Imágenes de páginas

serable nation. Under his administration, and CENT. by his means, the Roman luxury was received in I. Palestine, accompanied with the worst vices of PART L that licentious people [7]. 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.

[ocr errors]

the death of

II. After the death of this tyrant, the Romans The state of divided the government of Palestine between his Judea after sons. In this division the one half of Judea was Herod. 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 calamithe Romans exercised over the Jews, yet it did ties that fell

[] 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 Jo sephus, the Jewish historian.

upon the Jewish na tion.

[ocr errors]

CENT. not extend to the entire suppression of all their civil and religious privileges. The Jews were, FART I. in some measure, governed by their own laws, and they were permitted the enjoyment of the re ligion 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 orders of 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, 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 cala

creased by

IV. It was not, however, from the Romans mities in- alone that the calamities of this miserable people the priests proceeded. Their own rulers multiplied their and rulers vexations, and hindered them from enjoying any Ish nation, little comforts that were left to them by the Ro

of the Jew

man 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

. I.


of authority, were become dissolute and abandoned CENT. 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.

much cor


V. Two religions flourished at this time in The Jewish Palestine, viz. the Jewish and the Samaritan, religion whose respective followers beheld those of the rupted opposite sect with the utmost aversion. The among 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 an 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 sys.tem, 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 captivity, and partly derived from the

CENT. Egyptians, Syrians, and Arabians, who lived in their neighbourhood.



And also


VI. Religion had not a better fate among the learned than among the multitude. The superamong the cilious doctors, who vaunted their profound knowdoctors, ledge of the law, and their deep science in spiritual divided into and divine things, were constantly showing their

who were



The three famous Jewish

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 [m]. 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 vided upon points of controversy was, Whether the written. law alone was of divine authority. The Phari

sects di



[m] Besides 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 sects as fictitious.

upon these

sees added to this law another, which had been CENT. received by oral tradition. This the Sadducees I. and Essenes rejected as of no authority, and ad- PART I hered 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, regard ing 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 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 but exerspirit.

VIII. These differences, in matters of vast consequence, between the three famous


cised reciprocal tole

such ration tosects other.

wards each

« AnteriorContinuar »