Εικόνες σελίδας
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

sentially and perfectly 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 esflux, 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 scruplc 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 knowledge of the Supreme Being, the darkened minds of miserable mortals, and to deliver them from the chains of the tyrants and usurpers of

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 ha

bitation 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 corporeal, 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 sorrows, which he is said to have

* The great boast of the Gnostics, was their doctrine concerning the derivation of various intelfigences from the Supreme Mind, which they thought to be done by emanation or efliux: and as those were equally capable of producing other intelligences in the same manner, and some of

them were male, and others female,
tions of them.
endless genealogies and fables, has
Gnostics, - w

there was room for endless combina

It is supposed. that the apostle Paul, when he censures

reference to the philosophy of the

endured in the sacred history.

They maintained that he came to mortals with no other view than to deprive the tyrants of 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 them to apply them

selves to the study of magic,

to weaken the powers, or sus

pend the influences of these malignant agents. The Gnostic doctrine concerning the creation of the world by one or more inferior beings of an evil, or at least of an imperfect nature, led them to deny the divine authority of the books of the

old testament; and when they

were challenged to produce authorities for their doctrines, 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 neither good 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 acknowledge 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 he shews that the opinions of most ancient sects have been misrepresented.

f Mosheim's. Ecclesiastical History, vol. i. pp. 69–109.

Ecclesiastical History, vol. i. pp. 51–186. History of early opinions, vol.

i. p. 129. Percival's Dissertations.

[ocr errors]

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 utterly disallow works of supererogation, 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.

# 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



determine any thing dogmatically, concerning the state of departed souls.-(6.) They sometimes defer the baptism of their children till they are three, four, five, or ten years of age.*—(7.) The chrism, or baptismal unction, immediately follows the immersion of baptism. The priest anoints the person baptized in the principal parts of the body, with an ointment consecrated with many curious circumstances for that purpose by a bishop : this chrism is called the unction with ointment. Extreme unction is called the consecration with holy oil. This chrism is a mystery peculiar to the Greek communion, and holds the place of confirmation in that of the Roman: it is styled the scal of the gift of the holy Ghost.— {S.) TLey insist that the sa

crament of the Lord's supper ought to be administered in both kinds: + and they give the sacrament to children immediately after baptism — (9.) : They exclude confirmation and extreme unction out of the seven sacraments. —(10.) They deny auricular confession to be a divine precept, and say it is only a positive institution of the church. Confession and absolution constitute this mystery $ in the Greek church, in which penance does not make a necessary part.—(11.) They do not pay any religious homage to the eucharist.—(12.) They administer the communion to the laity both in sickness and health.--(13.) They do not admit of images in bass-relief, or embossed work ; but use painting and sculpture in silver—(14.) They permit their

* This is the custom of the Georgians, who are a part of the Greek


The Greeks perform baptism by dipping the person three times

under water distinctly, in the name of the Father, Son, and holy Ghost.

t The napkin which is spread upon the holy table must be consecrated by a bishop, and have some small particles of the relics of a martyr mixed in the web, without which the eucharist cannot be administered,

i The last sacrament of the Greek church, is that of the Tholy oil, or.

eitchalaion, which is not confined to persons in the last extremity, like the extreme unction of the Roman church; but is administered, if required, to devout persons upon the slightest malady. . Seven priests are required to administer this sacrament regularly, and it cannot be administered at ali by less than three. Alter the oil is solemnly consecrated, each priest, in his turn, anoints the sick person, and prays for his recovery.

§ Sacraments are called mysteries in the Greek church. By the Greeks, a mystery is defined to be a ceremony, or act, appointed by God, in which Łe givetii, or signifieth his grace; and of the seven which they celebrate, four are to be received by all christians; viz, baptism, the baptismal unction, the eucharist, and coufession, None of the other are considered as obligatory upon all. See Supplement to the Encyclopædia, vol. i. p. 487.

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »