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enumerates Plato, the Stoics, Epicurus, Zeno, Heraclitus, and gives, as the whole material of heresy and philosophy, the questions Unde malum et quare? and Unde homo et quomodo? It would not, however, be necessary to go any further than the Greek philosophy itself
, to find all the seeds of things supposed to have sprung from the Oriental philosophy. In the time of the Asmoneans, or Maccabees, there was a decree made among the Jews that whosoever taught his son the Grecian philosophy should be accursed. This decree points, perhaps, to the commencement of that disposition in the Jewish theology to symbolize and allegorize after the manner of Plato and Pythagoras, which afterwards becomes so manifest in the writings of Philo. And as to the origin of the Gnostic Æons, says a very
learned writer, in whom it may be seen that the hypothesis of an Oriental philosophy is by no means necessary to account for any of the vagaries of heretics or the corruptions of Christianity, “they were taken up in imitation of the Grecian Geoyovio, generation of the gods, begun by Sanconiathon, the Phænician mythologist, who was followed herein by Orpheus, Hesiod and Pherecydes, who was of Phoenician extract, and spent a main part of his philosophizings in explaining this foyovia ; from whom we may presume Pythagoras, his scholar, learned the same, as also from the Orphic theologists, with whom he much conversed. Now the Gnostics apply the whole of this Pagan geoyovio, to their @wves, Æons."* To these same points Irenæus and Eusebius are quoted, without resorting to the Emanative system of the East.
Now it is literally true that whatever tenets we find in the Greek philosophy lead us, in the end, if we trace them out, to
servatur. Et ut carnis restitutio negetur, de una omnium philosophorum schola sumitur. Et ubi materia cum deo æquatur, Zenonis disciplina est: et ubi aliquid de igneo deo allegatur, Heraclitus intervenit. Eædem materiæ apud hereticos et philosophos volutantur, eædem retractatus implicantur. Unde malum et quare; et Unde homo et quomodo? Et quod proxime Valentinas proposuit, Unde Deus? ... Hinc illæ fabulæ et genealogiæ indeterminabiles, et quæstiones infructuosæ, et sermones serpentes velut cancer, a quibus nos apostolus refrænans, nominatim philosophiam testatur caveri oportere.
Theoph. Gale, Court of the Gentiles, Part III, B. II. ch. 1.
the Oriental world; and the question of the origin of Gnosticism is not really whether it was Grecian or Oriental, but whether its Oriental origin dated in more ancient or more recent times. “You Greeks are children, and know nothing of antiquity,” said the Egyptian priests to Plato; and true it is that the progress of light and knowledge was wholly from east to west, and whatever is traced to the Greeks comes at last to the Orientals.* So that, in fact, the question being simply as to the earlier or later Oriental sources of this particular scheme, one of the strongest arguments, which connects Gnosticism immediately with the Oriental philosophy, and shows its parentage, is the after prevalence of the belief in the inherent viciousness of matter. This quality is not Greek but Oriental; and this quality, this pervading feeling, the inundation of Gnostic opinions, even when it had retired, left a sort of philosophic mud upon the churches, prolific of luxuriant monstrosities, generating a growth, not of fruits and vegetables, but of rank and poisonous weeds.
In the New Testament the allusions or references to this subject, whether plain or obscure, travel no farther than to the Jews or Greeks. Paul, educated at the feet of Gamaliel, probably was well aware of the system which the Cabbalists were gathering, and of its destructive influence upon the truth; but though he refers to itt, in terms of severe reprobation, he gives no hint of its Oriental origin. Bringing together a few of his expressions, we find them to characterize so closely the traits of the Gnostic philosophy, as it afterwards grew into systems, that it is impossible not to concur in the opinions of Vitringa, Brucker, Grotius, Hammond and others, who suppose the workings of that philosophy in the churches plainly alluded to. It is noticeable that most of these allusions are found in the Epistles to Timothy and Titus, with some also in the Epistle to the
* “It is well known that the most ancient and mystic learn. ing among the Greeks was not originally their own, but bor. rowed of the more eastern nations by Orpheus, Pythagoras, Plato, and many more, who travelled and traded with the priests for knowledge and philosophy.” Burnet, Theory of the Earth, Vol. I. 19.
+ Tit. 1: 14, Ιουδαικούς μύθους.
