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come the arbiter of the dogmas of faith, or to supersede or interfere with the divine authority on which alone they were to be meekly and submissively received. The fathers, therefore, were not less Christian for the philosophy they did not reject, nor the Alexandrians the less gentile rationalists for the Christian doctrines they borrowed. One may embrace, avowedly, all Christian doctrine, without approaching the Christian order, if, as Hermes proposed, he embraces it as philosophy, or on the authority of reason; for the Christian, to be a Christian believer, must believe God, and therefore Christianity, because it is his supernatural word, not because it is the word of human reason or human sentiment, as contend our modern liberal Christians.
It would be interesting to show historically the resemblance of the whole modern un-Catholic world to the old Alexandrian world represented by Plotinus, Jamblicus, Porphyrius, Proclus, and Julian the Apostate ;-how each heresiarch and each modern philosopher only reproduces what the old Christian fathers fought against and defeated, -how every progress in this boasted age of progress only tends to bring us back to the system which the Gregories, the Basils, and their associates combated from the Christian pulpit and the episcopal chair; but we have neither the space nor the learning to do it as it should be done. Yet no one who has studied with tolerable care the learned gentilism of the third, fourth, and fifth centuries of our era, and is passably well acquainted with the modern rationalism of France and Germany, and the movements of the various heretical sects in our day, can doubt that our own nineteenth century is distinguished for its return to gentilism, and has nearly reproduced it under its most perfect form. The separate forms of heathenism had become effete; no one of them any longer satisfied the minds or the hearts of its adherents. An age of scepticism and indifference had intervened, attended by a licentiousness of manners and public and private corruption which threatened the universal dissolution of society. Individuals rose who saw it, and felt the necessity of a general reform, and that a general reform was impossible without religion. But they would not, on the one hand, accept the church, and could not, on the other, hope any thing from any of the old forms of heathenism. The world must have a religion, and could not get on without it. But how get a religion, when all religions were discarded, when all forms of religion were treated with. general neglect or contempt?
The reformers saw that they must have a religion, and, since none existed which was satisfactory, none which was powerful enough to meet the exigency of the times, they must make one for themselves; that is, form one to their purpose out of the old particular religions no longer heeded. Alexandria was their proper workshop, for there were collected or lying about in glorious confusion all the necessary materials. They began with the assumption, that all religions are at bottom equally true, and that the error of each is in its exclusiveness, in its claiming to be the whole of religion, and the only true religion. Take, then, the elements of each, mould them together into a complete and harmonious whole, and you will have the true religion, a religion which will meet the wants of all minds and hearts, rally the human race around it, and be “the church of the future.” Hence arose the Alexandrian syncretism, combining in one systematic whole, as far as reason could combine them, all the known religions of the world, which, under the name of philosophy, but which became a veritable superstition, disputed the empire of the world with Christianity for full three hundred years.
What is the movement of our day, but an attempt of the same sort? By the beginning of the eighteenth century, the various forms of heresy, in which the Protestant spirit had developed itself, and which had attempted to reproduce gentilism without forfeiting their title to Christianity, had exhausted their moral force, and the age began to lapse again into the old license and corruption. Never in its worst days was there grosser immorality and corruption in the Roman Empire than prevailed in England during the earlier half of the last century, under the reigns of George I. and George II. Deism was rife in the court, in the schools, in the church, among the nobility and the people. Germany was hardly better, if so good; and of France under the regency of the profligate Duke of Orleans, or under Louis XV. with his parc aux cerfs, we need not speak. Literature was infidel throughout, and atheism became fashionable. To the rabid infidel propagandism, begun by the English deists, and carried on by Voltaire and his associates, under the motto Ecrasez l'infâme, soon succeeded, as of old, profound scepticism and indifference. Neither false religion nor no relig. ion could rouse the mind from the torpidity into which it sank. Exclusive heresy, or, as we may say, sectarianism, born from the Protestant reformation, though producing its effects far beyond the limits of the so-called Protestant world, had caused all forms of religion, about the beginning of this century, to be treated as equally false and contemptible.
But, once more, individuals started up frightened at the prospect they beheld. They felt and owned the eternal truth, Man cannot be an atheist. They saw the necessity of a general reform, and that a general reform could be effected only by religion. But, disdaining the church as did the old Alexandrians, and seeing clearly that all the particular forms of Protestantism were worn out, they felt that they must have a new religion, and to have it they must either make it for themselves, or reconstruct it out of such materials as the old religions supplied. The principle on which they proceed is precisely the Alexandrian. To them all religions are equally true or equally false,-true as parts of a whole, false when regarded each as a whole in itself. Take, then, the several religions which have been and are, mould them into a complete, uniform, and systematic whole, and you
will have what the editor of The Boston Quarterlý Review, and Chevalier Bunsen after him, call “ the church of the future," and Dr. Bushnell and his friends call “ Comprehensive Christianity,”—what Saint-Simon denominated Nouveau Christianisme, and M. Victor Cousin brilliantly advocates under the name of eclecticism, borrowed avowedly from the Neoplatonists.
