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CENT. I.

such a one as God had promised. Instead of a meek and spiritual Saviour, they expected a form- PART I idable 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 toward 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 beside 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.

among the

were divided

sects.

VI. Religion had not a better fate among the And also learned than among the multitude. The super- doctors who cilious doctors, who vaunted their profound knowl- into various edge 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

Beside these more illustrious sects, there were several of inferior note, which prevailed among the Jews at 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 fictitious.

CENT.I. and doctrines of the latter, is to be derived from Josephus, Philo, and other historians.

PART I.

The three fa

mous Jewish

upon various

points;

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 sects divided 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 rewards and punish- CENT. L ments extended both to the soul and body, and _PART_L 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.

reciprocal tol

eration toward each

VIII. These differences, in matters of such vast but exercised consequence, between the three famous sects above mentioned, produced none of those injurious and other. 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 their mutual fears of each other were the latent reason of this apparent charity and mutual forbearance. The Sadducees enjoyed the favour and protection of the great. The Pharisees, on the other hand, were extremely 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 tranquillity, as they were ever ready to suppress and punish whatever had the appearance of tumult and sedition. We may add to all this, that the Sadducean principles rendered that sect naturally averse to all sorts of 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.

CENT. I.

PART I.

Essenes.

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 perfection 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 and instructing the children of others. Others embraced the state of matrimony, which they considered as lawful, when entered into with the sole design 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, addicted to the contemplation of divine things; and it is manifest from hence, 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.°

n See the annotations of Holstenius to Porphyry's Life of Pythagoras, p. 11, of the edition published by Kuster.

• See Mosheim's observations on a small treatise of the learned Cud worth concerning the true notion of the Lord's supper, p. 4.

PART I.

peute.

x. The Therapeutæ, of whom Philo the Jew CENT.L makes particular mention in his treatise concerning contemplative life, are supposed to have been The Theras 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 Therapeuta; 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 matter which I will not take upon me 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, beside 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 Therapeutæ were neither christians nor Egyptians, as some have erroneously imagined. They were undoubtedly Jews; nay, 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 be a tribe of melancholy and wrongheaded enthusiasts."

doctrine of

XI. None of these sects, indeed, seemed to have The moral the interests of real and true piety at heart; nor these sects, were their principles and discipline at all adapted to the advancement of pure and substantial virtue. The Pharisees courted popular applause by a vain ostentation of pretended sanctity, and an austere method of living, while in reality, they were

P The principal writers, who have given accounts of the Therapeutæ, are mentioned by Jo. Albert Fabricius in the ivth. chapter of his Luc Salutaris Evangelii toto orbe exoriens, p. 55.

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