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it separated itself from the Catholic church.”* Tertullian says, “ If they be heretics, they cannot be Christians.”+
That Tertullian did not consider Unitarians as excluded from the name and the assemblies of Christians, is evident from what he says concerning the Apostles' Creed, the several articles of which, as it stood in his time, he recites ; asserting that it was the only proper standard of faith, and that the church admitted of a variety of opinions in other respects.
Now it is evident that no article in that creed alludes to the opinions of the Unitarians, but only to those of the Gnostics. This was the oldest formulary of Christian faith, and what was taught to all Catechumens before baptism ; and additions were made to it from time to time, in order to exclude heretics. This creed any Unitarian, at least one who believed the miraculous conception, might subscribe in the time of Tertullian, and therefore could not then have been deemed a heretic.
“ The rule of faith,” he says, “ is only one, admitting of no change or emendation, requiring us to believe in one God, almighty, the maker of the world; and in his son Jesus Christ, born of the Virgin Mary, crucified under Pontius Pilate, raised from the dead on the third day, received up into heaven, now sitting at the right hand of the Father, and who will come again to judge the living and the dead, even by the resurrection of the flesh. This law of faith remaining, other things, being matters of discipline and conduct, admit of new corrections, the grace of God cooperating.”
The Ebionites, being Jews, had little communication with
* “ Statim enim unaquæque hæresis ut existebat, et à congregatione Catholicæ communionis exibat," &c. De Baptismo, contra Donastistas, L. v. C. xix. VII. p. 446. (P.)
+ « Si enim hæretici sunt, Christiani esse non possunt." De Præscriptione Hæreticorum, Sect. xxxvii. p. 215.
Tertullian, in his treatise De Præscriptione Hæreticorum, makes but slight mention of the heresy of the Ebionites, and when he gives it that appellation, he makes it to consist in the “ observance and defence of circumcision and the law;" and yet he represents Ebion as comprised auder the description of Antichrist by St. John, p. 214. It is evident, however, from his making the Unitarians to be the greater part of believers, that, in his time, they were not considered as so far heretical, or antichristian, as to be excluded from Christian churches. (P.)
1“ Regula quidem fidei una omnino est, sola, immobilis, et irreformabilis, credendi scilicet in unicum Deum, omuipotentem, mundi conditorem, et filium ejus Jesum Christum, natum ex virgine Maria, crucifixum sub Pontio Pilato, tertia die resuscitatum à mortuis, receptum in cælis, sedentem nunc ad dextram Patris, venturum judicare vivos et mortuos, per carnis etiam resurrectionem. Hac lege fidei manente, cætera jam disciplinæ et conversationis admittuut novitatem correctionis, operante scilicet et proficiente usque ad finem gratiâ Dei." De Virginibus velandis, Sect. i. p. 173. (P.)
the Gentiles, and therefore, of course, held separate assem. blies; but the Alogi, who held the same doctrine among the Gentiles, had no separate assemblies, but worshipped along with other Christians. Indeed, their having no general distinct name before the time of Epiphanius, is of itself a proof that they had no separate places of worship, as the Gnostics and other heretics had ; for, had they been distinguished from other Christians in their assemblies, it is impossible but they must have been distinguished by a specific name. They had, indeed, in particular places, names given them occasionally, from particular persons, who distinguished themselves by the defence of their doctrines, as Artemonites, Noetians, &c., but the general body of Unitarians among the Gentiles had no name given them from the beginning to distinguish them from other Christians, till the attempt made by Epiphanius to call them Alogi. In controversy they sometimes distinguished themselves by the name of Monarchists, as holding the monarchy or supremacy of the Father, in opposition to those who maintained the divinity of the Son; but this was only an occasional, and not an original or permanent appellation.
All therefore that Chrysostom could allege in proof of himself and his friends being of the orthodox faith, and no heretics, might have been alleged by the body of Unitarians before the time of Theodotus. Teaching unbelievers how to distinguish between orthodox Christians and sectaries, he says, " They have some persons by whom they are called. According to the name of the heresiarch, so is the sect; but no man has given us a name, but the faith itself.” Again he says, “ Were we ever separated from the church? Have we heresiarchs? Have we any name from men, as Marcion gave his name to some, Manichæus to others, and Arius to a third part ?" &c.*
All this agrees remarkably well with the supposition, that these Unitarians were originally nothing less than the whole body of Christians, and that the Trinitarians were the innovators; appearing at first modest and candid, as was natural while they were a small minority, but bold and imperious when they became the majority.
It has been sufficiently observed with what respect Justin
Εκεινοι εχουσι τινας αφ' ων καλουνται, αυτου του αιρεσιαρχου δηλονοτι το ονομα, και έκαςη αίρεσις ομοιως παρ' ήμιν ανηρ μεν ουδεις εδωκεν ημιν ονομα, η δε πιεις αυτη. Chrysost. in Acta Apost. Cap. xv. Hom. xxxiii. VIII. p. 613.
