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vailed to such an extent, as even to cause his death: but, rising again from the sleep of the grave, he was in the end victorious over his mortal enemy. Of this person, numerous have already been the manifestations; and numerous also will be the future manifestations. That, which is next expected, is a manifestation of wrath, to dissolve the present frame of the world.
These traditions, mixed with various philosophical speculations on the nature of things, constituted the subject of the Mysteries: and a due initiation into them was esteemed the very acmè of wisdom and light and happiness.*
3. It is not difficult to perceive, whence many of such notions originated: and it is easy to anticipate the mode, in which Christianity would be perverted by the unhallowed boldness of the speculative men who had imbibed them.
Most of the early heresies sprang from a licentious attempt to associate the Gospel with the reveries of Paganism: and this attempt is clearly, I think, the subject of those repeated apostolic denunciations and allusions, which abound in the New Testament. What St. Paul styles another Christ and another Spirit, altogether different from that Christ and that Spirit whom he had preached, were the anthropomorphic god and the mundane soul of gentile theology. These, it was contended, were no other than the Word and the Holy Ghost:
See my Orig. of Pagan Idol. book i. c. 1. book v. c. 6. book vi. c. 6.
and Jesus himself was pronounced to be but one of the numerous descents of the inediatorial deity. Yet, as he had already been often revealed, and as in each successive world the inhabitants were but a transmigrative reappearance of the defunct inhabitants of a former: it was maintained by those, who blasphemed the name of Christ by applying it to the chief god of Paganism, that the resurrection was past already.'
Such destructive errors sprang up in the very time of the apostles: and, notwithstanding those holy men immediately bore their testimony against them, they continued to flourish during a long period under the appellations of Gnosticism and Manicheism. But the same leading principle pervaded all the different sects, which embraced them; and, although according to the oriental doctrine of two warring and independent energies they were soon modified in such a manner as effectually to destroy the connection between the three dispensations; still another Christ, the ape of the genuine Messiah, was uniformly and systematically introduced.
II. These remarks will be best exemplified by noticing some of the persons, who were most active in promoting so impious a system.
1. The agent, who first introduced the heresy, is said, by the general voice of antiquity, to have been the Samaritan impostor Simon: and the title of Magus, which is usually subjoined to his name,
I 2 Tim. ii, 16-18.
points out not equivocally the school in which he had been educated. We find him, before the mission of Philip, giving out, that he himself was the great power or manifested energy of God: by which we are plainly to understand, that, like the Dalai Lama and the various other Lamas scattered throughout Asia, he claimed to be an incarnate descent of the anthropomorphic deity of Paganisin.
Much light however is thrown upon the nature of his pretensions by the accounts of him, which have come down to us through the ecclesiastical historians.
According to Hegesippus, he was the leader of those false Christs and false prophets, who appeared in such numbers after the death of the apostles. Mixing, like a genuine Samaritan, true worship with false, he is said to have been the first, who divided the unity of the Church BY A MYTHO
LOGICAL DOCTRINE AGAINST GOD AND CHRIST.
This consisted in his claiming to be himself the incarnate deity, who descended from heaven, and who appeared among mortals in the visionary form of a man. Hence he taught, that he was the infinite power and apparent energy of the godhead : and hence he asserted, that a woman, who accompanied him, was a manifestation of Selenè or the Moon, that a divine spirit dwelt within her, and that (like the lunar goddess in the theology of the Gentiles) she was the general mother of all things.
Acts viii. 9, 10.
In avowing these opinions, it does not appear that he denied our Saviour to be the incarnate divinity: so far from it indeed, he built his own imposture on that very point. For he declared, that the Son had already been displayed as a man in Judèa; that his enemies imagined, that they had crucified him; but that, deluding them by a false semblance, he now revealed himself in Samaria under the name of Simon. He did not therefore deny Christ to be the incarnate divinity: he rather sought to identify himself with him.'
Such was his heresy and its whole texture demonstrates its pagan origination; for he plainly claimed to be a descent of him whom the Gentiles denominated the great father, and thence exhibited as his consort that pretended lunar goddess whom they esteemed the great mother of the world. Now, to his additionally maintaining himself to be the Christ, and thus to his identifying our Lord with the chief god of heathen philosophy, I think it evident that Hegesippus alludes, when he speaks of his dividing the unity of the Church by a mythological doctrine against God and Christ: for nothing can be more accurately proper in every word, than such a description of the first heresy. In the language of St. Paul, its essence was the introduction of another Christ and of another Spirit.
2. From the same impure source of Paganism sprang the Gnostic system of theology.
According to some of the Iranian philosophers,
Euseb. Hist. Evan. lib. iv. c. 22.
there was a principle of good, eternal and necessarily existing. Him they called Ormuzd; and deemed him the fountain of life and light and happiness. There was also an evil principle, denominated Ahriman; the Calya of Hindostan, the Typhon of Egypt, the Python of Greece, and the Loke of Scythia. Him they supposed to be a created god, who presided over darkness and vice and misery. Others, on the contrary, pronounced them both to be eternal; and conceived them to be perfectly independent of each other. But, agreeably to either modification of the system, the two principles of good and evil, of light and darkness, are engaged in unceasing and interminable warfare : and, as like has a natural tendency to produce like, Ormuzd was thought to have created numerous pure spirits in disposition similar to himself, while Ahriman produced a host of evil and corrupt dives whose temper resembled the depravity of their author.'
To these opinions the Gnostics industriously adapted Christianity..
Upon their scheme, the prince of darkness was the creator of the world; in which were inherent the seeds of all evil, composed as it is of stubborn and corrupt matter. From this matter he also
'Hyde de rel. vet. Pers. c. 9.
2 According to the account given of this sect by Epiphanius, the creator of the world was one of the seven princes of the spheres, whom they called Sabaoth. Epiph. adv. Hær. lib. i. This Sabaoth, if I mistake not, is the Divnusus-Sabazius of Greece and the Siva or Seba of Hindostan.