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toward his old friend, and asked whether he would own him, Polycarp replied: "I own you to be the first-born of Satan.” Epiphanius says: “Every one who does not confess that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, is Anti-Christ; whoever does not confess the martyrdom of the cross, is of the Devil; whoever says there is no resurrection, is the first-born of Satan.” Irenæus, speaking of those who denied that Christ had a material body, says: "The Holy Spirit, foreseeing their perverseness, and guarding against their artifice, said by Matthew: The generation of Cbrist was in this wise.'” It has been already stated that the Apostle John was supposed by the Fathers to have written against Cerinthus. He evidently refers to him, or some other Gnostic, where he says: "Every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus is Christ come in the flesh, is not of God.” It is also supposed that Paul alludes to the same class, where he speaks of some who "give heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats.” Also, where he exhorts Timothy not to give heed "to fables and endless genealogies;" probably referring to some of the long series of spiritual emanations. And where he says to the Colossians: “Let no man beguile you; worshipping of Angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen.” It is very likely that the presence of Gnostics in the churches might have originated those early questions concerning marriage, in answer to which Paul took middle ground between the oriental and the Jewish feeling on the subject.
The hostility of the Fathers was doubtless increased by the fact that Gnostic theories proved very attractive to men of genius and learning, and enticed some from the bosom of their own churches. Tatian, who was converted by Jus- . tin Martyr, went over to the Gnostics, and entertained their characteristic views concerning innumerable Spirits, emanations from the Supreme One. He thought a life of celibacy, and total renunciation of property, were necessary, in order to follow the example of Christ. He was the founder of a large sect, who, on account of their ascetic habits, were called Encratites, meaning the Self-Restrained. Tatian wrote a book, which obtained considerable circulation, called The Harmony of the Four Gospels. The Bishop Theodoretus found two hundred copies of it in his Syrian diocese, in the fifth century; and, following the usual policy of the church, caused them all to be destroyed. The father of Gregory of Nazianzen, was a Gnostic; but, being converted by the prayers and tears of his pious wife, he afterward became a bishop of orthodox standing. The celebrated Augustine was for several years a zealous Manichean. There were also numerous instances of bishops and teachers in the church, not professedly Gnostic, who mingled with Christianity similar ideas from oriental and Platonic sources. In the first centuries, before Councils of Bishops had settled what were the doctrines of the Christian church, there was an effort to reconcile Gnostic ideas with Christianity, in order to present some standard of unity to the believers in Christ. This was particularly the case in Alexandria, where the Platonic philosophy greatly prevailed; for Plato also taught that spiritual things were revealed to man only by an intuitive perception. The Alexandrian Christians, in controversy with the Gnostics, acknowledged the existence of the divine science termed Gnosis; but they said it must come in consequence of faith, and a life in obedience thereto. A man must begin by believing the Holy Scriptures, and the traditions handed down by the church, and then the interior of his mind would be enlightened by the Gnosis. They were accustomed to quote Isaiah vii : 9, which, in the Septuagint, was translated: “If ye do not believe, neither shall ye understand.” The words were spoken by the prophet with reference to a very different subject; but it was a common practice, with people of all sects, to apply texts for controversial purposes, without any regard to the connection in which they were used. Clement of Alexandria says: "As is the doctrine, so also must be the life; for the tree is known by its fruit, not by its leaves or its blossoms. The Gnosis, then, comes from the fruit and the life, not from the blossom and the doctrine. For we say that the Gnosis is not merely doctrine, but a divine science. It is that light which dawns within the soul, in consequence of obedience to God's commands, and which makes all things clear; which teaches man to know all that is contained in creation, and in himself, and instructs him how to maintain fellowship with God. For what the eye is to the body, the Gnosis is to the mind.”
Every observing reader will have noticed in the Gnostic systems many striking resemblances to the theological ideas of Persia and Hindostan. It is not unlikely that some, especially of the Asiatic Gnostics, might have been personally acquainted with Persian Magi or East Indian devotees, either Buddhist or Braminical. The simultaneous and general development of these oriental doctrines, in various countries, early in the second century, shows very plainly that the seed had been scattered long before that time. The Gnostics branched into more than fifty sects, and were not suppressed till near the sixth century. They were finally scattered and crushed by persecution of the dominant church. Their writings were destroyed, and what we know of them is mainly derived from their theological opponents.
