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PART 1.

veneration the commen,than the sacred The Sadducees, by

CENT. I. strangers to true holiness, and were inwardly defiled with the most criminal dispositions, with which our Saviour frequently reproaches them. They also treated with more mandments and traditions of precepts and laws of God." denying a future state of rewards and punishments, removed, at once, the most powerful incentives to virtue, and the most effectual restraints upon vice, and thus gave new vigour to every sin ful passion, and a full encouragement to the indulgence of every irregular desire. irregular desire. As to the Essenes, they were a fanatical and superstitious tribe, who placed religion in a certain sort of seraphic indolence, and, looking upon piety to God as incompatible with any social attachment to men, dissolved, by this pernicious doctrine, all the great bonds of human society.

The multitude sunk in

tion

XII. While then such darkness, such errors and superstition, dissensions prevailed among those, who assumed and corrup- the character and authority of persons distinguished by their superior sanctity and wisdom, it will not be difficult to imagine, how totally corrupt the religion and morals of the multitude must have been. They were, accordingly, sunk in the most deplorable ignorance of God, and of divine things; and had no notion of any other way of rendering themselves acceptable to the Supreme Being, than by sacrifices, washings, and the other external rites and ceremonies of the Mosaic law. Hence proceeded that dissolution of manners, and that profligate wickedness, which prevailed among the Jews, during Christ's ministry upon earth. And hence the Divine Saviour compares that people to a flock of sheep, which wandered without a shepherd; and their doctors to men, who, though deprived

↑ Matt. xxiii. 13, 14, &c.

themselves of sight, yet pretended to show the way CENT. I. to others."

PART I.

a source of

among the

XIII. To all these corruptions, both in point of The Cabbala, doctrine and practice, which reigned among the many errors Jews at the time of Christ's coming, we may add Jews." the attachment which many of them discovered to the tenets of the oriental philosophy concerning the origin of the world, and to the doctrine of the Cabbala, which was undoubtedly derived from thence. That considerable numbers of the Jews had imbibed the errors of this fantastic system, appears evidently, both from the books of the New Testament, and from the ancient history of the christian church;s and it is also certain, that many of the gnostic sects were founded by Jews. Those among that degenerate people, who adopted this chimerical philosophy, must have differed vastly from the rest in their opinions concerning the God of the Old Testament, the origin of the world, the character and doctrine of Moses, and the nature and ministry of the Messiah; since they maintained, that the creator of this world was a being different from the Supreme God, and that his dominion over the human race was to be destroyed by the Messiah. Every one must see that this enormous system was fruitful of errors, destructive of the very foundations of Judaism.

worship of

ed also by vain

man inven

XIV. If any part of the Jewish religion was less The external disfigured and corrupted than the rest, it was cer- God corrupts tainly the form of external worship which was es- rites and hutablished by the law of Moses. And yet many tions. learned men have observed, that a great variety of rites were introduced into the service of the temple, of which no traces are to be found in the sacred writings. The institution of these additional

Matt. x. 6. xv. 24, 25. John ix. 39.

See Joh. Chr. Wolf. Biblioth. Ebraica, vol. ii. lib. vii. cap. 1. §ix. P. 206.

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CENT. I. ceremonies was manifestly owing to those changes and revolutions, which rendered the Jews more conversant with the nations round about them, than they had formerly been. For when they saw the sacred rites of the Greeks and Romans, they were taken with several of the ceremonies that were used in the worship of the heathen 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 causes of

the corruption in doctrine and morals,

among the Jews.

xv. But whence such enormous degrees of corruption in that very nation which God had, in a that reigned peculiar manner, separated from an idolatrous world to be the depositary of divine truth? Various causes may be assigned, in order to give a satisfactory account of this matter. First, it is certain, that the ancestors of those Jews, who liv. ed in the time of our Saviour, had brought from Chaldea, and the neighbouring countries, many extravagant and idle fancies, which were utterly unknown to the original founders of the nation." The conquest of Asia, by Alexander the Great, was also an event from which we may date a new accession of errors to the Jewish system; since, in consequence of that revolution, the manners and opinions of the Greeks began to spread themselves among the Persians, Syrians, Arabians, and likewise among the Jews, who before that period, were entirely unacquainted with letters and philosophy. We may further rank among the causes that contributed to corrupt the religion and manners of the Jews, their voyages into the adjacent

See the learned work of Spencer, De legibus Hebræorum, in the 4th. book of which he treats expressly of those Hebrew rites which were borrowed from the Gentile worship, vol. ii. p. 1086, edition of Cambridge.

