Mercy And Judgment by Canon F.W. Farrar
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MERCY AND JUDGMENT
"Vir magnus ab infantia." — JER. ad Psammach.
"Condemno, inquis, et pro haeretico declaro! Ita sane te et orthodoxiae studiosum, et formularum caute loquendi laudabiliter tenacem ostendis: sed nimium in judicandis aliis festinas. Ignosce aliquid, si potest ignosci, viris pietate coruscis haud fucata; viris de omni Ecclesia Christiana tam praeclare alibi meritis; viris quorum et aliqui martyrii corona ornate, coram throno Servatoris, sicut soles fulgent, imo etiamnum pro salute militantis ecclesiae orant." — DIETELMAIR, De Descensu Christi, p. 35.
"Now, Truth, perform thine office! Waft aside
The curtain drawn by prejudice and pride;
Reveal — the man is dead — to wondering eyes
This more than monster in his native guise."
WHATEVER may have been his speculative errors, on which I will touch farther on, few men have ever rendered to the Church such splendid services, or lived from childhood to old age a life so noble and so blameless as Origen; nay, more — abused and anathematized as he has now been for centuries — it has been granted to few men — perhaps scarcely even to the far less learned and far less profound Augustine — to mould so decisively on a multitude of subjects the opinions of the Church of God. Amid the rage of his enemies, great saints sustained and God Himself blessed his cause.*(1)
*(1) Tillemont, Origene, art. I. "Que Dieu meme sembloit se declarer pour lui, enfaisant entrer par lui dans la verite et dans le sein de son Eglise, ceux que cette meme Eglise met aujourd'hui entre ses plus grands ornemens."
Unlike Augustine, - who, though he became a pillar of orthodoxy, was for many years a Manichee, and for many years a half-heathen rhetorician, and who bore till his latest day the traces of his Manichaean heresy and his rhetorical training, - Origen was a Christian from his birth. Unlike Augustine, who, though he passed by repentance into a life of holiness, lived many years of his life in concubinage and in sinful lusts, Origen, from his early boyhood, bore a character on which not even the most virulent of his enemies could fix one authentic stain.
In briefest outline*(1), what is the story of the life of Origen — this greatest of all the great Christian teachers of the three first Christian centuries?*(2)
*(1) For this slight sketch of the life of Origen I have consulted (among others) Gregory Thaumaturgus, Panegry.; Eusebius, H. E. vi. 2-4, 8, 10, 16, and passim; Socrates, H. E. ii. 35, &c., and vi. 13; Sozomen, H. E. viii. 11-14; Nicephorus, H. E. v. 2-33; Suidas, s. v.; Vincentius Lirinensis, c. Haer, xxiii.; Huet's Origeniana; Tillemont, vol. iii. (ed. 1699); Baronius, Annales; Cave, Lives of the Primitive Fathers, i. 213-240; Schrockh, Christl. Kirchengesch. iv. x. 158-266, xviii. 40-60; Redepenning's Origenes, and Guerike, De Schola Alexandrina.
*(2) Tillemont, Origene, art. i. ad in.
Origen Adamantius*(1) was born at Alexandria about A.D. 186. He was the son of the martyr Leonides, who trained him from his earliest years in the Holy Scriptures. Even as a child he showed an intellect so powerful and precocious that his father, though he would often check his eager questionings, yet in his joy at the birth of such a son would often come to him when he was asleep and reverently kiss the bosom "in which it seemed so clear that the Holy Spirit of God had made His temple."*(2) From his father's training he passed into that of St. Clemens and Ammonius Saccas.
*(1) Cave says he was so called "either from the unwearied temper of his mind and that strength of reason wherewith he compacted his discourses, or his firmness and constancy in religion, notwithstanding all the assaults made against it." — Lives, i. 215. Others attribute this and his other names, Chalcenteros, Chalceutes, and Syntaktes, to his indefatigable toil (Suidas; Jer. Ep. xvii.). But it appears from Eusebius that it was his proper name. See Huet, Origeniana, p. 81 (in De La Rue's edition, vol. iv.).
*(2) Pectus facit theologum.
In the tenth year of the Emperor Severus a violent persecution broke out against the Christians, and the boy showed so passionate a desire for martyrdom that he was only restrained by the tears and entreaties of his mother. But when Leonides*(1) was arrested, Origen was so eager to share his father's fate that his mother could only keep him at home by concealing his clothes*(2), so that he could do nothing but write to his father, entreating him not to succumb*(3). Leonides was beheaded, and Origen, then but sixteen years old, was left the sole support of his widowed mother, and of his six younger brothers. As his father's goods were confiscated, the family would have been in absolute destitution, had not Origen been adopted by a wealthy Alexandrian matron. Dislike to holding any communion with a notorious heretic — a certain Paul of Antioch — who also shared the lady's hospitality, made him eager to win an independence for himself by taking pupils in "grammar". This he was easily able to do from the astonishing range of his acquisitions, which comprised also ethics, logic, rhetoric, geometry, philosophy, and — later on — even a knowledge of Hebrew, which was at that time extremely rare*(4).
*(1) Suidas is mistaken when he says that Leonides was a bishop.
*(2) thn pasan autou esqhta apokruyamenh oikoi menein anagkhn ephgen. EUSEB. H. E. vi. 2.
*(3) epece mhdi hma s allo ti fronhsh s . - SUID.
*(4) Jer. De Virr. Illustr. He says that he mastered Hebrew in a few months. Ep. Ad Paulam. xxii.; Greg. Thaumaturg. Panegyr.
Applied to by heathens to teach them the elements of Christianity, he won many over to the faith. Among his first converts were the martyr Plutarchus and his brother Heraclas, who succeeded Origen as Catechist in the school of Alexandria , and subsequently became Patriarch of Alexandria. The martyrs Serenus and Herais were also among his pupils*(1), and later on the confessor Ambrosius. Called by Demetrius at the age of eighteen to the catechetical chair of the famous school in his native city*(2), he distinguished himself by the zeal and assiduity with which again and again he risked his life in attending upon the martyrs in prison and on their way to death.
*(1) See Baronius, Ann. A.D. 299.
*(2) The first five holders of the chair of catechist at Alexandria were: I, Pantaenus; 2, Clemens; 3, Origen; 4, Heraclas; 5, Don ysius; 6, Athenodorus.
Meanwhile his life resembled his teaching*(1), and, as even Epiphanius admits, his teaching equaled the sanctity of his life*(2). He lived in the strictest asceticism, and having given up his secular work in order to devote himself exclusively to sacred teaching, he sold his precious books of heathen literature that he might gain by the sale of them the fourpence a day on which he lived. He tasted no wine; he slept on the bare ground; he fasted constantly, even to the severe injury of his health; he wore no shoes, and would not possess two coats*(3). To avoid all suspicion and all possibility of impurity to which his youth might otherwise have subjected him, - seeing that he numbered women as well as men among his pupils, and that in times of persecution he had to visit them at all hours of the day and night, - he was misled by a mistaken but heroic literalism into that self-mutilation of which, as an intellectual error, he afterwards repented*(4). For that error — due as it was to an imperfect judgment, but to the noblest moral motives — he received at the time not only the forgiveness, but the admiring approval of the Patriarch Demetrius.
