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The interpretation, which I have given to these two passages, will perhaps be confirmed, when we find at the end of the last, that we be no more children, tossed to and
fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive. (Ephes. iv. 14.) Some false doctrines are evidently alluded to in these words : and the passages which precede them, incline us to refer them to the Gnostics.
There is also a passage in the Epistle to the Colossians, which may strongly remind us of the mystical knowledge to which the Gnostics pretended. St. Paul expresses his hope, that their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgment of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ; in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. (ii. 2, 3.) According to the Gnostics, the mystery of God and the treasures of wisdom and knowledge belonged exclusively to themselves. St. Paul therefore means to point out to the Colossians the emptiness of this boast, and to lead them to that pure and holy source, where true knowledge was only to be found. In the same manner I might quote many passages, where St. Paul contrasts the wisdom of the world with the wisdom of God. The Greeks, he says, seek after
after το ον, says that Matter αόριστος, άλογον ει δε άλογος, άcannot be το ον, ποταμός γάρ ή γνωστον. The pretensions of the ύλη ροώδης και οξύρροπος, βάθος Gnostics to penetrate the depths και πλάτος και μήκος αόριστος. of God, may perhaps be alluded (Eus. Præp. Evang. XV. 17. p. to in Rev. ii. 24. by the words 819.) and what follows might rà Báon toù Satavā. This was seem to connect this sentiment the opinion of Hammond, de with the Gnostics, eicoti Önelpos Antichristo. III. 1. p. 5. See η ύλη, αόριστον είναι αυτήν ει δε also Rom. xi. 33. 1 Cor. ii. το.
wisdom: but we preach Christ crucified, the power of God, and the wisdom of God. (1 Cor. i. 22—24.) and again, We speak wisdom among them that are perfect : yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought: but we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory. (ii. 6,7.) There is a danger perhaps of indulging our fancy in tracing these allusions to the Gnostic doctrines'. I have confined myself at present to those passages which seem to refer to that knowledge which gave to the Gnostics their peculiar name.
In my next Lecture I shall endeavour to illustrate some other texts, in which different points of this philosophy appear to be described. But since the Gnosticism, which we have to consider, was not merely a mixture of Platonism and Judaism, but also adopted and corrupted some doctrines of the gospel, I shall begin by inquiring who was the Gnostic that first borrowed any part of the Christian scheme: and if we can ascertain what were the principles which he professed, or the system which he invented, we shall be most likely to discover the errors which the apostles were called upon to oppose.
That St. Paul had to combat some false systems, and to caution his flock against some pretensions of worldly wisdom, is evident beyond dispute. The Fathers, as I have observed, conceived him to allude to Gnosticism. Upon this point, at least, their
The word nõois may be 2 Cor. vi. 6. viii. 7. 8. 5. xi. 6. used with reference to the Gnos. The first of these is referred to tics in the following passages, the Gnostics by Irenæus, II. 1 Cor. vii. 1. 7. xii. 8. xii. 8.
26. 1. p. 154.
testimony is of the highest value. The writers of the second century saw the evil at its height: and though they may sometimes have strained a passage, to expose the errors of their opponents, yet they had no interest in tracing back the Gnostic doctrines to the apostolic age, or in shewing, contrary to truth, that knowledge falsely so called could raise alarm in the mind even of St. Paul.
2 Tim. ii. 13. Evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving
and being deceived. I STATED in my last Lecture, that I should now proceed to consider who was the first Gnostic, that mixed up Christianity with his own false and heterogeneous philosophy. If ancient testimony is to decide the question, there could only be one opinion upon the subject : for the early Fathers are nearly unanimous in saying, that the parent of all heresies, by which they mean of Gnostic heresies, was Simon Magusa. The truth of this assertion has been denied by some writers, and particularly by Mosheim,
“ This impious man is not to be ranked " among the number of those who corrupted with " their errors the purity and simplicity of the Chris" tian doctrine; nor is he to be considered as the “ parent and chief of the heretical tribe, in which
point of light he has been injudiciously viewed by * almost all ancient and modern writers : he is " rather to be placed in the number of those who were enemies to the progress and advancement of
I may mention Irenæus I. 4. p. 58. XXVII. 1. p. 102. 23. 2. p. 99. II. Præf. 1. p. Pseudo-Cyprian. de Rebaptism. 115. III. Præf. p. 173. Eu- p. 365. Cyrill. Hierosol. Caseb. Hist. Eccles. II. 13. The- teches. VI. 14. p. 95. XVI. 6. odoret. Hær. Fab. I. 23. p. 209. p. 296. See Ittigius, de HeCompend. p. 188. II. Præf. p. resiarchis, p. 39. . 215. Epiphanius, Hær. XXI.
Christianity b.” And again, “ The notion that all " the various sects of the Gnostics derived their origin “ from Simon Magus, is entirely groundless.” The argument here advanced by Mosheim is the same which is used by all persons who deny the assertion of the Fathers': but the seeming difference of opinion may perhaps be removed by a definition of terms: and the remark which I made in my first Lecture concerning the word heresy, may enable us to understand the meaning of the Fathers, and to assent to the truth of their remark. If we mean by the term heretic, a man who
professes to believe the genuine doctrine of the gospel, but whose opinions have been pronounced by the church to be erroneous, then we should not call Simon Magus the parent of all heresies. But I have observed, that this was not the sense in which the term was used by the Fathers, who called a man an heretic, if he invented or adopted any peculiar opinion. We are not therefore to take an expression of the Fathers, and examine it according to ideas which are different from theirs : and though it may be true that Simon Magus was “ an enemy to the pro
gress and advancement of Christianity,” though he cannot in fact be called a Christian, yet if he borrowed any part of the Christian scheme, and
c Ib. p. 143:
b Eccles. Hist. vol. I. p. 140. Librorum. IV. p. 226. J. F.
Buddeus had previously exd Mosheim has asserted the pressed a doubt, de Hær. Vasame in his Com. de Rebus ante lentin. XVI. p. 641. and they Const. Cent. I. 65. not. ". and have been followed by Orsi, in his Dissertation de uno Si. Storia Ecclesiastica, vol. I. p. mone Mago, 6. p. 68. Instit. 348. Beausobre, vol. I. p. 34. II. Maj. p. 394. though he rather p. 2. Brucker, vol. II. p. 670. qualifies his assertion in his See also Buddeus, Eccles. Apost. Dissertation de Causis suppos. P. 317.