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divinity of Christ, reserving for a future opportunity (which I hope will come soon) to prove that all the orthodox (or those who, being in communion with the Catholic church, were not deemed heretics) believed it.* But he has confined himself to the denominations of Ebionites and Nazarenes, who were Jews, omitting the Gentile Unitarians, of whom Justin Martyr speaks with great respect, though professing to take the liberty of thinking differently from them, as I have shewn at large in my History,† &c. Mr. Howes is equally silent with respect to the Alogi of Epiphanius, and who, he says, were opposed by the apostle John; so that, according to him, they must have existed in the age of the apostles.
Thus, Gentlemen, I willingly make you the judges between Mr. Howes and me. Epiphanius himself, you see, only supposed the Ebionites to have asserted with the Cerinthians, (in which it is almost certain that he was mistaken,) that the Christ entered into Jesus at his baptism, but he acknowledges that they did not suppose that this descending Christ was God; and his farther evidence from Tertullian and Theodoret, in support of what would avail him nothing, if he could prove it, is most palpably weak
I am, &c.
Of Mr. Howes's Charge of a wilful Anachronism, in the Age of Plotinus.
You have seen several specimens of Mr. Howes's bold charges, and his very lame support of them. I shall now present you with another even bolder than the preceding, and still worse supported.
With an air of insolent triumph, he subjoins to the titlepage of his work, (and he inserts the same in all his public advertisements of it,)—" together with another curious specimen of romance, in his late History of the Early Opinions concerning Christ,' in regard to Plotinus being made, by him, to instruct the first Christian fathers in the Platonic catechism, a whole century before Plotinus was born."
This, Gentlemen, it gives me real concern to say, is
• Appendix, p. 126. (P.)
Hær. li. Sect. xii. Opera, I. p. 423. (P.)
↑ B. iii. Ch. xiv.
nothing less than an absolute falsehood, both in words and sense; it is even destitute of all colour of truth. From reading what Mr. Howes so confidently asserts, you would unavoidably conclude, that I had represented the Christian fathers as quoting Plotinus, or borrowing something that came from him, which, however, is by no means true. Mr. Howes quotes no passage in my History, in proof of his assertion; but you may look it through, and I am confident you will find no such thing, nor any thing from which it can be inferred. As what Mr. Howes advances on this subject is not very long, I shall copy the whole of it.
"Dr. Priestley suggests in his History of Christian Opinions, Vol. I., in proof of the Christian philosophers, about the time of Justin, having first expelled Humanism, and introduced the doctrine of Christ's divinity, that they had borrowed their notions of the Trinity from the later Platonists, as they are commonly called. Now Plotinus was the oldest of these later Platonists, and he was not born until after the year 200; how, then, could Justin, about the year 140, borrow any thing from the later Platonists? Yet, not satisfied with suggesting this monstrous anachronism, both by his arrangement and expressions in the body of his new History, in such a manner as must necessarily lead his readers into an error concerning the possibility of the fact, Dr. Priestley has taken care, moreover, to confirm them in this error, in his Biographical Chart, prefixed to his first volume; for, behold, there Plotinus is placed as being born soon after the year 100, and a little before Justin Martyr, so as to make him old enough to teach the Platonic catechism to Justin; whereas, in reality, Justin was long dead before the birth of Plotinus, who did not flourish until about the year 240; therefore, a whole century later than where Dr. Priestley has placed him in his Chart. What dependence, then, can be placed on the expositions of scripture, or the assertions in history, by those who can thus make dead Christians to be instructed by profane philosophers, who were not born until 20 or 30 years after the death of their pretended scholars ?"*
Now, so far have I been from saying that Justin Martyr, or any of the Christian fathers, quoted Plotinus, that I no where say that they adopted the principles of any of the later Platonists, but of Platonism in general. Examine all my quotations, and you will find that they refer to Plato
* Appendix, pp. 126-128.
only. If any thing that I have said should imply more, it is a casual oversight.
If I had said that the Christian fathers adopted any principles of the later Platonists, as different from those of Plato himself, there would have been no anachronism in it. I should only have represented them as adopting the principles of the school, which principles I shew to have existed by means of the writings of the later Platonists. With the same colour of truth Mr. Howes might have said that I had made Justin Martyr the scholar of Jamblicus, Julian, or even Proclus, who lived in the year 600. For I quote them as much as I do Plotinus, and for the same purpose, viz. to ascertain what were the doctrines of their school.
