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ANF07. Fathers of the Third and Fourth Centuries: Lactantius, Venantius, Asterius, Victorinus, Dionysius, Apostolic Teaching and Constitutions, Homily
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Sec. II.—History and Doctrines of Heresies.

That Schism is Made, Not by Him Who Separates Himself from the Ungodly, But Who Departs from the Godly.

IV. If therefore God inflicted punishment immediately on those that made a schism on account of their ambition, how much rather will He do it upon those who are the leaders of impious heresies! Will not He inflict severer punishment on those that blaspheme His providence or His creation? But do you, brethren, who are instructed out of the Scripture, take care not to make divisions in opinion, nor divisions in unity. For those who set up unlawful opinions are marks of perdition to the people. In like manner, do not you of the laity come near to such as advance doctrines contrary to the mind of God; nor be you partakers of their impiety. For says God: “Separate yourselves from the midst of these men, lest you perish together with them.”31813181     Num. xvi. 21   And again: “Depart from the midst of them, and separate yourselves, says the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing, and I will receive you.”31823182     2 Cor. vi. 17    

Upon What Account Israel, Falsely So Named, is Rejected by God, Demonstrated from the Prophetic Predictions.

V. For those are most certainly to be avoided who blaspheme God. The greatest part of the ungodly, indeed, are ignorant of God; but these men, as fighters against God, are possessed with a wilful evil disposition, as with a disease. For from the wickedness of these heretics “pollution is gone out upon all the earth,”31833183     Jer. xxiii. 15   as says the prophet Jeremiah. For the wicked synagogue is now cast off by the Lord God, and His house is rejected by Him, as He somewhere speaks: “I have forsaken mine house, I have left mine inheritance.”31843184     Jer. xii. 7   And again, says Isaiah: “I will neglect my vineyard, and it shall not be pruned nor digged, and thorns shall spring up upon it, as upon a desert; and I will command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it.”31853185     Isa. v. 6.   He has therefore “left His people as a tent in a vineyard, and as a garner in a fig or olive yard, and as a besieged city.”31863186     Isa. i. 8.   He has taken away from them the Holy Spirit, and the prophetic rain, and has replenished His Church with spiritual grace, as the “river of Egypt in the time of first-fruits;”31873187     See Ecclus. xxiv. 25.   and has advanced the same “as an house upon an hill, or as an high mountain; as a mountain fruitful for milk and fatness, wherein it has pleased God to dwell. For the Lord will inhabit therein to the end.”31883188     Ps. lxviii. 16.   And He says in Jeremiah: “Our sanctuary is an exalted throne of glory.”31893189     Jer. xvii. 12.   And He says in Isaiah: “And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord shall be glorious, and the house of the Lord shall be upon the top of the mountains, and shall be advanced above the hills.”31903190     Isa. ii. 2.   Since, therefore, He has forsaken His people, He has also left His temple desolate, and rent the veil of the temple, and took from them the Holy Spirit; for says He, “Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.”31913191     Matt. xxiii. 38.   And He has bestowed upon you, the converted of the Gentiles, spiritual grace, as He says by Joel: “And it shall come to pass after these things, saith God, that I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh; and your sons shall prophesy, and your daughters shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.”31923192     Joel ii. 28.   For God has taken away all the power and efficacy of His word, and such like visitations, from that people, and has transferred it to you, the converted of the Gentiles. For on this account the devil himself is very angry at the holy Church of God: he is removed to you, and has raised against you adversities, seditions, and reproaches, schisms, and heresies. For he had before subdued that people to himself, by their slaying of Christ. But you who have left his vanities he tempts in different ways, as he did the blessed Job.31933193     Job i., etc.   For indeed he opposed that great high priest Joshua the son of Josedek;31943194     Zech. iii. 1.   and he oftentimes sought to sift us, that our faith might fail.31953195     Luke xxii. 31   But our Lord and Master, having brought him to trial, said unto him: “The Lord rebuke thee, O devil; and the Lord, who hath chosen Jerusalem, rebuke thee. Is not this plucked out of the fire as a brand?”31963196     Zech. iii. 2, etc.   And who said then to those that stood by the high priest, “Take away his ragged garments from him;” and added, “Behold, I have taken thine iniquities away from thee;” He will say now, as He said formerly of us when we were assembled together, “I have prayed that your faith may not fail.”31973197     Luke xxii. 32.    

