Page images

conception. The other creed, therefore, which is not the apostles', must be his own comment or exposition of the proper regula fidei, or creed, (and indeed it has all the appearance of a comment, as may be seen by the comparison,) and all that we can conclude from it is, that it contains his own opinion, which is well known from his writings in general.

To prove that the regula fidei in the treatise De Præscriptione was the belief of all Christians in that age, you must prove that it was the creed that all Christians gave their assent to; and this assent was only given at the time of baptism. But that regula fidei (which supposes the pre-existence of Christ) is nowhere to be found but in this particular passage in the writings of Tertullian; whereas, that which is called the Apostles' Creed, is, with some variations, frequently mentioned, and is known to have been the only creed that was used at baptism in the time of Tertullian, and long afterwards.

That Tertullian alluded to none but the Gnostics in the regula fidei of his treatise De Præscriptione, is evident from every clause in it, and from the object of the work, which respects the Gnostics only, the Unitarians being only occasionally and slightly mentioned in it. Though, therefore, a single feature in this account is found in the Unitarians as well as in the Gnostics, it is the whole character that we are to attend to, and not that feature in particular.

In all other places in which I have found Tertullian to speak of heresy in general, it is most evident that his ideas went no further than to the opinions of the Gnostics, except that he once calls Ebion a heretic, and then he expressly makes his heresy to consist in his observance of the Jewish ritual.*

"Heresies," he says, "do not differ from idolatry, having the same author and the same work with idolaters; for that they make another God against the Creator; or, if they acknowledge one creator, they discourse of him in a manner different from the truth."+ Heretics, he says, "deny that God is to be feared;" which agrees with his saying that

"Ad Galatas scribens invehitur in observatores et defensores circumcisionis et legis. Hebionis hæresis est." De Præs. Sect. xxxiii. Opera, p. 214. (P.) +"Neque ab idololatria distare hæreses, cum et auctoris et operis ejusdem sint cujus et idololatria. Deum aut fingunt alium adversus Creatorem, aut, si unicum creatorem confitentur, aliter eum disserunt quam in vero." De Præs. Sect. xl. Opera, p. 217. (P.)

"Negant Deum timendum." De Pras. Sect. xliii. Opera, p. 218. (P.) VOL. XVIII.

"the Heathen philosophers were the patriarchs of heresy," for they held that doctrine; but it was very remote from any thing that is ever laid to the charge of the Unitarians.

"Heretics," he says, "associated with the magi, with fortune-tellers, with astrologers, with philosophers; being actuated by a principle of curiosity; so that the quality of their faith may be judged of from their manner of life, for discipline is the index of doctrine."+

The whole of this account is inconsistent with Tertullian's considering Unitarians as heretics; but much more is his saying that the Valentinians were the most numerous of all the heretics," and that "the heretics had nothing to do with their discipline. Their want of communion," he says, "shews that they are foreign to us."§ For it is most evident that those whom he calls simplices and idiota were ranked by him among the credentes, or believers. They were even the major pars credentium, though Unitarians, and holding the doctrine of the Trinity in abhorrence.

Let any person judge from the whole of this, if it must not have been inconsiderate, at least, in Tertullian, and inconsistent with himself, to call those persons heretics, who could not subscribe to that form of the creed which includes the article of pre-existence, and which was not assented to at baptism.

Tertullian also recites the articles of the creed in a third form, in his book against Praxeas. But as in the former he evidently had a view to the Gnostics only, so in this he had a view to the opinions of Praxeas, whom he was refuting. This, therefore, as well as the other, though delivered in the form of a creed, and said to be held by all Christians, can only be considered as his own comment upon it, and as containing his own opinion. It is as follows:

"We believe in one God, but under that dispensation which we call the aconomy; so that there is also a son of this one God, his word, who proceeded from him, by whom all things were made, and without whom nothing was made;

"Hæreticorum patriarchæ philosophi." Adv. Hermog. Sect. viii. Opera, p. 236. (P.)

+"Notata etiam sunt commercia hæreticorum cum magis, quampluribus: cum circulatoribus, cum astrologis, cum philosophis, curiositati scilicet deditis.-Adeo et de genere conversationis qualitas fidei æstimari potest: doctrinæ index disciplina est." De Præs. Sect. xliii. Opera, p. 218. (P.)

"Valentiniani frequentissimum plani collegium inter hæreticos." Adv. Valent. Sect. i. Opera, p. 250. (P.)

§ "Hæretici autem nullum habent consortium nostræ disciplinæ, quos extraneos utique testatur ipsa ademptio communicationis." De Baptismo, Sect. xv. Opera, p. 230. (P.)

that he was sent by the Father into a virgin, and of her born man and God, the son of man, and the son of God, and called Jesus Christ; that he suffered, died, and was buried, according to the Scriptures; that he was raised by the Father, and taken up again into heaven; that he sits at the right hand of the Father, and will come to judge the living and the dead; who thence, according to his promise, sent from the Father the Holy Spirit, the comforter, and the sanctifier of the faith of those who believe in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit."*

Let the impartial reader then judge whether we are not more likely to find the genuine proper creed, which was considered as containing the faith of all Christians, unmixed with any peculiar opinions of Tertullian's own, in the treatise De Virginibus velandis, in which he is not opposing orthodoxy to heterodoxy, but simply faith to practice.

I am really surprised that you should lay so much stress on the testimony of Tertullian, admitting it to be clear and uniform, which it is far from being, and also on that of Eusebius, with respect to the general faith of Christians even in their own times, and much more in times preceding them, when it is so common for men to represent the opinions of those whom they esteem, as the same with their own. Every man should be heard with caution when he praises himself; and what he says in one place should be compared with what he says in another, and especially what he drops as it were accidentally, and when he was off his guard. As I said before, "their evidence in these cases is not to be regarded, unless they bring some sufficient proof of their assertions."

