« AnteriorContinuar »
step in the ladder will never attain the second, but will wallow at the bottom for ever; and if the first chance of doing a piece of honest work be refused, a second may never be offered, or if offered, the man, debased by sloth, sensuality, and insincerity, may be unwilling or unable to perform or perceive it. The man is made by his work.
Life is a very serious thing: every gleam of truth reveals to us more of the laws of absolute fact, inexorable and eternal, which make up the inscrutable Future and Invisible, as they do the visible and mysterious Present. Shall we raise our puny hands or voices and fight against those laws? shall we lie against eternal truth, or shut our eyes and ears against it? I dare do none of these things deliberately. My share in the work of the world is doubtless of the minutest consequence, but to me it is of infinite consequence. To me it is of infinite consequence whether I live a traitor and a coward, or a true man. Good or bad, this is my work; I found I had it to do, and I have done it. May I ever do so.
TASK OF TO-DAY.
CHAPTER THE FIRST.
THE EARLY CHRISTIAN APOLOGISTS. In the second and third centuries, the Church of Christ commanded the services of many writers eminently qualified by their talents, wit, and learning for the task of fighting the battle of their faith against the Grecian and Roman philosophers. The ancient religion was long defended by the Roman government as a political institution; but the current was then running strong against heathen cant; the mythological gods were popular objects of derision; and, although the philosophers-most of whom were deists or atheists—may not have been often converted, yet there were but few who would contend for the old rags of Paganism. But, except in a few rare and illustrious minds, the grossest superstition still prevailed ; and while the poets and their readers laughed at the poppet-gods, Jupiter and Mars, with their amorous successes and disasters, a general belief in supernatural agencies remained in full force. No one denied the powers of witchcraft and necromancy; astrology and alchemy were recog. nised as sciences by the learned ; and every mathematician or naturalist was regarded by his ignorant neighbours as either a malignant sorcerer or an inspired favourite of heaven. The old religions were wom out, but the people were not prepared to do without one. At Athens, in St. Paul's time, they erected an altar
THE APOLOGIES NOT EVIDENCES.
to the Unknown God, worshipping, as he said, “ignorantly;" and Christianity, with its promises of eternal beatitude and a speedy consummation of all things, appeared most opportunely as a reconciliation and solution of doubt, difficulty, and dread.
In such a state of public opinion, and with a vast prepondere ance of the people sunk in the darkest ignorance and superstition, deliberate logical arguments, even if the Christians had been able to discover and wield such weapons, were neither suitable por requisite for the propagation of the faith. The early defenders of Christianity wrote their Apologies principally, if not entirely, to deprecate persecution, and to clear their co-religionists from various calumnious charges; and although they appeal, sometimes with considerable eloquence, to the miracles of Jesus and the prophecies fulfilled in his person, to the purity of the Christian doctrine, and to the testimony of martyrs, as proofs of the truth and divine origin of their religion, yet all the ancient Apologies extant hardly contain an argument on which a modern Christian disputant could rely in a controversy with an unbeliever.
Mosheim, speaking of the apologetic and controversial authors of the second century, says, “ The fundamental principles of the Christian doctrine were, it must be confessed, often explained and defended in a manner that discovers the greatest ignorance, and an utter confusion of ideas. They frequently make use of arguments void of all solidity, and much more proper to dazzle the fancy than to enlighten and convince the mind."*
Justin Martyr, about the year 150, addressed his first Apology to the Emperor Antoninus Pius, his son, his adopted son Lucius, the senate and people of Rome. He commences with a bold and spirited appeal to the Roman rulers, " in the name, and as one of those Christians who are persecuted : demanding justice, offering no flattery, and suing for no favours.” “You are called,” says Justin, to the emperor and his sons, "you are called pious, philo
* Eccles. Hist., cent. ii., part ii., chap. 3.
+ Finding it easier to translate from French than Greek, I have used the work of the Abbé Genoude “Défense du Chris tianisme par les Pères des premières Siècles. Première Sèrie : Les Pères Apologetiques." Paris : 1842.