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Cainites, and the Ophites, all denied the Mosaical dispensation to be the work of God; though some attributed it to the evil demon, and others to a powerful and degenerate angel whom the Jews worshipped as God.
Hence they plainly cut asunder the link of connection between the Mosaical and the Christian dispensations, and ultimately severed also the latter from the Patriarchal dispensation."
3. Manicheism, which sprang up in the third century, differs but slightly from its predecessor Gnosticism. It is evidently built upon the same foundation : for it is equally characterised by the introduction of another Christ and another Spirit.
Though Manes has communicated to this system the sacred pagan title which he assumed as the hierophant and the corporeal vehicle of the transmigrating great father, we may doubt, whether he was properly the author of it: for his master and predecessor Terebinthus is said to have advanced far into the same impious speculations.
Like the Gnostics, he supposed matter to be inveterately stubborn and corrupt : but, instead of asserting the world to be the production of the evil principle, he conceived, that God was fatally compelled to form it out of this matter, because a certain portion of divine light had become entangled with it. According to his system, the end,
* Clem. Alex. Strom. lib. iv. p. 311. Theodoret. Hæret. Fab. lib. ii. c. 3. Epiph. adv. Hær. lib. i, ii. Euseb. Hist.. Evan. lib. iii. c. 28. Iren. lib, i, c. 25.
which God proposed in creating the world, was to make it a receptacle for mankind, whose first parents derived their origin from the prince of darkness. That malignant being, whom he denominated Sacla, exercised this act of his power, by inclosing within a material body a spark of the divine light; which, during the tumult and confusion of the battle between the two rival principles of good and evil, had been plunged and entangled in the substance of corrupt matter. Hence it is, that, while the divine and immortal part of man presses eagerly towards its native skies, it is clogged and impeded by the gross earthy particles which compose the body.
To enable the soul gradually to extricate itself from the gloomy dungeon, in which it is imprisoned, God placed man in the world which he had created, as a probationer for heaven. During his residence here, it is his duty to wage unceasing war with the appetites of the flesh and the gross propensities of matter, and to subdue bis corporeal frame by the severest penances and mortifications. But even this discipline is insufficient without the aid of a future purgatory. Immediately upon its departure from the body, the unimprisoned soul embarks either in the fiery ship of the Sun or in the aqueous ship of the Moon, by which mysterious voyage every taint of sin is at length eradicated; the violence of the solar heat burning out those inveterate impurities, which the mild ablution of the lunar water is unable to remove: so severe a penance are even the best of men obliged to undergo, in their progress to final beatitude, But, as for those who give themselves up to the pleasures of the flesh and have not self-cominand enough to mortify their bodies, they are destined to a yet severer fate : nor can their sins be expiated, until they shall have passed through a long course of torment and suffering, inflicted upon them by evil demons. At length, when the final dissolution of all things shall arrive, this material world will be consumed by fire : and the evil principle and his associates will then be confined for ever in outer darkness, from which all hopes of emerging are prevented by a battalion of infernal spirits so inveterately wicked that no penance can wash out the atrocity of their guilt.
God however, willing to grant every requisite assistance to man, did not leave him to struggle unassisted with such difficulties. Hence from his own substance he caused to emanate two exalted beings, Christ and the Holy Spirit. These divine persons had been familiarly known and revered throughout the gentile world, long before the preaching of the Gospel from Jerusalem. For Christ, the mediator between God and man, is the middle God of the Persians, by them called Mithras , as by other eastern nations he is denominated Buddha or Saca or Menu or Menęs or Saman, and is thought in some of his descents to have been born from the womb of a pure virgin : while the Holy Spirit is no other than the Soul of the world, celebrated in the sacred lore of pagan philosophy as an energetic and vivifying principle, which pervades all nature, from man himself down to the lowest modification of matter.
In his sentiments respecting the person of Christ while he abode upon earth, Manes resembled the Gnostic Docetæ. He supposed, that the mediatorial God was not invested with a real body of material flesh and blood; but that his frame, though visible, was ethereal and impalpable; consequently, while the spectators imagined that he suffered death upon the cross, they were entirely deceived; since the whole apparent tragedy was an illusion, nothing of what'met the eye having truly happened.
Finding, that his favourite Iranian philosophy was completely at variance with the Old Testament and irreconcileable with the greatest part of the New; and perceiving, that, let him retain which he would, he must inevitably give up the other : the heresiarch deliberately followed the example of the Gnostics; and at once rejected all the Hebrew Scriptures, while he pared away such passages in the Greek as refused to harmonize with his fantastic system. Hence, as usual, the Patriarchal and Levitical dispensations were ascribed to the inventive tyranny of the prince of darkness, whose kingdom Christ specially came to overthrow: and those places in the Gospels and the Acts and the Epistles, which erect Christianity upon the basis of the Law, were authoritatively discarded, as originating from the same malignant power and as corruptions or interpolations of his Jewish vassals. As for entering into any rational discussion respecting their authenticity, such a process formed no part of the Manichèan plan. Like his predecessors of expurgating celebrity, Marcion and the Ebionites, Manes deemed it quite a sufficient reason for declaring a passage to be spurious and for expunging it from his amended copy, if it unfortunately happened to contradict his preconceived opinions.
As for his system of penance, he carried it so far as to teach, that every innocent gratification was to be abstained from, and that all the blessings of a bounteous Creator were to be abhorred as containing in them the seeds of evil. Such, as aspired to the highest rank among his followers, were debarred from marriage, which Manes gravely pronounces to be a manifest invention of the devil. They likewise gave up the use of animal food and of wine, as tending to detach the soul from heavenly contemplation, and as intangling it still more inextricably with gross and corrupt matter.
This was the abstract theory of Manes: but, in point of application, it grew up, under his fostering hands, to even a still more portentous mystery of iniquity. He gave himself out to be an incarnation of the Paraclete, whoin Jesus had promised to send upon his disciples after his own departure: and, since it was his avowed plan to engraft Paganism upon Christianity, and since it was a leading article of the gentile creed that the universal father repeatedly became incarnate in a human form; he