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exercised this toleration in the amplest manner. | priests, and ministers, distributed into several For, though they would not allow any changes classes, presided in this strange worship, and to be made in the religions that were publicly were appointed to prevent disorder in the perprofessed in the empire, nor any new form of formance of the sacred rites. This order, which worship to be openly introduced; yet they was supposed to be distinguished by an immegranted to their citizens a full liberty of observ-diate intercourse and friendship with the gods, ing, in private, the sacred rites of other nations, abused their authority in the basest manner, to and of honouring foreign deities (whose worship deceive an ignorant and wretched people. contained nothing inconsistent with the interests and laws of the republic) with feasts, temples, consecrated groves, and such like testimonies of homage and respect."

XI. The religious worship we have now been considering, was confined to stated times and places. The statues and other representations of the gods were placed in the temples, and supposed to be animated in an incomprehensible manner. For the votaries of these fictitious deities, however destitute they might be of reason in other respects, avoided carefully the imputations of worshipping inanimate beings, such as brass, wood, and stone, and therefore pretended that the divinity, represented by the statue, was really present in it, if the dedication was duly and properly made.

IX. The deities of almost all nations were either ancient heroes, renowned for noble exploits and worthy deeds, or kings and generals who had founded empires, or women become illustrious by remarkable actions or useful inventions. The merit of these distinguished and eminent persons, contemplated by their posterity with an enthusiastic gratitude, was the reason of their being exalted to celestial honours. The natural world furnished another kind of deities, that were added to these by some nations. And as the sun, moon, and stars shine forth with a lustre superior to that of all other material beings; so it is certain, that they particularly attracted the attention of mankind, and received religious homage from almost all the nations of the world. From these beings of a nobler kind, idolatry descended into an enormous multiplica-ously to exhibit satisfactory proofs of their tion of inferior powers; so that in many countries, mountains, trees, and rivers, the earth, the sea, and the winds, nay, even virtues, vices, and diseases had their shrines attended by devout and zealous worshippers.9

X. These deities were honoured with rites and sacrifices of various kinds, according to their respective nature and offices. 10 The rites used in their worship were absurd and ridiculous, and frequently cruel and obscene. Most nations offered animals, and some proceeded to the enormity of human sacrifices. As to their prayers, they were void of piety and sense, both with respect to their matter and their form." Pontiffs,

7 See concerning this interesting subject, a very curi.

ous and learned treatise of the famous Bynckershoeck, entitled Dissertatio de cultu peregrine religionis apud Romanos. This dissertation is to be found in the Opuscula of that excellent author, which were published at Leyden in quarto, in the year 1719.

8 The ingenious editor of the Ruins of Balbec has given us, in the preface to that noble work, a very curious account of the origin of the religious worship that was offered to the heavenly bodies by the Syrians and Arabi


In those uncomfortable deserts, where the day presents nothing to the view, but the uniform, tedious, and melancholy prospect of barren sands; the night discloses a most delightful and magnificent spectacle, and appears arrayed with charms of the most attractive kind; for the most part unclouded and serene, it exhibits to the wondering eye the Host of heaven, in all their amazing variety and glory. In the view of this stupendous scene, the transition from admiration to idolatry was too easy to uninstructed minds; and a people whose climate offered no beauties to contemplate but those of the firmament, would naturally look thither for the objects of their worship. The form of idolatry in Greece was different from that of the Syrians; and Mr. Wood ingeniously attributes this to that smiling and variegated scene of mountains, valleys, rivers, groves, woods, and fountains, which the transported imagination, in the midst of its pleasing astonishment, supposed to be the seats of invisible deities. See a further account of this matter in the elegant work above mentioned.

