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46 Conclusion. “ Enough may perhaps now have been brought forward to shew, that this hypothesis or system relating to the · Seed and Birth of God in the Soul,' which makes it a distinct being or substance, as the Vehiculum Dei, &c. was merely adopted by R. Barclay, but did not originate with him. And, it may be permitted to the most sincere believers in the reality of the influence and guidance of the Holy Spirit, to query whether the Apology, excellent as it is, would not have been still more valuable, if this hypothesis had not been introduced into it.
“ An endeavour to explain, where Scripture is silent, the nature of things that are beyond the reach of human comprehension, has been, it is scarcely necessary to observe, a very frequent error, and one to which men of a vivid imagination, such as George Keith appears to have possessed, may be considered as particularly prone. It may be here added, that were an attempt made to assign the particular causes, which, in different ages, have given rise to distorted views of Christian doctrine, it would probably not be wrong to refer much to a want of properly dis. tinguishing between literal and figurative language, and to a disposition to carry analogical reasoning beyond its just limits.
“ Although there can be no doubt that amongst those who have entertained some of the views which have been just alluded to, and especially amongst the mystics, many truly pious characters could be enumerated; yet we shall not on that ground be warranted in considering the tenets or notions themselves as being otherwise than prejudicial to the spread of genuine Christianity. Prejudicial they must be, so far as they obscure plain Scriptural truth, and lead away from an attention to it; and they must also be injurious, in that, not being founded on Holy Writ, or at least not on a correct interpretation of its contents, they will often be found in opposition to what may perhaps be called the sound philosophy of the human mind ; and hence an unnecessary occasion of stumbling is laid in the way of a cordial reception of Gospel truth.”
HAI EBN YOKDAN. The following Extract from a work entitled “ Mahometanism Unveiled,” by “ the Rev. Charles Forster, Chancellor
of Ardfurt,” &c., affords a collateral testimony, from an independent witness, of the connexion between George Keith and our early Friends; and it also supplies a link in the chain which connects the mysticism of the ancient Philosophy with the origin of Barclay's doctrine of “ Universal and Saving Light.”
“ The fortunes of Ebn Thophail's Philosophical Romance, ' Hai Ebn Yokdan,' may be selected as a specimen of the place occupied by Mahometanism in the history of Christian ethicks. This piece, for which the Jews always entertained the highest veneration, was translated into Hebrew by Rabbi Moses of Narbonne. The original happily escaped from the general wreck of Arabic literature which ensued on the expulsion of the Moors from Spain. A copy fell into the hands of the elder Pocock, who, equally captivated by the moral of the fable and by its style, assigned to his son the task of preparing and publishing it, accompanied by a Latin version.... The learned Ashwell first gave to the world this beautiful Arabian fiction in an English dress. Its mystical characler so recommended it, in particular to the Society of Friends, that, at the desire of this community, it was translated into English a second time by GEORGE Keith.” (Forster's Mahom. Unv.)
EXTRACTS FROM A WORK ENTITLED ERRORS RE
GARDING RELIGION," BY JAMES DOUGLAS, ESQ.
Pp. 1, 2:...“ In philosophy, as well as in religion, there are only a certain number of outlets by which the mind forsakes the straight way of truth. Hence the same systems are ever recurring in the most distant ages and countries. The cosmogonies of the lonic schools of philosophy in Greece are at this day flourishing among the Chinese, and the transcendental Pantheism of the Eclectic school has its counterparts in the writings of the Buddhists and the Burmans; and the mind, in its narrow revo
lution of changes, is ever presenting again the same darkened phases of error."
P. 4 : ...“ Philosophy...from reducing all the portions of the world to two eternal substances, matter and mind, reduced these two into one, Mind which alone has real existence, and which becomes matter by defect merely, as it flows dark and languid around its circumference, though glowing and energetic and spiritual at its centre, or heart; and hence the emanative system.”
P. 5: “When Christianity was proclaimed, there were two ways of receiving it,-either for men to forsake their superstitions, and their systems of philosophy, falsely so called, and to receive in sincerity 'the truth as it is in Jesus ; ' endeavour to form an alliance between Christianity and their former opinions. The latter attempt gave rise to the early heresies. The Jewish heresies consisted chiefly in endeavouring to preserve the authority of Moses and their ancient Law, by reducing the Messiah and the Christian revelation to the same level. The early Gentile or Gnostic heresies consisted in attempting to incorporate Christianity with that modification of the Emanative System then prevalent in the west of Asia. The Gnostic philo. sophy consisted in the belief of the stream of existence flowing from its Divine Fountain through a number of personifications, such as life, light, and wisdom, which they named Eons ; till it reached its dark and impure termination in becoming matter, or in beings possessed of those malignant qualities which union with matter was supposed to occasion. And the whole of their practical religion and philosophy consisted in endeavouring to escape from matter, and in purifying the heavenly spark within them, that it might return to the original Source of light.”
