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nions, manners, and dress, the influence which they possessed over the minds of the people was unbounded; insomuch that they may be almost said to have given whatever direction they pleased to public affairs. It is unquestionable, however, that the religion of the Pharisees was, for the most part, founded in consummate hypocrisy; and that, in reality, they were generally the slaves of every vicious appetite-proud, arrogant, and avaricious, consulting only the gratification of their lusts, even at the moment of their professing themselves to be engaged in the service of their Maker. These odious features in the character of the Pharisees drew upon them the most pointed rebukes from our Lord and Saviour; with more severity indeed than he bestowed on the Sadducees, who, although they had departed widely from the genuine principles of religion, yet did not impose upon mankind by a pretended sanctity, or devote themselves with insatiable greediness to the acquisition of honours and riches. The Pharisees admitted the immortality of the soul, the resurrection of the body, and a future state of rewards and punishments. They admitted, to a certain extent, the free agency of man; but, beyond that, they supposed his actions to be controlled by the decrees of fate. These points of doctrine, however, seem not to have been understood or explained by all the sect in the same way, neither does it appear that any great pains were taken to define and ascertain them with accuracy and precision, or to support them by reasoning and argument.
The Sadducees, if we may credit the testimony of Josephus concerning them, were a sect much inferior in point of number to that of the Pharisees, but composed entirely of persons distinguished for their opulence and worldly prosperity. He also represents those who belonged to it as wholly devoid of the sentiments of benevolence and compassion towards others; whereas the Pharisees, according to him, were ever ready to relieve the wants of the indigent and afflicted. He further describes them as fond of passing their lives in one uninterrupted course of ease and pleasure; insomuch that it was with difficulty they could be prevailed on to undertake the duties of the magistracy, or any other public function. Their leading tenet was, that all our hopes and fears terminate with
AT THE BIRTH OF CHRIST.
the present life, the soul being involved in one common fate with the body, and, like it, liable to perish and be annihilated. Upon this principle, it was very natural for them to maintain that obedience to the divine law would be rewarded by the Most High with length of days, and an abundance of the good things of this life, such as honours, distinctions, and riches; whilst the violators of it would, in like manner, find their punishment in the temporary sufferings and afflictions of the present time. The Sadducees, therefore, always connected the favour of heaven with a state of worldly prosperity, and could not regard any as virtuous, or the friends of heaven, but the fortunate and happy. They had no bowels of compassion for the poor and the miserable; their desires and hopes centered in a life of leisure, ease, and voluptuous gratification ; for such is precisely the character which Josephus gives us of them, and, indeed, it appears to be countenanced by the inspired writings—especially if, as is now generally admitted by the learned, our Lord, in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke xvi.), designed in the person of the former to delineate the principles and manner of life of a Sadducee. Considering the parable in this point of view, we cannot fail to see great force and beauty in it, which do not appear upon any other hypothesis. That the rich man was intended to represent a Jew is evident from his terming Abraham his father; and his request that the latter would send Lazarus to his father's house, for the purpose of converting his brethren to a belief of the soul's immortality and the certainty of a future state of rewards and punishments, implies that during his life-time he had imagined that the soul would perish with the body, and had treated with derision the doctrine maintained by the Pharisees respecting the happiness or misery of a future state ; and that the brethren whom he had left behind entertained similar sentiments-sentiments which decidedly mark them as the votaries of that impious system to which the Sadducees were devoted.
The Essenes, though not particularly mentioned by the writers of the New Testament, existed as a sect in the days of our Lord, and are frequently spoken of by Josephus, who divides them into two branches; the one characterized by a life of celibacy, dedicated to the instruction and education of the child
ren of their neighbours ; whilst the other thought it proper to marry, not so much with a view to sensual gratification as for the purpose of propagating the human species. Hence they have been distinguished by some writers into the practical and the theoretical Essenes.
