Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol VI:Early Church Fathers Index Previous
Note 9, p. 459.
This is a most extraordinary note. The author uses "so to say" (= "as it were") merely to qualify the figure, which a pagan might think extravagant. "This is, as it were, the door of life: "the expression qualifies the rhetoric, not the Scripture, as such. On the contrary, I should adduce this very passage as an instance of our author's familiarity alike with the spirit and the letter of two most important texts of the Gospel, which he expounds and enforces with an earnest intelligence, and with a spirit truly evangelical.
Covered with garments, note 7, p. 469.
A heathen might have retorted, had he known the Scriptures, by asking about the "white robes" of angels, and the raiment of the risen Redeemer; e.g., Rev. i. 13. "Curious and unlearned questions" concerning these matters have been stirred by a certain class of Christians. (See Stier11 and Olshausen.12 ) But let us not reason from things terrestrial as regards things celestial: our coarse material fabrics are "shadows of the true." The robes of light are realities, and are conformed to spiritual bodies, as even here a mist may envelop a tree. Because of men's stupid and cam ally gross ideas, let it be said of "harps" and "phials," and all like phraseology as to things heavenly, once for all, "it cloth not yet appear" what it means; but they intimate realities unknown to sense, and "full of glory."
The eyes of Jupiter, p. 483
Arnobius with remorseless vigour smites Jove himself,-the Optimus Maximus of polytheism,-and, as I have said, with the assurance of one who feels that the Church's triumph over "lords many and gods many" is not far distant. The scholar will recall the language of Terence,13 where the youth, gazing on the obscene picture of Jupiter and Danäe, exclaims,-
"What! he who shakes high heaven with his thunder
Act thus, and I, a mannikin, not do the same?
Yes, do I, and right merrily, forsooth!"
On which the great African Father14 remarks pithily, "Omnes enim cultores talium deorum, mox ut eos libido perpulerit, magis intuentur quid Jupiter fecerit, quam quid docuerit Plato, vel censuerit Cato." And here is not only the secret of the impotence of heathen ethics, but the vindication of the Divine Wisdom in sending the God-Man. Men will resemble that which they worship: law itself is incapable of supplying a sufficient motive. Hence,15 "what the law could not do, in that it was weak, ... God sending His own Son," etc. Thus "the foolishness of God is wiser than men," and "the love of Christ constraineth us."
"Talk they of morals? O Thou bleeding Lamb
The grand morality is love of Thee."
The world may sneer at faith, but only they who believe can love; and who ever loved Christ without copying into his life the Sermon an the Mount, and, in some blest degree, the holy example of his Master?
For those freed from the bondage of the flesh, p. 488 and note 11113.
The early Christians prayed for the departed, that they might have their consummation in body and spirit at the last day. Thus, these prayers for the faithful dead supply the strongest argument against the purgatorial system, which supposes the dead in Christ (1) not to be in repose at first, but (2) capable of being delivered out of "purgatory" into heaven, sooner or later, by masses, etc. Thus, their situation in the intermediate state is not that of Scripture (Rev. xiv. 13), nor do they wait for glory, according to Scripture, until that day (2 Tim. iv. 8). Archbishop Usher, therefore, bases a powerful argument against the Romish dogma, on these primitive prayers for the departed. Compare vol. iii. p. 706, and vol. v. p. 222, this series. He divides it into five heads, as follows:16 -
"(1) Of the persons for whom, after death, prayers were offered;
"(2) Of the primary intention of these prayers;
"(3) Of the place and condition of souls departed;
"(4) Of the opinion of Aerius, the heretic, touching these prayers; and
"(5) Of the profit, to the persons prayed for, of these prayers."And his conclusion is, after a rich collation of testimonies, that "the commemoration and prayers for the dead used by the ancient Church had not any relation with purgatory, and therefore, whatsoever they were, Popish prayers we are sure they were not."
The pine ... sanctuary of the Great Mother, p. 504.
I Recall with interest the pine-cone of Dante's comparison (Inferno, canto xxxi. 59) as I saw it in the gardens of the Vatican. Valuable notes may be found in Longfellow's translation, vol. i. p. 328. It is eleven feet high, and once adorned the summit of Hadrian's mausoleum, so they say; but that was open, and had no apex on which it could be placed. It is made of bronze, and, I think, belonged to the mysteries satirized by our author. It is less pardonable to find the vilest relics of mythology on the very doors of St. Peter's, where I have seen them with astonishment. They were put there, according to M. Valery,17 under Paul V.; "and among the small mythological groups," he adds, "may be distinguished Jupiter and Leda, the Rape of Ganymede, some nymphs and satyrs, with other very singular devices for the entrance of the most imposing of Christian temples." It is painful to think of it; but the heathenism to which the age of Leo X. had reduced the court of Rome must be contrasted with the ideas of a Clement, an Athenagoras, and even of an Arnobius, in order to give us a due sense of the crisis which, after so many appeals for a reformation "in the head and the members" of the Latin communion, brought on the irrepressible revolt of Northern Europe against the papacy.
