« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
ers of his Narrative. If the circumstance he adduced had any connection with the subject he had in hand, the evil of the thing he came at so late a period to consider trivial and unimportant, would be to place the Methodists before the public as an exceedingly sectarian people. Conscious of the effect such an imputation would have upon them in the estimation of the religious public, and also how little they are entitled to it, the doctor's opinion, which would seem to render it unworthy of notice, will not satisfy them. They will claim that they have a right to judge of the matter themselves.
But the manner in which Dr. Reed pretends to have obtained his information in regard to the new version of the Bible is the most important feature in the whole business. As it appeared in the Narrative, it was not quite certain whether he meant to affirm that his statement, 'I believe I may say, are about to have their own version of the Bible,' was founded in even a report of the fact or on mere conjecture. But after it was formally denied that there was any ground for such a statement, he affirms that he had reason to believe it was correct, for he was told it at our book store, and by a gentleman in whom confidence could be placed. The phraseology is evidently formed to give an impression that the information was received through some responsible person connected with the establishment, and that therefore he had a right to believe it—that it is a sufficient apology for his inserting it in his Narrative, and one which ought especially to satisfy us, that it was a subject of conversation with responsible individuals at our own book store. Were the fact as this statement seems to represent it, we should acknowledge that complaint on our part would be improper. But it is due to ourselves to say, and to the public to be informed, that it is not. Dr. Reed was never told by any responsible person connected with our book store that we were about to have our own version of the Bible.' It was never a subject of conversation among any persons connected with the establishment of sufficient consequence, in the estimation of even a stranger, to be good authority in such a malter, and probably never thought of. This may be deemed a thrust at his veracity. If so, we cannot help it. A just sense of selfrespect obliges us to say thus much respecting his obtaining his information at our own book store. There is something in the account which the doctor gives of this matter that we do not readily comprehend. He says he was told that the Methodists were about to have their own version of the Bible in their own book store, and that by a person on whom he could rely as rea
dily as on any person in New-York. Now, we do not know that he had even a slight acquaintance with any responsible persons connected with the book store: we are sure he was not sufficiently acquainted with any to affirm of them what he has of his informant-and to some of them, we are informed, he had not even an introduction. The truth probably is, if the doctor was ever told any thing out of which to make the report, he was told it by some person who accompanied him to the book room, and stated it as a thousand other unaccountable things have been stated on similar authority about the establishment, without the semblance of any thing to support it. This is the only solution we can make of the matter. Perhaps the doctor will furnish a more satisfactory one.
As Dr. Reed has taken the liberty to express his opinion freely respecting others, he will not take it unkind, and certainly cannot deem it unjust, that others exercise the same freedom towards him. He undoubtedly possesses fine powers as a man, and much skill as a writer. His graphic descriptions show the hand of a master. But his qualifications for the work of a faithful historian are exceedingly questionable; and on this account it is to be regretted that some person of a less glowing and romantic turn of thought had not been selected to fulfil the function of his mission to this country. He talks of intelligent men as of senseless things, and with apparently as little concern about the effect his strictures will have upon either their reputation or their feelings. He assumes the air of the tourist, and affects to give critical and exact information of men and things, on slight and insufficient evidence. He speaks of ministers, officers, and institutions, as though he alone possessed the prerogative and talent to delineate their peculiar characteristics, and show them to the world as they are. Of most of these, especially out of the circle of his immediate friends, he had not the means to form an adequate opinion. What could he know of Episcopalians, Methodists, and others, by occasionally falling in with some of their ministers, and hastily passing through a few of their institutions? Yet of all these he writes with as much confidence as though the machinery of their several organizations had been the study of his life. Is it to be expected that such a writer will be faultless? Who would not look for inaccuracies and misrepresentations? With a strong passion to enrich the barren parts of a popular Narrative, incidents are created out of conjectures, and shadows converted into substantial existences. And thus the religious community of the old world are to be informed respecting the institutions of Chris.
tianity in the new. We will only add, that so far as the Methodists are concerned, the cogent remarks of Mr. Watson in regard to Dr. Southey are peculiarly applicable to Dr. Reed in this case :—He has been led to notice the stream of Methodism, where it chased the shallows and whirled into eddies, but has overlooked it, where, in deep and noiseless flow, it waters many a thirsty and barren spot.'
For the Methodist Magazine and Quarterly Review.
A HISTORICAL VIEW of the Connection between Speculative Philosophy and Christian Theology, particularly during the Middle Ages.
BY ABEL STEVENS,
Of Church-street Church, Boston. A PERIOD of a thousand years, from the fifth to the fifteenth century, includes what are usually called the dark ages, and forms the middle division of the history of speculative philosophy. The first division comprises the ancient ethical theories, the most celebrated of which are the four systems of Plato, Aristotle, Zeno, and Epicurius, and terminates with the suppression of the Athenian schools, by the edict of Justinian, in the beginning of the sixth century. The last philosopher of much eminence in the ancient ethics was Boethius. The second period of the history of ethical science commences with the introduction of the Aristotelian philosophy into the Church, at the time of the closing of the Platonic schools of Athens, by Justinian, and terminates with the controversies of the Realists and Nominalists, which occupied the fifteenth century. The third period commences with the writings of Hobbes, and extends to our own times. It is distinguished by the names of Cudworth, Clark, Malebranche, Edwards, Butler, Hume, Adam Smith, and many others of the highest eminence.
The present dissertation has to do particularly with the middle or scholastic period. But as the philosophy of this dark and interesting part of history was but the result, or niore properly a modification of the preceding systems, an adaptation of them to the discussions of dialectical theology, it may not be amiss to make a preliminary reference to those systems.
