Imagini ale paginilor

not fail to alienate affection and infuse animosity. Hence we may learn to understand the admonition of the apostle, "A man that is a heretic," aiρerikov av≈ρwTov, "after the first and second admonition reject, knowing that he that is such is subverted and sinneth, being condemned of himself," Tit. iii. 10, 11. It is plain from the character here given, as well as from the genius of the language, that the word aiperikos in this place does not mean a member of an aipeous or sect, who may be unconscious of any fault, and so is not equivalent to our word sectary; much less does it answer to the English word heretic, which always implies one who entertains opinions in religion, not only erroneous but pernicious: whereas we have shown that the word aipeous, in scriptural use, has no necessary connexion with opinion at all; its immediate connexion is with division or dissension, as it is thereby that sects and parties are formed. Αἱρετικος ανθρωπος must therefore mean one who is the founder of a sect, or at least has the disposition to create aipeσuç, or sects, in the community, and may properly be rendered a factious man. This version perfectly coincides with the scope of the place, and suits the uniform import of the term aipeous, from which it is derived. The admonition here given to Titus is the same, though differently expressed, with what he had given to the Romans, when he said, "Mark them which cause divisions," Sixоoraσias TOLOvvτas, make parties or faction, "and avoid them," Rom. xvi. 17. As far down indeed as the fifth century, and even lower, error alone, however gross, was not considered as sufficient to warrant the charge of heresy. Malignity, or perverseness of disposition, was held essential to this crime. Hence the famous adage of Augustine, "Errare possum, hæreticus esse nolo;" which plainly implies, that no error in judgment on any article, of what importance soever, can make a man a heretic, where there is not pravity of will. To this sentiment even the schoolmen have shown regard in their definitions. "Heresy," say they, "is an opinion maintained with obstinacy against the doctrine of the church." But if we examine a little their reasoning on the subject, we shall quickly find the qualifying phrase, maintained with obstinacy, to be mere words, which add nothing to the sense; for if what they account the church have declared against the opinion, a man's obstinacy is concluded from barely maintaining the opinion, in what way soever he maintain it, or from what motives soever he be actuated. Thus mere mistake is made at length to incur the reproach originally levelled against an aspiring factious temper, which would sacrifice the dearest interests of society to its own ambition.

12. I cannot omit taking notice here by the way, that the late Dr. Foster, an eminent English dissenting minister, in a sermon he preached on this subject, has, in my opinion, quite mistaken the import of the term. He had the discernment to discover,


that the characters annexed would not suit the common acceptation of the word heretic; yet he was so far misled by that acceptation as to think that error in doctrine must be included as part of the description, and therefore defined a heretic in the apostle's sense, "a person who, to make himself considerable, propagates false and pernicious doctrine, knowing it to be such." Agreeably to this notion, the anonymous English translator renders, with his usual freedom, ἁμαρτάνει ων αυτοκατακριτος, “ knows in his own conscience that his tenets are false." To Foster's explanation there are insuperable objections. First, it is not agreeable to the rules of criticism to assign, without any evidence from use, a meaning to a concrete term which does not suit the sense of the abstract. Aipsoiç is the abstract, aiperikоç the concrete. If aiperis could be shown, in one single instance, to mean the profession and propagation of opinions not believed by him who professes and propagates them, I should admit that aiρETIKOÇ might denote the professor or propagator of such opinions. But it is not pretended that aipeous in any use, scriptural, classical, or ecclesiastical, ever bore that meaning: there is therefore a strong probability against the sense given by that author to the word aipETIKOç. Secondly, this word, though it occurs but once in Scripture, is very common in ancient Christian writers; but has never been said, in any one of them, to bear the meaning which the Doctor has here fixed upon it. Thirdly, the apostolical precept, in this way explained, is of little or no use. Who can know whether a man's belief in the opinions professed by him be sincere or hypocritical? Titus, you may say, had the gift of discerning spirits, and therefore might know. Was, then, the precept after his lifetime, or even after the ceasing of miraculous powers, to be of no service to the church? This I think incredible, especially as there is no other direction in the chapter, or even in the Epistle, which requires a supernatural gift to enable men to follow. To what purpose enjoin us to avoid a heretic, if it be impossible without a miracle to know him? In fine, though I would not say that such a species of hypocrisy as Foster makes essential to the character has never appeared, I am persuaded it very rarely appears. It is the natural tendency of vanity and ambition to make a man exert himself in gaining proselytes to his own notions, however trifling, and however rashly taken up; but it is not a natural effect of this passion to be zealous in promoting opinions which the promoter does not believe, and to the propagation of which he has no previous inducement from interest. It is sufficient to vindicate the application of the term avтOKATAKρITOÇ, or self-condemned, that a factious or turbulent temper, like any other vicious disposition, can never be attended with peace of mind, but, in spite of all the influence of self-deceit, which is not greater in regard to this than in regard to other vices, must, for the mortal wounds it gives to peace and