9 See the learned work of J. G. Vossius, De idololatria. 10 See J. Saubertus, De sacrificiis veterum. Lug. Bat. 1699.

11 See M. Brouerius a Niedeck, De adorationibus veterum populorum, printed at Utrecht, in 8vo. in the year 1711.

XII. But, besides the public worship of the gods, to which all without exception were admitted, there were certain religious institutions and rites celebrated in secret by the Greeks and several eastern nations, to which a very small number were allowed access. These were commonly called mysteries; and the persons who desired to be initiated therein, were obliged previ

fidelity and patience, by passing through various trials and ceremonies of the most disagreeable kind. The secret of these institutions was kept in the strictest manner, as the initiated could not reveal any thing that passed in them without exposing their lives to the most imminent danger;14 and that is the reason why, at this time, we are so little acquainted with the true nature, and the real design of these hidden rites. It is, however, well known, that, in some of those mysteries, many things were transacted that were contrary both to real modesty, and outward decency. And, indeed, from the whole of the Pagan rites, the intelligent few might easily learn, that the divinities generally worshipped, were rather men famous for their vices, than

distinguished by virtuous and worthy deeds. 15

XIII. It is, at least, certain, that this religion had not the least influence towards the exciting or nourishing solid and true virtue in the minds of men. For the gods and goddesses, to whom public homage was paid, exhibited to their worshippers rather examples of egregious crimes, than of useful and illustrious virtues."

12 Some nations were without temples, such as the Persians, Gauls, Germans, and Bretons, who performed their religious worship in the open air, or in the shadowy retreats of consecrated groves.

13 See Arnobius adv. Gentes, lib. vi. p. 254, according to the edition of Heraldus. See also Augustine De civitate Dei, lib. vii. cap. xxxiii.; and the Misopogon of the Emperor Julian, p. 361. according to the edition of Spanheim.

14 See Clarkson on the Liturgies, sect. iv. p. 36. as also Meursius, De mysteriis Eleusinis.


15 See Cicero Disput. Tusculan. lib. ii. cap. xiii, 16 There is a very remarkable passage to this purpose in the Tristia of Ovid, book the second, beginning at line 287.

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the institutions which Numa and others had invented with political views, added several Italic and Hetrurian fictions to the Grecian fables, and gave also to the Egyptian deities a place among their own."

The gods, moreover, were esteemed superior to ¡ it differs from them; for the Romans, besides men in power and immortality; but, in every thing else, they were considered as their equals. The priests were little solicitous to animate the people to a virtuous conduct, either by their precepts or their example; nay, they plainly enough declared that all that was essential to the true worship of the gods, was contained only in the rites and institutions which the people had received by tradition from their ancestors.' And as to what regarded the rewards of virtue and the punishment of vice after this present life, the general notions were partly uncertain, partly licentious, and often more proper to administer indulgence to vice, than encouragement to virtue. Hence, the wiser part of mankind, about the time of Christ's birth, looked upon this whole system of religion as a just object of ridicule and contempt.

XIV. The consequences of this wretched theology were a universal corruption of manners, which discovered itself in the impunity of the most flagitious crimes." Juvenal and Persius among the Latins, and Lucian among the Greeks, bear testimony to the justice of this heavy accusation. It is also well known, that no public law prohibited the sports of the gladiators, the exercise of unnatural lusts, the licentiousness of divorce, the custom of exposing infants, and of procuring abortions, nor the frontless atrocity of consecrating publicly stews and brothels to certain divinities."

XV. Such as were not sunk in an unaccountable and brutish stupidity, perceived the deformity of these religious systems. To these the crafty priests addressed two considerations, to prevent their incredulity, and to dispel their doubts. The first was drawn from the miracles and prodigies which they pretended were daily wrought in the temples, before the statues of the gods and heroes that were placed there; and the second was deduced from oracles and divination, by which they maintained, that the secrets of futurity were unfolded through the interposition of the gods. In both these points the cunning of the priests imposed miserably upon the ignorance of the people; and if the discerning few saw the cheat, they were obliged, from a regard to their own safety, to laugh with caution, since the priests were ever ready to accuse, before a raging and superstitious multitude, those who discovered their religious frauds, as rebels against the majesty of the immortal gods.

