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    In the preceding chapter we have briefly considered the wickedness of the ancient heathen world; in this we shall investigate the primary cause of that degradation. In this investigation, the Bible must still be our guide. After Paul had stated that all might know God from his works, he thus set forth the cause of the blindness of the heathen: “When they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.” Romans 1:21-23.FACC 28.1

    “They became fools.” That is, they lost that knowledge of God, which they had possessed; for it is the fool who says, “There is no God.” The gods of the heathen were of their own making, and had no influence over them, to keep them from evil, and so, while the heathen believed in the gods, and had forms of worship, they acted as though there were no God. Now it is not necessarily with his lips that the fool denies the existence of God; he may deny God in his heart, and actions are the language of the heart. So, in the sight of Heaven, the heathen, in spite of their philosophy, were fools. We may here remind the reader that these words of the apostle are not necessarily confined in their application to people resident in heathen lands. The inhabitants of so-called Christian countries, if when they know of God, do not glorify him as God, but, professing themselves to be wise, glorify only themselves, are, in the Bible sense, heathen. And if they persist in their course, there is nothing to prevent them from sinking to the same depths of vice that the ancient heathen did.FACC 28.2

    We said above that the heathen, in spite of the wisdom of their philosophers, were counted as fools. We should say that their professed wisdom was the direct cause of their foolish degradation. Paul says, “Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools.” In order to demonstrate this, it will be necessary to take a brief glance at ancient heathen philosophy. In so doing we shall take as a sample of the world, not the poorest, but that which is universally acknowledged to be the most elevated in its tone. Thus we shall avoid the imputation of injustice.FACC 29.1

    Plato was the most illustrious philosopher of ancient times. He is regarded as, in a sense, the father of philosophy, for he was the first philosopher who founded a school. He was born about B. C. 427, and died about B. C. 347, at the age of eighty. In his twentieth year he formed the acquaintance of Socrates, whose disciple he became. Plato continued with Socrates, until the death of the latter, when he found it necessary to leave Athens, lest he should share the fate of his master. For a time he was the guest of Euclid, at Megara, whose doctrines he imbibed to some extent. After several years’ wandering in various countries, he returned to Athens, where he opened a school of philosophy. His school was held in the grove of the hero Academus, for which reason he called it the “Academy;” and subsequently his system of philosophy became known as the “Academic Philosophy.” (Encyc. Brit., art. Academy.) After his death he was worshiped as a god, and many of the Athenians sacrificed to him. See Seneca’s sixth letter, quoted in McClintock and Strong’s Encyclopedia, article “Plato.”FACC 29.2

    Although Plato is said to have developed and systematized the philosophy of Socrates and of others who had preceded him, it is well known that he himself had no real “system.” That is, he had no fixed principles of truth by which he tested, and around which he gathered, new ideas. Says Prof. G. F. Holmes (McClintock and Strong’s Encyc., art. Plato): “There is little in Plato of a dogmatic character,” and “much of tentative, skeptical, and undefined exploration.” Again we read, in the same article:—
    “Very few of the treatises of Plato are constructive or dogmatical. Nearly all of them are simply negative or inquisitorial. The latter do not seek to maintain any dependence on the former.... His object was not the establishment of a doctrine, but the stimulation of candid investigation, in order to free his hearers from the stagnation of thought and the obsession of vulgar or treacherous errors. He was not a doctrinaire, but an inquirer; or, rather, he taught the need and practice of investigation; not a body of conclusions.”
    FACC 30.1

    The testimony which we quote is from a source, prejudiced, if in either direction, in favor of Plato, so our readers may be sure that we are doing him no injustice. Now let us notice the above paragraph. First, Plato’s treatises are nearly all negative. Second, there is no attempt at uniformity. Third, as would naturally be supposed, he did not seek to establish any doctrine, but only to stimulate inquiry. Now we would not appear to deprecate the “stimulation of candid investigation;” but when the “investigator” has no fixed principles of truth, as the basis of his investigation, and his investigation leads to no definite conclusions; when one thought is not in harmony with that which preceded it, and is itself contradicted by that which follows,—we cannot look upon it with much respect. We cannot see that such investigation is good for anything; indeed, we think it can be shown that it is worse than nothing. When a person is so “unprejudiced” that he regards everything as equally good, and is not certain that anything is good, he certainly is not a safe man to follow. The position of modern “agnostics” is precisely the same as that of Plato. Indeed, he deserves the name of the “first great agnostic,” rather than that of “philosopher.” While calling himself a philosopher, “lover of wisdom,” he did not profess to know anything, and he held no idea with sufficient firmness to be willing to be held responsible for its promulgation. Says the author above quoted:—“He never appears in propria persona [in his own person]. There is nothing to connect him before the Athenian dicasteries with any tenet in his writings. There is a constant avoidance of definite doctrine, a frequent censure of written instruction, a continual reference to the ‘obstetrical procedure,’ and a deliberate renunciation of all responsibility.”FACC 30.2

