Montanus

, an ancient heresiarch. among the Christians, founded a new sect in the second century of the church, which were called Montanists. They had also the name of Phrygians and Cataphrygians, because Montanus was either born, or at least first known, at Ardaba, a village of Mysia, which was situated upon the borders of Phrygia. Here he set up for a prophet, although it seems he had but lately embraced Christianity: but it is said that he had an immoderate desire to obtain a first place in the church, and that he thought this the most likely means of raising himself. In this assumed character he affected to appear inspired with the Holy Spirit, and to be seized and agitated with divine ecstacies; and, under these disguises he uttered prophecies, in which he laid down doctrines, and established rites and ceremonies, entirely new. This wild behaviour was attended with its natural consequences and effects upon the multitude some affirming him to be a true prophet others, that he was possessed with an evil spirit. To carry on his delusion the better, Montanus associated to himself Priscilla and Maximiila, two wealthy ladies, who acted the part “of prophetesses” and, it> by the power of whose geld,“as Jerome tells us,” he first seduced many churches, and then corrupted them with his abominable errors." He seems to have made Pepuza, a tawn in Phrygia, the place of his first residence; and he artfully called it Jerusalem, because he knew the charm there was in that name, and what a powerful temptation it would be in drawing from all parts the weaker and more credulous Christians. Here he employed himself in delivering obscure and enigmatical sayings, under the name of prophecies; and made no small advantage of his followers, who brought great sums of money and valuable presents, by way of offerings. Some of these prophecies of Montanus and his women are preserved by Epiphanius, in which they affected to consider themselves only as mere machines and organs, through which God spake unto his people.

The peculiarities of this sect of Christians are explicitly set forth by St. Jerome. They are said to have been very heterodox in regard to the Trinity; inclining to Sabellianism, “by crowding,” as Jerome expresses it, “the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, into the narrow limits of one person.Epiphanius, however, contradicts this, and affirms them to have agreed with the church in the doctrine of the | Trinity. The Montanists held all second marriages to be unlawful, asserting that although the apostle Paul permitted them, it was because he “only knew in part, and prophesied in part;” but tnat, since the Holy Spirit had been poured upon Montanus and his prophetesses, they were not to be permitted any longer. But the capital doctiines of the Montanists are these “God,” they say, “was first pleased to save the world, under the Old Testament, from eternal damnation by Moses and the prophets. When these agents proved ineffectual, he assumed flesb. and blood of the Virgin Mary, and died for us in Christ, under the person of the Son. When the salvation of the world was not effected yet, he descended lastly upon Montanus, Priscilla, and Maximilla, into whom he infused that fulness of his Holy Spirit*, which had not been vouchsafed to the apostle Paul; for, Paul only knew in part, and prophesied in part.” These doctrines gained ground very fast;, and Montanus soon found himself surrounded with a tribe of people, who would probably have been ready to acknowledge his pretensions, if they had been higher. To add to his influence over their minds, he observed a wonderful strictness and severity of discipline, was a man of mortification, and of an apparently most sanctified spirit. He disclaimed all innovations in the grand articles of faith; and only pretended to perfect what was left unfinished by the saints. By these means he supported for a long time the character of a most holy, mortified, and divine person, and the world became much interested in the visions and prophecies of him and his two damsels Priscilla and Maximilla; and thus the face of severity and saintship consecrated their reveries, and made real possession pass for inspiration. Several good men immediately embraced the delusion, particularly Tertullian, Alcibiades, and Theodotus, who, however, did not wholly approve of Montanus’s extravagancies; but the churches of Phrygia, and afterwards other churches, grew divided upon the account of these new revelations; and, for some time, even the bishop of Rome cherished the imposture. Of the time or manner of Montanus’s death we have no certain account. It has been asserted, but without proof, that he and his coadjutress Maximilla were suicides. 1

1

Mosbeim. Cave, vol I. Gardner’s Works.

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