Page images
[ocr errors]

He only says that he cannot reconcile the fact that Origen mentions, with his seeming unwillingness to allow the Ebionites to be Christians. But this is easily accounted for, from the attachment which he himself had to the doctrine of the divinity of Christ, which they denied; and from their holding no communion with other Christians.

All the appearance of authority that I can find in any ancient writer, of the Jewish Christians deserting the law of their ancestors, is in Sulpitius Severus, to whom I am referred by Mosheim in his history. But what he says on the subject is only what follows: "At this time Adrian, thinking that he should destroy Christianity by destroying the place, erected the images of dæmons in the church, and in the place of our Lord's sufferings; and because the Christians were thought to consist chiefly of Jews, (for then the church at Jerusalem had all its clergy of the circumcision,) ordered a cohort of soldiers to keep constant guard, and drive all Jews from any access to Jerusalem, which was of service to the Christian faith; for at that time they almost all believed Christ to be God, but with the observance of the law; the Lord so disposing it that the servitude of the law should be removed from the liberty of the faith and of the church. Then was Mark the first bishop of the Gentiles at Jerusalem."+

Where, Sir, do you find in this passage any promise of immunities to the Jewish Christians, if they would forsake the law of their fathers? On the contrary, the historian says, that the object of Adrian was to overturn Christianity, and that the Jews were banished because the Christians there were chiefly of that nation. According to this account, all the Jews, Christians as well as others, were driven out of Jerusalem; and nothing is said of any of them forsaking the law of Moses; and your assertion of their having been gradually prepared for it, by having before this time observed their law more from habit than from conscience, is unsupported by any authority or probability. Eusebius mentions

* See supra, p. 176, Note ‡.

+" Qua tempestate Adrianus, existimans se christianam fidem locí injuria perempturum, et in templo ac loco dominicæ passionis dæmonum simulachra constituit. Et quia Christiani ex Judæis potissimum putabantur (namque tum Hierosolymæ non nisi ex circumcisione habebat ecclesia sacerdotem) militum cohortem custodias in perpetuum agitare jussit, quæ Judæos omnes Hierosolymæ aditu arceret. Quod quidem christianæ fidei proficiebat; quia tum pene omnes Christum Deum sub legis observatione credebant. Nimirum id domino ordinante dispositum, ut legis servitus à libertate fidei atque ecclesiæ tolleretur. Ita tum primum Marcus ex Gentibus apud Hierosolymam episcopus fuit." Hist. L. ii. C. xxxi. p. 245. (P.)

the expulsion of the Jews from Jerusalem, but says not a word of any of the Christians there abandoning circumcision and their other ceremonies on that occasion. Indeed such a thing was in the highest degree improbable.

Independent of all natural probability, had Sulpitius Severus actually written all that Mosheim advances, and all the curious particulars that you have added to complete the account; whether is it, Sir, from this writer or from Origen that we are more likely to gain true information on this subject? Origen, writing in controversy, and of course subject to correction, appeals to a fact as notorious in the country in which he himself resided, and in his own times, to which, therefore, he could not but have given particular attention. Whereas Sulpitius Severus lived in the remotest part of Gaul, several thousand miles from Palestine, and two hundred years after Origen, so that he could not have asserted the fact as from his own knowledge, and he quotes no other person for it. But in fact Sulpitius Severus is no more favourable to your account of the matter than Origen himself; so that to the authority of both of them, of all ancient testimony and natural probability, you have nothing to oppose but your own conjectures, and nothing to plead for this conduct, but that your poor and wretched cause requires it.

Having consulted Eusebius and other ancient writers to no purpose, for some account of these Jews who had deserted the religion of their ancestors, I looked into Tillemont, who is wonderfully careful and exact in bringing together every thing that relates to his subject; but his account of the matter differs widely indeed from Mosheim's and yours. He He says, "The Jews converted to the faith of Christ were not excepted by Adrian from the prohibition to continue at Jerusalem, They were obliged to go out with the rest. But the Jews being then obliged to abandon Jerusalem, that church began to be composed of Gentiles; and before the death of Adrian, in the middle of the year 138, Mark, who was of Gentile race, was established their bishop."* He does not say with Mosheim, that this Mark was chosen by the "Jews who abandoned the Mosaic rites."t

Hist. des Empereurs, Tom. II. Pt. ii. p. 506. (P.)

+ Eccles. Hist. I. p. 172. (P.) Mosheim's words are, "The greatest part of the Christians who lived in Palestine, to prevent their being confounded with the Jews, abandoned entirely the Mosaic rites, and chose a bishop named Mark." Cent. ii. Pt. ii. Ch. v. ad init.

Fleury, I find, had the same idea of that event. He says, "From this time the Jews were forbidden to enter Jerusalem, or even to see it at a distance. The city being afterwards inhabited by Gentiles, had no other name than Elia. -Hitherto the church of Jerusalem had only been composed of Jewish converts, who observed the ritual of the law, under the liberty of the gospel; but then, as the Jews were forbidden to remain there, and guards were placed to defend the entrance of it, there were no other Christians there besides those who were of Gentile origin; and thus the remains of the servitude of the law were entirely abolished."*

Thus ends this church of orthodox Jewish Christians at Jerusalem, planted by Mosheim, and pretty well watered by the Archdeacon of St. Alban's; from which you have derived such great advantage to your argument. But what evidence can you bring that the ancient Jewish church at Jerusalem, even before the time of Adrian, was Trinitarian? If they were Nazarenes, Epiphanius represents them as Unitarian when John wrote; and who was it that converted them from Unitarians to Trinitarians, and what evidence have you of any such conversion?

