Montanists a Christian sect, is now generally believed to have arisen in Asia Minor, about the middle of the 2d century after Christ. But little if anything is known of their earliest history. It is apparent, however, that as a sect they embodied all the ascetic and rigoristic elements of the Church of the 2d century.
As Christianity had gradually become settled in humanity, "its supernatural principle being naturalized on earth," prophecy and miraculous manifestations were believed to be past. The Montanists, however, came forward to declare a continuance of the miraculous gifts of the apostolic Church, and proclaimed that the age of the Holy Ghost and the millennial reign had been established in the village of Pepuza, in Western Phrygia (Epiphan. De Haefes. 48, 14), which they termed the New Jerusalem. Those who followed the Holy Ghost, speaking through these new prophets, were held to be the only genuine Christians, and were to form the Church. They were the pneumatici, the spiritually-minded; and all the opponents of these new revelations were the psychici, the carnally-minded. As a sect they condemned second marriages, considering wedlock a spiritual union sanctified by Christ, and intended to be renewed beyond the grave. They expelled from the Church all that were guilty of notorious crimes, imposed rigid fasts, advocated celibacy, encouraged martyrdom, allowed of divorce, and held it unlawful to fly in time of persecution. Such were their notions of their own sanctity that, while they did not directly separate from the rest of the Church, they esteemed others very imperfect Christians, and deemed themselves a spiritual Church within the carnal Church. The Christian life was by them not merely referred to a miraculous beginning, the intervention in history of a reparative and saving power, inaugurating a new and final historical development. No there must be nothing less than a perpetual miracle; everything would be lost if the concurrence of natural activity, of patient labor, were for a moment admitted, if the conditions of a slowly progressive development were in any degree recognised. The Montanists thus conceived religion as a process of development, which they illustrated by the analogy of organic growth in nature, distinguishing in this process four stages:
(1.) natural religion, or the innate idea of God;
(2.) the legal religion of the Old Testament;
(3.) the Gospel during the earthly life of Christ; and
(4.) the revelation of the Paraclete; that is, the spiritual religion of the Montanists, and accordingly they called themselves the πνευματικοί, or the spiritual Church, in distinction from the psychical Catholic Church.
This is the first instance of a theory of development which assumes an advance beyond the New Testament and the Christianity of the apostles; misapplying the parables of the mustard seed and the leaven, and Paul's doctrine of the growth of the Church in Christ and his Word, not beyond them. In such a light, "the religion of the Spirit," says Pressense aptly, therefore "is not a new sun which has arisen on the horizon of humanity, and which is to run its regular course after the primary miracle of its appearance; it is to retain ever the brilliancy of its lightning; it is to be one long flashing storm, rather than the quiet shining of the sun. The divine does not harmonize with the human element; it always descends upon it as on its prey, overcoming and subverting" (Heresy and Christian Doctr. page 105). Such was the fundamental error of Montanism; it did not recognise the supernatural as taking possession of the natural order, penetrating and transforming it; it marked out the two domains as in direct and constant opposition. The Montanists, then, believed in the constancy of supernatural phenomena within the Church. The miraculous element, particularly the prophetic ecstasy, was not removed; on the contrary, the necessity for it was greater than ever, and they considered those only to be true or perfect Christians who possessed the inward prophetic illumination of the Holy Spirit — they, indeed, were the true Church; and the more highly gifted were to be looked upon as the genuine successors of the apostles. They thus asserted a claim to universal validity, which the Catholic Church was compelled, for her own interest, to reject; since she left the effort after extraordinary holiness to the comparatively small circle of ascetics and priests, and sought rather to lighten Christianity, than add to its weight, for the great mass of its professors.