    This was the man who had the chief influence in moulding the minds of the heathen for several hundred years. How could it be expected that they would have any fixed moral principles? If the blind lead the blind, shall they not both fall into the ditch? What shall we say then, when we learn that, by multitudes of professed Christians, Plato has been regarded as little less than inspired? and that many of the Fathers of the first centuries regarded the Platonic philosophy as preliminary and even paramount to Christianity? Must we not conclude that such “Christianity” would have radical defects? We shall find that such was the case. We might, even here, cite as proof of the demoralizing effect of the writings of Plato and other philosophers, the condition of the church in the twelfth to the fifteenth centuries, when philosophy took the place of the Bible in the theological schools. It was against this soul-withering “philosophy” that Luther struck some of his hardest blows; and, but for the influence it had gained in the church, the Reformation would not have been necessary. It is because of Plato’s great influence on the Christian church, as well as on the heathen world, that we devote space to the characteristics of his philosophy. Again we quote:—“The subjects which he handled were not only deep, but unfathomed by him; not only dark, but undefined. Their imperfect apprehension by himself was reflected by the indistinctness of his utterances. There was also a misguiding star by which he was often led astray, and tempted into pathless intricacies. The imagination of Plato was the commanding faculty of his intellect, and he followed its beams too far.”FACC 31.1

    “The philosophy of Plato is essentially mystical, and consequently unsubstantial; and, though mysticism may inflame, spiritualize, and refine natures already spiritual and refined, it is heady and intoxicating, and apt to justify willful aberrations, and to place every fantastic conviction on the same level with confirmed truth.”—McClintock and Strong.FACC 32.1

    That Plato’s mysticism had this effect, we shall see as we proceed. It is impossible that mysticism should have any positive influence for good; but even allowing that it can “spiritualize and refine natures already spiritual and refined” (an unnecessary task), it can accomplish nothing, since in this world such natures do not exist. What more is needed to show that Plato could not be a safe guide in anything, than the statement that the controlling part of his intellect was his imagination? Surely this cannot afford a basis solid enough to elevate one to Christ. But mystical as Plato was, we shall see in due time that he was equaled, and even surpassed, by some of his followers, who are honored by the appellation of “Fathers of the Christian Church.”FACC 32.2

    According to Plato, all things were not directly framed and regulated by the Supreme Divinity. For the government of “the sensible universe” (that is, the portion appreciable by the senses), he created a subordinate deity, and placed it over the natural creation. This guiding spirit, or demiurge, was a mixture of the ideal and the natural. The world, he taught, was not made from nothing, that is, not created, but formed from eternally existing matter.FACC 33.1

    But the fatal defect in his philosophy was the position he took concerning the mind, and its relation to the body and to the whole universe. He held that the mind or soul holds the same relation to the body that God does to the world. The pre-existence of souls was a cardinal point in his philosophy, and it is to him that the Mormons are indebted for the theory which is the foundation of their polygamy. Like the Mormons, he held that not only men, but plants and all inanimate objects also, have souls, which existed prior to themselves. Thus, Prof. W. S. Tyler, of Amherst College, says:— “There is no doctrine on which Plato more frequently or more strenuously insists than this,—that soul is not only superior to body, but prior to it in order of time, and that not merely as it exists in the being of God, but in every order of existence. The soul of the world existed first, and then it was clothed with a material body. The souls which animate the sun, moon, and stars, existed before the bodies which they inhabit. The pre-existence of human souls is one of the arguments on which he relies to prove their immortality.”—Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia, art. Platonism.FACC 33.2

