Page images

of visionary and fantastic philosophy, derived from the oriental schools, which they incorporated with


tury with Origen and others, ad absurda barum sectarum commenta profliganda et funditùs evertenda sufficiebat. (Mosheim de Rebus ante Const. sæc. ii. See also Eccl. Hist.) Yet it must not be concealed, that the same learned author has observed in another passage, that the followers of Marcion were not entirely eradicated before the fifth or sixth century. And the method which this judicious writer has taken (as above represented) to reconcile the jarring opinions concerning the rise of the Gnostics, must in this place be used to reconcile his own opinions concerning their continuance. The Gnostics were extinct, as a prevalent pestilential heresy; but from their ashes, yet warm, doctrines of a similar cast were seen, now and then, to blaze forth: but these were soon extinct again, and never acquired any thing like that universal domination, described by historians to have taken pla. ; in the second century; which they have hence denominated the Gnostic age. The Manichæans incorporated some Gnostic principles into their doctrines : but this sect was never numeTous. (Libanius, Epist. ad Priscian.; Lardner, Cred. vol. viii. 37, 57, 156.) Yet, in the page of history, it seems to have obtained a celebrity, equal, or perhaps superior, to that of the Gnostics. This circumstance is to be attributed entirely to the numerous writings which have come down to us from the age of the Manichæans, while so fevra have descended from the Gnostical age. (August. cont. Faust. c. 20. 22; Lardner, Cred. vi. p. 38. 56. vii. 37.) The Priscillianists, in the fourth century, were also said to have sprung from the Gnostic ashes : but Gibbon calls them a recent sect : (Hist. of Decline and Fall, ch. xxvii.) and Lardner, upon good reasons, which he assigus, doubts of this origin attributed to them. (Cred. Gosp. art. Priscillianists.) He says also, that they would have been little known or regarded, but from the violent and inhuman methods used to extirpate them. (Cred. vol. ix.) Escepting in these instances (which appear of a doubtful character, and by no means exhibit the Gnostical sects as continuing to darken and disturb the Christian world,) very few remains can be found of these heretics, beyond the time allotted to them in the prophecy. Yet, 'Epiphanius says, that in his times, in the fourth century, there were some relics of them. And this may be allowed, without impeaching the application of this prophecy to the

the doctrines of Christianity, rejecting or corrupting any part of the Sacred Writings which op


main body. When an army has marched through a country, and only some stragling parties belonging to that army remain behind, the army may be truly said to be gone. And a few locusts may remain behind, (than which nothing is more common in natural history,) when the swarm, the great body, has disappeared, and may properly be affirmed to be no more.

But further to shew that the remains of the Gnostics, after the time specified, (about the year 260, or 270,) were very inconsiderable, I shall add a few additional authorities, all taken from writers of those times.

Celsus, the Epicurean Philosopher, who is supposed to have written his book against the Christian Religion about the times of Antoninus Pius, when the Gnostics had already put forth their grand swarm, mentioned many sects of them under various denominations, which in the year 252, when Oriģen wrote his famous answer to that book, were so entirely gone, that this learned Father professes an utter ignorance of them. And he blames Celsus for ascribing to the Christians the strange dreams and inventions of these heretics, in par. ticular of the Ophiani, who, he says, in his time, had altogether disappeared, or were very few indeed. (Origen. cont. Cels. lib. vi. p. 293.) Origen is said by Eusebius, to have converted many of the Gnostics. (Eccl. Hist. vi. 18, 20.) This able and active Father flourished in the times when they were rapidly declining, and returning to sober principles. Some of his early works were written against the Gnostics. But from his last production, the work already quoted, written about the year 252, we perceive the Gnostics to be sinking into disrepute, if not entirely sunk. Of the Simonians, he says in one passage, he does not believe thirty are to be found in the world : (Cont. Celsum, lib. i. p. 44.) and in another place, that there are none left. (lib. ri. p. 282.) The Simonians certainly were Gnostics ; all of whom were comprehended by some writers under this generic

Cerdo and other distinguished Gnostics are called so by Irenæus; (Euseb. Eccl. Hist. lib. iv. c. 11.) who, together with Tertullian and Eusebius, derives all the Gnostics from Simon. (Iren. lib. 1. 20. 30. 33. ii.; Pref. iii. c. 4. ad fin. Tertullian. de Animâ, 325. Euseb. H. E. ii. 13. iv. 7.) CG2



posed their tenets, many of them added, as might be expected, the most immoral and indecent practices. The particulars of these it is not necessary to adduce; they may be collected from Irenæus and Tertullian; from Plotinus also, the Platonic Philosopher,

The Platonic Philosopher, Plotinus, flourished in the former part of the third century, and wrote against the Gnostic philosopby; and in the latter part of that century, his disciple Porphyry published his works. In his preface to that book, by way of explaining the matter of it, he says,

At that time there were many Christians, not only of “the conimon sort, but heretics, deriving their notions from the an“ cient philosophy." Why does he say there were at that time, such philosophical Christians (in other terms Gnostics), but because they were not to be found at the later period when he wrote ? And he wrote after the death of Plotinus; which happened in 270.