According to Apollinaris of Hierapolis (quoted by Eusebius in his Ecclesiastical History, chapter 16), the earliest Montanists were exclusively Phrygians; but this is not correct, though it is easy to see, from what we have said in the article MONTANUS, why his views should have laid strong hold on that race of excitable and superstitious Asiatics. Gieseler and Milman remark that the national character of the Phrygians impressed itself on their Christianity, and led to a sensuous, enthusiastic worship of the Deity, and to a wild mysticism. But this cannot have been the cause of the Montanist movement; it can only have given a peculiar character to the heresy, and influenced its details. For "Montanism is but one of a number of similar movements in the Church. At intervals throughout the annals of Christianity. the Holy Ghost has been summoned by the hopes, felt as present by the enkindled imaginations, been proclaimed by the passionate enthusiasm of a few as accomplishing in them the imperfect revelation as the third revelation which is to supersede and to fulfil the law and the Gospel." This notion appears not only thus early, but again in the Middle Ages, as the doctrine of the abbot Joachim, of John Peter de Oliva, and the Fratricelli; in a milder form it is that of George Fox and of Barclay (Milman, Lat. Christianity, 1:1), and in the Irvingites of today. In all these cases there is a striving, but a misguided striving, after a higher standard. Certain it is that, whatever doubt may exist as to the historical existence and consequent influence of Montanus, the heresy which bears his name spread not only in Phrygia, but throughout the bounds of the Catholic Church; and that if he existed, and taught Montailism, he was rather, as Neander observes, "the unconscious organ through which a peculiar mental tendency, which had developed itself in various parts of the Church, expressed itself with clearer intelligence and greater strength" (Antignost.). Indeed, there was much in the system which their pretended revelations were employed to establish, not only well adapted to take root and flourish among such a people as the Phrygians, but also sure to find in every country persons prepared to receive it by previous habits of mind. "It was attractive to the more rigid feelings, by holding out the idea of a life stricter than that of ordinary Christians; to weakness, by offering the guidance of precise rules where the Gospel had only laid down general principles; to enthusiasm and the love of excitement, by its pretensions to prophetical gifts; to pride, by professing to realize the pure and spotless mystical Church in an exactly defined visible communion; and by encouraging the members of this body to regard themselves as spiritual, and all other Christians as carnal" (Robertson, page 71). It is said to have been chiefly among the lower orders that Montanism spread; but even in the powerful mind of Tertullian it found congenial soil; and his embracing their opinions is one of the most interesting events in the history of the sect, as it is also in the biography of Tertullian himself. It occurred about A.D. 200, and the treatises which he wrote after that important period in his life give us the clearest insight into the essential character of Montanism; for he carried the opinions of the sect to their utmost length of rigid and uncompromising severity, though at the same time on the great fundamental points in which the Montanists did not differ from the Church he continued, as he had before been, one of the ablest champions of scriptural truth, and one of the mightiest opponents of every form of heresy.
Montanism, it is apparent, then, must be treated as a doctrinal development of the 3d rather than of the 2d century; for though the history of the sect may be dated back to the middle of he 2d century, it remained for Tertullian to give definite shape to Montanism, and it is as a separate sect that we call first deal with the Montanists (or Tertullianists, as they were also called in Africa) in the 3d century, continuing to flourish as a sect until the close of the 6th century, and all this time being the subject of legal enactments under all the successors of Constantine down to Justinian (A.D. 530). As a doctrinal system, Montanism in its original inception agreed in all essential points with the most catholic teachings, and held very firmly to the traditional rule of faith. This was acknowledged even by those who were opposed to Montanism (compare Epiphanius, Haer. 28:1). Nor is this to be wondered at. "For Montanism," as Dr. Schaff has well said, " was not originally a departure from the faith, but a morbid overstraining of the practical morality of the early Church. It is the first example of an earnest and well-meaning, but gloomy and fanatical hyperchristianity, which, like all hyperspiritualism, ends again in the flesh... Its views were rooted neither (like Ebionism) in Judaism nor (like Gnosticism) in heathenism, but in Christianity, and its errors consist in a morbid exaggeration of Christian ideas and demands." It is true also that the Montanists combated the Gnostic heresy with all decision, and, through Tertullian, contributed to the development of the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity, in asserting against Patripassianism the personal distinctions in God, and the import of the Holy Ghost. Yet this orthodoxy in the substance of its doctrine did not give Montanism the right to claim its place in evangelical Catholicity, for it was itself a principle of implacable and irreconcilable exclusion. Though first seen and felt only in the field of practical life and discipline, this Montanistic movement, coming then into conflict with the reigning Catholicism, finally and consistently carried out, broke to some extent into the province of doctrine, and thus proved true the theory that "every schismatic tendency becomes in its progress more or less heretical" (Schaff).
