Εικόνες σελίδας
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

who lived at a later period; particularly to a famous Grecian Mystic, who, it is said, wrote under the protection of the venerable name of Dionysius, the Areopagite.”

This denomination appeared in the third century, increased in the fourth, and in the fifth gained ground in the eastern provinces. In the year 824 the supposed works of Dionysius kindled the flame of Mysticism in the western provinces. In the twelfth century they took the lead in their method of expounding the scriptures; in the thirteenth they were the most formidable antagonists of the schoolmen; towards the close of the fourteenth they resided and propagated their sentiments in almost every part of Europe; in the fifteenth and sixteenth many persons of distinguished merit embraced their tenets; and in the seventeenth the radical principle of Mysticism was adopted by the Behmenists, Bourignonists, Quietists, and Quakers.

The ancient Mystics were distinguished by their professing pure, sublime, and perfect devotion, with an entire disinterested love of God; and by their aspiring to a state of passive contemplation.

The first promoters of these sentiments have been supposed to proceed from the well known doctrine of the Platonic school, (which was adopted by Origen and his disciples) that the divine nature was diffused through all human souls; or in other words, that the faculty of reason, from which proceeds the health and vigour of the mind, was an emanation from God into the human soul, and comprehended in it the principles and elements of all truth human and divine. They denied that men could by , labour or study excite this

celestial flame in their breasts;

and therefore highly disapproved of the attempts of those who, by definitions, abstract theorems, and profound speculations, endeavoured to form distinct notions of truth, and discover its hidden nature: On the contrary, they maintained that silence, tranquillity, repose, and solitude, accompanied with such acts of mortification as might tend to extenuate and exhaust the body, were the means by which the hidden and internal word was excited to produce its latent virtues, and to instruct men in the knowledge of divine things; and accordingly reasoned thus: “They

*The late President Stiles has left a manuscript, in which he endeavours to prove that the greater part of the works which bear the name of Dionysins were really written by Dionyskus, the Areopagite, though they may have been interpolated and corrupted in some places by later writers,

who behold with a noble contempt all human affairs, who turn away their eyes from terrestrial vanities, and shut all the avenues of the outward senses against the contagious influence of an outward world, must necessarily return to God when the spirit is thus disengaged from the impediments which prevent this happy union; and in this blessed frame they not only enjoy inexpressible raptures from their communion with the supreme Being, but also are invested with the inestimable privilege of contemplating truth undisguised, in its native purity, while others behold it in a vitiated and delusive form. The apostle tells us that the Spirit makes intercession for us, &c. Now if the Spirit pray in us, we must resign ourselves to its motions, and be swayed and guided by its impulses, by remaining in a state of mere inaction.” As the late Rev. William Law, who was born in 1687, makes a distinguished figure

[blocks in formation]

entertaining to some readers. —He supposed that the material world was the very region which originally belonged to the fallen angels.” At length the light and Spirit of God entered into the chaos, and turned the angels' ruined kingdom into a paradise on earth. God then created man, and placed him there. He was made in the image of the Triune God,'t a living mirror of the divine nature, formed to enjoy communion with Father, Son, and holy Ghost, and live on earth as the angels do in heaven. He was endowed with immortality, so that the elements of this outward world could not have any power of acting on his body: but by his fall he changed the light, life, and spirit of God, for the light, life, and spirit of the world. He died the very day of his transgression to all the influences and operations of the Spirit of God upon him, as we die to the influences of this world when the soul leaves the body; and all the influences and operations of the elements of this life were open in him, as they are in any animal, at his birth into this

* The world, according to this author, was, before the fall, a mixture of good and evil, because temporal nature is a creation out of the strife of evil against good, which the fallen angels had brought into their kingdoiu. Man, before the fall, was susceptible only of the good, and could not have

any knowledge that evil existed.

t “Nature (says Mr. Law) is the manifestation of the holy trinity in a * According to this author, Christ was made man to kindle in the fallen soul a birth of light and love. He always represents the Deity as a God

triune life of fire, light, and spirit,”


world: he became an earthly creature, subject to the dominion of this outward world, and stood only in the highest rank of animals. But the goodness of God would not leave man in this condition : redemption from it was immediately granted ; and the bruiser of the serpent brought the life, light, and spirit of heaven, once more into the human nature, All men, in consequence of the redemption of Christ, have in them the first spark, or seed, of the divine life, as a treasure hid in the centre of our souls, to bring forth, by degrees, a new birth of that life which was lost in paradise.” No son of Adam can be lost, only by turning away from the saviour within him. The only religion which can save us, must be

AZARENES, a name originally given to all christians in general, on account of Jesus Christ's being

that which can raise the light, life, and spirit of God, in our souls. Nothing can enter into the vegetable kingdom till it have the vegetable life in it, or be a member of the animal kingdom till it have the animal life. Thus all naturejoins with the gospel in affirming that no man can enter into the kingdom of heaven till the heavenly life is born in him. Nothing can be our righteousness or recovery but the divine nature of Jesus Christ derived to our souls.