love, often be disquieted by the stings of conscience. In short, the alpETIKOÇ, when that term is applied to a person professing Christianity, is the man who, either from pride or from motives of ambition or interest, is led to violate these important precepts of our Lord: Ὑμεις δε μη κληθητε ῥαββι· εἷς γαρ εστιν ὑμωη ὁ διδασκαλος, ὁ Χριςος. μηδε κλήθητε καθηγηται· εἷς γαρ ὑμων επιν ὁ καθηγητης, ὁ Χριςος: which I render thus—“ But as for you, assume not the title of rabbi; for ye have only one teacher, the Messiah: neither assume the title of leaders; for ye have only one leader, the Messiah," Matt. xxiii. 8, 10.

13. It deserves further to be remarked, that in the early ages of the church, after the finishing of the canon, the word dipETIKOÇ was not always limited (as the word heretic is in modern use) to those who, under some form or other, profess Christianity. We at present invariably distinguish the heretic from the infidel. The first is a corrupter of the Christian doctrine, of which he professes to be a believer and friend; the second, a declared unbeliever of that doctrine, and consequently an enemy: whereas, in the times I speak of, the head of a faction in religion or in ethics, (for the term seems not to have been applied at first to the inferior members,) the founder, or at least the principal promoter of a sect or party, whether within or without the churchthat is, whether of those who called themselves the disciples of Christ, or of those who openly denied him, was indiscriminately termed αἱρετικος.

[ocr errors]

Our not attending to this difference in the ancient application of the word, has given rise to some blunders and apparent contradictions in ecclesiastic history; in consequence of which the early writers have been unjustly charged with confusion and inconsistency in their account of things; when, in fact, the blunders imputed to them by more modern authors have arisen solely from an ignorance of their language. We confine their words by an usage of our own, which, though it came gradually to obtain some ages afterwards, did not obtain in their time. Hence Dositheus, Simon Magus, Menander, and some others, are commonly ranked among the ancient heretics; though nothing can be more evident, from the accounts given by the most early writers who so denominate them, than that they were deniers of Jesus Christ in every sense, and avowed opposers to the gospel. Dositheus gave himself out to his countrymen the Samaritans, for the Messiah promised by Moses. Simon Magus, as we learn from holy writ, (Acts viii. 13,) was baptized; but that, after the rebuke which he received from Peter, instead of repenting, he apostatized, the uniform voice of antiquity puts beyond a question. Origen says expressly,+ "The Simonians by no means acknowledge

* Orig. adv. Cels. lib. 1.

† Ουδαμως τον Ιησουν ὁμολογουσι υἱον Θεου Σιμωνιανοι, αλλα δυναμιν Θεου λέγουσι τον Zava. Orig. adv. Cels. lib. v.

Jesus to be the son of God; on the contrary, they call Simon the power of God." Accordingly, they were never confounded with the Christians in the time of persecution, or involved with them in any trouble or danger.* Justin Martyr is another evidence of the same thing; † as is also Irenæus, in the account which, in his treatise against heresies, he gives of Simon and his disciple Menander. So is likewise Epiphanius. From them all it appears manifestly, that the above-named persons were so far from being in any sense followers of Jesus Christ, that they presumed to arrogate to themselves his distinguishing titles and prerogatives, and might therefore be more justly called Antichrists than Christians. The like may be said of some other ancient sects, which, through the same mistake of the import of the word, are commonly ranked among the heresies which arose in the church. Such were the Ophites, of whom Origen acquaints us, that they were so far from being Christians, that our Lord was reviled by them as much as by Celsus, and that they never admitted any one into their society till he had vented curses against Jesus Christ.§

Mosheim, sensible of the impropriety of classing the declared enemies of Christ among the heretics, as the word is now universally applied, and at the same time afraid of appearing to contradict the unanimous testimony of the three first centuries, acknowledges that they cannot be suitably ranked with those sectaries who sprang up within the church; and apologizes, merely from the example of some moderns who thought as he did, for his not considering those ancient party-leaders in the same light wherein the early ecclesiastic authors, as he imagines, had considered them. But he has not said any thing to account for so glaring an inaccuracy, not of one or two, but of all the primitive writers who have taken notice of those sects; for even those who deny that they were Christians, call them heretics.


* Orig. adv. Cels. lib. vi.

↑ Apol. 2da. Dialog. cum Tryphone.

Adv. Hæreses, lib. 1. cap. xx. xxi.

