Page images
PDF
EPUB

and not given to filthy lucre," (Tit. i. 7,) as some of that right-reverend order must have been proved to be, ere such admonitions could have been called for; yet called for they were, and necessary they had become, as the reader will see by the table, some eight or ten years before the date assigned to the writing of the four Gospels.

"The Essenians, of whom Philo has written the history, were confessedly Pythagoreans, and I think we may see some traces of these people among the Druids. They existed before Christianity, and lived in buildings called monasteria or monasteries, and were called Koinobioi* or Cœnobites. They were of three kinds, some never married, others of them did. They are most highly spoken of by all the authors of antiquity who have named them.”The Celtic Druids, by Godfrey Higgins, Esq. a. d. 1827, p. 125.

[ocr errors]

Were there any degree of difficulty in accounting for such a scheme of tyrannous aggrandisement, and of obtaining unbounded power and influence over the subjugated reason of mankind, philosophy, that forbids all supposition of supernatural agency, would acknowledge that difficulty; but to imagine any, in accounting for the rise and progress of Christianity, we must, by a laborious effort of imagination, imagine nature to be the very reverse in every thing from what we experience it to be; we must suppose a man to be at a loss to find his own head; we must suppose Infinite Wisdom teaching trickery to a thief, and the orchestra of the spheres supplying resin for a fiddlestick-introducing our God not to extricate the mystery of the scene, but to sweep the stage, and grease the pulleys.

CHAPTER XII.

REFERENCES TO THE MONKISH OR THERAPEUTAN DOCTRINES, TO BE TRACED IN THE NEW TESTAMENT.

1. "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for their's is the kingdom of heaven."-Matt. v. 3.

This, the first principle put into the mouth of the Galilean Thaumaturge, was also the first principle of the

* Kowo6io-living in common.. Acts iv. 32. Hvauтois AπAνтa koiva—“ they had all things in common.”

+ Mr. Higgins' testimony is the more valuable, as it is that of a witness averse to the conclusions to which he marshals us the way. His splendid work, instructive and interesting as it is in the highest degree, though superfluously orthodox, has delightfully beguiled the tedium of many of my prison-hours!

Therapeute, and as such had been known and taught for ages before the time assigned to the first publication of the Gospel.

It is to be found in the previously existing writings of Menander, in the sentence δει νομίζονθ' οι πενητες των θεωνWe ought to consider the poor as especially belonging to the gods; and in the ancient Latin adage, "Bonæ mentis soror paupertas"-Poverty is the sister of a good mind. It is observable, that this Menander the comedian, is not only quoted by name, by the first of the Fathers (not apostolical), Justin Martyr, in his apology to the Emperor Adrian, as one of the authorities with whom the Christians held so many sentiments in common, but is again plagiarised into the text of 1 Cor. xv. 33-Pupovciv nin xenod ομιλίαι κακαι "Evil communications corrupt good man

ners."

[ocr errors]

2. "And the disciples came and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables? He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.."-Matt. xiii. 10. "Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God, but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables; that seeing, they may see and not perceive, and hearing, they may hear and not understand."-Mark iv. 11.

Surely, here, and in the innumerable passages to the same effect, the principle of deceiving the vulgar is held forth in its most disgusting deformity. Here the double and mystical-sense system, as adopted by the Therapeutæ, is put in full exemplification.

3." And there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it."-Matt. xix. 12.

Let the reader only ask himself the obvious questions, what eunuchs could they be? Certainly, not followers of the law of Moses, which held a personal defect, however involuntarily incurred, as disqualifying the unfortunate from ever entering into the congregation of the Lord, Deut. xxii. 1. Nor was a future state of rewards ever propounded to the selfishness or ambition of the children of Israel.

4. John the Baptist is described as a Monk, residing in the wilderness, practising all the austerities of the contemplative life, neither eating nor drinking in observance of the demands of nature; "his food was locusts and wild-honey:" and not only a monk, but a father confessor, since "all the land of Judea, and they of Jerusalem, were all bap

*

tized of him, confessing their sins." Here, then, is certainly an Ascetic-in the strictest circumstances of description, a Monkish confessor-the admitted forerunner of Christ, of whom he is represented as saying, that "Moses and the prophets were until John the Baptist, but since then the kingdom of God was preached." The great absurdity, however, of representing the sinless Jesus as receiving baptism of John for the remission of his sins, would have been evaded, had the compilers of our Gospels stuck to the text of the Gospel according to the Hebrews, or that of these Hebrew-descended Therapeuts, which Lessing and Niemeyer† have so convincingly shown to have been the original from which their legends are copied, and from which it appears that Jesus actually refused to be baptized, saying, "What sin have I committed, that I should be baptized by him?" And how could that horrible species of self-martyrdom, the greatest evidence of sincerity in the faith that could be imagined, have been practised "for the kingdom of heaven's sake," if the kingdom of heaven had not been propounded to the faith of these visionaries as the reward of such a sacrifice, sufficiently long before, and sufficiently notoriously, to be quoted thus as an historical example, by the speaker in the text of Matthew?