*(1) Euseb. H. E. vi. 3.
*(2) Epiphan. Haer. lxiv. 2; comp. Euseb. H. E. vi. 3, oion goun ton logon toionde fasi kai ton tropon. Nicephorus, H. E. v. 4.
*(3) Matt. x. 10.
*(4) Matt. xix. 12. Eusebius rightly says that "though it was a youthful error, it yet gave proof of the greatest faith and temperance." — H. E. vi. 8.
He was himself so little desirous of fame that he endeavoured to throw into the shade his own immensely increasing reputation. But a glory which was now spreading throughout the whole Church excited the envy of many, and among others of Demetrius himself. After a short visit to Rome in the time of Zephyrinus — about A.D. 211 — he returned to Alexandria , resigned part of his work to Heraclas, and devoted himself to the study of Hebrew and of Gentile philosophy, in which, according to Porphyry, he made great advance. About this time he converted from the Valentinian heresy the devout and wealthy Ambrosius, who, by supplying him with seven amanuenses, and other means of study, enabled him to begin those vast biblical labours which produced so rich a fruit. About A.D. 216 he visited Caesarea, and — though he was still young, and only a layman — was invited by the Bishops Theoctistus of Caesarea and Alexander of Jerusalem to discourse publicly in the church. Although his conduct was perfectly in accordance with precedent, it furnished the jealous Demetrius with his first occasion for an attack upon him. It was at Caesarea , in all probability, that he began his great work, the Tetrapla, afterwards developed into the Hexapla, a work sufficient to eternise the name of any man. By virtue of this task he rendered an inestimable service to the Church of all ages, and must be regarded as the founder of the school of biblical criticism.
Hurried home by the envy of Demetrius, he resumed his catechetical labours; but being summoned to Greece in order to encounter the growth of heresy, he was, on his way, ordained Presbyter by the Palestinian bishops at the instigation of the sainted Bishop of Jerusalem. It was this circumstance that made the enmity of Demetrius blaze out in the most undisguised manner; and he had the brutality not only to heap his invectives on the good bishops of Palestine*(1), but even to taunt the man whom in his heart he must have felt to be so incomparably his superior, with that rash act of his youth which in former days he had himself not only condoned, but openly praised*(2).
*(1) To this disgraceful jealousy the ancient unhesitatingly attribute the outburst of attacks against Origen. trepetai dia touto Dhmetriw ei s miso s to filtron kai oi epainoi ei s tou s yogou s- (Photius). He adds that Pamphilus stated this distinctly - kai ta s men aitia s ex wn sunebh ta s diabola s ekraghnai ty Origenei tauta s
fhsi Id. Bibl. Cod. 118.
*(2) Origen himself (Praef. In Joann. Opp. vi. 101, ed Benedict) says that he was banished by the enmity of Demetrius. "His ordination was infinitely resented by Demetrius,…and now the wind is turned into a blustering quarter, and nothing but anathemas are thundered against him from Alexandria ." — CAVE. Eusebius ascribes this man's conduct to envy at the honour, learning, and virtue of Origen. — H. E. vi. 8. "Trained as a peasant, he would be unlikely to understand one by whom he was so absolutely eclipsed." — EUSEB. Chron. St. Jerome says that he was carried away by such a burst of fury and madness as to write against him to all the world. — Cat. Virr. Illustr. Liv. "Ardore quodam aemulationis (ut est captus hominum) incensus apud episcopos totius orbis eum [not for heresy, but] tamquam absurdissimi facinoris reum notare tentabat." — BARONIUS, Ann. A.D. 230. See too Schrockh, iv. 33.
It may have been during this journey that Origen had his famous interview at Antioch with Mammaea, the mother of the Emperor Alexander Severus, who desired to see him from the universal honour in which he was held.
Meanwhile his life was embittered by the hostility of his bishop*(1), to whom it was permitted (as it has been penally permitted to thousands like him) to make sad a heart which surely God had not made sad, and to poison the very springs of happiness in the life of the saintly scholar. Taunted not only with the mistaken heroism of his early sacrifice to purity, but with a story of which the real facts will perhaps never be known, and which is probably a wicked fabrication*(2), but which — even if it be true — leaves no stain upon his character, but rather the reverse, Origen was driven from Alexandria by a Synod of Egyptian Bishops under the influence of Demetrius. Having in vain tried to procure his degradation from the priesthood by his synod, Demetrius got together some other bishops, creatures of his own, and procured his degradation*(3). But this, be it observed, was not for any of his opinions, respecting which, so far as we know, no word was said*(4). Even this was not enough for Episcopal envy*(5). Since Origen was warmly welcomed and protected by the bishops of Palestine, Phoenicia, Arabia, and Achaia, Demetrius wrote to every bishop whom he could influence to procure his excommunication — a thing which it was not difficult for a Patriarch of Alexandria to do, especially when there was no one to dispute his own party statements. Ordinary bishops, in those days, it must be remembered, were often men of neither theological nor secular learning, and it would not be difficult to imagine that many modern teachers, living and dead, of the purest life and the profoundest learning, would have had little chance of escaping "degradation," "excommunication," or any other penalty which theological hatred can inflict, if their fate depended on isolated metropolitans, and meetings of provincial clergymen. Demetrius soon after went to his account; but though Heraclas succeeded him, Origen was not recalled, and thus some of the noblest works of Christian antiquity, including the ablest ancient defence of Christianity, and commentaries upon a large part of the Bible, were written by a "degraded" presbyter and an excommunicated exile!*(6)
*(1) Jerome speaks of a letter in which Origen fiercely attacks (lacerat atque invehitur) Demetrius. If he did so, under such fearful provocation, it would show that he was human. Jerome was the very last man who had a right to find fault with such language; but the only passage which he quotes is signally calm, moderate, and self-restrained. (Jer. in Ruf. ii. 5.)
*(2) It is not even alluded to by Eusebius or Pamphilus, or by Porphyry, who had seen Origen; or by his contemporary, Dionysius of Alexandria; nor is it mentioned by St. Jerome, Rufinus, Vincent of Lerins, or Theophilus of Alexandria — bitter as some of them were. It first occurs in the weak, credulous, and violent Epiphanius, who, envenomed as he was against Origen, whom he could not understand, yet admits that many foolish stories were current against him (Epiphan. Haer. lxiv. 229), and, in his worst and weakest manner, adopts and circulates this story. (See Tillemont, iii. 356; Baronius, Ann. A.D. 253.)
*(3) These two Egyptian synods are mentioned in the Apology of Pamphilus ap. Photius, Cod. cxviii. St. Jerome says that they were actuated by sheer envy of his greatness, as was also the synod at Rome (apud Rufin. Invcct. Ii.), and he says expressly that none of the three condemned him for heresy. "Urbs Roma ipsa contra hunc cogit senatum, non propter dogmatum novitatem, non propter haeresim, ut nunc adversum eum rabidi canes simulant, sed quia gloriam elosquentiae ejus et scientiae ferre non poterat et illo dicente omnes muti putabantur." — Ap. Rufin. Invect. Ii. And yet we are constantly told — so reckless is the way in which prejudice will snatch at the falsest assertion — that Universalism was condemned by these two Egyptian synods! A cause which thus uses the weapons of falsified history cannot in the long run prosper.
