« FöregåendeFortsätt »
spirit, could not have been written from a Western to an Eastern church. The scanty and vague reference to points of ecclesiastical order are natural enough, if our supposition be correct; completely unnatural, on a contrary view. If Clement had held the more distinct and developed ideas set forth, for example, in some of the epistles commonly ascribed to Ignatius, there was occasion enough for advancing thein.
We conclude, then, from the mental and moral characteristics of Clement that he was fitted to represent to us the form and substance of the theological thought of his day, and that, from the tone of his epistle, he actually does it.
§ 13. Contemporary Christian Writings.
In support of the testimony thus borne by Clement's epistle, we may adduce, further, the other works ascribed to his age; whether truly ascribed, or not, does not greatly affect the present argument. We refer to the epistles of Ignatius (particularly the shorter recension), of Barnabas, of Polycarp. These all bear the same general character as the epistle of Clement, though they betray, in a higher degree, the idiosyncracies of the several writers. At the same time, however, we must observe that these idiosyncracies relate principally to practical questions, such as martyrdom and church government, while in relation to doctrine all are substantially at one.
The circumstance that no writings of any very decidedly different character were ever attributed to the orthodox circles of the post-apostolic age, is a confirmation, e silentio, of the position that the extant works were then written, and that the belief and life of the church were then substantially such as we have indicated. Whether we accept the generally assumed age of the writings in question or not, this is certain, that antiquity believed the post-apostolic age to have been such as we have assumed; and until good positive reasons are adduced to the contrary, this consideration must have weight. It is true the Tübingen school has
labored to spread the canonical and other early Christian writings over the first and part of the second century, in order thus to show that the general character of the socalled post-apostolic age was by no means that which such productions as the epistle of Clement would imply. But the arguments adduced are either exceedingly feeble or purely negative, and owe their existence entirely to the necessities of their general philosophical theory of history. But we shall return again to this matter.
§ 14. If such, then, were the character of the immediately post-apostolic age on the one hand non-speculative, non-productive in an intellectual point of view, almost exclusively devoted to great practical questions; and yet, on the other, actually possessed of a rich store of lofty and, for the time, unusual thoughts relating to the highest questions of existence, both speculative and practical, all set forth with a directness, certitude, and an informality, to say the least, remarkable what conclusion are we, not merely warranted, but compelled, to draw respecting the age which preceded? We answer, first, that age must have been marked by great, startling productiveness, both in thought and deed. The historical phenomenon that numerous, and in some instances large, communities of men, themselves not at all remarkable for culture, and whose leaders give no signs of having been productive, should hold, and that too so firmly, a number of thoughts and principles which, whatever judgment we may form as to the abstract truth of many of them, are distinguished by a grand and moral beauty hitherto totally strange to the greater part of the world, requires some explanation. If these first Christians had been comparatively few in number, and possessed of high culture, then we might deem it possible that they were the outcome of a slow and gradual spiritual movement, whose initiator was Socrates, and main factors Jesus, Paul, Peter, and John. But as the first Christians were mostly heathens. of the lower classes, we see no mode of accounting for the existence of the facts adduced, but by assuming that the
VOL. XXII. No. 87.
preceding age had been marked by unusual, or as we believe supernatural, productiveness. Secondly, an age of this remarkable character must have immediately preceded the phenomenon in question. For this assumption there are both historical and general grounds. Those who live and work under the direct impression of such thoughts and deeds as had then been produced, are seldom capable of entering into speculative investigations; they are too much possessed by them reflectively to dream of possessing them. But when the second generation has passed, reflection begins; the thoughts and facts have to be communicated to those whose interest can only be awakened by reflection; doubts arise, objections have to be met; and so the teachings assume a totally different stamp- they become indirect and ratiocinative. This latter is the general character of the ages of Christianity which succeeded that of the apostolic Fathers. We find also a similar course of things, even if in a less degree, during the entire history of the church. When there has been a great revival of Christian life, those who have written under the direct impression created by it, have produced, for the most part, works bearing a concrete, direct, practical character. So far as they have borne a different character, it is attributable to the difference of circumstances; to wit, in the latter case, we have to do with a revival of truths to which contemporaries have become retatively hostile or indifferent; in the former case, totally new truths are brought into direct contact with a generation groping after light. But the law, in its general features, holds good. We find too, as a matter of fact, that later writers never did, because they never could, treat Christian doctrine and fact in the same assumptive, undemonstrative manner; though in proportion as Christian books have been the direct outflow of revived life and manifest divine interferences, in that proportion have they been of the same stamp as the epistle of Clement.
