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Lord appeared among men. For he resembled them in principles and in character; and preached in those retired places, frequented by the Esseans. Moreover, Josephus informs us, that they practised the rite of baptism: and it is farther remarkable that, when our Lord had occasion to visit the followers of John, he selected for the subject of his discourse, those opinions which Philo and Josephus impute to the Esseans*.-Thirdly, That the Esseans did not form a distinct sect of Jews, till some time after the death of Jesus. During his ministry and upwards, they comprehended the school of the prophets, and brought up young men of study and distinction to fill the offices, and to sustain the professions of priests, scribes, and pharisees. They professed this name only as a band of holy men; and were distinguished from the rest of the Jews, by greater purity of morals, and superior zeal for the law. There are two remarkable facts, which render this conclusion morally certain. In the New Testament no mention is made of the Esseans, nor the least allusion to them as a religious sect. The Christian scriptures, beyond all other ancient writings, are interwoven with local events. The Scribes, the Pharisees, the Sadducees, are frequently noticed; nor are the Herodians, though probably a party supporting the claims of Herod, passed over unobserved. But of the Esseans they are totally silent; a thing morally impossible if they really existed as an independent, distinct, sect. The hypothesis of Lardner and others,
See Researches, p. 61, 62.
to account for this silence, namely, that they were not numerous, and lived in retired places, is directly opposite to the truth. Philo asserts that in his days they abounded in every place; and Josephus says in these words, "This sect is not confined to one city, but the members of it prevail in every city." The object of our Lord's mission required, that he should preach among every description of Jews; and the historians of his life were called upon to give at least a brief view of his discourses, wherever he spoke to the people. This circumstance would necessarily have introduced some notice of the Esseans. On the first inspection, they appear greatly to resemble the Jewish converts; and the latter, in their dispute with the adversaries of the Gospel, would not fail to avail themselves of this resemblance, and support their cause by an appeal to the principles and example of so honourable a class of men. Not to mention that the Esseans were interested, like other Jews, in supporting or in opposing the Gospel; and however reluctant or retired, they could not avoid taking a part in the disputes about it. Notwithstanding all this, no traces of their name or of their sentiments can be found in any part of the Christian scripture as a distinct sect of Jews. Moreover, Philo wrote his account of the Esseans a few years after the commencement of the Christian æra: and he speaks of them only as a body of people, distinguished from the rest of their countrymen, not by religious opinions, but by simplicity and frugality, by a more ardent love of freedom, by a more rational piety towards God, and a more sublime devotion to the service of man. About
fifty years after Philo, Josephus published his Jewish War, where they are expressly represented as a religious sect, separated from the rest of the Jews. Now, what may we infer from the circumstance, that a people hitherto distinguished only as a literary or political body, should after half a century become a distinct religious sect. This has been precisely the fate of that body of Jews who believed in Jesus. After his standard was erected on the foundation of Moses and the prophets, and after the spirit of Judaism was separated from its literal sense, the followers of Christ receded into a distinct society, whom their enemies branded as heretics, but whom a candid historian would necessarily describe as a distinct sect. The obvious inference then is, that the Esseans and the followers of Christ, whose fate has been the same, are the same people. These people were likely to coalesce in the very commencement. John, who preached at the head of the Esseans, ranked with the disciples of Christ, by pointing him out as the Messiah; and, on the other hand, Christ and his disciples by submitting to the baptism of John, became Esseans. This reasoning is strongly supported by the authority of Josephus. If the Esseans were not the same with the belivers in Christ, there must have been four sects among the Jews, when Josephus wrote his history. But he says expressly, that there were only three; and as he could not class the Christians with the Pharisees, or with the Sadducess, he must have classed them with the Esseans. Or if he were not favourably disposed to them, he would represent them as a body of people, who differed from all the other
sects, by following a strange and pernicious heresy. But this he has not done. He must therefore by the Esseans, intend the Christjans: no negative argument can be stronger than this.
But it is objected to the Esseans being Christians, that they are not called Christians, the distinguishing name given to the followers of Christ; that they are not said to glory in a crucified Saviour, which was the leading theme of the apostles' preaching, or to believe in the resurrection of the body, which was the peculiar doctrine of the Gospel. These are serious objections, and must be answered by any one who wishes to be attended to, when maintaining that, under the name of Esseans, Philo and Josephus describe the first Jewish believers
In the time of Philo, the Christian name was hardly in existence; it was a name given by enemies, and a name of infamy and reproach, beyond the conception of modern readers. The followers of Jesus do not go by this denomination even in the New Testament, where it does not occur except two or three times, and that as the subject of discourse. The apostles usually address the believers under the title of ayo, holy men-men devoted to God by peculiar virtue. This is the import of the term Esseans, Philo expressly declaring that they thus called themselves, from rios, holy men, on account of their peculiar devotion. Here then we perceive that the men described by this writer and those ad
*See Eccles. Res. p. 96.
dressed by the apostle Paul had in effect the same name: and this, surely, is an additional evidence that they were the same people.
In reply to the other objections, that they did not glory in a crucified Saviour, and believe in the resurrection of the body, it may be observed, that Philo and Josephus are not historians of the religious opinions, but of the virtues and customs of the Esseans. Philo. in particular strips them of the rites and notions which were peculiar to them as Jews or Christians; he does not say that they were the disciples of Moses, or that they believe in one God, or even in a future state. He represents them only as a body of people, surpassing all others in self-government, in piety and benevolence. He knew that the Greeks and Romans, and even the Egyptians, among whom he wrote, affected to respect these virtues, while they hated and reviled those Christian principles which produced them. In order, therefore, to remove the undue prejudices, which existed against such principles, and to recommend them to the world as rules of faith and practice, he describes them only by their effects, shewing that the people who acted under the influence of them, were far superior to every description of men.
The apostles were chosen by our Lord to take the lead in asserting the peculiar doctrines of Christianity. They were the pioneers, if I may so say, who were sent forth to prepare a way for the March of the Gospel; and they received extraordinary qualifications from God to direct and support them in the execution of this apparently impracticable task. The apostles, therefore, were called upon to proclaim on every occasion