*(4) Those who venture to tell us that Origen's views of future restoration were condemned in these Egyptian synods and at Tom e, not only state what is the reverse of fact, but seem unable to see that if those views had been condemned the case of those who embrace them is definitely strengthened by the circumstance that, in spite of such supposed condemnation, the best part of the Church still held Origen in the highest honour, and treated his excommunication as a mere dead letter.
*(5) Dr. Newman calls Origen "a victim of Episcopacy." — Hist. Essays, i. 406.
*(6) "All this combustion vanished into smoke, Origen still retaining his priesthood, publicly preaching in the Church," &c. — CAVE, l. c. On the total disregard of these censures in the Churches of Palestine, Arabia , Greece , &c., see a good note of Valesius in his edition of Eusebius, p. 124. Doucin says that "the storm raised against him did not hinder him from being consulted as the oracle of Asia and Greece , or from being called the 'Master of the Churches'. Even Rome respected him, and Egypt seemed to repent for having treated him so ill." — Hist. De l'Origenisme, p. I.
His Hexapla was called Opus Ecclesiae, as though it were a very special treasure of the whole Church; but the local Church for which he had laboured, night and day, in zeal and holiness, had been influenced by the spleen of one heart to drive him from her bosom. "Calm, pitying, he retired." No word of anger escaped him. No word of anger, at any rate, is found in his extant writings, and very few even of apology and explanation. He left his cause to God. He found in Palestine an honoured home, and all the rest of his life was passed in the same blameless and beautiful tenor. It was at this period that he became the teacher of St. Athenodorus and of his great and glorious brother — Origen's early panegyrist — St. Gregory the Wonder-worker; others of his pupils were Bishop Theodorus of Jerusalem , and Don ysius, afterwards Patriarch of Alexandria. It was at this period, too, that he reconverted to the orthodox belief Beryllus, Bishop of Bostra, who on more than one occasion gave him public thanks*(1). Excommunicate and "heretic" as he has been called, he was yet invited to be present at a general synod in Arabia, in which he won over a new sect of heretics by his arguments, and also saved Arabia from the spread of the Elcesaite heresy*(2). At this time, too, he wrote his great work against Celsus, and his treatise on Martyrdom, to encourage Ambrosius and the presbyter Prototectus to face death. He might console himself under the evil jealousy of Demetrius, while he had the love and esteem of Alexander of Jerusalem, and Theoctistus of Caesarea, and Firmilian of Caesarea in Cappadocia, and St. Gregory Thaumaturgus, and many more among the contemporary Bishops and Saints of God.
*(1) St. Jer. s. v. Beryllus.
*(2) He speaks of these Elcesaites in his Hom. in Ps. lxxxii. Ap. Euseb. H. E. vi. 38. They were a Judaising sect — chiefly in Palestine , who denied the divinity of Christ. (See Marcossius, De Haereticis, p. 151)
By this time Decius (A.D. 249-251) had succeeded to the empire. Origen — boundless as was the energy which won for him the admiring titles of Chalcenteros (brazen-bowelled), and Chalceutes (brazier) — was now utterly worn out with sorrows and persecutions; with the violence which more than once in life he had endured at the hands of Pagan persecutors; with lifelong poverty and severe self-denial; with long journeyings and inexhaustible labours. Perhaps he was still more worn and wearied with the fierce hatred which had been stirred up against him; with the willful misrepresentation of his opinions, against which he appealed in vain; with the interpolation of his books by enemies; with the circulation of the deadliest calumnies concerning him; with the meanness, the perversity, the stupidity, the ingratitude of mankind; with the narrow, remorseless ignorance of an embittered ecclesiasticism. We know of no man in the whole Christian era, except St. Paul , who laboured so incessantly, and rendered to the Church such inestimable services. We know of no man, except St. Paul , who had to suffer from such black and bitter ingratitude. He, the converter of the heathen, the strengthener of the martyrs, the profoundest of Christian teachers, the greatest and most learned of the interpreters of Scripture, - he to whom kings and bishops and philosophers had been proud to listen — he who had refuted the ablest of all the assailants of Christianity — he who had founded the first school of biblical exegesis and biblical philology — he who had done more for the honour and the knowledge of the Oracles of God, not only than all his assailants (for that is not saying much), but than all the then bishops and writers of the Church put together — he who had known the Scriptures from infancy, who had vainly tried to grasp in boyhood the crown of martyrdom, who had been the honoured teacher of saints, who had been all his life long a confessor — he in the very errors of whose life was more of nobleness than in the whole lives of his assailants — he who had lived a life more apostolic, who did more and suffered more for the truth of Christ than any man after the first century of our era, and whose accurately measurable services stand all but unapproachable by all the centuries, - he who himself tells us that he had consecrated to God's service, not some parts of his life, but all his actions*(1) — had now reached the time of his welcome death. Persecution began once more to rage. He whose father was a martyred saint — he who would have been a martyred saint at the age of sixteen if his mother had suffered him — was not likely to shrink from martyrdom when, bowed down with labours and sorrows, he had reached the age of nearly seventy years. But his persecutors — almost as cruel as his ecclesiastical enemies — desired only to torture him, while they withheld from him the martyr's longed-for crown. He was seized and imprisoned, and loaded with fetters, but kept alive in the midst of torments. Fire was applied to his limbs. Heavy masses of iron were laid on him. For many days his feet were stretched four holes apart in the stocks in agonizing tension. He bore it all with patient magnanimity, and, if not under those torments, yet in consequence of them, he died — a man who may have erred, as millions of men have erred, but a martyr and a saint if ever there lived on earth a martyr and a saint of God*(2). From the fury of the heathen, from the worse fury of professing Christians, he passed to the presence of his Saviour, into a peace in which he can but cast a pitying smile — if to souls in bliss there be any knowledge of things on earth — at the posthumous dishonour heaped on his memory by men who verily think, in their ignorance, that they have a zeal for God.
*(1) In Joann. Proem.
*(2) Pamphilus called Origen's death a "martyrdom," and the name was freely given to the endurance of cruel and dangerous tortures, even if the sufferer survived for a time. See Origen, Opp. iv. Append. 14 (ed. De La Rue. Paris , 1759). He probably died in A.D. 253, three years after the Decian persecution.
"Certainly," says Mosheim, "if any man deserves to stand first in the catalogue of saints and martyrs and to be annually held up as an example to Christians, this is the man; for, except the apostles of Jesus Christ and their companions, I know of no one among all those ennobled and honoured as saints, who excelled him virtue and holiness." "There were homilies before his," says Canon Westcott, "but he fixed the type of a popular exposition. His Hexapla was the greatest textual enterprise of ancient times; his treatise on 'First Principles' the earliest attempt at a systematic view of the Christian faith. Both in criticism and interpretation his labours marked on epoch."
