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the Docetes, a numerous and learned sect of Asiatics, invented the phantastic system, which was afterwards propagated by the Marcionites, the Manichaeans, and

CHAP. XLVII.

the various names of the Gnostic heresy." They

denied the truth and authenticity of the gospels, as far as they relate the conception of Mary, the birth of Christ, and the thirty years that preceded the exercise of his ministry. He first appeared on the banks of the Jordan in the form of perfect manhood; but it was a form only, and not a substance; a human figure created by the hand of Omnipotence to imitate the faculties and actions of a man, and to impose a perpetual illusion on the senses of his friends and enemies. Articulate sounds vibrated on the ears of the disciples; but the image which was impressed on their optic nerve eluded the more stubborn evidence of the touch; and they enjoyed the spiritual, not the corporeal, presence of the Son of God. The rage of the Jews was idly wasted against an impassive phantom; and the mystic scenes of the passion and death, the resurrection and ascension of Christ, were represented on the theatre of Jerusalem for the benefit of mankind. If it were urged, that such ideal mimicry, such incessant deception, was unworthy of the God of truth, the Docetes agreed with too many of their orthodox brethren in the justification of pious falsehood. In the system of the Gnostics, the Jehovah of Israel, the Creator of this lower world, was a rebellious, or at least an ignorant, spirit. The Son of God descended upon earth to abolish his temple and his law; and, for the accom

to St. John, are levelled against the growing error of the Docetes, who had obtained too much credit in the world (1 John iv. 1–5).

* About the year 200 of the Christian aera, Irenaeus and Hippolytus refuted the thirty-two sects, orns ovāavvaow yorios, which had multiplied to fourscore in the time of Epiphanius (Phot. Biblioth. cod. cxx, cKxi, cKxii). The five books of Irenaeus exist only in barbarous Latin; but the original might perhaps be found in some monastery of Greece.

CHAP. XLVII.

His incorruptible body.

plishment of this salutary end, he dexterously trans-
ferred to his own person the hope and prediction of
a temporal Messiah.
One of the most subtle disputants of the Mani-
chaean school has pressed the danger and indecency
of supposing, that the God of the Christians, in the
state of a human foetus, emerged at the end of nine
months from a female womb. The pious horror of
his antagonists provoked them to disclaim all sensual
circumstances of conception and delivery; to main-
tain, that the divinity passed through Mary like a
sun-beam through a plate of glass; and to assert,
that the seal of her virginity remained unbroken even
at the moment when she became the mother of Christ.
But the rashness of these concessions has encouraged
a milder sentiment of those of the Docetes, who
taught, not that Christ was a phantom, but that he
was clothed with an impassible and incorruptible
body. Such, indeed, in the more orthodox system,
he has acquired since his resurrection, and such he
must have always possessed, if it were capable of
pervading, without resistance or injury, the density
of intermediate matter. Devoid of its most essential
properties, it might be exempt from the attributes
and infirmities of the flesh. A foetus that could in-
crease from an invisible point to its full maturity; a
child that could attain the stature of perfect man-
hood, without deriving any nourishment from the
ordinary sources, might continue to exist without
repairing a daily waste by a daily supply of external
matter. Jesus might share the repasts of his disciples
without being subject to the calls of thirst or hunger;
and his virgin purity was never sullied by the in-
voluntary stains of sensual concupiscence. Of a body
thus singularly constituted, a question would arise,
by what means, and of what materials, it was ori-
ginally framed; and our sounder theology is startled

by an answer which was not peculiar to the Gnostics, that both the form and the substance proceeded from the divine essence. The idea of pure and absolute spirit is a refinement of modern philosophy: the incorporeal essence, ascribed by the ancients to human souls, celestial beings, and even the Deity himself, does not exclude the notion of extended space; and their imagination was satisfied with a subtle nature of air, or fire, or aether, incomparably more perfect than the grossness of the material world. If we define the place, we must describe the figure, of the Deity. Our experience, perhaps our vanity, represents the powers of reason and virtue under a human form. The Anthropomorphites, who swarmed among the monks of Egypt and the Catholics of Africa, could produce the express declaration of Scripture, that man was made after the image of his Creator." The venerable Serapion, one of the saints of the Nitrian desert, relinquished, with many a tear, his darling prejudice; and bewailed, like an infant, his unlucky conversion, which had stolen away his God, and left his mind without any visible object of faith or devotion."

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III. Such were the fleeting shadows of the Docetes. III. Dou

A more substantial, though less simple hypothesis,

1 The pilgrim Cassian, who visited Egypt in the beginning of the vth century, observes and laments the reign of anthropomorphism among the monks, who were not conscious that they embraced the system of Epicurus (Cicero, de Nat. Deorum, i. 18. 34). Ab universo propemodum genere monachorum, qui per totam provinciam Egyptum morabantur, pro simplicitatis errore susceptum est, ut e contrario memoratum pontificem (Theophilus) velut haeresi gravissimä depravatum, pars maxima seniorum ab universo fraternitatis corpore decerneret detestandum (Cassian, Collation. x. 2). As long as St. Augustin remained a Manichaean, he was scandalized by the anthropomorphism of the vulgar Catholics.

