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THE CONNECTION BETWEEN THE MO
ERRONEOUS OPINIONS RESPECTING
ERROR OF CERTAIN OF THE GENTILE CON-
GNOSTICS. 2. CERINTHUS. 3. MANES. 4.
THERE is a moft unfortunate propenfity Error of in human nature, to adapt every theologi- the Gentile cal doctrine, which claims its attention, to converts recertain preconceived opinions, and imagi- of Judaifm nary established truths. Inftead of raifing and Chriftiits ideas to the ftandard of revelation, it
specting the connection
SECT. delights rather to reduce revelation to its own level; and, instead of preparing itself to receive fomething, totally unexpected, it is unwilling to admit any pofition, which cannot be reconciled with prior and favourite fyftems. The natural confequence of fuch a temper of mind is, to mistake the plainest declarations of Scripture, and to overlook or contradict its cleareft and moft obvious affertions; to affume the authority of a judge, rather than to put on the fubmiffive meeknefs of a disciple, and to reject with prefumptuous boldness the decifions even of the Almighty himself.
This truth was never more forcibly exemplified, than in the manner in which Christianity was frequently received, at its first promulgation. Built profeffedly upon the Law of Mofes, and replete with the moft direct references to the Jewish types and prophecies, the Gofpel fought not to overthrow, but to accomplish the venerable code of the Pentateuch. Throughout the whole of the facred volume of the ancient Scriptures, the promised Meffiah is perpetually kept in view; his character is accurately delineated; and his fufferings are described with a precifion, to which
no human forefight could have attained. CHAP. From the first mysterious prediction, that I. "the feed of the woman fhould bruise the
head of the ferpent," to the concluding declaration of Malachi, that "the fun of
righteousness should arife with healing "in his wings;" type is joined to type, and prophecy accumulated upon prophecy, till faith is raised to the highest pitch of anxious expectation. At length the wonderful Perfonage, whofe advent had been fo particularly announced, defcends from the right hand of his father; and commences a life of patient fuffering, for the fake of loft mankind. The Law now receives its accomplishment; and the Gofpel of Chrift is discovered to be the end both of the simple worship of the Patriarchs, and of the gorgeous folemnities of the Temple. The dufky fhadows of the morning are difperfed; and the fun of righteousness, blazing with ineffable lustre, pours forth the full flood of day upon a benighted world,
The connection between the two grand component parts of God's covenant with man, though fo repeatedly pointed out in both, was nevertheless incomprehenfible to
SECT. numbers of the Jewish, as well as of the I. Gentile converts. This part of the wonderful scheme of revelation became, even to fome of the converted Heathens, foolishnefs, and to fome of the converted Ifraelites, a stumbling-block. The errors of the first arose, principally, from perverting and undervaluing the Mofaical dispensation : the errors of the second, from mistaking its intent. The Gentiles denied its divine origin; the Jews ignorantly fuppofed it to be a perfect whole, when, in reality, it formed only one half of the grand plan of grace and redemption, predetermined by God from the foundation of the world.
I. The Gnoftics.
1. The principal and most dangerous of the errors maintained by these Gentile converts fprung from that whimsical and fantastic system of theology, the Oriental philofophy. The Perfian doctrine of two oppofite principles feems to have been the true fource both of Gnofticism and Manicheism; and it is eafy to conceive, what strange confusion such tenets would occafion, when applied to Christianity.
According to fome of these philofophers, the good principle, whom they styled Or
muzd, and who was the fountain of life, CHAP. light, and happiness, was an eternal and neceffarily exifting being; while the evil principle denominated Ahriman was a created God, who prefided over darkness, vice, and misery.
Others again fuppofed them both to be eternal; and that, as Ormuzd created a number of pure fpirits, or angels, fimilar to himself in difpofition; fo Ahriman produced a host of evil and corrupt Genii, whose temper resembled the depravity of their author a.
To these opinions the Gnoftics adapted Christianity. Upon their scheme, the prince of darkness was the creator of the world, in which were inherent the feeds of all evil, compofed as it is of stubborn and corrupt matter. From this matter he
Hyde de Rel. vet. Perf. cap. 9.
b This notion is hinted at by Clemens Alexandrinus,→→ καθαπερ ὑπειλήφασιν οἱ τον κτίστην αλλον ειναι παρα τον πρώτον θεον δογματιζοντες· ουθ ̓ ὡς εβδελυγμένης και κακης υσης της γενε σεως αθεον yag aj doęcy avτay. Strom. lib. iv. According to the account given of this fect by Epiphanius, the Creator of the world was one of the seven princes of the spheres, whom they abfurdly called Sabaoth. EPIPH, adv. Hær.