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fore, he asks, could be more natural than for Hegesippus to proclaim his satisfaction with the churches which he visited, if he found it untainted with "the only heresy which disturbed the Apostle St. John, and, therefore, the other Jewish Christians in general?" And what are we to conclude, as to his own faith, from these expressions of joy, but, merely, that he himself abhorred the impious reveries of those religionists?
The worst of this ingenious and gallant expedient, (as Mr. Faber remarks,) is, that it instantly suggests the following question:" If the Gnostic heresy were the only perversion which raised the abhorrence of the pure and primitive Church, why is it that Dr. Priestley has compiled a bulky history, the object of which is to prove that the Trinitarian doctrine is the palmary corruption of genuine aboriginal Christianity?" To this, as we apprehend, another objection may reasonably enough be added. Of the comprehensive perversion known by the general name of Gnosticism, our information is extremely imperfect. We are utterly destitute of the works in which it was vindicated or explained by its professors, and, consequently, we know it only by the description of its enemies. Thus much, however, appears tolerably certain-that the Cerinthian head of that prodigy was known to utter sounds in marvellous unison with the creed of Dr. Priestley. It proclaimed that Jesus was merely the son of Joseph and Mary. It added, indeed, that some other being, or Æon, whom they chose to call the Christ, descended on Jesus at his baptism; but still it denied anything above humanity to the original nature of Jesus himself. In other words, it maintained, substantially, one leading dogma of the modern Unitarians. If, then, Gnosticism, with all its eleven heads, were the grand popμoAuxio of the ancient Church, what are we to conclude, but that Hegesippus, and the churches which he visited, were filled with abhorrence for a doctrine, similar, in its main feature, to that of the Humanitarians?
On the whole, (to use an illustration of Mr. Faber's, a little varied,) taking the matter at the very best, the case is much the same as if Bishop Horsely and Dr. Priestley were to meet, and after much amicable but fruitless discussion on their respective schemes of orthodoxy, were to part, with mutual expressions of esteem and gratification, at finding that neither party was infected with the pernicious and visionary notions of Jacob Behmen or Emanuel Swedenborg!
It may, nevertheless, be thought that as we approach the apostolic age, the evidence undergoes considerable rarefaction. It will be found, however, that the vital element, even in that high region, is abundantly sufficient for the preservation of life, Ire
næus, for instance, was born before the death of St. John. Polycarp was his instructor, and St. John was the master of Polycarp. It is true that the year 175 is the earliest date assigned to the writings of Irenæus. But it does not follow that this is the earliest date of his own opinions, or of the opinions which he ascribes to the Catholic Church. The testimony of his old age must be taken to relate to the whole period of his Christian profession. He must be considered as reporting what he had learned from Polycarp, whose martyrdom did not take place till the year 147. Now, Irenæus speaks of Jesus Christ as" our Lord, and God, and Saviour"-as "born of a virgin, and uniting man to God"- as "the Word of God, and as our God." And this belief he declares to have been universal in all the churches-in the East and in the West-among Iberians and Celts-in Egypt and in Libya, and the centrical regions of the earth; and he makes this declaration in a treatise against heretics. He, moreover, affirms that these are precisely the things which were taught by Polycarp, as the doctrine he had received from the Apostles; and, further, that" all the churches of Asia, and they who succeeded Polycarp, down to the present day (A.D. 175), give testimony to the same." We will not inquire whether an Arian might, or might not, have sat at the feet of Irenæus, and listened to these things with entire tranquillity and satisfaction. But what would Dr. Priestley, or his colleagues, or his successors, say, if the holy father in question were present to repeat in their ears the testimony which has been preserved in his writings? Would Dr. Priestley say to him what he has said to us; namely, that, early as the period was, there had been ample time for corruption to creep in, and, like a gangrene, to eat out the very core of the aboriginal and apostolic faith? And if he were to say this, what is the answer which he would instantly receive? Would not that primitive and holy bishop have gravely reminded him, that corruption and heresy were one and the same thing; that whatever corruption had then crept in, was to be found, not among the Catholic communities,not among those who formed their churches on the foundation of prophets and apostles,-but solely among the "absistents" from the communion of the faithful.* And, upon hearing these words, where would Dr. Priestley be compelled to take his place?among the advocates of genuine and apostolic Christianity, or among the " palmary corruptors" of it, exposed and scourged by Irenæus?
