« PreviousContinue »
thus put into his hands he might appeal by way of contrast, as fulfilling his just demands; nay, in proportion as he out-argued and unsettled the faith of his Catholic opponent, so did he open a way, as a matter of necessity and without formal effort, for the perverted creed of that philosophy which had so mischievously anticipated the labours and usurped the office of an ecclesiastical Synod. .
And, further, it must be observed, that, when the Sophist had mastered the Eclectic theology, he had in fact a most powerful weapon to mislead or to embarrass his Catholic antagonist. The doctrine which Ammonius professed to discover in the Church, and to reclaim from the Christians, was employed by the Arian as if the testimony of the early Fathers to the truth of the heretical view which he was maintaining. What was but incaution, or rather unavoidable liberty, in the AnteNicene theology, was insisted on as apostolic truth. Clement and Origen, already subjected to a perverse interpretation, were witnesses provided by the Eclectics by anticipation against orthodoxy. This express appeal to the Alexandrian writers, seems, in matter of fact, to have been reserved for a late period of the controversy ; but from the first an advantage would accrue to the Arians, by their agreement (as far as it went) with received language in the early Church. Perplexity and doubt were thus necessarily introduced into the minds of those who only heard the rumour of the discussion, and even of many who witnessed it, and who, but for this apparent primitive sanction, would have shrunk from the bold, irreverent inquiries and the idle subtleties which are the tokens of the genuine Arian temper. Nor was the allegorical principle of Eclecticism incompatible with the instruments of the Sophist. This also in the hands of a dexterous disputant, particularly in attack, would become more serviceable to the heretical than to the orthodox cause. For, inasmuch as the Arian controversialist professed to be asking for reasons why he should believe our Lord's divinity, an answer based on allegorisms did not silence him, while at the same time, it suggested to him the means of thereby evading those more argumentative proofs of the Catholic doctrine, which are built upon the explicit and literal testimonies of Scripture. It was notoriously the artifice of Arius, which has been since more boldly adopted by modern heretics, to explain away its clearest declarations by a forced figurative exposition. Here that peculiar subtlety in the use of language, in which his school excelled, supported and extended the application of the allegorical rule, recommended, as it was, to the unguarded believer, and forced upon the more wary, by its previous reception on the part of the most illustrious ornaments and truest champions of the Apostolic faith.
But after all there is no sufficient evidence in history that the Arians did make this use of Neo-Platonism”,
7 There seems to have been a much earlier coalition between the Platonic and Ebionitish doctrines, if the works attributed to the Romau Clement may be taken in evidence of it. Mosheim (de Turb. Eccl. § 34) says both the Recognitions and Clementines are infected with the latter, and the Clementines with the former doctrine. These works were written between A.D. 180 and A.D. 250 : are they to be referred to the school of Theodotus and Artemon, which was humanitarian and Roman, expressly claimed the Bishops of Rome as countenancing its errors, and falsified the Scriptures at least? Plotinus came to Rome A.D. 244, and Philostratus commenced his life of Apollonius there as early as A.D. 217. This would account for the Platonism of the later of the two compositions, and its absence from the earlier.
considered as a party. I believe they did not, and from the facts of the history should conclude Eusebius of Cæsarea alone to be favourable to that philosophy: but some persons may attach importance to the circumstance, that Syria was one of its chief seats from its very first appearance. The virtuous and amiable Alexander Severus openly professed its creed in his Syrian court, and in consequence of this profession, extended his favour to the Jewish nation. Zenobia, a Jewess in religion, succeeded Alexander in her taste for heathen literature, and attachment to the syncretistic philosophy. Her instructor in the Greek language, the celebrated Longinus, had been the pupil of Ammonius, and was the early master of Porphyry, the most bitter opponent of Christianity that issued from the Eclectic school. Afterwards, Amelius, the friend and successor of Plotinus, transferred the seat of the philosophy from Rome to Laodicea in Syria; which became remarkable for the number and fame of its Eclectics 8. In the next century, Iamblicus and Libanius, the friend of Julian, both belonged to the Syrian branch of the sect. It is remarkable that, in the mean time, its Alexandrian branch declined in reputation on the death of Ammonius; probably, in consequence of the hostility it met with from the Church which had the misfortune to give it birth.
8 Mosheim, Diss. de Turb. Eccl. § 11.
ONE subject more must be discussed in illustration of the conduct of the Alexandrian school, and the circumstances under which the Arian heresy rose and extended itself. The Sabellianism which preceded it has often been considered the occasion of it;viz. by a natural reaction from one error into its opposite; to separate the Father from the Son with the Arians, being the contrary heresy to that of confusing them together after the manner of the Sabellians. Here, however, Sabellianism shall be considered neither as the proximate nor the remote cause, or even occasion, of Arianism; but first, as drawing off the attention of the Church from the prospective evil of the philosophical spirit; next, as suggesting such reasonings, and naturalizing such expressions and positions in the doctrinal statements of the orthodox, as seemed to countenance the opposite error; lastly, as providing a sort of justification of the Arians, when they first showed themselves;—that is, Sabellianism is here regarded as facilitating rather than originating the disturbances occasioned by the Arian heresy.
The history of the heresy afterwards called Sabellian is obscure. Its peculiar tenet is the denial of the distinction of Persons in the Divine Nature; or the doctrine of the Monarchia, as it is called by an assumption of exclusive orthodoxy, like that which has led to the term “ Unitarianism” at the present day'. It was first maintained as a characteristic of party by a school established (as it appears) in Proconsular Asia, towards the end of the second century. This school, of which Noetus was the most noted master, is supposed to be an offshoot of the Gnostics; and doubtless it is historically connected with branches of that numerous family. Irenæus is said to have written against it; which either proves its antiquity, or seems to imply its origination in those previous Gnostic systems, against which his extant work is entirely directed?. It may be added, that Simon Magus, the founder of the Gnostics, certainly held a doctrine resembling that advocated by the Sabellians.
At the end of the second century, Praxeas, a presbyter of Ephesus, passed from the early school already mentioned to Rome. Meeting there with that determined resistance which honourably distinguishes the primitive Roman Church in its dealings with heresy, he retired into Africa, and there, as founding no sect, he was soon forgotten. However, the doubts and speculations which he had published, concerning the great doctrine in dispute, remained alive in that part of the world, though latent:, till they burst into a flame about the middle of
1 Burton, Bampt. Lect. note 103. [The word Movapxia was adopted in opposition to the three åpxikal ÚTOOTáoets of the Eclectics; vide supra, p. 115.]
2 Dodwell in Iren. Diss. vi. 26. 3 Tertull. in Prax. 3. [It is not certain Praxeas was detected at Rome.)