The arguments which are brought in defence of this system cannot easily be abridged in such a manner as to render them intelligible. Those who are partial to mystical writings are referred to the works of this ingenious author.t. See Quietists,

of the city of Nazareth ; but was afterwards restrained to a denomination in the first and second century, which blend

of love, who from etermity to eternity can have no will towards his creatures but to communicate good. He asserts that there is no wrath standing between God and us, but that which is awakened in the dark fire of our own fallen nature; and that to quench this wrath, and not his own, God gave his only-begotten Son to be made man. As, according to Mr. Law's system,

all men have in them the first spark, or seed, of divine life, he believed in ,

a final restoration of all mankind after long periods of suffering and purification. See Law's Collection of Letters.

* Mosheim's Eccles. Hist, vol. i. pp. 222, 223, Dictionary of Arts and Sciences, vol. iii. p. 217. Encyclopaedia, vol. xii. p. 598. History of Religion, vol. iv., article Mystics. Law's Life, p. 1. Law's Appeal, pp. 4–139. Law's Spirit of Prayer, pp. 61–68. Law's Spirit of Love, p. 52. Law on Christian Regeneration, pp. 1–39.


ed Christianity and Judaism together. They held that Christ was born of a virgin, and was also in a certain manner united to the divine nature. They refused to abandon the ceremonies prescribed by the law of Moses, but were far from attempting to impose the observance of these ceremonies upon the gentile christians.” They rejected also all those additions that were made to the Mosaic institutions by the pharisees and doctors of the law. This denomination, like the

Ebionites, made use of a gos

pel, which was called indiscriminately “The Gospel of the Nazarites, or Hebrews.”f

NECESSARIANS, an appellation which may be given to all who maintain that moral agents act from necessity. Some suppose this necessity to be mechanical, and others moral. Mechanical necessity follows Materialism: moral necessity results from the presumption that there is a power existing distinct from matter. Doctor Priestley's scheme of mechanical, or philosophical necessity, has been delineated under the article Materialists, on account of its connexion with the doctrine of Materialism.

The following is a sketch of the sentiments of some of the most celebrated advocates for moral necessity. Mr. Leibnitz, a celebrated

German philosopher, who was born in the year 1646, is a

distinguished writer on this subject. He attempted to give Calvinism a more pleasing and philosophical aspect. He considered the multiplicity of worlds which compose the universe as one system, or whole, whose greatest possible perfection is the ultimate end of creating goodness, and the sovereign purpose of governing wisdom.—As the Leibnians laid down this great end as the supreme object of God's universal dominion, and the scope to which all his dispen•sations were directed, they concluded that if this end were proposed, it must be accomplished: hence the doctrine of necessity, to fulfil the

purposes of predestination,

founded on wisdom and goodness; a necessity physical and mechanical in the motions of material and inanimate things; but a necessity moral and spiritual in the voluntary determinations of intelligent beings, in consequence of propellent motives

*In this respect, as well as in soune others, this denomination differed from the Ebionites; for they received both the old and new testament.

# This is supposed by some to be the gospel St. Paul refers to in Gal. i. 6,

Mosheim, vol. i. p. 173.

Broughton, vol. ii. p. 155,

which produce their effects

with certainty, though those

[ocr errors]

effects are contingent, and by

no means the offspring of an

absolute and essentially im

mutable fatality.” Mr. Leibnitz observes that, if it be said that the world might have been without sin and misery, such a world would not have been the best; for all things are linked together in each possible world. The universe, whatever it may be, is all of a piece, like an ocean: the least motion produces its effect to any distance, though the effect becomes less sensible in proportion to the distance. God having settled every thing beforehand once for all, having foreseen good and evil actions, &c., every thing did ideally contribute before its existence to his creating plan; so that no alteration can be made in the universe, any more than in a number, without destroying its essence, or its numerical individuality: and therefore if the least evil

[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

are heightened by shadows, and a dissonance well placed renders harmony more beautiful. We desire to be frightened by rope-dancers who are ready to fall, and to shed tears at the representation of a tragedy. Does any one sufficiently relish the happiness of good health who has never been sick 2 Is it not most times necessary that a little evil should render a good more sensible, and consequently greater The Edwardean scheme of moral necessity is as follows: That the will is in every case necessarily determined by the strongest motives, and that this moral necessity may be as absolute as natural necessity; i. e. a moral effect may be as perfectly connected with its moral cause, as a naturally necessary effect is with its natural cause. President Edwards rejects the notion of liberty, as implying any self-determining power in the will, any indifference or contingency; and defines liberty to be the power, opportunity, and advantage, which any one has to do as he pleases. This liberty is supposed to be consistent with moral certainty, or necessity.

* Augustine, Leibnitz, and a considerable number of modern philosophers, who maintain the doctrine of necessity, consider this necessity in moral actions as consistent with spontamiety and choice. According to them, constraint alone, and external force, destroy merit and imputation.

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »