Obrázky na stránke

sects-no word of reproach for that by which they might happen to fall short of their own profession-no word of admonition, founded on the comparison between their good and their bad -their heavenly and earthly? Or, if that had been supposable, can we be lieve that Christ's enemies, so eager as they showed themselves to turn even the Baptist into a handle of reproach against the new teacher, would have lost the overwhelming argument derived from the Essenes? "A new command I give unto you."

"Not at all," they would have retorted"Not at all new. Every thing spiritual in your ethics has been anticipated by the Essenes." It would have been alleged, that the function of Redeemer for Israel was to be judged and tried by the event. The only instant touchstone for the pretensions of Christ lay in the divine character of his morality, and the spirituality of that worship which he taught. Miracles were or were not from God, according to purposes to which they ministered. That moral doctrine and that worship were those purposes. By these only they could try the soundness of all beside; and if these had been forestalled by the Essenes, what remained for any new teacher or new founder of a religion? In fact, were the palpable lies of this Jewtraitor built on any thing but delusions misinterpreted by his own ignorant heart, there would be more in that one tale of his about the Essenes to undermine Christianity, than in all the batteries of all the infidels to overthrow it. No infidel can argue away the spirituality of the Christian religion attacks upon miracles leave that unaffected. But he, who (confessing the spirituality) derives it from some elder and unknown source, at one step evades what he could not master. He overthrows without opposition; and enters the citadel through ruins caused by internal explosion.

What then is to be thought? If this death-like silence of all the evangelists, and all the apostles, makes it a mere impossibility to suppose the existence of such a sect as the Essenes in the time of Christ, did such a sect arise afterwards, viz. in the Epichristian generation? Or, if not, how and by what steps came up the romance we have been considering? Was there any substance in the tale? Or, if

positively none, how came the fiction? Was it a conscious lie? Was it a mistake? Was it an exaggeration?

Now, our idea is as follows:- What do we suppose the early Christians to have been called? By what name were they known amongst themselves and amongst others? Christians? Not at all. When it is said" the disciples were first called Christians at Antioch," we are satisfied that the meaning is not this name, now general, was first used at Antioch; but that, whereas we followers of Christ generally call one another, and are called by a particular name X, in Antioch that name was not used; but from the very beginning they were called by another name, viz. Christians. At all events,

since this name Christian was confessedly used at Antioch before it was used any where else, there must have been another name elsewhere for the same people. What was that name? It was "The Brethren," [oi adeλçu ;] and at times, by way of variety, to prevent the awkwardness of too monotonously repeating the same word, perhaps it was "The Faithful," [

5.] The name Christians travelled, we are convinced, not immediately amongst themselves, but slowly amongst their enemies. It was a name of reproach; and the meaning was"We Pagans are all worshippers of gods, such as they are; but this sect worships a man, and that man a malefactor." For, though Christ should properly have been known by his name, which was Jesus; yet, because his crime, in the opinion of the Jews, lay in the office he had assumed-in having made himself the Christos, the anointed of God, therefore it happened that he was published amongst the Roman world by that name: his offence, his "titulus" on the cross, (the king, or the anointed,) was made his Roman name. Accordingly Tacitus, speaking of some insurgents in Judea, says" that they mutinied under the excitement of Christ, (not Jesus,) their original ringleader," (impulsore Chresto.) And no doubt it had become a scoffing name, until the Christians disarmed the scoff of its sting by assuming it themselves; as was done in the case of "the Beggars" in the Netherlands, and "the Methodists" in England.

Well meantime, what name did the Christians bear in their very birthplace? Were they called " the breth"there? No. And why not?


Simply because it had become too dangerous a name. To be bold, to affront all reasonable danger, was their instinct and their duty; but not to tempt utter extinction or utter reduction to imbecility. We read amiss, if we imagine that the fiery persecution, which raged against Christ, had burned itself out in the act of the crucifixion. It slept, indeed, for a brief interval: but that was from necessity; for the small flock of scattered sheep easily secreted themselves. No sooner did they multiply a little, no sooner did their meetings again proclaim their "whereabouts," than the snake found them out, again raised its spiry crest amongst them, and again crushed them for a time. The martyrdom of St Stephen showed that no jesting was intended. It was determined that examples should be made. It was resolved that this revolt against the Temple (the Law and the Prophets) must be put down. The next event