Μη γαρ απεσχισμεθα της εκκλησιας; μη γαρ αιρεσιαρχας εχομεν; μη γαρ υπ' ανθρωπων καλουμεθα; μη γαρ προηγουμενος ημων τις εςιν, ωσπερ τω μεν Μαρκιων, το δε Μανιχαιος, το δε Αρειος, το δε αλλος τις αιρεσεως αρχηγος; Ιbid. p. 661. (Ρ.)
Martyr treats the ancient Unitarians, evdiently shewing that in bis time his own doctrine stood in need of an apology. There are two passages in this writer, in which he speaks of heretics with great indignation, as “ not Christians, but as persons whose tenets were absurd, impious and blasphemous, with whom Christians held no communion ;” but in both the passages he evidently had a view to the Gnostics only, denominated from the name of their teachers. He particu. Jarly mentions the “ Marcionites, the Valentinians, the Basilideans, and the Saturninians.' He says, “ they blasphemed the Maker of the world, and the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob,” that “ they denied the resurrection, and maintained that, after death, the soul went immediately to heaven. Do not,” says he, « suppose these to be Chris- . tians.”* Had he considered the Unitarians, with whom he appears to have been well acquainted, as heretics, would he not have mentioned or alluded to their tenets also in those passages in which he speaks, and pretty largely, of the Christian heretics in general? It is impossible, I should think, to read those passages, as they stand in the original, introduced as a fulfilment of our Saviour's prophecy, that there should be false Christs and false prophets, who should deceive many, and not be satisfied that (like the apostle John) Justin Martyr had no idea of there being any heretics in the Christian church, in his time, besides the Gnostics.t
How little is it that Irenæus says of the Ebionites, and with how little severity, in his large treatise concerning heresy ! It is little more than one page out of four hundred, while all the rest is employed on the different branches of
* Εισιν ουν και εγενοντο, ω φιλοι ανδρες, πολλοι, οι αθεα και βλασφημα λεγειν και πραττειν εδιδαξαν, εν ονόματι το Ιησε προσελθοντες και εισιν υφ' ημων απο της προσωνυμιας των ανδρων εξ ουπερ έκας η διδαχη και γνωμη ηρξατο (αλλοι γαρ κατ' αλλον τροπον βλασφημειν τον ποιητης των όλων, και τον υπ' αυτο προφητευομενον ελευσεσθαι Χριςον, και τον Θεον Αβρααμ, και Ισαακ, και Ιακωβ, διδασκησιν ων ουδενι κοινωνεμεν, οι γνωριζοντες αθεος και ασεβεις και αδικες και ανομες αυτες υπαρχοντας, και αντι τε τον Ιησον σεβειν, ονόματι μονον ομολογειν και Χριςιανες εαυτος λεγουσιν, ον τροπον, οι εν τοις έθνεσι το ονομα το Θεο επιγραφεσι τοις χειροποιητοις, και ανομοις και αθεοις τελεταις κοινονοσι") και εισιν αυτων οι μεν τινες καλεμενοι Μαρκιανοι, οι δε Ουαλεντινιανοι, οι δε Βασιλιδεανοι, οι δε Σατορνιλιανοι, και αλλοι αλλο ονοματι, από το αρχηγετα της γνωμης έκαςος ονομαζομενος, &c. Dialog. ed. Thirlby, p. 208. Πολλες και αυ, και των της καθαρας και ευσεβες οντων Χριςιανων γνωμης τετο
μή γνωριζειν, εσήμανα σου" τες γαρ λεγομενες μεν Χριςιανες, οντας δε αθεες, και ασεβεις αιρεσιωτας, ότι κατα παντα βλασφημα, και αθεα, και ανοητα διδασκασιν εδηλωσα σοι.-Ει γαρ και συνεβαλετε υμεις τισι λεγομενοις Χριςιανοις, και τετο μη ομολογεσιν, αλλα και βλασφημειν τολμωσι τον Θεον Αβρααμ, και τον Θεον Ισαακ, και τον Θεον Ιακωβ, οι και λεγεσι με ειναι νεκρων αναςασιν, αλλα αμα το αποθνησκειν τας ψυχας αυτων αναλαμβανεσθαι εις τον ερανoν, μη υπολαβητε αυτες Χριςιανες. 1bid. p. 311. (Ρ.) † See ibid. p. 208; pars secunda, p. 3ii. (P.) See Appendix, No. IV. VOL. XVIII.
Gnosticism. The harshest epithet that he applies to them is that of vani, which, considering the manner of the ancients, is certainly very moderate. Vani autem et Ebionæi.* He says, indeed, that “ God will judge them,” and “how can they be saved, if it be not God that worked out their salvation upon earth?”+ But this is no sentence of damnation passed upon them in particular for holding their doctrine, but an argument used by him to refute them;f and is the same as if he had said, Mankind in general could not be saved, if Christ had not been God as well as man.