    And that was the only means by which he could prove the immortality of the soul. If the soul is by nature immortal, the doctrine of the pre-existence of souls must be true. Like modern scientists, however, who invent a hypothesis upon which they build a beautiful structure, and then proceed as though their hypothesis were a fact, Plato did not bother himself with proving the pre-existence of souls. So, also, Christians who adopt from Plato the doctrine of the natural immortality of the soul, have conveniently lost sight of the absurd and atheistical doctrine on which it rests. Some of the most eminent of the “Church Fathers,” however, and especially Origen, accepted without question all the vagaries of Plato concerning the pre-existence of souls. Proof of this will be given later on.FACC 34.1

    In a preceding quotation, mention was made of Plato’s frequent reference in his treatises to the “obstetrical procedure.” The following extract from McClintock and Strong (art. Platonic Philosophy) will serve to explain that term:—
    “The midwifery of the mind which Socrates professed, and which Plato represented him as professing, necessitated the assumption that truth was present potentially in the mind, and that it only required to be drawn from its latent state by adroit handling. It could not be latent, nor could it be brought forth, unless it lay there like a chrysalis, and descended from an anterior condition of being. It was in a superterrestrial and antemundane existence that souls had acquired [etherial sense], but before their demission, or return to earth, they had been steeped in oblivion. The acquisition of genuine knowledge was thus the restoration of the obliterated memories of supernal realities.”
    FACC 34.2

    This theory was the logical outcome of his theory of the pre-existence of souls. In their pre-existent state, as a part of God, they knew all things; in coming into bodies, that knowledge was concealed; it was as though they had been stunned; still the knowledge was there, and the mind could of itself determine truth or error. Thus the mind of man is, according to Plato, the criterion to determine right and wrong. “It is the lord of itself and of all the world besides.”FACC 35.1

    It will not be denied that Plato uttered some truths. It would be difficult, indeed, for any man to be a teacher for so many years, and not occasionally stumble into truth, especially when he had no scruples against receiving anything, provided it was new. But the theory mentioned in the last quotation is more than sufficient to overbalance any good that he might accidentally teach. There is no abominable wickedness that could not find shelter under it. It absolved the possessor of it from all sense of obligation to God, or of necessity of looking to him for wisdom; every man thus became his own god, his own lawgiver, and his own judge. The consequence would most naturally be the conclusion that whatever is, is right; and since “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked,” evil came to be regarded as good. This theory and its results are directly pointed out by these words of the apostle:—“Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonor their own bodies between themselves.” Romans 1:22-24.FACC 35.2

    Whoever reads the fifth book of Plato’s “Republic” will find sufficient evidence of his blunted moral sense, or, rather, his total lack of moral sense. In that book, which, like all Plato’s works, is in the form of conversations with the young men of Athens, he teaches that women should engage in warfare and all other affairs, equally with the men, and should go through the same course of training as the men, and in the same manner, namely, naked. Says he: “But as for the man who laughs at the idea of undressed women going through gymnastic exercises, as a means of utilizing what is most perfect, his ridicule is but unripe fruit plucked from the tree of wisdom.”FACC 36.1

    He further teaches that in the model republic the women, as well as all property, shall be held in common, and he adds: “It follows from what has been already granted, that the best of both sexes ought to be brought together as often as possible, and the worst as seldom as possible, and that the issue of the former union ought to be reared and that of the latter abandoned.”FACC 36.2

    Those children that should be thought fit to be saved alive, were to be-brought up by the State, in a general nursery, and were never to know their parents, neither were the parents ever to have any further knowledge of their own children. Thus the people were to be “without natural affection.” After people attained a certain age, the State was to release its control of their “marriages,” and they were to be allowed promiscuous intercourse, only the issue, if any resulted from such unions, was to be destroyed. We beg the reader’s pardon for intruding such things upon his notice, but it is absolutely necessary in order to dispel the glamour that has been thrown around Plato. There is a growing tendency to regard Plato as almost a Christian, and as really a forerunner of Christianity. We wish to disabuse as many as possible of this idea, for his influence will be as fatal now as it ever was, to whoever comes under its spell.FACC 36.3