XVI. At the time of Christ's appearance upon earth, the religion of the Romans, as well as their arms, had extended itself through a great part of the world. This religion must be known to those who are acquainted with the Grecian superstitions. In some things, indeed,

1 Barbeyrac's Preface to his French translation of Puffendorf's System of the Law of Nature and Nations, sect. vi. p. 21. of the last edition.

2 The corrupt manners of those who lay in the darkness of idolatry are described in an ample and affecting manner, in the first of Cyprian's epistles. See also on this subject, Cornel. Adami Exercitatio de malis Romanorum ante prædicationem Evangelii moribus. This is the fifth discourse of a Collection published by that learned writer at Groningen, 1712, in quarto.

3 See Dr. John Leland's excellent account of the religious sentiments, moral conduct, and future prospects of the Pagans, in his large work entitled, The Advantage and Necessity of the Christian Revelation.

4 See Dionysius Halicarn. Antiq. Rom. lib. vii. cap. Ixxii. p. 460. tom. i. Edit. Hudson.

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XVII. In the provinces subjected to the Roman government, there arose a new kind of religion, formed by a mixture of the ancient rites of the conquered nations with those of the Romans. These nations, who, before their subjection, had their own gods, and their own particular religious institutions, were persuaded, by degrees, to admit into their worship a great number of the sacred rites and customs of their conquerors. The view of the Romans, in this change, was not only to confirm their authority by the powerful aid of religion, but also to abolish the inhuman rites which were performed by many of the barbarous nations who had received their yoke; and this change was effected partly by the prudence of the victors, partly by the levity of the vanquished, and by their ambition to please their new masters.

XVIII. When, from the sacred rites of the ancient Romans, we pass to a review of the other religions that prevailed in the world, we shall find, that the most remarkable may be properly divided into two classes, of which the one will comprehend the religious systems which owe their existence to political views; and the other, those which seem to have been formed for military purposes. In the former class may be ranked the religions of most of the eastern nations, especially of the Persians, Egyptians, and Indians, which appear to have been solely calculated for the preservation of the state, the supporting of the royal authority and grandeur, the maintenance of public peace, and the advancement of civil virtues. Under the military class may be comprehended the religious system of the northern nations; since all the traditions that we find among the Germans, the Bretons, the Celts, and the Goths, concerning their divinities, have a manifest tendency to excite and nourish fortitude and ferocity, an insensibility of danger, and a contempt of life. An attentive inquiry into the religions of these respective nations, will abundantly verify what is here asserted.

XIX. None of these nations, indeed, ever arrived at such an excess of universal barbarity and ignorance, as not to have some discerning men among them, who were sensible of the extravagance of all these religions. But of these sagacious observers, some were destitute of the weight and authority that were necessary to remedy these over-grown evils: and others wanted the will to exert themselves in such a glorious cause. And the truth is, none of them had wisdom equal to such a solemn and arduous enterprise. This appears manifestly from the laborious, but useless efforts of some of the Greek and Roman philosophers against the vulgar superstitions. These venerable sages delivered, in their writings, many sublime things concerning the nature of God, and the duties incumbent upon men; they disputed with sagacity against the popular religion: but to all such absurd subtilties of their own, as may this they added such chimerical notions, and

5 See Petit ad leges Atticas, lib. i. tit. 1. p. 71.

serve to convince us that it belongs to God alone, and not to man, to reveal the truth with"out any mixture of impurity or error.


XXII. We observed in the preceding ser. tion, that there was another kind of philosophy, in which religion was admitted, but which was. at the same time, deficient by the obscurity it cast upon truth. Under the philosophers of this class, may be reckoned the Platonists, the Stoics, and the followers of Aristotle, whose subtile disputations concerning God, religion, and the social duties, were of little solid use to mankind. The nature of God, as it is explained by Aristotle, is something like the principle that gives motion to a machine; it is a nature happy in the contemplation of itself, and entire

XX. About the time of Christ's appearance upon earth, there were two kinds of philosophy which 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 with the more pompous appellation of science, or knowledge, since those who em-ly regardless of human affairs; and such a dibraced this 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 dissentions about several points, subdivided themselves into a variety of sects. It is, how ever, to be observed, that all the sects of the oriental philosophy deduced their various tenets from one fundamental principle, which they held in common; whereas the Greeks were much divided even about the first principles of science.

