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their contemporaries, that we cannot study their systems without
being led to look beyond them to the philosophy of the age; and, in
doing so, we shall find that the Christian fathers suffer as little
by a comparison with the Heathen philosophers, as with the Gnostic
heretics. Such are some of the considerations incidentally
presented to us in the inquiry on which we are now about to enter.
The Gnostics may be separated into two great divisions; the
Marcionites, on the one hand, and the Theosophic Gnostics, as they
may be called, on the other; this epithet being understood as
referring to the imaginations of the latter respecting the Supreme
God, and the spiritual world, as developed from him. Of the latter
class, the Valentinians are the principal representatives, as being
the most considerable and numerous sect, and one, the essential
characteristics of which appear throughout the systems of other
theosophic Gnostics. The fundamental doctrines held in common by
the Valentinians and Marcionites were the following;?That the
material world, the visible universe, was not the work of the
Supreme Being, but of a far inferior agent, the Demiur- gus, or the
Creator, who was also the God of the Jews; that the spiritual
world, the Pleroma, as it was called, over which the true Divinity
presided, and the material world, the realm of the Creator, were
widely separated from each other; that evil was inherent in matter;
that the material world, both as being material, and as being the
work of an inferior being, was full of imperfection and evil; that
the Saviour descended from the spiritual world, as a manifestat-on
of the Supreme God, to reveal him to men, to reform the disorders
here existing, and to deliver whatever is spiritual from the
dominionof matter; and that the Supreme God had b...
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