Barton Stone on the driving force behind heresy


“Heresy is an act of the will, not of reason; and is indeed a lie, not a mistake; else how could that known speech of Austin go for true: Errare possum, haereticus esse nolo, –I may err, but I will not be a heretic.  Indeed Manichaeism, Valentinianism, Marcionism, Mahometanism, are truly and properly heresies; for we know that the authors of them received them not, but minted them themselves; and so knew that which they taught to be a lie.”

This definition seems well to accord with that of Paul to Titus, iii, 10, 11.  “A man that is a heretic after the first and second admonition, reject, knowing that he that is such, is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself.”  A heretic, according to Paul, is a factious person, one that foments parties, and division.  Rom. xvi, 17, “Mark them that cause divisions among you contrary to the doctrine ye have learned, and avoid them.”  Now it is well known that the doctrine of Christ enjoins unity and leads to it.  But the man, who teaches for doctrine the commandments of men, or his own opinions for truth; and makes these terms of Christian fellowship, and by this means creates and foments partyism and division, what is he, but a heretic?       EDITOR.


Thanks to the magic of Google books, it appears Stone quotes from, ultimately, The Works of the Ever Memorable Mr. John Hales of Eaton, now first collected together, in three volumes. Glasgow, 1765, vol. 1, pages 125-126:

page 125: the quote begins on the last line:

page 126:

page 127:

Perhaps Stone quotes from a secondary source; I note from Google Books that a handful of later publications use this same quote from Hales. Nevertheless, his point is that personality drives heresy. Heresy is not limited to an erroneous understanding or conclusion, or even teaching, of or about doctrine. Heresy is gathering a following, or witholding or withdrawing fellowship from other beliivers over positions that originate in personal opinion. In other words, you have to agree with me or you’re out. Heresy is not, quoting Hales, a mistake, but a lie.  Furthermore, it is a lie told in service to self…to build me and my group.  Heresy’s driving force?…pride, arrogance, presumption.  Stone’s note appears in The Christian Messenger, January 25, 1827 page 66.  For Hales’ works, go here.

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