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dom was unnecessary. * In the passage quoted above from the epistle of Polycarp, there is an allusion to this doctrine of the Gnostics: “ Whosoever does not confess that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, he is Antichrist. And whosoever does not confess the martyrdom of the cross is from the devil. And whosoever perverts the oracles of the Lord to his own lusts, and says that there shall be neither any resurrection nor judgment, he is the first-born of Satan.”+ Here is an enumeration of the principal, at least the most obnoxious, tenets of the Gnostics, who were the only heretics in that early age.
In consequence of this maxim concerning martyrdom, the Gnostics are said to have made no difficulty of eating things sacrificed to idols, though nothing can be more expressly forbidden than this practice is in the New Testament; as it makes one of the four articles of things prohibited to the Gentile converts by an assembly of all the apostles, is most pointedly argued against by Paul in his epistles to the Corinthians, and is likewise severely reprehended in the book of Revelation,
In the Dialogue of Justin Martyr, Trypho says, that“ many who were called Christians ate of things sacrificed to idols, and said there was no harm in it." But it appears, by Justin's answer, that they were Gnostics. Irenæus says of the Valentinians, that, “ without distinction, they ate of things sacrificed to idols, not thinking themselves defiled by them, and were the first to attend the feasts in honour of the hea. then gods."| The Nicolaitans, also, Austin says, sacrificed to idols, and did not oppose the Gentile superstitions. |
Upon the whole, this doctrine of the non-obligation of martyrdom, and the practice of sacrificing to idols, is so generally laid to the charge of the Gnostics, and it is so consonant to their other principles, that it is impossible not to give some credit to the accounts. It is evident, however, that the eharge was not universally true. Some Marcionites,
Διδασκει δε παλιν και αναθρεπει, φασκων μηδειν μαρίυρειν. Ηer. Χxiv. Ι. p. 71. (Ρ.) * Πας γαρ, δς αν μη ομιλογη Ιησουν Χριςον εν σαρκι εληλυθεται, Αντιχριςος εςι και και αν μη ομολογη το μαρτυριον του Γαυρου, εκ του Διαβολου εςι και ος αν μεθοδευη τα λογια του Κυριου προς τας ιδιας επιθυμιας, και λεγη μητε αναςασιν, μητε κρισιν ειναι, ουλος TOMTOTOKOS ESTE Tou Satava, ip. Ad. Phil. Sect. vii. p. 187. (P.) Wake, p. 56.
1 Και ο Τρυφων, και μην πολλους των τον Ιησουν λεγοντων ομολογειν, και λεγομενων Χριςιανων, πυνθανομαι εσθιειν τα ειδωλούντα, και μηδεν εκ τουτου βλαπίεσθαι λεγειν. P. 207. (P.)
& Kai ειδωλοθυτα αδιαφορως εσθιουσι μηδε μολυνεσθαι υπ' αυτου ηγουμενοι και επι πασαν εορτασιμων των εθνων τερψιν εις τιμήν των ειδωλων γινομενην πρωτοι συνιασιν. L. 1. C. i. p. 30 (P.)
“Hi nec ab iis quæ idolis immolantur cibos suos separant, et alios ritus Gentilium superstitionum non adversantur.” Catalogus Hær. VI. p. 14. (P.)
in particular, had so great a value for the gospel, and held the obligation of truth so sacred, that they suffered martyrdom rather than renounce their profession of Christianity. In Eusebius the Marcionites are said to have boasted of many martyrs ; * and particular mention is made by him of one Asclepius, a Marcionite martyr.
We may learn from the New Testament, that some persons professing Christianity did not, for some time at least, refrain from eating things sacrificed to idols, or from fornication. But though this might be from want of consideration, rather than from principle, the apostle Paul does not fail to expostulate with them with peculiar earnestness on the subject. See 1 Cor. x. 20, 2 Cor. vi. 16. See also what he observes concerning the necessity of all who would “ live godly in Christ Jesus," suffering persecution, 2 Tim. iij. 12, with the enumeration of his own sufferings in several places, which seems to allude to the contrary principles and practices of others.
