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into Egypt, and settled at Alexandria under this conqueror and B
his successors, who granted them the privileges enjoyed by the
Macedonians, and the unrestricted exercise of their own 001- religion.
Length of time insensibly unbraced those ties which had quri. attached the Jewish people to their country, and gradually
enfeebled their respect for the law of Moses, and their aversion for infidelity. There went out of Israel wicked men; and they persuaded many; saying : Let us go and make a covenant with
the heathens that are round about us : for since we departed from 2013 them, many evils have befallen us. And the word seemed good in pre
their eyes. And some from among the people went to the king : be
and he gave them licence to live after the manner of the heathens.
And they built a place of exercise at Jerusalem, according to the Lipscistom of the gentiles.
The priests themselves were not now occupied about the offices of the altar; but despising the temple, and neglecting the sacrifices, they hastened to be partakers of the publie shows ; contemning
what was most honourable with their fathers. (l. 1. c. 1. Mach.) pre
In a word, to such a height of frenzy did they carry their impiety, that they affected in all things to imitate the infidels, and to resemble in their whole demeanour the mortal enemies of
their country and religion. (Ibid. v. 16.) the
i leo cred
Of the various sects into which the Jewish people were, în latter
From this degrading epoch, the Jews began to fritter into
The Pharisees maintained, that Almighty God, in addition to the law given on Mount Sinai, had prescribed an infinite number of rites and dogmas, which Moses had transmitted to posterity without committing them to writing; and, along with such traditions as were true, they intermingled a variety of ridiculous fables, false notions, and erroneous principles, borrowed from the equally fallacibus maxims of pagan philosophy. Thus they corrupted the doctrine of the law. Josephus the historian informs us, that they ascribed all contingencies to an over-ruling destiny, although, at the same time, they very inconsistently allowed free will to man ; because, said they, such had been the divine pleasure. They left to him the uncontrolled election of virtue, or of vice, still maintaining that all things happen in consequence of some necessitating decree or dispensation of the Supreme Being. They held, that the souls of the wicked, after death, were confined in dungeons, and that they suffered eternal punishment; while those of the good were
restored to life, and entered into bodies, different from those which they had animated heretofore. It would be endless to detail, in full, all their visionary traditions: they are the subject of no less than two and thirty volumes in folio, which compose hi what is called the Talmud.
In the Talmud are distinguished seven different orders of Pharisees. One of these orders, in their obedience to the law, had in view only worldly profit and earthly glory: another made perfection to consist in dragging their feet along the ground in the act of walking; a third, in beating violently their heads against a wall, so as to stain it with their blood; a fourth, in wearing a hood upon their head; a fifth, in crying out with much ostentation, show me what I am to do, and I will do it; or rather what is there that I have not done already'? The sixth order observed the law through a love of virtue and hope of recompence; but the seventh, for fear of punishment and the wrath of God.
All of them recited long prayers, and refused themselves even necessary repose. They hung their head as they walked along, fearing lest otherwise they should touch the feet of the Divinity, which they superstitiously imagined not more than four feet elevated above the ground; and, in order to appear in the eyes of the people solely occupied with the things above, they sewed to their garments the philacteria or fillets, on which were written certain sentences of the law, wore by them in order to distinguish them from the vulgar Jews. They practised more frequent ablutions than their neighbours, to show their extreme desire of perfect purity. Their zeal for proselytism was ardent and indefatigable ; and this zeal, added to the severity of their mortifications, gave the people a high idea of their sanctity: the denomination of sage was appropriated to them by way of excellence. They kept their disciples in a kind of subjection little short of servitude, and regulated every thing appertaining to religion with absolute authority. Boundless was their influence over the minds of the populace, and of the female kind ; and they put in motion at their pleasure the stormy billows of popalar insurrection, and became formidable even to their kings. Such were the men censured with peculiar severity in the gospels by our blessed Saviour Jesus Christ.
The Sadducees, in the opposite extreme, rejected the traditions of the ancients, and, like our modern Caraites, would abide by nothing but the written word. In unison with this principle, they expounded the books of Moses according to their strict and literal acceptation; believed that the universe was the work of the Almighty, and that he continues to govern it by his providence; that he had wrought an infinite number of prodigies in favour of the Hebrew people, and in establishing its police had decreed rewards and punishments: but these penalties and these
recompences they believed to be purely temporal, and confined s to
within the limits of the present life. These Jows, strictly attachpject ed to the bare letter of the law, could discover nothing in the post writings of Moses, which taught in express terms, that the soul
would survive the dissolution of the body; and, as they were of enemies to all traditionary doctrine, they of course denied the law,
immortality of the soul. This error of the Sadducees was not, ther
perhaps, universally maintained by all who affected to adhere to the
the letter of 'the law: although their implacable enemies the ber
Pharisees, imputed it to the entire sect without exception, in orrth
der to render them the more odious, or, it may be, because with
they deemed it a consequence naturally flowing from their prinit; siples relative to tradition: a consequence, however, which, The
very possibly, all the Caraites would not so easily admit. оре A third sect among the Jews was that of the Essenians. and
These respected Moses as the first of legislators: they considered all who spoke ill of him as blasphemers, and sentenced them to die. They differed from the Pharisees, in rejecting their
traditions ; and from the Sadducees, in maintaining the immorits
, tality of the soul. This sublime doctrine, so essential to the feet | happiness of man, had engrossed the whole attention of the 27's Essenians: it constituted a part of the Jewish religion ; and xed
they sought to give to it the last degree of evidence, by arguten
ment, and by examining into the nature of the properties of a ish
human soul, with a view both to convince themselves more zb
strongly of this truth, and to enable them with greater case to answer the objections of the Sadducees, who seemed to have adopted the principles of Epicurism. Stoicism, on the contrary, offered
purer charms to the Essenians. According to the morality of this philosophic sect, they concluded, that whatever was calculated to flatter the senses; whatever served to inflame the passions,—increased the slavery of the soul. Full of these impressions, they abandoned the tumultuous scenes of public life, in order more effectually to secure themselves against that corruption which generally prevails in towns, and communicates its baneful infection to the inhabitants, as epidemic disorders are propagated among those that breathe an impested air. In their retirement they formed a society apart; amassed neither gold nor silver; and, content with simple necessaries, they subsisted by the labour of their hands.