The one thing by which Montanism came to be especially distinguished from the Church catholic was its assertion of the continuance of prophecy, and hence it went generally under the name of nova prophetia. Now there was nothing heretical in the simple doctrine that charismata had not ceased in the Church; but there was heresy in the doctrine, which the Montanists espoused, that these charismata introduced a new dispensation superior to that of Christ and his apostles. That Christ, who came to fulfil the law and the prophets, and promised his Holy Spirit to his apostles to guide them into all truth, bequeathed to his Church only an insufficient morality, and a dispensation which needed to be supplemented by the Paraclete of Montanus, is utterly inconsistent with a true reception of the doctrines of the Church catholic and of the Holy Ghost, who spake by the prophets. This distinction in Montanism between the Paraclete and the Holy Ghost is not a distinction (or difference, rather) of person or nature, but the distinction of a plenary bestowal for a complete revelation following a partial bestowal for an imperfect and temporary revelation. It may be compared, and is virtually compared by Tertullian in the passages cited above from the treatises De Monog. and De Virg. Vel., to the distinction drawn by St. John when he says, "The Holy Ghost was not yet given." It was the same Spirit in the Mosaic and the Christian dispensations, yet might be called another on account of the different and larger grace of the Christian dispensation. So the Paraclete is in person and being identified with the Holy Ghost, but the larger measure of the Spirit given for the completion of Christianity introduces a distinction by which the Holy Ghost bestowed on the apostles is inferior to the Paraclete. The Paraclete is undeniably identified with the promised Spirit of Truth — i.e., the promise of Christ, which the Church believes to have been fulfilled on the first Pentecostal day, was not fulfilled until the Spirit came on Montanus. Mosheim (cent. 2, part 2, chapter 5, section 23, note), we must take the liberty of saying, entirely mistakes the nature of the distinction if his words imply, as we understand them to imply, a teacher other than the third person of the Christian Trinity. This heresy gave a character to the new disciplinary rules. It introduced also schism in its most aggravated form, asserting that the party of Montanus alone was the true Church, the pneumatic, all other nominal Christians being psychic.
Montanism manifestly claimed for itself a position above the organization and regular powers of the Church, asserting as its own monopoly the continuity of revelation. Anterior revelations, to be sure, are not set aside; they are, however, regarded simply as initiatory steps. The Old Testament retains its claims, but the New Testament suffers depreciation, inasmuch as it is no longer the final utterance of the divine teaching. It has not brought revelation to perfection; it has made, especially in the teaching of the apostles, more than one concession to human weakness, and, like Moses, it has allowed certain practices because of the hardness of men's hearts. "The Lord," says Tertullian, "has sent the Paraclete, because human weakness was not capable of receiving the truth all at once; it was necessary that the discipline should be regulated and progressively ordered, until it was carried to perfection by the Holy Spirit" (De Virg. Veland. part 1). Paul gave certain instructions rather by permission than in the name of God; he tolerated marriage because of the weakness of the flesh, in the same manner as Moses permitted divorce. "If Christ has abolished that which Moses had commanded, why should not the Paraclete forbid that which Paul allows?" (De Mozog. 1:4). "In fine, the Holy Spirit is rather a restorer than an inovator (ibid.). Was not the new development of the revelations given foreseen and declared by Jesus Christ? The final and glorious economy of the Paraclete may, indeed, have commenced at Pentecost, but it only reached its culminating point with the appearance of Montanus and the prophetesses of Phrygia; none can tell where its developments may end." Such were the principles of Montanism. Surely it were impossible to make a more serious assault than this upon apostolic Christianity. It clearly enough regarded revelation not as a fact, but rather as a doctrine or a law, and in consequence religion lost the definitive character which belongs to that which is absolute. "Inspiration," says Pressense, "which thus had power to change everything, was exempted from the restraint of all the rules of reason, as well as from the authority of the Holy Scriptures. It was admitted to be a sort of ecstasy, and its great merit, according to the sect, consisted in its bringing man into a state of complete passivity. Ecstasy seized the inspired man; this is the power of the Holy Spirit which produces prophecy' (Tertullian, De Anima, part 2). It is a sort of God-sent madness, which constitutes the spiritual faculty called by us prophecy. The soul is no longer self-possessed when it prophesies; it is in a state of delirium; a power not its own masters it. Dreams and visions occupy the principal place in the inspiration of the Montanists. Inspiration is only the harp which vibrates as it is touched by the player's finger (Epiphanius, Haer. 48, 4). 