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not appear to have been separate from the communion of the catholic church; and probably not a few other catholic Christians held, in common with him, a doctrine so prevalent in Pagan philosophy. It may be observed, that Hermogenes gave his name to no sect, which seems to show, that there was nothing extraordinary in his opinions being held by a Christian. Tertullian also wrote against Praxeas, who opposed the speculations which had been introduced concerning the proper personality of the Logos. His zeal was inflamed by the circumstance, that Praxeas had been an opponent of the Montanists, of which sect Tertullian had become a member. But he tells us, that the greater part of Christians, “ the simple, not to say the unwise and ignorant,” favored the opinions of Praxeas.* And, to mention but one other example, there is no ground for supposing, that Tertullian himself, after becoming a Montanist, was rejected from the communion of the catholic church ; though it is true, that the Montanists were soon regarded as a heresy separated from it.
The state of Christians, then, during the second century, presents a very remarkable ap
* Advers. Praxeam, c. 3. p. 502.
pearance. By the side of the great body of Gentile Christians, among whom such freedom of speculation prevailed, we find another smaller body of Gentile Christians, the Gnostics, agreeing with the former in acknowledging Christ as a divine teacher, but separated from them by an impassable gulf, as holding doctrines which rendered the amalgamation of the two parties impossible. Notwithstanding some striking analogies between their speculations, there was no gradual transition from one system to the other. The separation was abrupt and broad. It consisted in the fundamental doctrine of the Gnostics, that the Creator, or the principal Creator, of the universe, the God of the Jews, was not the Supreme Divinity and the God of Christians. Their scheme, without doubt, is to be regarded, in part, as a crude attempt to solve the existence of evil in the world, a subject which engaged their attention in common with that of other religious theorists of their age. But the desire to solve this problem was not, I conceive, the principal occasion of the existence of Gnosticism. This, I think, is to be found in the hereditary aversion of Gentiles to Judaism ; in the traditionary views of the Old Testament, communicated by the Jews from whom it was received; and in the impossibility,
which the Gnostics found of reconciling the conceptions of God that it presents, with their moral feelings, and with those conceptions of him which they had derived from Christianity. Nor, in this respect, did they stand alone. A large portion, we know not how large, of the catholic Christians, including some of the most eminent and intellectual of their number, equally regarded much in the Jewish Law and history as irreconcilable with correct morality and just notions of God, if understood in its literal sense. They, however, as we shall hereafter see, took a very different course from that of the Gnostics, in escaping from the difficulty with which they were pressed.
Regarding the aversion of the Gentiles to Judaism as the principal occasion of Gnosticism, we may readily understand why the whole body of early heretics among the Gentile converts became Gnostics. As soon as men's attention was distinctly fixed upon
the subject, nothing but a thorough and strongly operative faith in Christianity could enable a Gentile Christian to subdue the prejudices, and overcome the difficulties, which stood in the way of his acknowledging the Old Testament to have the divine authority that was claimed for it.
To the opinions of the Gnostics, respecting Judaism, we shall recur hereafter. But other topics must be first attended to.
I shall next give some view of the external history of the Gnostics, in connexion with an account of those writings from which our information concerning them is to be derived.
IRENÆUS pretends, that all the Gnostics derived their existence from Simon, the magician of Samaria, who is mentioned in the eighth chapter of the Acts of the Apostles. He says, that “all heresies had their origin in him”; - that he was " the father of all heretics." * All those, he says, who in any way corrupt the truth, or mar the preaching of the church, are disciples and successors of Simon, the Samaritan magician ; although, as he honestly adds, “they do not acknowledge him as their master.” | The same representation of Simon appears in other, succeeding fathers. But the in
* Cont. Hæres. Lib. I. c. 23. § 2. p. 99. Lib. III. Præf. p. 173. Lib. II. Præf. p. 115.
† Lib. I. c. 7. § 4. p. 106.