What became of the Christian Jews who were driven out of Jerusalem by Adrian, does not appear. It is most probable that they joined their brethren at Pella, or Peræa, in Syria, from which they had come to reside at Jerusalem; and, indeed, what became of the whole body of the ancient Christian Jews, (none of whom can be proved to have been Trinitarians,) I cannot tell. Their numbers, we may suppose were gradually reduced, till at length they became extinct. I hope, however, we shall hear no more of them as an evidence of the antiquity of the Trinitarian doctrine.

I cannot help in this place taking some further notice of what you say with respect to this charge of a wilful falsehood on Origen. "Time was," you say, "when the practice" (viz. of using unjustifiable means to serve a good end) "was openly avowed, and Origen himself was among its defenders." This, Sir, as is usual with you, is much too strongly stated; and, as you mention no authorities, you might think to escape detection. I believe, indeed, you went no further than Mosheim for it. Jerome, in his epistle to Pammachius, says, that Origen adopted the Platonic doctrine, (and you, Sir, are an admirer of Plato,) of the sub

Hist. I. p. 316. (P.) + Opera, I. p. 496. (P.)

+ Letters, p. 160. (P.) Tracts, p. 277.

serviency of truth to utility, as with respect to deceiving enemies, &c., as Mr. Hume and other speculative moralists have done; considering the foundation of all social virtue to be the public good. But, Sir, it by no means follows from this, that such persons will ever indulge themselves in any greater violations of truth than those who hold other speculative opinions concerning the foundation of morals. Jerome was far from saying as you do, that he reduced his theory to practice. He mentions no instance whatever of his having recourse to it, and is far indeed from vindicating you in asserting, that "the art which he recommended, he scrupled not to employ ;" and that " to silence an adversary he had recourse to the wilful and deliberate allegation of a notorious falsehood."* Here, Sir, is much more in the conclusion than the premises will warrant. Many persons hold speculative principles, which their adversaries think must necessarily lead to immorality; but those who hold them should be heard on the subject; and the conclusion will not be just, unless they themselves connect immoral practices with their principles. I find, Sir, that the characters of the dead are no safer in your hands than those of the living. I am unwilling to say a harsh thing, and I wish to avoid it the more, lest I should be thought to return railing for railing: but really, unless you can make a better apology for yourself than I am able to suggest, you will be considered by impartial persons as a falsifier of history, and a defamer of the character of the dead, in order to serve your purpose.†



Of Heresy in the earliest Times.

I ASSERTED that the Unitarians were not originally considered as heretics; and for this I have adduced a variety of arguments, one of the principal of which is, that the apostle John, though, according to all the evidence of antiquity, he could not but have known that Unitarians were numerous

Letters, p. 160. (P.) Tracts, p. 277:

"The Archdeacon endeavours to establish his charge against Origen, Pt. ii. Ch. i. of his Reply to these Letters. He complains, with some reason, that Dr. Priestley imputes to him what were in fact the assertions of Mosheim, and he endeavours to prove the existence of an orthodox Hebrew church at Ælia, upon evidence independent of Mosheim. Ibid. Ch. ii." Mr. Belsham's Note. See Dr. Horsley's Tracts, pp. 348-353, 362–377; supra, p. 176, Note ↑.

in his time, never censures them; whereas he writes with the greatest indignation against the tenets which belonged to the opposite system of Gnosticism. I observed the same with respect to Hegesippus, Justin Martyr, and Clemens Alexandrinus. I now find the same to be true of Polycarp and Ignatius, and that even Irenæus, Tertullian, and Origen did not treat the Unitarians as heretics.

You insist upon it, however, that John does censure the Unitarian doctrine; which is curious enough, when, according to your account, there were no Ebionites or Nazarenes, that is, none who denied the pre-existence of Christ, till long after the time of John. But passing this, you acknowledge that the phrase coming in the flesh alludes to the proper humanity of Christ, and therefore respects the Gnostics: but you maintain that it likewise alludes to a prior state; so that we may necessarily infer from it that he was a being of a higher rank before his coming in the flesh.

[ocr errors]

You say, "The attempt to assign a reason why the Redeemer should be a man, implies both that he might have been, without partaking of the human nature, and by consequence that, in his own proper nature, he was originally something different from man; and that there might have been an expectation that he would make his appearance in some form above the human."* But it is certainly quite sufficient to account for the apostle's using that phrase, coming in the flesh, that in his time there actually existed an opinion that Christ was not truly a man, but was a being of a higher order, which was precisely the doctrine of the Gnostics. That before the appearance of the Messiah, any persons expected that he would or might come in a form above the human, I absolutely deny.

"A reason," you say, "why a man should be a man, one would not expect to find in a sober man's discourse." But certainly it was very proper to give a reason why one who was not thought to be properly a man was really so; which is what the apostle has done.

As you call upon me so loudly to give any proof that the phrase coming in the flesh is descriptive of the Gnostic heresy only, and not of the Unitarian doctrine also, I shall give an answer that may perhaps satisfy you; which is, that it is so used in the Epistle of Polycarp, the disciple of John. In a passage in this Epistle, in which the writer evidently

[blocks in formation]
« PreviousContinue »