Imágenes de páginas

in deluding the inhabitants of Samaria and Judæa. Our Lord foretold, that false Christs and false prophets should arise, who would shew great signs and wonders: he adds, If they shall say unto you, Behold he is in the desert, go not forthk: (Matt. xxiv. 24–26.) and it is remarkable how exactly the words of Josephus prove the completion of the prophecy. The Jewish historian tells us, that toward the end of the reign of Claudius magicians and impostors persuaded the multitude to follow them into the desert, for they would shew them signs and wonders ; and many were persuaded, and suffered for their folly! It has been thought by some that Josephus actually names the person of whom we are now speaking: for he mentions a Jew, of the name of Simon, a Cyprian by birth, who was a friend of Felix the governor, and pretended to be a magician M. This, however, is mere conjecture: and the name of Simon was so common in that country, that we cannot infer any thing from the coincidence, particularly when Justin says expressly, that Simon Magus was a native of Samaria". We need not go beyond the mysteries of the Cabbala to understand that the exercise of magic would be popular in Judæa: and if it be true that Simon Magus studied at Alexandria, he would find that the Pythagorean and Platonic doctrines were by no means free from such supersti

See Matt. xxiv. 5. 11. Baron. ad an. 35. n. 20. p. 104. Mark xiii. 5, 6. Luke xxi. 8.

Luke xxi. 8. It is doubted by Ittigius, p. 27. | Antiq. xx. 8. 6. p. 972. J. C. Wolfius, Cur. Philol. ad m Ib. 7. 2. p. 969.

Act. Apost. viii. 9. p. 1125. The Simon mentioned by Brucker, vol. II. p. 668. MoJosephus was considered to be sheim thinks it safer to follow Simon Magus by Le Moyne, Justin. Instit. Maj. p. 398, 9. Proleg. ad Var. Sacr. 18. 2. 6. though he once held a different Basnage, Exerc. H. Crit. c. opinion, Deuno Simone Mago, 17.

tions. We have thus a key to the astonishing success which Simon Magus obtained in propagating his doctrines. He deluded the multitude by lying wonders ; he enticed the learned by philosophy and vain deceit. It is probable that the name of Christ was profaned to both these purposes. We know from the Acts of the Apostles that exorcism was a regular profession among the Jewso: (xix. 13.) and though Simon found that the gift of God was not to be purchased with money, (viii. 20.) he would try to imitate the Apostles as much as he could, and, like the sons of Sceva, he would call over them which had evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus. (xix. 13.) When the unhappy demoniacs were acted upon by fancy, the experiment would often succeed : and thus that holy name, at which every knee should bow, was associated with impious rites, and used as the spell of an enchanter.

With respect to the doctrines of Simon Magus, we know for certain that Christ held a conspicuous place in the philosophy which he taught: but to define with accuracy the various points of this philosophy, is a difficult, if not impossible task. The Fathers perhaps may be suspected of laying too many impieties to the charge of this heretic; and some of their accounts cannot be reconciled with each other. Still, however, we may extract from their writings an outline of the truth; and in this instance, as before, I would attach particular weight to the authority of Justin Martyr. That writer says, that nearly all the inhabitants of Samaria, and a few persons in other countries, acknowledged and

• See Harenbergius, de Magis Judæis, in Mus. Bremens, vol. I.

worshipped Simon Magus as the first, or supreme GodP: and in another place he says that they styled him God above all dominion and authority and power4. Later writers have increased the blasphemy of this doctrine ; and said that Simon declared himself to the Samaritans as the Father, to the Jews as the Son, and to the rest of the world as the Holy Ghost". But I cannot bring myself to believe that he ever advanced so far in wickedness or absurdity. The true state of the case may perhaps be collected from the words of St. Luke, who tells us that Simon gave himself out to be some great one, and that the people said of him, This man is the great power of God. (Acts viii. 10.) Such is the title which he bore before he had heard of Christ; and there is no reason to think that he afterwards raised his pretensions, and identified himself with God. He gave himself out as the great power of God, i.e. a person in whom divine power resideds: and, after he had heard the Apostles, he seems to have so far enlarged his doctrine, as to have said, that the God, whose minister he was, and who had always been worshipped in Samaria, had revealed himself to the