And this is the man — the man who proved himself the first writer, the profoundest thinker, the greatest educationist, the most accurate critic, the most honoured preacher, the holiest confessor of his age — the man who first laid down the lines of a systematic study of the Bible — the man whose labours are the eternal heritage of the Church — the man at whose feet saints and martyrs had been glad to sit — this man, whose whole life was one continuous martyrdom of seventy years — this is the man at whom every self-contented sciolist, and every ignorant Pharisee, has thought himself entitled to fling a stone, on the ground that his enemies — who themselves largely appropriated (as Jerome did) the results of his labours — asserted that he had erred in speculative opinions! Whether and to what extent he did so err, we shall perhaps be enabled to see, but I for one will never mention the name of Origen without the love, and the admiration, and the reverence due to one of the greatest and one of the best of the saints of God. I know nothing so deplorable as to read the malignant nonsense which has been written about him by such writers as Nicephorus and Suidas, and by many who are not worthy so much as to kiss the hem of his garment. That these should write of the author of the Hexapla and the Book against Celsus in a tone of patronage; that all the lies circulated against him by wicked gossip should have been credulously swallowed; that Baronius and Bellarmine, Luther and Beza should have openly doubted whether he was not doomed to endless torments, is sufficiently painful and shameful*(1). But that forgers, like the Pseudo-Caesarius, should venture to talk of "the insane and impious Origen"; that the "feeble hands iniquitously just" of men who never bore one of his trials, or emulated one of his virtues, or rendered any service whatever to the Church of Christ, or read one of his books, or could so much as understand five lines of them if they attempted to do so; - that men without pity, without purity, without learning, without humility, without any knowledge of Scripture, or of theology, or of history, or of God, should still write of him as they venture to do — is one of the most deplorable of the many deplorable facts which face us in page after page of ecclesiastical controversy. If the legend of Belisarius begging for an obolus had been true, it would have been less calculated to awaken our indignation than the fact that an Origen was condemned by the machinations of a Theophilus, and at the command of a Justinian. Even one who joins in the outcry against his asserted heresies — Vincent of Lerins — speaks thus of him: "If a life confers authority, great was his industry, great his purity, patience, endurance; if nobility or bearing, what could be nobler than to be born in a house glorified by martyrdom? Thus deprived, for Christ's sake, not only of his father, but even of all his means of living, he made such advance between the straits of holy poverty that he was often tormented (it is said) for the name of Christ…So profound, so keen, so polished was his power of intellect that he far and much surpassed almost all; such was the splendour of his learning, and of all erudition, that there were few parts of sacred philosophy, and scarce any perhaps of human philosophy, which he did not attain…Why should I speak of his eloquence? It was like flowing honey. It rendered the abstruse clear, and the difficult most easy. But perhaps he merely argued? Nay, no Father ever appealed more frequently to Scripture. Perhaps he wrote but little? No one ever wrote more. Perhaps he was not fortunate in his pupils? No man was ever more fortunate. Innumerable teachers, innumerable priests, confessors, martyrs, arose from his bosom. And who can tell what admiration, what glory, what favour he enjoyed among all? What man with anything like real devotion did not fly to his teaching from all parts of the world? What Christian did not venerate him as a prophet, what philosopher as a master? Even imperial princes venerated him. Porphyry himself, when a youth, sailed to Alexandria solely to see him in his old age, and recognized in him one who had climbed the very citadel of science. The day would fail me before I could tell of all his greatness, or even touch on a part of it."*(2)
*(1) Whole volumes have been written to prove that Origen was in hell. A certain St. Mechtidis, in the fourteenth century, saw Samson, Solomon, and Origen in torments, and was told that it was to show the peril incurred by the strongest, wisest, and most learned. "Origenem," says Luther, "jamdudum diris devovi." But Luther only judged of him through Augustine, and is not here alluding to his eschatology. "Peu de personnes," says Doucin (Hist. De l'Origenisme, p. 81), "dans la communion de Rome , osent douter de sa damnation eternelle." Picus of Mirandola was all but condemned by the masters of theology at Rome for arguing that it was more reasonable to believe that he was saved! — Apol. vii. 199. Since the seventh century Popes at their consecration abjured his errors, and said that he, Didymus, and Evagrius were "aeternae condemnationi submissi." Diurn. R. Pontif., p. 312.
*(2) Vincent. Lirinensis, adv. Haer, xxiii. p. 351. (I have compressed his remarks.)
It is said that when he was driven from Alexandria he was invited to preach at Jerusalem, and, rising before the con greg ation, gave out as his text Psalm l. 16, 17 — "But unto the wicked saith God, Why doest though take My covenant in thy mouth, seeing that thou hatest to be reformed, and hast cast My words behind thee?" and then, laying down the Book, burst into such a storm of tears and sobs that he could not proceed, while his con greg ation wept with him. The discourse which he is said to have delivered on this occasion, called "Origen's Complaint," is spurious, and the whole story may have been invented to prop up the brutal and foolish scandal first recorded by Epiphanius. But if this sad incident at Jerusalem was true, nothing but the most wooden incapacity can mistake its true significance. It only furnishes a fresh instance of the humility for which Origen was pre-eminent. The confessions of the holiest are ever the deepest and most sincere. A man like Origen might weep for faults which a Demetrius or a Theophilus might almost have regarded as virtues; and if he thus wept, the tears may have been wrung from him by the malice of others, not by the reproaches of his own sensitive and tender conscience.
"Blush, Calumny, and write upon his tomb,
If honest eulogy will leave thee room,
Thy deep repentance of thy thousand lies,
Which, aimed at him, have pierced the offended skies
And say, 'Blot out my sin, confessed, deplored,
Against Thine image in Thy saint, O Lord!"
I know but one life since the Christian era which ought so deeply to stir the compassion of repentant mankind as that of Origen. It is that of another, whose genius shone like a beacon light over the centuries that succeeded him — Roger Bacon. He, too, for the gifts of genius and the trials of lifelong devotion, reaped only the base and cruel ingratitude of the race which he had striven to ennoble and to serve.
But it is now time for us to mark when it was that the execrations first uttered by the wicked malignity of Demetrius began to break out generally against him; and to mark also who were his enemies who were his friends.
Let us begin with his enemies. Who were those who, after his death, martyred the martyr afresh with a yet more cruel and more enduring martyrdom?
DEMETRIUS was his enemy. Of Demetrius and his creatures I have said enough. They have for centuries sunk into oblivion. No good word nor deed of theirs survives. Their evil manners live in brass; and some of them have left no trace of any virtues which could be even written in water. Their very names are unknown, nor would they have been so much as heard of but for their connexion with the great man whose life they embittered. They enjoy that most ignoble of all forms of earthly immortality, - the infamy of being remembered as the persecutors of a man transcendently greater and better than themselves.
MARCELLUS OF ANCYRA was his enemy*(1). Like many over-eager assailants of real or supposed heretics, he was himself deposed for heresy by a Constantinopolitan synod in A.D. 336, and again at Sirmium in A.D. 351. His pupil Photinus openly professed the Sabellianism with which Marcellus was charged. Thus the first systematic attack on the orthodoxy of Origen as regards the Nicene faith came from one who was condemned as a heretic.
*(1) Ap. Euseb. C. Marcell. i. 23.
