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indoctus, rudis.”* Your ninth, and harshest sense of the word, in any ancient writer, is that in Cicero, t where it is applied to those who wanted taste in the fine arts, and among them he ranks himself. I
Acknowledging, as I have no objection to do, that by this word Tertullian meant to express something more opprobrious than by simplices or even imprudentes, (though the latter is not very evident,) it must be such an epithet as he thought applicable to the greater part of Christians; and surely he would not choose to call them idiots, or even dunces and boobies. Out of humour he was, no doubt, with those who could not relish. his sublime doctrine of the Trinity, and who thought it to be an infringement upon the great doctrine of the sole monarchy of God the Father, but he could not impute it to a natural defect in point of understanding, it being so very evident that the bulk of mankind are not deficient in that respect.
However, it is of no consequence by what epithet Tertullian, or any other writer, should choose to denominate the common people; for they are the same in all ages, and therefore we are as good judges as he could be. The major pars credentium, or the great mass of Christians, were no doubt unlearned, not having had the advantage of a liberal education ; but they did not therefore want understanding, or had less natural good sense than the learned. And con. sidering in what the learning of that age consisted, and how it tended, as I have shewn, to mislead men with respect to their ideas of the Divine nature, it is infinitely more probable that the plain good sense of the common people would form a right judgment in this case than all the knowledge of the learned ; to say nothing of the greater probability of the common people longer retaining the original doctrine concerning Christ; for, whether your Lordship like the observation or not, it is universally true, that old opinions are to be looked for among the common people, rather than among the learned and speculative.
You say, that “ the natural sense” of Tertullian's “ words is, that this scruple,” viz. their objection to the doctrine of the Trinity, " was incident chiefly to persons of that de. scription ; not that it was to be found in the whole body of the common people. He insinuates that persons of that
people: fwriter, shoul
• Remarks on Freethinking, p. 118. (P.) Ed. 8, 1743, p. 113.
weak character only, were liable to that alarm."* But certainly in Tertullian's idea this objection to the doctrine of the Trinity, or rather this dread of it, was common to all those whom he calls simplices, imprudentes and idiote, for he makes no exception ; and of such, he says, the greater part of Christians consisted. Consequently, by his own reluctant confession, the majority of the Christians of his
age, whatever he might choose to call them, were Unitarians, i and dreaded (expavescebant) the doctrine of the Trinity,
even in the qualified sense in which it was then maintained ; i when there was no idea of the proper equality of the Son to
the Father, and when it was thought that there was a time when he did not exist: for such unquestionably was the opinion of Tertullian himself.
Thus, my Lord, your elaborate defence of your use of the word idiota, is mere lost labour, and renders your ignorance
still more conspicuous than it was, by the addition of incorI rigible obstinacy in error.
I am, &c.
LETTER VII. Of Heretics according to Irenæus. My LORD, ANOTHER question between us is, who were the heretics of early times, and I have shewn, by a series of quotations from the earliest writers to those of a pretty late date, considering the nature of the question, that the Gnostics only were considered in that light, as holding assemblies separate from those who called themselves the Catholic Church. I had said that Irenæus, though he wrote a large treatise against heretics, and expressed great dislike of the Ebionites, had not called them heretics. In one passage I said I had once been of opinion that he had applied that epithet to them; but that on reconsidering it I was of a different opi. nion, and I am so still, notwithstanding what your Lordship has advanced in reply to me.
I farther added, that if there was any other passage in which Irenæus called the Ebionites heretics, I had overlooked it.f Such a passage, however, your Lordship now produces; for among other heretics he there enumerates the Ebionites. I But this is of no consequence to my argument; and if I had
• Tracts, p. 432. (P.)
Tracts, p. 455. (P.)
| See Vol. XVIII. pp. 187, 188.
attended to the passage, I should have produced it myself, as I have never failed to do with respect to every thing else that appeared to me to be of any consequence, whether it made for me or against me. But there is an evident reason why the Ebionites were pretty soon considered as heretics, and a reason which did not affect the Unitarians among the Gentiles. For the Jewish Christians, on account of their using a different language, held separate assemblies from those who used the Greek tongue; and besides, Jerome expressly says they were deemed heretics only on the account of their attachment to the institutions of Moses.
I had farther said, * that it was contrary to Irenæus's “ definition of heresy” to consider the Ebionites as heretics. To this your Lordship says, in your usual strain of politeness, when you think you have any advantage, “ He might confer an obligation upon the learned world, if he would be pleased to give information in what part of the whole work of Irenæus that definition may be found.”+ .