That Even Among the Jews There Arose the Doctrine of Several Heresies Hateful to God.

VI. For even the Jewish nation had wicked heresies: for of them were the Sadducees, who do not confess the resurrection of the dead; and the Pharisees, who ascribe the practice of sinners to fortune and fate; and the Basmotheans, who deny providence, and say that the world is made by spontaneous motion, and take away the immortality of the soul; and the Hemerobaptists, who every day, unless they wash, do not eat,—nay, and unless they cleanse their beds and tables, or platters and cups and seats, do not make use of any of them; and those who are newly risen amongst us, the Ebionites, who will have the Son of God to be a mere man, begotten by human pleasure, and the conjunction of Joseph and Mary. There are also those that separate themselves from all these, and observe the laws of their fathers, and these are the Essenes. These, therefore, arose among the former people. And now the evil one, who is wise to do mischief, and as for goodness, knows no such good thing, has cast out some from among us, and has wrought by them heresies and schisms.  

Whence the Heresies Sprang, and Who Was the Ringleader of Their Impiety.

VII. Now the original of the new heresies began thus: the devil entered into one Simon, of a village called Gitthæ, a Samaritan, by profession a magician, and made him the minister of his wicked design.31983198     Acts viii.   For when Philip our fellow-apostle,31993199     [Either an ignorant error or a peculiar use of a technical word (p. 383, supra) to signify a missionary. See the note, book viii. sec. 3, cap. 17, infra.]   by the gift of the Lord and the energy of His Spirit, performed the miracles of healing in Samaria, insomuch that the Samaritans were affected, and embraced the faith of the God of the universe, and of the Lord Jesus, and were baptized into His name; nay, and that Simon himself, when he saw the signs and wonders which were done without any magic ceremonies, fell into admiration, and believed, and was baptized, and continued in fasting and prayer,—we heard of the grace of God which was among the Samaritans by Philip, and came down32003200     [Were sent, rather. See Acts viii. 14.]   to them; and enlarging much upon the word of doctrine, we laid our hands upon all that were baptized, and we conferred upon them the participation of the Spirit. But when Simon saw that the Spirit was given to believers by the imposition of our hands, he took money, and offered it to us, saying, “Give me also the power, that on whomsoever I also shall lay my hand, he may receive the Holy Ghost;”32013201     Acts viii. 19.   being desirous that as the devil32023202     “The devil:” this reading is adopted from the V. mss.   deprived Adam by his tasting of the tree of that immortality which was promised him, so also that Simon might entice us by the receiving of money, and might thereby cut us off from the gift of God,32033203     The V. mss. insert here: “Simon, therefore, being moved by the devil, brought the money.”   that so by exchange we might sell to him for money the inestimable gift of the Spirit. But as we were all troubled at this offer, I Peter, with a fixed attention on that malicious serpent which was in him, said to Simon: “Let thy money go with thee to perdition, because thou hast thought to purchase the gift of God with money. Thou hast no part in this matter, nor lot in this faith; for thy heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray to the Lord, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee. For I perceive thou art in the gall of bitterness and the bond of iniquity.”32043204     Acts viii. 20, etc.   But then Simon was terrified, and said: “I entreat you, pray ye to the Lord for me, that none of those things which ye have spoken come upon me.”32053205     Acts viii. 24.    

Who Were the Successors of Simon’s Impiety, and What Heresies They Set Up.