Had Tertullian, Origen, and others, thought more highly of the common people than they did, we should probably never have known from them what their opinions were. But happily for us they thought meanly of them, and, without being aware of the use and value of the information, have given us sufficient lights into this very important circumstance in the history of their times. But in this, as

"Unicum quidem Deum credimus, sub hac tamen dispensatione quarn œcouomiam dicimus, ut unici Dei sit et filius sermo ipsius, qui ex ipso processerit, per quem omnia facta sunt, et sine quo factum est nibil; hunc missum à Patre in virginem, et ex ea natum hominem et deum, filium hominis et filium Dei, et cognominatum Jesum Christum. Hunc passum, hunc mortuum, et sepultum, secundum scripturas, et resuscitatum à Patre, et in cælos resumptum, sedere ad dextram Patris, venturum judicare vivos et mortuos, qui exinde miserit, secundum promissionem suam, à Patre spiritum sanctum, paracletum, sanctificatorem fidei eorum qui credunt in Patrem et Filium et Spiritum sanctum." Adv. Praxeam, Sect. ii. Opera, p. 501. (P.)

well as in several other respects, you, Sir, have been led into several mistakes through your ignorance of human nature; the knowledge of which, and a due attention to it, would have been of much more service to you in these inquiries than your knowledge of Greek, in which, however, I do not perceive that you greatly abound. This ignorance of human nature appears in your insisting, that if I admit the evidence of Eusebius for the existence of the Ebionites in the time of the apostles, I must admit his testimony to their condemnation of them.

As Theodotus, who appeared in the time of Tertullian, is called a heretic in the Appendix to Tertullian's book De Præscriptione, I think it probable that, after his excommunication, he formed a church of pure Unitarians, and might be the first who set up a separate place of worship on that account, and therefore was denominated a heretic in the original sense of that word; and this circumstance might give rise to the opinion that he was the first who taught the doctrine.

When Eusebius wrote so as evidently to suppose that the Ebionites existed in the time of the apostles, you say, "I consider it as a hasty assertion of a writer over zealous to overwhelm his adversary by authorities." I suspect that he may have been guilty of something like this, when he said that Theodotus was excommunicated by Victor on account of his Unitarian principles. That he was excommunicated I admit; but that his Unitarian principles was the sole ground of his excommunication I have some doubt, considering your own idea of the credit of the witness, which indeed is pretty much the same as my own.

I am, &c.

[blocks in formation]

WHAT I have said concerning Clemens Alexandrinus and Tertullian is true also of Origen, and these writers may help to explain each other. No man took more pains to inculcate the doctrine of the Logos than Origen, and he thought meanly of those Christians who did not adopt it, considering them as of an inferior rank; but I believe he never

⚫ Letters, p. 174. (P.)

Letters, p. 173. (P.)

† See supra, p. 58, Note

classes them with heretics; and whenever he speaks of heretics in general, he, as well as all preceding writers, evidently had a view to the Gnostics only. In his treatise entitled Philosophumena, which is the first of his books against the heretics, it is evident that he considered none in that light besides the Gnostics.t

In one place he evidently considers the Unitarians and heretics separately, as two distinct classes of men; but supposes that the Unitarians confounded the persons of the Father and the Son, on which account they were called Patripassians. But notwithstanding the evil that he says of them, he acknowledges that they adhere to their opinion, as thinking that it did honour to Christ, as on other occasions. he ascribes it to their regard to the one true God the Father. "We are not," says he," to consider those as taking the part of Christ who think falsely concerning him, out of an idea of doing him honour. Such are those who confound the intellect of the Father and the Son, distinguishing their substance in idea and name only; and also the heretics, who, out of a desire of speaking magnificently concerning him, carry their blasphemy very high, even to the Maker of the world, are not on his side."+

It is evident to me that in the time of Origen, viz. the beginning of the third century, the doctrine of the divinity of Christ was so far from being generally received, except by the bishops and the more learned of the clergy; that it was considered as a sublime doctrine, proper, indeed, for persons who had made advances in divine knowledge, but not adapted to the vulgar, who were content with the plain doctrine of Jesus Christ, and him crucified; looking no further than to his humanity, as it is delivered in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. John's doctrine of the Logos was thought to be too sublime for the generality of Chris


"No one," says Origen, "taught the divinity of Christ so clearly as John, who presents him to us, saying, I am the light of the world; I am the way, the truth, and the life; I

• See his Commentary on Matt. I. pp. 156, 159, 212, 287, 475, and many other passages in his writings. (P.)

+ See pp. 6, 8, and 16, of that work, as published by Wolfius at Hamburg, in 1706. (P.)

1 Ου νομίζειν γαρ ειναι ύπερ αυτε τες τα ψευδη φρονοντας περί αυτε φαντασία, το δοξάζειν αυτον· ὁποιοι εισιν συγχέοντες πατρος και υἱε εννοιαν, και τῇ ὑποςασει ἕνα διδοντες είναι τον πατέρα και τον υίον, τη επινοιᾳ μονῇ, και τοις ονόμασι, διαιρέντες το ἑν ὑποκειμενον· και εἱ απο των αἱρέσεων, φαντασια τε μεγαλα περι αυτο φρονειν, αδικιαν εις το ύψος λαλεν"Comment in Matt.;τες, και κακως λεγοντες τον δημιεργον, ουκ εισιν ὑπερ αυτό. Origenis Commentar." ed. Huetit, Rothomag. 1668, I. p. 470. (P.)

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »