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after this life. Man is not subject to irresistible fate; but has the framing of his condition chiefly in his power. Polygamy ought to be practised. The practices of the Pharisees and Sadducees were both perfectly suitable to their sentiments. The former were notorious hypocrites, the latter scandalous libertines. , The Essenes were a jewish sect. Some suppose they took their rise from that dispersion of their nation which took place after the Babylonish captivity. They maintained that rewards and punishments extended to the soul only, and considered the body as a mass of malignant matter, and the prison of the immortal spirit. The greatest part of them considered the laws of Moses as an allegorical system of spiritual and mysterious truth, and renounced all regard to the
outward letter in its explanation. The leading traits
in the character of this seet were, that they were sober, abstemious, peaceable, lovers of retirement, and had a perfect community of goods. They paid the highest regard to the moral precepts of the law; but neglected the ceremonial, excepting what regarded personal cleanliness, the observation of the sabbath, and making an annual present to the temple at Jerusalem. They commonly lived in a state of celibacy, and adopted the children of others, to educate them in their own principles and customs. Though they were in general averse to swearing, or to requiring an oath, they bound all whom they initiated by the most sacred vows to observe the duties of piety, justice, fidelity, and modesty; to conceal the secrets of the fraternity, to preserve the books of their instructors, and with great care to commemorate the names of the angels. Philo mentions two classes of Essenes, one of which followed a practical institution—the other professed a theoretical institution. The latter, who were called Therapeutae, placed their whole felicity in the contemplation of the divine nature. Detaching themselves entirely from secular affairs, they transferred F
their property to their relations and friends, and retired to solitary places, where they devoted themselves to a holy life. The principal society of this kind was formed near Alexandria, where they lived not far from each other in separate cottages, each of which had its own sacred apartments, to which the inhabitants retired for the purposes of devotion. *
Besides these eminent jewish sects, there were others of inferior note at the time of Christ's appearance.
The Herodians derived their name from Herod the Great. Their distinguishing tenet appears to have been, that it is lawful, when constrained by superiors, to comply with idolatry, and with a false religion. Herod seems to have formed this sect on purpose to justify himself in this practice, who, being an Idumean by nation, was indeed half a jew, and half a pagan. He, during his long reign, studied every artifice to ingratiate himself with the emperor, and to secure the favour of the principal personages in the court of Rome. Josephus informs us that his ambition, and his entire devotion to Cæsar and his court, induced him to depart from the usages of his country, and in many instances to violate its institutions. He built temples in the Greek taste, 'and erected statues for idolatrous worship, apologizing to the jews that he was absolutely necessitated to this conduct by the superior powers. We find the Sadducees, who denied a future state, readily embraced the tenets of this party: for the same persons who in one of the
gos: pels are called Herodians, are in another called Sadducees.+
The Gaulonites derived their name from one Judas Theudas, a native of Gaulon, in Upper Galilee, who
* Enfield, vol. ii. p. 186. [For a more particular account of these jewish sects, see Josephus's Antiquities, and Prideaux's Connerion ; also Parkhurst's Gr. Lex.]
1 Coinp. Mark viït. 15. with Matt. xvi.6. Harwood's Introd, vol. i. p. 235.
Called Galileans, Luke xij. 1.
in the tenth year of Jesus Christ excited his countrymen, the Galileans, and many other jews, to take arms, and venture upon all extremities, rather than pay tribute to the Romans. The principles he instilled into his party were, not only that they were a free nation, and ought not to be in subjection to any other; but that they were the elect of God, that he alone was their governor, and that therefore they ought not to submit to any ordinance of man. Though Theudas was unsuccessful, and his party in their very first attempt entirely routed and dispersed ; yet so deeply had he infused his own enthusiasm into their hearts, that they never rested, till in their own destruction they involved the city and temple. *
Many of the jews were attached to the oriental philosophy concerning the origin of the world. From this source the doctrine of the Cabala is supposed to have been derived. That considerable numbers of the jews had imbibed this system, appears evident both from the books of the new testament,+ and from the ancient history of the christian church. It is also certain that many of the gnostic sects were founded by jews.