But we must now pass on to Mr. Faber's second volume: the first part of which is devoted to the consideration of Dr. Priestley's very hazardous assertion, that the Common People, among the
*See Faber, vol. i. c. 10, 11.
early Christians, believed nothing of the pre-existence and Divinity of Christ. The first witness called by the Doctor, in support of this proposition, is St. Athanasius; a witness whom, of all others under the sun, one would think, a modern Unitarian would be anxious to keep out of Court. The deposition of an inveterate adversary, however, is, undoubtedly, of all testimony, the most valuable, provided he can but be made to speak plainly in our favour. The production of such testimony is, nevertheless, always a dangerous experiment; and so it has turned out in the present instance. For, all that can be extorted from Athanasius, just amounts to this;-in speaking of the innovation (xavoroμía) of Paul of Samosata, he complains that blasphemies like this were found, to that very day, extremely pernicious to the many, and more especially to those who were deficient in intelligence (λatTwμéves Tepi Tv σUVEG). And he adds, as a sort of general proposition, that those who are infirm in knowledge, are apt to fall away, unless they shall have been firmly persuaded to persevere in the faith.* And the passage concludes with an urgent exhortation to guard that faith which had been handed down, and to turn away from unholy novelties. It appears, therefore, from this Father, that he regarded the Unitarian error of Paul as a calamitous innovation-that, even in his time, it was working confusion in the brains of simple men, who were always liable to fall away from the truth, unless they were previously fortified with a strong resolution to adhere to it,-and that, consequently, it was the duty of all Christians to guard themselves watchfully against all perversions of recent growth. So much for the evidence of St. Athanasius; and we heartily wish the Unitarians joy of it.
Dr. Priestley's next witness is Origen; undoubtedly a much more fanciful and unsteady personage than the former. And yet we cannot perceive that a syllable has been extracted f om him that can help to keep upon its legs the cause which he is summoned to maintain. The strongest thing said by Origen is thisthat "the multitudes of reputed believers are instructed, or disciplined, in the shadow of the word, and not in the true word, which is in the opened Heavens." This sentence, together with the rest of Origen's testimony, is submitted, by Mr. Faber, to a very diffuse examination; in the course of which we have a good deal of very tedious erudition respecting the Christian Mysteries.‡ The result of the whole, however, appears to be simply this-that all proselytes would be generally reputed, by the world, as be* Όθεν, δι περὶ τὴν γνῶσιν ἀδυνατῦντες, ἀποπίπτεσιν, ἐι μῆ πεισθειεν ἐμμένειν τῇ 8. See the whole passage in Faber, vol. ii. p. 21.
† Τὰ δὲ πλήθη τῶν πεπιτευκέναι νομιζομένων, τῇ σκίᾳ τοῦ Λόγου, καὶ οὐχι τῶ Αληθινῷ Λόγῳ Θεῖν, ἐν τῷ ἀνεῳγότι ουρανῶ τυγχάνοντι, μαθητέυεται.—Cited in Faber, vol. ii. p. 35. Ib. p. 32-57.
lievers, from the first moment of their admission to the discipline of Catechumens-that, however, all this while, the secrets of the Christian faith were gradually opened to them-that the more general principles of the Gospel were first disclosed-and afterwards its higher and more peculiar doctrines: so that multitudes, who, in general estimation, were numbered among believers, would still see only the shadow of the truth, while others, more advanced, would be admitted to a full contemplation of its substance. And this multitude of babes in Christ, while feeding upon milk, are mistaken by Dr. Priestley for a host of mighty men, full of strong meat, and loathing the windy diet wherewith the Trinitarian purveyors were puffing up the unhappy persons committed to their care!
