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preme Being which had been lost in the world. This party was not conspicuous for its numbers or reputation before the time of Adrian.” It derives its origin from the oriental philosophy. The doctrine of a soul distinct from the body, which had pre-existed in an angelic state, and was for some offence committed in that state, degraded and confined to the body as a punishment, had been the great doctrine of the eastern sages from time immemorial. Not being able to conceive how evil in so great an extent could be subservient to good, they supposed that good and evil have different origins. So mixed a system as this is, they therefore thought to be unworthy of infinite wisdom and goodness. They looked upon matter as the source of all evil, and argued in this manner: There are many evils in this world, and men seem impelled by a natural instinct to the practice of those things which reason condemns; but that eternal mind from which all spirits derive their existence, must be inaccessible to all kinds of evil, and also of a most perfect and beneficent nature. Therefore the origin of those evils with which the
universe abounds, must be sought some where else than in the Deity. It cannot reside in him who is all perfection : therefore it must be without him. Now there is nothing without or beyond the Deity but matter : therefore matter is the centre and source of all evil, and of all vice. Having taken for granted these principles, they proceeded further, and affirmed that matter was eternal, and derived its present form not from the will of the supreme God, but from the creating power of some inferior intelligence, to whom the world and its inhabitants owed their existence. As a proof of their assertion, they alleged, that it was incredible that the supreme Deity, perfectly good and infinitely removed from all evil, should either create or modify matter which is essentially malignant and corrupt; or bestow upon it, in any degree, the riches of his wisdom and liberality. In their system it was generally supposed, that all intelligences had only one source, viz. the Divine Mind. And to help out the doctrine concerning the origin of evil, it was imagined, that though the Divine Being himself was essentially and persectly good, those intelligences, or spirits, who were derived from him, and especially those who were derived from them, were capable of depravation. It was further imagined, that the derivation of those inferior intelligent beings from the Supreme, was, by a kind of efflux, or emanation, a part of the substance, being detached from the rest, but capable of being absorbed into it again." To those intelligences, derived mediately or immediately from the Divine Mind, the author of this system did not scruple to give the name of gods, thinking some of them capable of a power of modifying matter. The oriental sages expected the arrival of an extraordinary messenger of the Most High upon earth ; a messenger, invested with a divine authority, endowed with the most eminent sanctity and wisdom; and peculiarly appointed to enlighten with the J. nowledge of the Supreme l3eing, the darkened minds of miserable mortals, and to deliver them from the chains of the tyrants and usurpers of
* Under the general appellation of Gnostics, are comprehended all those who, in the first ages of christianity, blended the oriental philosophy with
the doctrines of the gospel.
this world. When, therefore, some of these philosophers perceived, that Christ and his followers wrought miracles of the most amazing kind, and also of the most salutary nature to mankind, they were easily induced to connect their fundamental doctrines with christianity, by supposing him the great messenger expected from above, to deliver men from the power of the malignant genii, or spirits, to whom, according to their doctrine, the world was subjected ; and to free their souls from the dominion of corrupt matter. But though they considered him as the Son of the Supreme God, sent from the pleroma, or habitation of the everlasting Father, they deny his divinity, looking upon him as inferior to the Father. They rejected his humanity, upon the supposition, that every thing concrete and corporeak, is in itself essentially and intrinsically evil. Hence the greatest part of the Gnostics denied that Christ was clothed with a real body, or that he suffered really for the sake of mankind, the pains and sor
* The great boast of the Gnostics, was their doctrine concerning the derivation of various intelligences iron the Supremie Mind, which, they thought to be done by eiganation or efflux : and as those were equally copable of producing other intelligences in the same manner, and some of them were male, and others female, there was room for endless combinations of them. It is supposed, that the apostle Paul, when he censures odless genealogies and fables, has reference to the philosophy of the
this world of their influence upon virtuous and heavenborn souls; and, destroying the empire of these wicked spirits, to teach mankind how they might separate the divine mind from the impure body, and render the former worthy of being united to the Father of spirits. Their persuasion that evil resided in matter, rendered them unfavourable to wedlock, and led them to hold the doctrine of the resurrection of the body in great contempt. They considered it as a mere clog to the immortal soul, and supposed that nothing was meant by it but either a moral change in the minds of men, which took place before they died ; or that it signified the ascent of the soul to its proper abode in the superior regions, when it was disengaged from its earthly incumbrance.—The notion which this denomination entertained, that the malevolent genii presided in nature, and that from them proceed all diseases and calamities, wars and desolations, induced then to apply themselves to the study of magic, to weaken the powers, or sus
