of the dead, and of denying that sinners will be punished; of entertaining erroneous views of the state of the soul; and, lastly, of maintaining that human souls will hereafter pass into the bodies of beasts, fishes, and serpents. It requires but a very superficial acquaintance with the writings of Origen, to convince any person that these charges are, with one or two exceptions, wholly unfounded.
+ L. VI. c. 13.