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received by tradition from the scribes are not to be observed.
The Sadducees expected the Messiah with great impatience, which seems to imply their belief in the prophecies, though they misinterpreted the meaning. Confining all their hopes to this present world, enjoying its riches, and devoting themselves to its pleasures, they might well be particularly anxious that their lot of life should be cast in the splendid reign of this expected temporal king, with the hope of sharing in his conquests and glory; but this expectation was so contrary to the lowly appearance of Jesus, that they joined their inveterate enemies, the Pharisees, in persecuting Him and his religion.
The Nazarites, of whom we read in both the Old and New Testaments, were of two sorts, such as were by their parents devoted to God in their infancy, or even before their birth; and such as devoted themselves either for life, or a limited time. Nazaritism was a divine institution; and it was very common for Jews, both men and women, to vow a vow of a Nazarite, in order to give themselves up to reading, meditation, and prayer, for the purpose of purification; and all the days of their separation they were holy unto the Lord.
The Herodians may be considered as much of a political, as a religious sect. It seems proba ble that they were attached to the family of Herod, and of particularly profligate principles. From their high regard to Herod, they would be zealous for the authority of the Romans, by whose means Herod was made and continued king. Herod's attempt to set up a golden eagle over the east gate of the temple, is well known, which it is probable these complaisant courtiers defended.
The Galileans are mentioned in scripture in strong terms of censure, as a turbulent and seditious sect; and Josephus, who does not name the Herodians, not only speaks of the Galileans as a considerable sect, but ascribes to them a great part of the calamities of his country. Their leader was Judas of Galilee, who was followed at first but by a small part of the Pharisees; but by degrees the Galileans swallowed up almost all the other sects; and it is highly probable that the Zealots, particularly mentioned at the siege of Jerusalem, were of this sect.
The Publicans were not of any sect, civil, or religious, but were tax-gatherers and collectors of customs due to the Romans. These offices, though formerly conferred upon none but Roman citizens of the Equestrian order, were, at
the time they are mentioned in Scripture, held by persons of low condition among the Jews, who, farming the customs of the Romans, were too often led by motives of avarice to be extortioners also; and the people would ill endure these rigorous exactions from their brethren, who thus appeared to join with the Romans in attempting to entail perpetual subjection upon their nation, or at least in making it more galling and oppressive".
We may observe that the Jews had been favoured with Divine communications through the medium of prophecy, for more than 700 years, but they had abused this privilege in such a manner, that Malachi, the last of the prophets, severely censures their priests, as also the people, for their disregard both of God and the law.
We cannot doubt that the wickedness of their conduct had rendered them unworthy of the longer continuance of so special a mark of Divine regard. But instead of being corrected by this instance of Almighty displeasure, they indulged themselves in greater and more flagitious enor
Then, their regard for the Mosaical law, was resolved into innumerable wranglings and disputations concerning the construction of the letter, by which the spirit of it was evaporated and ex
tinguished; in consequence, the Jews as we have seen, became split and divided into fierce and contentious parties.
The advent of the Messiah, according to Josephus, was at a time that was fruitful of all sorts of wickedness among the Jews, so that no evil whatever was left unpractised. They strove to exceed each other in impiety toward God. and injustice toward their neighbours. All sorts of people were abandoned to wickedness. He says the impudence of the high priests was such, that they would send their servants to the storehouses, to seize and bring away the tithes that belonged to the priests; by which means, some of the priests, whose circumstances were but strait, perished for want. A murder was committed in the city, and within the temple itself, which justifies the denunciations of our Lord: "Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell? Wherefore, behold! I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes; and some of them ye shall kill, and crucify; and some of them ye shall scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city; that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel, unto the blood of Zacharias, son
of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar.”
"For this reason it seems to me," says Josephus, “that God, detesting their impiety, forsook our city; and not esteeming the temple any longer a pure habitation for Him, brought the Romans against us, threw on the city a fire to purify it, and delivered us up, with our wives and children, to servitude, that by these calamities we might learn wisdom."
In another place the same historian says; "I cannot say it without regret, but I must declare it as my opinion, that if the Romans had delayed to come against these wretches, the city, (Jerusalem) would have been swallowed up by an earthquake, or overwhelmed by a deluge, or else been consumed by a fire from heaven, as Sodom; for it bare a generation of men more wicked than those which had suffered such calamities. To reckon up all their villanies, is impossible; but in a word, never did any city suffer so great calamities, nor was there ever from the beginning of the world, a time more fruitful of wickedness than that was."
We may sum up the Jewish history in assertting that it is the history of the Providence of God, in his miraculous interpositions, loving kindnesses and long suffering; as well as in the