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Chap. 5.] DEFENCE OF THĘ JEWISH BELIEVERS. 39

CHAPTER V.

THE SENTIMENTS OF PHILO RESPECTING CHRIST.

HIS DEFENCE OF THE JEWISH BELIEVERS.

It would be a matter of high interest and importance, 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 these holy men as divine teachers; and place the influence of the Gospel in its proper light, by showing 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 Jewish believers under the name of Esseans, which he interprets to mean holy men; thus agreeing with the apostle, who gives to the converts made by him the title of áy101, saints or 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 (Philo, vol. i. p. 457 or 876.) and Syria are not unproductive of honourable and good

men; but are occupied with numbers not inconsiderable, compared even with the very populous nation of the Jews. These are called Esseans, a name (though not in my opinion formed by strict analogy) corresponding 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 nor 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 amplitude of possession, 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 used in war; nor even such instruments as are easily perverted to evil purposes in times of peace. They decline trade, commerce and navigation altogether, as incentives to covetousness and usury; 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 subtle metaphysicians, as really surpassing the powers of man: but moral philo-. sophy they eagerly study, conformably to the established laws of their country, the excellence of which the human mind can hardly comprehend without the inspiration of God.

“ These laws they study at all times, but more especially on the sabbath. Regarding the seventh day as holy, they abstain on it from all other works, and assemble in those sacred places which are called synagogues, arranging themselves according to their

younger below his senior, with a deportment grave, becoming, and attentive. Then one of them, taking the Bible, reads a portion of it, the obscure parts of which are explained by another more skilful person. For most of the Scriptures they interpret in that symbolical sense which they have zealously copied from the patriarchs: and the subjects of instruction are piety, holiness, righteousness; domestic and political economy; the knowledge of things really good, bad, and indifferent; what objects ought to be pursued and what to be avoided. In discussing these topics, the ends which they have in view, and to which they refer as

age, the

so many rules to guide them, are the love of God, the love of virtue, and the love of man. Of their love to God, they give innumerable proofs by leading a life of continued purity, unstained by oaths and falsehoods, by regarding him as the author of every good and the cause of no evil. They evince their attachment to virtue, by their freedom from avarice, from ambition, from sensual pleasure; by their temperance and patience, by their frugality, simplicity, and contentment; by their humility, their regard to the laws, and other similar virtues. Their love to man is evinced by their benignity, their equity, and their liberality; of which it is not improper to give a short account, though no language can adequately describe it.

" In the first place, there exists among them no house, however private, which is not open to the reception of all the rest; and not only the members of the same society assemble under the same domestic roof, but even strangers of the same persuasion have free admission to join them. There is but one treasure, whence all derive subsistence; and not only their provision but their clothes are common property. Such mode of living under the same roof, and of dieting at the same table, cannot, in fact, be proved to have been adopted by any other description of men. And no wonder ; since even the daily labourer keeps not for his own use the produce of his toil, but imparts it to the common stock, and thus furnishes each member with a right to use for himself the profits earned by others.

“ The sick are not despised or neglected, because they are no longer capable of useful labour; but they live in ease and affluence, receiving from the treasury whatever their disorder or their exigences require. The aged too among them are loved, revered, and attended as parents by affectionate children; and a thousand heads and hearts prop their tottering years with comforts of every kind. Such are the champions of virtue, which philosoplay without the parade of Grecian oratory produces, proposing, as the end of their institutions, the performance of those laudable actions which destroy slavery and render freedom invincible.

“This effect is evinced by the many powerful men who rise against the Esseans in their own country, in consequence of differing from them in principles and sentiments. Some of these persecutors, being eager to surpass the fierceness of untamed beasts, omit no measure that may gratify their cruelty; and they cease not to sacrifice whole flocks of those within their power; or, like butchers, to tear their limbs in pieces, until themselves are brought to that justice which superintends the affairs of men. Others of these persecutors cause their snarling fury to assume a different form. Indulging a spirit of unrelenting severity, they address their victims with gentleness, display their intolerant spirit in affected mildness of speech, thus resembling dogs when going to inflict an envenomed wound. By these means they occasion irremediable evils, and leave behind them, throughout whole communities, monuments of their impiety and hatred to men, in the ever-memorable calamities of the sufferers. Yet not one of these furious persecutors, whether open or disguised, has been able to substantiate any accusation against this band of holy men.

On the other hand, all men, captivated by their integrity and honour, unite with those who truly enjoy the freedom and independence of nature, admiring their communion and liberality,

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