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An Ecclesiastical History To The 20th Year Of The Reign Of Constantine by Eusebius

AS the churches now were reflecting the light like splendid luminaries throughout the world, and the faith of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ was spreading so as to embrace the whole human race, the malignant spirit of iniquity, as the enemy of all truth, and always the most violent enemy to the salvation of men, was now devising every species of machination against the church, as he had already armed himself against it by former persecutions. When, however, cut off from these, he then waged a war by other methods, in which he employed the agency of wicked impostors as certain abandoned instruments and minions of destruction. Intent upon every course, he instigated these insidious impostors and deceivers, by assuming the same name with us (Christians), to lead those believers whom they happened to seduce to the depths of destruction, and by their presumption, also to turn those that were ignorant of the faith, from the path that led to the saving truth of God. Hence a certain double-headed and double-tongued serpentine power, proceeding from that Menander whom we have already mentioned as the successor of Simon, produced two leaders of different heresies; Saturninus, a native of Antioch, and Basilides, of Alexandria. The former of these established schools of impious heresy in Syria, the latter in Egypt. Irenæus, indeed, states, that in most respects Saturninus held the same false doctrines with Menander, but that Basilides, under the pretext of matters too deep to be divulged, stretched his inventions to a boundless extent, in his astonishing fictions of impious heresy. But as there were at the time many ecclesiastical writers, who contended for the truth, and defended the doctrine of the apostles and the church, with more than common learning, so there were also some who, by publishing their writings, furnished preventives by the way against these heresies. Of these, the best refutation of Basilides that has come down to us, is that of Agrippa Castor, one of the most distinguished writers of that day. In his refutation he fully exposes the dreadful imposture of the man, and reveals his pretended mysteries. He says, that he composed twenty-four books upon the gospels, and that he mentions Barcabbas, and Barcoph, as prophets, and invents others for himself that never existed. That he also gave them certain barbarous names, in order to astonish those the more who are easily ensnared by such things as these. That he taught also, it was indifferent for those that tasted of things sacrificed to idols, and were betrayed unwarily, to abjure the faith, in times of persecution. Like Pythagoras, he enjoined, also, upon his followers, a silence of five years. Other accounts, similar to these, are given by the above-mentioned author, respecting Basilides, in which he ably exposes the fallacy of his heresy. Irenæus also writes, that Carpocrates was contemporary with these, who was also the father of another heresy, called the heresy of the Gnostics.

These did not, like the former, wish to retain the magic arts of Simon in secret, but thought that they should be made public. So that, as if it were something great and glorious, they boasted of preparations of love potions, and of tutelary and dream-exciting demons, and other similar magic rites.

In accordance with these things, they also taught, that the basest deeds should be perpetrated by those that would arrive at perfection in the mysteries, or rather that would reach the extent of their abominations. So that, as they were accustomed to speak, one could in no other way escape the rulers of the world, unless by performing his part of obscenity to all. By the aid of such coadjutors, it happened, that the spirit of wickedness enslaved those that were led astray by them to their own destruction; whilst to the unbelieving Gentiles, they afforded abundant scope to slander the truth of God, as the report proceeding from them extended with its infamy to the whole body of Christians. In this way it happened, therefore, for the most part, that a certain impious and most absurd suspicion was spread abroad among the unbelievers respecting us, as of those who had unlawful commerce with mothers and sisters, and made use of execrable food. These artifices, however, did not continue to advance far, as the truth nevertheless established itself, and in process of time shed abroad its own light more and more. Indeed, the machinations of its enemies were almost immediately extinguished by the power of truth; one sect rising after another, the first always passing away, and one in one way, and another in another, evaporating into speculations of many modes, and as many forms. But the splendour of the universal and only true church constantly advanced in greatness and glory, always the same in all matters under the same circumstances, and reflected its dignity, its sincerity, its freedom, and the modesty and purity of that divine life and temper which it inculcates, to all nations, both Greeks and barbarians. At the same time with the above heresy, the aspersions upon our religion were suppressed. For the doctrine that we hold has alone survived, has prevailed over all, and been universally acknowledged as surpassing all in dignity and gravity, in divine truths that evince a genuine and sound philosophy. So that no one, down to the present time, has dared to affix any calumny upon our faith, nor any such slander, such as was formerly so eagerly applied by those that rose up against us. Nevertheless, in those times the truth presented many champions that undertook its defence, not only by unwritten argumentations, but, also, by their written demonstrations against the prevailing heretical impieties.








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