    We have now all the data necessary to enable us to understand how the “philosophy” of which Plato’s is the best sample, would naturally lead to the most absurd and even abominable actions. In the first place we call to mind the fact that the “philosophers” started out in their “search after truth” with no preconceived ideas concerning it, and with no standard but their own minds, by which to test the truthfulness of what they might learn. They professed to be perfectly unprejudiced. According to the Scripture record, they “spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell or to hear some new thing.” Acts 17:21. Like children with toys, they eagerly seized upon each new thought, no matter how contrary it might be to that which they had previously entertained. For the time this new thought excluded everything else, and then it gave place to another new idea.FACC 37.1

    Many so-called “scientists” of modern times are pursuing a similar erratic course. As a consequence many things that a few years ago were held by “scientists” as sacred truth, are now by the same men scouted as folly; and there is no evidence that many “truths” which are now so surely “demonstrated,” may not a few years hence be regarded as palpable errors, and be replaced by others equally erroneous. Indeed, there has never been any agreement among “eminent scientists” even on the most vital points, especially as to the formation and age of the world, and the means by which men and animals were placed upon it.FACC 37.2

    We believe most heartily in true science and philosophy. “Science is knowledge duly arranged and referred to general truths and principles upon which it was founded, and from which it is derived.” This is a true definition of true science. Anything which has not the characteristics noted in this definition—anything into which conjecture enters—is not properly science. According to the definition of science, there are certain well-established truths and principles upon which the knowledge which constitutes any science must be founded, and with which it must agree. These principles, therefore, must precede all investigation. They must be so clear to the mind of the would-be scientist, and so firmly believed by him, that they are regarded as self-evident. All doubt concerning them must be settled before he can proceed. They are the foundation of the structure which he is to rear; and no wise mechanic would proceed to lay timbers and build a house upon a foundation of whose stability he was doubtful.FACC 38.1

    Having settled the first principles, the scientist is ready to investigate phenomena. A new thought is presented to him. He grasps it, but in so doing he must not jump off from foundation principles. He must not forsake his principles for the new thought, but must bring the new idea to those well-established principles, that it may be tested by them. If it is in harmony with them, he adopts it; if it is antagonistic to those principles, he must unhesitatingly reject it, no matter how pleasing it may appear, or how strongly it may commend itself to his fancy. He is not to measure it by his fancy, but by facts. In this manner he must proceed with every new thought, rejecting those which do not agree with fundamental truth, and placing in their proper position those which do so agree, until he has a beautiful, symmetrical, and perfect structure.FACC 38.2

    The false scientist may be likened to a wild explorer of new countries. He starts out into the dense forest, or across the trackless waters, until he reaches a country never before visited by man. But, unfortunately, he has neglected to keep his bearings, and therefore has no idea of the relation of this new discovery to the country from which he started. Leaving this, he proceeds to new explorations, but has no idea of their relation to countries already settled. Of what value are his discoveries? Of no value whatever; and the explorer will be extremely fortunate if he ever finds his way back to civilization.FACC 39.1

    Now the first great principle upon which all true science must rest, is that there is a God who created all things. This is a self-evident truth—a truth that is patent to the mind even of the uneducated savage. Pope’s familiar lines,FACC 39.2

    “Lo the poor Indian! whose untutored mindFACC 39.3

    Sees God in clouds, or hears him in the wind,“ Express the fact that the existence and power of God are so plainly revealed in nature that the idolater is without excuse, and so the psalmist justly calls the atheist a fool, as one who cannot appreciate even the alphabet of evidence. God, being the Creator of all, must necessarily be the Ruler of all, and the one whom all should obey. The Maker of all worlds must necessarily be superior to all things created, and must be the standard of truth and perfection. That being admitted (and none will deny it; for all who admit that there is a God, also acknowledge his perfection), it follows that his will,—the law by which he governs his creatures,—must also be perfect. Now if we can find anything which, if followed, will produce a perfect character, we shall know that it is God’s perfect will; for a perfect character can be formed only by obedience to a perfect law. Such a thing is found in the Bible. Even the atheist will allow that if the Bible were strictly obeyed it would produce perfection of character.FACC 39.4

    The truth of the Bible may also be demonstrated in another manner. Thus: “The things which are made” reveal the fundamental truth that there is a God, and that he is all-wise and all-powerful. But the Bible is the only book that coincides with this revelation of nature, and makes known to us the existence of God, and his characteristics as shown by his works. Therefore since the Bible, and that alone, is correct on this great fundamental truth, it must be regarded as the surest guide, and as giving the only perfect revelation of the will of Him whom it so accurately describes.FACC 40.1

