« PreviousContinue »
In the section concerning the number of herefies which existed in the first ages of Christianity, he observes, that they have been augmented without sufficient reason. Philaster enumerates 122 after the coming of Christ; and Austin takes an account of 128. Many articles set down in the heretical catalogue are so egregiously trifling, that we cannot conceive how they could become objects of ecclesiastical censure, even in the eye of a zealous Father. Philaster and St. Augustin both agree in condemning as a herefy, what philosophy hath fince demonstrated to be true, that there are more worlds than one. And the former historian, in his zeal against novelties, carries the point of orthodoxy so far beyond its own limits, as to set down those harmless ftar-gazers in the black list of heretics, who presumed to give names to those constellations which had not been named in the scriptures. He abhors the found of Hyades; and he accounts those heretics and madmen who adopted that term from the Pagans ; and yet this furious opposer of heresy and paganism is perfectly satisfied with another word derived from the same unregenerate authority. By his leave, you may call the seven ftars Pleiades, but not Hyades. And why this partiality for the former, when it is equally Heathen Greek with the latter ? Philafter gives you a truly orthodox reason: you meet with Pleiades in the book of Job! Thus the term, though prophane before, is sanctified by the word of God!
Dr. Lardner having proved that the number of the ancient heretics had been augmented without sufficient reason, proceeds to establish a position that may seem strange at first, but which we think he hath supported by solid teftimonies and judicious reasoning, viz. “ that most of the heresies of the two first centuries may be reduced to two kinds. The first is that which was introduced (as Theodoret reports) by Simon Man gus (the father of the Gnostics), and which afterwards was worked into a more finished and regular system by Manes of Persia. This original and most pernicious heresy (commonly called Manecheilm, after the last heretic) taught two ruling principles of good and evil in the universe, acting independently of each other ;-denied that God, or the good principle, was the Creator of the world, and asserted that Jesus Christ was man in appearance and form, but not in reality. The second great heresy of the primitive church was that which is commonly supposed to have been first propagated by Ebion, viz. " that Jesus Christ was but a mere man." With the maintenance of this doctrine, the followers of Ebion also maintained, with much zeal, the necessity of complying with the rituals of the Mosaic law. From these two fources of heresy, all the lesser streams of error, that polluted the church in the first ages of Christianity, were derived. In support of this observation, Dr. Lardner ap
peals to Tertullian, who speaks but of two heresies in the Apoftolic ages, the Docetes (or Gnostics) and the Ebionites.--But the authority which he more particularly refers to is that of Theodoret. We will translate one passage from this ancient Father, which is only inserted in the margin in the Greek. “Simon (viz. the magician of Samaria), and Menander, and Marcion, and Valentinus, and Bafilides, and Bardefanes, and Cordon, and Manes, denied the proper humanity of Christ. Artemon, and Theodotus, and Sabellius, and Paul of Somofata, and Marcellus, and Photinus, ran into a blasphemy diametrically opposite to the former, and maintained that Christ was no more than a man, and denied his pre-existence and divinity.”
But however blameable or absurd fome of the tenets of the ancient heretics might have been, yet Dr. Lardner thinks, that they were often treated with too much acrimony by the Fathers, who frequently, in their zeal against error, ran into a greater themselves, and in their contention for what they called the truths of the gospel, most thamefully violated the practice of it.
St. Jerome scruples not to say, that heretics are worse than heathens; yea, that they are the worst of all men. Epiphanius's Introduction to his Account of Ebiotism must be allowed (fays our learned Author) to be a remarkable inftance of harshness, not to say railing?' After producing a very bitter expreflion from this ancient Father, Dr. Lardner obierves, with his ofual candour and generosity, that there are many confiderations that may lead men to moderation one to. wards another, upon occasion of different sentiments, especially in matters which have in them fome abftrufeness and difficulty. One consideration, of no small moment, is, that we are in danger of the same treatment that we give to others. . . . . Philater, who wrote a long treatise of Herefies, and condemns some of them with severity, has not been thought orthodox by all, but has fallen under the charge or suspicion of heresy. .... This is certain, that as bad things were spoken of the primitive Chriftians by Jews and Heathens, as ever were said of the ancient heretics by the orthodox. Modern reformers, have been treated just in the same manner: and no wonder, since there have in every age been men so strongly attached to their present intereft, as to value the emoluments connected with old establishments, however erroneous, more than the truth. Such men will always represent every attempt towards a reformation, as proceeding from wicked and impious difpofitions, and will cry down the promoters of it as heretics, and as men of the most abandoned and profligate principles. This must be the case whenever men think themfelves privileged to neglect the rules of candour and moderation, in the judgment they form concerning each other. For though truth is one and unchangeable, orthodoxy and heresy are as variable as the opinions of fallible and inconftant, of prejudiced and ignorant men.'