P. 11: “ Traces of primeval revelation, and of the worship of the true God, are found dispersed in scattered fragments over the habitable earth. Even tribes so rude as to be enumerated among the instances of men who had no religion, are yet discovered, from subsequent information, to retain vestiges, however faint, of the primitive condition of man.”
P. 23: “ Unfettered by the rites and fables which they were inculcating upon others, and abounding in leisure and tranquillity, the sacred caste of Egypt, Chaldea, and India, appear to have laid the first foundations of speculative philosophy.”
P. 30: “ The mythology of the Hindoos has been recast upon this model by the ancient Braminical priesthood, while the opposing doctrines of Boudh derive their character from Pantheism, strictly so called. These systems have re-appeared in modern times, both in the east and in the west, and have given rise to peculiar modifications in mystical devotion, which shall afterwards be noticed. It is thus that opinions descend lower and lower in the scale of mind, and that the errors of ancient genius become the heresies of modern sectarians."
P. 33: “Even those who receive revelation, but who presume to be wise above what is written, the moment they leave the Inspired Record, and speculate upon things which are not revealed, share also in the common lot, and amply prove, by their weakness and their errors, that it is the Bible, and the Bible alone, where we are to find all our information respecting our Author and our end-respecting the character of God as our Judge and our Saviour-respecting that heavenly inheritance which is awaiting every believer in the Lord Jesus, after death has removed him from this transitory state.”
P. 45 : “ These miserable dreamers, the Gnostics, divided Christ and Jesus into two distinct persons : Christ they considered as one of the higher Eons, Jesus as a lower Eon, and sometimes merely as a man. Christ they represented......by an apparent, though not a real, union with a body, and also by uniting himself to Jesus, as having found a way of deliverance for all those souls who should obey his precepts, and extricate themselves from the influence of matter."
P. 59: “Several heresies arose from the notion that Christianity admitted of amendments and additions. The Gnostics thought to improve it by the help of their philosophy; and Montanus, by giving it a severer cast of morals ; Manes, by explaining the origin of evil upon the system of Zoroaster; and Mahomet, by reducing revelation, as he conceived, to its original purity and simplicity."
Pp. 142–146: “ The third and lowest species of mysticism may be termed the devotional ; which, neglecting to explain the theory of the universe, follows that only which is practical in mysticism, and is wholly intent upon re-uniting the soul to God by quietism and devout contemplation. Most of those who are
mystics of this class deny that they have any connexion with the theories of the ancient philosophers; still they may be traced in a direct line to the pantheistic sages of Greece, and of the East. At times, even in those writings which have least pretensions to theory, the emanative system, with all its consequences, clearly breaks forth. •Il est aisé,' says Madame Guion, de comprendre que tous les esprits, étant émanés de Dieu, auroient un égal instinct de réunion à leur principe, s'ils étoient entièrement dégagés des obstacles qui empêchent cet union.'--' Lorsqu'ils sont dégagés selon leur degré, ils tendent ensemble selon le même degré à leur réunion : mais lorsqu'ils sont parfaitement purifiés, ils se perdent dans l'Unité, et deviennent un dans cette perte, avec un rapport et une unité qu'on auroit peine à comprendre.' Another mystic writer, “le divin Jean de la Croix,' has asserted, in the most explicit terms, the deification of human souls by their union with the Divine Being. •Ce sont des grâces par lesquelles les ames qui les possédent deviennent véritablement des Dieux par la participation qui leur a été faite de la nature Divine.'
“ The great aim of devotional mysticism is self-annihilation. "O gloire de mon Dieu !' exclaims Madame Guion ; je ne désire que vous, mais pour lui-seul ! O Néant, que tu es heureux, et infiniment heureux ! tu ne lui dérobes point cette gloire. Tous les hommes qui tâchent d'en usurper quelque chose, sont des voleurs. Il n'y a que le néant qui ne dérobe et n'usurpe rien.
“ It is thus they strive to honour the Creator by endeavouring to uncreate themselves. As the Hindoo sages ascribe all misery and deception to the notion of self, so the Christian mystics make all perfection consist in the loss of individuality. « Ce moi est haïssable.'
“ The new life, or regeneration, consists, according to the mystics, in self-annihilation. The work of the Holy Spirit consists in absorbing the finite soul into his own essence. Saint Esprit sépare notre esprit du grossier de ce que nous avons de propre...il l'attire le perd et le mélange avec son Tout.' The loss of personality is the only way to die to the flesh and to the world. Nous sortons de la circonference de la chair et du monde par la désappropriation.'.