There are also persons characterized by holding the doctrine of Balaam, both in the second epistle of Peter, the epistle of Jude, and the book of Revelation ; and in this book, chap. ii. 14, they are described as teaching “ to eat things sacrificed unto idols,” as well as “ to commit fornication.” It is probable, that they were all the same class of persons, and that they were Gnostics, who held these principles. The particular commendation given to the martyr Antipas, in this book, ch. ii. 13, and the reproof given to the church of Thyatira for suffering a person called Jezebel to teach, and to seduce persons “ to eat things sacrificed to idols, ch. ii. 20, shew that there were Gnostics when that book was written.
Also the solemn promise at the conclusion of each of the epistles to the seven churches, of especial favour to those who should overcome, plainly points out the obligation that Christians were under to maintain the truth at the hazard of their lives. Nothing can more clearly prove this obligation on all Christians, than our Lord's own doctrine and example, Matt. x. 39: “ He that findeth his life shall lose it, and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it." But his own death, with respect to which we are particularly exhorted to follow his example, is the strongest sanction that he could give to his precept on this head.
δι απο της Μαρκιωνος αιρεσεως Μαρκιωνιςαι καλουμενοι, πλειςους όσους εχειν Χριςου μαρθυρες λεγουσιν" αλλα τον γε Χριςον αυτον κατα αληθειαν ουκ ομολογουσι. Hist, L. v. C. xvi. p. 232. (P.)
† De Martyribus Palestina, C. x. p. 426. (P.)
Και πρωτοι γ*
Indeed, nothing but the sense of this obligation, to maintain the profession of our faith in all events, could have secured the prevalence of Christianity in the world, and have enabled it to triumph over all the obstacles that it had to encounter. Nothing else could have been so well calcu. lated to give mankind in general such a full persuasion of the sincerity of Christians, and of their high sense of the importance of the gospel, and, consequently, to procure a proper attention to its principles, and gain converts to it.
SECTION VII. The Gnostics disbelieved the Resurrection. All the Gnostics, without exception, from those who made their appearance in the time of the apostles, down to the Manicheans, disbelieved the resurrection. They held matter and the body in such abhorrence, that they could not persuade themselves that the soul was to be encumbered with it any longer than in this life. But they did not, therefore, give up all belief of future rewards and punishments. They believed the immortality of the soul; and that the soul, divested of the body, would be rewarded or punished according to the actions performed in it. Without this there could never have been any martyrs at all among them, as we have seen that there were among the Marcionites.
However, as the doctrine of a resurrection makes so great a figure in the Christian scheme, the Gnostics, or at least some of them, did not venture to deny it in words ; but they said it was a figurative expression, and either related to the moral change produced in the minds of men by the preaching of the gospel, or a rising from this mortal life to an immortal one, after the death of the body. According to Epiphanius, Hierax said that the resurrection related to the soul, not to the body;* and the Manicheans said that the death of which Paul wrote was a state of sin, and the resurrection a freedom from sin.t
This must have been the doctrine taught by Hymenæus and Philetus, whose words Paul says, 2 Tim. ii. 17, “ will
Behelai γαρ και ούτος την σαρκα μη ανασασθαι το παραπαν, αλλα την ψυχην μοναταλην, πνευμαίικην δε την αναςασιν φασκει. Ηer. Ixvii. Ι. p. 709. (Ρ.)
+ Θαναλoν, ενιαυθα φασι, εδεν αλλο λεγει ο Ραυλον η το εν αμαρλια γινεσθαι, και ανα520w To Twy apapłows atarnaynvas. Chrysostom, In 1 Cor. xv. Opera, XI. p. 664. (P.) See Dr. Priestley's Notes on 1 Cor. xv, ad init. VOL. VI.
eat as doth a canker,” and “who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is passed already, and overthrow the faith of some.” It is possible, also, that Paul might allude to this doctrine of the Gnostics, when, in the epistle to the Colossians, after speaking of their “voluntary humility, and worshipping of angels,” intruding into things which they had not seen, vainly puffed up in their fleshly minds, ch. ii. 18°(which are evident characters of the Gnostics), he added, ver. 20, “ If ye be dead with Christ from the rudi- . ments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances ?” As if, arguing with them on their own principles, he had said, If the death from which we are to rise be merely a death of sin, why do you continue to live as men of this world only? And again, ch. iii. 1: “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God,” i.e. If, as you pretend, the resurrection be passed already, and you be actually risen again with Christ, live in a manner agreeable to this new and better life.