They applied much to the study of morality; and their precepts all bore reference to the love of God, of virtue, and their neighbour. Of their love of God, Philo says, they gave unnumbered proofs: they observed perpetual and unsullied chastity through life. On no occasion did they swear, and never were detected in a lie. All good they ascribed to God; and they shuddered at the idea of making Him the author of evil. They demonstrated to all that knew them, their sincere love of vir
tue,-by their noble disinterestedness of conduct ;-by their contempt of glory and ambition, their renunciation of pleasure, their patience and amiable simplicity ;-by their habitual cheerfulness and contentment, their modesty, their respect for the laws, and their firmness and evenness of mind on all occasions. Their love of their neighbour was apparent, from their glowing charity, their affability towards all mankind, their having every thing in common, and their great humanity. According to the Essenians, nature, like a common mother, brought forth and nurtured all men in the same manner, and had made them all truly brethren: concupiscence had dissolved this natural relationship; and it was their ambition to revive it. favourable a light did Philo consider the Essenians; and certainly, if the picture be pourtrayed with accuracy, who will deny their virtues to have been angelic, and their moral sanctity most deserving of admiration? May not we then hope well of their salvation; and that, although their errors were considerable, they were only the mistakes of human infirmity, and not the offspring of self-conceit and pride ?
The Essenians established various confraternities in Palestine; and all things with them were in common. They were, moreover, interspersed among the Jews, wherever that people had made any settlements, especially in Syria and in Egypt. In this latter country in particular, near the lake Morin, on an eminence above the reach of hostile incursion, and eligible for its salubrious air, each one had a small oratory, which they called a monastery: there they had no other furniture than the writings of Moses, and of the prophets, together with a collection of some hymns, and a few other pious books.
At the dawning of the day, they implored the divine blessing ;-that true and inestimable blessing which illumines and inflames the soul. At the setting of the sun they prayed that their spirits, unincumbered by the senses and sensual objects, might be qualified in perfect recollection to discern the truth. The remainder of the day they employed in the study of the holy scriptures: the text they regarded as a symbol under which lay concealed the most sublime, and the most important truths.
They neither eat nor drank before sunset; and some among them, quite absorpt in contemplation, forgot for three whole days to take their usual nourishment. Six days successively they passed in their oratory, without so much as looking out at their door. On the seventh day, they were accustomed to assemble at a common oratory, where one of the most learned of their body delivered a discourse, after which they took together their frugal repast of bread and salt. During the repast was observed a profound silence: as soon as it was over, one of the company proposed a question concerning certain passages of holy scripture; another undertook to answer, and the president was
to decide whether the query were duly solved, then added what he thought fit upon the subject; when all present expressed their approbation, and rose to chaunt a hymn of thanksgiving and praise. The rest of the day was consumed in religious conferences, and the night in sacred psalmody until the rising of
The Essenians refused to hold communion with the Jews, because they deemed them not sufficiently perfect: they immolated no victims, and partook not of the sacrifices offered in the temple.
To the abovementioned sects we may add, that of the Sama. ritans. The ancient kingdom of Samaria was inhabited by the ten tribes of Israel, severed from the kingdom of Jerusalem under Roboam, son of Solomon, by the enterprising and not less impious Jeroboam. Eventually, Salmanasar, king of the Assyrians, made himself master of Samaria, transported its inhabitants into the plains of Chaldea, and sent a colony of Cutheans to repeople Samaria. This colony, we are informed in holy writ, was devoured by lions, because it had presumed to introduce into the holy land its heathenish divinities. Esharaddon sent thither a new colony, under the conduct of a Jewish priest, who had orders to re-establish there the ancient worship. But this priest could not prevail with the new inhabitants to abandon altogether their former superstition; and they made up a medley of their own religion with that of the old Samaritans; till they finally embraced the Jewish worship, and were called proselytes of the Lions, to intimate that it was the dread of these furious animals, which had effected their conversion to the Jewish religion, though not in all its purity. For,
In the first place, among all the writings considered by the Jews as canonical, they received the Pentateuch only, or the five books of Moses.
2. They offered sacrifice on Mount Garisim and not at Jerusalem ; alleging, that they wished to conform to the worship of the patriarchs who preceded Moses.
3. They looked for a Messiah, like the Jews; and believed that this Messiah was destined not only to be a king, but a teacher too, sent from God to enlighten and instruct them.
4. They observed the law of Moses with great exactitude, and had not, in other instances, less respect for the Pentateuch than the Jews themselves, although their obedience to the law was not proof against the terrors of persecution and the dread of torments.
5. The Samaritans rejected all tradition, and adhered only to the written word. As in this they agreed with the Sadducees, the Jews imputed to then, though wrongfully, the error of that sect with reference to the immortality of the soul.
When the Ptolomies had possessed themselves of Judea and