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of these cons, noted for shining qualities of power and wisdom, but whose arrogance and ambition were quite insupportable, either by chance or by the express orders of the Deity, descended from the Pleroma into the region of unwieldly and malignant matter. After he had reduced it into order, he added to it a portion of the divine nature, or light, to correct its malignancy. This done, he created the various inhabitants of our world; and soon after excluded the Supreme God from all power over it, and demanded from men divine honours for himself and his associates in apostacy from the Deity. The spirits of men, though of a celestial origin, by their unition to malignant matter, became exceedingly defiled and encumbered. The wicked demiurgus, or creator of the world, labours to retain them in this vile and miserable condition, while the Supreme Deity strives to render them free and happy. Such human souls, as by care and diligence throw off the demiurgan yoke, and subdue the turbulent lusts which spring from their body, shall, at death, ascend to the Pleroma to enjoy the Supreme God; but such as remain under the bondage of servile superstition and corrupt matter, shall, for their punishment, pass into new bodies, and continue to do so, till at last they be awakened from their sinful. lethargy. At the end of time, the Most High God shall triumph over all opposition; and having delivered the greatest part of human souls from their servitude and imprisonment in mortal bodies, shall dissolve the frame of this world; and having restored. tranquillity to the universe, shall, in the Pleroma, eternally reign with happy spirits in the most undisturbed felicity." It is evident, this old system partly owed its rise to revelation, interpo
lated and perverted by human fancy; and gave rise to a multitude of errors, that have, in almost every age, troubled the Christian Church. .
We find the Gnostic heretics were not only divided into many sects, differing in their various rules of religious faith, but in matters which related to practice. Whilst the more rigid sects rejected the most, innocent gratifications, that the body might not be so nourished as to degrade the soul; their more relaxed brethren considered the soul as entirely unaffected by the actions of the body, asserted the innocence of complying with every dictate of nature, and abandoned themselves without any restraint to the impulse of the passions. Their persuasion that evil resided in matter, led them to reject the doctrine of the resurrection of the body; and their belief in the power of malevolent genii, the sources of every earthly calamity, induced them to have recourse to the study of magic, to weaken or avert the influence of those malignant agents. A very considerable sect of Gnostics distinguished themselves by the name of Docetæ; but their peculiar opinions are not accurately known.
See Mosheim, Brown, and Gregory.
No. 2. • Plutarch resolves, that as whatsoever is good in the soul and body of the universe, and likewise in the souls of men and demons, is to be ascribed to God as its only original, so whatsoever is evil, irregular, and disorderly in them, ought to be imputed to this other substantial principle, a ibuxn avove kal KAKOROLÒS, which insinuating itself everywhere throughout the world, is all along'intermingled with the better principle, kdi un grāv Eivat épyov roū 0ɛo✓ Try buyniv, so that neither the soul of the universe, nor that of men and demons, was wholly the workmanship of God, but the lower, brutish, and disorderly part of them the effect of the evil principle.
Cudworth, book i. cap. iv. p. 215.
Plutarch endeavours to persuade us, that this was the constant belief of all the pagan nations, and of all the wisest men and philosophers that ever were amongst them. “ For this,” saith he, in his book de Iside et Osiride," is a most ancient opinion, that hath been delivered down from theologers and lawmakers, all along to poets and philosophers; and though the first author thereof be unknown, yet hath it been so firmly believed every where, that the footsteps of it have been imprinted upon the sacrifices and mysteries, or religious rites, both of barbarians and Greeks; viz. that the world is neither wholly ungoverned by any mind or reason, as if all things floated in the streams of chance and fortune, nor yet that there is any one principle steering and guiding all, without resistance or control ; because there is a confused mixture of good and evil in every thing, and nothing is produced by nature sincere. Wherefore, it is not only the Dispenser of things, who as it were out of several vessels distributeth those several liquors of good and evil, mingling them together and dashing them as he pleaseth; but there are two distinct and contrary powers or principles in the world, one of them always leading as it were to the right hand, but the other tugging a contrary way. Insomuch that our whole life and the whole world is a certain mixture and confusion of these two; at least the terrestrial world below the moon is such, all being every where full of irregularity and disorder. For if nothing can be made without a cause, and that which is good cannot be the cause of evil, there must needs be a distinct principle in nature for the production of evil as well as good. And this hath been the opinion of the most and wisest men, some of them affirming, Deoùç kivai dvò kabátep ÅVTiTÉKVOUS, that there are two gods, as it were, of contrary crafts and trades, one whereof is the maker of all good, and the other of all evil; but others calling the good principle only a God, and the evil principle a demon, as Zoroaster the magician.” : Besides which Zoroaster and the Persian Magi, Plutarch pretends that the footsteps of this opinion were to be found also in the astrology of the Chaldeans, and in the mysteries and religious rites, not only of the Egyptians, but also of the Grecians themselyes ; and lastly, he particularly imparts the same to all the most famous of the Greek philosophers, as Pythagoras, Empedocles, Heraclitus, Anaxagoras, Plato, and Aristotle; though his chief endeavour of all be to prove, that Plato was an undoubted champion for it.
Cudworth, book i. cap. iv. p. 217.
St. Athanasius speaks also of some degenerate Christians who fell into this error. - Οι θε από των αιρέσεων εκπεσόντες της εκκλησιαστικής διδασκαλίας, και περί την πίστιν ναυαγήσαντες, και ούτοι μεν ÚTOOTAOLV TOū KakoŨ Tepa povoữolv civai. Some heretics, forsaking the ecclesiastical doctrine, and making shipwreck of the faith, have, in like manner, falsely attributed a real nature and essence to evil. Of
which heretics there were several sects before the Manicheans, sometimes taken notice of and censured by pagan philosophers themselves. As by Celsus, where he charges Christians with holding this opinion, that there is évavrios Meyalg OeQs Oɛog karnpanévos, an execrable god contrary to the great God, and by Plotinus, writing a whole book against such Christians, the ninth of his second Ennead, which by Porphirius was inscribed, após tous [wWwOTIKOÙS, against the Gnostics... ', .
Cudworth, book i. cap. iv. p. 224.
The Gnostics, in Plotinus' time, asserted the world to have been made, not so much from a principle essentially evil and eterna, as from a lapsed
Cudworth, 1. i. c. 4. p. 291.
No. 3. - (AMMONIUS $Accus.)
Ammonius Saccus, who taught in the school at Alexandria towards the close of the second century, adopted the doctrines of the Egyptians concerning the universe and the Deity, as constituting one great whole; the eternity of the world, the nature of souls, the empire of providence, and the government of the world by demons. These sentiments he associated with the doctrines of Plato, by adulterating some of the opinions of that philosopher, and forcing his expressions from their obvious and literal sense ; and to complete his conciliatory scheme for the restoration of true philosophy and the union of its professors, he interpreted so artfully the doctrines of the other philosophical and religious sects, that they