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able to satisfy, and were thus the means of bringing into the Christian church many excellent and educated men, whose influence served to counteract the exclusiveness, and contempt of general culture, which Christianity derived from its Jewish origin. At the same time, Platonists, in their turn, acquired an increased degree of moral elevation and refinement, from the example of Christians, and the competition excited by rivalship. As usual, neither party perceived the obligations it owed to the other; but God, as ever, was overruling all for good.
Gnostics were the most troublesome to the church of all who professed to believe in Christ, and Platonists were the most formidable of all who denied him. If Christians ridiculed the stories which poets told concerning their gods, they covered them with a veil of allegorical significance. If it was urged that the literal sense of such stories must be injurious to young minds, inasmuch as it taught drunkenness, revenge, falsehood, murder, licentiousness, and treachery, by example of the deities, philosophers retorted by reminding Christians that their God was represented as a jealous God, greedy of his own glory, whose anger waxed hot, who consumed his enemies, changed his mind, and sent lying prophets to deceive. These continual attacks on the literal sense of the Jewish Scriptures, both by Gnostics and Platonists, undoubtedly had great influence in producing the tendency to defend them by allegorical interpretation. Controversy with the Platonists was rendered still more difficult by the fact that, on many points, they apparently approached Christianity very nearly. Both taught One Supreme God; both believed his Unity was mysteriously composed of Three Principles; both asserted that his first-born Son was the Logos, the Creator of the world. Under these resemblances, there existed very different ideas concerning the relation between God and the individual soul, and also concerning the mission of the Logos. With regard to the direct and constant agency of Spiritual Beings on the human mind, they were both agreed. It has been remarked that, “ among all the objections made by philosophers to the doctrines of the Gospel, no exception was ever taken to the operation of the Holy Spirit on the human soul. The direct action of Divine Minds on the human was recognized as a familiar truth; and it could not appear as a novelty, when all the highest minds in the moral world were imbued with the philosophy of Plato or Zeno.”
Minucius Felix, in his Apology for Christianity, introduces a dialogue between two Romans, one converted to Christianity, and the other opposed to it. In the course of their discussion, the Christian remarks: “I have explained the opinions of almost all the philosophers, whose most illustrious glory it is that they have worshipped One God, though under different names; so that one might suppose either that the Christians of the present day are philosophers, or that the philosophers of all days were already Christians.”
END OF VOL. II.