As we shall have occasion hereafter to speak of the oriental philosophy, we shall confine ourselves here to the doctrines taught by the Grecian sages, and shall give some account of the various sects into which they were divided.

XXI. Among the Grecian sects, there were some which declared openly against all religion; and others, who, though they acknowledged a deity, and admitted a religion, yet cast a cloud over the truth, instead of exhibiting it in its genuine beauty and lustre.


Of the former kind were the Epicureans and Academics. The Epicureans maintained, "That the world arose from chance; that the gods (whose existence they did not dare to deny) neither did, nor could extend their providential care to human affairs; that the soul was mortal; that pleasure was to be regarded as the ultimate end of man; and that virtue was neither worthy of esteem nor choice, but with a view to its attainment.' The Academics asserted the impossibility of arriving at truth, and held it uncertain, "whether the gods existed or not; whether the soul was mortal or immortal; whether virtue were preferable to vice, or vice to virtue." These two sects, though they struck at the foundations of all religion, were the most numerous of all others at the birth of Christ, and were particularly encouraged by the liberality of the rich, and the protection of those in power."

6 Twois (gnosis) in the Greek signifies science, or knowledge, and from hence came the title of Gnostics, which this presumptuous sect claimed as due to their su perior light and penetration in divine things.

7 St. Paul mentions and condemns both these kinds of philosophy; the Greek, in the Epistle to the Colossians, ii. 8. and the Oriental, or Gnosis, in the First Epistle to Timothy, vi. 20.

8 The ambiguity of the word pleasure, has produced many disputes in the explication of the Epicurean system. If by pleasure be understood only sensual gratifications, the tenet here advanced is indisputably monstrous. But if it be taken in a larger sense, and extended to intellectual and moral objects; in what does the scheme of Epicurus, with respect to virtue, differ from the opinions of those Christian philosophers, who maintain that self-love is the only spring of all human affections and actions?

9 That of the Epicureans was, however, the most numerous of the two, as appears from the testimony of Cicero, De finibus, &c. lib. i. cap. vii. lib. ii. cap. xiv.

vinity, who differs but little from the god of Epicurus, cannot reasonably be the object either of love or fear. With respect to the doctrine of this philosopher concerning the human soul, it is uncertain, to say no more, whether he believed its immortality or not. 10 What then could be expected from such a philosophy? could any thing solid and satisfactory, in favour of piety and virtue, be hoped for from a system which excluded from the universe a divine Providence, and insinuated the mortality of the human soul?

XXIII. The god of the Stoics has somewhat more majesty than the divinity of Aristotle ; nor is he represented by those philosophers as sitting above the starry heavens in a supine indolence, and a perfect inattention to the affairs of the universe. Yet he is described as a corporeal being, united to matter by a necessary connection, and subject to the determinations of an immutable fate, so that neither rewards nor punishments can properly proceed from bim. The learned also know that, in the philosophy of this sect, the existence of the soul was confined to a certain period of time. Now it is manifest that these tenets remove, at once, the strongest motives to virtue, and the most powerful restraints upon vice; and, therefore, the Stoical system may be considered as a body of specious and pompous doctrine, but, at the same time, as a body without nerves, or any principles of consistence and vigour.

XXIV. Plato is generally looked upon as su.. perior to all the other philosophers in wisdom: and this eminent rank does not seem to have

Disput. Tusculan. lib. v. cap. x. Hence the complaint
which Juvenal makes in his xiiith Satire, of the Atheism
that prevailed at Rome, in those excellent words:

"Sunt in fortunæ qui casibus omnia ponunt,
Et nullo credunt mundum rectore moveri,
Natura volvente vices et lucis et anni;
Atque ideo intrepidi quæcumque altaria tangunt."

