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Argument XIV.—Whence the Contentions of Philosophers Have Sprung. Against Those Who Catch at Everything that Meets Them, and Give It Credence, and Cling to It. Origen Was in the Habit of Carefully Reading and Explaining the Books of the Heathen to His Disciples.

Is it not thus that contradictory and opposing tenets have been introduced, and all the contentions of philosophers, while one party withstands the opinions of another, and some hold by certain positions, and others by others, and one school attaches itself to one set of dogmas, and another to another? And all, indeed, aim at philosophizing, and profess to have been doing so ever since they were first roused to it, and declare that they desire it not less now when they are well versed in the discussions than when they began them: yea, rather they allege that they have even more love for philosophy now, after they have had, so to speak, a little taste of it, and have had the liberty of dwelling on its discussions, than when at first, and without any previous experience of it, they were urged by a sort of impulse to philosophize. That is what they say; and henceforth they give no heed to any words of those who hold opposite opinions. And accordingly, no one of the ancients has ever induced any one of the moderns, or those of the Peripatetic school, to turn to his way of thinking, and adopt his method of philosophizing; and, on the other hand, none of the moderns has imposed his notions upon those of the ancient school. Nor, in short, has any one done so with any other.240240    [The ultimate subjugation of Latin theology by Aristotelian philosophy, is a deplorable instance of what is here hinted at, and what Hippolytus has worked out. Compare Col. ii. 8.] For it is not an easy thing to induce one to give up his own opinions, and accept those of others; although these might, perhaps, even be sentiments which, if he had been led to credit them before he began to philosophize, the man might at first have admired 35and accepted with all readiness: as, while the mind was not yet preoccupied, he might have directed his attention to that set of opinions, and given them his approval, and on their behalf opposed himself to those which he holds at present. Such, at least, has been the kind of philosophizing exhibited by our noble and most eloquent and critical Greeks: for whatever any one of these has lighted on at the outset, moved by some impulse or other, that alone he declares to be truth, and holds that all else which is maintained by other philosophers is simply delusion and folly, though he himself does not more satisfactorily establish his own positions by argument, than do all the others severally defend their peculiar tenets; the man’s object being simply to be under no obligation to give up and alter his opinions, whether by constraint or by persuasion, while he has (if one may speak truth) nothing else but a kind of unreasoning impulse towards these dogmas on the side of philosophy, and possesses no other criterion of what he imagines to be true, than (let it not seem an incredible assertion) undistinguishing chance.241241    The text is, οὐκ ἄλλην τινὰ (εἰ δεῖ τ᾽ ἀληθὲς εἰπεῖν) ἔχων ἢ τὴν πρὸς τῆς φιλοσοφίας ἐπὶ τάδε τὰ δόγματα ἄλογον ὁρμήν· καὶ κοίσιν ὧν οἴεται ἀληθῶν (μὴ παράδοξον εἰπεῖν ᾖ) οὐκ ἄλλην ἢ τὴν ἄκριτον τύχην. Vossius would read, πρὸς τὴν φιλοσοφίαν καὶ ἐπὶ τάδε τὰ δόγματα. Migne makes it = nulla ei erat alia sententia (si verum est dicendum) nisi cæcus ille stimulus quo ante philosophiæ studium in ista actus erat placita: neque aliud judicium eorum quæ vera putaret (ne mirum sit dictu) nisi fortunæ temeritas. Bengel would read, πρὸ τῆς φιλοσοφίας. And as each one thus becomes attached to those positions with which he has first fallen in, and is, as it were, held in chains by them, he is no longer capable of giving attention to others, if he happens to have anything of his own to offer on every subject with the demonstration of truth, and if he has the aid of argument to show how false the tenets of his adversaries are; for, helplessly and thoughtlessly and as if he looked for some happy contingency, he yields himself to the reasonings that first take possession of him.242242    The text is, ἐπεὶ καὶ ἀβοήθητος, ἑαυτὸν χαρισάμενος καὶ ἐκδεχόμενος εἰκῆ ὥσπερ ἕρμαιον, τοῖς προκαταλαβοῦσιν αὐτὸν λόγοις. Bengel proposes ἐνδεχόμενονἕρμαιον, as = lucrum insperatum. And such reasonings mislead