Page images

shewed that the influence of the Holy Spirit, de. scribed in scripture, was sober, consistent, reasonable, of a quite different cast and genius. There is no new thing under the sun ; impoftures and delusions exist at this day, and why should it not be thought as reasonable now to discriminate genuine from fictitious or diabolical inAuences, by laying down the true marks and evidences of each, instead of scornfully treating all alike as enthusiastic ? The extraordinary and miraculous influences come chiefly under Miltiades's inspection ; they were at that time very common in the Christian Church; and delusive pretences, particularly those of Montanus and his followers, were common also. The discerning reader will know how to apply these things to our own times.

Apollinarius of Hierapolis wrote several books under the reign of Marcus Antoninus. We have at present only their titles. One of them was a Defence of Christianity, dedicated to the Emperor. The work of which we know the moft, from a fragment preserved in Eusebius, is that against the Montanists, which will fall under our observation in the next chapter.

Athenagoras, towards the latter end of this century, wrote an apology for the Christian Religion. His testimony to the doctrine of the Trinity, contained in it, expresses something besides a speculative belief of it. It seems to have appeared to him of essential consequence in practical godliness. He is a writer not mentioned by Eufebius. Du Pin does him injustice by observing that he recommends the worship of angels. I have not access to his apology, but shall give a remarkable quotation from Dr. Waterland, to whom I am obliged for the only valuable information I have of this



author. Speaking of christians, he describes them as men that made small account of the present life, but were intent only upon contemplacing God, and knowing his Word, who is from him, what union the Son has with the Father, what communion the Father has with the Son, what the Spirit is, and what the union and distinction are of such so united, the Spirit, the Son, and the Father.

If this is true, (and Athenagoras may well bę credited for the fact) it is not to be wondered at, that the primitive christians were so anxiously tenacious of the doctrine. It was the climate in which alone christian fruit could grow. Their speculations were not merely abstracted. They found, in the view of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, something of energy to raise them from earth to heaven. This could be nothing else than the peculiar truths of the gospel, which are so closely interwoven with the doctrine of the Trinity. The right use of the doctrine is briefly, but strongly intimated in the passage, and the connection between christian principles and practice appears. In truth, a Trinitarian speculatist may be as worldly-minded as any other. His doctrine, however, contains that which alone can make a man otherwise.


Epiphanius Heref. 54. 1. See Dr. Waterland's Importance of the doctrine of the Trinity.





T is surely not worth while to enter minutely

into the heresies which appeared in this century. Besides that my plan calls me not to notice them at all, any further than they may throw some light on the work of God's Holy Spirit and the progress of godliness, in the times in which they appeared. For they could never deserve to be made objects of capital attention on their own account. Yet it was necessary to examine and confute them. Irenæus did charitably in so doing It is, however, to be regretted, that in his celebrated work against heresies, he should be obliged to employ so much time on scenes of so much nonsense. Let it be remarked in general, that the same opposition to the Deity of Chrift, or his manhood, and the same insidious methods of depreciating or abusing the doctrines of grace, continued in the second century, which had be. gun in the first, with this difference, that they were now multiplied, varied, complicated, and refined by endless subtilties and fancies, in which the poverty of taste and genius, so common in a period when letters are declining, appears no less than the corruption of christian doctrine. Like spots in the sun, however, they vanished and disappeared from time to time, though revived again in different forms and circumstances. Not one


of the herefiarchs of this century was able to create a strong and permanent interest, and it is no little proof of the continued goodness and grace of God to his church, that they still kept themselves separate and distinct, and preserved the purity of discipline.

It has often been said, that many have been enlisted among heretics, who were real chriftians. When I see a proof of this, I shall take notice of it. But of the heretics in the second century, I fear, in general, no such favourable judgment ought to be passed. The state of christian affairs, in truth, was such as to afford no probable reason for any real good man to dissent. Where was there more of piety and virtue to be found than among the general society of christians ? And how could any be more exposed to the cross of Christ than they?

The first set of heretics of this century, were those who opposed or corrupted the doctrines of the person of Christ. A single quotation from Eusebius may be fufficient as a speciinen.

Speaking of the books which were published in these times, he observes *, “

among them there is found a volume written against the heresy of Ar. temon, which Paulus of Samosata in our days endeavoured to revive.When this book had confuted the said presumptuous heresy, which affirmed Christ to be a mere man, and that this was an antient opinion, after many leaves tending to the confutation of this blasphemous falfhood, he writes thus: “They affirm that all our ancestors, even the Apoftles themselves, were of that opinion, and taught the same with them, and that this their true doctrine was preached and embraced to the time of Victor,


B. 5. 25.

the XIIIth Bishop of Rome after Peter, and was corrupted by his successor Zephyrinus. This might carry a plausible appearance of truth, were it not first contradicted by the Holy Scriptures, next by the books of several persons long before the time of Victor, which they published against the Genciles in the defence of the truth, and in confutation of the heresies of their time. I mean Justin, Miltiades, Tatian, and Clement, with many others, in all which works Christ is preached and published to be God. Who knoweth not that the works of Irenæus, Melito, and all other christians do confess Christ to be both God and Man? In fine, how many psalms, and hymns, and cancicles were written from the beginning by faithful christians, which celebrate Christ, the Word of God, as no other than God indeed? How then is it possible, according to their report, that our ancestors, to the time of Victor, should have preached so, when the creed of the church for so many years is pronounced as certain, and known to all the world? And ought they not to be ashamed to report such falsehoods of Victor, when they know it to be a fact, that this very Victor excommunicated Theodotus, a tanner, the father of this apostacy, who denied the divinity of Christ, because he first affirmed Christ to be only man. If Victor, as they report, had been of their blafphemous sentiments, how could he have excommunicated Theodorus the author of the heresy ?”

Victor's government was about the clofe of the second century. The anonymous author before us writes most probably in the former part of the third. Nor is his testimony much invalidated by his being anonymous. The facts to which he speaks were notorious and undeniable. We see


« PreviousContinue »