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241Of the Manichæans.21942194    A treatise on their tenets by Alexander of Lycopolis, who first turned from paganism to the Manichæan opinions.

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Chapter I.—The Excellence of the Christian Philosophy; The Origin of Heresies Amongst Christians.

The philosophy of the Christians is termed simple. But it bestows very great attention to the formation of manners, enigmatically insinuating words of more certain truth respecting God; the principal of which, so far as any earnest serious purpose in those matters is concerned, all will have received when they assume an efficient cause, very noble and very ancient, as the originator of all things that have existence. For Christians leaving to ethical students matters more toilsome and difficult, as, for instance, what is virtue, moral and intellectual; and to those who employ their time in forming hypotheses respecting morals, and the passions and affections, without marking out any element by which each virtue is to be attained, and heaping up, as it were, at random precepts less subtle—the common people, hearing these, even as we learn by experience, make great progress in modesty, and a character of piety is imprinted on their manners, quickening the moral disposition which from such usages is formed, and leading them by degrees to the desire of what is honourable and good.21952195    [Note the practical character of Christian ethics, which he so justly contrasts with the ethical philosophy of the heathen. This has been finely pointed out by the truly illustrious William Wilberforce in his Practical View, cap. ii. (Latin note), p. 25, ed. London, 1815.]

But this being divided into many questions by the number of those who come after, there arise many, just as is the case with those who are devoted to dialectics,21962196    ἐν τοῖς ἐριστικοῖς. The philosophers of the Megarean school, who were devoted to dialectics, were nicknamed οἱ ᾽Εριστικοί. See Diog. Lærtius. some more skilful than others, and, so to speak, more sagacious in handling nice and subtle questions; so that now they come forward as parents and originators of sects and heresies. And by these the formation of morals is hindered and rendered obscure; for those do not attain unto certain verity of discourse who wish to become the heads of the sects, and the common people is to a greater degree excited to strife and contention. And there being no rule nor law by which a solution may be obtained of the things which are called in question, but, as in other matters, this ambitious rivalry running out into excess, there is nothing to which it does not cause damage and injury.


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