Page images


alludes to the Gnostics only, he introduces this very phrase, coming in the flesh. Being zealous of what is good, abstaining from all offence, and from false brethren, and from those who bear the name of Christ in hypocrisy, and who deceive vain men. For whosoever does not confess that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, he is Antichrist; and whosoever does not confess his suffering upon the cross, is from the devil; and whosoever perverts the oracles of the Lord to his own lusts, and says that there shall neither be any resurrection nor judgment, he is of the first-born of Satan. Wherefore, leaving the vanity of many, and their false doctrines, let us return to the word that was delivered to us from the beginning."*

Had this writer proceeded no further than the second clause, in which he mentions those who did not believe that Christ suffered upon the cross, it might have been supposed that he alluded to two classes of men, and that the latter were different from those who denied that he came in the flesh. But as he goes on to mention a third circumstance, viz. the denial of the resurrection, and we are sure that those were not a third class of persons, it is evident that he alluded to no more than one and the same kind of persons by all the three characters. I conclude, therefore, that the apostle John, from whom the writer of this epistle had this phrase, used it in the same sense, and meant by it only those persons who believed that Christ was not truly man, that is, the Gnostics.

Besides, is it not extraordinary that, if this apostle conceived the indignation that you suppose him to have entertained against the Unitarians, he should give no intimation of it except in this one ambiguous expression? You own that he marks the Gnostics clearly enough, and expresses the strongest aversion to them. How came he, then, to spare the Unitarians, who have been so odious since? You must own that, in the course of his gospel, he inserts many expressions which, when literally interpreted, militate strongly against the doctrine of the divinity of Christ; as when, according to him, our Saviour says, "My Father is greater than I ;"+ "I can of mine own self do nothing;" "I live by the Father;"§ "The Father that dwelleth in me, he

Ep. to the Philippians, Sect. vi. vii., Wake, pp. 55, 56. (P.).

+ John xiv. 28. See Vol. XIII. p. 316.

John v. 30.

§ Ibid vi. 57.

doeth the works."* The Father is "the only true God,"† &c. If the apostle knew that there were in his time those who believed that Christ was a mere man, while he himself believed him to be God, is it not extraordinary that he should give them such an advantage from the language of our Saviour in his own gospel; and that he should have taken no care to qualify or explain it? Persons who are aware of a dangerous opinion, and wish to guard others against it, do not write as he does.

You will probably say, that John taught the divinity of Christ with sufficient clearness in the introduction to his gospel, which might serve as a guard against any mistake with respect to such expressions as those above quoted. But it appears that the ancient Unitarians understood that introduction as we now do, taking the Logos to mean not Christ, but the wisdom and power of God residing in him, and acting by him. The Noetian, in Hippolytus, says, "You tell me something new when you call the Son Logos." And the oldest opinion on the subject is, that in that introduction John alluded to the Gnostics only, as he did in his epistles.

Ignatius also frequently mentions heresy and heretics, and, like John and Polycarp, with great indignation; but it is evident to every person who is at all acquainted with the history, learning, and language of those times, and of the subsequent ones, that he had no persons in his eye but the Gnostics only. I desire no other evidence of this besides a careful inspection of the passages. I shall recite only one of them, from the Epistle to the Smyrnaans. Speaking of his own sufferings, he says, " He who was made a perfect man strenghtening me. Whom some, not knowing, do deny; or rather, have been denied by him, being the advocates of death rather than of the truth. Whom neither the prophecies nor the law of Moses have persuaded; nor the gospel itself, even to this day, nor the sufferings of every one of us. For they think also the same things of us. For what does a man profit me, if he shall praise me, and blaspheme my Lord; not confessing that he was truly made man? Now he that doth not say this, does in effect deny him, and is in death. But for the names of such as do this,

* John xiv. 10.

John xvii. 3.

See Vol. XIII. pp. S14, 315.
See Vol. XIII. pp. 332, 333.

Η Αλλ' ερει μοι τις, ξενον μοι φερεις λογον λεγων υἱον. Contra Noetum, Sect. xv. p. 16. (P.)

they being unbelievers, I thought it not fitting to write them unto you. Yea, God forbid that I should make any mention of them till they shall repent, to a true belief of Christ's passion, which is our resurrection! Let no man deceive himself," &c. He afterwards speaks of these persons abstaining "from the eucharist and from the public offices, because they confess not the eucharist to be the flesh of our Saviour Jesus Christ; which suffered for our sins, and which the Father, of his goodness, raised again from the dead.It will, therefore," he adds, "become you to abstain from such persons, and not to speak with them, neither in private nor in public."t

How like is this to the writings of the apostle John, and how well they explain each other! Here we see the blasphemy ascribed to the Gnostics, which Justin mentions, their separating themselves from the communion of Christians, their denying the resurrection, and their pride. Now, how came this writer, like John, never to censure the Unitarians, if he had thought them to be heretics? That they existed in his time, there never was a doubt, except what is just started in this last publication of yours. It can only be accounted for on the supposition that he himself, as well as the apostle John, were Unitarians, and that they had no idea of any heresies besides those of the different kinds of Gnostics.

