Imágenes de páginas

trees, and rivers, the earth, the sea, and the winds, and even || real modesty and outward decency. And, indeed, from virtues, vices, and diseases, had their shrines attended by devout and zealous worshippers."

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.

XIII. It is, at least, certain, that this religion had not the least influence towards 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.1 The gods, moreover, were esteemed superior to 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. They plainly enough declared, that whatever was essential to the true worship of the gods, was contain

X. These deities were honoured with rites and sacrifices of various kinds, according to their respective nature and offices." 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, priests, and ministers, distributed into several classes, presided in this strange worship, and were appointed to prevent disorder in the performance of the sacred rites; but, pretending to be distinguished by an immediate intercourse and friendship with the gods, they abused their authority in the basest manner, to deceive an ignorant and wretched people. XI. The religious worship we have now been consider-ed only in the rites and institutions which the people had reing, 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 imputation 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.


XII. But, besides the public worship of the gods, to which all without exception were admitted, certain rites were practised in secret by the Greeks and several eastern nations, to which a very small number had access. These were commonly called mysteries; and the persons who desired to be initiated therein, were obliged previously to exhibit satisfactory proofs of their fidelity and patience, by passing through various trials and ceremonies of the most disagreeable kind. These secrets were kept in the strictest manner, as the initiated could not reveal any thing that passed on those occasions, without exposing their lives to the most imminent danger; 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 which were contrary both to gious worship that was offered to the heavenly bodies by the Syrians and Arabians. 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 be disposed to 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 farther account of this matter in the elegant work above mentioned.

See the learned work of J. G. Vossius, de idololatria.

b See J. Saubertus, de sacrificiis veterum. Lug. Bat. 1699.

• See M. Brouerius à Niedeck, de adorationibus veterum Populorum, printed at Utrecht in 1711.

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

é See Arnobius adv. Gentes, lib. vi.-Augustin de civitate Dei, lib.vii. cap. xxxiii. and the Misopogon of the Emperor Julian.

ceived by tradition from their ancestors. And as to what regarded the rewards of virtue and the punishment of vice after the present life, the general notions were partly un certain, partly licentious, and often more calculated 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 and depravity of manners, which appeared 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, or the frontless atrocity of publicly consecrating stews and brothels to certain divinities.1

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 See Clarkson on the Liturgies, sect. iv. and Meursius de Mysteriis Eleusiniis.

See Cicero, Disput. Tusculan. lib. ii. cap. xiii.

There is a very remarkable passage to this purpose in the Tristia of Ovid, lib. ii.

"Quis locus est templis augustior? hæc quoque vitet,

In culpam si quæ est ingeniosa suam.

Cum steterit Jovis æde, Jovis succurret in æde,
Quam multas matres fecerit ille Deus.
Proxima adoranti Junonia templa subibit,
Pellicibus multis hanc doluisse Deam.
Pallade conspectâ, natum de crimine virgo
Sustulerit quare quæret Erichthonium."

I See Barbeyrac's Preface to his French translation of Puffendorf's
System of the Law of Nature and Nations, sect. vi.

The corrupt manners of those who then 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, in 1712.

1 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 Reve


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 over a great part of the world. This religion must be known to those who are acquainted with the Grecian superstitions. In some things, indeed, it differs from them; for the Romans, beside the institutions which Numa and others had invented with political views, added several Italian fictions to the Grecian fables, and gave also to the Egyptian deities a place among their own."

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. One of these will comprehend the religious systems that owed 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 support 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 Britons, 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
See Dionysius Halicarn. Antiq. Rom. lib. vii. cap. lxxii.
b Sec Petit ad leges Atticas, lib. i. tit. i.

Tvois (gnosis) in the Greek signifies science or knowledge; and hence came the title of Gnostics, which this presumptuous sect claimed as due to their superior light and penetration in divine things.

d 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.

such a universal excess of barbarism 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 those overgrown 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 this they added such chimerical notions and such absurd subtilties of their own, as may serve to convince us that it belongs to God alone, and not to man to reveal the truth without any mixture of impurity or error. 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 embraced 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 dissentions about several points, subdivided themselves into a variety of sects. 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; 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. Of the Grecian sects, some declared openly against all religion; and others, 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 of 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 ought to be preferred to vice, or vice to virtue." These two sects, though they struck at the foundations of

The ambiguity of this word 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?


