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derstood to have for its object, the Christian Church, the heritage of Christ.
The object of attack, then, seems clearly ascertain. ed. But of what nature are the assailants? Do they attack the Church with arms? or with more formidable weapons, -with corruptive doctrines? The figurative expressions here used, may, in many instances, imply either. But that part of the description which represents the “sealed of God,” the faithful and true Christians, as unhurt by their stings, seems to point out decisively, that the invasion is not by arms literally understood. In no. invasion of the Christian Church by arms, has it been known, (nor indeed can it be consistently supposed,) that the sealed, the sincere servants of God through Christ, should escape. Upon such trying occasions, they die nobly, as martyrs, or at least undergo patiently their share of the common calqınity. But suppose a base corruption of Religion, engendered in the depths of hell, and promising worldly greatness, and pleasure and power, to attack the Christian Church ;-in such case, the prophecy now before us might be exactly fulfilled. The sealed, the true servants of Christ, would reject the proffered allurements, would adhere to their ancient faith; while the worldly and nominal Christians would be captured in the snare. For this reason, (as well as because in the progress of our enquiry it will be found so best to accord,) under the symbol of the scorpion-locusts, we are to look for a swarm, not of armed men, but of teachers of corrupt doctrines.
In the early times of the Church, many notions, corruptive of pure Christianity, were engendered by fanatical and wicked heretics. But the authority of the Apostles and of apostolical men prevented, for a time, their successful propagation. Yet their increase and prevalence were foretold by the Holy Spirit *; and, these holy men being now removed, they swarm through the Christian world. Such heresies were preordained, to prove the Church; the sealed, the pure and faithful followers of their Lord, were to escape the contagion t. And, in the corrupted, they do not utterly destroy the life, the spiritual life which is in Christ I; for, the Divine evidences of the Gospel were in these early times so clearly established by recent miracles, were so palpable and convincing, as not to be withstood, or denied, by those who made enquiry. But these hereties corrupt and debase the faith which they acknowledge, by the addition of their own philosophical dreams and superstitions,
Now, the first swarm, the first multitudinous host of corrupters, recorded in Christian history, is that of the Gnostics § Their seeds and beginnings are observable in the first century, even in the apostolic times I. Cerinthus appears to have imbibed the Gnostic doctrines, and also the Nicolaitans . But heretics of this description were not successful in corrupting the Church during its first century. Eusebius says expressly, that the attempts of the heretics against the purity of the Church, had little success in the apostolical times; and he dates their prevalence from the times of Ignatius's martyrdom, the latter days of the emperor Trajan, or the beginning of those of Adrian * The same author has preserved for us a fragment from the works of Hegesippus, who lived in the times of Adriant; and he says, that, “ until those s times the Church had continued a pure and incorrupt “ Virgin; for, that those who attempted to corrupt " the wholesome canon of Evangelical doctrine, had “hitherto remained in obscurity. But when the sa"cred company of the Apostles was departed, and “ the generation of those who were thought worthy “ to hear their divine preaching was gone, then the “conspiracy of impious deceit had its beginning;“ then to the preaching of the truth did they dare
* 2 Cor. xi. 13. 14; 1 Tim. vi. 3, 4, 5, 20, 21; 2 Tim. iii. 13; 2 Pet. ii. 1, &c.
+ I Cor. xi. 19; 2 Thess. ij. 13. iii. 3. I See notes, ch. iii. 1. vi. 8. $ “ The first great heresy, which as a gangrene did overspread and consume much of the beauty, glory, and vigour of the Christian “ Church, was that of the Gnostics." Gale, Court of the Gentiles, pt. iii. b. ii. sect. 7.
ll Tös feudurguee gowtews: the very name under which it is attacked by Irenæus; 1 Tim. vi. 20, 21; Col. ii. 8, 9, 10; 1 John ii. 18; Epist. Polycarpi.