If Mr. Howes meant to assert that Plotinus was the founder of the sect of later Platonists, which is the only sense in which his calling him the oldest can be to his purpose, it is notoriously false. He himself quotes Petavius, as saying that "Plotinus was the scholar of Ammonius,' and in the same place he quotes without censure my saying that "those who are usually called the later Platonists were those philosophers, chiefly of Alexandria, who a little before and after the commencement of the Christian æra, adopted the general principles of Plato." If, then, the school, and its tenets, existed before the Christian era, what anachronism is there in making the Christian fathers borrow from it? Does not Philo appear to have imbibed the principles of this school as much as any of the Christian fathers? Did they not, therefore, exist long before Plotinus?
Mr. Howes says I have suggested this monstrous anachronism, "both by my arrangement and my expressions, in the body of my history," which is absolutely false. For in the book itself, as you will see, I give the age of Plotinus right, saying, that he died in 270, aged 66; though, by some accident, perhaps the mistake of the engraver, the name is placed in the Chart, just a century wrong, which, if I were to explain to you the mechanical method of drawing such charts, I could satisfy you was the easiest of all mistakes. In my large Chart of Biography, which I could not mean to depart from, but really thought I had copied, Plotinus is placed where he should be.*
Thus, Gentlemen, can a man, who professes to disclaim
* See sunra n 496 Note
all the arts of controversy, write. I could not have imagined that any person could have suspected another of attempting such an imposition as Mr. Howes charges me with putting on the public, an imposition, that a schoolboy might have detected and exposed, as well as Mr. Howes. I ought, however, to except Dr. Horsley, who charged me with wilfully falsifying the common English translation of the New Testament. I should blush, and retire for ever from the sight or converse of scholars, if I had been convicted of such a piece of miserable chicanery as this of Mr. Howes. These are the boasted champions of modern orthodoxy. Had any Unitarian endeavoured to take such an advantage of his opponent in controversy, I should have thought it necessary to disclaim all connexion with him. Let us see how Dr. Horne and others, advocates for the doctrine of the Trinity, will act on this occasion. How different from this conduct of Mr. Howes is that of Dr. Geddes ! If I should be obliged to surrender at discretion, it would be a pleasure to give my sword to so generous an adversary.
Two inconsiderable mistakes Mr. Howes has observed in my History, which I shall correct, and which I should have acknowledged with gratitude, if there had been any appearance of generosity or candour in the intimation. I had rendered Boeλugov, abominable rites; whereas Mr. Howes, with great probability, conjectures, that it means the abomination with which, according to Epiphanius, the Ebionites held other people.* He also justly observes, that I had no foundation for saying that the word Ebion (and not Ebi onite) was not mentioned by Tertullian.
I am, &c.
Several gross Mistakes of Mr. Howes, with respect to the Tenets of ancient Sects.
MR. HOWES, undertaking to correct my mistakes, should have been careful to make none of his own: and yet I will venture to say that, excepting, and hardly excepting, Dr. Horsley, there is no example of any person in modern times having made such gross blunders as he has done, in
Appendix, p. 73. (P.)
his account of the tenets of ancient sects; confounding the opinions of the Gnostics with those of the Ebionites, both of them with those of the Arians, and indeed all three with the orthodox, as all holding the divinity of Christ; though no schemes can be more clearly marked as distinct, by all who have treated of them. He might as well have confounded them all with Judaism or Paganism itself.
Only read the following paragraphs, and then judge whether Mr. Howes or myself have travelled most in Utopia, or have dealt most in romance. After asserting that, according to Epiphanius, the opinion of the Gnostics and Ebionites was, that "it was not Jesus, a mere man, who was the Christ, but some superior being, of a divine nature, or of an intermediate nature between divinity and humanity," he adds, "this was also the chief principle of the Arians, only with some variations in other respects. How, then, can Dr. Priestley assert that the chief principle of Arianism was not ancient among the Christian sectaries? Arianism, in fact, was but a varied copy of Gnosticism and Ebionitism. It borrowed their chief principle of a created Christ, and only accommodated it a little more to the mode of orthodoxy, by supposing their created Christ, of an intermediate nature, to have been united to humanity by a miraculous conception in Mary, instead of a miraculous union to the humanity of Jesus at baptism. Paulus of Samosata varied this doctrine a little more still, and only a little, by supposing that the divine Christ, instead of being created before the creation, was first created by God, out of his unmanifested Logos, at the miraculous conception of Mary. So that Paulus was, in fact, as much a believer in the divinity of Christ as the Ebionites and
Let Mr. Howes produce any Arian, ancient or modern, who will say that he believes in the divinity of Christ; and that this divine Christ should have been created, is a most palpable contradiction. He says, that the Arians supposed their created Christ, of an intermediate nature, to have been united to humanity. Now, in humanity was always supposed to be included all that is essential to man, the soul, as well as the body. But no Arian ever held that Christ had a human soul. According to them, the created logos occupied the place of one.
my detail of the principles of the Gnostics and those
• Appendix, p. 33. (P.)