'Man sleeps; I alone am walking,' says the Paraclete (ibid.). In such a conception of inspiration, flexible natures, susceptible of keen and rapid impressions, were the chosen organs of revelation... Ambiguous and lying oracles could thus be substituted for the clear and exact prescriptions of the sacred books. It is obvious that the whole of Christianity was imperiled by this doctrine of the Paraclete (q.v.). This was the fundamental heresy of Montanism, and infinitely more serious than the particular errors into which it might be led" (Heresy and Doctrine, pages 114-115).
The view which the Montanists took of divine inspiration led them to ignore the demands of the ecclesiastical order, and to assert the universal prophetic and priestly office of Christians — even of females. They found the true qualification and appointment for the office of teacher in direct endowment by the Spirit of God, in distinction from outward ordination and episcopal succession. They everywhere proposed the supernatural element, and the free motion of the spirit, against the mechanism of a fixed ecclesiastical order. Now they were undoubtedly right in their resistance to the encroachments of the hierarchy, and to the relaxation of discipline; but they went too far on this point, as on every other — insisting upon a Church of saints and perfect men, a standard applicable only to the invisible Church. "The Church," said Tertullian, "is not constituted by the number of bishops; it is the Holy Spirit in the spiritual man" (De Pudicit. page 21) — a false and dangerous theory for practice in the visible Church, where the secrets of the heart can never be judged of where, as Pressense has aptly said, "the tares grow with the good wheat, and their separation is impossible. For the evil is not excluded by making a profession of the faith the personal condition of membership; there is no guarantee that this profession will be in all cases sincere, and, even were it so, there is no religious community in which it is not incomplete. It follows that no one such community can claim to be itself, to the exclusion of all others, the temple of the Holy Ghost; else it becomes an exclusive sect like the Montanists, who called themselves the perfect, the spiritual men, speaking scornfully of all other Christians as carnal. Their conception of inspiration, as never final and complete, moreover rendered any fixed order impossible, and destroyed ecclesiastical authority. All the elements of the faith were daily liable to change. It was impossible to divine what strange answers to spiritual questions might fall from heaven" (Heresy, page 116). Here, then, was the point where they necessarily assumed a schismatic character, and arrayed against themselves the episcopal hierarchy. They only brought another kind of aristocracy into the place of the condemned distinction of clergy and laity. They claimed for their prophets what they denied to the Catholic bishops. They put a great gulf between the true spiritual Christians and the merely psychical, and thus induced spiritual pride and false pietism. Their affinity with the Protestant idea of the universal priesthood is clearly more apparent than real; they go on altogether different principles. (Compare Schaff, 1:367.)
As to its matter, the Montanistic prophecy related
(1) to the approaching heavy judgements of God, a sort of visionary millenarianism;
(2) the persecutions;
(3) fasting and other ascetic practices, which were to be enforced as laws; and
(4) as to the distinction to, be made between the various kinds of sins.
One of the most essential and prominent traits of Montanism was its visionary millenarianism, founded, indeed, on the Apocalypse and on the apostolic expectation of the speedy return of Christ, but giving them extravagant weight and a materialistic coloring. The Montanists lived under a vivid impression of the great final catastrophe, and looked therefore with contempt upon the present world, and directed all their desires to the second advent of Christ, which they believed to be near at hand. "After me," exclaimed one of its prophetesses, "there is no more prophecy, but only the end of the world" (Epiphanius, Haer. 48, 2). The failure of these predictions weakened, of course, all the other pretensions of the system; though, on the other hand, it must be confessed here that the abatement of faith in the near approach of the Lord was certainly accompanied with an increase of worldliness in the Catholic Church.