those who accept them, not only in other matters, but above all, in what is of greatest and most essential consequence—in the knowledge of God and in piety. And yet men become bound by them in such a manner that no one can very easily release them. For they are like men caught in a swamp stretching over some wide impassable plain, which, when they have once fallen into it, allows them neither to retrace their steps nor to cross it and effect their safety, but keeps them down in its soil until they meet their end; or they may be compared to men in a deep, dense, and majestic forest, into which the wayfarer enters, with the idea, perchance, of finding his road out of it again forthwith, and of taking his course once more on the open plain,243243    καθαρῷἕρκει. Sirmondus gives, puro campo. Rhodomanus, reading ἀέρι, gives puro aëre. Bengel takes ἕρκος, septum, as derivatively = domus, fundus, regio septis munita. but is baffled in his purpose by the extent and thickness of the wood. And turning in a variety of directions, and lighting on various continuous paths within it, he pursues many a course, thinking that by some of them he will surely find his way out: but they only lead him farther in, and in no way open up an exit for him, inasmuch as they are all only paths within the forest itself; until at last the traveller, utterly worn out and exhausted, seeing that all the ways he had tried had proved only forest still, and despairing of finding any more his dwelling-place on earth, makes up his mind to abide there, and establish his hearth, and lay out for his use such free space as he can prepare in the wood itself. Or again, we might take the similitude of a labyrinth, which has but one apparent entrance, so that one suspects nothing artful from the outside, and goes within by the single door that shows itself; and then, after advancing to the farthest interior, and viewing the cunning spectacle, and examining the construction so skillfully contrived, and full of passages, and laid out with unending paths leading inwards or outwards, he decides to go out again, but finds himself unable, and sees his exit completely intercepted by that inner construction which appeared such a triumph of cleverness. But, after all, there is neither any labyrinth so inextricable and intricate, nor any forest so dense and devious, nor any plain or swamp so difficult for those to get out of, who have once got within it, as is discussion,244244    λόγος. at least as one may meet with it in the case of certain of these philosophers.245245    The text is, εἴ τις εἴη κατ᾽ αὐτῶν τῶνδέ τινων φιλοσόφων. Bengel suggests καταντῶν. Wherefore, to secure us against falling into the unhappy experience of most, he did not introduce us to any one exclusive school of philosophy; nor did he judge it proper for us to go away with any single class of philosophical opinions, but he introduced us to all, and determined that we should be ignorant of no kind of Grecian doctrine.246246    [Beautiful testimony to the worth and character of Origen! After St. Bernard, who thought he was scriptural, but was blinded by the Decretals (no fault in him), Scripture and testimony (as defined to be the rule of faith by Tertullian and Vincent) ceased to govern in the West; and by syllogisms (see vol. v. p. 100) the Scholastic system was built up. This became the creed of a new church organization created at Trent, all the definitions of which are part of said creed. Thus the “Roman-Catholic Church” (so called when created) is a new creation (of a.d. 1564), in doctrine ever innovating, which has the least claim to antiquity of any Church pretending to Apostolic origin.] And he himself went on with us, preparing the way before us, and leading us by the hand, as on a journey, whenever anything tortuous and unsound and delusive came in our way. And he helped us like a skilled expert who has had long familiarity with such subjects, and is not strange or inexperienced in anything 36of the kind, and who therefore may remain safe in his own altitude, while he stretches forth his hand to others, and effects their security too, as one drawing up the submerged. Thus did he deal with us, selecting and setting before us all that was useful and true in all the various philosophers, and putting aside all that was false. And this he did for us, both in other branches of man’s knowledge, and most especially in all that concerns piety.


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