Sacrifices, p. 519.
It must be felt that Arnobius here lays himself open to a severe retort. The God of Christians is the author of sacrifice, and accepts the unspeakable sufferings of the innocent Lamb for the sins of the whole world.
The answer, indeed, suggests itself, that the sacrifices of the heathen had no apparent relation whatever to faith in this Atoning Lamb; none in the mysterious will of God that this faith should be nurtured before the Advent by an institution in which He had no pleasure, but which was profoundly harmonious with human thought and the self-consciousness of human guilt.
Arnobius would have written better had he been a better-instructed Christian. He demolishes pagan rites, but he should have called up the Gentile mind to the truths covered under its corruptions and superstitions. On this subject the reader will do well to consult the work of a modern Arnobius, the eccentric Soame Jenyns, who called out such a controversy in the last century about the truths and errors of his View of the Internal Evidence of the Christian Religion18 to which he had become a convert from previous scepticism. This essay attracted the attention of the Count. (Joseph) de Maistre, who read it in the French translations of MM. le Tourneur and de Feller both, reflected it in his Considerations sur la France,19 and reproduced some of its admirable thoughts in the Soirées de St Pétersbourg.20 From these two striking writers, the one an Anglican and the other a rabid Ultramontane, I must permit myself to condense an outline of their views of sacrifice.
So long as we know nothing of the origin of evil, we are not competent judges of what is or is not a suitable remedy. Nobody can assure us that the sufferings of one may not be in some way necessary to the good of the many. A tax may thus be laid upon innocence in behalf of the guilty, and a voluntary sacrifice may be accepted from the Innocent (the Holy One) for the payment of the debts of others. In spite of something illogical which seems to cling to this idea, the Get of its universal adoption in all ages among men must be accounted for,-the fact that all nations have always accepted this principle of expiatory sacrifice, innocent men and innocent beasts suffering for the unjust. Never could this principle have been thus universalized by human wisdom, for it seems to contradict reason; nor by human stupidity, for ignorance never could have proposed such a paradox; nor could priestcraft and kingcraft have obtained for it, among divers races and forms of society, with barbarians and philosophers, freemen and slaves, alike, a common acceptance. It must therefore proceed (1) from a natural instinct of humanity, or (2) from a divine revelation: both alike must be recognised as the work of our Creator· Now, Christianity unveils the secret, presenting the Son of God, made man, a voluntary sacrifice for the sins of the whole world· If it be a mystery, still we do not wonder at the idea when we see one man paying the debts of another, and so ransoming the debtor.21 Christianity states this as God's plan for the ransom of sinners· Such is the fact: as to the why, it says nothing.22 As to the philosophy of these mysteries, we reason in vain; and, happily, the Gospel does not require us to reason· The Nicene Creed formulates the truth: "For us men and for our salvation He came down," etc. But we are called to profess no more than "I believe; help Thou mine unbelief."
De Maistre responds as follows: This dogma is universal, and as old as creation; viz., the reversibility of the sufferings of innocence for the benefit of the guilty. As to the fall of man, "earth felt the wound; "23 , the whole creation groaneth and travaileth24 in pain together." In this condition of things the human heart and mind have universally acquiesced in the idea of expiation.25 ... And as well the Gentile sacrifices (corrupted from Noah's pure original) as those which were perpetuated in their purity by the Hebrews on one spot, and looking to their only explanation in the coming of one Redeemer, bear witness to the Wisdom which framed the human mind and adapted its ordinances thereto with profound and divine comprehension of all human wants and all human capabilities· When the infinite Victim exclaimed upon the cross, "It is finished," the veil was rent, the grand secret was unfolded. For this event, God had prepared all mankind by the system of sacrifice which, even in its corruption, had made preparation for the true elucidation.
In a word, then, Arnobius should have said this, as the Church was always saying it in the perpetual commemoration of Calvary, in her Holy Eucharist, and in her annual Paschal celebration. It was all summed up by the prophet a thousand years before "the Lamb of God" was slain· By the prophet, the Lamb Himself expounds it all: -
"Sacrifice and meat-offering Thou wouldest not, but mine ears hast Thou opened: burnt-offerings and sacrifice for sin hast Thou not required. Then said I, Lo, I Come: in the volume of the Book it is written of Me, that I should fulfil Thy will, O my God. I am content to do it; yea, Thy law is within my heart."
The expiatory sacrifice, the voluntary Victim, the profound design of God the Father, are all here. But the infinite value of the sacrifice was unfolded when the Son of man was identified by the poor Gentile centurion: "Truly this was the Son of God."
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