But besides the prominent traits of Montanism already indicated, there remain those questions of discipline and morals, which were made the subject of special revelation in order to impart to the system its legal character. The distinction between the two covenants was lost sight of. "The Church," says Tertullian, "blends the law and the prophets with the Gospels and the writings of the apostles" (De Prescript. § 6). The Gospel was a code, no less than Mosaism, especially with the amplifications given to it by the Paraclete. "The law of liberty," says Pressense, "is replaced by precepts of the minutest detail. All that was not permissible was laid under a stern interdict (Tertullian, De Corona Milit. page 2), and thus vanished that noble Christian liberty which enlarges the domain of the moral: principle instead of narrowing it, and takes possession of the entire life, to bring it all under our direction, and to animate it with the inspiration of love as with the breath of life" (Heresy, page 117). Montanism, indeed, tended to a system of growing severity; and Tertullian, moreover, gloried in that the restoration of this rigorous discipline was made the chief office of the new prophecy (De Monog. c. 2 and 4). Now it must be confessed that the Montanists raised a zealous protest against the growing looseness of the Catholic penitential discipline, which in Rome particularly, under Zephyrinus and Callistus, to the great grief of earnest minds, established a scheme of indulgence for the grossest sins, and began, long before Constantine, to obscure the line between the Church and the world; but, on the other hand, it must be remembered also that Montanism certainly went to the opposite extreme, and fell from evangelical freedom into Jewish legalism. It turned with horror from all the enjoyments of life, and held even art to be incompatible with Christian soberness and humility. Above all, it laid stress upon three points: first, it exalted martyrdom with solemn fervor. It courted blood-baptism, and condemned concealment or flight in persecution as a denial of Christ: "For if persecution proceeds from God, it is in no way their duty to flee from what has God for its author; it ought not to be avoided, and it cannot be evaded." The treatise of Tertullian, Flight and Persecution, clearly and perfectly expresses these ideas, and they were the ideas of the Montanists. The Church had given to martyrdom no niggardly honor, but in the spirit of its founder's teachings (Mt 10:23) flight was considered proper. Montanism, however, severely condemned every measure of prudence in times of proscription (comp. Eusebius, Hist. Eccles. 5:16; Tertullian, De Fuga, § 4, pages 691-697).
The same extreme severity characterizes their practice of fasting. Kaye (in his Tertullian, page 416) sums up the differences between the orthodox and Montanists on the. subject of fasting thus: "With respect to the jejunium, or total abstinence from food, the orthodox thought that the interval between our Savioor's death and resurrection was only the period during which the apostles observed a total fast, and consequently the only period during which fasting was of positive obligation upon all Christians. At other times it rested with themselves to determine whether they would fast or not. The Montanists, on the contrary, contended that there were other seasons during which fasting was obligatory, and that the appointment of those seasons constituted a part of the revelations of the Paraclete. With respect to the Dies stationarii, the Montanists not only pronounced the fast obligatory on all Christians, but prolonged it until evening, instead of terminating it, as was the custom, at the ninth hour. In the observance of Xerophagice (q.v.), the Montanists abstained not only from flesh and wine, like the orthodox, but also from richer fruits, and omitted their customary ablutions." Apollonius (in Eusebius, H.E. 5:18), in this particular, simply notices of Montanus, "This is he who laid down laws of fasting," pointing out in these words that Montanus's offence was not the changing of one law for another, but the imposition of a law where there had been liberty. Tertullian has written an entire treatise ill defence of fasting, and the objections brought against Montanism on this point show clearly the exaggerated legalism by which it was estranged from the true Christian tradition. The law and the prophets, it was said to the Montanists, were until John; fasting thenceforward should be a voluntary, not an enjoined act. The apostles themselves observed it, without laying it as a yoke upon any: we must not return to legal prescriptions. The prophets showed great contempt for all that is merely outward observance. Tertullian (Dejejuniis, c. 2 and 3) replies that nothing is more adapted to give large license to the flesh than the reducing of the law to the great commandment of love. He .maintains the necessity of fasting-first. on the ground that self-indulgence led to the fall. "It is necessary," he says, "that man should give satisfaction to God with the same element by which he offended, and that he should deny himself food, which caused his fall." That fasting is agreeable to God is proved by the words full of tenderness addressed to Elijah when he was fasting in the desert of Horeb, especially as compared with the severe tone of the call to Adam when he had been eating the forbidden fruit. Fasting facilitates holy visions, as is proved by sacred history from Daniel to Peter, and it prepares for martyrdom; while the neglect of such abstinence leads to apostasy, by fostering the love for material pleasures. To the objections drawn from Holy Scripture, Tertullian replies by the revelations of the Paraclete, which legitimately give expansion to its obligation, and refuses to recognise any distinction between the O.T and N.T., as might be naturally enough expected from his strictly legal stand-point (comp. De jejuniis, c. 6-8).