"Ita est in oratione senex mente confusus, eo quod illam avéearogoetov imaginem Deitatis, quam proponere sibi in oratione consueverat, aboleri de suo corde sentiret, ut in amarissimos fletus, crebrosque singultus repente prorumpens, in terram prostratus, cum ejulatü validissimo proclamaret; “Heu me miserum ! tulerunt a me Deum meum, et quem nunc teneam non habeo, vel quem adorem, aut interpellam jam nescio.” Cassian, Collat. x. 2. -

ble nature of Cerinthus.

CHAP.

XLVII.

was contrived by Cerinthus of Asia," who dared to oppose the last of the apostles. Placed on the con

fines of the Jewish and Gentile world, he laboured

to reconcile the Gnostic with the Ebionite, by confessing in the same Messiah the supernatural union of a man and a God: and this mystic doctrine was adopted with many fanciful improvements by Carpocrates, Basilides, and Valentine,” the heretics of the Egyptian school. In their eyes, JESUs of Nazareth was a mere mortal, the legitimate son of Joseph and Mary: but he was the best and wisest of the human race, selected as the worthy instrument to restore upon earth the worship of the true and supreme Deity. When he was baptised in the Jordan, the CHRIST, the first of the aeons, the Son of God himself, descended on Jesus in the form of a dove, to inhabit his mind, and direct his actions during the allotted period of his ministry. When the Messiah was delivered into the hands of the Jews, the Christ, an immortal and impassible being, forsook his earthly tabernacle, flew back to the pleroma or world of spirits, and left the solitary Jesus to suffer, to complain, and to expire. But the justice and generosity of such a desertion are strongly questionable; and the fate of an innocent martyr, at first impelled, and at

* St. John and Cerinthus (A.D. 80. Cleric. Hist. Eccles. p. 493) accidentally met in the public bath of Ephesus; but the apostle fled from the heretic, lest the building should tumble on their heads. This foolish story, reprobated by Dr. Middleton (Miscellaneous Works, vol. ii.) is related however by Irenaeus (iii. 3), on the evidence of Polycarp, and was probably suited to the time and residence of Cerinthus. The obsolete, yet probably the true, reading of 1 John, iv. 3.−3 Avil roy Indovy—alludes to the double nature of that primitive heretic. .

• The Valentinians embraced a complex, and almost incoherent, system. 1. Both Christ and Jesus were aeons, though of different degrees; the one acting as the rational soul, the other as the divine spirit of the Saviour. 2. At the time of the passion, they both retired, and left only a sensitive soul and a human body. 3. Even that body was ethereal, and perhaps apparent.—Such are the laborious conclusions of Mosheim. But I much doubt whether the Latin translator understood Irenaeus, and whether Irenaeus and the Valentinians understood themselves.

length abandoned, by his divine companion, might
provoke the pity and indignation of the profane.
Their murmurs were variously silenced by the sec-
taries who espoused and modified the double system
of Cerinthus. It was alleged, that when Jesus was
nailed to the cross, he was endowed with a miraculous
apathy of mind and body, which rendered him insen-
sible of his apparent sufferings. It was affirmed, that
these momentary, though real pangs, would be abund-
antly repaid by the temporal reign of a thousand years
reserved for the Messiah in his kingdom of the new
Jerusalem. It was insinuated, that if he suffered, he
deserved to suffer; that human nature is never abso-
lutely perfect; and that the cross and passion might
serve to expiate the venial transgressions of the son
of Joseph, before his mysterious union with the Son
of God.P
IV. All those who believe the immateriality of the
soul, a specious and noble tenet, must confess, from
their present experience, the incomprehensible union
of mind and matter. A similar union is not incon-
sistent with a much higher, or even with the highest
degree, of mental faculties; and the incarnation of
an aeon or archangel, the most perfect of created
spirits, does not involve any positive contradiction or
absurdity. In the age of religious freedom, which
was determined by the council of Nice, the dignity
of Christ was measured by private judgment accord-
ing to the indefinite rule of Scripture, or reason, or
tradition. But when his pure and proper divinity
had been established on the ruins of Arianism, the
faith of the Catholics trembled on the edge of a pre-

P The heretics abused the passionate exclamation of “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me!” Rousseau, who has drawn an eloquent, but indecent, parallel between Christ and Socrates, forgets that not a word of impatience or despair escaped from the mouth of the dying philosopher. In the Messiah, such sentiments could be only apparent; and such ill-sounding words are properly explaincd as the application of a psalm and prophecy.

CHAP. XLVII.

IV. Divine incarnation of Apollinaris.

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