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with ardour, the theological system of the Athenian Sage. But their national pride would have been mortified by a fair confession of their former poverty: and they boldly marked, as the sacred inheritance of their ancestors, the gold and jewels which they had so lately stolen from their Egyptian masters. One hundred years before the birth of Christ, a philosophical treatise, which manifestly betrays the style and sentiments of the School of Plato, was produced by the Alexandrian Jews, and unanimously received as a genuine and valuable relic of the inspired Wisdom of Solomon. A similar union of the Mosaic faith and the Grecian philosophy, distinguishes the works of Philo, which were composed for the most part under the reign of Augustus. The material soul of the Universe might offend the piety of the Hebrews : but they applied the character of the Logos to the Jehovah of Moses and the patriarchs; and the Son of God was introduced upon earth under a visible, and even human appearance, to perform those familiar offices which seem incompatible with the nature and attributes of the Universal cause."*
It is not necessary that I should inquire here with great accuracy into the nature of the Trinity as taught by Plato. I think it is most probable that Plato's Trinity was a Trinity of Attributes rather than a Trinity of Persons; that it corresponded rather with Sabellianism than with the Orthodox form of the Doctrine. This is a question, however, on which it is impossible to speak with certainty, owing, partly, to the nature of the ideas which constitute this compound conception of Deity, and partly to the gorgeous style of the imaginative metaphysician, whose figures we hardly know whether we are to harden into Realities, or to fuse into Ideas. Authorities are divided upon this point-and we have the name of Cudworth upon the one side, and the scarcely less illustrious one of Guizot upon the other. Whatever may
• Milman's Edition, vol. iii. p. 311.
have been the view of Plato himself,* it is certain that before Christ, his followers, some of the purer of the later Platonists, as they are called, taught a doctrine of the Trinity exactly corresponding to the form in which it was established nearly three hundred years after the death of our Saviour, by the first General Council of the Christian Church. The Platonists contemplated one original fountain of being, a simple unity, “which virtually containeth all things," from whence all other things, whether temporal or eternal, whether created or uncreated, were altogether derived. This Monad or Unity the Platonists considered as the only absolute or perfect existence, superior to intellect or wisdom, (Logos) for these two reasons-first, because Intellect being concerned with ideas, implies numbers and multiplicity; whereas the Supreme is UNITY; and secondly, that because “Knowledge is not the highest good, there must be some substantial thing in order of Nature superior to Intellect.” In the same way that GOODNESS and UNITY, the properties of the selfexistent God, were supposed to be superior to Mind or Wisdom, the second principle, so in its turn Intellect was supposed to be superior to the moving spirit or energy which carried ideas (the ideas of the Logos) into Action. The Monad, or Supreme Unity, generated Intellect, and Intellect as containing the intelligible ideas or archetypes of all sensible things, generated Soul or the spirit of Action. Hence the Platonic Trinity: THE ONE GOOD; Intellect (Logos or Nous); Psyche, or operating energy.t In Platonic language, the first in this Trinity is said to be All things Unitively ; the SECOND, All things intellectually; and the THIRD, All things actively or productively. I shall give one example of the style of the Platonists in expressing these Trinitarian conceptions. It is exactly that which the earlier Fathers would have used when speaking of the Christian Trinity. “ That which is always perfect generates what is Eternal, and that which it generates is always less than itself. What shall we say therefore of the most absolutely perfect Being of all. Does that produce nothing from itself? Or rather, does it not produce the greatest of all things after it? Now the greatest of all things after the most absolutely perfect Being is Mind or Intellect; and this is Second to it. For Mind beholdeth this as its Father, and standeth in need of nothing else besides it; whereas that First Principle standeth in need of no (Logos) Mind or Intellect. What is generated from that which is better than Mind, must needs be Mind or Intellect, because Mind is better than all other things, they being all in order of nature after it, and junior to it; as Psyche itself, or the First Soul; for this is also the Word or Energy of Mind (Logos), as that is the Word or Energy of the First Good.* Perfect Intellect,” (Logos, the second in the Trinity,) “generates Soul” (Psyche, or Moving Spirit, the third in the Platonic Trinity), “and it being perfect must needs generate, for so great a Power could not remain steril. But that which
* “ That this Trinity (Monad or Good, Wisdom, Spirit or Energy) was not first of all a mere invention of Plato's, but much ancienter than him, is plainly affirmed
Plotinus in these words, That these doctrines are not new nor of yesterday, but have been very anciently delivered, though obscurely (the discourses now xtant being but Explications of them) appears from Plato's own writings ;
IRMENIDES before having insisted on them.'” Cudworth, Intel. Syst. p. 546.--See also Bishop Berkeley's Siris, sections 341-365.