EPIPHANIUS, who died a hundred and fifty years after him (A.D. 403), was his determined enemy. He was a man of some learning and some piety, but the very type of a narrow bigot. He too, like many who have been conspicuous for their zeal in trying to fasten the charge of heresy on those who deviate from their own Shibboleths, himself trembled on the verge of heresy. He threw the diocese of John, Bishop of Jerusalem, into turmoil and sedition by his meddlesome encroachments, and when almost in his dotage he was entangled in the schemes of the unscrupulous Theophilus of Alexandria, and died on his return from a wrongheaded and futile attempt to intimidate and to depose St. Chrysostom.
THEOPHILUS OF ALEXANDRIA, one of the most disgraceful characters in ecclesiastical history, was his chief enemy. He died A.D. 412, and was known to his contemporaries as "the Trimmer" and "the Turncoat." He was at first an avowed Origenist*(1), and argued against the Anthropomorphites from the works of Origen. From motives of policy he turned round and persecuted the Origenists*(2). He hated St. Chrysostom also, because he had failed to prevent the saint's election to the see of Constantinople . To Theophilus was due the first deposition and banishment of that great man. When the people of Constantinople insisted on the recall of their good bishop the turbulent intriguer had to make his escape secretly by night.
*(1) It is a most instructive and important fact, that originally the name "Origenist" had no connexion with eschatology at all, but meant those who held the truth that "God is a Spirit without body, parts, or passions," against ignorant Anthropomorphites. See Sozomen, H.E. vii. 11, 12; Nicephorus, H. E. xiii. 10.
*(2) When charged with studying Origen after he had condemned him, he said that "Origen's books were like a garden; he selected the flowers, avoiding the thorns." Socr. H. E. vi. 17.
METHODIUS OF OLYMPUS wrote a book against Origen; but he also wrote much in his praise, and it is at least a question whether the panegyrics were not later than the attacks*(1).
*(1) Socrates, H. E. vi. 31, says that the praises of Origen were "by way of palinode" to the previous censures, and Eusebius does not contradict this. See Valesius' notes to Socrates, p. 80.
EUSTATHIUS OF ANTIOCH (+ circ. A.D. 337) wrote a book against him which only deals with minor points, and is of no importance.
APOLLINARIS THE HERESIARCH wrote against him, probably because Origen was an orthodox defender of the faith respecting the nature of Christ.*(1)
*(1) Socrates, in his remarkable chapter in defence of Origen (H. E. vi. 13), calls these four men filoloiforoi , and "a four-horse chariot of detractors, going in different directions."
Certainly of some of these, - and especially of Theodore of Alexandria and the Emperor Justinian and the heretic Apollinaris, - it may well be said that as far as their characters are concerned their blame was an honour, and their praise would have been a reproach.
Now who were they who first called him heretic? Not apparently even the basest and most envenomed of his contemporaries*(1). They condemned him for acts perfectly lawful and not without precedent, which they regarded as ecclesiastical irregularities: for his preaching as a layman before bishops; for his being ordained, in spite of his physical condition, by the bishops of another province; for a vile story, supported by little or no evidence, which attributed to him (to him the martyr from boyhood!) the crime of apostasy. Books published against his will — books garbled by the crime of interpolators — misrepresentations of his views alike by his friends and his enemies*(2) — passages which he merely formulated for the purpose of speculative discussion*(3) — were used to excite or to increase the odium which Demetrius had first stirred up. But so far from being excommunicated as a heretic he was "honourably entertained, wherever he came, by the wiser and more moderate party of the Church."*(4) His so-called "excommunication," even if it was not (as some think) withdrawn, was not only despised as invalid by a large number of bishops, but was even treated as nugatory in Alexandria itself.
*(1) This is clear from the silence of Theophilus, Epiphanius, &c.
*(2) Orig. Hom. xxv. In Luc. This remarkable passage may be found quoted on the title-page of Eternal Hope.
*(3) w s zhtwn kai gumnazwn. - ATHANAS. Def. Nic. Vi. 27.
*(4) Cave, Lives of Fathers, i. 224.
Before his death Origen received a loving letter on martyrdom from his own patriarch Dionysius, who carried his views even to the patriarchal throne; he died amid the universal veneration of the Churches in which he had chiefly laboured, and for centuries afterwards they still pointed to his honoured tomb at Tyre as to a martyr's resting-place*(1).
*(1) William of Tyre , Hist. Sacr. xiii.
And whereas his opinions were never branded, nor his name anathematized till long after his death, this is how the very greatest, holiest, noblest, and most orthodox of his immediate contemporaries and successors speak of him for two centuries. Even as late as a century and a half after his death, Origen was still "held in great glory in all the world."*(1)
*(1) Niceph. H. E. xi. 17.
ST. GREGORY THAUMATURGUS, his friend and pupil, Bishop of Neocaesarea, one of the saintliest of the saints of his day, and one who enjoyed the highest honour and estimation among his contemporaries, wrote the panegyric of him which abounds in the warmest praises. Could the holiest and most respected bishop of his day have pronounced a flowing eulogy on an excommunicated heretic? Could he have called him - as he does — a man of almost divine endowments? Could he have expressly thanked his guardian angel for having brought him under the influence of Origen?*(1)
*(1) The panegyric of Origen by St. Gregory is printed in the fourth volume of De la Rue's edition. I select from it this passage: - peri gar andro s dianooumai ti legein fainomenou men kai dokounto s anqrwpou to de polu th s exew s toi s kaqoran duonamenoi s , apeskeuasmenou hdh meizoni
paraskeuh met anastasew s pro s to qeion.
PAMPHILUS, martyred in A.D. 309, eminent as a biblical scholar and large-hearted thinker, and founder of the public library and theological school of Caesarea, was an ardent admirer of Origen, and wrote his "Apology for Origen" in five books, the completion of which was only prevented by his martyrdom in the Diocletian persecution.*(1) He spoke of him as having been "for many years a master of the Church." An anonymous Latin writer says that Pamphilus and Eusebius quoted many testimonies of the primitive Fathers in favour of Origen's views as to prae-existence and restitution*(2). The loss of this Apology is an irreparable misfortune to theology.
*(1) Euseb. H. E. vi. 53. Rufinus, in A.D. 397, wrote an incorrect Latin version of the first book, which is still extant (it is printed in the Appendix to vol. iv. Of De la Rue's edition of Origen), and Rufinus attributes it to Pamphilus alone.
*(2) "Multis praecedentibus Patrum testimonies usus est pro praedictis erroribus."
ST. ATHANASIUS, "the father of orthodoxy," the Patriarch of the very city in which Origen had laboured, who was so uncompromising an enemy of every opinion which could be supposed to lead (as those of Origen are now asserted to do) to Arianism, - so far from condemning him, speaks of him as we have seen twice with loving epithets, made large use of his works, and once expressly quotes his authority for the true doctrine respecting the Eternal and con-substantial Son.*(1) If the Arians ever quoted and misquoted him on their side, I prefer the testimony of St. Athanasius, and of many other saints to theirs.
*(1) In the face of this fact it seems marvelous that Origen should have been ever called an Arian. Jerome says, "He everywhere acknowledged the co-eternity of the Son with the Father." Stephen Gobar (ap. Phot.)