    Thus briefly we have shown that the existence of God, and the truthfulness of the Bible as the revelation of his will, are undeniable truths,—the first self-evident, and the second a necessary consequence of the first. These truths are fundamental, and must be the basis of all true science. Instead, then, of testing the Bible by so-called “science,” everything must be brought to the test of the Bible, to determine whether or not it is worthy to be called science. And since God is the originator of all things, it follows that true science is simply a study of God,—a seeking to know his person and attributes. Science, therefore, is endless, since God is infinite. We would not be understood as claiming that the Bible is primarily a book of science, according to the common acceptation of the term, and that from it we may learn the facts of geography, mathematics, physiology, astronomy, etc. But we do mean that it is the sure foundation of all real science; that all of its statements are scientifically correct; that everything may and should be brought to its test; and that whatever disagrees with it, is to be unhesitatingly rejected as false.FACC 40.2

    From this standpoint it is easy to see why Plato and all the other heathen philosophers did not succeed in finding the truth, and why they did not have any well-defined and systematic theory. In the very beginning they departed from the only source of wisdom: “When they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools.”FACC 41.1

    It may be urged that Plato and the other philosophers held some things that were in themselves true, even if they were not systematically arranged with reference to some great central truth, and therefore it may be asked how the horrible wickedness which is portrayed in the first chapter of Romans can be directly chargeable to the teachings of philosophy. A few quotations from Scripture make this point clear, and complete the argument concerning heathen philosophy:—“And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience; among whom also we all had our conversation [manner of life] in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.” Ephesians 2:1-3.FACC 41.2

    “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these: Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like.” Galatians 5:19-21.FACC 42.1

    “And the Lord said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man’s sake; for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth.” Genesis 8:21.FACC 42.2

    The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.” Jeremiah 17:9.FACC 42.3

    For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: these are the things which defile a man.” Matthew 15:19, 20.FACC 42.4

    “The carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” Romans 8:7.FACC 42.5

    These scriptures most clearly prove that man is by nature corrupt and depraved. The evil things recorded in Galatians 5:18-21 are “the works of the flesh;” not those which man has acquired, but things which proceed out of his heart; things which are inherent in his very nature. This being the case, it will be seen at once that whenever a person follows his natural inclination, and makes his own mind the criterion of right and wrong, he must inevitably do that which is evil. One of Bacon’s rules of guarding against certain forms of error, is based on a recognition of this fact. He says:—
    “In general let every student of nature take this as a rule, that whatever his mind seizes and dwells upon with particular satisfaction is to be held in suspicion.”
    FACC 43.1

    As we have already seen, Plato’s philosophy made the human mind the lord of itself and of all of the world beside; he held that the unaided human intellect was competent to decide between truth and error. Therefore his disciples, trusting in themselves alone—“professing themselves to be wise”—could not fail to choose error, and that of the worst description, because error is most congenial to the human mind. The natural heart will choose that which is most like itself; and, since “the heart is deceitful above all things,” when truth and error are placed side by side, the heart that is not renewed by divine grace, and completely subject to the law of God, will turn away from the truth and cling to the error. True, some things may be done that in themselves are all right, but, being done from a selfish motive, they become really evil. Love,—love to God and to our fellow-men,—is the sum of all good. Whatever is not the result of such love is only evil. We need not, therefore, be astonished at any error that is held or has been held by mankind. Plato’s positively immoral teaching was only the logical result of his “philosophy.”FACC 43.2

    By this time the reader will have no hesitancy in deciding that the heathen philosophers were very unsafe men to follow. Indeed, he will not be at all out of the way if he concludes that any idea advanced by them is to be held in suspicion; that the very fact that Plato or Socrates or Aristotle or Epicurus advocated a given principle is to be considered as strong evidence that such principle is incorrect; and that whatever stands on the sole authority of those philosophers, is to be rejected as false. Not only will these conclusions hold good as regards the heathen philosophers themselves, but also concerning those who put great confidence in those philosophers. And when we learn, as we shall very soon, that many who professed Christianity, still adhered to the pagan philosophy, and regarded it as the forerunner of Christianity, we can better appreciate the earnestness with which the apostle made this exhortation:—
    “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.” Colossians 2:8.
    FACC 44.1

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