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from Moses'; that he received it from God while on Mount Sinai; and that by the tradition of the elders, or great national council which he established, it had descended to every succeeding generation'.
It is a remarkable fact (so little is there any thing new under the sun, even in the forms which error assumes), that the two great sections, Protestants and Roman Catholics, into which the Christian Church may be divided, are formed by the same distinction as that which separated the Jewish church into Karaites and Rabbinists; the rejection of tradition as a rule of faith being, as Bishop Marsh has ably shewn, the vital principle of the Reformation. (Comparative View of Churches of England and Rome.)
$ i. Scribes, Lawyers, Doctors of the Law, Were, in the time of our Lord, only different names for one class of persons. Those who (Luke v. 17.) are called Doctors of the Law, are soon after called Scribes; and he who (Matt. xxii. 35) is called a Lawyer, is called (Mark xii. 28) one of the Scribes. Probably the origin of all sects was from the Scribes, who were not themselves a distinct sect, but, their original employment being that of copying, the Law, they gradually became expounders also, and, differing from each other, they drew away disciples after them. It was in order to give weight to their various interpretations of the Law that they attempted to shew, first, that' those interpretations were founded on tradition; and then, as the next step, that that tradition was of Divine appointment. It was their gross perversion of the written word of God, by their additions, corruptions, and misinterpretations, which contributed so much to the blindness of the Jews in rejecting their Messiah ; whom they had been taught, by these Scribes, sitting in Moses' seat, to expect as a temporal prince ; so that when our Saviour asserted his kingdom was not of this world, the people sought to slay him. (John xviii.)
1 These traditions were, about the second century after Christ, reduced to writing, called the Mishna. Comments were made upon it, which were called Gemara. The Mishna and Gemara, that is, the text and its comment together, made what they call the Talmud.
§ ii. The Pharisees Were the most numerous and important sect of the Jews. They derive their name from a Hebrew word, Pharash, which signifies 'separated,' or 'set apart,' because they separated themselves from every other sect, as more holy in their religious observances (Acts xxvi. 5). They believed in the existence of angels and spirits, and in the resurrection of the dead; but the distinguishing feature of their belief was their observance of the tradition of the elders.
Among these traditions the following may be noticed : that of washing their hands before and after meat (Matt. xv. 2; Mark vii. 3), and which they considered to be not merely a religious duty, but its omission as a crime equal to fornication, and punishable by excommunication; that if a son made a formal devotion to sacred purposes, of those goods which he could afford for the relief of a parent, he was then exempt from the duty of succouring his parent; thus encouraging a direct violation of the Fifth Commandment, and in so doing, destroying morality at its very
The effect produced on their character by thus rendering the word of God of none effect through their traditions, was a disregard of the weightier matters of the law, justice and mercy; and an allowance of hypocrisy, covetousness, self-righteousness, and contempt of others (Luke xviii. 9).
They were the bitterest enemies of our Lord, and more hopeless of amendment, he declared, than harlots (Matt. xxi. 31), though they fasted frequently, prayed much, and paid tithes, even of the smallest herbs.
How defective does this prove those motives to be, which, like theirs, regard the praise of man more than the praise of God! how defective that righteousness which, though abounding in outward duties, fails to control the heart! How self-deceived are the self-righteous ! (Matt. xxiii.)
§ iii. The Sadducees Denied altogether the authority of tradition. In their anxiety to establish the freedom of the human will, they were gradually led to assert there was no controlling pro
vidence over the affairs and actions of men. At first maintaining that men ought to serve God out of pure love, and not from hope of reward or fear of punishment, they were led on to assert there was no resurrection to man; and then, by an easy step, that there was neither angel nor spirit (Matt. xxii. 23; Acts xxiii. 8); and such doctrines, accommodated to the strong and depraved passions of the young, affording ample scope for worldly gratification to the opulent, and grateful to those who prided themselves on the sufficiency of human reason, found such among their followers. But the Sadducees were not numerous, though at times filling important posts, as Acts v. 17.
Many, in every age, act, like the Sadducees, upon the principle, “Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die.”