§ 15. In the canonical writings we have the record of deeds and thoughts precisely such as account for the phe
nomenon in question. Any one candidly and carefully observing the phenomena of the post-apostolic age, even supposing he knew nothing whatever of the canonical scriptures, must be forced to ask: In what have they taken their rise? The men themselves are not, in any sense, their originators, for they appeal to something already existing and recognized; they make no attempt to justify what they advance, as they must if it were new. If to such an observer the canonical scriptures were presented, and he were told: These record the deeds, thoughts, and life of men who immediately preceded the age you are studying, he would reply: Yes, here are the roots, here is the obvious explanation; the two are correlatives. And to deny such events their appropriate practical results, would be equivalent to denying their reality; and practical phenomena of the kind under consideration are inexplicable save by such events.
If this be the case, then the coincidences between this epistle of Clement and the other writings of the apostolic Fathers on the one hand, and the several books of the New Testament on the other, even where not distinctly stated to be such, may be deemed quotations; and we are thus supplied with a strong argument for the truth and authority of the canonical scriptures.
§ 16. Recent Objections to these Views.
Against the supposition that the Christian contemporaries of Clement have in him a fair representative; that, both formally and materially, his epistle reflects the state of theological thought among them; that the church then must be described as exclusively devoted to the practical aspects of Christianity, holding its facts and doctrines in a concrete, immediate, non-reflective form; and that consequently, in a scientific point of view, they not only did not continue, but to a certain extent went back from, the productive process of their predecessors, against this supposition, the loudest protest has been raised by the school of Dr. Baur in Tübin gen. Such an evident interruption in the theoretical develop
ment of the "idea" as the ordinary view of the immediately post-apostolic age involves, conflicts too strongly with their general theory of history, and is too favorable to the supernatural origin and character of Christianity to be left unassailed. Accordingly, all the weapons of history, criticism, and theory have been brought to bear on this particular era. No stone has been left unturned, no nook has been left unsearched, in order to effect a reversal of the longformed judgment of the Christian church. Heretical works have been raised to the position of true representatives of the state of belief; the orthodox works have been assigned to a later period and an inferior position; and, finally, the canonical books have been distributed over a time nearly double that usually allotted for their production. If, as is maintained, the first form of Christianity were Ebionism; if it then threw off its Judaistic limitations in Paul; and if, at the commencement of the second century, it first rose to its full philosophical height in the Gospel of John, which was the result and reconciliation of the antagonism between the Pauline and Petrine parties -- then undoubtedly the ordinary view of both the apostolic and immediately post-apostolic writings must be false. But the evidence is inspired by the a priori theory, instead of the theory being constructed on the evidence; and in consequence the evidence is, naturally enough, to say the least, very far-fetched and feeble. For example, Dr. Baur's own treatment of Clement and other apostolic Fathers, both in his work on the Trinity and elsewhere, is scandalously defective, considering the attention he bestows on others of far less importance. Our intention here is, not to discuss the critical questions at issue; this has been done, in a masterly manner, by such writers as Dr. Dorner.1 But we shall add a few general observations designed to show that the theory of the Tübingen school is opposed to, while the ordinary view harmonizes with, both the genius and mission of Christianity and the usual course of human history.
1 See his Entwickelungsgeschichte der Lehre von der Person Christi. Vol. I. on Clement.