Графични страници
PDF файл

alien from the spirit, at once, of Judaism and of Christianity. Infinitely superior as the Essenes were, both to the Sadducees and the Pharisees, and embodying in their creed some elevated tendencies, their whole system was exclusive and ascetic, just the contrary of Christianity, as taught by our Savior, and exemplified in his life. Undoubtedly there are some slight coincidences in the two systems; but there are, also, the most obvious and striking differences. Christ was no Essene, - no monk, or ascetic, — for he mingled freely in society; approved of marriage, sanctioning it by his presence at the marriage in Cana of Galilee; partook of ordinary food and drink; so much so, that his enemies charged him, falsely enough to be sure, but with an apparent plausibility, with being “a gluttonous man, a wine bibber, a friend of publicans and sinners.” His system is not allegorical, or mystical, in the technical sense of these terms; neither is it narrow, monkish, and exclusive; but all-comprehensive, practical, social, and free - a religion for man in all the relations of life and society. Like that of the Essenes, his kingdom is not of this world; but, unlike theirs, it has no tones provincial - no peculiar garb- no strange Shibboleth, or oath - no secret notions and usages — no worship of angels, or despising of the body — no superstitious reverence of the

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]


night no worship of the sun or stars castes, or orders - no dread of society, or of com

mon every-day duties. Like theirs, the church of the first ages often had a community of goods, and took special care of the poor, the sick, the sorrowful, the dying; but, unlike the Essenic fraternity, it was composed of all ranks and conditions of men, and went forth among the unregenerate and outcast, preaching a free gospel, and urging them to press, without hesitation, into the fold of the Redeemer. Like the Essenes, the primitive Christians, following Christ, abandoned the distinctions and vanities of the world, despised suffering and death, and were preëminently distinguished for their justice, veracity, hospitality, and fortitude; but, unlike them, were actuated by a burning zeal for the spread of the truth, and the salvation of the heathen. While the Essenes shut themselves up in their secluded settlements, the Christians went every where preaching the word, and diffusing among men the blessings of salvation.

But it is unnecessary to pursue the comparison further. It is clear, not only from the absence of the slightest historical testinony, but from intrinsic evidence, that Christ and Christianity could not have originated among the Essenes of Palestine, or the Therapeutæ in Egypt.*

* It is well known that Roman Catholic writers have claimed the Essenes and Therapeutæ as Christian monks, in order to justify the

Christ, even in the commencement of his career, was altogether peculiar and original. He does not even seem to belong to his age.

Who thinks of him as a Jew at all ? He is as much superior to his era, and his nation, as if he had descended, full grown, from a higher sphere; as if he had sprung immediately from the bosom of God. And indeed he did come forth from God, and, while on earth, dwelt, so to speak, in the bosom of the Father. “ No man hath seen God at any time; the only-begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him."

monastic system as ancient and apostolical. But the whole is an assumption, without historical basis. It is singular, however, that De Quincey, in two articles contributed years ago to Blackwood's Magazine, has defended this view, or at least a modification of this view, maintaining that the Essenes were primitive Christians, mistaken or misrepresented by Josephus om he bitterly denounces) as a Jewish sect. De Quincey, however, has presented no new facts upon the subject. His reasoning is altogether hypothetical, and we are compelled to say, fanciful. Indeed, De Quincey, with all his learning, is not particularly reliable in questions of this sort. He is not unfrequently carried away by his imagination, in opposition to plain historical facts. The testimonies of Philo he has not even considered. He makes no account of the deliberate, well-founded opinions of such historians as Mosheim, Neander, Hase, Matter, Gieseler, and others. Any one who will take the trouble of reading his articles will find his reasoning conjectural from beginning to end. We refer our readers once more to note D in the Appendix.



Some time before the commencement of Christ's public career, Judea was reduced to the condition of a Roman province. Archelaus, after a weak and disastrous reign, as ethnarch, for nine years, was banished into Gaul. The country.was subjected to the capricious despotism of Pontius Pilate, the Roman procurator, who took every opportunity of humbling the Jews, and breaking their national spirit. He was the fifth Roman governor of Judea, and received his appointment from Tiberius Cæsar. He occupied that position about ten years, and distinguished himself by his spasmodic energy and cruelty. He is known in history chiefly in connection with our Savior's death. He introduced, not only into Cæsarea, his ordinary residence, but into Jerusalem itself, the idolatrous standard of the Roman empire, and attempted to suspend certain bucklers, bearing the image of the emperor, in the palace of Herod. The Sanhedrim was still permitted to exercise some jurisdiction, but was sadly checked 9.nd degraded. This, as far as possible, they endeavored to conceal both from themselves and the people. Their claims seemed as lofty as ever; and they guarded with an intense jealousy the ancient institutions and usages of the nation. Throughout the country, publicans or tax gatherers, under the appointment of Rome, constantly reminded the people of her subjection to foreign domination. Galling burdens chafed them at every point. Their very religion was subjected to rude, pagan interference. The high priest was displaced at the pleasure of the Roman procurator, and sometimes with insulting levity and violence. No one could be initiated into that office without the sanction of Rome. Religious sects were inflamed against each other. The Herodians, as they were called, were universally hated. False to their ancient faith, they yielded

. their necks to the conqueror, and were active in modifying the spirit and institutions of their country. The most fierce and sanguinary fanaticism raged amongst the followers and imitators of Judas, the Gaulonite, the leader of those who attempted to throw off the yoke of Rome. There was something, indeed, noble in their spirit of self-sacrifice, for they contemned suffering and death, and fought only for their country and their religion. Judas and his followers, however, perished miserably. The nation every where was agitated by treasons and tumults, often repressed

« ПредишнаНапред »