“ The tendency of infidelity to the destruction of social order, is strikingly illustrated by a remark of Josephus on this sect; that the Sadducees, whose tenets were the denial of a moral government and a future state, were distinguished from other sects by their ferocity, and again, for their inhumanity in their judicial capacity.” R. Hall,
& iv. The Essenes Differed both from the Pharisees and the Sadducees : from the Pharisees, in their not relying on tradition, or paying any strict regard to the ceremonial law; from the Sadducees, in their belief of a future state, and in their selfdenying habits.
Their great error was refining upon Scripture. While holding the word of God in the greatest reverence, they yet neglected its plain and literal meaning, and indulged in allegorical and mystical interpretations, and from their contemplative habits were induced to intrude into things which were not revealed.
They are not mentioned by name in the New Testament; but St. Paul is supposed to have alluded to them, in Col. ii. 18, and also in his Epistle to the Ephesians, and in his First Epistle to Timothy. Though we retire from the world, spiritual pride may follow us.
Sv. The Nazarites. Of these we read both in the Old and New Testament, and they were of two sorts :
1. Those devoted by their parents to God in infancy, or before birth ; as Samson, Samuel, and John the Baptist.
2. Those who devoted themselves, either for life or a limited time. (Acts xviii. 18; xxi. 24.) For the law of the Nazarites, see Numbers vi.
vi. The Herodians May be considered rather as a political than a religious sect. They were a party strongly attached to the family of Herod; of particularly profligate principles; and, from comparing Mark viii. 15, with Matt. xvi. 6, chiefly Sadducean in their religious tenets. Political expediency was the rule of their religious tenets. Herod being made and continued King by the authority of the Romans, they were, though Jews, easily reconciled to conform to Roman customs in some particulars which were forbidden by the Mosaic Law.
What are they but Herodians in spirit, who attempt to serve God and mammon?
§ vii. The Galileans In one respect, appear in striking contrast to the Herodians, inasmuch as they were distinguished by the constant attempt to shake off the authority of the Romans. They at length infected the whole nation with
their turbulent spirit, which ended in its destruction by Titus. Jehovah being in so peculiar a sense their King, they perverted this into the doctrine that tribute was due to God only; and that religious liberty, and the authority of the Divine laws, were to be defended by force of arms.
Such passages as Rom. xiii. 1, &c.; 1 Tim. ii. 1, &c.; 1 Pet. ii. 13, &c. would be peculiarly suitable to preserve Christian converts from such an abuse of Christian liberty.
$ viïi The Publicans, Though generally Jews, were a class of men peculiarly odious to their countrymen. They were tax-gatherers, and collectors of customs due to the Romans; and thus became associated, in the mind of a Jew, with the loss of that which most men hold to be most dear to them, money and liberty ; and as the characters of men are formed more by the temptations than the duties of their station, these Publicans, having
the opportunity, by farming the taxes, of practising injustice, were notorious extortioners. This serves to magnify the grace of God in such characters as Zaccheus and Matthew.
8 ix. The Proselytes Were Gentiles who fully embraced the Jewish religion: such were the Ethiopian (Acts viii.), and the Roman centurion (ib. x.): see also Acts ii. 10; vi. 5 ; xiii. 43.
s x. The Samaritans. For an account of their origin, see 2 Kings xvii.; from which it will appear that they were partly of Heathen and partly of Jewish extraction. The ivth chapter of the Gospel of St. John will also give a view of their religious state in the time of our Lord.
Governing themselves exclusively by the Five Books of Moses, in which the place, where God would set his name, was not mentioned ; and Mount Gerizim, being the spot from which the blessings were pronounced on the entering of the Israelites into Canaan ; they, in a spirit of opposition to the Jews, on their return from the Babylonian captivity, fixed, under the direction of Sanballat, their temple on Mount Gerizim : thus illustrating the remark, that error has always some association with truth, and that in religion error is generally the perversion of truth to gratify a worldly mind.
In conclusion it may be remarked, that most of the errors presented to us in this review of the Jewish sects, &c. may
be traced to a disregard of " the sufficiency of the Holy Scriptures for salvation ; so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man that it should be believed as an article of faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation.”—Sixth Article of the Church of England.
[Prayer being the great preservative from error, the following passages, suggesting petitions for Divine teaching, may properly form the close of this chapter : Col. i. 9, 10; Eph. i. 17, &c. ; 1 Pet. ii. 1, 2; Ps. cxix.]
N. B. The substance of this chapter may be easily reduced to questions for the examination of the young.