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if he himself had been what is now called an orthodox Christian, that is, a Trinitarian, or even an Arian, he would have wholly omitted the mention of the Ebionites in any pretended list of heretics of his time, had it been ever so short a one, and this consists of no less than eleven articles ? Also, can it be supposed that Eusebius, who speaks of the Ebionites with so much hatred and contempt, would have omitted to copy this article if it had been in the list ? And yet my critic says, “How do we know that the Ebionites were omitted?”* Their not being inserted in the list by such a person as Eusebius, must, I think, satisfy any person, who has no system to support, with respect to this article. A stronger negative argument can hardly be imagined. As to Hegesippus himself, we must judge of his feelings and conduct as we should of those of any person at this day in a situation similar to his. Now did any subsequent ecclesiastical historian, or did any modern divine of the orthodox faith, ever omit Arians or Socinians, or names synonymous to them, (who always were, and still are in the highest degree obnoxious to them,) in a list of heretics?
Had the faith of the early Christians been either that Christ was true and very God, or a super-angelic spirit, the maker of the world, and of all things visible and invisible under God, and had Hegesippus himself retained that faith, while the generality, or only any considerable number of his countrymen had departed from it, it could not but have
his mind, and have excited the same indignation that the opinions of the Arians and Socinians excite in the minds of those who are called orthodox at this day. Nay, in his circumstances, such a defection from that important article of faith, in his own countrymen, after having been so recently taught the contrary by the apostles themselves, whose writings they still had with them, must have excited a much greater degree of surprise and indignation than a similar defection would have occasioned in any other people, or in any later times.
Lastly, Hegesippus quoting the same gospel that was in use among the Ebionites, might also have been alleged as a presumption that he was one of them.
My opponent says of Hegesippus, “ It is as remarkable that he should have omitted the Cerinthians as the Ebionites.” | How differently do we judge of things being remarkable oi extraordinary! I see nothing at all extraordinary in the
* Mon. Rev. LXVIII. p. 520. (P.)
omission of the Cerinthians, in this list of heretics, by Hegesippus, as they were only one branch of the Gnostics, several of whom are in his list; and it is not improbable that these Cerinthians, having been one of the earliest branches, might have been very inconsiderable, perhaps extinct in his time. I do not know that they are mentioned by any ancient writer as existing so late as the time of Hegesippus; and as they seem to have been pretty much confined to some parts of Asia Minor, and especially Galatia, which was very remote from the seat of the Ebionites, they might never have extended so far; and therefore he might not have heard much about them. Whereas the Ebionites were at that very time in their full vigour, and though their opinions (being then almost universal in what was called the Catholic church) had not begun to give offence, they were afterwards the object of the most violent hatred to the other Christians, and continued to be so as long as they subsisted.
That Hegesippus, though an Unitarian himself, should speak as he does of the state of opinions in the several churches which he visited, as then retaining the right faith, is, I think, very natural. The only heresy that disturbed the apostle John, and therefore other Jewish Christians in general, was that of the Gnostics ; and almost all the eleven different kinds of heresies, enumerated by this writer, are probably only different branches of that one great heresy. If, therefore, the churches which he visited were free from Gnosticism, he would naturally say that they retained the right faith. For, as to the doctrine of the personification of the Logos, held then by Justin Martyr, and perhaps a few others, it was not, in its origin, so very alarming a thing ; and very probably this plain man had not at all considered its nature and tendency.
He, as an Unitarian, believed that all the extraordinary power exerted by Christ was that of the Father, residing in him, and speaking and acting by him; and he might imagine that these philosophizing Christians, men of great name, and a credit to the cause, held in fact the same thing, when they said that this Logos of theirs was not the Logos of the Gnostics, but that of John the Evangelist, or the wisdom and power of God himself; and though this might appear to him as a thing that he could not well understand, he might not think that there was any heresy, or much harm in it. Had he been told (but this he could only have had from inspiration), that this specious personification of the divine Logos would, about two centuries afterwards,
end in the doctrine of the perfect equality of the Son with the Father, this plain good man might have been a little startled..
That Eusebius and others should speak of Hegesippus “ with peculiar respect,” (from which my critic argues, that
Hegesippus could not possibly have been an Ebionite,”) + appears to me nothing extraordinary, though it should have been known to them that he was one; considering that they quote him only as an Historian; and supposing, what is very probable, that he did not treat particularly of doctrinal matters, but confined himself to the Acts of the Apostles, and other historical circumstances attending the propagation of the Gospel ; especially as he was the only historian of that age, and had always been held in esteem. A man who is once in possession of the general good opinion will not be censured lightly, especially by such men as Eusebius. Can it be supposed also that Eusebius, in expressly quoting ancient authorities against those who held the opinion of the simple humanity of Christ, would not have cited Hegesipprus as well as Irenæus, Justin Martyr, and others, if he could have found any thing in him for his purpose? This may be considered as a proof that there was nothing in that work unfavourable to the doctrine of the Ebionites. A negative argument can hardly be stronger than this.