ST. DIONYSIUS, PATRIARCH OF ALEXANDRIA, surnamed the Great, was his pupil and friend, and wrote him a letter on martyrdom, full of praises, shortly before his death*(1). This proves that the persecution of him had been almost exclusively the work of Demetrius*(2).
*(1) peri marturia s pro s ton Wrigenhn. Euseb. H. E. vi. 46; Stephen Gobar, ap. Phot. Cod. 232.
*(2) Photius, Cod. 117. See Guerike, De Schol. Alex. P. 67: "Origeni ejusque dogmatis valde favisse dicitur."
ST. BASIL THE GREAT, Patriarch of Antioch, one of the foremost Churchmen of his day, drew up a Chrestomathy from the writings of Origen (calling it h filokalia , or "love of the beautiful") in conjunction with St. Gregory of Nazianzus. It was drawn up "with a view to the diffusion of Origen's spiritual ideas, and particularly of his principles of interpretation." In it these two great Fathers refuted the Arians out of the writings of Origen.*(1)
*(1) Niceph. H. E. xi. 17.
ST. GREGORY OF NAZIANZUS not only loved and admired his writings, but gave unmistakable proofs of favourable judgment respecting his hopes of the final restoration. He called him "a lover of the beautiful" (philokalon), and "the whetstone of us all"; and he spoke of the Philokalia as containing "extracts useful for the learned."
DIDYMUS THE BLIND, OF ALEXANDRIA, "a prodigy of science," adopted Origen's whole system, except where any points had been expressly condemned, and esteemed him so highly and defended him so warmly as to have been charged with adopting his errors.*(1) The testimony of these great Alexandrians in his favour shows how little was thought of Demetrius and his alleged excommunication.
*(1) Socrates, H. E. iv. 25. "Origenis apertissimus propugnator." — BARONIUS, Ann. a.d. 347. Even Doucin says that the Doctors of this age regarded Origen's books as "une source inepuisible de lumieres."
PIERIUS OF ALEXANDRIA was called in compliment "the young Origen" by the Christians of Alexandria, who could not therefore have looked on his name with disfavour.*(1)
*(1) Phot. Cod. 119; Jer. Cat. Virr. Illustr. 76; Photius says, hn g-- tote en toi s axiologwtatoi s.
ST. HILARY OF POICTIERS closely imitated Origen in his work on the Psalms, and translated into Latin much of his commentary on Job.*(1) He followed Origen in many respects*(2), and especially as to the probatory fire*(3). There is no accounting for the vagaries of literary custom, but to us it does not seem very creditable to St. Jerome, St. Hilary, and other Fathers, that they should have "robbed poor Origen without any mercy, and yet scarcely do him the honour so much as to name him."*(4)
*(1) Jer. Cat. Virr. Illustr. c. 76; Guerike, p. 75.
*(2) See the Benedictine Preface to his works, n. 29.
*(3) In Matt. ii. 4; in Ps. cxviii. iii. 5, 12.
*(4) Daille, De Usu Patrum, cap. vi.
JOHN OF JERUSALEM, - a holy and humble bishop who presided at the synod of Diospolis, A.D. 415, - in opposition to the wild attacks of Epiphanius, openly avowed himself a reader of Origen, and refused in any way to sanction the attacks upon his asserted errors. St. Jerome charged him with holding eight alleged errors of Origen.*(1)
*(1) See Jer. Ep. In Joannem, 23.
ST. GREGORY OF NYSSA, though a great and independent theologian, was deeply influenced by Origen, and embraced more openly than any other his views on Universalism. He calls him "the most illustrious master of Christian philosophy who had lived up till those days."
EUSEBIUS OF VERCELLAE is expressly ranked by St. Jerome among Origen's admirers and imitators.
EUSEBIUS OF CAESAREA (died circ. 340) added the sixth book to the Apology for Origen, begun by the martyr Pamphilus. He says that it was undertaken because of the detraction against Origen*(1), and was addressed to Patermuthius and others who were condemned to the mines of Palestine *(2).
*(1) filaitiwn eneka. Euseb. H. E. vi. 53. Probably one of these detractors was Methodius of Olympus, whose name Eusebius designedly passes over in his history, just as Jerome takes no notice of Rufinus in his catalogue of illustrious men.
*(2) Photius, Cod. 118.
TITUS, BISHOP OF BOSTIA, spoke of him with honour.
ST. FIRMILIAN, Bishop of the Cappadocian Caesarea, one of the most eminent and respected of the Asiatic bishops, was his special friend, and received him for some time after his banishment from Alexandria*(1).
*(1) Euseb. H. E. vi. 27.
ST. VICTORINUS, Bishop of Pettau in Styria, saint and martyr, borrowed largely from Origen, and translated some of his works freely into Latin*(1).
*(1) Jer. Ep. lxv. 2
ST. AMBROSE has filled many of his books, especially the Hexaemeron and his Commentary on St. Luke, with what he learned from him, and he speaks of him as one of the greatest of Scriptural interpreters*(1). In his book on Abraham he calls him by the affectionate title of "Origenes noster."*(2)
*(1) See Ambrose, in Ps. viii. 28; Ep. 43 (Tillemont, iii. 277).
*(2) Ambrose, De Abraham. ii.
RUFINUS, the celebrated presbyter of Aquileia (died 410), set before himself the express object of making Origen favourably known in the West.
ST. JEROME , though he was dragged by his own passionate vanity, and by his relations with Theophilus, into violent antagonism against Origen, yet very largely, and often without acknowledgment, appropriates his teachings.*(1) He calls him "that immortal intellect." Even in his tract against him he speaks of him with much tenderness and admiration, and says, "Let us not imitate his faults whose virtues we cannot reach." "This only I say, that I would be willing to have his knowledge of Scripture, even if coupled with the hatred which attaches to his name, caring nothing for mere shadows and bugbears whose nature it is to terrify infants, and to babble in dusky places."*(2) "He was," said St. Jerome , "a great man form his infancy, and the true son of a martyr"*(3); "the greatest master of the Church after the Apostles."*(4)
*(1) When taxed with this, he says that he glories in the accusation of imitating one "quem cunctis prudentibus et vobis placere non dubito." — Prolog. In Mic. Ii. See too Prol. In Ezech.
*(2) Jer. in Til. Iii. "Hoc unum dico, vellem cum invidia nominis ejus habere etiam scientiam scripturarum," &c. — Trad. Hebr. "Quod si quis Judas Zelotes opposuerit nobis errors ejus…non imitemur ejus vitia cujus virtutes non possumus sequi." — Ep. Ad. Pammach. Lxv. 3.
*(3) Ep. Lxix. 3.
*(4) Praef. In Quaest. In Gen. Rufinus afterwards cast this passage in St. Jerome 's teeth. — Invectiv. II. In Hieron.
