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sedly taught from those scriptures by our Lord and his apostles. His advice to those, who resisted his claims, was, "Search the scriptures, for in them ye think ye have eternal life, and they are they which testify of me." John v. 39. When he endeavoured to withdraw the attention of the Jews from the rites, to the spirit, of the law, they were ready to charge him with violating the religion of Moses. His answer was, “Think not that I came to destroy the law and the prophets; I came not to destroy, but to fulfil:" which means, " Suspect me not to be guilty of innovation; I am come not to introduce a new religion, but to reform and perfect the old." To the same purpose is the language of St. Paul, when branded as a heretic, If I am a heretic, I teach the heresy of Moses and the prophets." Why should it be thought a thing incredible that God should raise the dead? Having therefore obtained help of God, I continue unto this day, witnessing both to small and great, saying none other things, than those which Moses and the prophets did say should come. King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest. Then Agrippa said unto Paul, almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian." Acts xxvi.
But let us hear what Philo says of the Esseans. in regard to this subject. "The interpretation of the sacred writings is made by them in an im
plied allegorical sense: for the whole law, in the opinion of these men, resembles a living being; the express literal signification constitutes the body, while the implied spiritual sense forms the soul, of these scriptures *" An observation more happy, and more important, as illustrative of many passages in the New Testament, cannot well be conceived. It presents us, in one concise view, with the nature and grounds of the dispute between the advocates of the gospel and their opponents among the Jews. The latter, taking the words of the prophets in a literal sense, expected a temporal king; and confining their attention to the letter of the law, considered it only as a system of external ordinances. But the former, overlooking the literal and primary signification, like the body or flesh, as of inferior importance, rested on the spiritual meaning, as the soul, the essential part of Moses and the prophets. Hence, while the Scribes and Pharisees degraded
Nam hi viri totam legem existimant habere animalis similitudinem, cujus præcepta ad literam accepta corpus referunt; animam vero sententiæ reconditæ sub velamine verborum abditæ ; in quibus rationalis anima egregie seipsam contemplatur, tamquam in speculo, sub his ipsis verbis miram sententiarum pulchritudinem conspiciens; et figuras quidem 'mysticas explicans et detergens, sensus vero interiores nudos in lucem edens, talibus qui ex parva suggestione sciunt obscura ex apertis colligere. P.901. Vol. II. 483,
the religion of their fathers below its natural standard, Christ and his followers regarded it as a divine institution, addressing its exterior only to the infancy of reason, but expanding from sense to intellection, with the progress of society, till the period was ripe for the promised Messiah. In the fulness of time the Messiah came, rising like the sun, with all the majesty and mildness of truth. Supported by the power and illumined by the wisdom of God, he drew aside the veil of sense; the twilight of rites and symbols disappeared, and the gospel, with life and immortality, emerged into a bright and eternal day.
Now, this being the case, if the Jewish believers, with Paul and Philo in the number, were asked, Who were the founders of their sect? they would, without hesitation, answer, "THE PATRIARCHS.-The main stem, they would add, is Abraham; from him we should be cut off, if we did not believe in Jesus. Those of the house of Israel who reject him, are now withered branches fit only for fuel. These branches being broken off, the believing Gentiles, being a wild olive, are grafted in among us, and with us partake of the root and fatness of the olive tree." Rom. xi. 17.
It is not to be conceived, that the faithful among the Jews would allow Jesus, who only completed, to be the founder of their faith, if they
could with justice boast of the venerable authority of their most ancient forefathers. This would be at once to deviate from the truth, contrary to their strongest predilections, as the children of Abraham and the disciples of Moses, and at the same time weakly to expose the gospel to the charge of being a late and recent religion. Philo and Josephus, by describing the Jewish believers. as a sect of Jews of high antiquity, wisely precluded, on one hand, the odium attached to the partial names of Nazarenes, Galileans, or Christians; and on the other, the charge of being new and unreasonable, which was soon urged against christianity*.
Prone as the Jews, in the early ages of their history, were to idolatry, there were many who zealously maintained the worship of the true God, Those, who resembled one another by their pe
Nothing was more, general and common than this objection against the christian doctrine; and it was an objection which applied with greater force at the first promulgation of the gospel, than in subsequent times. Eusebius, towards the beginning of his Ecclesiastical History, has, in opposition to it, endeavoured to prove the antiquity of the christian faith. Justin Martyr, in his greater apology, glances at the same charge; and in reference to it, delivers this candid remark. "All those, who lead a rational life, though deemed atheists, are christians; such as Socrates and Heraclitus among the Greeks; Abraham, Elias, and others, among the barbarians." Apolog. I. sec. 61.
culiar attachment to the religion of their fathers, would naturally unite in times of general degeneracy, and form themselves into a distinct body or community, studying the law, and displaying the happy influence of it in their lives and conversations. A body of this sort is mentioned in the Maccabees. "There came to Mattathias a company of Assideans, who were mighty men of Israel, even all such as were voluntarily devoted to the law." 1 Mac. ii. 42. To this company Philo probably alludes, where he calls the Esseans a band of holy men*.'
And Josephus, in writing of the Assideans, (Antiq. Jud. Lib. XII. 10. 3.) calls them good and holy men. In this he followed the book of the Maccabees, one passage of which renders the Hebrew of assideans by the Greek hosioi (oo) as being derived from it. Philo has followed this version, probably on the authority of some among the people he was de
Aridano is the Hebrew on hhasid in Greek characters. The words used by Philo are, Τον λεχθεντα όμιλον των Εσσαίων η όσιων. The terms όσιος and άγιος, are nearly of the same import: and it is remarkable that, under the latter of these, the apostles have usually addressed the christian churches founded by them: and this is no inconsiderable argument, that the people whom Paul addresses, and of whom Philo speaks, were really the same.