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unlawfulness of divorce to obtain a second union. The Baptist himself was of the same opinion: and acted on this principle, when reproving Herod. The controversy on that subject was the first question submitted to the decision of Jesus.
"Then the Pharisees came unto him, tempting him, and saying, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause? And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he who made them in the beginning, made them male and female. And he said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and they two shall be one flesh so that they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let no man put asunder." Here our Saviour, on the authority of Moses, affirms the legality of marriage in opposition to such of the Esseans as maintained the unlawfulness of that institution.
He next adverts to the abuse of marriage, so general among the Pharisees, and the higher classes of the Jews; and he concurs with the Baptist, in prohibiting a bill of divorcement except in case of fornication, ver. 7—10.
While the Esseans in general cultivated a humble and teachable disposition, some of the leading men among them, distinguished by their rank and attainments, were remarkable for the opposite qualities of pride and arrogance. From
these we shall presently see sprung up in the Christian church, those false teachers known by the name of Gnostics, who arrogated this vain title from their supposed superiority in knowledge. This is the next subject which claimed the attention of Jesus: and he adopted the following beautiful incident to sanction the humble docile temper of the meek; and, on the other hand, to beat down the claims of the vain and haughty. "Then little children were brought unto him, that he might put his hands upon them and pray the disciples rebuked them. Then Jesus said, Suffer little children to come unto me, and hinder them not, for such is the kingdom of heaven."
The body of the Esseans, as being Jews and instructed in the law and the prophets, entertained the most honourable notion of God, "regarding him," says Philo, "as the source of every good,
and the cause of no evil." But the Samaritan Simon, in connection with some Egyptian impostors, introduced into the school of the Baptist, a diabolical tenet respecting the Creator, representing him as a subordinate deity of an evil nature. Against this growing opinion the following words of Jesus are seemingly levelled. "Behold one came and said unto him, Good master, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life? And he said unto him, Why callest
thou me good? There is none good but one, that is, God."
At this time a branch of the Esseans, as we shall presently see, were recluse devotees, who separated from the duties of life, and sought to please God by becoming useless to men. These are the men, whom our Saviour holds forth under the figure of an unprofitable servant, who has concealed his talent in a napkin: and their views of the Creator, as a severe and unjust master, are thus recognized. "We knew thee that thou wert a hard man, reaping where thou bast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strewed," &c. Mat. xxv.
The Scribes and Pharisees placed the whole of religion in ceremonial observances, and in some supposed privileges, which they enjoyed as the descendants of Abraham. In opposition to this, the Baptist preached repentance and amendment, as the means of avoiding the wrath to come; and taught the Jews to seek the kingdom, by keeping the commandments of God. With this attempt of his forerunner to raise the moral law, and to lower the Levitical code, Jesus strenuously concurred; and he thus finely enforced it, "But if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt
not bear false witness: Honour thy father and thy mother: and thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." The Esseans held their goods in common; but it will appear probable that they did not yet make this great and unexampled sacrifice to the truth, till their benevolence was refined, and their views enlarged by the example and instruction of Christ. The foundation of this extraordinary conduct was laid by the following admonition; "Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast; and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven : and come and follow me." The surprise and grief, which not only the young man, but his own disciples, shewed on hearing this, suppose that the precept was new and unexpected; which could not have been the case, had it in any degree been already practised by the disciples of the Baptist.
To this succeeds the parable of the steward, who hired workmen into his vineyard; and the occasion, on which it was delivered, unfolds additional beauty in its structure and application. The Esseans, for the most part, were employed in cultivating the ground, each having a piece of land for himself, or being hired to work on the land of another. And this is the scene whence Jesus, by that correctness of taste and rapidity
of imagination which distinguish all his discourses, selected the exterior of the parable. In a moral sense the Esseans, being a sect of high antiquity, laboured in the divine vineyard, if not from the dawn, yet from an early period, of the Jewish dispensation. But at this time, as I have already observed, many of them were become merely theoretic divines, separated from the active duties of life, and abandoned to that mystic contemplation, which opened a wide door to fanaticism and superstition. These are the men intended by the question, "Why stand ye here all the day idle?" This question evidently characterizes some of the Esseans as the idle devotees of contemplation; and Christ intended to correct this growing error, by introducing such as were chargeable with it into the vineyard of God, as active labourers in the service of man.
The disciples of John, who as yet expected him to be the Messiah, conceived themselves, not without reason, as labouring from the beginning in the vineyard of God, and bearing the heat and burden of the day. But our Lord took precedence of his forerunner, and his disciples, who entered comparatively at the eleventh hour, had the lead of those who hitherto followed the Baptist. Thus the last became, first, and the