In perfect harmony with this, you see everywhere attempts to amalgamate sects, to form the on-Catholic world into one body, with a common creed, a common worship, and a common purpose. While the philosophers elaborate the basis of the union, statesmen and ministers attempt its practical realization. This is what we see in “Evangelical Alliances” and “World's Conventions,” in the formation of “The Evangelical Church” in Prussia, and the union of Prussia and England in establishing the bishopric of Jerusalem. The aim is everywhere the same that it was with the Alexandrians, the principles of proceeding are the same, and the result, if obtained, must be similar. The movement of the un-Catholic world now, how much soever it may borrow from Christianity, however near it may approach the Catholic model, can be regarded, by those who understand it, only as a conscious or unconscious effort to reproduce the gentile rationalism of the old Alexandrian school.
The identity of the two movements might be established
even down to minute details. The most fanciful dreams of our transcendentalists may be found among the Alexandrians, either with those who disavowed Christianity, or the sects, professing to retain it, allied to them. The very principle of transcendentalism, namely, an element or activity in the human soul above reason, by which man is placed in immediate communion with the divine mind, is nothing but the Ecstasy or Trance of the Neoplatonists, or their fifth source of science; and the Alexandrian theurgy and magic are reproduced in your Swedenborgianism and mesmerism. Moreover, the Protestant reformation itself not only involved as its legitimate consequence a return to the Alexandrian rationalism, but was in some measure the effect of such return. To be satisfied of this, we need but study the history of the revival of letters and the controversies of the schools in the fifteenth century. We say nothing of the revival in so far as it was simply a revival of classical antiquity under the relation of art, or beauty of form,—under which relation it was not censurable, but, relatively, perhaps a progress. Christian piety and learning can coexist with barbarism in taste, and want of elegance and polish of manners, but do not demand them. The revival, however, was, in fact, something more than this, and something far different from it. Those Greek scholars who escaped from Constantinople when it was taken by the Turks, and who spread themselves over western Europe, did not bring with them merely the poets, orators, and historians of ancient Greece, nor merely more complete editions of Plato and Aristotle; they brought with them Proclus and Plotinus, and the old Alexandrian rationalism, with its oriental comprehensiveness and its Greek subtilty. They made no attacks on the church,—they professed profound respect for Catholicity, and with eastern suppleness readily submitted to her authority; but they deposited in the minds and hearts of their disciples the germs of a system the rival of hers, which weakened their attachment to her doctrines, disgusted them with the barbarous Latin and un-Greek taste of her monks, and the rigid, sometimes frigid, scholasticism of her doctors. These germs were not slow in developing, and very soon gave us the Neoplatonists in philosophy, and the humanists in literature, of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. The former destroyed the authority of the schoolmen; the latter, at the head of whom stood Erasmus, the Voltaire of his time, covered the clergy, especially the monks, with ridicule, and sowed the seeds of practical, as the others had of speculative, infidelity. Combined or operating to the same end, they prepared, and, favored by the politics of the period, produced, the Protestant reformation. Not accidentally, then, has Protestantism from its birth manifested a gentile spirit, misrepresented and ridiculed every thing distinctively Christian, or that it is now undeniably developing in pure Alexandrian syncretism, gathering itself up as a grand and well-organized superstition to wage war once more on the old Alexandrian battleground, with the old Alexandrian forces and arms, against the Nazarene, or Galilean, as Julian the Apostate always terms our Lord. Was it by accident that Protestantism, wherever permitted to follow its instincts, began by pulling down, breaking, or defacing the Cross, the sacred symbol of Christianity?
The identity of the modern movement with that which resulted in Alexandrian syncretism may be traced also in the pantheistic tendencies of the day. The Alexandrian school rejected none of the popular gods; it placed Apis and Jove, Isis and Hercules, and sometimes even Christ himself, in the same temple, but all under the shadow of the god Serapis, the symbol of unity, or rather of the WHOLE, THE ALL, that is, of pure pantheism, in which all pure rationalism is sure to end. To what does all modern philosophy tend, but to pantheism? Have we not seen Spinoza in our own day rehabilitated, and commented upon as the greatest of modern philosophers ? Cousin's eclecticism is undeniably pantheistic, and less cannot be said of Schellingism or Hegelism. Socialism, now so rife, is simply pantheism adapted to the apprehensions of the vulgar,retined and voluptuous with the Fourierists and SaintSimonians, coarse and revolting with the chartists and redrepublicans.
But we are pursuing this line of remark beyond our original purpose. We may return to it hereafter. In the meantime we invite those who have the requisite leisure and learning to take up the subject, and consider the relation of all the ancient and modern sects to gentilism, the persistence of gentilism in Christian nations down to our own times, in spite of the anathemas of the church and the unwearied efforts of the Catholic clergy to exterminate it, and its all but avowed revival in our own day under the most comprehensive, scientific, erudite, subtile, and dangerous