Colossians. 'H yvõois qvolos, knowledge puffeth up, was the comprehensive characteristic of that φιλοσοφίας και κενής απάτης, , philosophy and vain deceit after the traditions of men,* the work of men, vainly puffed up by their fleshly mind, and not holding the Head.+ Mύθους και γενεαλογίαις απεράντοις, fables and endless genealogies, I-profane and old wives' fables, f-profane and υαίη babblings, and αντιθέσεις της ψευδωννύμου γνώσεws, oppositions of science falsely so called,|| the tendency of which was settled, to increase unto more ungodliness, and which should become yáyyppiva, the gangrene of the church, their word eating as doth a canker. I
It was a skilful pencil that drew these touches, mingled from the colors both of past and prophetical experience; no man can have the least knowledge of the vain and cankerous babblings of the Gnostics, and not be at once convinced of the intended application of these sketches, and filled with admiration of their accuracy. We need only add to this glance at the references in the New Testament, that Irenæus and Jerome both assert that John's design in his gospel was to contend against the errors of Cerinthus, the Gnostic, an opinion followed by some learned moderns, though rejected by others, admitting at the same time that there are expressions in John's Gospel which may be used against the Gnostics.** Now we think there can be scarcely any more doubt that John, in the repeated description of the creation of the world by the Logos, had in view the monstrous cosmogonies afterwards put forth systematically by the Gnostics, and the profane opinion of the world built by the Demiurge or the Æons, than that in his epistles he had in view the Gnostic heretics who denied that Jesus Christ had come in the flesh.ft Nor is it necessary in this to suppose that Gnosticism fresh from the Oriental philosophy had already appeared, (as afterwards in the Manichæan heresy,) for there were seeds and influences of it in abundance in the then prevailing corruptions of Judaism, with which both John and Paul were doubtless acquainted.*
* Col. 2: 8.
+ Col. 2: 18, 19. I 1. Tim. 1 : 4.
§ 1. Tim. 4: 7. || 1. Tim. 6: 20. Í 2. Tim. 2: 19, 17., ** Tholuck. Introd. to Comment. on John.
# See some judicious remarks in Wiseman's Lectures, Lecture eleventh. See also Milman's History of Christianity. B. II. Ch. 5.
Whichever way we trace it, the spirit of Gnosticism was no new thing, whether from the corruptions of Judaism, or the wilderness of Oriental speculations, it passed into the Christian church. The heresy created by it arose beneath the prescriptive and long existing influence of philosophy, and with the pretence of being the most perfect of all philosophic systems, the climax of perfection in the art of eclecticism. And it found almost every person inclined to philosophize, and proud, if it could be attained, of a philosophic reputation. It found the world deluged with philosophy. This is a point of great importance in attempting to account for its influence.
CAUSES OF THE SPREAD AND POWER OF GNOSTICISM. Perhaps there never was a period in the world's history when there prevailed such an extraordinary enthusiasm, such a rage, or madness, we might call it, in the pursuit of philosophy. And everywhere it was philosophy falsely so called. There never was a period in which so many different sects were contending together on one and the same arena. The world was
* Lightfoot, On the Fall of Jerusalem and Condition of the Jews after; Works, Vol. III. 403. “As the first wretched stock of heretics that rose, Simon, Cerinthus, Menander, Ebion, Basilides, &c., appeared either in Judea, or at least where there were multitudes of Jews, as Basilides at Alexandria ; so the most of those damnable opinions that they sowed, and which grew for a long while after, had some root or other in Judaism, or received some cursed moisture from thence to nourish them. By Judaism I here understand the body of the Jews' religions, though differing within itself, yet all contrary to Christianity. Look upon Palestine, and you have it thus stocked, in the times that we are upon, with Pharisees of seven
sorts, with Sadducees at the least of two sorts, if not more, with Samaritans, with Essenes. Baithuseans you may reckon with Sadducees or Samaritans, whichever you will. Now this variety, nay•contrariety of opinions, that was among this mix. ture, would afford nourishment to any evil word of doctrine that could be sowed; these being as Manasseh against Ephraim, and Ephraim against Manasseh, but all against the Gospel."
a hubbub of philosophers; every thing intellectual, every thing moral, every thing religious took that turn. There was very little light, and what there was, was fast becoming darkness. The culminating point of light in the world's intellect, apart from revelation, had probably been reached in Plato, and every step after him was a retrograde one. Every new mixture in the cauldron of Alexandrian Eclecticism produced only a thicker scum of error. Every turn in the wild medley of philosophic opinions only made “ confusion worse confounded." Yet philosophy was the fashion; it was learning, it was education, it was refinement, it was yvūvis, the knowledge of God and of creation, of good and of evil, and every religionist must be a philosopher.
Now it was into the midst of this boiling chaos of society, this fermentation of the world's mind, that the first disciples of Christ were thrown to begin their spiritual conflict. We may find in the state of things around them reason enough why illiterate men, so called, were chosen ; if any had been taken from the schools, a constant miracle must have been exerted all along the course of inspiration, to preserve them from perpetually mingling the fanaticism and the folly of philosophic speculation, with the theory and truth of Christianity. Amidst these strong tendencies, with not only the Greeks, but the whole world agape after “wisdom,” they were set down, simply to preach the gospel. It was a miracle that they preached it, that they did not instantly, on the death of Christ, set up a school of philosophy. But there they stood, simple disciples of an atoning Saviour, and preached the cross, knowing nothing but that, and determined to know nothing among men, save Christ and him crucified. Thus they stood, through one generation at least, simple preachers and not philosophers, and so the doctrines of Christianity were fairly and fully excogitated, put before the world in freshness and simplicity. It was a wonderful spectacle, a sublime sight,--this light amidst darkness, this simplicity amidst error, this order amidst confusion, these twelve men going about like little children, and talking truth as simple as the daylight, as blessed and as easy to be understood, amidst such a hubbub of pretensions and noises, such universal distortion of mind, such a troop of babbling novelties of error, such admiration and worship of philosophic darkness.
They were faithful to the cross, and so the canon of the New