Sivut kuvina

first last. This is the sense which the parable bore in its first application, though it was intended, no doubt, to have a more remote and comprehensive reference to the participation of the Gentiles at large in the privileges of the Jews.




THE repeated and explicit testimony, which the Baptist bore to Jesus as his superior, and the deep impression which that testimony must have had on the Esseans, the love of truth which marked this people, and their profound acquaintance with the sacred writings, must have strongly disposed them to receive our Lord as their expected Messiah. His claims to their regard were such as no honest man in those circumstances could, without violence to his own judgment, well resist. By a voice from heaven he was proclaimed, in the midst of them, as the son of God; and that, in opposition to John, who was confessedly but the messenger or servant of God. The power, wisdom, and goodness, which Jesus, in the course of his ministry, displayed, justified this pre-eminent title; and to crown all, though ignominiously put to death, he rose from the dead, and in triumph ascended to heaven. The Baptist, in consequence of his testimony,

may be considered as the first man who followed Christ; and it was natural for his disciples to imitate his example, and class sooner or later with the converts to Jesus. Accordingly the Evangelist John represents many of the Esseans as believing in Jesus, while for the first time he preached among them. "And many resorted unto him, and said, John did no miracles; but all things that John spake of this man, were true, And many believed on him there."

It would be a matter of high interest and im portance, if we saw transmitted from antiquity, by some competent judge, a full and faithful delineation of the men, who received religious instruction from John and Jesus. Such a delineation would give fresh evidence to the claims of those holy men as divine teachers; and place the influence of the gospel in its proper light, by shewing its happy effects on the lives and conversation of those who received it, while yet new and uncorrupted. The desideratum thus devoutly to be wished is actually reserved for us by the providence of God. Philo, a Jew of Alexandria, contemporary with Christ and his apostles, and distinguished alike by his rank, talents,. eloquence, and virtues, has drawn at length the character of the Esseans after their conversion to christianity, under the name which had ever distinguished them as a body of holy men. It is

difficult in a translation to preserve the enthusiasm and energy of his description; but the following version faithfully conveys the meaning of the original.

"Palestine and Syria are not unproductive of honourable and good men; but are occupied by numbers, not inconsiderable, compared even with the very populous nation of the Jews. These, exceeding four thousand, are called ESSEANS, which name, though not, in my opinion, formed by strict analogy, corresponds in Greek to the term HOLY. For they have attained the highest holiness in the worship of God, and that not by sacrificing animals, but by cultivating purity of heart. They live principally in villages, and avoid the towns, being sensible that, as disease is generated by corruption, so an indelible impression is produced in the soul by the contagion of society. Some of these men cultivate the ground, others pursue the arts of peace, and such employments as are beneficial to themselves without injury to their neighbours. They seek neither to hoard silver and gold, nor to inherit ample estates, in order to gratify prodigality and avarice, but are content with the mere necessaries of life. They are the only people who, though destitute of money and possessions, and that more from choice than the untowardness of fortune, felicitate themselves as rich, deeming riches to consist, not in ampli


tude of possessions, but as is really the case, in frugality and contentment. Among them no one can be found who manufactures darts, arrows, swords, corselets, shields, or any other weapon useful in war, nor even such instruments as are easily perverted to evil púrposes in times of peace. They decline trade, commerce, and navigation altogether, as incentives to covetousness and luxury; nor have they any slaves among them, but all are free, and all in their turn administer to others. They condemn the owners of slaves as tyrants, who violate the principles of justice and equality, and impiously transgress the dictates of nature, which, like a common parent, has begotten and educated all men alike, and made them brethren, not in name only, but in sincerity and truth; but avarice, conspiring against nature, burst her bonds, having produced alienation for affinity, and hatred in the room of friendship."

"As to learning, they leave that branch of it, which is called logic, as not necessary to the acquisition of virtue, to fierce disputants about words; and cultivate natural philosophy only so far as respects the existence of God, and the creation of the universe: other parts of natural knowledge they give up to vain and subtile metaphysicians, as really surpassing the powers of man. But moral philosophy they eagerly study, con

« EdellinenJatka »