bewailed as a dishonour to the Christian name. Among all the sins most pointedly reprobated, adultery and incest were the chief. Of the former some
instances occurred, and the guilty persons were immediately cast out and disowned as infamous members. The latter crime was greatly abhored, and the Church
was always prepared, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, to excommunicate any person, whatever might be his previous reputation or standing
in the Church, who should be guilty of incest. But such was the universal detestation in which that crime was held, even among the Heathen as well as
among Christians, that not a single instance of incest is recollected to be found, in the writings of the fathers, or the histories of the primitive centuries;
at least not among those who were considered orthodox in their doctrines.
MIN FAELIX published a charge, which was made by the Heathen against the Christians, in which, they accused them of promiscuous and incestuous lusts.
But the charge was as malicious as it was false. It was boldly and ably refuted by Tertulian, Clemens Alexandrinus, Firmilianus,
Athanasius, Lactantius, and Justin Martyr; and the
Christians were vindicated and proved to be innocent and clear of that wicked imputation. Origen cast the blame of this scandalous charge upon the
Jews, who, he said, had wilfully and spitefully invented it, to disgrace and prejudice Christianity.
But Epiphanius has mentioned a fact which most probably first suggested the accusation, although it did not justify the Heathen in falsely, and contrary
to their own knowledge, applying the crime to real Christians. There were, he says, "unprincipled men who had made a profession of Christianity; but
not relishing the doctrines and especially the morals and conversation of believers, which were too strict and holy for them. They soon withdrew, while they
still retained the Christian name." These, Epiphanius enumerates as the followers of Simon Magus, Menander, Marcion, Basilides, &c. who were known
by the general appellation of Gnostics. It was true, he says, "that these under the cover of a religious profession, were guilty of the enormous crime of
incestuous cohabitation; and that they even reproached and ridiculed the pious and orthodox, whom the fear and love of God restrained from such sins."
Justin Martyr also declares, that this was the real and only rise and foundation of the pernicious