& Cleniens Alexandrinus makes frequent mention of heresies. A great part of his seventh book of Stromata relates to that subject. He mentions fourteen different heresiarchs by name, and ten heresies by character; but none of them bear any relation to the Ebionites, or any species of Unitarians, all of them respecting Gnostics only. He particularly speaks of the pride of heretics in general in pretending to deep science; whereas the Ebionites were always described in a very different manner, and were generally treated with contempt as well as abhorrence. On the other hand, Whitby says, that this writer speaks of the doctrine of the Logos being emitted from the Father at pleasure, and recalled into him again, (which Justin Marlyr mentions, and which was hardly different from proper Unitarianism, being the doctrine of Noetus, Praxeas, Sabellius, and Marcellus of Ancyra,) with approbation. He also says it is particularly remarkable that Justin Martyr, though he did not approve
* L. v. C. i. p. 394. (P.)
+ L, iv. C. lix. p. 358. (P.) That Irenæus did not mean to pass a sentence of what we should now call damnation upon the Ebionites is, I think, evident from what he says concerning them in the twenty-first chapter of his third book, and which has the appearance of great harshness. “ If they persist,” he says, " in their error, not receiving the word of incorruption, they continue in mortal flesh, and are subject to death, not receiving the antidote of life.” Non recipientes verbum incorruptionis perseverant in carne mortali, et sunt debitores mortis, antidotum vitæ non accipientes. (L. ü. C. xxi. p. 248.)
The idea of this writer, and that of the fathers in general, was, that Christ recovered for man that immortality which Adam had lost; so that without his interference the whole race of mankind must have perished in the grave. This he represents as the punishment of the Ebionites. But he certainly
could not mean that the Ebionites, as such, should continue in the grave, while all the rest of mankind should rise from the dead. He must, therefore, have meant, not that they in particular, but that mankind in general, could have had no resurrection, if their doctrine had been true. (P.). Postcript to Letters, 1783.
$ This paragraph is inserted from the P. S. to Letters, 1783. īl Altered in Dr. Priestley's corrections from almost the whole. “Dr. Horsley, in his Reply, Letter x., shews that it is but a very small proportion of the seventh book of Štromata which relates to heresies." Mr. Belsham's Note to Dr. Priestley's Tracts, 1815. See Dr. Horsley's Tracts, pp. 185–188.
of this doctrine, passes it without any censure or mark of heresy.*
There is no instance, I believe, of any person having been excommunicated for being an Unitarian before Theodotus, by Victor, bishop of Rome, the same that excommunicated all the Eastern churches because they would not celebrate Easter on the day that he prescribed. Whereas, had the universal church been Trinitarian from the beginning, would not the first Unitarians, the first broachers of a doctrine so exceedingly offensive to them, as in all ages it has ever been, have experienced their utmost indignation, and have been expelled from all Christian societies with horror ?
What makes it more particularly evident that the doctrine of the simple humanity of Christ was not thought deserving of excommunication in early times, is, that though the Ebionites were anathematized, as Jerome says, or excommunicated, it was not on account of their denying the doctrine of the divinity of Christ, but only on account of their rigid observance of the Mosaic law.t Had you, Sir, been appointed to draw up a form of excommunication for Socinus, would you have confined your charge of heresy to his refusing to baptize infants, or his maintaining the unlawfulness of bearing arms ? $ The principal article would certainly have been his believing, with the Ebionites, that Christ was nothing more than a man.
Such a doctrine as that of the simple humanity of Christ,
* “ Sententiam hancce, quam post Noetum et Praxeam, Sabellius propugnavit, Clementi Alexandrino ex pædagogia sua placuisse non sine ratione existimo."Disquisitiones Modestæ, p. 173. (P.)
† "Si hoc verum est, in Cherenti et Hebionis hæresim dilabimur, qui, credentes in Christo, propter hoc solum à patribus anathematizati sunt, quod legis cæremouias Christi evangelio miscuerunt, et sic nova confessi sunt ut vetera non amitterent.” Hieronymus Augustino, Ep. Ixxxix. I. p. 694.
I have not been able to fiud any particular account of this excommunication of the Ebionites by the fathers, mentioned by Jerome; but I think it very possible that it might have been nothing more than what was done by Victor, bishop of Rome, when he excommunicated all the Eastern churches (of whom the Ebionites were the chief) because they observed the Jewish rules iu fixing the time of Easter; so that in this excommunication no mention might be made of any other tenet or custom of theirs, besides this instance of their obstinate adherence to Judaism. The rule laid down by Victor was afterwards confirmed by the Council of Nice, but I believe without any sentence of excommunication on those who did not conform to it. If any person will give me any more light with respect to this subject, I shall be truly thankful for it. (P.)
The last paragraph is inserted from the P. S. to Letters, 1783.
1 On the question " Whether it were lawful for a Christian to exercise magistracy and bear arms-one upon which the Unitarians on the continent were greatly divided in opinion-Socinus's sentiments" were “ in support of the affirmative.” Dr. T. Rees's Racov. Cat. pp. 178, 179, Note. See Toulmin's Socinus, pp. 235–239.