quickened this agency sevenfold. great servant of the persecution, in the very agony of the storm which he was himself guiding and pointing, working the very artillery of Jerusalem upon some scent which his bloodhounds had found in Syria, suddenly, in one hour passed over to the enemy. What of that? Did that startle the persecution? Probably it did: failure from within was what they had not looked for. But the fear which it bred was sister to the wrath of hell. The snake turned round; but not for flight. It turned to fasten upon the revolter. St Paul's authority as a leader in the Jewish councils availed him nothing after this. Orders were undoubtedly expedited from Jerusalem to Damascus, as soon as messengers could be interchanged, for his assassination. And assassinated he would have been, had he been twenty St Pauls, but for his secret evasion, and his flight to Arabia. Idumea, probably a sort of Ireland to Judea, was the country to which he fled; where again he might have been found out, but his capture would have cost a negotiation; and in all likelihood he lay unknown amongst crowds. Nor did he venture to show his face again in Jerusalem for some years; and then again not till a term of fourteen years, half a generation, during which many of the burning zealots, and of those who could have challenged him per


sonally as the great apostate, must have gone to their last sleep.

During the whole of this noviciate for Christianity; and in fact throughout the whole Epichristian era, there was a brooding danger over the name and prospects of Christianity. To hold up a hand, to put forth a head, in the blinding storm, was to perish. It was to solicit and tempt destruction. That could not be right. Those who were answerable for the great interest confided to them, if in their own persons they might have braved the anger of the times, were not at liberty to do so on this account-that it would have stopped effectually the expansion of the Church. Martyrdom and persecution formed the atmosphere in which it throve; but not the frost of death. What, then, did the fathers of the Church do? You read that, during a part of this Epichristian age," the churches had peace." True, they had


But do you know how they had it? Do you guess what they did?

It was this: They said to each other -If we are to stand such consuming fires as we have seen, one year will finish us all. And then what will become of the succession that we are to leave behind us? We must hide ourselves effectually. And this can be done only by symbolizing. Any lesser disguise our persecutors will penetrate. But this, by its very nature, will baffle them, and yet provide fully for the nursing of an infant Church. They proceeded, therefore, thus:-" Let there be darkness -was the first word of command: "let us muffle ourselves in thick clouds, which no human eye can penetrate. And towards this purpose let us immediately take a symbolic name. And, because any name that expresses or implies a secret fraternity -a fraternity bound together by any hidden tie or purpose-will instantly be challenged for the Christian brotherhood under a new masque, instantly the bloody Sanhedrim will get to their old practices — torturing our weaker members, (as afterwards the cruel Pliny selected for torture the poor frail women-servants of the brethren,) and the wolf will be raging amongst our folds in three months, therefore two things are requisite ; one, that this name which we assume should be such as to disarm suspicion, [in this they acted upon the instinct of those birds, which artfully construct


signs and appearances to draw away the fowler from their young ones;] the other, that in case, after all, some suspicion should arise, and the enemy again break in, there must be three or four barriers to storm before he can get to the stronghold in the centre."

Upon this principle all was arranged. First, for the name that was to disarm suspicion-what name could do that? Why, what was the suspicion? A suspicion that Christian embers were sleeping under the ashes. True: but why was that suspicious? Why had it ever been suspicious? For two reasons: because the Christian faith was supposed to carry a secret hostility to the Temple and its whole ritual economy; secondly, for an earnest political reason, because it was believed to tend, by mere necessity, to such tumults or revolutions as would furnish the Roman, on tiptoe for this excuse, with a plea for taking away the Jewish name and nation; that is, for taking away their Jewish autonomy, (or administration by their own Mosaic code,) which they still had, though otherwise in a state of dependency. Well now, for this sort of suspicion, no name could be so admirablyfitted as one drawn from the very ritual service of that very Temple which was supposed to be in danger. That Temple was in danger: the rocks on which it stood were already quaking beneath it. All was accomplished. Its doom had gone forth. Shadows of the coming fate were spreading thick before it. Its defenders had a dim misgiving of the storm that was gathering. But they mistook utterly the quarter from which it was to come. And they closed the great gates against an enemy that entered by the postern. However, they could not apprehend a foe in a society that professed a special interest in Israel. The name chosen, therefore, was derived from the very costume of the Jewish High Priest, the pontifical ruler of the temple. This great officer wore upon his breast a splendid piece of jewellery; twelve precious stones were inserted in the breast-plate, representing the twelve sons of Jacob, or twelves tribes


Israel: and this was called the Essen. Consequently, to announce themselves as the Society of the Essen-was to express a peculiar solicitude for the children of Israel. Under this masque nobody could suspect any hostility to Jerusalem or its temple; nobody, therefore, under the existing miscon ception of Christian objects and the Christian character, could suspect a Christian society.