My critic calls the argument for Hegesippus being an Ebionite, from his omission of the Ebionites in his list of Jewish heretics, “ a lame and impotent conclusion :"1 and because I insert it in my “Summary View of the Evidence for the primitive Christians holding the Doctrine of the Simple Humanity of Christ;"S he says, “We are sorry to see a man of such superior qualifications reduced to an expedient so precarious as this !"|| Let the reader attend to the considerations I have now urged, and say whose conclusion is lame and impotent, mine, that Hegesippus probably was, or his, that he could not have been an Ebionite. I shall continue this argument in my Summary View till I see much better reason for displacing it.
• “ Hegesippus," says Lardner, “ as we are informed by Eusebius, was originally a Jew, converted to the Christian faith. He is supposed to have been born in the beginning of the second century; and died, according to the Alexandrian Chronicle, in the reign of Commodus. • He wrote,' says Eusebius, a faithful relation of the apostolic preaching in a very plain style.' And in these books, Eusebius says, he mentions his journey to Rome: that in his way he conversed with many bishops : that in all of them he had perceived one and the same doctrine." Lardner, II. pp. 140, 141. + Mon. Rev. LXVIII. p. 520. (P.) Vol. V. pp. 505, 506.
|| Mon. Rev. LXVIII. p. 521.
SECTION III. Of what may be inferred from Justin Martyr concerning the
State of Opinions in his Time. My critic says “ Our greatest objection lies against Dr. Priestley's representation of the opinions of Justin Martyr. He first translates a passage of that ancient father's writings in equivocal terms, and then draws a conclusion from it in direct opposition to its original design. Nor should I be prevailed upon by ever so many who hold that opinion.'* This Justin is made to say.”+
Now I maintain that my translation of the passage, though not literal, is just, and not in the least equivocal, and moreover it is, of the two, less favourable to my own purpose than his translation, viz. the majority of Christians; and therefore I could not possibly mean to take any unfair method in drawing my conclusion, whether, on the whole, it be well or ill founded. For certainly the phrase ever so many, carries the mind beyond the idea of a bare majority, viz. as nearly as possible to the whole number, leaving as few as any person pleases for the some persons, tives, who are opposed to the ever so many, or majority, oi TEIGOS.
Besides, the critic, by considering the whole sentence as a conclusion from Justin I, mistakes the ground of my observation ; imagining it is wholly founded on the quotation from that writer, whereas it is in part a probable opinion of my own. That the reader may judge for himself I shall here give the sentence entire. “ This language has all the appearance of an apology for an opinion contrary to the general and prevailing one; as that of the humanity of Christ (at least with the belief of the miraculous conception) probably was in his time.” The latter part of the sentence is wholly my own; and not an inference from Justin, and it is an opinion for which I shall soon give sufficient reason.
It is enough for me if I do not misrepresent my author, by a wrong interpretation of his own words. As to the ground or colour that there may be for my own observation, the reader must judge between us, and to this I have no objection. And, indeed, I am fully satisfied that the Tives or some of Justin Martyr were, in fact, the #21501, or the majority; and I even think it not improbable, from the
* Vol. V. p. 21.
+ Mon. Rev. LXVIII. p. 521. (P.)
$ Vol. V. p. 22.
complexion of the sentence, that Justin might be aware that it might be objected to him, that even the majority of Christians held an opinion different from his; and ihat with a view to this, he said that he should not be influenced by it, though it should be so.*
Tertullian expressly says that it was the prevailing opinion fifty years after that, and it is well-known that that doctrine kept losing, and not gaining ground, in all that period. According to him, it was held by the idiola, the common, unlearned Christians, who, he says, are always the majority of believers. +
Besides this direct testimony, the thing is highly probable from other considerations. If this had not been, at least, a very general opinion, it can hardly be supposed that any writer would have spoken of it with so much tenderness and respect as Justin has done, considering how very different it was from his own opinion, for which I still think that his language wears a sufficient appearance of an apology. He also seems to intimate some degree of doubt with respect to his opinion, when he says that “if he should not be able to prove the pre-existence of Christ, the doctrine of his Messiahship would not be affected by it."! Why should he
provide this retreat, if he had no secret suspicion of the ground on which he stood ?
If we consider the time in which Justin wrote, viz, about A.D. 140, that is, about eighty years after the time of the apostles, and compare with it the account that Athanasius gives us of the state of opinions among the Jews and Gentiles, in their time, we can hardly doubt (whether Justin Martyr. confesses it or not) that the doctrine of the simple humanity of Christ must have been the prevailing one in his time. Athanasius says that the Jews, meaning the Jewish Christians, were so fully persuaded concerning the simple humanity of their Messiah, that the apostles did not choose to inform them, except in an indirect manner, (of which he gives many instances,) that Christ was any thing more than a man,g and that the Gentiles were drawn by the Jews into the same opinion.
• “ Dr. Priestley's cause derives new strength from the true interpretation of the clause before us, for it contains a tacit intimation, that Justin looked upon the whole body of Jewish Christians to be of that opinion, which he was opposing as erroneous and unscriptural; and an EXPRESS DECLARATION, that certain, very many, the MAJORITY, of the Gentile Christians were of the same opinion with them," Remarks in Vindication of Dr. Priestley, 1789, quoted in Mon. Rev. LXIX. + Quæ major semper credentium pars est. (P.) See Vol. V. p. 22. See ibid.
$ See ibid. p. 19.