VIII. But when we went forth among the Gentiles to preach the word of life, then the devil wrought in the people to send after us false apostles to the corrupting of the word; and they sent forth one Cleobius, and joined him with Simon, and these became disciples to one Dositheus, whom they despising, put him down from the principality. Afterwards also others were the authors of absurd doctrines: Cerinthus, and Marcus, and Menander, and Basilides, and Saturnilus. Of these some own the doctrine of many gods, some only of three, but contrary to each other, without beginning, and ever with one another, and some of an infinite number of them, and those unknown ones also. And some reject marriage; and their doctrine is, that it is not the appointment of God; and others abhor some kinds of food: some are impudent in uncleanness, such as those who are falsely called Nicolaitans. And Simon meeting me Peter, first at Cæsarea Stratonis (where the faithful Cornelius, a Gentile, believed on the Lord Jesus by me), endeavoured to pervert the word of God; there being with me the holy children, Zacchæus, who was once a publican, and Barnabas; and Nicetas and Aquila, brethren of Clement the bishop and citizen of Rome, who was the disciple of Paul, our fellow-apostle and fellow-helper in the Gospel. I thrice discoursed before them with him concerning the true Prophet, and concerning the monarchy of God; and when I had overcome him by the power of the Lord, and had put him to silence, I drove him away into Italy.  

How Simon, Desiring to Fly by Some Magical Arts, Fell Down Headlong from on High at the Prayers of Peter, and Brake His Feet, and Hands, and Ankle-Bones.

IX. Now when he was in Rome, he mightily disturbed the Church, and subverted many, and brought them over to himself, and astonished the Gentiles with his skill in magic, insomuch that once, in the middle of the day, he went into their theatre, and commanded the people that they should bring me also by force into the theatre, and promised he would fly in the air; and when all the people were in suspense at this, I prayed by myself. And indeed he was carried up into the air by demons, and did fly on high in the air, saying that he was returning into heaven, and that he would supply them with good things from thence. And the people making acclamations to him, as to a god, I stretched out my hands to heaven, with my mind, and besought God through the Lord Jesus to throw down this pestilent fellow, and to destroy the power of those demons that made use of the same for the seduction and perdition of men, to dash him against the ground, and bruise him, but not to kill him. And then, fixing my eyes on Simon, I said to him: “If I be a man of God, and a real apostle of Jesus Christ, and a teacher of piety, and not of deceit, as thou art, Simon, I command the wicked powers of the apostate from piety, by whom Simon the magician is carried, to let go their hold, that he may fall down headlong from his height, that he may be exposed to the laughter of those that have been seduced by him.” When I had said these words, Simon was deprived of his powers, and fell down headlong with a great noise, and was violently dashed against the ground, and had his hip and ankle-bones broken; and the people cried out, saying, “There is one only God, whom Peter rightly preaches in truth.” And many left him; but some who were worthy of perdition continued in his wicked doctrine. And after this manner the most atheistical heresy of the Simonians was first established in Rome; and the devil wrought by the rest of the false apostles32063206     [2 Cor. xi. 13. See p. 457, infra.]   also.  

How the Heresies Differ from Each Other, and from the Truth.

X. Now all these had one and the same design of atheism, to blaspheme Almighty God, to spread their doctrine that He is an unknown being, and not the Father of Christ, nor the Creator of the world; but one who cannot be spoken of, ineffable, not to be named, and begotten by Himself; that we are not to make use of the law and the prophets; that there is no providence and no resurrection to be believed; that there is no judgment nor retribution; that the soul is not immortal; that we must only indulge our pleasures, and turn to any sort of worship without distinction. Some of them say that there are many gods, some that there are three gods without beginning, some that there are two unbegotten gods, some that there are innumerable Æons. Further, some of them teach that men are not to marry, and must abstain from flesh and wine, affirming that marriage, and the begetting of children, and the eating of certain foods, are abominable; that so, as sober persons, they may make their wicked opinions to be received as worthy of belief. And some of them absolutely prohibit the eating of flesh, as being the flesh not of brute animals, but of creatures that have a rational soul, as though those that ventured to slay them would be charged with the crime of murder. But others of them affirm that we must only abstain from swine’s flesh, but may eat such as are clean by the law; and that we ought to be circumcised, according to the law, and to believe in Jesus as in an holy man and a prophet. But others teach that men ought to be impudent in uncleanness, and to abuse the flesh, and to go through all unholy practices, as if this were the only way for the soul to avoid the rulers of this world. Now all these are the instruments of the devil, and the children of wrath.  


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