Whilst the learned and sensible part of the jewish nation was divided into a variety of sects, the multitude was sunk into the most deplorable ignorance of religion; and had no conception of any other method of rendering themselves acceptable to God, than by sacrifices, washings, and other external rites and ceremonies of the Mosaic law. Hence proceeded that dissoluteness of manners which prevailed among the jews during Christ's ministry on earth. Hence also the divine Saviour compares the people to sheep without a shepherd, and their doctors to men who, though deprived of sight, yet pretended to shew the way to others. §
In taking a view of the corruptions, both in doctrine and practice, which prevailed among the jews at the * Percy's Key to the New Testament. + Matt. x. 6. xv. 24, 25, John ix. 39, $ Mosheim, vol. i. p. 38.
time of Christ's appearance, we find that the external worship of God was disfigured by human inventions. Many learned men have observed that a great variety of rites were introduced into the service .# the temple, of which no traces are to be found in the sacred writings. This was owing to those revolutions which rendered the jews more conversant than they had formerly been with the neighbouring nations. They were pleased with several of the ceremonies which the Greeks and Romans used in the worship of the pagan deities, and did not hesitate to adopt them in the service of the true God, and add them as an ornament to the rites which they had received by divine appointment. The jews multiplied so prodigiously, that the narrow bounds of Palestine were no longer sufficient to contan them. They poured, therefore, their encreasing numbers into the neighbouring countries with such rapidity, that at the time of Christ's birth there was scarcely a province in the empire where they were not found carrying on commerce, and exercising other lucrative arts. They were defended in foreign countries against injurious treatment by the special edicts of the magistrates. This was absolutely necessary, since in most places the remarkable difference of their religion and manners from those of other nations, exposed them to the hatred and indignation of the ignorant and bigoted multitude. “All this (says doctor Mosheim) appears to have been most singularly and wisely directed by the adorable hand of an interposing providence, to the end that this people, which was the sole depository of the true religion, and of the knowledge of one supreme God, being spread abroad through the whole earth, might be every where, by their example, a reproach to superstition, contribute in some measure to check it; and thus prepare the way for that yet fuller discovery of divine truth which was to shine upon the world from the ministry and gospel of the Son of God.”
* Mosheim, vol. i. p. 42.
AN ACCOUNT OF THE PHILOSOPHICAL SYSTEMS WHICH WERE IN VOGUE AT
TIIE TIME OF CHRIST'S APPEARANCE.
At the important æra of Christ's appearance in the world, two kinds of philosophy prevailed among the civilized nations. One was the philosophy of the Greeks, adopted also by the Romans; and the other that of the Orientals, which had a great number of votaries in Persia, Syria, Chaldea, Egypt, and even among the jews. The former was distinguished by the simple title of philosophy; the latter was honoured by the more pompous appellation of science or knowledge, since those who adhered to the latter sect pretended to be the restorers of the knowledge of God which was lost in the world. The followers of both these systems, in consequence of vehement disputes and dissensions about several points, subdivided themselves into a variety of seets. It is however to be observed, that all the sects of the oriental philosophy deduced their various tenets from one fundamental principle which they held in common; but the Greeks were much divided about the first principles of science.*
Amongst the Grecian sects there were some who declaimed openly against religion, and denied the immortality of the soul; and others who acknowledged a Deity, and a state of future rewards and punishments. Of the former kind were the Epicureans and Academics, of the latter the Platonists and Stoics.
The Epicureans derived their name from Epicurus, who was born in the hundred and ninth olympiad, two hundred and forty-two years before Christ. He accounted for the formation of the world in the following manner: A finite number of that infinite multitude of atoms, which with infinite space constitutes the universe, falling fortuitously into the region of the world, were, in consequence of their innate
* Mosheim, vol. I, p. 26.