weakness of the foundations on which it rests, and the obscurity with which it is often expressed, has 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 dæmons, seem calculated to beget and nourish superstition. Nor will the moral philosophy of Plato appear worthy of such a high degree of admiration, if we attentively examine and compare its various parts, and reduce them to their principles.e

all religion, were the most numerous of all at the birth of || work upon their fears. His doctrine, however, besides the Christ, and were particularly encouraged by the liberality of the rich, and the protection of those who were in power. XXII. We observed in the preceding section, 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, resembles the principle that gives motion to a machine; it is a nature happy in the contemplation of itself, and entirely regardless of human affairs; and such a divinity, 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. 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 connexion, and subject to the determinations of an immutable fate, so that neither rewards nor punishments can properly proceed from him. The learned also know that, in the philosophy of this sect, the existence of the soul was confined to a certain period. 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 consistency and vigour. XXIV. Plato is generally looked upon as superior to all the other philosophers in wisdom; and this eminent rank does not seem to have been undeservedly conferred upon him. He taught that the universe was governed by a Being, glorious in power and wisdom, and possessing 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

The Epicurean sect was, however, the more numerous of the two, as appears from the testimony of Cicero de Finibus, &c. lib. i. cap. vii. lib. ii. cap. xiv. 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 ponant, Et nullo credant mundum rectore moveri, Naturâ volvente vices et lucis et anni;

Atque ideo intrepidi quæcunque altaria tangunt."

b 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, Mourgue's Plan Theologique du Pythagorisme, tom. i.

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 is said by the Stoics to be subject to immutable fate, this

XXV. As then, by these different sects, there were many things maintained that were highly unreasonable and absurd, and as a contentious spirit of opposition and dispute prevailed among them all, some men of true discernment, and of moderate characters, were of opinion, that none of these sects ought to be adhered to in all points, but that it was rather wise to choose and extract out of each of them such tenets and doctrines as were good and reasonable, and to abandon and reject the rest. This gave rise to a new form of philosophy in Egypt, and principally at Alexandria, which was called the Eclectic, whose founder, according to some, was Potamon, an Alexandrian, though this opinion is not without its difficulties. It manifestly appears from the testimony of Philo, the Jew, who was himself one of this sect, that this philosophy was in a flourishing state at Alexandria, when our Saviour was upon the earth. The Eclectics held Plato in the highest esteem, though they made no scruple to join, 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 which 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 advantages, the comforts, and the support which the sublime doctrines of Christianity are so proper to administer in every state, relation, and circumstance of life. A set of miserable and unthinking creatures treat with negligence, and 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.

means no more than that he is subject to the wisdom of his own counsels, and ever acts in conformity with his supreme perfections. The following remarkable passage of Seneca, drawn from the 5th chapter of his book de Providentiâ, 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, semel jussit."

d 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 acknowleded 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, it is not sufficient to justify the censure now under con


• 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. f See Godof. Olearius de Philosophia Eclectica, Jac. Brucker, and others.


who lived under the government of the other sons of Concerning the Civil and Religious State of the Jewish Herod, was much more supportable than the state of those

Nation at the Birth of Christ.

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 governed by Herod, who was himself a tributary to the Roman people. This prince was surnamed the Great, surely from no other circumstance than the greatness of his vices; and his government was a yoke of the most vexatious and oppressive kind. By a cruel, suspicious, and overbearing temper, he drew upon himself the aversion of all, not excepting those who lived upon his bounty. By a mad luxury and an affectation of magnificence far above his fortune, together with the most profuse and immoderate largesses, he exhausted the treasures of that miserable nation. Under his administration, and by his means, the Roman luxury was received in Palestine, accompanied with the worst vices of that licentious people. In a word, Judea, governed by Herod, groaned under all that corruption, which might be expected from the authority and the example of a prince, who, though a Jew in outward profession, was in point of morals and practice, a contemner of all laws, divine and human.


II. After the death of this tyrant, the Romans divided the government of Palestine among his sons. In this division, one half of Judea was given to Archelaus, with the title of exarch; and the other was divided between his 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, 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 arose from this change, and whose final destruction was its undoubted effect in the appointment of Providence.