some referred to the writings of Abraham, Zoroaster, Christ, and his apostles; others boasted of having drawn their opinions from secret doctrines of Christ ; others that they had arrived to these degrees of wisdom by an innate vigour of mind; others that they were instructed by Theudas, a disciple of St. Paul; and by Matthias, one of the friends of our Lord. As the Gnostics were philosophic and speculative people, and affected refinement, they did not make much account of public worship, or of positive institutions of any kind : they are said not to have had any order in their churches. As many of this denomination thought that Christ had not any real body, and therefore had not any proper flesh and blood, it seems on this account when they used to celebrate the eucharist they did not make any use of wine, which represents the blood of Christ, but of water only. We have fewer accounts of what they thought or did with respect to baptism ; but it seems that some of them at least disused it: and it is said that some abstained from the eucharist and from prayer. The greatest part of this denomination adopted rules of life which were full of austerity, recommending a strict and rigorous abstinence; and prescribed the most severe bodily mortifications, from a notion that they had a happy influence in purifying and enlarging the mind, and in disposing it for the contemplation of celestial things. That some of the Gnostics, in consequence of making no account of the body, might think that there was neithergood nor evil in any thing relating to it, and therefore suppose themselves at liberty to indulge in any sensual excesses, is not impossible ; though it is more probable - that every thing of this nature would be greatly exaggerated by the enemies of this denomination.* The Egyptian Gnostics are distinguished from the Asiatic
by the following difference in their religious system. 1. That, besides the existence of a Deity, they maintained that also of an eternal matter, endued with life and
motion; yet they did not ac
knowledge an eternal principle of darkness, or the evil principle of the Persians. 2. They supposed that our blessed Saviour was a compound of two persons; of the Man Jesus, and of Christ the Son of God: that the divine nature entered into the Man Jesus when he was baptized by John in the river Jordan, and departed from him when he was seized by the jews. 3. They attributed to Christ a real, not an imaginary body. 4. Their discipline, with respect to life and manners, was much less severe than that of the Asiatic sect. Both these branches of the Gnostics were subdivided into various denominations.# See Antitactes, Ascodrutes, 13ardesanistes, Basilidians, Bogomiles, Carpocratians, Cerdonians, Cerinthians, Marcosians, Ophites, Saturnians, Simonians, and Valentinians. GORTONIANS, a denomination which sprang from
* See Lardner's Works, vol. ix, ; in which be shews that the opinions of inost ancient sects have been misrepresented.
* Mosheim's Ecclesiastical History, vol. i. pp. 69–109.
Ecclesiastical History, vol. i. pp. 51–186. History of early opinions, vol.
i. p. 120.
Percival’s Dissertations. "
the Antinomians, and made great disturbance in New England in the year 1643. Samuel Gorton was the leader of this denomination: he was charged with maintaining the sentiments of the Antinomians and Familists.” GREEKCHURCH. In the eighth century there arose a difference between the eastern and western churches, which was carried on with great vehemence during the ninth century; and in the eleventh century a total separation took place. At that time the patriarch Michael Cerularius, who was desirous to be freed from the papal authority, published an invective against the Latin church, and accused its members of maintaining various errors. Pope Leo the ninth retorted the charge, and sent legates from Rome to Constantinople. The Greek patriarch refused to see them; upon which they excommunicated him and his adherents publicly in the church of St. Sophia, A. D. 1054. The Greek patriarch excommunicated those legates, with all their adherents and followers,
in a public council; and procured an order of the emperor for burning the act of excommunication which they had pronounced against the Greeks. This rupture has never been healed; and at this day a very considerable part of the world profess the religion of the Greek, or eastern church.-The Nicene and Athanasian creeds are the symbols of faith in this church.
The principal points which distinguish the Greek church from the Latin, are as follow: —(1.) They maintain that the holy Ghost proceeds from the Father only, and not from the Father and Son.—(2.) They disown the authority of the pope, and deny that the church of Rome is the true catholic church.t—(3.) They do not affect the character of infallibility.—(4.) They ut
terly disallow works of supe
rerogation, indulgences, and dispensations.—(5.) They admit of prayers and services for the dead, as an ancient and pious custom; and even pray for the remission of their sins: but they will not allow the doctrine of purgatory, for
* Hutchinson's History, vol. i. p 117.
f The eastern church attach no idea of personal sanctity or infallibility to the patriarch of Constantinople, their supreme head, although he bears
the style of the thirteenth apostle.
# The Greeks, and all the eastern nations in general, are of opinion that departed souls will not be immediately and perfectly happy ; but that the first paradise will be a state of repose, and the next of eternal