See Gale's observations on Jamblichus, De mysteriis Egyptiorum, p. 206. Josephus acknowledges the same thing in his Jewish Antiquities, book iii. chap. vii. § 2.

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countries, especially Egypt and Phenicia, in pursuit CENT.L of wealth. For with the treasures of these corrupt and superstitious nations, they brought home also their pernicious errors, and their idle fictions, which were imperceptibly blended with their religious system. Nor ought we to omit, in this enumeration, the pestilential influence of the wicked reigns of Herod and his sons, and the enormous instances of idolatry, error, and licentiousness, which this unhappy people had constantly before their eyes in the religion and manners of the Roman governors and soldiers, which no doubt, contributed much to the progress of their national superstition and corruption of manners. We might add here many more facts and circumstances, to illustrate further the matter under consideration; but these will be readily suggested to such as have the least acquaintance with the Jewish history from the time of the Maccabees.

general cor

remains of pi

XVI. It is indeed worthy of observation, that, cor- Amidst this rupted as the Jews were with the errors and super-ruption, some stitions of the neighbouring nations, they still pre- ety were to be served a zealous attachment to the law of Moses, found. and were extremely careful that it should not suf fer any diminution of its credit, or lose any the least degree of that veneration, that was due to its divine authority. Hence synagogues were erected throughout the province of Judea, in which the people assembled for the purposes of divine wor ship, and to hear their doctors interpret and explain the holy scriptures. There were, beside, in the more populous towns, public schools, in which learned men were appointed to instruct the youth in the knowledge of divine things, and also in other branches of science." And it is beyond all doubt, that these institutions contributed to main

w See Camp. Vitringa, De synagoga vetere, lib. iii. cap. v. p. 667, and lib. i. cap. v. p. 133, vii. p. 156.

CENT.I. tain the laws in its primitive authority, and to stem the torrent of abounding iniquity.

PART I.

The Samari

tans.

XVII. The Samaritans, who celebrated divine worship in the temple that was built on mount Gerizim, lay under the burden of the same evils that oppressed the Jews, with whom they lived in the bitterest enmity, and were also, like them, highly instrumental in increasing their own calamities. We learn from the most authentic histories of those times, that the Samaritans suffered as much as the Jews, from troubles and divisions fomented by the intrigues of factious spirits, though their religious sects were yet less numerous than those of the latter. Their religion, also, was much more corrupted than that of the Jews, as Christ himself declares in his conversation with the woman of Samaria; though it appears, at the same time, that their notions concerning the offices and ministry of the Messiah, were much more just and conformable to truth, than those which were entertained at Jerusalem. Upon the whole it is certain, that the Samaritans mixed the profane errors of the Gentiles, with the sacred doctrines of the Jews, and

Christ insinuates on the contrary, in the strongest manner, the superiority of the Jewish worship to that of the Samaritans, John iv. 22See also, on this head, 2 Kings xvii. 29. The passage to which Dr. Mosheim refers, as a proof that the Samaritans had juster notions of the Messiah than the Jews, is the 25th. verse of the chapter of St. John, already cited, where the woman of Samaria says to Jesus, I know that Messiah cometh, which is called Christ; when he is come, he will tell us all things. But this passage seems much too vague to justify the conelusion of our learned historian. Beside, the confession of one person, who may possibly have had some singular and extraordinary advantages, is not a proof, that the nation in general entertained the same sentiments, especially since we know that the Samaritans had corrupted the service of God by a profane mixture of the grossest idolatries.

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