Basilides

, one of the chief leaders of the Egyptian Gnostics, flourished in the second century. These Gnostics blended the Christian doctrine with both the Oriental and the Egyptian philosophy. They did not acknowledge an eternal principle of darkness or evil. They maintained that our Saviour consisted of two persons, Jesus the son of Joseph and Mary, and Christ, the son of God, who entered into him at his baptism, and went out of him when he was apprehended by the Jews some, if not all of them, allowed the reality of his human body. Basilides, who | had the ambition to be the founder of a sect, contrived the following modification of the heresy of the Gnostics. He pretended that God, from his own essence, had produced seven angels, or jEons. Two of these, called “power” and “wisdom,” engendered the angels of the highest order, who having formed heaven for their own residence, produced other angels of a subordinate nature, and these again produced others, till three hundred and sixty-five different orders or ranks were successively formed; all of which had one Abraxas for their common head. The lowest order living on the confines of the eternal, malignant, and self-animated matter, created this world, and the inhabitants thereof. God added rational souls to men, and subjected them to the government of angels. At length the angels fell off from their allegiance to God, and into terrible contests among themselves. He who governed the Jewish nation was the most turbulent of all. In pity, therefore, to mankind, who groaned under their oppression and discordant influence, God sent forth his son Christ, a principal JEon, to enter into the man Jesus, and by him restore the knowledge of God, and destroy the dominion of the angels, particularly of him who governed the Jews. Alarmed at this, the god of the Jews caused apprehend and crucify the man Jesus, but could not hurt the Æou who dwelt in him. Such souls as obey Jesus Christ shall at death be delivered from matter, and ascend to the supreme God: but disobedient souls shall successively pass into new bodies, till they at last become obedient.

This doctrine, in point of morals, if we may credit the accounts of most ancient writers, was favourable to the lusts and passions of mankind, aud permitted the practice of all sorts of wickedness. But those whose testimonies are equally worthy of regard, give a quite different account of this teacher, ind represent him as recommending the practice of virtue and piety in the strongest manner, and as having condemned not only the actual commission of iniquity, but even every inward propensity of the mind to a vicious conduct. But in some respects he certainly gave offence to all real Christians. He affirmed it to be lawful for them to conceal their religion, to deny Christ, when their lives were in danger, and to partake of the feasts of the Gentiles that were instituted in consequence of the sacrifices offered to idols. He endeavoured also to diminish the character of those who suffered martyrdom for the cause | of Christ, impiously maintaining, that they were heinous sinners than others, and that their sufferings were to be looked upon as a punishment inflicted upon them by the divine justice. He was led into this enormous error, by a notion that all the calamities of this life were of a penal nature. This rendered his principles greatly suspected: and the irregular lives of some of his disciples deemed to justify the unfavourable opinion that was entertained of their master. Bcausobre, in his history of Mahicheism, discusses these points with great candour. Basilides wrote many books, which are now lost. Clemens Alexandrinus, cites the 23d of his explications of the

fospel, but of what gospel is doubtful: probably it might e one written by him, and which bore his name. In imitation of Pythagoras he obliged his scholars to a five years silence, teaching them to know all, and penetrate all; themselves being invisible, and unknown. “Know yourself, $ays he, and let nobody know you. The many must not, and cannot know their affairs; but only one of a thousand, and two of ten thousand. It is not at all proper for you to discover openly your mysteries, but to retain them in silence.” After he had spread his doctrine over the greatest part of Egypt, he died at Alexandria about the year 130, according to Fleury, and in the year 133, according to Jerom and Tillemont. 1

1

Mosheim, Eccl, Hist. Lardner’s Works. -Cave, vol. I. —Moreri.