Euseb. 11. E. lib. iii. c. 28. Moshcin, i. 116. 117. Whitby on 2 Pet. ii. See also note, ch. ii. 6; p. 45.
boldly to oppose their knowledge falsely so called I.” Clemens Alexandrinus, speaking of the Gnostics, asserts that they were not a pestilential heresy before the times of Adrian 5. Irenæus, a nearer witness of those times, after describing the doctrines of the Gnostics, as derived from Simon Magus and Menander, to Saturninus, Basilides, and Carpocrates, speaking of the two last, says; “ their impure followers “are not to be numbered, -springing up like mush
* Eccl. Hist. lib. iv. c.7. iii. 36.
+ Lib. ii. c. 32. 1 Yeudaruon guwow, the term used by Irenæus, in his treatise against the Gnostics. Tywors is true knowledge, and is thus applied by the Sacred writers, and by the fathers, to express divine knowledge. And therefore yowsixos means a well-informed Christian. (See Clem. Alex. Strom. lib. iv. and vi.) Hence the Gnostics were not allowed by the orthodox, the name which they impudently assumed: but to them they attributed the rudarupon yowow mentioned by Saint Paul, (1 Tim. vi. 20). In the next century, when this folly was gone, a fraternity of monks took the name of Gnostics in its proper and good sense. Socratis Hist. Eccl. lib. iv. c, 23. Strom. lib. vii, 17. viii. 27.
rooms:" and thus he certifies the time of the great pestilential irruption *. Epiphanius, quoting froin Irenæus, observes, that they burst out of the earth together at one time, like mushrooms, the lurkingplaces of many scorpions t.
In short, by the united and prevailing testimony of the fathers, it appears that the Gnostics did not begin to swarm over the Christian Church before the period mentioned by Eusebius; the end of Trajan's or beginning of Adrian's reign. Internal evidence may be collected confirming this account. Ignatius, (at the time of whose martyrdom, the Gnostics are described by these fathers as beginning to swarm,) in his epistles, written at this period, represents the leaders of this enormous heresy as aa@podyulo1, still working covertly. He describes the Church of Ephesus as happily withstanding their impressions: but in his passage to Rome, he finds the heresyarchs busily employed in corrupting other churches I. Polycarp lived to a later period, when the vast irruption had taken place. This apostolical bishop was frequently assailed by these heretical doctrines ; for Irenæus, when a boy, remembered him in that situation, stopping his ears, and moving from the place where he heard these Gnostical blasphemies, (as he says, was customary with him,) and exclaiming, ( gracious God,
* Velut à terrâ fungi manifestati sunt;-etenim non est numerum dicere eorum, qui secundùm alterum et alterum modum excideruut à veritate. Iren. lib. 1. c. 21, 22, 32, 33. iii. c. 4.
+ Cont. Hær, lib. i. 31. See also Tertullian de Prosc. Hær, c. 30. Cypriani Epist. 75, the letter of Firmilian to that father. Ignat. Epist. ad Ephes. 7, 8, 9; ad Smyrn. 5.
to what times hast thou reserved me, to undergo all this * !
Thus, although ecclesiastical history has preserved but few original documents belonging to the times of which we enquire, (for they perished in the Diocletian persecution); yet there is abundant proof of the period when the grand Gnostical irruption took place. It burst forth in Asia and Africa at nearly the same time. Saturninus, followed by Cerdo, and by Marcion who afterwards corrupted Italy, by Bardesanes, Tatian, Severus, and their multitudinous disciples, spread the poison over the east. While Basilides in Africa, followed by Carpocrates, Valentine, &c. overran the rest of the Christian world. Numerous churches and communities of these Gnostics continued to flourish, and to bring scandal on the Christian name, through that century and the better half of the next. But in this their progress, they were vigorously opposed by the orthodox and pure Christians; by Justin Martyr, Irenæus, Tertullian, Clemens Alexandrinus, and Origen; and in their wild philosophy, by the Platonic philosophers under Plotinus; at whose death, in the year 270, they will be seen to have been almost entirely sunk and gone. So that, taking all these accounts together, we find evidence, that the duration of the Gnostics, as a prevailing heresy and pestilential swarm, (for, it is in that view only that, consistently with the symbols, we are to consider them,) was about 150 years, the period foretold t.
The * Euseb, H, E, lib. v. 20.
+ The exact time of the rise of the Gnostics having appeared to occasion some dispute in the literary world; it may be proper to add a few more words on this subject. The learned have been generally