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A Sketch of the Chief Errors that have been broached, since the beginning of Christianity, against the Mystery of the Blessed Trinity.
- SECTION 1.
LXXIX. The Unitarians are not the first that waged war against the Blessed Trinity: this mystery had its enemies from the very origin of Christianity, and the more necessary its belief is for Salvation, on account of its being the chief and fun. damental article of the Christian revelation, with the more fury has the spirit of error attacked it even in the primitive ages of the church. Some impugned the distinction of the three divine persons, others denied the unity of one and the same divine nature and essence.
Simon, the Magician. LXXX. Simon, the magician, a native of Samaria, the ringleader and forerunner of all future Heresiarchs, was the first to rise up against the Trinity. For, shortly after the death of Christ, he gave out that he himself was the whole Trinity, that he had appeared to the Jews as the Son, that he had descend ed in Samaria as the Father, and that he had arrived among other nations as the Holy Ghost.* St. Augustint relates the matter somewhat differently, informing us, that he taught, “ that he had given the law of Moses to the Jews on Mount Sinai, in the person of the Father ; that, in the reign of Tiberius, he had appeared in the person of the Son, and that next he had come down upon the Apostles in fiery tongues as the Holy Ghost.” He, of course, admitted but one person in 'n God. But, by the by, this very imitation of the Trinity, made by this magician, evidently shows, that the belief of the three distinct persons in God, was common among the Christians in the very time of the Apostles.
. * St. Irenæus, lib. 1, adversus Hæreses, cap. 22.
1 Lib. de Hæresib. cap. 1.
Valentinus, in the second century, in the year 145. LXXXI. Valentinus, a man of the most extravagant turn of mind, although not wanting either in genius or eloquence, taught, among a thousand other extravagances, that the whole Trinity bad suffered on the cross. This we learn from St. Athanasius, lib. 2, cont. Apollinar. Tertullian* informs us that it was pride and ambition that brought him to apostatize from the Catholic faith : “ Valentinus, says he, aimed at a Bishoprick, because he was distinguished both for his genius and eloquence; but, feeling indignant at another, who had suffered the torments of martyrdom, being preferred before him, he, to avenge himself of the pretended insult, broke loose from the church, and set about to impugn the truth."
The Montanists in the same century, about the year 172. These, at least one set of them, maintained, according to Tertullian, that Christ was at once the Son and the Father.
Prateas, in the year 196. LXXXII. Praxeas, a native of Asia, and follower of the Montanistic sect, first of all began to spread that heresy at Rome. “Praxeas, (says Tertullian, t) broached heresy. He affirms, that God the Father Almighty is Jesus Christ himself; and that this (the Father Almighty being no other than Jesus Christ himself,) was crucified, suffered, and died.”
Noetus, about the year of Christ 245. LXXXIII. Noetus, who ought more properly to be called Anoetus, as St. Epiphanius remarks, hæresi 57, that is to say, a man without sense or understanding, was born either at Ephesus, if we credit St. Epiphanius, or at Smyrna, as Theodoretus will have it. He maintained that the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost, had not only one and the same natore, but were moreover but one and the same person, and this he asserted, on the authority of those scriptural passages which altogether exclude the plurality of Gods; he, of course, concluded that God the Father had suffered for mankind. He moreover with incredible arrogance and effrontery, styled himself Moses, and his brother Aaron. He was condemned and cut off from the church, and persisting obstinately in his error to his death, was deprived of the honour of a Christian burial, as we learn from Epiphanius, in the place just quoted.
* Lib. adversus Valentinianos, cap. 4. 1 Lib de Præscript, cap. 52.
Lib. de Præscript, cap. ult.
Sabellius, about the year of Christ 257, LXXXIV. Sabellius was the most renowned and principal advocate of the above heresy. Hence it is, that all those who deny the real distinction of the three persons in God, have since been called Sabellians.
