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stance, though it has been long established by the Esseans. The men who do these things exceed four thousand, maintaining withal neither wives nor keeping slaves, as thinking the latter to be contrary to justice, and the former to be productive of domestic broils. As they live in a distinct community, they supply the place of slaves by each administering to the wants of the other. They elect good and holy men to be stewards over their revenues, in order to provide corn, and a supply of such things as the ground produces. The course of life which they pursue, is exempt from change or the caprices of fashion; and they bear some resemblance to the clans or communities said to subsist among the Dacians."
Such is the character which Josephus gives of the Esseans. I proceed to shew that in the num ber of these was John the Baptist; and that he was the chief teacher of the sect, when our Lord appeared in the world.
This people has long been the subject of much fruitless dispute in England and on the continent; and the learned have not been able to withdraw the veil that hangs on the question; because they took it for granted, that Josephus was either hostile or indifferent to Christ and his cause.
In the writings of the New Testament, no no tice is taken of the Esseans; nor is there even an
allusion made to them, and their opinions, as a distinct sect of Jews. This is a remarkable circumstance; and the more so, as the christian scriptures are beyond all other ancient compositions interwoven with local events, and abound with allusions to persons and places. The Scribes, the Pharisees, the Sadducees, are often mentioned, and their peculiar notions frequently alluded to in the four gospels. Even the courtiers, who flattered Herod, and the transient followers of Judas the Galilean, are not left unnoticed. How, then, came the Esseans to have been overlooked, especially as they formed a sect in the highest degree respectable and numerous, and in many respects closely resembling the followers of Jesus? The presumption to be drawn from this fact is, that though not recognized or alluded to, as Esseans in the New Testament, they must be recognized or alluded to under some other description.
If we compare what is said of John the Baptist in the four gospels, with the character of the Esseans given by Josephus, we cannot help concluding that he was of their number; and that he was teaching among them, when he came preaching in the wilderness. The Baptist, as a teacher, was not solitary and alone. He attained such high reputation, that he attracted the people from all parts of Judea; and they submitted to
his baptism, believing him to be a prophet, or the Messiah himself. John, therefore, so far from being a lonely hermit, before he could have risen to such pre-eminence, must have belonged to some people of credit and notoriety. The place of his abode, the severity of his manners, the purity of his doctrine, which represented repentance and reformation as the only means of salvation, refer him to the Esseans, who lived not in cities only, but in rural or retired situations, cultivating the ground, and offering to God no other sacrifice than purity of body and of mind.
Epiphanius, whose learning was much more extensive and accurate than is generally imagined, and who never deviates into error, but when he has motives to forsake the truth; asserts that the Esseans were the same people, excepting some trifling difference, with the Sabuæans. But these last, as the name imports, were baptists; and they still exist under the name of baptists or Sabians, professing to believe in John the Baptist as superior to Christ*. Not to mention Epiphanius, whose authority may seem doubtful, Josephus himself represents them as daily practising the rite of baptism. They were then baptists; and if so, they had some connec
*Michael, Introd. Vol. III. p. 285.
tion with John. This argument, I think, is conclusive*.
The Esseans flourished not only in Judea, but in other countries where there were Jews: they abounded particularly in Samaria. For this reason Epiphanius calls them a Samaritan sect. In the Recognitions, ascribed to Clement, Simon the Sorcerer is represented as one of the principal among the followers of John the Baptist. The reason of this is now obvious. The Samaritan
* Quatuor omnino in sectas Samaritani, distributi sunt. -Quod ad Essenos spectat, ii nulla re prætermissa, primum institutum retinuerunt. Secundum hos Gortheni a se mutuo levibus de causis separati sunt, cum exigua quædam controversia inter ipsos intercessisset, hoc est inter Sabuæos, Essenos et Gorthenos. Epiphan. Vol. I. p. 28. Norberg, a Swedish professor, has given an account of a Jewish sect, still in existence, which profess to believe in John the Bapfist. This account has been translated by Michaelis, who observes that Sabians, by which they are called, is a Syriac word meaning baptists; but it has escaped this and other learned men, that the Sabians who follow John, and the Sabuæans of Epiphanius are the same people. According to Josephus, they plunged the whole body in a cold stream when covered in white linen. Εις εν αθροιζονται χωριον, ζωσαμενοι τε σκεπασμασι λινοις, όντως απολούονται το σώμα ψυχροις ύδασι, και μετα ταύτην άγνειαν, εις ίδιον οικημα
συνιασιν. J. W. B. II. viii. 5.
sect, called Esseans, of which Simon might be one, professed to be disciples of John.
This conclusion illustrates one remarkable passage in the ministry of Jesus; and in its turn is confirmed by that illustration. To avoid the violence of his enemies, our Lord, we are informed, John x. 41, retired beyond the Jordan, the very place in which the Baptist taught among the Esseans. "Many," adds the Evangelist, "resorted unto him, and said, John did no miracles. But all things that John spoke of this man were true (i. e. have been verified). And many believed on him there." The Evangelist John has not stated the topics of our Lord's discussion, while addressing the Esseans; but Matthew providentially has recorded them. Now as Jesus is known to have selected with peculiar promptitude and propriety, the subjects of his discourse from the objects around him, we may expect, that on this occasion, he should advert to the peculiar notions and practices of the Esseans. And in this expectation, happily, we shall not be disappointed.
From the above account translated from Jose
phus it appears, that much dispute now obtained among the Esseans respecting the marriage state. Some of them, though they allowed the lawfulness, denied in those circumstances, the expediency, of marriage; but they insisted on the