Page images
[ocr errors]

ciples, was warmly opposed by Christian writers of the second and third century. In these writings, there is positive evidence that Basilides received the Gospel of Matthew; and there is no sufficient proof that he rejected any of the other three on the contrary, it appears that he wrote a commentary upon the Gospel, so copious as to be divided into twenty-four books*.

II. The Valentinians appeared about the same time. Their heresy consisted in certain notions concerning angelic natures, which can hardly be rendered intelligible to a modern reader. They seem, however, to have acquired as much importance as any of the separatists of that early age. Of this sect, Irenæus, who wrote A. D. 172, expressly records that they endeavoured to fetch arguments for their opinions from the evangelic and apostolic writings. Heracleon, one of the most celebrated of the sect, and who lived probably so early as the year 125, wrote commentaries upon

* Lardner, vol. ix. ed. 1788, p. 305 306

+ Ib. p. 350, 351.



Ib. vol. i. p. 383.

Luke and John*.

Some observations also

of his upon Matthew are preserved by Origent. Nor is there any reason to doubt that he received the whole New Testament.

III. The Carpocratians were also an early heresy, little, if at all, later than the two preceding. Some of their opinions resembled what we at this day mean by Socinianism. With respect to the Scriptures, they are specifically charged, by Irenæus and by Epiphanius, with endeavouring to pervert a passage in Matthew, which amounts to a positive proof that they received that Gospel §. Negatively, they are not accused by their adversaries of rejecting any part of the New Testa


IV. The Sethians, A. D. 150||; the Montanists, A. D. 156¶; the Marcosians, A. D. 160**; Hermogenes, A. D. 180; Praxias, A. D. 196: Artemon, A. D. 200 §§;

* Lardner, vol. ix. ed. 1788, p. 352.

Ib. 309.

¶ Ib. 482.

‡‡ lb. 433.

§ Ib. 318.

** Ib. 348.
§§ Ib. 466.

+ Ib. 353.

|| Ib. 455. ++ Ib. 473.

Theodotus, A. D. 200; all included under the denomination of heretics, and all engaged in controversies with Catholic Christians, received the Scriptures of the New Testament.

V. Tatian, who lived in the year 172, went into many extravagant opinions, was the founder of a sect called Encratites, and was deeply involved in disputes with the Christians of that age; yet Tatian so received the four Gospels, as to compose a harmony from them.

VI. From a writer, quoted by Eusebius, of about the year 200, it is apparent that they, who at that time contended for the mere humanity of Christ, argued from the Scriptures; for they are accused by this writer, of making alterations in their copies, in order to favour their opinions *.

VII. Origen's sentiments excited great controversies, the bishops of Rome and Alexandria, and many others, condemning,

* Lardner, vol. iii. p. 46.


the bishops of the East espousing them yet there is not the smallest question, but that both the advocates and adversaries of these opinions acknowledged the same authority of Scripture. In his time, which the reader will remember was about one hundred and fifty years after the Scriptures were published, many dissensions subsisted amongst Christians, with which they were reproached by Celsus; yet Origen, who has recorded this accusation without contradicting it, nevertheless testifies, “that the four Gospels were received without dispute, by the whole church of God under heaven *"

VIII. Paul of Samosata, about thirty years after Origen, so distinguished himself in the controversy concerning the nature of Christ, as to be the subject of two councils or synods, assembled at Antioch, upon his opinions. Yet he is not charged by his adversaries with rejecting any book of the New Testament. On the contrary, Epiphanius, who wrote a history of here

* Lardner, vol. iv. p. 642.

tics a hundred years afterwards, says, that Paul endeavoured to support his doctrine by texts of Scripture. And Vincentius Lirinensis, A. D. 434, speaking of Paul and other heretics of the same age, has these words" Here, perhaps, some one may ask, whether heretics also urge the testimony of Scripture. They urge it indeed, explicitly and vehemently; for you may see them flying through every book of the sacred law *.

IX. A controversy at the same time existed with the Noëtians or Sabellians, who seem to have gone into the opposite extreme from that of Paul of Samosata and his followers. Yet, according to the express testimony of Epiphanius, Sabellius received all the Scriptures. And with both sects Catholic writers constantly allege the Scriptures, and reply to the arguments which their opponents drew from particular texts.

We have here, therefore, a proof, that parties, who were the most opposite and

* Lardner, vol. xi. p. 158.

« PreviousContinue »