But was not this hypocritical disguise? Not at all. A profession was thus made of paramount regard to Judea and her children. Why not? Christians every where turned with love, and yearning, and thankfulness the profoundest, to that "Holy City," (so called by Christ himself,) which had kept alive for a thousand years the sole vestiges of pure faith, and which, for a far longer term, mysti cally represented that people which had known the true God, when all our fathers worshipped stocks and stones." Christians, or they would have been no Christians, every where prayed for her peace. And if the downfal of Jerusalem was connected with the rise of Christianity, that was not through any enmity borne Jerusalem by Christians, (as the Jews falsely imagine ;) but because it was not suitable for the majesty of God, as the father of truth, to keep up a sepa ration amongst the nations when the fulness of time in his counsels required that all separation should be at an end.


At his bidding the Temple had been raised. At his bidding the Temple must be destroyed. Nothing could have saved it but becoming Christian. The end was accomplished for which it had existed; a great river had been kept pure; that was now to expand into an


But, as to any hypocrisy in the fathers of this indispensable scheme for keeping alive the fire that burned on the altar of Christianity, that was impossible. So far from needing to assume more love for Judaism than they had, we know that their very infirmity was to have by much too sectarian and of exclusive a regard for those who were

"The twelve tribes." It is a beautiful circumstance in the symbology of the Jewish ritual, where all is symbolic and all significant, where all in Milton's language was meant mysteriously," that the ten tribes were not blotted out from the breastplate after their revolt; no, nor after their idolatrous lapse, nor after their captivity, nor after their supposed utter dispersion. Their names still burned in the breastplate, though their earthly place knew them no more.

represented by the Temple. The Bible, which conceals nothing of any men's errors, does not conceal that. And we know that all the weight of the great intellectual apostle was necessary to overrule the errors, in this point, of St Peter. The fervid apostle erred; and St Paul "withstood him to his face."

But his very error proves the more certainly his sincerity and singleness of heart in setting up a society that should profess in its name the service of Jerusalem and her children as its primary function. The name Essen and Essenes was sent before to disarm suspicion and as a pledge of loyal fidelity.

Next, however, this society was to be a secret society-an Eleusinian society-a Freemason society. For, if it were not, how was it to provide for the culture of Christianity? Now, if the reader pauses a moment to review the condition of Palestine and the neighbouring countries at that time, he will begin to see the opening there was for such a society. The condition of the times was agitated and tumultuous beyond any thing witnessed amongst men, except at the Reformation and the French Revolution. The flame on the Pagan altars was growing pale, the oracles over the earth were muttering their alarm, panic terrors were falling upon nations, murmurs were arising, whispers circulating from nobody knew whence-that out of the East about this time should arise some great and mysterious deliverer. This whisper had spread to Rome was current every where. It was one of those awful whispers that have no author. Nobody could ever trace it. Nobody could ever guess by what path it had travelled. But observe, in that generation, at Rome and all parts of the Mediterranean to the west of Palestine, the word "Oriens" had a technical and limited meaning; it was restricted to Syria, of which Palestine formed a section.

This use of the word will explain itself to any body who looks at a map of the Mediterranean as seen from Italy. But some years after the Epichristian generation, the word began to extend; and very naturally, as the Roman armies began to make permanent conquests nearer to the Euphrates. Under these remarkable circumstances, and agitated beyond measure between the oppression of the Roman armies on the one hand and

the consciousness of a peculiar dependence on God on the other, all thoughtful Jews were disturbed in mind. The more conscientious, the more they were agitated. Was it their duty to resist the Romans? God could deliver them doubtless; but God worked oftentimes by human means. Was it his pleasure that they should resist by arms? Others again replied-If you do, then you prepare an excuse for the Romans to extirpate your nation. Many, again, turned more to religious hopes: these were they who, in Scriptural language, “waited for the consolation of Israel: that is, they