Pearson says, that Ignatius refers to the doctrine of the Ebionites in his Epistle to Polycarp, and in those to the Ephesians, the Magnesians, and the Philadelphians; but I find no such references in them, except perhaps two passages which may easily be supposed to have been altered; because when corrected by an Unitarian, nothing is wanting to the evident purpose of the writer; whereas, his censures of the Gnostics are frequent and copious; so that no person can pretend to leave them without materially injuring the epistles.

Besides, there are in these epistles of Ignatius several things that are unfavourable to the doctrine of the divinity of Christ. Thus to the Ephesians he says, "How much more must I think you happy who are so joined to him" (the bishop)" as the church is to Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ to the Father; that so all things may agree in the same unity!" To the Magnesians he says, "As therefore the

• Sect, iv.—vi., Wake, p. 116. (P.)

‡ Ibid. (Sect. v.) p. 66. ̄ (P.)

+ Ibid. (Sect. vii.) p. 117.

Lord did nothing without the Father, being united to him, neither by himself nor yet by his apostles; so neither do ye do any thing without your bishop and presbyters."*

What this excellent man said when he appeared before the emperor Trajan, was the language of an Unitarian. "You err," he said, "in that you call the evil spirits of the Heathens, GODS. For there is but one God, who made heaven and earth, and the sea, and all that are in them; and one Jesus Christ, his only-begotten Son; whose kingdom may I enjoy! "+


I am, &c.

Of the Sentiments of Justin Martyr, Irenæus, and Clemens Alexandrinus, concerning Heresy.


IF, after what I have seen in your Charge and in these Letters, I could be surprised at any thing you say on these subjects, it would be at your so confidently maintaining,‡ that Justin Martyr had a view to the Unitarians in those accounts of heresy in general which I quoted from him ;§ when any person with a small portion of that reading of which you pretend to so much, must know that every word and phrase in those accounts, especially the charge of pride, atheism, and blasphemy, is appropriated to the Gnostics, and the Gnostics only. I must take the liberty to say, that you know nothing at all of the ancient ecclesiastical writers, if you can imagine that the Unitarians are ever described by them in this manner. I am even ashamed to argue with any man who, if he has read the early fathers at all, has read them to so little purpose.

To me it is indisputably clear that Justin Martyr considered no other class of persons as heretics, unfit to have communion with Christians, but the Gnostics only. Let any reasonable man but compare these passages in which he censures the Gnostics with so much severity, with those in which he speaks of the Unitarians, (in which I still am of opinion he makes an apology to them for his own principles, but which certainly imply no censure,) and I think he can

* Sect. vii., Wake, p. 80. (P.)

† Ibid. p. 181. (P.) "Relation of the Martyrdom of St. Ignatius," Sect. v. Letters, p. 79. (P) Tracts, p. 180. 16—20, 64, 65.

§ See supra, pp.

not but conclude with me, that Unitarianism was considered in those times in a very different light from what it was afterwards, and is now.

Justin also particularly mentions his having no objection to hold communion with those Jewish Christians who observed the law of Moses, provided they did not impose it upon others.* Now who could those be but Jewish Unitarians? For, agreeable to the evidence of all antiquity, all the Jewish Christians were such.

It is truly remarkable, and may not have been observed by you, as indeed it was not by myself till very lately, that Irenæus, who has written so large a work on the subject of heresy, after the time of Justin, and in a country where it is probable there were fewer Unitarians, again and again characterizes them in such a manner as makes it evident that even he did not consider any other persons as being properly heretics besides the Gnostics. He expresses a great dislike of the Ebionites; but though he appears to have known none of them besides those who denied the miraculous conception, he never calls them heretics. I had thought that in one passage he had included them in that appellation; but observing that in his introduction and other places, in which he speaks of heretics in general, he evidently meant the Gnostics only, and could not carry his views any further, I was led to reconsider that particular passage, and I found that I had been mistaken in my construction of it.

"All heretics," he says, "being untaught, and ignorant of the dispensations of God, and especially of that which relates to man, as being blind with respect to the truth, oppose their own salvation; some introducing another Father besides the maker of the world; others saying, that the world, and the matter of it, was made by angels," &c.; and after mentioning other similar opinions, he adds, "Others not knowing the dispensation of the Virgin, say, that he (Jesus) was begotten by Joseph. Some say, that neither

* Dial. p. 23. This circumstance may throw some light on the passage in Jerome, in which he speaks of the Ebionites as anathematized solely on account of their adherence to the Jewish law. The Ebionites, at least many of them, would have imposed the yoke of the Jewish law upon the Gentile Christians, they would not communicate with those who were not circumcised, and of course these would not communicate with them; so they were necessarily in a state of excommunication with respect to each other. This would also be the case with the Cerinthians, as well as the Ebionites, and therefore Jerome mentions them together, the separation of communion with respect to both, arising from the observance of the law of Moses; though Jerome might write unguardedly, as he often did, in confounding the case of the Cerinthians so much as he here does with that of the Ebionites. (P.)

« PreviousContinue »