§ Οφιανοι καλούμενοι τοσουτον αποδεουσι του είναι Χριστιανοι, ώστε ουκ ελαττον Κελσου κατηγορειν αυτους του Ιησού. Και μη προτερον προσιεσθαι τινα επι το συνέδριον ἑαυτων, εαν μη ação Intai nara Tou Ingou. Adver. Cels. lib. vi.

"Quotquot tribus prioribus sæculis SIMONIS Magi meminerunt, etsi hæreticorum eum familiam ducere jubent, per ea tamen quæ de eo referunt, hæreticorum ordine excludunt, et inter Christianæ religionis hostes collocant. ORIGINES Simonianos disertissime ex Christianis sectis exturbat, eosque non Iesum Christum, sed Simonem colere narrat. Cum hoc cæteri omnes, alii claris verbis, alii sententiis, quas SIMONI tribuunt, consentiunt: quæ quidem sententiæ ejus sunt generis, ut nulli conveniant quam homini CHRISTO longissime se præferenti, et divini legati dignitatem sibimet ipsi arroganti. Hinc Simoniani etiam, quod ORIGENES et JUSTINUS MARTYR præter alios testantur, quum Christiani quotidianis periculis expositi essent, nullis molestiis et injuriis afficiebantur: CHRISTUM enim eos detestari, publice notum erat. Sic ego primus, nisi fallor, quum ante viginti annos de Simone sentirem, erant, quibus periculosum et nefas videbatur, tot sanctorum virorum, qui SIMONEM hæreticorum omnium patrem fecerunt, fidem in disceptationem vocare, tot sæculorum auctoritatem contemnere. Verum sensim plures hæc sententia patronos, per ipsam evidentiam suam, sibi acquisivit. Et non ita pridem tantum potuit apud Jos. AuGUSTINUM ORSI, quem summo cum applausu ipsius Pontificis Maximi Romæ Histo

I will take upon me to say, that though this, in one single writer, might be the effect of oversight, it is morally impossible that, in so many, it should be accounted for otherwise than by supposing that their sense of the word aipɛTIKoç did not coincide with ours; and that it was therefore no blunder in them, that they did not employ their words according to an usage which came to be established long after their time. I am indeed surprised that a man of Mosheim's critical sagacity, as well as profound knowledge of Christian antiquity, did not perceive that this was the only reasonable solution of the matter. But what might sometimes be thought the most obvious truth, is not always the first taken notice of. Now, I cannot help considering the easy manner in which this account removes the difficulty, as no small evidence of the explanation of the word in scriptural use which has been given above. To observe the gradual alterations which arise in the meanings of words, as it is a point of some nicety, is also of great consequence in criticism; and often proves a powerful means both of fixing the date of genuine writings, and of detecting the supposititious.

14. I shall observe in passing, that the want of due attention to this circumstance has, in another instance, greatly contributed to several errors in relation to Christian antiquities, and particularly to the multiplication of the primitive martyrs far beyond the limits of probability. The Greek word uaprup, though signifying no more, originally, than witness, in which sense it is always used in the New Testament, came by degrees, in ecclesiastical use, to be considerably restrained in its signification. The phrase οἱ μαρτυρες του Ιησού, the witness of Jesus, was at first in the church applied by way of eminence only to the apostles. reality of this application, as well as the grounds of it, we learn from the Acts. Afterwards, it was extended to include all those who, for their public testimony to the truth of Christianity, especially when emitted before magistrates and judges, were sufferers in the cause, whether by death or banishment, or in any other way. Lastly, the name martyr (for then the word was adopted into other languages) became appropriated to those who suffered death in consequence of their testimony: the term



riam Ecclesiasticam Italico sermone scribere notum est, ut eam approbaret." Moshemius De Rebus Christianis ante Constantinum Magnum Commentarii. Sæculum primum, lxv. No. 3. The words in the text to which the preceding note refers "Toti hæreticorum agmini, maxime cohorti gnosticæ, omnes veteris ecclesiæ doctores præponunt SIMONEM MAGUM.- Omnia quæ de SIMONE memoriæ ipsi prodiderunt, manifestum faciunt, eum non in corruptorum religionis Christianæ, id est, hæreticorum, sed infensissimorum ejus hostium numero ponendum esse, qui et ipsum CHRISTUM maledictis insectabatur, et progredienti rei Christianæ quæ poterat, impedimenta objiciebat."

Acts i. 8, 22. ii. 32. iii. 15. v. 32. x. 39. xxii. 15. xxvi. 16. The last two passages quoted relate to Paul, who, by being designed of God "a witness of the Lord Jesus to all men," was understood to be received into the apostleship, and into the society of the twelve.



« ÎnapoiContinuați »