Sivut kuvina

rate reference. But Jerome fully comprehended the opinion and language of Josephus, and it will appear that Lardner understood neither. I shall conclude that Josephus in this passage is in the strictest sense a christian writer, and that his great object was to enforce the truth of the christian scriptures, by giving a purely evangelical account of him, who was the forerunner of our Lord.

office as the forerunner of the Messiah. Contra Celsum. lib. i. § 47. p. 35. See Lardner's opinion of these words, p. 115. Origen did, and Lardner did not, comprehend the meaning of Josephus.

[ocr errors]



MY object renders it here necessary to translate the account, which the Jewish historian has given of this celebrated sect. His words are to this effect. "There are among the Jews three sects which cultivate wisdom, the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and those called Esseans, who practise (as well as profess) whatever is venerable in conduct. These are Jews by birth, and they cherish mutual love beyond other men. They reject pleasure as evil; and they look upon temperance, and a conquest over the passions, as the greatest virtue. There prevails among them a contempt of marriage; but they receive the children of others and educate them as their own, while yet tender and susceptible of instruction. They do not, indeed, abolish the marriage institution, as being necessary to perpetuate the succession of mankind; but they guard against the dissoluteness of the women, who,

they think, in no instance preserve their fidelity to one man *."

"The Esseans despise riches, and are much to be admired for their liberality: nor can any be found amongst them, who is more wealthy than the rest. For it is a law with them that those, who join their order, should distribute their possessions among the members. Accordingly not an individual of them all exhibits the meanness of poverty or the insolence of wealth, the property of each being added to that of the rest, as being all brethren. They deem oil as a pollution, and wipe it off, should any inadvertently touch them for they think it an ornament to be plain, and always to wear white apparel. They appoint stewards to superintend the common interests; and these have no other employment, than to consult the good of each member without distinction."

"This sect is not confined to one city; but the members of it abound in every city. Those who come from different places have the same

• There were, it is to be hoped, many honourable instances to whom this suspicion could not by any means attach among the Gentiles as well as the Jews. And admitting that, in general, it was too well founded, it only proves, that the moral character of the women before the promulgation of the gospel was truly deplorable. *


free access to the goods of their community, as to their own; and they are introduced to those, whom they had never known, as to intimate friends. When, therefore, they travel, they carry with them nothing but arms for their defence against thieves. Accordingly, in every city, an officer is appointed to take especial care of strangers, and to provide them with clothes and other things necessary. In their dress and deportment they resemble children, awed by their masters, changing neither their garments nor their shoes, till they are rendered bare by use. They neither buy nor sell among themselves; but each gives of such things as are in his possession to him that has need, and accepts in return whatever is useful to himself. Every one, though unable to offer an equivalent, is permitted to share in the goods of whomsoever he may please."


They are singularly exemplary in their piety towards God: for before the rising of the sun, they speak not of temporal things; but use certain prayers received from their forefathers, as if supplicating the deity, like the morning sun, to shed his light upon them. After this, they are dismissed by their stewards to pursue the occupations in which they had been severally brought up. In these they labour with great diligence, till the fifth hour, when they again assemble to

gether, and after having covered themselves with white veils, bathe in cold water. This purification being performed, they again meet, each in his own apartment, into which it is not lawful for those of another sect to enter; whence they come in a clean manner into the dining-room, as into a holy place, where, having calmly seated themselves, they receive bread from the baker, and from the cook a single plate of one sort of meat. A priest says grace before meat, nor is it lawful for any to taste it till this is done. Grace is again said after meat; thus when they begin and when they end, they praise God as the bestower of their good. Then laying aside their neater dress, as if holy, they again go to their usual employments till evening; when they return, in the same neat manner, to supper, taking with them such guests as happened to be their visitors. Clamour and tumult never disgrace their abode, each in his turn having liberty to speak. The silence, which is thus maintained within, appears like some awful mystery to those who are without; but the cause is their uniform sobriety, and the restraint of their appetites within the limits of satiety."

"These men can do nothing without the permission of their rulers, except acts of charity and mercy, which are left to their own free choice, they being permitted to assist the worthy when

« EdellinenJatka »