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In like manner, when the Hebrew church was established, in process of time doctrinal distinctions were made in abundance, and sects began to multiply among them. I shall, therefore, notice some of the most famous of these sectarians, who were of sufficient consequence to be thought worthy of remark by the inspired writers, as well as by the great historian of the Hebrews.
According to Josephus, the following were the most noted sects of professors.
Were a very strict sect of religious professors; meD who practised a more severe kind of life, abhorred all manner of pleasure, were remarkable for their continence, and accounted it the greatest virtue not to give way to unlawful desires. They despised riches, and esteemed a free and mutual enjoyment of one another's goods in common among them, as the purest way of living. Towards God they had a singular devotion; no profane word came out of their mouth, nor did they speak before the rising of the sun, except in prayer. Their word was esteemed equal to the oath of others. They were strict observers of the sabbath, and provided, the day before, necessary provisions. They did not even light a fire on the most pressing occasion, but the day was spent in the most profound stillness.
They believed, that bodies were subject to death, but that souls were immortal. That those who have loved and practised virtue, enjoy eternal happiness; and lhat those who have lived contrary thereto, abide in hell forever.
Were ranked among the most accurate interpreters of the law, and the first founders of a sect, among the Jews. They were a very strict sect, and so called from the Hebrew word Phares, which means to separate, or divide. They were the separatists of the day; they separated themselves from the great body of professors by pretending to a more particular observance of the law. They appear to have been so externally religious, that they withdrew themselves from any connexion with others as much as possible in worldly affairs. They preferred the oral traditions to the scriptures, in order to be looked up to for the explanation. They placed great dependance on washings, washing the outside of the cup and platter. They wore external badges of sanctity called phylacteries, which were pieces of parchment, on which was written a portion of the law, and these they wore in the most conspicuous part of their bodies, or garments, as on their foreheads, and on the borders of their robes, that they might be seen of men. They attributed every thing to fate, and taught, that good or had actions were for the most part inherent in man. They believed in a resurrection; that the souls of good men only assume the human form, and that those of the wicked are doomed to everlasting punishment. They also believed in the transmigration of souls, which accounts for their supposing, that John the Baptist, Elias, w the prophet Jeremiah, had entered the body of Christ Matt. xvi. 14.
Did not believe in fate, and denied that God was the immediate cause of any one doing either good, or evil; that good and evil are the choice of man, and that man may, just as he pleases, do either. They denied the existence of souls after death, consequently, neither rewards nor punishments attend the good, or bad. The Pharisees had great regard one for another, and maintained, for the advantage of their sect, a strict unanimity. The Sadducees, on the other hand, were more rigid in their morals, and conducted themselves with less meekness.
Constituted a peculiar order among the Jews, and were admitted into their colleges. They wrote the scriptures to supply the temple, and the synagogues, and none were permitted to be read, unless they had been sanctioned by the authority of the rabbies,- appointed to preside at the head of this college.
There were two orders of scribes, viz. those who were employed in their judicial proceedings, and those who wrote and expounded the law. The first are called, scribes of the people, Matt. ii. 4. The last, doctors of the law, or those who wrote and expounded the Pentateuch. These last also had their separate departments ; on their admission to this degree, they wrote the books of Moses, and did not expound them, because it was supposed, with great propriety, that they had not attained to that degree of knowledge and experience, which was thought necessary for their admission to the highest degree of their order. Ezra was one of this description.
But we find, that these men at length departed from the purity of their order, in its first establishment. By the acquisition of wealth and power, they Became ostentatious, oppressors, and the greatest hypocrites of the day.
On these, Christ pronounced a wo, and cautioned the people against them. 'Beware of the scribes who love to go in long clothing, and love salutations in the market places, and the chief seats in the synagogues, and the upper rooms at feasts; who devour widows' houses, and for a pretence make long prayers: these shall receive greater damnation.'
The Nazarites were those who made a vow to live a more pure life than the generality of professors. The ceremony of the vow was looked on as a most solemn ceremony, as by it they engaged themselves to live devotedly to God: and the consecration continued about pight days. Numb. vi.
The Levites descended from Levi, and were called after the three sons of Levi; from Gershon, Gershon 'tes; from Koath, Kbathites; and from Merari, Merar
ites. They were set apart to perform all the inferior services of the tabernacle, to fix it and to take it down. The Gershonites had the charge of the coverings and the hangings; these were taken down and put up by them, and conveyed from place to place.
The Koathites had the care of all the furniture belonging to the interior part of the sanctuary; and they had the care of the whole wood-work, while in the wilderness.
At the time of David, they were divided into 24 orders, to fill the offices, or inferior places in the temple: to these were added, four orders, consisting of one thousand each, who praised the Lord with instruments; four orders of porters, and six orders of officers and judges, concerning all things which had relation to the temporal state of religion. The number of Levites who had offices assigned to them in the temple, was twenty-four thousand. To these were added the Gibeonites, whose office it was, to provide and hew wood, as well as to procure water for the house of God.
CHRIST, THE TRUE MESSIAH.
It is now near 1800 years since the dispersion of the Jews took place, agreeably to the words of Moses, and during this great length of time, they have been expecting their Messiah to make his appearance. And, notwithstanding that the whole of the prophecies which foretold the coming of the true Messiah, have been fulfilled in the person of Christ, they contend, that the Messiah is yet to come, and that he will restore them to their own land, with greater privileges than their progenitors enjoyed, under the most prosperous reign of their