On the principles of that moderation which our amiable Author profeffes, he endeavours to rescue the heretics from he several ill-founded calumnies which had been thrown on them by the malevolence or ignorance of the adverse party. It
is worth observation, that the horrid charges produced by the Pagan writers against the Christians, in the first and second centuries, very nearly resemble those which the historians, and 'other writers among the orthodox Christians in a later period, alleged with such repeated and malicious triumph against the primitive heretics. * This (says Dr. Lardner) may create a suspicion that these last were formed on the model of the for. mer, and consequently are without ground. The most shocking crime imputed to the first Christians by their perfecutors and calumniators, was the feasting, at their lewd nocturnal meetings, on the flesh of young children, killed on purpose for this unnatural banquet. The same accusation is brought by Epiphanius against the Gnostics : and we suppose the one to be just as probable as the other, and no more. When the ancient apologists for the Christians (particularly Tertullian and Minutius Felix) relate the several charges that were alleged against them by the Heathens, they frequently ridicule their accufers for their absurd credulity, in believing the improbable stories that stupidity, in league with malice, had propagated concerning their principles and their practices. The same argument holds good in behalf of the heretics, of whom the fame incredible things were related by the orthodox writers. If (says our Author) they are incredible with regard to one, they are fo likewise with regard to the other. Besides, there are some things related of the Gnostics by Epiphanius and Theodoret, which in all probability were never practised by any individuals, not even amongst the moit vicious and abandoned ; much less were they the rites or sacraments of any religious fect. When all this is considered, I cannot help thinking that there is too much justice in Monf. Bayle's fatire ; who having given an account of the five crimes charged on the Cainites, adds, * When we read these things in the Fathers of the church, one can scarce forbear thinking that the case was the same with them, in respect to heretics, as with the Heathens in respect to Christianity. The Heathens imputed to Christianity a hundred extravagancies and abominations, that had no foundation......Is it not more reasonable to believe, that the Fathers did not, with all the patience re. quisite, thoroughly inform themielves of the real principles of a fea, than it is to believe that those very men who held that Jesus Christ, by his death, was ihe Saviour of mankind, should at the same time hold, that the beastlieit pleasures are the ready way to Paradise ?'”
The following sections of the first book treat of the general principles of the heretics : morc particularly it is remarked, that they believed only in one God ;---that they made great use of the scriptures ;---that some of them used apocryphal books; and that many of these supposititious writings were forged by them, particularly a pretended Gospel of St. Peter, by one of the feet of the Docetæ, and some other spurious books, by the Ebionites or Unitarians. But on this bead the learned Author is very unwilling that the heretics should bear the whole in
infamy of this fraudulent practice. “The catholics, i.e. the orthodox themselves, says he, are not free from this charge. There were several books forged by them, and ascribed to persons who were not their real authors. Among these may be reckoned the Acts of Paul and Thecla, the Sibylline Poems, the Books ascribed to Hydaspes, Hermes Trismegiltus, and divers cthers. Thus much has been owned by several learned writers, particularly Isaac Casaubon. Molheim, many years since, publihed a differtation, thewing the reasons and causes of supposititious writings in the first and second centuries : and all allow that Christians of all sorts were guilty of this fraud. Indeed we may say that it was one great fault of the times.'