7" The principle of every thing is more simple than the thing itself. Wherefore the sensible world was made from Intellect, or the intelligible ; and before this must there needs be something more simple still. For many did not proceed from many, but this multiform thing Intellect proceeded from that which is not multiform
but simple ; as Number from Unity. If that which understands be many, or contain multitude in it, then that which contains no multitude, does not properly understand; and this is the first thing ;-to understand is not the First ; neither in Essence nor in Dignity; but the Second; a thing in order of nature, after the First Good, and springing up from thence, as that which is moved with desire towards it.”- Plotinus. Cudworth, p. 584.
• “ The First is above all manner of action : neither is it fit to attribute the are chitecture of the world to the First God, but rather to account him the Fath that God, who is the Artificer. The SECOND, to whom the energy of Intellection is attributed, is therefore properly called the Demiurgus, as the contriving Archio tect, in whom the Archetypal World is contained, and the First Pattern, or faria digm of the Whole Universe. The Third is that which moveth about Mind or Intellect, the Light or Effulgency thereof, and its Print or Signature, which al
is here begotten also, cannot be greater than its Begetter; but must needs be Inferior to it, as being the Image thereof.” -(Plotinus. Cudworth, p. 580.)
Now to connect such speculations as these with Gentile Christianity we have the intermediate link of the Platonizing or Alexandrian Jews. About two hundred years before Christ the Hebrew Scriptures were made accessible to Grecian curiosity through the medium of the Septuagint Translation: and when comparison came to be instituted between the wisdom of their Sacred Books, and the wisdom of the Schools, a strong temptation came into force upon the Jewish Platonists, by a system of allegory and fanciful interpretation to make their Scriptures divulge recondite doctrines, and by such imaginative means to metamorphose its simplest statements into the likeness of the deep and mysterious teachings of Philosophy. Hence arose the whole system of allegorizing which prevailed so extensively among the Jews of Alexandria. They were under two sets of influences, an affection for the Platonic or Eclectic Philosophy of their Schools, and a jealousy for their Religion that made them shrink from the idea that any Philosophy should contain secrets not there divulged.* They combined these two affections, and made dependeth upon it, and acteth according to it. This is that which reduces both the Fecundity of the First Simple Good, and the Architectonick Contrivance of the Second into Act and Energy. This is the Immediate and as it were Manuary OpiRicer of the whole world, that which actually Governs, Rules, and Presideth over all.”—Plotinus. ap. Cudw. p. 583.
*“ Since the introduction of the Greek or Chaldean Philosophy, the Jews were persuaded of the pre-existence, transmigration, and immortality of souls ; and Providence was justified by a supposition, that they were confined in their earthly prisons to expiate the stains which they had contracted in a former state. But the degrees of purity and corruption are almost immeasurable. It might be fairly presumed that the most sublime and virtuous of human spirits was infused into the ortspring of Mary and the Holy Ghost ; that his abasement was the result of his
oluntary choice; and that the object of his mission was to purify, not his own, but the sins of the world. On his return to his native skies he received the imense reward of his obedience; the everlasting kingdom of the Messiah, which
u been darkly foretold by the prophets, under the carnal images of peace, of conquest, and of dominion. Omnipotence could enlarge the human faculties of
their Scriptures speak the language of the Schools by means of the transforming process of allegorical interpretation. Examples without end might be given of the most extravagant transfigurations of the events of Hebrew History.
As a preparation for the manner of speaking on these subjects afterwards adopted by the earlier Christian Trinitarians, I will extract one passage, which perhaps most faithfully represents the purer views of Philo of Alexandria, the most eminent of the Jewish Platonizers, and whose influence operating upon Christianity through the minds of the Gentile philosophical believers, is to this day felt upon the popular forms of our faith. I have only to premise that he is speaking of the Attributes of God abstractly from God himself ; and though it is more than probable that Philo as well as Plato never separated these Attributes from the Supreme Deity, still it was the necessary tendency of such personifications to harden into distinct persons, and with common minds personified Attributes very soon came to be considered as Real Beings. This then was the original source of the Christian Trinity. To keep the lofty and retired Essence of God apart from all contact with matter which was looked upon as evil, and from number which was looked upon as imperfect, the Powers of God were first considered as Ema
Christ to the extent of his celestial office. In the language of antiquity, the title of God has not been severely confined to the first parent; and his incomparable minister, his only begotten son, might claim, without presumption, the religious, though secondary worship of a subject world.
“ The seeds of the faith, which had slowly arisen in the rocky and ungrateful soil of Judea, were transplanted, in full maturity, to the happier climes of the Gentiles; and the strangers of Rome or Asia, who never beheld the manhood, were the more readily disposed to embrace the divinity of Christ. The polytheist and the philosopher, the Greek and the Barbarian, were alike accustomed to conceive a long succession, an infinite chain of angels or dæmons, or deities, or æons, or emanations, issuing from the throne of light. Nor could it seem strange or incredible, that the first of these æons, the Logos, or word of God, of the same substance with the Father, should descend upon earth, to deliver the human race from vice and error, and to conduct them in the path of life and immortality.–Gibbon, vol. viii. p. 271.