NEW PLATONISTS. Another class of opinions, similar to Gnosticism in some features, yet very distinct in general character, and not mixed with the name or doctrines of Christ, prevailed extensively among the educated classes at the same period, and for some time contended with Christianity for supremacy over the minds of men. This was the Alexandrian school of New Platonists. Their earliest leaders were men of uncommon intellect, who both by precept and example inculcated pure and elevated morality. They were often called Eclectics, a name compounded of two Greek words, meaning to choose from; because they selected from all philosophies what they considered the best, and formed a new system from them. But though they drew from various sources, their doctrines were principally Platonic. Of course, they believed in the preëxistence of the human soul, and its imprisonment in Matter, during which it had glimpses of its heavenly home, received by intuition, in elevated states of mind; and also in its final return, through holiness, to the spheres of glory, whence it came. The complicated spiritual machinery of many of the Gnostic sects never appeared in their teaching, and they represented no Redeeming Spirit, of any rank, as descending to the rescue of suffering humanity.
PLOTINUS.—Plotinus, founder of the New Platonists, was born at Lycopolis in Egypt, two hundred and three years after Christ. He devoted himself to the study of philosophy, and, when thirty-nine years old, joined the army of the emperor Gordian, in order to become acquainted with the sages of Persia and India; but the emperor was killed on the way, and Plotinus narrowly escaped with his life. Soon after his return, he went to Rome, and held public conversations concerning philosophy. He excited great enthusiasm, and his school was frequented by men and women, young and old, senators and plebeians. He was a great favourite with the emperor and empress, and was almost adored by his disciples. Among them was the senator Rogentianus, who emancipated all his slaves, became indifferent to property, and refused all worldly dignities, in order to devote himself entirely to philosophy. The moral character of Plotinus stood so high, that he was continually chosen as the guardian of orphans, and intrusted with the care of large estates. His integrity and prudence inspired such undoubting confidence, that during twenty-eight years of his residence at Rome, he never made a single enemy among the great numbers thus intrusted to his care. His style and pronunciation were not good; but the power of his reasoning, and the feryour of his convictions, so carried away the minds of his hearers, that they forgot all defects. His personal beauty also was remarkable; and on such
occasions a glow of enthusiasm lighted up his whole countenance, and gave it a character almost divine.
The existence of a God, bis absolute Unity, his action upon the world, and the relation of the human soul to him, were his absorbing themes. “All his metaphysics went to show that God is One; that the world is not God, or a part of God; though it exists in his mind, derives all life from Him, and can not be separated from Him." The Perfect, Uncreated Principle, he called The Good, the Absolute Unity. Mind, or Wisdom, was the Logos of the Good, the most perfect of all that proceeded from Him. From Wisdom proceeded a third principle, called The Soul of the World. Each of these Three Principles were supposed to know and love the one above it, but not the one below it. The Absolute Unity, having nothing above Him, knows and loves only himself. Plotinus says: “We ought not to maintain that there are any other Principles save these Three. Having placed the simple Good first, we ought to place Mind, or Wisdom, next after Him, and in the third place, The Universal Soul. This is the immutable order, neither to make more or fewer distinctions in the Sovereign Intelligence.” He adds: “Plato declared the same. This account of things is not new; but though formerly given, was not well unfolded.” He taught that man also was threefold; having a rational soul, which was one with the Divine Unity; a sensitive soul, the seat of passions and sensations; and a material body. He delighted in the contemplation of an eternal immutable world above this, where existed, in pure spiritual forms, ideas of the Divine Mind, the models by which all things in this visible world were created. There beauty shone unveiled, in an atmosphere of glory. The images of it here below were imperfect, shadowy, and transient; and the light that revealed them was a pale reflection of the celestial splendour. The human soul, in its highest states, could penetrate into this superior world, and hold communion with the essences of things. To attain to this, by subjugation of the senses, a scrupulous practice of all the virtues, and the contemplation of divine