The following sections treat of the respect shewn by the heretics to the writings of the Apostles, and apostolical traditions ;—of the learning and genius of the ancient heresiarchs, and of their attempts to graft the refined speculations of philofophy on the simple doctrines of Christianity. To the great learning, and more than common acuteness and sagacity of these primitive corrupters of the Christian faith, both Jerom and Augustin bear an ample and striking testimony. The former ac. knowledges, that heresy can only be supported by a vigorous and splendid genius.“ Such (says this learned Father) was Valentinus, such was Marcion; both of them we pronounce to be the most learned of men. Such also was Bardesanes, whose genius was an object of admiration to philosophers themselves." This compliment was a very flattering one, though it was by no means designed to flatter. There are many would forgive every attempt to fix on them the deepest stigma of heresy, if they could secure the character of philosophers. We can repeat, perhaps with conscious exultation, the abuse of an enraged adversary; but the contempt of a scornful, or the ridicule of a witty foe, can neither be repeated nor borne with pa-: tience, even by a heretic in the full pride of singularity. St. Augustin observes, that in the defence of some errors and falfities the greatest ingenuity was displayed by philosophers and heretics : or in the more expressive words of the Rev. Mr. David Williams, " The first spirits of the universe were called forth !” The enterprize was undoubtedly worthy of such spirits; and “in great attempts 'tis glorious e'en to fall.”
The other sections in this book are employed in obviating an: objection that hath been urged by infidels against the Christian religion, from the variety of sects with which it hath abounded : -in shewing that a more than ordinary curiosity and inqui-: fitiveness of mind were dispositions frequently indulged by the heretics :--that they were not in general solicitous, like too many of the absurdly scrupulous and bigotted orthodox, about little matters, and were moderate towards those who differed. from them. They formed churches, says Mr. Hogg-(for
this, it seems, is his part of the work) each according to his own plan, both as to discipline and doctrine. And this variety the Ca. tholics (or orthodox) unreasonably objected to, as a mark of error; forgetting that the very same arguments which they used against the Heathens might be retorted on themselves with equal force by the hesetics. They (i. e. the orthodox) bear witpels, however, to the moderation and charity which these people manifested in their religious differences with each other; while they ascribe this good temper, very uncharitably, to their desire of making a united opposition to the truth.' This, indeed, is the general conduct of bigots of every description. There is no pleasing these illiberal souls but in their own way. The morality of a heretic must be damned as well as his faith : and if these uncharitable cenfors can see nothing to find fault with in the action, they have one precious resource, which they will quit only with life-they will suspect the motive : and when that is vili. fied, the merit of the action must link of course!
Mr. Hogg, in the Conclusion, attempts to vindicate the doctrines of the heretics from those pernicious consequences which were unjustly charged on them by their orthodox opponents ;--and to evince on the authority of some of the ancient Fathers, that the feeds of thefe herefies were sown in the days of the Apostles, and that the Apostle had them in his eye when
he exhorted the primitive Chriftians to avoid philofophy, and quer tion's about endless genealogies, and oppositions of science falsely so called. This opinion, continues Mr. Hogg, that the foundation of these heresies was laid in the times of the Apostles, and sprang up immediately after, is an opinion probable in itself, and is embraced by several learned moderns; particularly by Vitringa, and by the late Rev. Mr. Brekel of Liverpool.'
To what a distinguishing height this foundation sprang up, and how many thoots, suckers, and branches it caft forth (to carry on Mr. Hogg's curious metaphor), the second book undertakes more particularly to manifeft, under twenty-three diftinct chapters, divided into sections, proportioned in length and number to the importance of the several subjects which are discussed in them,
The general contents of the second book are as follow: Of Saturninus-Of Bafilides - Of Carpocrates and his son Epiphanes-Of Çerinthus-Of Prodicus and his Followers-Of the Adamites–Of Marc, and his Sect, called Marcofians-Of Heraclion, a Disciple of Valentinus-Or Cordon - Of Marcion and the celebrated Sect of the Marcionites Of Leucius-Of Apelles-- Of the Sethians—the Cainites--the Ophians-Of Artemon-Of Theodotus-OF Hermogenes-Of the Montanists-Of Praxeas-Of Julius Caffianus-Of the Elcesaites, or Oflens-And lastly, of the Alogians.
In these chapters the learned and inquisitive Reader may meet with many curious particulars relating to the principles and manners of the ancient Heretics-many obscurities are il