The ancient hereticks are so extravagantly calumniated that it is not easy to discover their real opinions or character. Something however is to be made out.
The success of Christianity tempted some bold spirits to set up for themselves. Every thing about Simon Magus must be false, except perhaps his Simony; but it is plain that certain early hereticks took advantage of the promise of the Comforter. Montanus is said to have called himself the Paraclete. Others tried to amalgamate eastern superstition with Christianity. In both these attempts Mahommed succeeded. Mosellama was his Simon Magus, who declared against him, and failed.
Others saw that a new religion was likely to succeed, but wished to substitute some other object of adoration in the place of Christ,— probably to avoid the reproach of the crucifixion. Seth, Melchisedeck, and Moses were set up. The 212Pagans tried Apollonius Tyanæus. The stories of the Cainites cannot be true.
A large class consists of those who resisted the various corruptions of Christianity step by step, from Cerinthus down to Berenger. Another of those who proposed corruptions of their own,— in this are included all the species of Arians, and all the Greek metaphysical sects. Two other divisions remain,— plain, reasonable, pious non-conformists, to whom Robinson attributes too much,— and infatuated fanatics, whom he has not taken sufficiently into his view, but who, under some shape or other, have existed in all times and all countries.
It is curious to see how some of these heresies leavened the conquering Church. The distinguishing tenet of Manichæism, is the root and foundation of all ascetic rigour;— the celibacy of the clergy is traceable to Manes and Marcion, and fatalism, which infects us at this day under the name of Calvinism, its vilest and 213vulgarest form,— was brought by the Gnostics from the East.