Christianity and Greek Philosophy: Or, the Relation between Spontaneous and Reflective Thought in Greece and the Positive Teaching of Christ and His Apostles

By B. F. Cocker | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XV.
THE PROPÆDEUTIC OFFICE OF GREEK PHILOSOPHY (continued).

"If we regard this sublime philosophy as a preparation for Christianity
instead of seeking in it a substitute for the Gospel, we shall not need to
overstate its grandeur in order to estimate its real value." -- PRESSENSÉ.

"Plato made me to know the true God. Jesus Christ showed me the way to Him." -- ST. AUGUSTINE.

THE preparatory office of Grecian philosophy is also seen in the department of morals.

I. In the awakening and enthronement of Conscience as a law of duty, and the elevation and purification of the Moral Idea.

The same law of evolution, which we have seen governing the history of speculative thought, may also be traced as determining the progress of ethical inquiry. In this department there are successive stages marked, both in the individual and the national mind. There is, first, the simplicity and trust of childhood, submitting with unquestioning faith to prescribed and arbitrary laws; then the unsettled and ill-directed force of youth, questioning the authority of laws, and asking reasons why this or that is obligatory; then the philosophic wisdom of riper years, recognizing an inherent law of duty, which has an absolute rightness and an imperative obligation. There is first a dim and shadowy apprehension of some lines of moral distinction, and some consciousness of obligation, but these rest mainly upon an outward law -- the observed practice of others, or the command of the parent as, in some sense, the command of God. Then, to attain to personal convictions, man passes through a stage of doubt; he asks for a ground of obligation, for an authority that shall approve itself to his own judgment and reason. At last he arrives at some ultimate principles of right, some immutable standard of duty; he rec

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