trusted in that Messiah who had been promised, and they yearned for his manifestation. They mourned over Judea; they felt that she had rebelled; but she had been afflicted, and perhaps her transgressions might now be blotted out, and her glory might now be approaching. Of this class was he who took Christ in his arms when an infant in the temple. Of this class were the two rich men, Joseph and Nicodemus, who united to bury him. But even of this class many there were who took different views of the functions properly belonging to the Messiah; and many that either through this difference of original views, or from imperfect acquaintance with the life of Jesus, doubted whether he were indeed the promised Messiah. Even John the Baptist doubted that, and his question upon that point, addressed to Christ himself, " Art thou he who should come, or do we look for another?" has been generally fancied singularly at war with his own earlier testimony, "Behold the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sins of the world." But it is not. The offices of mysterious change for Israel were prophetically announced as coming through a series and succession of characters-Elias, "that prophet," and the Messiah. The succession might even be more divided. And the Baptist, who did not know himself to be Elias, might reasonably be in doubt (and at a time when his career was only beginning) whether Jesus were the Messiah.

Now, out of these mixed elementsmen in every stage and gradation of belief or spiritual knowledge, but all musing, pondering, fermenting in their minds-all tempest-shaken, sorrowhaunted, perplexed, hoping, seeking, doubting, trusting-the apostles would see abundant means for peopling the

lower or initiatory ranks of their new society. Such a craving for light from above probably never existed. The land was on the brink of convulsions, and all men felt it.

Even amongst the rulers in Jerusalem had been some who saw the truth of Christ's mission, though selfish terrors had kept back their testimony. From every rank and order of men, would press in the meditative to a society where they would all receive sympathy whatever might be their views, and many would receive light.

This society-how was it constituted? In the innermost class were placed, no doubt, all those, and those only, who were thoroughly Christians. The danger was from Christianity. And this danger was made operative only by associating with the mature and perfect Christian any false brother, any half Christian, any hypocritical Christian, any wavering Christian. To meet this danger there must be a winnowing and a sifting of all candidates. And because the danger was awful, involving not one but many, not a human interest but a heavenly interest; therefore these winnowings and siftings must be many, must be repeated, must be soul-searching. Nay, even that will not suffice. Oaths, pledges to God as well as to man, must be exacted. All this the apostles did: serpents by experience, in the midst of their dove-like faith, they acted as wise stewards for God. They surrounded their own central consistory with lines impassable to treachery. Josephus, the blind Jew, blind in heart, we mean, and understanding, reporting a matter of which he had no comprehension, nor could have-(for we could show to demonstration that, for a specific reason, he could not have belonged to the society,)-even this man, in his utter darkness, telegraphs to us by many signals, rockets thrown up by the apostles, which come round and are visible to us, but unseen by him, what it is that the apostles were about. He tells us expressly, that a preparatory or trial period of two years was exacted of every candidate before his admission to any order;

that, after this probationary attendance is finished, "they are parted into four classes ;" and these classes, he tells us, are so severely separated from all intercommunion, that merely to have touched each other was a pollution that required a solemn purification. Finally, as if all this were nothing, though otherwise disallowing of oaths, yet in this as in a service of God, oaths, which Josephus styles "tremendous," are exacted of each member, that he will reveal nothing of what he learns.

Who can fail to see, in these multiplied precautions for guarding, what according to Josephus is no secret at all, nor any thing approaching to a secret, that here we have a central Christian society, secret from necessity, cautious to excess from the extremity of the danger, and surrounding themselves in their outer rings by merely Jewish disciples, but those whose state of mind promised a hopeful soil for the solemn and affecting discoveries which awaited them in the higher stages of their progress. Here is the true solution of this mysterious society, the Essenes, never mentioned in any one record of the Christian generation, and that because it first took its rise in the necessities of the Epichristian generation. There is more by a good deal to say of these Essenes ; but this is enough for the present. And if any man asks how they came to be traced to so fabulous an antiquity, the account now given easily explains that. Three authors only mention them-Pliny, Philo-Judæus, and Josephus. Pliny builds upon these two last, and other Jewish romancers. The two last may be considered as contemporaries.


all that they allege as to the antiquity of the sect, flows naturally from the condition and circumstances of the outermost circle in the series of the classes. They were occupied exclusively with Judaism. And Judaism had in fact, as we all know, that real antiquity in its people, and its rites, and its symbols, which these then uninitiated authors understand and fancy to have been meant of the Essenes as a philosophical sect.

« PredošláPokračovať »