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St. Peter and St. Paul suffered martyrdom together at the end of the reign of Nero. The Neronian persecution began in the year 64: and it is probable that St. Paul arrived at Rome about that time, and was followed by St. Peter. We have thus an interval of six years between St. Paul leaving Rome and returning to it again : and in the course of that interval I should infer that Simon Magus once more preached his doctrines in that city.
The history of these six years, so far as concerns the labours of the apostles, is almost a perfect blank. We may learn a few facts concerning St. Paul from his Second Epistle to Timothy, which was written after his arrival in Rome: and this Epistle contains many expressions which may be referred to the Gnostic doctrines : but they relate to what happened at Ephesus, where Timothy was then residing; and we learn nothing of what had been going on at Rome, except from one short sentence, At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me. (iv. 16.) There may have been a predisposition in these persons to desert St. Paul, from the efforts which Simon Magus had made to gain proselytes during the apostle's absence: and when the flames of persecution arose, these false or wavering Christians may have been glad to screen themselves by saying, that they were followers of Simon, and not of Christ. What became of the impostor himself at that eventful period, we cannot learn: and when Eusebius tells us that his power and influence were extinguished by the preaching of St. Peter, it is difficult to conceive how this effect could have been produced, when the apostle himself was suffering from Nero's ferocious cruelties. Per
haps we are to understand, that the followers of Simon, when they saw that the name of Christian, which they had assumed, exposed their lives to danger, would readily abandon a belief which had gained no hold upon their heartst: but the true believers, whether at the stake or in the lion's mouth, confessed their Saviour and their God; and the constancy of these men would gain converts to the true faith, while the trembling followers of Simon were glad to be forgotten and unknown". This perhaps may be the true interpretation of the statement in Eusebius, without our having recourse to the dramatic effect of a public disputation between the apostle and the impostor *, or to the still more marvellous accounts which are given of the impostor's death. Certain it is that the church of Rome was less infected by heresies for several years than the churches of the easty; and when Ignatius wrote to the Romans, about forty or fifty years after the time of which we are treating, he particularly mentions their being free from false doctrines?. It is possible
+ This is confirmed by Ori- Hist. p. 206. Nicephor. II. 27. gen, who says of Simon, " that Glycas, Annal. p. 235. L. J. a “ in order to gain followers, S. Carolo, Biblioth. Pontif. p. “ he removed from his disci. 484. “ ples the danger of death, y This is said in several “ which the Christians were places by bishop Bull. (Jud. “ taught to undergo, by teach- Eccl. Cath. V. 2, 3. VI. 2. 19.) “ing them that idolatry was He quotes Ruffinus, who ob“ indifferent.” c. Cels. VI. 11. serves, that “no heresy had p. 638.
“ taken its rise in Rome :" (In u For the principles and con- Symbol. §. 3 :) and he considuct of the Gnostics with re- ders this to have been the spect to the duty of martyr- meaning of Tertullian when he dom, see note 64.
calls the church of Rome “ fe* For the public conferences lix ecclesia.” (de Præscript. between St. Peter and Simon 36. p. 215.) Magus, see Cedren. Compend. 2 In tit. Epist.
that the persecutions, which always raged more in the capital than in the provincesa, may have contributed to this happy result: in those days persons would not embrace Christianity, without well considering what they were doing : it was the fire of persecution which tried every man's work of what sort it was; (1 Cor. iii. 13;) and in this manner it may be perfectly true, that the preaching of St. Peter in those perilous and sanguinary times was the means of extinguishing the doctrine of Simon Ma
That doctrine, however, as we have seen, had been spreading for upwards of twenty years in various parts of the world : and Justin Martyr informs us, that its progress was surprisingly great. It is plain from his statement, and from that of other writings, that no small injury arose from this circumstance to the cause of the gospel. The absurd opinions and flagitious lives of many of the Gnostics caused the name of Christ to be blasphemed among the Gentiles, who did not distinguish between the real and pretended followers of Jesus Christ. It is not improbable, that the name of Samaritan, which was confounded by some heathen writers with that of Christian, may have become so widely spread from the popularity of Simon Magus *3.