I answer, that a strictly logical definition of heresy may not perhaps be found in Irenæus, for such definitions are not common in ancient writers. But he repeatedly says that concerning all heretics, which does not in the least apply to the Ebionites, which is fully equivalent to what I said; and since you have not read my“ History of Early Opinions concerning Christ," and probably never will do it, I shall take the liberty to copy a few passages to this purpose from it. . “ Irenæus considered Simon. Magus as a person from whom all heretics sprung.-But his doctrines were those of the Gnostics, and so directly opposite to those of the Uni. tarians, that they were never considered as having the same source.” Of all heretics, he says, that they drew " men off from him that made and governs the world, as if they had something higher and greater to shew than he who made the heavens and the earth, and all things therein.• They all agree,' he says, in the same blasphemy against the Maker of all things. The doctrine of Valentinus comprehended all heresies, so that by overturning his system all heresy is overturued. They all blasphemed in supposing the Maker of all things to be an evil being; and they blasphemed our Lord, dividing Jesus from the Christ. There was a connexion,' he says, among all the heretics, except that Tatian advanced something that was new. He like
all hended all he things.
• Vol. XVIII. p. 188.
+ Tracts, p. 456.
wise speaks of all heretics “ as having quitted the church, and taxing the holy presbyters with ignorance, not considering how much better is an ignorant person who is religious (idiota religiosus) than a blasphemous and impious sophist.' He likewise says, that all the heretics were much later than the bishops to whom the apostles committed the churches.'"*
It would be losing my own time, and that of my readers, to shew that none of these characters, which this writer applies to all heretics, belonged to the Ebionites, and therefore that, to have been consistent with himself, Irenæus ought not to have considered the Ebionites as heretics.
As to your Lordship's curious attempt to find an agreement between the Gnostics and the Ebionites, I shall leave it, without any remark, to the judgment of our readers. In some respects, no doubt, the Unitarians and Trinitarians are agreed; but it does not therefore follow that they would both be referred to the same class of Christians. There were, as I have shewn at large, Jewish Gnostics, and, being Jews, they might be called Ebionites; but they all believed that the Supreme God, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, both made the world, and gave the law by Moses, which are the very reverse of the doctrines that Irenæus ascribes to all heretics.
I am, &c.
both be referred tos not therefore fons and Trinitarian
LETTER VIII. of the Origin of the Son from the Father's Contemplation of
his own Perfections. My LORD, This Letter I shall devote to that most curious subject, the origin of the Son from the Father's contemplation of his own perfections, t which your Lordship has thought proper once more to bring before the public; but which I should bave thought a judicious friend would have advised you to keep as far as possible out of sight. You express yourself, however, with more diffidence than before, which is a thing unusual with your Lordship.
You justly say, “In a subject so far above the comprehension of the human mind as the doctrine of the Trinity
• Vol. VI. pp. 133, 134.
+ “ The eternal origination of the Son in the necessary energies of the paternal intellect.” Tracts, p. 458.
must be confessed to be, in all its branches, extream caution should be used to keep the doctrine itself, as it is delivered in God's word, distinct from every thing that hath been devised by man, or that may even occur to a man's own thoughts, to illustrate or explain its difficulties. Every one who has ever thought for any length of time upon the subject, cannot but fall insensibly and involuntarily upon some way or other of representing the thing to his own mind.In this manner every one who meddles at all with the subject will be apt to form a solution for himself, of what seemed to him the principal difficulties. But since it must be con. fessed that the human mind in these inquiries is groping in the dark, every step that she ventures to advance beyond the point to which the clear light of revelation reaches, the probability is, that all these private solutions are, in different ways, and in different degrees, but all, in some way, and in some degree, erroneous; and it will rarely happen that the solution invented by one man will suit the conceptions of anotlier. It were therefore to be wished that, in treating this mysterious subject, men would not, in their zeal to illustrate what after their utmost efforts must remain in some parts incomprehensible, be too forward to mix their private opinions with the public doctrine.--It should be a point of conscience,” you add, “ with every writer to keep any par. ticular opinions he may have formed as much as possible out of sight; that divine truth may not be debased with a mixture of the alloy of human error," &c.*
This conduct, my Lord, would have been good policy, but in the pride of your understanding you were not able to observe it, and in your imprudent forwardness to illustrate what is in itself so palpably absurd as to be incapable of illustration, (as much as it is of proof, your Lordship produced a senti. ment so supereminently absurd, as to have contributed not a little to the entertainment of our common readers; and what your Lordship has now added on the subject will, if I be not mistaken, considerably add to their amusement.
Your Lordship's original observation, to which you now, by abridging it, give a different turn, was as follows : “ The sense,” viz. of a passage in Athenagoras, “is, that the personal subsistence of a Divine Logos is implied in the very idea of a God. And the argument rests on a principle which was common to all the Platonic fathers, and seems to be founded in scripture, that the existence of the Son flows
* Tracts, pp. 458, 459. (P.)