10 See the Notes upon Cudworth's Intellectual System of the Universe, which Dr. Mosheim subjoined to his Latin translation of that learned work, vol. i. p. 66. 500. vol. ii. p. 1171. See also upon the same subject, Mour gue's Plan Theologique du Pythagorisme, tom. i. p. 79.

11 Thus is the Stoical doctrine of fate generally represented; but not more generally than unjustly. Their fatum, when carefully and attentively examined, seems to have signified no more in the intention of the wisest of that sect, than the plan of government formed originally in the divine mind, a plan all-wise and perfect; and from which, of consequence, the Supreme Being, morally speaking, can never depart. So that when Jupiter it said by the Stoics to be subject to immutable fate, this means no more than that he is subject to the wisdom of his own counsels, and acts ever in conformity with his supreme perfections. The following remarkable passage of Seneca, drawn from the 5th chapter of his book De Providentiu, is sufficient to confirm the explication we have here given of the Stoical fate. "Ille ipse omnium conditor et rector SCRIPSIT quidem FATA, sed sequitur. Semper PARET, sc. mcl JUSSIT,

tages, the comforts, and the support, which the sublime doctrines of Christianity are so proper to administer in every state, relation, and cir cumstance of life. A set of miserable and unthinking creatures treat with negligence, nay, sometimes with contempt, the religion of Jesus, not considering that they are indebted to it for all the good things which they so ungratefully enjoy.

been undeservedly conferred upon him. He taught that the universe was governed by a Being, glorious in power and wisdom, and possessed of a perfect liberty and independence. He extended also the views of mortals beyond the grave, and showed them, in futurity, prospects adapted to excite their hopes, and to work upon their fears. His doctrine, however, besides the weakness of the foundations on which it rests, and the obscurity with which it is often expressed, has likewise many other considerable defects. It represents the supreme Creator of the world as destitute of many perfections,' and confined to a certain determinate portion of space. Its decisions, with respect to the soul, and demons, are too much adapted to beget and nourish superstition. CONCERNING THE CIVIL AND RELIGIOUS STATE OF Nor will the moral philosophy of Plato appear worthy of such a high degree of admiration, if we attentively examine and compare together its various parts, and reduce them to their principles.



I. THE state of the Jews was not much better than that of the other nations at the time of Christ's appearance in the world. They were XXV. As then, in these different sects, there governed by Herod, who was himself a tribuwere many things maintained that were highly tary to the Roman people. This prince was unreasonable and absurd; and as a contentious surnamed the Great, (surely from no other cirspirit of opposition and dispute prevailed among cumstance than the greatness of his vices,) and them all; certain men of true discernment, and his government was a yoke of the most vexaof moderate characters, were of opinion, that tious and oppressive kind. By a cruel, suspinone of these sects were to be adhered to in all cious, and overbearing temper, he drew upon matters, but that it was rather wise to choose and himself the aversion of all, not excepting those extract out of each of them such tenets and doc- who lived upon his bounty. By a mad luxury trines as were good and reasonable, and to aban- and an affectation of magnificence far above his don and reject the rest. This gave rise to a fortune, together with the most profuse and new form of philosophy in Egypt, and princi- immoderate largesses, he exhausted the treapally at Alexandria, which was called the Eclec-sures of that miserable nation. Under his adtic, whose founder, according to some, was ministration, and by his means, the Roman Potamon, an Alexandrian, though this opin- luxury was received in Palestine, accompanied ion is not without its difficulties. It appears with the worst vices of that licentious people. manifestly from the testimony of Philo the In a word, Judea, governed by Herod, groaned Jew, who was himself one of this sect, that under all that corruption, which might be exthis philosophy was in a flourishing state at pected from the authority and the example of a Alexandria, when our Saviour was upon the prince, who, though a Jew in outward profesearth. The Eclectics held Plato in the highest sion, was, in point of morals and practice, a esteem, though they made no scruple to join contemner of all laws, human and divine. with his doctrines, whatever they thought conformable to reason in the tenets and opinions of the other philosophers.