ST. AUGUSTINE , so far from speaking of him as "the insane and impious Origen," while charging him with errors, calls him "ille vir tantus."*(1) And this is the more remarkable because there are no two men whose characteristics are more sharply contrasted than those of Origen and Augustine. Augustine was a literalist, to whom even the descriptions of the Apocalypse are scarcely symbols: Origen a transcendentalist, who allegorises even historic narratives. The center of Origen's system was God and Hope: the center of Augustine's was Punishment and Sin. Origen yearns for a final unity: Augustine almost exultingly acquiesces in a frightful and abiding dualism. Origen can scarcely bear the thought that even the devil should be unsaved: Augustine, like so many modern writers, is undisturbed in contemplating the wide sentence of endless doom.*(2)
*(1) Augustine, Ep. Ad Hieron. 40
*(2) For a sketch of the two, see Canon Westcott in Contemp. Rev. xxxv. 500.
PALLADIUS, Bishop of Helenopolis, supported the monks who had embraced the views of Origen.*(1)
*(1) Dial. In Opp. Chrysost. xiii. Ed. Montfaucon.
ISIDORE OF JERUSALEM was a warm admirer and supporter of the views of Origen.*(1)
*(1) See Neander, iv. 476, E Tr.
SEDULIUS, in the preface to his Carmen Paschale calls him peritissimum divinae legis, and speaks of his triple series of works on the Scripture, - Continuous Commentaries, and briefer Scholia for the learned, and Homilies addressed to the multitude.
Many of the monks and hermits who were most eminent in piety — such, for instance, as EVAGRIUS of Pontus — were followers of Origen*(1).
*(1) Epipphan. Haer. lxiv. 24.
From Origen's days to those of St. Chrysostom there is not a single eminent Scriptural commentator who has not made large use of his writings, and who has not taken from him the best that he has to teach.*(1)
*(1) See Tillemont, iii. p. 266 (Orig. aet 37).
Even in the fourth century those who wrote apologies for Origen were men of the highest repute*(1). SOCRATES relates that when the condemnation of Origen's writings was being most furiously driven on by Theophilus and Epiphanius, a good Scythian bishop named THEOTIMUS OF TOMI plainly told Epiphanius that he for his part would never so much dishonour a person so venerable for his piety and antiquity, nor durst he condemn what their ancestors never rejected, especially when there were no ill and mischievous doctrines in Origen's books; then withal he pulled out a book of Origen's which he showed before the whole convention to contain expositions agreeable to the articles of the Church*(2). Socrates has these very strong remarks: "Men of slender ability ( eutelie s), who are unable to come to the light by their own fame, wished to gain distinction by blaming their betters…The accusations of such men contribute, I maintain, to establish Origen's reputation…And they who revile Origen forget that they thereby calumniate Athanasius, who praised him."*(3)
*(1) axiologwtatoi, Phot. Cod. 118.
*(2) Socrates, H. E. vi. 12.
*(3) Socrates speaks most honourably of Origen in many places, H. E. iii. 7, vi. 12, vii. 6 (where he speaks of his orthodoxy); ii. 35 (where he calls Aetius oligomaqh s , for depreciating Origen and Dioscurus, andra s pash s sofia s episthmona s). See too vi. 9, 10, 12, 17, where Theophilus of Alexandria is painted in the darkest colours.
SOZOMEN also tells with approval the story about Theotimus of Tom i, whom he warmly eulogises; and in his account of the machinations stirred up against Origen, he speaks with uncompromising condemnation of Theophilus of Alexandria*(1).
*(1) Sozomen, H. E. viii 11-14, vii. 26.
HAYMO, Bishop of Halberstadt, after expressing a doubt whether Origen's opinions were rightly represented, and were really his, adds — "And if, as some would have it, they were his own sentiments, we ought rather to deal compassionately with so learned a man who has conveyed so vast a treasure of learning to us. What faults there are in his writings, those orthodox and useful things which they contain are abundantly sufficient to overbalance."*(1)
*(1) Haymo, Breviar. H. E. vi. 13 (quoted by Cave, Prim. Fathers, i. 238).
While such men spoke of him for centuries in warm terms of admiration we need be very little disturbed if "the wonderful and labour-loving" Father of St. Athanasius becomes the "heretic" and "schismatic" and "anathema" and "most unholy" of such persons Theophilus of Alexandria and the Pseudo-Caesarius.
In modern times also some of the best and greatest theological writers have been most conspicuous for the honour which they paid to the name of Origen. In spite of anathemas, he rose to new fame with reviving freedom and reviving knowledge. "I have read," writes ERASMUS to Colet, "a great part of the works of Origen, and under his training I think that I have made good progress; for he opens, so to speak, the fountains of theology, and indicates the methods of science." HUET, Bishop of Avranches, devoted years of loving labour to his honour. Dr. CAVE and BISHOP RUST speak of him with glowing enthusiasm. BARONIUS says that it was "by a sort of divine and heavenly providence that his mother saved him from martyrdom ad maximam plurimorum utilitatem."*(1) SCHROCKH calls him "the greatest man that the ancient Church had."*(2) TILLEMONT abounds in his praises. PICUS OF MIRANDOLA, GENEBRARD, HALLOIX, on various grounds, maintained the purity of his faith. MOSHEIM says that "he possessed every excellence that can adorn the Christian character." BAYLE, who calls him one of the rarest geniuses in the primitive Church, speaks of his admirable purity, his ardent zeal for the Gospel, his great, beautiful, and lofty spirit. DOUCIN, so strong an opponent of his views, yet admits that his "heresies" originated in a desire to convert philosophers, and to shield Christian truth from Pagan insult. BISHOP BUTLER found in one single pregnant sentence of his most anathematized and "heretical" book — the De Principiis — which he quotes on the title-page of his Analogy, the acknowledged germ of the profoundest modern defence of revealed religion. "I had rather be with Origen," said PROF. MARICE, "wherever he is, than with Justinian and Theodora wherever they are." "I love the name of Origen," says CARDINAL NEWMAN; "I will not listen to the notion that so great a soul was lost."*(3) CANON WESTCOTT says — "His whole life, from first to last, was fashioned on the same type. It was, according to his own grand ideal, 'one unbroken prayer' ( mia prosench sunecomenh ), one ceaseless effort after close fellowship with the Unseen and the Eternal. No distractions diverted him from the pursuit of divine wisdom. No persecution checked for more than the briefest space the energy of his efforts. He endured a double martyrdom: perils and sufferings from the heathen, reproaches and wrongs from Christians; and the retrospect of what he had borne only stirred within him a humbler sense of his shortcomings."
*(1) Baronius, Ann. A.D. 204
*(2) Schrockh, iv. 27, 39, xviii. 40.
*(3) See Newman's Hist. Of the Arians, p. 42, where he mentions Origen's "indefatigable zeal and ready services in the confutation of heretics."
It is not in the writings of such men as these, whether ancient or modern, but only of men much less eminent and infinitely more fanatical and uncharitable, that we read such base language as that about "casting out to destruction the insane Origen and all his boastful dreams, and his writings full of various ungodliness," or "subjecting to eternal condemnation Origen and his impure disciples and followers, Didymus and Evagrius." Those who thus "sate in the high places and cursed the saints of God" can only be partly excused on the grounds of ignorance, and the false notion that such language could be defended by the supposed authority of the Fifth Oecumenical Council. They probably knew little or nothing of those whose redeemed souls they thus ignorantly cursed. The arm of an Origen is not to be measured by the finger of a Sophronius. "Many elephants," says the Bengali proverb, "cannot wade the river; the mosquito says it is only knee deep."
