Page images
PDF
EPUB

II.

CHAP. tended to convey any sentiment more forcible than a gentlemanly deference to a friend's opinion, or a polite dissent from a self-evident absurdity. Many scholars have stood up in defence of Tertullian's arguments, but all, except Gilbert Wakefield, have joined in decrying his Latinity as preeminently vicious. I can only say that, whatever may be its obscurities and deformities on a first acquaintance, few readers after becoming well habituated to its peculiarities will quit it for more polished compositions of the same date without experiencing something unpleasant in the change, and something agreeable in the return to it: some chapters of this treatise even in point of structure and mechanism are equal to any thing in ancient Latin, and it seems really difficult to imagine that they were not actually spoken, or at all events written for oral delivery. Some allowance too must be made for the subjects on which he is frequently employed. If Lucretius with all his advantages was compelled to excuse his phraseology by the rudeness of his theme, we may surely supply the same apology to Tertullian; Valentinus was at least as intractable as Anaxagoras, and the ỏydoàs as unmanageable a material as the opoloμépeia. At all events I hope that not every student will agree in the denunciations which a very favourite writer has thus heaped on this unfortunate African.

"Truly Roman rudeness and insolence which not "even the power of Christian grace could thoroughly "tame (so innately savage was the nature of this beast "of prophecy) address us in the provincial roughness of "an obscure and difficult language. From the natural "heartlessness and treacherous reserve of its speakers "the Latin delights in a vague phraseology and oblique construction which hints rather than expresses, and

[ocr errors]

II.

"reminds us that the language of the robbers of the CHAP. "world was no unfit vehicle also for the sentiments of "the crafty tyrants of the church'."

To trace in an unfavoured language the faults of an hundred generations, to visit on a solitary supine or a double dative the rapacity of a host of Cæsars and the presumptions of a line of Popes, is surely as relentless an attack as any which Mr. Evans himself has reprehended in Tertullian, and the cut is the harder and unkinder from an implied contrast of the dialects and temperance of the Greeks. Even admitting the essential morality of the Ionic tongue, we may pause before conceding to the countrymen of Alcibiades the praise of continence or honesty. Few writers know better than Mr. Evans what portraits might be drawn of Athenian philosophers, Athenian statesmen, or Athenian citizens; if they did not rob the world it was only because they could not; if they could have bound the strong man they would speedily have spoiled his goods; with all the propensity to plunder, they wanted the steadiness to subdue. But especially must I differ from any opinion that Latin is not a fitting language for theological or ecclesiastical purposes; this is not a point for logical argument, but a question involving a variety of indefinite considerations; very possibly πadıyyevecía may to many appear a harmonious, and regeneratio a barbarous, term, but the man must be strangely biassed by some previous influence who can read or hear without something more than admiration the magnificent Latin of the ancient Liturgies.

'Theol. Lib. xiv. p. 358.

CHAP.

III.

CHAPTER III.

ON THE APOLOGETIC WRITINGS OF THE EARLY

CHRISTIANS.

THE ancient apologists for Christianity have been divided into two classes, the first, of advocates who were pleading their cause in times of persecution before emperors or provincial governors; and the second, of didactic and voluntary expositors of their creed and practice. But on closer examination it will appear, that the two divisions are intimately connected, and that the first, though composed of writers who certainly had no idea of offering what, in the present day, would be called evidences of Christianity, are nevertheless as available for such testimony as the other class, whose aim was more avowedly the conversion of their fellow-men. An instance of this may be seen in the process by which Grotius has proved the truth of the Christian religion; and as I may take occasion to compare his scheme of evidence, as well as Paley's, with the earlier writers now under consideration, I will here sketch his general argument in as few words as possible, that I may refer to it presently, if occasion should require. Of his six books, the first, through the media of certain proofs with which we are not here concerned, establishes the proposition that there must be a vera religio somewhere; the second considers the claim of Christianity to this title, the third examines the genuineness of Holy Scripture, and the rest are devoted to the refutation of Paganism, Judaism, and Mahometanism. His steps in the second book are these: he shews that the life and crucifixion of our Lord, as facts, cannot

III.

be denied by any one, and also that after his death CHAP. he was worshipped etiam viris sapientibus, and that for this the only assignable cause is to be found in the divine miracles which they had carefully examined and approved.' This chapter contains the cardinal point of Grotius' proof, and differs in this from Paley's, that, whereas both advocates make the miracles decisive of the question, the latter draws his evidence from the sufferings of the first martyrs, while the former rests on the circumstances of the conversion of the early Fathers. But if the corroboration of certain facts is to be sought in the conversion of certain persons, it will be seen at once of what singular importance are the writings of these persons, which serve almost as autobiographies, and which shew the evidence to which they yielded, when they detail its nature, and urge its examination on others. And this is one very interesting and instructive light in which the early apologists may be viewed. My present intention however is merely to compensate, in some degree, for the strictness with which, in this edition, I have confined myself to philological and grammatical points, and to offer the young

De Verit. II. 4. "Fuerunt autem semper, inter cultores Christi, plurimi et judicio præditi, et literarum non rudes, quales (ut de Judæis nunc taceamus) Sergius Cypri præses, Dionysius Areopagita, Polycarpus, Justinus, Irenæus, Athenagoras, Origenes, Tertullianus, Clemens Alexandrinus, ac porro alii, qui tales cum essent, cur homini ignominiosa morte affecto se cultores addixerint,. ..nulla potest caussa reddi præter hanc unam, quod diligenti inquisitione, qualis viros prudentes in maximi mo

menti negotio decet, comperis-
sent veram et firmis testibus sub-
nixam fuisse famam, quæ de
miraculis ab eo editis percrebue-
rat." The conclusion of this book
is not to our purpose, but Gro-
tius employs it in proving the
resurrection, and drawing thence
additional arguments; and in
shewing the ethical excellency
of Christianity.

2 Such writings are the Apology here edited, the Xóyos poτρεπτικὸς of Clement, the παραίVEGIS of Justin, and the Apologies anterior to Tertullian.

III.

CHAP. student a little insight into some of the apologetic writings with which he is perhaps unacquainted, as well as to give a general idea of the scheme and character of that particular apology which I have taken as a subject for illustration. I am compelled to take somewhat narrow limits, and I have therefore preferred keeping to the same authors who have been reviewed for another purpose in the previous section, which I do the more readily that their writings happen all to bear, more or less, on this subject, and that in them are included three of the names most celebrated in this species of composition. Two writers only of any especial note will be thus excluded, Origen and St. Augustine, the former of whom, from the nature of his work, cannot be compared exactly with those lately spoken of, and the latter I have reserved for a separate examination as regards both his matter and his language; the apologists anterior to Tertullian may be considered, for all practical purposes, as fairly represented in him. The first column of the table given in the last section will shew the respective dates of the apologists (for such they may all be termed) whose essays are now to be considered, and it will be there seen that the third century, within a very few years, includes them all. They comprise specimens of both of the divisions above mentioned, and even if no more profitable information were to be gained from their perusal, it would be both curious and interesting to trace the tone, varying with the times, from the abrupt and passionate entreaty for justice and toleration, through the argumentative expositions betokening comparative security, to the final protest against the pitiable relics of paganism.

The apologists of Christianity, from the very essence of the religion they taught, were compelled to attack the

« PreviousContinue »