XXVI. The attentive reader will easily conclude, from the short view that we have here given of the miserable state of the world at the birth of Christ, that mankind, in this period of darkness and corruption, stood highly in need of some divine teacher to convey to the mind true and certain principles of religion and wisdom, and to recall wandering mortals to the sublime paths of piety and virtue. The consideration of this wretched condition of mankind will be also singularly useful to those who are not sufficiently acquainted with the advan

This accusation seems to be carried too far by Dr. Mosheim. It is not strictly true, that the doctrine of Plato represents the Supreme being, as destitute of many perfections. On the contrary, all the divine perfections are frequently acknowledged by that philosopher. What probably gave occasion to this animadversion of our learned author, was the erroneous notion of Plato, concerning the invincible malignity and corruption of matter, which the divine power had not been sufficient to reduce entirely to order. Though this notion is, indeed, injurious to the omnipotence of God, yet it is not suffi cient to justify the censure now under consideration.

2 There is an ample account of the defects of the Platonic philosophy in a work entitled, Defense des Peres accusés de Platonisme, par Franc. Baltus: But there is more learning than accuracy in that performance.

3 See Godof. Olearius, De Philosophia Eclectica, Jac. Brucker, and others.

II. After the death of this tyrant, the Romans divided the government of Palestine, between his sons. In this division the one half of Judea was given to Archelaus, with the title of Exarch; and the other was divided between his two brothers Antipas and Philip. Archelaus was a corrupt and wicked prince, and followed the example of his father's crimes in such a manner, that the Jews, grown weary of his iniquitous administration, laid their complaints and grievances before Augustus, who delivered them from their oppressor, by banishing him from his dominions, about ten years after the death of Herod the Great. The kingdom of this dethroned prince was reduced to the form of a province, and added to the jurisdiction of the governor of Syria, to the great detriment of the Jews, whose heaviest calamities were owing to this change, and whose final destruction was its undoubted effect in the appointment of Providence.

III. However severe the authority was, which the Romans exercised over the Jews, yet it did not extend to the entire suppression of

4 See on this subject, Christ. Noldii Historia Idumæa, which is annexed to Havercamp's edition of Josephus, vol. ii. p. 333. See also Basnage, Histoire des Juifs, tom. i. part 1. p. 27. Noris, Cenotaph. Pisan. Prideaux, History of the Jews; Cellarius, his Historia Herodum, in the first part of his Academical Dissertations, p. 207; and above all, Josephus the Jewish historian.

all their civil and religious privileges. The Jews were, in some measure, governed by their own laws, and they were permitted the enjoyment of the religion they had received from the glorious founder of their church and state. The administration of religious ceremonies was committed, as before, to the high priest, and to the sanhedrim; to the former of whom the order of the priests and Levites was in the usual subordination; and the form of outward worship, except in a very few points, had suffered no visible change. But, on the other hand, it is impossible to express the inquietude and disgust, the calamities and vexations, which this unhappy nation suffered from the presence of the Romans, whom their religion obliged them to look upon as a polluted and idolatrous people, and in a more particular manner, from the avarice and cruelty of the Prætors, and the frauds and extortions of the Publicans. So that, all things considered, their condition, who lived under the government of the other sons of Herod, was much more supportable than the state of those, who were immediately subject to the Roman jurisdiction.

IV. It was not, however, from the Romans alone, that the calamities of this miserable people proceeded. Their own rulers multiplied their vexations, and hindered them from enjoying | any little comforts that were left to them by the Roman magistrates. The leaders of the people, and the chief priests, were, according to the account of Josephus, profligate wretches, who had purchased their places by bribes, or by acts of iniquity, and who maintained their ill-acquired authority by the most flagitious and abominable crimes. The subordinate and inferior members were infected with the corruption of the head; the priests, and those who possessed any shadow of authority, were become dissolute and abandoned to the highest degree; while the multitude, set on by these corrupt examples, ran headlong into every sort of iniquity, and by their endless seditions, robberies, and extortions, armed against them both the justice of God, and the vengeance of men.