Its strongest protests, however, Montanism, like all ascetic doctrines, entered against the union of the sexes. It not only prohibited second marriage as adultery, for laity as well as clergy, but even went so far as to distinctly impugn all marriage, urging its faithful ones to absolute continence. Tertullian does not hesitate to compare the conjugal union to adultery, forgetting his own beautiful words about the perpetuity of marriage after death (Ado. Marc. 1, c. 29, page 452), and brands the union of sexes as caused by an impulse of lust. "Thus, then," he suggests, as an objection urged, "you set a brand even on first marriages." "And rightly," he replies, "since they consist in the same act as adultery... Thus it is good for a man not to touch a woman; virginity is the highest holiness, since it is furthest removed from adultery" (De Virg. Veland. page 16). In his treatise on monogamy, however, Tertullian contents himself with prohibiting second marriages, taking his stand on Scripture, when he can make it sustain his view, appealing to the higher power of the Paraclete when he has to deal with the exact texts of St. Paul. The apostle, according to him, gave sanction to second marriages, but with a marked tone of antipathy, and simply in consequence of his knowledge and prophecy having been only in part. The Paraclete, however, in his new revelation, always acts in conformity with Jesus Christ and his promises. "We acknowledge," said Tertullian, "only one marriage, as we acknowledge only one God. Jesus Christ has had only one bride, which is the Church. By his example, and by the explicit command revealed by the Paraclete, he has restored the true nature; for monogamy dates from Eden. The priests were to have only one wife. Now, under the new economy, every Christian is a priest of Christ. No difference should be made in a moral point of view between the clergy and the laity, for the former are taken from among Christian people. Besides, how can marriage, which makes of the man and woman one flesh, be renewed? Is such an assimilation capable of repetition? Besides, the bonds between husband and wife continue in death; they have only become more sacred by becoming more spiritual." Yet Tertullian's views, though extreme, do not in this instance clearly set forth the views of all Montanists. Indeed some of them insisted that their founder taught λύσεις γάμωνdissolution of marriage and that Prisca and Maximilla, as soon as they recognised the spirit, abandoned their husbands. It is true Wernsdorf (see Routh's note, Rel. Sac. 1:473) observes that Montanus's teaching was on this point not by precept, but by the example of his two prophetesses, and yet the extreme asceticism must have had a far reaching influence even for Tertullian to advocate celibacy on the strength of it, and in his Exhortation to Chastity he comes to recognise a morality of perfection which rises above the ordinary standard. "Permanent virginity is its highest point; abstinence from the sexual relations in marriage is akin to it in virtue." In an extreme ascetic tendency Montanism forbade women all ornamental clothing, and required virgins to be veiled. Thus Tertullian urges that it be done so as not to kindle the flame of passion. "I entreat thee, O woman, be thou mother, daughter, or virgin, veil thy head: as mother, veil it for the sake of thy son; as sister, for thy brother; as daughter, for thy father. For thou dost imperil men of every age. Put on the armor of modesty ; encircle thee with a rampart of chastity. Set a guard over thine own eyes, and over those of others. Art thou not married to Christ?" (De Virg. Veland. page 16).
