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The last topic which seems to demand notice, is the oft repeated error which Professor Norton advances in his 4th section, p. 51, where he undertakes to assign the origin of the doctrine of the Trinity. 'We can trace,' says he, 'the history of this doctrine and discover its source, not in the Christian revelation, but in the Platonic philosophy, which was the prevalent philosophy during the first ages after the introduction of Christianity; and of which all the more eminent Christian writers, the Fathers, as they are called, were in a greater or less degree, disciples.'
That many of the early Fathers were considerably addicted to the Platonic philosophy, the Professor proves at length from sundry trinitarian writers; and yet it was a very needless labor, because every man at all acquainted with the subject would have granted the truth of this statement, while at the same time no orthodox believer would admit the inference so unwarrantably deduced from it. The Platonic philosophy did undoubtedly prevail extensively in the early ages of Christianity, and,it is in vogue with many distinguished metaphysicians to the present day; but what Christian, of ancient or modern times, ever assigned the authority of Plato as the source of his faith in the Trinity? What Christian of ancient or modern times ever asserted any other foundation for his belief than the language of Scripture, with the single exception, perhaps, of those Romanists, who, since the reformation, sought for some support to their notions of Apostolical tradition, by denying that the Scriptures could prove the Trinitarian doctrine until they were aided by the infallible decision of the Church? The truth is that the primitive Christians rested their whole faith on the Word of God, as we trust the extracts made from their writings throughout this Dissertation must be sufficient to demonstrate; and they admired the Divine truths which they found in Plato, not because they were the philosophy of Plato, but because they believed he had derived them from the Old Testament, the Oracles of God.
A few passages from the Fathers may suffice the present consideration of this question.
In the fifth Book of his Evangelical Preparation, Eusebius, A. D. 320, undertakes to give many proofs that the learned among the heathen derived much of their knowledge from the Old Testament Scriptures. Among these, citing Clement, in the first book of his Stroinata, (Evan. Prepar. 6 ch. p. 410, of the Cologne ed. of 1688,) he enumerates Pythagoras, Numa, and Plato.
(a) 'Numa,' says he, 'the king of the Romans, who was a Pythagorean, derived this fruit at least from the writings of Moses, that he turned the Romans from making any image of God, whether in the likeness of men or animals. So that at least for the first hundred and seventy years, they built temples, but placed in them no statue, nor sculpture, nor delineation whatever.' A little farther on in this chapter, we read thus: (b) 'Plato himself also followed the laws and institutions of our (sc. the Jew
(a) Novuag ds 6 Pwuatwv (iaatXtvg Uv&ayoQttog utu tjv, ix d» twv Mwatwg oHptXtj&ttg, dttxwXvatv av&QomoftStj xat twouootpov itxova ©tov Pwuawg xrtittv tv yovv ixarov xat tfidoutjxovra rotg nowrotg irtat vaov? 6txodouovutvot, aya/.ua ovdtv 6vrt nXagov, Ovrt titv yQamov iiiottjaatio.
(b) Ka&tjxoXov&tixt Ss 6 IlXarwv Rt; xa&' yt«S vouo&tata.
ish) commonwealth.' And again, (c)' as likewise Pythagoras, who transplanted very many precepts from our laws into his sect:' and again he quotes the saying of Numenius the Pythagorean philosopher; (d) 'For what else is Plato, but Moses speaking Greek.'
In the note of the learned Coquaeus on the fourth chap, of the 8th book of St. Augustin's City of God, the following proofs.of the same fact are mentioned. (Aug. Op. torn. 5. Paris ed. 1613, p. 465.)
(e) 'Laertius says that Plato first came to the Pythagoreans in Italy, and then betook himself to the Prophets and , Priests in Egypt. St. Ambrose, in his 18th Sermon on the 118th Psalm, says that Plato, for the sake of erudition, went into Egypt, that he might learn the works of Moses, the oracles of the law, and the Prophets. Genebrardus in his Chronology of the A. M. 3730, says that 'Plato the AtticTaee, emulous of Moses, is called the Attic Moses by Numenius the Pythagorean. He was the third of the philosophers who, after Anaxagoras and Pythagoras, went to Egypt, that he might learn the philosophy which treats about Divine things, and remained in Heliopolis thirteen years with the Priests. Diodorus, (lib. 1. cap. 6.) commemorates many excellent men who travelled from Greece
(c) Ka&wg xat Uu&ayoQag noXXa Rwv Tra(J \fttv fttrtvtyxwv ttg Ttjv iavrH aoyfturaTtotav.
(d) Tt yao tar t UXarwv, t) Alwatjg arrtxtttttv.