At the commencement of the Christian era, the Greek and oriental philosophies were the prevailing ones in the civilized world. The latter, which assumed the notions of Gnosis,* had many followers in Syria, Persia, Chaldea, and Egypt. It commenced its corrupting influence early on the doctrines of the Church, and the sacred writings make particular reference to it. Its later influence was productive of some of the most malignant heresies recorded in early ecclesiastical history, and en
* Gnosis--Greek, science or knowledge.
dured for centuries. Its distinctive tenet was, the existence of two principles, one good and the other evil, the former presiding over light, and the latter over matter. From this a code of morals was deduced, tending to the mortification of the animal propensities, as these were considered the corrupting influences of matter.
The first controversies in the Grecian philosophy did not arise till the origin and combats of the Stoical and Epicurean schools. Socrates taught more the virtues of practical life than the difficult hypothetical principles which afterward became the almost exclusive topics of the ethical studies of ages. Plato, his disciple, preserved his opinions, in his elegant dialogues, and, modi. fying them with his own speculations, founded the school which bears his name, and, from the part of the city of Athens in which he taught, that of the academical philosophy. He is the first moral philosopher whose writings have reached our age.
The next important school was formed by Aristotle, the pupil of Plato, and is called the peripatetic philosophy, from his having delivered his lectures while walking. He was the most versatile genius of ancient times. The summary expression of his system was, that virtue consisted in the mean, between two extremes; when one affection or passion is 'so far exerted as to repress others, there is a vice of excess. When any one has less activity than it might exert, without disturbing others, there is a vice of defect.'*
The Epicurean school was founded by and named after Epicurus. It taught that the rule of life was to live in such a manner as would result in the greatest amount of happiness. The principle, however qualified and guarded by Epicurus,t was practically adopted, by his disciples, in its most liberal sense, and the name of the sect has become a common designation for sensualists.
The Stoical school was founded by Zeno. The principle of this theory was, that the rule of conduct consisted in living according to nature. It taught that the greatest virtue consisted in perfect insensibility to the pleasures and ills of life
These schools confined not their speculations to inquiries into the rules of moral conduct, but indulged in subtle disquisitions in
• Sir J. Mackintosh.
+ The severe charges brought by modern writers against Epicurus, which, in the language of Edwards, execrate him as 'the father of atheism and licentiousness,' are in no wise sustained by ancient testimony. Seneca, Cicero, Plutarch, Diocles, Diogenes, Saertius, and Galen, all applaud the rigorous rectitude of his morals. Lucretius'' Nature of Things,' which is but a poetical record of the Epi. curean philosophy, seemingly satirizes the indulgences of the sensualist. But it is too often the case, in both modern and ancient writers, that satire is but a disguise, assumed for the purpose of insidious corruption. It is manifest, allthe commentators on Lucretius to the contrary notwithstanding, that his invocation of Venus, lib. i., and his description of sensual pleasure, lib. iv., are obnoxious to this suspicion. The latter enters into a disgusting minuteness of detail unparalleled by even the poetical debauche’es of the Augustan age, with Ovid himself at their head, and the translation of which into the English tongue could not have been tolerated in any other age than that of Charles II. However correct the founder and his immediate followers might have been, the school itself became soon corrupt. Eusebius tells us that Lucretius himself died a violent death through the instrumentality of a mistress.
all departments of knowledge, blending physics, metaphysics, and ethics, and subjecting all to a mode of dialectical discussion which, disdaining the simple but sure inductions of experience and obser. vation, was extravagantly hypothetical, and stopped, as by magic spell, the progress of the human understanding for ages, until the revival of learning, and the introduction of the inductive philosophy, by Bacon, broke the delirious spell, and opened a pathway of light for the march of the intellect.
The Roman philosophers and studious youth travelled into Greece to study her systems, by which means, together with the translation of the Grecian philosophy, by Cicero, into the Roman tongue, it became prevalent among them.
These various systems, after exciting much controversy, were united in a school at Alexandria, Egypt, under the Macedonian kings of that city. Philo, the Jew, was a disciple of this sect, and attempted to reconcile the Platonic subtleties with the sacred books of his religion. The followers of this school taught that the elements of the true philosophy were mixed up with the errors of all systems, and were to be derived from them by a careful study of their various theories, a comparison of one with another, and the selection of their excellencies from the vast rubbage of errors with which they were combined. The name of this sect, derived from the composite character of its doctrines, was that of Eclectic.
Towards the conclusion of the second century, a new Eclectic school arose in Alexandria, differing from the former in the doctrine that all systems were alike true, and therefore reconcilable, that their differences consisted more in their respective modes of expressing their doctrines than in the essential nature of their tenets, and that such a method of interpretation might be introduced as should apply in common to all. The mode of interpretation proposed for this purpose was to put such an allegorical construction on the fables of the pagan mythologies, the dogmas of the philosophical sects, and the doctrines of Christianity, as would allow the same meaning to each. The founder of this sect was Ammonius Saecas, an eminent teacher in the Alexandrian school. The spirit of concession which this system manifested towards all parties, and the generous design which it held forth of reconciling those trifles which had so long held at variance those who were professedly engaged in the pursuit of the truth, presented an attraction which soon commended it to the patronage of mankind, and secured to it a prevalence which nearly swallowed up every other sect in the civilized world. From its having adopted the opinions of Plato, as the basis of its theory, it was denominated the New or Modern Platonic school. Origen, the celebrated teacher of the school of the Christians, at Alexandria, adopted the New Platonic philosophy and applied it to the explanation of the sacred doctrines; and here may be dated the commencement of that connection between speculative philosophy and Christian theology which led to all the wrangling and absurd subtleties of the scholastics and mystics, until the introduction of a more enlightened age of inquiry by the Protestant Reformation.
The sect of the New Platonists spread in the third century with remarkable rapidity. Under Platinus, the most eminent disciple of