The perversion of the doctrine of redemption, which is the source of all such legalism, casuistry, and extreme asceticism, as the Montanists taught, is more especially notable in the arbitrary disposition made by Montanism of various kinds of sins. In the same manner as it recognises two orders of perfection, and thus does violence to the true idea of good, so does it tamper with the idea of evil. In accordance with the words of John — "a sin not unto death," and "a sin unto death" — it made a difference between sins venial and mortal, and denied that the Church had power to pardon the latter, because, as it taught, there is no possibility of a second repentance for mortal sins, and therefore no power in the Church to restore the lapsed into fellowship. Tertullian's treatise on Modesty, called forth by the decree of the bishop of Rome, who had assumed the right to pardon the gravest sins, expresses the Montanist theory with perfect clearness. He does not dwell for an instant on the real difficulty of obtaining proof of true repentance, but speaks only of the comparative gravity of sins. "Some," he says, "are pardonable; others, on the contrary, are beyond remission some merit punishment, others damnation. From this difference in the offences comes the difference in the penitence, which varies according as it is exercised on account of a pardonable or unpardonable sin." He held all mortal sins (of which he numbers seven) committed after baptism to be unpardonable (De Pudicit. c. 2 and 19), at least in this world; and a Church which showed such lenity towards gross offenders, as the Roman Church at that time did, according to the corroborating testimony of Hippolytus, he called worse than a "den of thieves," even a "spelunca moechorum et fornicatorum." At the head of the black catalogue of unpardonable or mortal sins the Montanists placed adultery and apostasy. They did not deny that God could pardon them directly, or through the medium of an exceptional revelation; but on this side the grave no restoration was possible for those who had been guilty of such sins, even though they gave the strongest pledges of their repentance. Here we have a clear departure from the grand Christian doctrine of the fulness of God's mercy, irrespective of the proportion of sin, and that the Church must suffer all to enter its fellowship who manifest "a desire to flee from the wrath to come." If Montanism taught truly, it follows that the work of redemption is insufficient, and that, in addition to repentance, a certain satisfaction is demanded of the sinner. We have here unquestionably reached the root of the error of Montanism, from which grows its legalism and its asceticism.
The religious earnestness which animated Montanism, and the fanatical extremes into which it ran have frequently reappeared in the Church after the death of Montanism, under various names and forms, as in Novatianism, Donatism, Anabaptism. the Camisard enthusiasm, Puritanism, Pietism, Irvingism, and so on, by way of protest and wholesome reaction against various evils in the Church. And what may appear perhaps more strange, several of those very doctrines of the Montanists which in their earliest rise were pronounced heretical gradually made their way into the Church of Rome, and. with slight modifications, remain to this day a part of her creed. Thus it is to Montanism that it owes the idea of the infallibility of its councils, which attempt in the same way to add to revelation. From the same source, too, it has derived its "counsels of perfection," and the distinction between venial and mortal sins. Says Dr. Newman, in his Essay on Development, a work which he would hardly care to own now," the prophets of the Montanists prefigure the Church's doctors, and their inspiration her infallibility; their revelations her developments" (pages 349-352). Since this was written a new significance has been given it by the proceedings of the last Vatican Council (1869), which has lodged in the individual head of the Church the infallibility formerly attributed to the Church as a whole. SEE INFALLIBILITY; SEE PAPACY.
We now return to the external history of Montanism. We have stated that it probably originated in Phrygia about the middle of the 2d century, and that it spread rapidly during the bloody persecutions under Marcus Aurelius. In Asia Minor, however, it met with opposition, and the bishops and synods almost universally declared against the new prophecy as the work of dsemons. Among its literary opponents in the East are mentioned Claudius Apollinaris of Hierapolis, Miltiades, Apollonius, Serapion of Antioch, and Clement of Alexandria. The Roman Church likewise, during the episcopate of Eleutherus (177-190) or of Victor (190-202), after some vacillation, set itself against it at the instigation of the presbyter Caius and the confessor Praxeas. Yet the opposition of Hippolytus to Zephyrinus and Callistus, and the later Novatian schism, shows that the disciplinary rigorism of Montanism found energetic advocates in Rome till after the middle of the 3d century. Indeed it was some time before the Montanists formed themselves into an independent sect in the Western Church (comp.