That popularity seems principally to have arisen from his astonishing success in exhibitions of the magic art b. It may seem absurd in our own day to
• See Mosheim, (de Rebus note 43 Brotier in Tacit. Aninte Const. Cent. I. 35. note", nal. XV. 44 and Instit. Maj. I. 5. 22. p.
• The Recognitions of Cle129.) where references will be ment are filled with the most found to several other writers. fabulous stories of Simon's asAlso Gibbon, c. 16. p. 412. tonishing performances. Lib.
speak of magic being practised so successfully as the Fathers assure us that it was by Simon and his followers. But we need not go far back from our own enlightened times, if we would learn to what lengths human credulity can be carried. St. Luke himself has used the term magic, when speaking of Simon, (Acts viii. 9. 11.) and again with reference to Elymas, whom St. Paul struck blind in Cyprus. (xiii. 6.) Irenæus is express in saying that the followers of Simon, and other adherents of Gnosticism, were celebrated for magic44: nor can we think that this was merely a calumny of the Fathers, when we find Justin Martyr acknowledging that many Christians, before they were converted, had practised these wicked superstitionsd. We have also the testimony of heathen writers to the same point. Thus Suetonius, when speaking of the persecution of the Christians under Nero, describes them as “a race of men “ of a new and magical superstition *5 :" from which we may conjecture, that the Christians were falsely charged with those tricks and delusions which were really practised by the Gnostics. I may mention also, that Plutarch, who wrote at the beginning of the second century, had evidently heard of these incantations; and the heathen philosopher might be mistaken for a Christian Father, when he states as a well-known fact, that “ magicians order those who
are vexed by devils to repeat the Ephesian wordse." These Ephesian words or letters are well known to the classical reader as a popular method of enchant
II. See also Nicephorus, Hist. in Gal. v. 20.
Apol. I. 14. p. 51. C St. Paul mentions papuakeia • Sympos. VII. 5. p.706. D. among the works of the flesh
mentf: and we have proof that Ephesus, for some centuries before, had been celebrated in this ways. That enchantments were practised there in the days of the Apostles, we may learn from the New Testament itself: for it was at Ephesus that many of them which used curious arts brought their books together, and burned them before all men: (Acts xix. 19".) and Timothy was residing at Ephesus, when St. Paul forewarned him, as in the text, that eril men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived. These seducers, or Jóntes, were evidently men who dealt in magic: and though the charitable expression of St. Paul may have been partly true, that some of them were not deceivers, but deceived; this can hardly have been the case with Simon Magus, whose heart, we know, was not right in the sight of God. (Acts viii. 21.) There is no positive evidence that Simon Magus ever was at Ephesus, though that city seems to have been particularly infected with Gnostic doctrinesi: but there is every reason to believe that he was engaged for a long time, and with great success,
i See Wyttenbach's Note to of J. Ch. Ortlob, de Ephesiorum Plutarch, de Sent. Profect. in Libris, in the same Collection, Virt. p. 85. B.: and Eustathius Part II. ad Od. I. p. 694. ed. 1559.
i There is reason, however, Dilbert, Eccles. Syr. p. 355. to hope, that the faith of the Prætorius, Alectryomantia, p. Ephesians was not more shaken 175.
by these attacks than that of Plutarch speaks of cool TÔ other Churches. See the adμάγων εν Εφέσω διατρίβοντες in dress to the Church of Ephesus the time of Alexander.
Rev. ii. 2. So Ignatius praises • Concerning these books, the Ephesians, " that no heresy see Crsinus, Analect. Sacr. vol. “ dwelleth in you:" (6.) though II. e. 5. p. 60. and a Disserta- he speaks immediately after of tion of Ch. Siberius de Teplep- pretended Christians being agia Ephesiorum, appended to mong them, to whom they had the Critici Sacri : also another not listened.