Sect [in Ecclesiastical Usage]
Sect [In Ecclesiastical Usage]
(Lat. secta, cut off), a collective term comprehending all such as follow the doctrines and Opinions of some divine, philosopher, etc. By the Roman Catholic Church it is applied to all those religious bodies which separated from her communion. By Protestants, generally, it is employed in no opprobrious sense to signify the various organizations into which the Protestant churches are divided. Separate organization rather than difference of opinion is the meaning conveyed by the term; for great and known differences in opinion, when followed by no external breach in the society, are not considered as constituting distinct sects. Thus High and Low Church are only called parties, because they have not formed separate communions. Among the Jews the term was differently understood, for among them there were no separate communities erected, if we except the Samaritans. The same Temple and the same synagogues were attended alike by Pharisees and Sadducees. They were often of both denominations in the Sanhedrim and even in the priesthood. Another difference was, also, that the name of the sect was not applied to all the people who adopted the same opinions, but solely to the men of eminence among them, who were considered as the leaders of the party. There have been, from time to time, a great number of sects, separating, often on points of no importance, from some other Church organization. These are treated of in separate articles, and it will only be necessary to add here that with respect to certain sects, especially those belonging to the first centuries, we have no other information than such as is afforded by their foes, who were not always scrupulous in their theological warfare. Their statements should, the}e- fore, often be taken with considerable allowance. SEE SECTS, CHRISTIAN.