Gieseler, Eccles. Hist. 1:125, note 6). The Gallic Christians, Irenaeus at their head, took, it is now generally believed, a conciliatory posture, and sympathized at least with the moral earnestness, the enthusiasm for martyrdom, and the chiliastic hopes of the Montanists. They sent the bishop Irenseus to bishop Eleutherus at Rome to intercede in their behalf, and this mission may have induced him or his successor to issue letters of peace, which were, however, soon afterwards recalled. In North Africa they met with extensive sympathy, as the Punic national character leans naturally towards gloomy and rigorous acerbity. Here it secured Tertullian, who helped the gropers in the dark towards a twilight of philosophy. He is its proper and only theologian. Through him, too, its principles reacted in many respects on the Catholic Church; and that not only in North Africa, but also in Spain, as we may see from the harsh decrees of the Council of Elvira in 203. It is singular that Cyprian, who, with all his High-Church tendencies and abhorrence of schism, was a daily reader of Tertullian, makes no allusion to Montanism. Augustine (De hcresibus, § 6) relates that Tertullian left the Montanists and founded a new sect, which was called after him, but was through his (Augustine's) agency reconciled to the Catholic congregation at Carthage. As a sect, the Montanists run down into the 6th century; but, as has been remarked with much truth, although the actual number of the Montanists was at one period very considerable, the importance of the sect is really to be estimated by the extent to which their character became infused into the Church. Neander attributes much of this to the great influence which Tertullian exerted through the relation in which he stood to Cyprian, who called him his teacher. At the same time it is to be noticed that there was some tendency in the opposite direction in the introduction of a prophetical order superior in rank and importance to the order of bishops. The first order among the Montanists was that of patriarch, the second that of cenones, and the third that of bishop. The patriarch resided at Pepuza, in Phrygia, the anticipated seat of the millennial kingdom, and at that time almost exclusively inhabited by Montanists.
See Tertullian's works, especially his numerous Montanistic writings; Eusebius, Hist. Eccles. 5:3, 14-19; Epiphanius, Her. pages 48, 49; Wernsdorf, De Montanistis (Dantsic, 1741); Muinter, Effata et oracula Montanistar. (Copenh. 1829); Neander, Antignosticus oder Geist aus Tertullian's Schriften (Berl. 1825; 2d cd. 1849); Schwegler, Der Montanismus u. die christl. Kirche des 2ten Jahrh. (Tub. 1841); Kirchner,
De Montanistis (Jena, 1852, 8vo); Baur, Das Wesen des Montanismus nach den neuesten Forschungen, in the Theol. Jahrbiucher (Tub. 1851; comp. his Christenth. der ersten Jahrh. pages 213-224); Niedner, Kirchen- Geschichte, p. 253 sq., 259 sq.; Ritschl, Entstehung der altkathol. Kirche (2d ed. 1857), p. 402-550; Pressense, Early Years of Christianity (Heresy and Doctr.), 3:101-124; Neander, Ch. Hist. 1:507, 526; Hist. Christian Dogma (see Index); Schaff, Ch. Hist. 1:362-469; Hagenbach, Hist. Doctr. 1:60 sq.; Walch, Gesch. der Ketzereien, 1:611 sq.; Killen, Anc. Ch. page 436 sq.; Burton, Eccl. Hist. First Three Cent. page 405 sq.; Ebrard, Kirchen u. Dogmengesch. 1:137 sq.; Mossman, Hist. Catholic Church (Lond. 1873, 8vo), ch. v; Lipsius, in Hilgenfeld's Zeitschr. fur wissenschaftliche Theologie, 1865 and 1866; Lond. Qu. Rev. January 1869, page 473; Christian Examiner, September 1863, page 157; Brit. Qu. Rev. October 1873, page 288.