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Viewed, therefore, in relation to whatever department of truth, the words of the Evangelist commend themselves to attention, "the life was the light.” That which the natural light is to the body, the same, as St. Basil says, “is God—the Word, to the soul.” Or, in the more beautiful language of David, which one of the proudest seats of learning in the world has engraven upon her seal, “Dominus illuminatio mea," “the Lord is my light.”
In bringing, then, to a conclusion, this imperfect discussion, we ask of the reader whether the worth, and dignity, and power, of Revelation, be not every way apparent ? Men may say that they have passed beyond its teachings; but whatever their pretensions, it is the only Oracle of infinite and infallible wisdom. It is an Oracle too, whose response never fails, and with the utterances of which, conjecture has no concern. Wherever this Oracle has spoken, there intelligence and life have made their appearance; but where it has been silent, ignorance and death have held their reign. Men may boast of “light” without Christ; but their knowledge is uncertain, their views are unfixed, and their judgment is unworthy of reliance. It is the written Word of Truth illuminating the understanding, keeping up its high intelligence, quickening its hidden energies, elevating and directing, as well as strengthening its powers of thought, that forms the chief instrument, under God, in the culture of civilized and enlightened humanity.
Yet it is not revealed Christianity alone, but practical religion also, which is one of the primary auxiliaries in the cultivation of man. As this discussion evinces, the religious, is the highest form and attainment of humanity. Piety, that renovates the soul, recovers in it the divine image, and thoroughly imbues its nature, is the intellectual as well as spiritual illuminator of the race. Would we, then, secure the promotion of sound learning, no less than of pure morals, we must summon to our aid the religion of the gospel. We must instil it into our literature, as we would preserve literature; we must wed it to science as we would elevate science; we must enshrine it in ourselves, as we would attain to understanding; and we must engraft it upon our children, as we would see them grow up, not “members of Christ” only, but lovers of Truth, and ornaments to her temple. We must labor for Christian nurseries of learning, and for Christian Colleges. We must seek to encircle in the arms of the visible Church, the places that are sacred to mental cultivation. We must surround with the hallowed institutions of the former, the interests, and pursuits, and achievements, of the latter.
And yet let not the embrace be one of merely external form. Let it not be like the connection which the ancient Ephesians, as we are told by Herodotus, made of their city with the shrine of Diana, when they would consecrate it to her service, and ensure it her protection, by attaching its walls with a cable line to the distant fane of the goddess. No; let ours be something more than a mere outward connection. Let it be spiritual and essential. Let the inner life of the Word, separable neither from the Christian ordinance nor the written letter, operate in the soul. Let the indwelling of the Spirit be sought for and cultivated. Let the beams of religion be mingled with those of science, and shine directly upon the mind.
Then there will be life; and the life proceeding from the Logos, and realizing by the Spirit His presence in the heart, will be light TO THE UNDERSTANDING,
CHASE'S APOSTOLIC CONSTITUTIONS.
Art. IV.-The work claiming to be the Constitutions of the
Holy Apostles, including the Canons : Whiston's version, revised from the Greek; with a Prize Essay, at the University of Bonn, upon their origin and contents. Translated from the German, by Irau CHASE, D. D. 8vo. pp. 496. New York, D. Appleton & Co., 1848.
We can not refrain from acknowledging our gratitude to the enterprising publishers, who have favored English readers with the means of acquainting themselves with these venerable and valuable relics of primitive ages; and we also desire to express our thanks to the editor for the important critical apparatus he has connected therewith. Having said thus much,—but no more than the truth and our own feelings demand, --it is incumbent upon us to say something more, equally demanded by the cause of truth and justice. The Constitutions of the Apostles, as they have come down to us, compose eight books of considerable size, embracing in their contents, the whole circle of ritual observances, with no small share of doctrinal teaching,—all of it purporting to have come directly from the Apostles, through Clement, the Bishop of Rome. Were this claim, in all respects, well founded, the work in question would be the most important and valuable of all that has been preserved of antiquity, next after the Bible itself. It would be an authoritative exponent of Apostolic faith and practice, to which appeal might always be made, and whence an answer might ever be obtained, -not in the brief and uncertain language of legislative enactment, but in the full, comprehensive, and unequivocal language of practical commeniary. Such a work, therefore, challenges the most submissive deference, and if its position and character are undoubted, it is entitled to be the final arbiter in all cases of doubt or difficulty. But such is not the case; the work is neither of an Apostolic age, nor altogether of Apostolic doctrine. In other words, it is a forgery of a later date.
