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How was it kept? (Numb. xxix. 12, &c.; Ezra iii. 4; Neh. viii. 14-17.)
What may we learn from its institution ?-A. The duty of cherishing a grateful remembrance of God's past mercies to us and our forefathers.
The last day was the great day of this feast; what did Jesus on that day? (John vii. 37.)
At what hour did their Sabbaths, and all their feasts begin and end?-A. The Jews counted their days, and particularly their holy days, from the evening or sun-set, to the next evening (Gen. i. 5; Lev. xxiii. 5, 32).
At what places were the feasts to be kept?
What remarkable promise was given to those who, in obedience to the command of God, left their homes to attend at the three great annual festivals of the Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles? (Exod. xxxiv. 24.)
Such a command being given, and being so often obeyed with perfect safety by those who were surrounded by such bitter enemies, of what is it a proof?—A. Of the miraculous providence by which they were governed, and that Moses wrote and acted under the inspiration of God.
The Jews in later times had other festivals, not of Divine appointment, of which the two principal were the Feast of Purim, or Lots, and the Feast of the Dedication.
The Purim was in commemoration of their deliverance by the providence of God from the utter extermination which Haman had designed, and for which he had actually procured an edict from the Persian king Ahasuerus, then monarch of the world. See Esther.
The Feast of Dedication was instituted by Judas Maccabeus, about A.M. 3840, as a grateful memorial of the renewed dedication of the temple to the service of God, after it had been profaned by Antiochus Epiphanes. Our Lord's attendance on this feast (John x. 22) justifies the observance of religious seasons of human appointment.
Other feasts are alluded to (Zech. viii. 19), but, not being particularly referred to in Scripture, they are not here noticed.
The following remark is well worthy of attention, in connexion with the subjects which have occupied the two preceding chapters.
"If in parts of the Jewish law we should meet with some directions, the utility of which should not be at first sight apparent to us, let us beware of setting up the conclusions of our own reason against the unbounded wisdom of God. A closer consideration of the subject will teach us humbly to acknowledge that all these institutions answered the purpose of exercising the Israelites in faith and obedience; of preserving them a distinct and separate people; and of training them, by a peculiar mode of discipline, wisely suited to their habits, prejudices, and circumstances, for the reception of the New Dispensation under the Messiah.;"
WITH NOTICE OF SOME OTHER ORDERS OF MEN
CONTENTS.-i. Scribes, Lawyers, Doctors of the Law. § ii. Pharisees. § iii. Sadducees. § iv. Essenes. § v. Nazarites. § vi. Herodians. § vii. Galileans. § viii. Publicans. § ix. Proselytes. § x. Samaritans. WHILE there was a Divine Oracle in the temple; while there were prophets, that is, men inspired by God to reveal and explain his will, there were no sects among the Jews. But after the spirit of prophecy ceased; after Malachi, the last of the prophets; when the law of God came to be explained by weak and fallible men, then were divisions, then arose sects.
"The whole body of the Jewish nation," remarks Beausobre, "may be divided into two general sects; the Karaites and the Rabbinists. The Karaites are those that adhere to the plain and literal sense of the Holy Scripture, rejecting all manner of tradition as of Divine authority. The Rabbinists, otherwise called the Cabalists, or Talmudists, are those, on the contrary, who own and receive the oral or traditionary law as Divine."
The pernicious maxim which was the chief source of all the Jewish sects, was, that the oral or traditionary law was of Divine origin, as well as the written law of Moses. This traditionary law was supposed to have been handed down
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.)
Si. 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.
Sii. 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 source. 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.
Siv. 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: