By what means shall I authenticate this
previous inquiry, which I have studied to circumscribe and
compress? — If I persist in supporting each fact or
reflection by its proper and special evidence, every line
would demand a string of testimonies, and every note would
swell to a critical dissertation. But the numberless
passages of antiquity which I have seen with my own eyes,
are compiled, digested and illustrated by Petavius and Le
Clerc, by Beausobre and Mosheim. I shall be content to
fortify my narrative by the names and characters of these
respectable guides; and in the contemplation of a minute or
remote object, I am not ashamed to borrow the aid of the
1. The Dogmata Theologica of Petavius are a work of incredible labour and compass; the volumes which relate solely to the Incarnation (two folios, 5th and 6th of 837 pages) are divided into 16 books — the first of history, the remainder of controversy and doctrine. The Jesuit's learning is copious and correct; his Latinity is pure, his method clear, his argument profound and well connected; but he is the slave of the fathers, the scourge of heretics, and the enemy of truth and candour, as often as they are inimical to the Catholic cause.
2. The Arminian Le Clerc, who has composed in a quarto volume (Amsterdam, 1716) the ecclesiastical history of the two first centuries, was free both in his temper and situation; his sense is clear, but his thoughts are narrow; he reduces the reason or folly of ages to the standard of his private judgment, and his impartiality is sometimes quickened, and sometimes tainted by his opposition to the fathers. See the heretics (Cerinthians, lxxx. Ebionites, ciii. Carpocratians, cxx. Valentiniins, cxxi. Basilidians, cxxiii. Marcionites, cxli., etc.) under their proper dates.
3. The Histoire Critique du Manicheisme (Amsterdam, 1734, 1739, in two vols. in 4to., with a posthumous dissertation Sur les Nazarenes, , Lausanne, 1745) of M. de Beausobre is a treasure of ancient philosophy and theology. The learned historian spins with incomparable art the systematic thread of opinion, and transforms himself by turns into the person of a saint, a sage, or a heretic. Yet his refinement is sometimes excessive; he betrays an amiable partiality in favour of the weaker side, and, while he guards against calumny, he does not allow sufficient scope for superstition and fanaticism. A copious table of contents will direct the reader to any point that he wishes to examine.
4. Less profound than Petavius, less independent than Le Clerc, less ingenious than Beausobre, the historian Mosheim is full, rational, correct, and moderate. In his learned work, De Rebus Christianis ante Constantinum (Helmstadt 1753, in 4to.) see the Nazarenes and Ebionites, p. 172 - 179, 328 - 332. The Gnostics in general, p. 179, etc. Cerinthus, p. 196 - 202. Basilides, p. 352 - 361. Carpocrates, p. 363 - 367. Valentinus, p. 371 - 389 Marcion, p. 404 - 410. The Manichaeans, p. 829 - 837, etc.