But in the fifteenth chapter of the first epistle to the Corinthians, the apostle argues at large against the doctrine of the false teachers in that church, who held that the dead would not rise; and therefore he proves the doctrine of an universal resurrection from that of Christ, and answers the objections that were made to it from its seeming natural impossibility. And it evidently appears, from the whole tenour of the apostle's discourse on this subject, as well as from his consolatory address to the Thessalonians, on the death of their Christian friends, that he had no expectation of any future life at all but on the doctrine of a resurrection. “ If the dead rise not,” he says, 1 Cor. xv. 16-19, “ then is not Christ raised; and if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain, ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable." And again, ver. 32, “ If the dead rise not, let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die.” In the whole discourse he makes no account of, he does not even mention, their doctrine of happiness or misery without the body.
But the most extraordinary circumstance is, that, after this positive assertion, and copious illustration of the doctrine of the resurrection, it should still continue to be denied by the Gnostics, who were not without respect for his authority and writings. They even pretended that his writings
were in favour of their principles. Bardesanes appealed to the Scriptures, and proposed to abide by them.* The chief advantage which they imagined they had from the Scriptures on this subject, was from its being said by Paul, that “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God,” i Cor. xv. 50. Ambrose says that “the heretics who deny the resurrection urge its being said, that they do not rise in the flesh.”+ The Marcionites also pretended to prove from the Scriptures that the body would not rise again, “because the prophets and apostles never mentioned flesh or blood in a future state, but the soul only. David,” they said, “ speaks of his soul being delivered from death. Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell,” &c. $ They also argued from God's giving it a body as it pleased him. S
It seems, therefore, that they thought that the gross body being dropped in the grave, the soul would be clothed with something which, though it might be called a body, was of an ethereal and subtile nature, free from all the imperfections of the present body. And in this they have, in some degree, the authority of the apostle. But then they held that whatever the change was, it took place at death, and that what was committed to the ground always remained there ; whereas nothing could give any propriety even to the term resurrection, if the body that died did not live again, how improbable soever it may appear to us. If nothing of that which dies is to appear again, in any future period of our existence, there may be a new creation of men, but there cannot be any proper resurrection. It seems to have been in opposition to any other resurrection than that of a proper body, that, in the epistles ascribed to Ignatius, mention is made of the resurrection as being fleshly, as well as spiritual. ||
As the resurrection was denied, or explained away, by the Gnostics in the age of the apostles, and they appear, from other circumstances, to have been Jews, it seems that their philosophy had prevailed over the principles of their
To των χριςιανων δογμα πιςει και γραφαις συνενηκε χρη 8ν απο γραφων, η σεισαι, in Ernval. Contra Marcionitas, p. 106. (P.)
+ " Sicuti illi hæretici qui resurrectionem carnis negant, ad dicipiendas animas simplicium, dicunt, his quia in carne non resurgant." De Divinitate Filii, L. i. C. üi. Opera, IV. p. 279. (P.)
1 Πεισω σε απο γραφων, ό7ι 27ε προφηται, 87ε αποστολοι μνημην εποιησανίο σαρκος η αιματος, αλλα ψυχης μονης, ην και ηυχονlo σωσαι. Και πρωλον μεν ο Δαβίδ: δι ερρυσω, Anot, the puxou ue ex Javale. Origen, Contra Marcionitas, p. 136. (P.)
9 Ου τελο το σωμα λεγει ανις ασθαι, αλλ' έτερον, απο τα λεγειν· ο δε Θεος διδωσιν αυλή σωμα, καθως ηθελησεν. Ιbid. p. 149. (Ρ.)
|| Εν ονομαι Ιησε Χριςο, και τη σαρκι αυλα και το αιμαίι, παθει τε και αναςασει, ragninn Ti na TVEUMalinn, &c. Ad. Smyrn. Sect. xii. p. 38. (P.) Wake, p. 120.