But it may be asked, if such were the sentiments of these great and good men towards him — if the reputation which he won in every branch of his labours, "however great, falls below the truth" — how is it that he was condemned by the Church? How far he was condemned, and why, and whether he was condemned on valid grounds, and what sort of weight is to be attached to the views of those who, centuries after he had gone to God, branded the great and holy man as a heretic, we shall see in the next section. Meanwhile let us bear in mind these facts: -
1. A dull writer, a man without imagination and without genius, and with no gift for speculative inquiry, has little danger of leaving the groove of conventional and contemporary opinions. Any one who repeats old shibboleths in their old senses, and does not even care to say sumpsimus if he has been accustomed to say mumpsimus, should hesistate to condemn a man whose mind was so active, so subtle, so far-flashing as that of Origen. There is scarcely a single writer of genius — especially if he have been also a writer of splendid originality — who has not been a mark for thousands of hostile arrows, and it would be strange indeed if there were no joints in human armour through which one or other of those arrows could find its way.
2. A great writer — from his very insight and versatility — from the necessity which he feels for looking at truth from all sides, - from the impossibility which exists for him of preventing the full river of his intellect from overflowing the straight-dug ditches of human system, - will be specially liable to misrepresentation. It is not the way of such writers when they lay down a general proposition carefully to guard themselves from being supposed to exclude the contradictory. They do not care, as "safe men" do, "to steer through the channel of No-meaning between the Scylla and Charybdis of Aye and No." They will inevitably present truth, now from one, now from another, point of view. They will be peculiarly liable to those small attacks which rely for victory on the exhibition of supposed "inconsistencies," and on the quips and quirks of a petty verbal criticism such as they would themselves disdain.
3. And still more will this be the case when, like Origen, they are voluminous writers; when writings have been blazoned abroad which they only intended for private circulation*(1); when they are condemned long after their death, as Origen was, and have never been heard in their own defence; when no distinction is drawn between their mere tentative suggestions — what may be almost called their speculative soliloquies*(2) — and their defined opinions; - above all, when their books, if not actually interpolated, have been most grossly misinterpreted. Even in the publicity of modern life it is, I find, quite possible for an author to be incessantly charged with opinions which, so far from having expressed, he has openly deliberately, and repeatedly repudiated.
*(1) This was done, as Origen complained, by the misguided zeal of his friend Ambrosius. St. Jerome, in his letter to Pammachius (De Errore Origenis), says that in his letter to Fabian, Bishop of Rome, he had complained of Ambrosius, "quod secrete edita in publicum protulerit." Besides these, gross forgeries were circulated under his name, among others by a certain Bassus (Rufinus).
*(2) It was very early maintained that Origen had "only thrown out some speculations, gumnasia s carin , by way of exercitation, not positively or dogmatically." (Photius, Cod. 296.) St. Athanasius urged this plea on behalf os some of his views, and said that others — among which I have little doubt that he would have classed Origen's views respecting eschatology — were on points left undecided by Scripture and by the Church.
Now every one of these remarks applied to Origen. If Bishop Jeremy Taylor was alarmed when "a committee of Scotch spiders was appointed to see if they could gather or make poison out of his books, and had drawn some little things into a paper,"*(1) Origen, even in his lifetime, may have been very obnoxious to attack if every dubious sentiment or mistaken expression scattered up and down in 6,000 books or pamphlets was marshaled in array against him. Yet it is on such evidence that "almost all ages, without any reverence to his parts, learning, piety, and the judgment of the wisest and bsest of times he lived in, have, without any mercy, pronounced him heretic, and his sentiments and speculations rash, absurd, pernicious, blasphemous, and, indeed, what not."*(2) Had not the apologies written for him by Pamphilus the Martyr, and Eusebius, and Dionysius, and others,*(3) perished, "Origen's cause might appear with a better face, seeing we have now nothing but his notions dressed up and glossed by his professed enemies, and many things ascribed to him which he never owned, but which were coined by his pretended followers."*(4) Primasius says that there were three Origens.*(5) One of them was a wretch known as "the Impure," who taught the most immoral doctrines. Besides the partial interpolation of the works of Origen which began, as he himself complains, in his own lifetime, it is by no means impossible that his opinions might have got mixed up in the minds of some with those of writers who bore the same name, and so the hatred against him might have been increased "as in a globe of fire, by intolerable reflexions." Fierce, narrow, and ungrateful as many of his fellow-Churchmen showed themselves to be, Origen always maintained a humble and submissive spirit; and "a man of a disposition so Catholic may," as Tillemont says, "hold some heretical opinions because he is human and fallible, but he cannot be a heretic, because he is neither proud nor attached to his error."*(6)
*(1) Letter to Ormond, Life, p. ci.
*(2) Cave, l. c. p. 235. The learned and pious author refers with great approval to the defence of Origen by Bishop Rust in the Phenix, vol. i.
*(3) Mentioned by Photius, Cod. cxviii.
*(4) Cave, i. c.
*(5) Primasius (?) de Haer. i. 22.
*(6) iii. p. 117, ed. 1699. Two things are clear, (i) that Origen's so-called Arian tendencies are either a calumny or a mistake; (ii) that he considered his eschatological views, even in their widest latitude, to be strictly reconcilable with Catholic-teaching. He distinctly says, in the Sixteenth Homily on St. Luke, that he desired to be faithful to the Church as a simple Christian.
4. Again, Origen was a great and profound philosopher. Scarcely one of all the Fathers — and certainly not Augustine — was capable of fathoming the depths or grasping the breadth of his system. Sound as he seems to have been — even in the judgment of Athanasius — as regards the essential truths of Christianity, fragments, perhaps spurious, certainly distorted, often purely tentative, were torn out of his writings and judged in false perspective by men incapable of judging them in due relation to the system of which they were but isolated parts.
5. Lastly, the attacks upon Origen at the close of the fifth century synchronise with a great intellectual revolution. The learned Alexandrian and Asiatic Fathers, men like St. Clemens and Origen, and St. Basil and the Gregories, were men who were trained to philosophic thought. They belong to what has been called "the Age of Doctors." They were familiar with the works of the great Greek thinkers, and were deeply imbued with the Platonic idealism. By the fifth century a very different school had sprung up. The leaders of Church thought had been gradually influenced by Aristotelian realism and the enemies of Origen were actuated not only by personal antipathy to a teacher whose views were too large, too humanitarian, and too profound for their limited capacity and narrow training, but were also advocates of hierarchical supremacy, and devotees of rigid formulae.*(1) They could not but look with a suspicion amounting to hatred upon a teacher who compelled men to face the whole question of the position and destiny of mankind, and whose searching views rendered it impossible for them to be content with the passive acceptance of crystallized dogmas for no better reason than that they were enforced by the anathemas of despotic authority.
And so it came about that —
"Men whose life, learning, faith, and pure intent,
Would have been held in high esteem by Paul,
Must now be called and printed heretics,
By shallow Edwards and Scotch What-d'ye-call."
*(1) See Canon Westcott, in Contemp. Rev. xxxv. 337.
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