He was born at Ptolemaïs, in Lybia, and maintained that in God there was but one person, as there was but one essence, under the threefold appellation of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. He was used to explain his error by a similitude drawn from the sun, in which there is a threefold Evepyrix, or efficacy, viz : of enlightening, of warming, and a round figure, or the very discus of the sun. The power of beating, that is to say, the very heat of the sun, corresponds, said he, to the Holy Ghost, the power of emitting light, to the Son, and the Father was as it were the form of the whole person. He therefore gave to one and the same person in God, various names, according to the different offices which that person discharged, or the various effects which it produced. He called the divine person Father, when it gave the Mosaic law, Son, when it took our nature, Holy Ghost, when it descended on the Apostles. St. Dionysius, of Alexandria, wrote against this heresy nominally a letter to Sixtus, the sovereign pontiff. See Eusebius, lib. 7. hist. cap. 5.
All the disciples of Sabellius were called Patripassians, because they taught that the Father had suffered for mankind. There were others infected with the same error, such as Paul of Samosata, Photinus, the Priscillianists, &c. of whom we shall have occasion to speak hereafter.
We shall likewise abstain, for brevity's sake, from giving a detailed accoun't of those heresies, which, whilst they admitted a plurality of persons in God, seemed at the same time to admit a plurality of Gods, such as that of Apelles, a disciple of Marcion, of Apollinaris, of the Cononites ; hastening, as we do, to give a 'brief list of those sectarians who professed themselves the sworn enemies of the Son of God and of the Holy Ghost, in de nying the divinity of both these persons.
SECTARIANS WHO IMPUGNED THE DIVINITY OF JESUS CHRIST.
Cerinthus. LXXXV. This heresiarch taught that Christ our Lord was begotten after the ordinary manner, by Joseph and Mary.
Critics are not agreed about the time in which he lived, whether it was in the very age of the Apostles, or only in the second century, in the reign of Adrian, the emperor. St. Irenæus,* and after him, Eusebius,t and Theodoretus,& relate, that some had learnt from St. Polycarp, that St. John, when be pierceived Cerinthus to be in the baths at Ephesus, precipitately left them, saying: “Let us fly, lest the baths, in which Cerinthus, the enemy of truth is, fall upon us." St. Jerom testifies, that the direct and explicit object of St. Jolin, in writing his Gospel, was to refute the impieties of Cerinthus, and especially to establish the divinity of the incarnate word of God, Christ: a manifest sign, that the Gospel of St. John, which at every page presents such clear and irresistible proofs of the divinity of Christ, is to be understood, not as the Unitarians, by manifest distortion, interpret it, but as the whole Christian world has always understood it.
Ebion. LXXXVI. Ebion, in the same age, imitating the blasphemy of Cerinthus, said that Christ, being but a mere man, was
* Lib. 3, cap. 5.
+ Lib. 3. histor. cap. 28. et lib. 4. cap. 4.
like other men born of Joseph and Mary. This we learn from Eusebius,* Theodoretus,t and others. His disciples were called Ebionites.
i Carpocrates, in the second cen tury of the Church. · LXXXVII. This innovator, the founder of a new sect, called the Gnostics, than which there was never any more infamous for abominable crimes and debaucheries, adopted the impious doctrines of Cerinthus and Ebion just stated. I
Theodotus, in the second century. LXXXVIII. This Theodotus was a native of Byzantium, a tanner by trade; after having denied Jesus Christ in time of persecution, he said, by way of es:culpating himself, that it was not God, but a man only, he, had offended; that is to say, Christ, whom he declared to be a mere man. See Eusebius, hist. lib. 5, cap. 28, where he calls this Theodotus the first author of this impiety, for which reason he was deprived of the communion of the church by St. Victor, pontiff of Rome. This fact again irrefragably proves against the Unitarians, that in the second century the faith of the divinity of Jesus Christ was the general belief of the Church, and that the martyrs of the three first ages of the Church died for Christ, not as a mere man, but as their true God.
Paul of Samosata, in the year of Christ 260. LXXXIX. This innovator born at Samosata in Mesopotamia on the Euphrates, was made bishop of Antioch, under the reign of Valerian and Galien Emperors, as St. Epiphanius informs us. His dissolute and scandalous manners are described by the bishops of the second council of Antioch, which was held against him, in the celebrated epistle, which they wrote to St. Dionysius, bishop of the city of Rome, and
* Lib. 6, cap. 17. . † Lib. 2, Hæretic. Fabular. cap. 1. 'St. Irenæus apud Euseb. lib. 4, hist. cap. 7. St. Augustin, tom &, p. $. Hæresi. 2, page 128...