Page:Female Prose Writers of America.djvu/190

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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 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 everything 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 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 heaven-born souls, and destroying the empire of these wicked spirits, to teach man kind 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 encumbrance. The notion, which this