P Apol. I. 26. p. 59. “speciosus, ego Paracletus,

9 Dial. cum Tryph. 120. p. ego omnipotens, ego omnia 214.

“ Dei." (in Matt. xxiv. 5. vol. i Iren. I. 23. p. 99. II. 9. VII. p. 193.) See Siricius de 2. p. 126. Epiphan. Hær. XXI. Simone Mago, Disq. I. Thes.

Vol. I. p. 55. Vol. II. p. 31. p. 30. 139. Theodoret. Hær. Fab. I.

s For the meaning attached 1. p. 192. Augustin. Hær. vol. by Simon to the word dúvaus, VIII. p. 6. Tertullian also see Mosheim, Instit. Maj. p. says, that Simon called himself 401. Suicer, v. dúvapis. It

summum Patrem.(De Ani- may have been on this account ma, 34. p. 290.) Jerom repre. that St. Paul calls Christ the sents Simon as saying, “ Ego power of God and the wisdom

sum Sermo Dei, ego sum of God, i Cor. i. 24.

Jews by his Son, and to the rest of the world by the Holy Ghost. There is reason to believe that he declared himself to be the Christ who appeared to the Jews; or rather, he said that the same spirit which descended upon Jesus had descended afterwards upon himself; for he did not believe that Jesus had a real body, but he taught that he was only a phantom. To this he added, that the Holy Ghost, by which God was revealed to the Gentiles, resided in himself: and this I take to be the real origin of the story, that he was the God who revealed himself as the Father to the Samaritans, as the Son to the Jews, and as the Holy Ghost to the rest of the world.

Another charge, which it is equally difficult to believe, relates to a female companion, whom he is said to have declared to be the first Idea, or Conception, which he, as God, put forth from his mind. By another mental process, in which this first Idea was a partner, he produced the Angels, and they created the world. All this is highly mystical, and writers have had recourse to different allegories, by which the absurdity may be explained. That Simon never identified a real living person with an Idea. emanating from the mind of God, may, I think, be assumed as certain*7. But we see in this story evident traces of the Gnostic doctrines. Valentinus, in the second century, made the first Cause, or Bythus, act upon Eryn, or 'Eroia, i. e. upon his own mind, and produce the first pair of Æons. This, then, was the doctrine of Simon: The supreme God, by a mental process, produced different orders of Angels, and they created the world. It was this same God, whose first or principal power resided in Simon

[ocr errors]

Magus. But when later writers had said that he actually proclaimed himself as God, it followed that it was he, who, by an operation of his own mind, produced the Angels.

If I have argued rightly, I have freed the doctrine of Simon Magus from some of its impieties; but there is still much which is absurd, and much which is impious; for he believed that the world was created, not by the supreme God, but by inferior beings : he taught also, that Christ was one of those successive generations of Æons which were derived from God; not the Æon which created the world ; but he was sent from God to rescue mankind from the tyranny of the Demiurgus, or creative Æons. Simon was also inventor of the strange notion, that the Person who was said to be born and crucified had not a material body, but was only a phantom. His other doctrines were, that the writers of the Old Testament were not inspired by the supreme God, the fountain of good, but by those inferior beings who created the world, and who were the authors of evil. He denied a general resurrection; and the lives of himself and his followers are said to have been a continued course of impure and vicious conduct.

Such was the doctrine and the practice of Simon Magus, from whom all the pseudo-Christian or Gnostic heresies were said to be derived. Simon himself seems to have been one of those Jews, who, as we learn from the Acts of the Apostles, travelled about the country, exorcising evil spirits! But he was also a man of speculative mind; and, having

[blocks in formation]
« AnteriorContinuar »