In the times of Cyprian, who died a martyr in 258, the Gnostics were returning into the body of the Church. Among the numerous heretics, to be rebaptized, are mentioned Valentinians and Marcionites, who were certainly Gnostics. (Cyprian. Epist. 73.)

Eusebius wrote his history in the former part of the next century. He describes Manes, the founder of the Manichæans, as a collecting “ false and impious doctrines from an infinite number of heresies, which “ had been a long time extinct." And there can be no doubt, but that he intended those of the numerous Gnostic tribes. (Euseb. H. E. lib. viii. c. 31.)

He mentions, in another passage, the manner in which these sects arose one upon another, and, taking new and various forms, perished, (Eccl. llist. lib. iv, c. 7.) In these times of Eusebius, and of the Emperor Constantine, the Valentinians and Marcionites are once mentioned, among the subsisting heresies by another Ecclesiastical Historian, (Sozomen. lib. vi. c. 32). But, about 50 years afterwards, when the Emperor Gratian excepted all such pernicious heretics from the general toleration, they are no longer remembered. (Socrates, v. c. 2. Sozomen, vii. c. 1.) Thus the grand swarm of Gnostics passed over and was gone, about 150 years after its invasion of the Christian world, leaving a few scattered locusts behind; who, occasioning little trouble and alarm, are seldom mentioned by the ecclesistical writers; and, in another century, are lieard of no

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

who wrote successfully against their extravagant tenets; from other writers who lived after this rage had passed over, from Theodoret, Clemens Alexandrinus, and Epiphanius. The English reader may obtain a general notion of them from Mosheim's History of the Second Century, chap. v.*

From the account now deduced, first, of the Scriptural import of the figurative language of this Trumpet, and, secondly, of the character of the Gnostics, and their period, as extracted from cotemporary writers, it may already appear, that in this first general and extensive apostacy, the prophetic representation of this Trumpet was fulfilled. But it may be satisfactory to descend to particulars. In ver. 1, the “star “fallen from heaven," called afterwards the “ king”. or leader of the locusts, “ the angel of the bottom- -X “ less pit,” “the destroyer,” has been already shewn to be Satan, or some distinguished minister of that fallen angel. Now, the ancient writers of the Church, and her historian Eusebius, ascribe the introduction of the Gnostic heresy to the agency of the Devil (o uironados Adiw), who, having, as he says, attempted in vain to overthrow the Church by external persecutions, attacked it internally by his agents, by professed Christians, leading some of the faithful Eis Bulov å tonelas, to the deep of destruction ; in which expressions, we have a remarkable coincidence both with the origin of this woe, “the pit of the bottomless deep,” and with the name of the Leader, Apollyon t. He repre


Clem. Alex. Strom. lib. iii. 2, 3, 4. Epiph. Hær. 23, 24, 27. 31, 32. iii. 6. Fragm. Agrip. Castor, in Euseb. Hist. Eccl. lib. iv. c. 7.

+ In another passage of the same historian, the Gnostical pbilo. sophy is called Toi aneupoy Bugoy : and Irenæus speaking of the Carpo3


sents this attack also as a warlike invasion, calling the leader womenwiałos, which agrees with the description before us, and with the alarm by the trumpet Justin Martyr is also represented by the same author, as ascribing this invasion to diabolical operation t. In ver. 2, what can express so forcibly the dark, and perplexed, and uncomfortable philosophy of the orien, tal schools, which, mixing with Christianity, so obscured and debased it, as these dark fumes, arising from the infernal deep, and obscuring the Sun? In describing the invasion of the Gnostic heresy, the historian makes use of nearly the same figures; comparing the Churches of Christ to the most resplendent luminaries before that attack Ø; by which he intimates that their splendour was darkened.

In verses 3 and 4, a swarm of locusts arises with the smoke. Now, the reseinblance of the Gnostic teachers to such a swarm, in respect both of their numbers, and of the mischief occasioned by them, is so striking, that historians, who did not entertain the most distant thought of applying to them this prophecy, and merely related what they found recorded in the annals of those times, have described them in the very same terms by which the scorpion-locusts are described in this vision. Such is the relation of the learned Jacob Brucker, who, in his critical History of Philosophy, after speaking of a sect of oriental philosophers in the first century, adds; "and “ when many from that sect had betaken themselves

cratians, an eminent sect of the Gnostics, says, à Sataná præmissi sunt.-Again ; Amarum et malignum principis apostasiæ serpentie venenum porrigentis eis: (lib. i. 30.)

Euseb, Eccl. Hist. lib. iv. c.7. 11. + Lib. ii. c. 26.

1 Eccl. Hist, lib. iv. 7.

“ to

« PreviousContinue »