This point being conceded, as it is by all scholars, it might seem idle and useless to pursue the inquiry concerning it any further, and it might seem that no reliable inferences could be drawn from it touching any point whatever. But the known laws of human action are such, that this conclusion would be illogical and improbable. No forgery of this nature was ever perpetrated without an object, and that object, a priori, might be assumed, -the wish to uphold some doubtful point of doctrine or practice with the sanction of Apostolic authority and usage. No other probable, or reasonable motive, can be assigned for such an act, unless we regard it as piece of Ecclesiastical romance, carefully written, and carefully preserved, without any further object or motive than that of indulging the fancy to no purpose, on the most sacred and awful subjects. Such a supposition is surrounded by so many improbabilities, and fraught with so many absurdities, that it can not be allowed. We are thrown back then, upon the first supposition, as the only one at all consonant with the known principles and laws governing human conduct, and must conclude that the work was written, for the express purpose of giving weight and currency to some doubtful doctrine or practice. This being conceded, the conclusion follows of necessity,—that on all other points of doctrine and discipline we must look for the most careful adherence, to what was regarded at the time of the forgery, as the most scrupulous orthodoxy; with a probability of over-statement on points which might seem to lend countenance to the object for which the work was produced. Without this orthodoxy it would be of no authority on any point,--and consequently the labor of its composition would be lost. The wish that prompted the forgery of a work in the name of the Apostles, for the purpose of propagating a particular error or heresy, would therefore, beget the desire of conformity to what was regarded as Apostolic doctrine and practice in all other matters than the one immediately in question ; the interest of the writer furnishing a guaranty of truth in these respects, which his honesty could not afford.
The age of the work, therefore, or the time of the forgery, becomes an important, and an indispensable inquiry, before we can employ it as authority on any subject. And yet the evidence by which we are to determine this question, is so interwoven with the contents of the work, that both must be considered, to a considerable extent, as identical. But since, in the opinion of critics and scholars, the external evidence, furnishes certain limiting facts, which confine the inquiry within a definite period, we are relieved of a portion of the labor we should otherwise be obliged to encounter. This will be evident from the following statement of opinions. The Constitutions have been ascribed to the first century by Whiston, Montecutius, and some others. They are attributed to the latter part of the second century, by Blondell, Beveridge, Grabe, Pearson, Baratier, and others; to the third century by Cardinal Bona, Fronto Marco, Dupin, Bingham, Spanheim, Grotius, Schroeckh, Cotta, Gieseler, Neander, etc.; to the fourth century by Cardinal Perron, Christian Lupus, Cotelerius, Le Clerc, Thomas Bruno, Schmidt, etc. ; to the fifth century by Samuel Basnage, Daille, Schultetus, Chamier, Chemnitz, etc.; and to the sixth century by Tillemont, etc. Leaving out of consideration the extreme opinions mentioned, which have always been urged on polemical grounds, and we may say that in the opinion of the learned, the time of the fabrication of the Constitutions lies somewhere between A. D. 175, and A. D. 375,—thus limiting our inquiry to a period of two hundred years. Those who have insisted upon an earlier date, as Whiston, and others, have done it because of the decided Arianism of their teaching ; and those who have contended for a later date, have mostly gone upon the assumption that the strong language which they employ in reference to Episcopacy and a Liturgy, could not have been used before the fifth century. To these must be added some Romanists, who assume a late date, because of their irreconcilability with the claims of the Papacy. The opinions of those scholars who have taken extreme ground, have therefore, been influenced, if not determined, by their previous doctrinal views. Arians have insisted upon the Apostolic origin,–Churchmen and moderate men of all parties, and our author among the number, place them from the second to the fourth century,--Presbyterians in the fifth, on polemical grounds, and some Romanists, in the sixth, for similar reasons. But we can not now go over with all these opinions and views, and we shall assume what we conceive to be capable of the most abundant and satisfactory proof, that the opinion of those moderate men who take the medium ground, is the true one.
These points being settled, we proceed to consider the main point of our inquiry,—the time of the forgery, and as essential to this, the object of the forger. That the two predominant ideas of the Constitutions are Episcopacy and Arianism, is conceded by all. If, then, the work in question represented the Apostolic age, it would compel all to adopt Episcopacy and embrace Arianism. But as this is not pretended, except by the Arians themselves, and is rejected by the judgment of all sound scholars, we need not dwell upon it. We have then, only the following supposable cases.
I. The work was written after Episcopacy had been firmly established, for the purpose of inculcating Arianism.
II. Or, it was written when Arianism was the universally received opinion, in order to establish the Episcopal regimen and government.