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PART 1.

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CENT. I. on which it rests, and the obscurity with which it is often expressed, has likewise many other con. siderable 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. 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.'

Eclectics.

xxv. As then, in 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; certain men of true discernment, and of moderate characters, were of opinion, that none of these sects were to be adhered to in all matters, 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,

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 sufficient to justify the censure now under consideration.

i There is an ample account of the defects of the platonic philosophy in a work entitled, Defenses des Peres accuses de Platonisme, par Frane. Baltus; but there is more learning than accuracy in that performance.

PART I.

though this opinion is not without its difficulties. CENT. I. It appears manifestly 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.*

foregoing

XXVI. The attentive reader will easily conclude, The use of the from the short view that we have here given of chapter. 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 recal 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, 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.

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

CHAPTER II.

CONCERNING THE CIVIL AND RELIGIOUS STATE OF THE JEWISH NA-
TION AT THE BIRTH OF CHRIST.

CENT. I.

The Jews gov

od the Great.

1. THE state of the Jews was not much better PART I than that of the other nations at the time of Christ's erned by Her appearance in the world. They were governed by Herod, who was himself a tributary to the Roman people. This prince was sirnamed 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, human and divine.

'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 i. 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, Josephas the Jewish historian.

PART I.

The state of

Herod.

IL. After the death of this tyrant, the Romans di- CENT. I. vided the government of Palestine between his sons. In this division the one half of Judea was Judea after given to Archelaus, with the title of exarch; and the death of 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.

ties that fell

ish nation.

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

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PART I.

CENT. L in a more particular manner, from the avarice and cruelty of the pretors, 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.

These calami

ties increased

and rulers of

tion.

Iv. It was not, however, from the Romans alone, by the priests that the calamities of this miserable people prothe Jewish na ceeded. 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.

The Jewish

religion much corrupted among the

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v. Two religions flourished at this time in Palestine, viz. the Jewish and the Samaritan, whose multitude. 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

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