Davus Sum, Non Oedipus -- By: Leonard Withington
BSac 14:56 (Oct 1857) p. 770
Davus Sum, Non Oedipus
The sentiment of Aristotle,1 that it is by wondering, that men, both in the infancy of knowledge and in its maturity, began to philosophize, is verified in almost every department of human investigation. “The beginning of truth,” says Clemens Alexandrinus, “is to wonder;” for this proceeds from conscious ignorance. There is an ignorance so profound that it is unconscious of its existence; hence the natives of North America, when our fathers sought these shores, looked up to the stars without attention enough to fall into the superstitions of astrology. Their ignorance was too complete to wonder; and hence they had not even those errors which lead to knowledge. There is a foolish wonder, it is true; but there is a beautiful wondering, which foreshadows the existence of some latent cause, and therefore sets about the task of finding it.
Believing, as Aristotle says, that there is a wonder that starts us on the career of investigation, because it, οἴεται ἀγνοεῖν, knows itself to be ignorant, I would wish to state some of the wonderings one is apt to feel on the first perusal of church history, whether we read the old authors, or the more recent compendiums. We regard Christianity as a pure fountain, gushing from the eternal Rock; and we expect it to fertilize the desert through which it is destined to flow. We expect human nature to be elevated, purified, and almost restored to perfection. We expect the salutary action of revelation on the intellect as well as on the heart It scarcely need to be observed that the first perusal of the most impartial record, is with a feeling of disappointment. Though some of the developments of the early Christians, in
BSac 14:56 (Oct 1857) p. 771
self-denying virtue, are all we could wish or expect; yet, on the other side, surprising frailties meet our notice, and the mystical river flows through the moral desert like some real eastern stream, with one bank all verdure and fertility, and the other a barren sand.
Of the earlier historians, Eusebius seems to hold the first place; and the translation and notes of Valessius are accounted peculiarly excellent. Among others, there is one, on the second chapter, [Martyrs of Palestine,] which provokes a superinduced note. Eusebius, in relating the deaths and sufferings of the saints, passes by a great miracle, which others have related, and which is recorded in another work, generally attributed to Eusebius himself. Here the note-writer wonders. Et hic mirari subit, omissum esse ab Eu-sebio ingens illud miraculum, hominis post linguæ prsæcisionem adhuc loquentis. De quo Prudentius in agone B...
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