(e) Laertius—vult itaque Platonem prius ad Pythagoricos in Italiam venisse, deinde se in jEgyptum ad Prophetas sacerdotesque recepisse; Ambros. Serm. 18. in Psal. 118. Erudilionis gratia Plato in JEgyptum profectus, ut Moysis gesla, legis oracula et Prophetarum dicta cognosceret. Genebrardus in Chronologia An. Mundi, 3730. Plato apes Attica, Moysis cemulus, sive Moses Atticus ex Numenio Pythagorico, qui ter. tins philosophorum post -Anaxagoram et Pythagoram in Mgyptum descendit, ut philosophiam ex qua Divini cognomentum est consecutus to Egypt for the sake of science, and among the rest mentions Plato. Justin Martyr, in his Exhortation, says that Plato learned in Egypt the doctrine of Moses and the other Prophets about the only true God.'
St. Augustin himself. «(De Civ. Dei, lib. 8. cap. 11,) says on this subject, (f) 'Some of our associates in the grace of Christ, wonder when they read or hear that Plato held those sentiments of God which resemble so much the truth of our religion. Whence some have thought that, at the time of his sojourn in Egypt, he had heard Jeremiah the Prophet, or had read the Prophetic writings.' Proceeding to say, that the first of these opinions could not be correct, because it appeared that Jeremiah was dead many years before Plato was born, and allowing, nevertheless, that Plato might have learned the Hebrew theology through an interpreter, this Father says, that from internal evidence in the writings of Plato, he could 'almost assert' that he was not ignorant of the books of Moses, chiefly from his strong admiration of the sublime sentiment that God is the I AM.(g)
But so far were the Christian Fathers from borrowing
disceret, tredecim annis fuit Heliopoli cum sacerdotibus. Justinus Martyr in exhort, vult Platonem Moysis doctrinam, caeterorumque prophetarum de uno solo Deo in jEgypto didicisse.
(f) Mirantur autem quidam nobis in Christi gratia sociati, cum audiunt, vel legunt Platonem de Deo ista sensisse, quae multum congruere veritati nostrae religionis agnoscunt. Unde nonnulli putaverunt eum, quando perrexit in jEgyptum, Hieremiam audisse Prophetam, vel Scripturas Propheticas in eadem peregrinatione legisse.
(g) Etmaxime illud, quod et me plurimum adducit, ut pene assentiar Platonem illorum librorum expertem non fuisse; quod eum ad sanctum Moysen ita verba Dei per Angelum perferantur, ut quaerenti quod sit nomen ejus qui eum pergere praecipiebat ad populum Hebraeum ex
^Egypto liberandum, respondeatur: Ego sum qui sum: -Vehemen.
ter hoc Plato tenuit, et diligentissime cqmmendavit,
their doctrine from Plato, that St. Augustin thus addresses a Platonist in the 29th ch. of the 10th book of the City of God, p. 625. '' ,.
(h) ' You preach the Father and his Son, whom you call the paternal intellect or mind, and the. medium of these whom we think you call the .Holy Spirit, and after your manner you call them three Gods. In which, although you use very improper language, you see, nevertheless, in some sort, and as if under the shade of a weak imagination, in what lies the fairness of truth. But the incarnation of the unchangeable Son of God, by which we are saved so as to attain to those things which we believe and understand, though ever so imperfectly, you will not acknowledge. Therefore you perceive somewhat of the country in which we hope to remain, although afar off, and with a misty vision, but the way by which to go there, you do not hold.— O! if you knew the grace of God by Jesus Christ our Lord, and that incarnation by which he took to himself a human soul and body, you would be able to see that this was the highest example of grace.'
On this remarkable passage we would only ask, could St. Augustin have supposed that the Christian doctrine of the Trinity was derived from Plato, and yet not allude to
(h) Praedicas patrem et ejus filium, quem vocas paternum intellectum seu mentem; et horum medium, quem putamus te dicere Spiritum Sanctum, et more vestto appellas tres deos. Ubi, etsi verbis indisciplinatis utimini, videris tamen qualitercunque, et quasi per quaedam tenuis imaginationis umbracula, quo nitendum sit: sed incarnationem incommutabilis filii Dei, qua salvamur,] ut ad ilia quae credimus, vel ex quantulacunque parte intelligimus, pervenire possimus, non vultis agnoscere. Itaque videtis utcunque, etsi de longinquo, etsi acie caligante, patriam, in qua manendum est, sed viam qua eundum est, non tenetis.
O si cognovisses Dei gratiam per Jesum Christum Dominum
nostrum, ipsamque ejus incarnationem qua hominis animam corpusque suscepit, summum esse exemplum gratiae videre potuisses.