After Origen, Tertullian is called into Court. Tertullian, to be sure, has on various other occasions repeatedly and expressly affirmed that the pre-existence and divinity of Christ was believed and maintained by the Catholic and Apostolic Church. But this does not deter Dr. Priestley: for Tertullian, he is confident, will nevertheless be compelled to make a confession-an angry and unwilling confession-that the majority of Catholic believers in his time rejected that very doctrine with abhorrence. Unfortunately, however, he is unable to make Tertullian confess any such thing. All he can get out of him is to the following effect: --that shallow and unthinking persons, who had been converted from Polytheism to Christianity, were apt to complain, that they were still called upon to worship three Gods. The adjustment or œconomy which prevailed in the Divine Councils was too much for their comprehension or their faith, and they, accordingly, took fright at it. They were unable to conceive that the number and the arrangement of the Trinity should do otherwise than effect a division of the Unity: whereas, the Unity derives the Trinity from itself; and instead of being destroyed, is actually maintained and administered by it. And, since simple and unlettered men must always form the larger portion of believers, the prevalence of this misconception is the more easily accounted for.* The case, therefore, turns out to be-that many persons who had abandoned the worship of many Gods, and embraced Christianity, were, nevertheless, startled at a profession of faith which appeared
Simplices enim quique, ne dixerim imprudentes et idiotæ (quæ major semper credentium pars est)-quoniam et ipsa regula fidei, a pluribus deis sæculi, ad unicum et verum Deum, transfert,-non intelligentes, Unicum quidem sed cum suâ 'Oxovoμix esse credendum)-expavescunt ad Osnovoμlav. Numerum et dispositionem Trinitatis, divisionem præsumunt Unitatis: quando Unitas, ex semetipsâ derivans Trinitatem, non destruatur, sed administretur. See the whole passage in Faber, vol. ii. p. 59. On the true import of the word idiote in this passage, see Bishop Kaye on Tertullian, p. 530, note (185).
to inculcate the worship of three Gods; and that they who were assailed with those misgivings, were to be found,-where any reasonable man would naturally look for them,-among the weaker and more untutored brethren, who must always form the majority of every Christian community.
The nature of the economy which created such a panic among these sagacious persons, is well known to every tyro in theology. It was no other than the mysterious and voluntary distribution of offices, among the three Sacred Persons of the Trinity. That this should often be difficult of comprehension to rash and unlearned men, is far from surprising and it is further, no matter of wonder, if such persons should frequently be tempted to take refuge from their perplexities, in some form of Unitarian belief. Unitarians, accordingly, they, many of them, became; but Unitarians, who, most assuredly, would have expelled Dr. Priestley from their communion. Such rigid Unitarians were they, that they would hear of no distinction between the Father and the Son. Instead of denying the divinity of Christ, they identified him, both in person and essence, with the Father. They were seduced, in short, to enlist themselves among the Monarchians,* under the standard of their leader Praxeas;-the very heresiarch against whom Tertullian composed the treatise, from which Dr. Priestley has produced the above testimony, in confirmation of the Humanitarian hypothesis!
The reader will, of course, perceive, that we have given no more than the substance, or rather the mere result, of the evidence of these three witnesses. The task of sifting them has cost Mr. Faber no less than eighty mortal pages, and, we fear, will cost his readers a good deal of patience. He has, however, effectually deprived Dr. Priestley of all advantage from their evidence, though he has, as it appears to us, been something longer about it than he needed to have been.
In Mr. Faber's sixth chapter, vol. ii., he considers the monstrous proposition, that the doctrine of the Trinity was introduced into Christianity by Justin Martyr, and that the notion was imported by him from the Platonic schools. All this has repeatedly been discussed: and who can muster one element of doubt that Justin became a Christian, not by virtue of his Platonism, but in spite of it? If he borrowed any part of his Christianity from Platonism, it must have been much in the same sense that the modern chemists borrowed their science from the mystery and the jargon of the ancient alchemists. The hope of trans muting all metals into gold engaged a succession of acute and
The party of Praxeas were sometimes so called from their anxiety to maintain the sole government of God.--Mosh. vol. i. p. 235. Bishop Kaye, on Tert. p. 531.