It is evident that Origen, the most distinguished and learned of all the Christian Fathers, must have read Christ's recommendation of this suicidal act in its very strongest sense, or have found it in some earlier copies of the Gospel than have come down to us, urged in stronger terms, or his excellent understanding would never have fallen under the horrors of a belief that it was necessary to imitate the example thus commended, and to prepare himself for singing in heaven, by spoiling his voice for preaching upon earth.

5. But Matt. xviii. 15, betrays, in the most indisputable evidence, the previous existence and established discipline of a Christian church, such as that of the Therapeutæ is described to have been, from any length of time anterior to the Christian era.

"Moreover, if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother: 16 But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the

This phrase, the kingdom of God, and all its synonymes, was peculiarly characteristic of the monkish fraternity of Egypt-the dynasty of priests, as paramount to that of kings.

+ Quoted in Marsh's Michaelis, and hereafter in this DIEGESIS.

mouth of two or three witnesses, every word may be established. 17 And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto THE CHURCH: but if he neglect to hear THE CHURCH, let him be unto thee an heathen man and a publican. 18 Verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth, shall be bound in heaven," &c. &c.

If this does not involve all that the unwary admissions of Eusebius and Epiphanius would lead us to, even the previous existence of the whole Christian dynasty in all its corruption, or in all its purity, long anterior to any time when such language could have been used, or the Gospel which contained such language could have been written; if it betray not its design to subserve the purposes of ecclesiastical usurpation; if it savour not of popery in the rankest tank that ever pope himself was popish; there is no skill in criticism to discover any truth below the surface of expression-no wrong in any wrong that can be put off as right-no Rome in Italy-no day-light in the sun-shine.

6. "Remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive."-Acts xx. 35.

No such words as these are contained in either of our four Gospels; they must, therefore, have been contained in some gospel which previously existed, which was known and established in the esteem of the persons who were thus reminded of it, and which therefore ought not to have been rejected.

[ocr errors]

"It is, I think," says Lardner, (vol. 1, p. 71, 4to. edit.) a just observation of Dr. Prideaux, that almost all that is peculiar in this sect, is condemned by Christ and his apostles."

But from this admission follows, at any rate, the certainty of the previous notoriety of this sect, and of those tenets which were peculiar to it.

And if, excepting the " almost all that was peculiar to this sect," which Christ and his apostles condemned, there yet remained something which was peculiar to this sect, which they adopted, what other conclusion can follow, than that the Christian tenets were but a reformation upon the preexistent Essenian principles, and had no claim of themselves to a character of originality? We say, in like manner, at this day, that our Protestant church condemns almost all that is peculiar to the church of Rome, while in that condemnation itself is involved an admission of its prior existence, and of its common origin. There can be

no conceivable reason why the peculiar tenets of a particular sect should be singled out for particular condemnation, unless the condemners stood in some more immediate relation, or knew something more particularly of the tenets so condemned, than of any other condemnable

tenets.

The force of so particular a condemnation of almost all that was peculiar, involves as particular an approbation and sanction of whatever it was that was not included in so particular a condemnation.

Not to object, that, in ordinary fairness, the gauging of the Essenian tenets so as to determine which, and how many of them, amounted to almost all, should hardly be trusted to the fidelity of those who have the strongest interest in disparaging and under-rating those tenets.

Again, the conjoining Christ and his Apostles as concurring in the condemnation of almost all that was peculiar to this sect, is assuming a concurrence unsupported by evidence, and inconsequential in reason.

It by no means follows, that he and they, in every instance, must have approved and condemned by the same rule; the need they had of being instructed by him, is a reason, and the rebukes they frequently received from him, is a proof, that their judgments and his might be the reverse of each other.

Nor is it a just and fair conclusion, that all the apostles of Christ condemned what it cannot be shown that more than one of them condemned, and which all the rest may in all probability have approved.

Nor, if it be Paul alone who hath condemned, is it just or fair to conclude that even one of the apostles of Christ has done so; since the claim of Paul to be considered as one of the apostles of Christ, rests on his own presumption only, and, to say the least against it, is in the highest degree questionable.*

Surely, nothing could be more peculiar to any sect, than the conceit of making themselves "Eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake;" and as surely, it is any other sort of language rather than that of condemnation, in which Christ is represented as speaking of that peculiarity, Matt. xix. 12.

He is recognized only in the 2d Epistle of Peter, chap. iii. verse 14, as a beloved brother, which itself is no style or designation of apostleship, even if the authenticity of this epistle, in which it is contained, were indisputable, which it is not.-See Marsh's Michaelis, in loco.

« PreviousContinue »