V. Two religions flourished at this time in Palestine, viz. the Jewish and the Samaritan, whose respective followers beheld those of the opposite sect with the utmost aversion. The Jewish religion stands exposed to our view in the books of the Old Testament; but at the time of Christ's appearance, it had lost much of its original nature, and of its primitive aspect. Errors of a very pernicious kind had infected the whole body of the people, and the more learned part of the nation were divided upon points of the highest consequence. All looked for a deliverer, but not for such a one as God had promised. Instead of a meek and spiritual Saviour, they expected a formidable and warlike prince, to break off their chains, and set them at liberty from the Roman yoke. All regarded the whole of religion, as consisting in the rites appointed by Moses, and in the performance of some external acts of duty towards the Gentiles. They were all horribly unanimous in excluding from the hopes of eternal life all the other nations of the world: and, as a consequence of this odious system, they treated them with the utmost rigour and inhumanity, when any occasion was offered them. And, besides these corrupt and vicious principles, there prevailed among them several absurd and superstitious notions concerning the divine nature, invisible powers, magic, &c. which they had partly

brought with them from the Babylonian capti. vity, and partly derived from the Egyptians, Syrians, and Arabians, who lived in their neighbourhood.

VI. Religion had not a better fate among the learned than among the multitude. The supercilious doctors, who vaunted their profound knowledge of the law, and their deep science in spiritual and divine things, were constantly showing their fallibility and their ignorance by their religious differences, and were divided into a great variety of sects. Of these sects three have in a great measure eclipsed the rest, both by the number of their adherents and also by the weight and authority which they acquired. These were the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the Essenes. There is frequent mention made of the two former in the sacred writings; but the knowledge of the rites and doctrines of the latter, is to be derived from Josephus, Philo, and other historians. These three illustrious sects agreed in the fundamental principles of the Jewish religion, while, at the same time, they were involved in endless disputes upon points of the highest importance, and about matters in which the salvation of mankind was directly concerned; and their controversies could not but be highly detrimental to the rude and illiterate multitude, as every one must easily perceive.

VII. It may not be improper to mention here some of the principal matters that were debated among these famous sects. One of the main points of controversy was, Whether the WRITTEN LAW alone, was of divine authority. The Pharisees added to this law another, which had been received by oral tradition. This the Sadducees and Essenes rejected as of no authority, and adhered to the written law as the only divine rule of obedience. They differed also in their opinions concerning the true sense of the law. For, while the Pharisees attributed to the sacred text a double sense, one of which was obvious, regarding only the words, and another mysterious, relating to the intimate nature of the things expressed; and while the Sadducees maintained that nothing further was delivered by the law, than that which was contained in the signification of the words; the Essenes, at least the greatest part of that sect, entertained an opinion different from both of these: They asserted, in their jargon, that the words of the law were absolutely void of all power, and that the things expressed by them, were the images of holy and celestial objects. These litigious subtilties and unintelligible wranglings about the nature and sense of the divine word, were succeeded by a controversy of the greatest moment, concerning the rewards and punishments of the law, particularly with respect to their extent. The Pharisees were of opinion, that these re wards and punishments extended both to the soul and body, and that their duration was prolonged beyond the limits of this transitory state. The Sadducees assigned to them the same period that concludes this mortal life. The Essenes differed from both, and maintained that future rewards and punishments extended to the soul

ral of inferior note, which prevailed among the Jews at
5. Besides these more illustrious sects, there were seve-
the time of Christ's appearance. The Herodians are
mentioned by the sacred writers, the Gaulonites by
Josephus, and others by Epiphanius and Hegesippus in
Eusebius; nor is it rational to look upon these sects as

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