III. However severe was the authority which the Romans exercised over the Jews, it did not extend to the entire suppression of their civil and religious privileges.The Jews were, in some measure, governed by their own laws; and they were tolerated in 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 priests and Levites were 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, the condition of those

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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 abomina ble 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 dissolute and abandoned to the highest degree; while the people, seduced 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 deli verer, 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 hor ribly 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. 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 captivity, 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 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.Þ

Besides these more illustrious sects, there were several of inferior note, which prevailed among the Jews at the time of Christ's appearThe Herodians are mentioned by the sacred writers, the Gaulonites by Josephus, and others by Epiphanius and Hegesippus in Eusebius: and we cannot reasonably look upon all these sects as fictitious.


nish whatever had the appearance of tumult and sedition, We may add to all this, that the Sadducean principles rendered that sect naturally averse to altercation and tumult. Libertinism has for its objects ease and pleasure, and chooses rather to slumber in the arms of a fallacious security, than to expose itself to the painful activity, which is required both in the search and in the defence of truth.

There is frequent mention made of the two former in the || tranquillity, as they were ever ready to suppress and pusacred writings; but the knowledge of the rites and doctrines of the last, is to be derived from Josephus, Philo, and other historians. These three illustrious sects agreed in the fundamental principles of the Jewish religion, and, at the same time, 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. A main point 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 farther 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 exThe Pharisees were of opinion, that these rewards 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 alone, and not to the body, which they considered as a mass of malignant matter, and as the prison of the immortal spirit.


VIII. These differences, in matters of such high importance, among the three famous sects above mentioned, produced none of those injurious and malignant effects which are too often seen to arise from religious controversies. But such as have any acquaintance with the history of these times, will not be so far deceived by this specious appearance of moderation, as to attribute it to noble or generous principles. They will look through the fair outside, and see that mutual fears were the latent cause of this apparent charity and reciprocal forbearance. The Sadducees enjoyed the favour and protection of the great: the Pharisees, on the other hand, were exceedingly high in the esteem of the multitude; and hence they were both secured against the attempts of each other, and lived in peace, notwithstanding the diversity of their religious sentiments. The government of the Romans contributed also to the maintenance of this mutual toleration and

See the Annotations of Holstenius upon Porphyry's Life of Pythagoras, p. 11. of Kuster's edition.

IX. The Essenes had little occasion to quarrel with the other sects, as they dwelt generally in a rural solitude, far removed from the view and commerce of men.-This singular sect, which was spread abroad through Syria, Egypt, and the neighbouring countries, maintained, that religion consisted wholly in contemplation and silence.By a rigorous abstinence also, and a variety of penitential exercises and mortifications, which they seem to have borrowed from the Egyptians, they endeavoured to arrive at still higher degrees of excellence in virtue. There prevailed, however, among the members of this sect, a considerable difference both in point of opinion and discipline.Some passed their lives in a state of celibacy, and employed their time in educating the children of others. Some embraced the state of matrimony, which they considered as lawful; when contracted with the sole view of propagating the species, and not to satisfy the demands of lust. Those of the Essenes who dwelt in Syria, held the possibility of appeasing the Deity by sacrifices, though in a manner quite different from that of the Jews; by which, however, it appears that they had not utterly rejected the literal sense of the Mosaic law. But those who wandered in the deserts of Egypt were of very different sentiments; they maintained, that no offering was acceptable to God but that of a serene and composed mind, intent on the contemplation of divine things; and hence it is manifest that they looked upon the law of Moses as an allegorical system of spiritual and mysterious truths, and renounced in its explication all regard to the outward letter."

X. The Therapeuta, of whom Philo the Jew makes particular mention in his treatise concerning contemplative life, are supposed to have been a branch of this sect. From this notion arose the division of the Essenes into theoretical and practical. The former of these were wholly devoted to contemplation, and are the same with the Therapeutæ, while the latter employed a part of their time in the performance of the duties of active life. Whether this division be accurate or not, is a point which I will not pretend to determine. But I see nothing in the laws or manners of the Therapeutæ, that should lead us to consider them as a branch of the Essenes; nor, indeed, has Philo asserted any such thing. There may have been, surely, many other fanatical tribes among the Jews, besides that of the Essenes; nor should a resemblance of principles always induce us to make a coalition of sects. It is, however, certain, that the Therapeuta were neither Christians nor Egyptians, as some have erroneously imagined. They were undoubtedly Jews: they gloried in that title, and styled themselves, with particular affectation, the true disciples of Moses, though their manner of life was equally repugnant to the institutions of that great lawgiver and to the dictates of right reason, and showed them to

b See Mosheim's observations on a small treatise, written by the learned Cudworth, concerning the true notion of the Lord's Supper.

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