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BOOK 3. This opinion makes God not to be the author of
good, while it denies him to be the author of evil. For either there was nothing else but evil in this eternal matter, or there was a mixture of good and evil; if nothing else but evil which did necessarily exist, it were as impossible for God to produce good out of it, as to annihilate the necessarily existent matter. If there were a mixture of good and evil, they were both there either necessarily or contingently; how could either of them be contingently in that which is supposed to be necessarily existent, and no free agent? If they be both there necessarily, 1. It is hard conceiving how two such contrary things as good and evil should necessarily be in the same uniform matter. 2. Then God is no more the author of good than of evil in the world; for he is said not to be the author of evil because it comes from matter; and so it appears good doth too: and so God, according to this opinion, is no more the author of good than he is of evil. But if it be said that good is not in matter, but God produced that out of nothing; then I reply, 1. If God did produce good out of nothing, why did he not produce matter out of nothing too? If he were so powerful as to do the one, there could be no defect of power as to the other. What insufficiency is there in God's nature for producing all things out of nothing, if he can produce any thing out of nothing ? 2. If God did produce good out of evil, why could he not have removed all evil out of matter? For good could not be produced but by the removing of some evil which was before that good; and so God might have removed all evil out of matter. And so, by not doing it when he might, this opinion gives not the least satisfaction, in point of reason, for acquitting God from being the author of sin, nor for clearing the true origin of evil.
Thus we have now compared the account given of chAP. it in Scripture, with that given by the heathen philo- sophers, and find it in every thing more clear, rational, and satisfactory than theirs is; which doubtless is the reason why the more modern philosophers, such as Hierocles, Porphyry, Simplicius, and others, though otherwise great opposers of Christianity, did yet in this side with the Scriptures, and attribute the original of evil not to matter, but to the will of man. And whoever is seriously conversant with the writings of those philosophers, who were èK tñs sepãs yeveãs, of the sacred succession out of the school of Ammonius at Alexandria, such as Plotinus, Porphyrius, Iamblichus, and Hierocles, will find them write in a higher strain concerning many weighty and important truths, as of the degeneracy of men's souls from God, and the way of the soul's returning to him, than the most sublime of the ancient philosophers had done. Which speculations of theirs no doubt arose not so much from the school of Plato and Pythagoras, as of that great restorer of philosophy, Ammonius of Alexandria, whose scholars Herennius, Origen, and Plotinus were; who living and dying a Christian, as Eusebius and Hierom Euseb. Ec
cles. Hist. assure us, whatever Porphyrius suggests to the con-1. vi.c. trary, did communicate to his scholars the sublimer i mysteries of Divine revelation, together with the spe- Eccl. culations of the ancient philosophers : which Holste-Holsten.
de Vit. et nius conceives he did with an adjuration of secrecy, Script. Porwhich he tells us Porphyrius himself acknowledgeth,” that those three scholars of Ammonius, Herennius, Origen, and Plotinus, were under an obligation to each other not to reveal and discover; though it were after violated by them. It is an easy matter to conceive what an excellent improvement might be made of the ancient Platonic philosophy by the advantage of
BOOK the Scriptures, by one who was so well versed in both
of them as Ammonius is supposed to have been; and how agreeable and becoming would that philosophy seem which had only its rise from Plato, but its height and improvement from those rich and truly Divine truths which were inlaid with them? The want of observing this, viz. whence it was that those excellent discourses in the latter Platonists had their true original, hath given occasion to several mistakes among learned men: as first, the overvaluing of the Platonic philosophy; as though in many of the discourses and notions of it, it seemed to some (who were more in love with philosophy than the Scriptures) to outgo what is discovered therein concerning the same things
A most groundless and unworthy censure! when it is more than probable (and might be largely manifested, were it here a fit opportunity) that whatever is truly generous and noble in the sublimest discourses of the Platonists, had not only its primitive rise, but its accession and improvement from the Scriptures, wherein it is still contained in its native lustre and beauty, without those paintings and innpure mixtures which the sublimest truths are corrupted with in the Platonic writings. The reason of which is, though these philosophers grew suddenly rich through the spoils they had taken out of the Scriptures, yet they were loth to be known from whence they had them, and would seem to have had that out of their own gardens, which was only transplanted from the sacred writings. Therefore we find them not mentioning the Scriptures and the Christian doctrine without some contempt of its meanness and simplicity; and whatever improvement they had gained by them, they would have it less taken notice of by professing their opposition to the Christians; as is notorious in those great philosophers, Por
phyrius, Iamblichus, Hierocles, Simplicius, and others: CHAP. it being their design to take so much and no more outof the Christian doctrine as they could well suit with their Platonic notions; by which means they so disguised the faces of the truths they stole, that it were hard for the right owners of them to know them again. Which was the grand artifice of their great master Plato, who doubtless, by means of his abode and acquaintance in Egypt, about the time when the Jews began to flock thither, had more certain knowledge of many truths of grand importance concerning the Deity, the nature of the soul, the origin of the world, than many other Greek philosophers had ; but yet therein lay his great fault, that he wrapt up and disguised his notions in such a fabulous and ambiguous manner, that partly it might be less known from whence he had them, and that they might find better entertainment among the Greeks, than they were ever like to do in their plain and native dress. Which Plato him-Plato in
Epinom. self seems somewhere to intimate, when he saith, that p. 1012. what the Greeks received from the Barbarians, káricove τούτο είς τέλος απεργάζονται, they put it into a better fashion, i. e. they disguise it, alter and change it as they please, and put it into a Greek habit, that it might never be suspected to have been a foreigner. Thence Tertullian speaks with a great deal of truth and freedom of such philosophers, who did ingenii sitim de prophetarum fonte irrigare, (as he expresseth it,) that quenched their thirst after knowledge with the waters of Jordan, (though they did not, like Naaman, cure the leprosy of the head by washing in them ;) for, as Tertullian saith, they came only ex ne-Tertull.
A pol. c. 47. gotio curiositatis, more to please the itch of their cu-" riosity than to cure it. And wherein they seemed most to agree with the
BOOK Scriptures, their difference was beyond their agree
ment. Siquidem verd quæque et consonantia prode phetis aut aliunde commendant aut aliorsum subor
nant, cum maxima injuria veritatis, quam efficiunt aut adjuvari falsis, aut patrocinari. Whatever the philosophers speak agreeable to the Scriptures, either they do not own whence they had it, or turn it quite another way, whereby they have done the truth a great deal of injury, by mixing it with their corruptions of it, and making that little truth a plea for the rest of their errors. Neither was this only among the ancient philosophers; but the primitive Christians began to discern the underhand workings of such, who sought to blend philosophy and Christianity together : for Tertullian himself takes great notice of such, who did veritatis dogmata ad philosophicas sententias adul
terare, suborn Christianity to maintain philosophy; Tertull. de which makes him cry out, Viderint qui Stoicum, et
iæ. Platonicum, et Dialecticum Christianismum protule-7. runt; by which we see what tampering there was be
times rather to bring Christianity down to philosophy,
ret. c. 7.