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their growth. Coloss. ii. 8. 1 Tim. vi. 20. Acts XX. 30, &c.
But the apostle John lived long enough to behold and lament the unhappy fruits that were grafted on this bad stock. For his first epistle, written at a very advanced age, is chiefly levelled against a sect of philosophic Christians, which had already sprung up in Asia where he abode, who had imported from their philosophy this strange notion, that the Lord Jesus was not a man in reality, but in appearance only, i. e. a phantom ; and hence they had the name of Aoxýtai, docetæ, phantasmatici, phantomists. Offended at the meanness of our Saviour's birth and outward condition, and his suffering to death on the infamous cross of wood; and full of Plato's sublime speculations, or rather of the Orientalists, from whom Plato had borrowed them, they maintained, that besides the tó óv mayabov, the self-existent Being, perfectly good, there were many emanations of intelligences from him, and the first and chief of these, Noũs, néyos, mind, reason, wisdom, a second God; and they took the Lord Jesus, whom the apostles preached, the Son of God, to be this first emanation from God, which their philosophy had taught them.
Another branch of their doctrine was, that matter was in itself dark, evil, impure. They could not therefore allow that a pure emanation of Deity, such as they presumed Christ to be, could have any connexion with so impure a substance as a human material body, and so they invented this solution of the difficulty, that he was man in appearance only, and not in reality.*
Cotelier, in his notes on the epistle of Ignatius to the Romans, p. 24, well says, “A man may as soon deny that the sun shines at bright noon, as that the docetæ, or phantomist heretics, did spring up in the very days of the apostles.” The good old apostle St. John's letters are pointed continually at this innovation in the doctrine of his divine master. Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, is of God. And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in flesh, is not of God.-For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in flesh. This is a deceiver, and an antichrist.” 1 John iv. 2, 3. 2 John 7. See also 1 John iv. 14, 15. v. 1, 5, 6, 7. i. 1, 19, 20, 22.
This is also the principal error combated by the apostolic fathers. There is a very striking passage of this sort in Ignatius, Ep. ad. Trall. which I shall quote in Archbishop Wake's translation
“ Stop your ears, therefore, as often as any one shall speak contrary to Jesus Christ, of the race
* Histoire critique de Manichée et du Manicheisme, par M. de Beausobre, Tom. I. pp. 378, 379.
of David, by the Virgin Mary; who was truly born, and did .eat and drink; was truly persecuted under Pontius Pilate; was truly crucified, and dead, both the things in heaven, and the things on earth, and the things under the earth, being conscious of it. Who was also truly raised from the dead by his father, after the same manner as he (the Father] will also raise us up who believe in him, by Christ Jesus; without whom we have no true life.” P. 151.
We cannot wonder, that the spirit of this pious father, and faithful martyr of Christ, was stirred up against those vlogmatizing speculatists, who, by the wild fancies of their nietaphysical philosophy,'annibilated the gospel and the holy example of Jesus, and turned the whole into a kind of mystical fairy transaction.
Irenæus often confutes these men, and has one whole chapter expressly against those who held Christ's appearance to have been imaginary and not real, and remarks that St. John, in his epistle, wrote purposely against them, and bids us beware of them.
Adversus illos qui dicunt Christum putativè apparuisse. L. iii. c. xviii.
The Manicheans held this doctrine of Christ being man in appearance only, which they drew from the same source of a false philosophy. St. Austin, speaking of his own sen. timents concerning Christ, whilst he was connected with this sect, says,
“I was afraid of belicving him (Christ) born
They still subsisted in the latter end of the fourth century; for Aurelius. Prudentius; in his poem which he calls. Apotheosis, consisting of different pieces against different sorts of heretics, has one entitled, “Against the phantomists; who deny Christ to have had a real human body."*
Those very early fathers, Irenæus- and JustinMartyr, although free from any thing bordering on such extravagancies, did nevertheless contri. bute to bring into Christianity the Platonic doctrine of a second God, which they had learnt before their conversion to faith; as might be shewn by numerous instances from their writings. And Clemens Alexandrinus, and Origen, as they were the most learned of all the fathers, still more adulterated the simplicity of the gospel, by this and other mixtures of Gentile philosophy.t
of the flesh, lest I should be forced to believe him defiled by the flesh. Metueham credere in carne natum, ne cre. dere cogerer. ex carne inquinatum.-Confessionum, L. v. c. 10.
*. Adversus phantasmaticos qui Christum negant verum hominis corpus habuisse.-Prudentii Op. p. 202.
+ Le Clerc, in his article of Eusebius, (Bibliothèque'universelle, Tom. X.) has collected several testimonies of the high veneration of these ancient fathers, and others after them, for Plato, and the satisfaction they expressed in the agreement of his philosophy with that of Christ, especially on the subject of the Logos, in the beginning of St. John's: gospel, which they will have to have, been the same with the philosopher's doctrine above-mentioned. Whether
All this while the true doctrine concerning the One God, the Father, and his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, was preserved pure and uncorrupted amongst the Jewish Christians. But their country and nation, being laid waste and destroyed, first by, Vespasian and Titus, and still more by, the deplorable calamities, their unben lieving brethren brought upon themselves, under Adrian; and being now poor and forlorn, and making no pretensions, to human learning, they were despised by the rich and learned Gentile Christians, and grew soon to be quite neglected: by them.
I do not mean those Jewish Christians, who: have been called Ebionites, and who held our Saviour Christ to have been only the son of Joseph and Mary: of whom, however, Justin Martyr* speaks most candidly, notwithstanding this manifest error of theirs.
there was such an agreement betwixt the doctrine of Christ and philosophy of Plato, in this and other respects, may well be doubted.
* " Although I shall not prove Christ to be God, otherwise than by proving that this is the Christ, and that it was. foretold he, should be so: pet will it be just, that thou; shouldst believe, me deceived in that one point, and yet not deny that this is the Christ, though he seem to be a man born, of men, and said to be chosen to be the Christ.
For there are some friends of mine amongst us (Christians) who profess him to be the Christ, but affirm bim to be a man borp of men: with whom, however, I do not agree, nor will any