Parallel Between The Philosophical Relations Of Early And Modern Christianity -- By: Edward A. Washburn

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 008:29 (Jan 1851)
Article: Parallel Between The Philosophical Relations Of Early And Modern Christianity
Author: Edward A. Washburn


Parallel Between The Philosophical Relations Of Early And
Modern Christianity

Rev. Edward A. Washburn

No study can offer a richer field to the philosophic thinker, than that of the laws which control the differing ages and phases of opinion. It would seem at first sight a task almost impossible, in the very nature of the intellect as well as the variety of phenomena; far easier for the naturalist to read the history of the earth’s formation in the rocky strata, and classify the manifold forms of organic life; or for the astronomer to reduce the immensity of space to a “mécaniqué celeste,” than to discover such unity in the domain of spirit. Yet it is by no means so. The mind of man, fertile as are the sources of knowledge, and ever ready as it is to push its inquiries into newer fields, is after all, compassed by a horizon wide, yet clearly marked. And not only do these limits of possible knowledge bring us always back to the same sphere; but the innate affinities of intellect, the likeness of culture, and more than all the deep inward causes, which produce the spiritual movements of every age, produce also a likeness of result. Nor is it often that men enter as individuals into this or that channel of isolated speculation; the master-mind of society is rather the τρικυμία, the accumulated wave of general tendencies. Hence then is seen a law of reproduction in human thought. Age on age passes through kindred processes; and in the mind, as in nature, there are certain archetypal forms, which are the conditions and the objects of its striving. We may observe this law in every variety of phenomena. Literature imposes the same necessity of epic, lyric, idyllic, dramatic expression on the genius of the poet; art seeks in vain to do more than reproduce the orders of Greece, and that of the middle age, the offspring of a supernatural religion. Philosophy in the mind of India, of Athens, and the modern world repeats the primary problems. Plato and Kant state the ground-law of pure reason in opposition to empiricism; Hume and Berkeley arrive at like conclusions with the Greek sophists; Paley lays down, as the principle of a Christian ethics, that which Cicero explodes as revolting even to a heathen conscience; the propositions of Spinoza are read in almost parallel passages of Abelard; and the system of Schelling is but a more scientific fulfil-

ment of that ideal Pantheism which envelops as a mysterious cloud the primitive dreamland of eastern contemplation. The efforts of man in the world of ideas are like the results of his discovery on the broad ocean, which can only at the last circumnavigate the narrow globe, and bring him in a returning circle to the point whence he set forth.

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