The practical Essenes were distributed in the cities and throughout the countries of Syria, Palestine, and Egypt. Their bond of association embraced not merely a community of tenets, and a similarity of manners and particular observances, like that of the Pharisees or the Sadducees; but it extended also to an intercommunity of goods. Their demeanour was sober and chaste; and their mode of life was, in every other respect, subjected to the strictest regulations, and submitted to the superintendance of governors, whom they appointed over themselves. The whole of their time was devoted to labour, meditation, and prayer ; and they were most sedulously attentive to the calls of justice and humanity, and every moral duty. In common with the rest of the Jews, they believed in the unity of God; but from some of their institutes it appears that they entertained a reverence for the sun, probably considering that grand luminary as a deity of an inferior order, or perhaps regarding it as the visible image of the Supreme Being. They supposed the souls of men to have fallen, by a disastrous fate, from the regions of purity and light, into the bodies which they occupy; during their continuance in which, they considered them to be confined, as it were, within the walls of a loathsome dungeon. For this reason, therefore, they did not believe in the resurrection of the body; although it was their opinion that the soul would be rewarded or punished in a future state, according to its deserts. They cultivated great abstinence, allowing themselves but little bodily nourishment or gratification, from an apprehension that the immortal spirit might be thereby encumbered and weighed down. It was their endeavour, too, by constant meditation, to withdraw the mind as much as possible from the contagious influence of the corrupt mass by which it was unhappily enveloped. The ceremonies, or external forms, which were enjoined in the law of Moses to be observed in the worship of God, were totally disregarded by many of the Essenes ; it being their opinion that the words of Moses were to be understood in a mysterious and
AT THE BIRTH OF CHRIST.
recondite sense, and not according to their literal meaning. Others of them, indeed, so far conformed as to offer sacrifices; but they did this at home; for they were wholly averse from the rites which it was necessary for those to observe who atttended the Temple worship. Upon the whole, it does not seem an improbable conjecture, that the doctrine and discipline of the Essenes arose out of an ill-judged attempt to make the principles of the Jewish religion accord with some tenets which they had imbibed from the Oriental philosophy, of which we have already spoken.
Though the practical Essenes were very much addicted to superstition, society derived no inconsiderable benefit from their labour, and the strictness of their morals. Those of the theoretical class, however, seem to have set scarcely any bounds whatever to their silly extravagance. Although they professed themselves to be Jews, and were desirous to be considered as the disciples of Moses, they were almost entirely strangers to the Mosaic discipline. Renouncing employment of every description, and all worldly possessions, they withdrew themselves into solitary places, and there, dispersed about in separate cells, passed the remnant of their days without engaging in any kind of bodily labour, and neither offering sacrifices nor observing any other external form of religious worship. In this state of seclusion from the world and its concerns, they studied to reduce and keep the body low, by allowing it nothing beyond the most slender subsistence, and, as far as possible, to detach and disengage the soul from it by perpetual contemplation, so that the immortal spirit might, in defiance of its corporeal imprisonment, be kept constantly aspiring after its native liberty and light, and be prepared, immediately on the dissolution of the body, to reascend to those celestial regions from whence it originally sprang. Conformably to the practice of the Jews, the theoretical Essenes were accustomed to hold a solemn assembly every seventh day. On these occasions, after hearing a sermon from their President, and offering up their prayers, it was usual for them to feast together,-if that can indeed be called a feast which was restricted to a mutual participation of salt and bread and water. This repast is said to have been followed by a sacred dance, which was continued throughout the whole night, until
the dawn appeared. At first the men and women danced in two separate parties; but at length, their minds, according to their own account, kindling with a sort of divine ecstacy, the two companies joined in one, mutually striving, by various shouts and songs of the most vehement kind, accompanied with the most extravagant motions and gesticulations of the body, to manifest the fervent glow of that divine love with which they professed to be inflamed.
As to the moral doctrine of these sects of the Essenes, as well as that of the Pharisees and Sadducees, into which the Jewish people were divided, it cannot be considered as having in any degree contributed towards promoting the interests of virtue and genuine piety. The Pharisees, as was frequently objected to them by Christ, who knew their hearts, were destitute of the love of God and their neighbour,-the essential principles of righteousness. They were hypocritical in their acts of worshipproud and self-righteous— harsh and uncharitable in their judgment of others; while they made the divine law void through their traditions. They paid little or no regard to inward purity or sanctity of mind, but studied by all possible means to attract the eyes of the multitude towards them, by an ostentatious solemnity of carriage, and the most specious external parade of piety and brotherly love. They were continually straining and perverting the most important precepts of the divine law; whilst, at the same time, they enforced an unreserved obedience to ordinances which were of mere human institution. The Sadducees regarded all those persons as righteous who strictly conformed themselves to the ritual observances prescribed in the law of Moses, and did no injury to any of the Jewish nation, from whom they had received none. And as their principles forbade men to look forward to a future state of rewards and punishments, and placed the whole happiness of man in the possession of riches and in sensual gratification, they naturally tended to generate and encourage an inordinate love of money, a brutal insensibility to the calls of compassion, and a variety of other vices equally pernicious and degrading to the human mind. The Essenes laboured under the influence of a depressing superstition; so that, whilst they were scrupulously attentive to the demands of justice and equity in regard to