« ElőzőTovább »
And briskly she bestirr'd herself about,
With unneeded care
“ Mark! Mark! what say’st, old man ?" cried sharply out
There fixed, foot to foot, and breast to breast,
Dear brother William!” An electric start
Their meeting eyes,
C ON THE ESSENES.
Some months back, we published a cera, occide, concide." Was ever such little essay, that might easily be ex- a rabid tiger found, except amongst panded into a very large volume ; and the Hyder Alis or Nadir Shahs of ultimately into a perfectly new philo. half-civilized or decivilized tribes ? sophy of Roman history, in proof that Yet another and a very favourite EmRome was self-barbarized_barbarized peror out-herods even this butcher, by ab intra, and not by foreign enemies. boasting of the sabring which he had The evidences of this, (1.) in the death let loose amongst crowds of helpless of her literature, and, 2.) in the instant oblivion which swallowed up all public The fourth feature of the Roman transactions, are so obvious as to chal. barbarism upon which we insisted, viz. lenge notice from the most inattentive the growing passion for trivial anecreader. For instance, as respects this dotage in slight of all nobler delinealatter tendency, what case can be tions, may be traced, in common with more striking, than the fact that Tre- all the other features, to the decay of a bellius Pollio, expressly dedicating public mind and a common connecting himself to such researches, and having interest, amongst the different members the state documents at his service, of that vast imperial body. This was cannot trace, by so much as the merest a necessity, arising out of the merely outline, the biography of some great personal tenure by which the throne officers who had worn the purple as was held. Competition for dignities, rebels, though actually personal ambition under any form, could not friends of his own grandfather? So exist with safety under circumstances nearly connected as they were with which immediately attracted a blighthis own age and his own family, yet ing jealousy from the highest quarter. had they utterly perished for want of Where hereditary succession was no literary memorials ! A third indica- fixed principle of state-no principle tion of barbarism, in the growing which all men were leagued to mainbrutality of the army and the Emperor, tain-every man, in his own defiance, is of a nature to impress many readers might be made an object of anxiety in even more powerfully, and especially proportion to his public merit. Not by contrast with the spirit of Roman conspiring, he might still be placed at warfare in its republican period. Al- the head of a conspiracy. There was no ways it had been an insolent and oath of allegiance taken to the emperor's haughty warfare ; but, upon strong family, but only to the emperor permotives of policy, sparing in blood- sonally. But if it was thus dangerous shed. Whereas, latterly, the ideal for a man to offer himself as a particiof a Roman general was approaching pator in state honours ; on the other continually nearer to the odious stand- hand, it was impossible for a people to ard of a caboceer amongst the Ashan- feel any living sympathy with a pubtees. Listen to the father of his peo. lic grandeur in which they could not ple (Gallienus) issuing his paternal safely attempt to participate. Simply commands for the massacre, in cold to be a member of this vast body was blood, of a whole district--not foreign no distinction at all : honour could not but domestic-after the offence had attach to what was universal. One become almost obsolete: “Non satis. path only lay open to personal disfacies mihi, si tantum armatos occi- tinction; and that, being haunted deris-quos et fors belli interimere along its whole extent by increasing potuisset. Perimendus est omnis sexus danger, naturally bred the murderous virilis :” and, lest even this sweeping spirit of retaliation or pre occupation. warrant should seem liable to any
It is besides certain, that the very merciful distinctions, he adds circum- change wrought in the nature of warstantially—“ Si et senes atque impu- like rewards and honours, contributed beres sine meâ reprehensione occidi to cherish a spirit of atrocity amongst possent.” And thus the bloody man- the officers. - Triumphs had been date winds up :
“ Occidendus est qui- granted of old for conquests; and cunque malè voluit, occidendus est these were generally obtained much quiquncue malè dixit contra me ; La- more by intellectual qualities than by
any display of qualities merely or within the fifty or sixty years previous. rudely martial. Triumphs were now Such hints, such “momenta,“ such a forbidden fruit to any officer less than stages in the subtle progress of ChrisAugustan. And this one change, had tianity, should be carefully noted, there been no other, sufficed to throw searched, probed, improved. And it the efforts of military men into a direc- is partly because too little anxiety of tion more humble, more directly per- research has been applied in this direcsonal, and more brutal. It became tion, that every student of ecclesiastidangerous to be too conspicuously vic- .cal history mourns over the dire stetorious. There yet remains a letter, rility of its primitive fields. For the amongst the few surviving from that first three or four centuries we know unlettered period, which whispers a next to nothing of the course by which thrilling caution to a great officer, Christianity moved, and the events not to be too meritorious : “ dignus throuzh which its agency was deveeras triumpho," says the letter, "si loped. That it prospered, we know; antiqua tempora extarent.” But what but how it prospered, (meaning not of that? What signified merit that through what transcendent cause, but was to cost a man his head? And the by what circumstantial steps and gra. letter goes on to add this gloomy warn- dations,) is painfully mysterious. And ing—“
-“ Memor cujusdam ominis, cau- for much of this darkness, we must tius velim vincas.” The warning was confess that it is now past all human thrown away; the man (Regillianus) power of illumination. Nay, perhaps persisted in these imprudent victories: it belongs to the very sanctity of a he was too meritorious; he grew dan- struggle, in which powers more than gerous; and he perished. Such ex. human were working concurrently amples forced upon the officers a less with man, that it should be lost (like suspicious and a more brutal ambition: much of our earliest antediluvian histhe laurels of a conqueror marked a tory) in a mysterious gloom; and for man out for a possible competitor, no the same reason-viz., that when man matter through whose ambition_his stands too near to the super-sensual own in assuming the purple, or that of world, and is too palpably co-agent others in throwing it by force around with schemes of Providence, there him. The differences of guilt could would arise, upon the total review of not be allowed for where they made the whole plan and execution, were it no difference in the result. But the all circumstantially laid below our laurels of a butcher created no jea- eyes, too compulsory an evidence of lousy, whilst they sufficed for esta- a supernatural agency. It is not blishing a camp reputation. And meant that men should be forced into thus the danger of a higher ambition believing : free agencies must be left threw a weight of encouragement into to the human belief, both in adopting the lower and more brutal.
and rejecting, else it would cease to So powerful, indeed, was this ten- be a moral thing, or to possess a moral dency—so headlong this gravitation to value. Those who were contemporary the brutal—that unless a new force, to these great agencies, saw only in moving in an opposite direction, had part; the fractionary mode of their begun to rise in the political heavens, perceptions intercepted this compulthe Roman ernpire would have become sion from them. But as to us, who an organized engine of barbarism- look back upon the whole, it would barbarous and making barbarous. perhaps have been impossible to seThis fact gives one additional motive cure the same immunity from compulto the study of Christian antiquities, sion, the same integrity of the free, which on so many other motives inter- unbiased choice, unless by darkening est and perplex our curiosity. About the miraculous agencies, obliterating the time of Dioclesian, the weight of many facts, and disturbing their rela. Christianity was making itself felt in tions. In such a way the equality is high places. There is a memorable maintained between generation and scene between that Emperor and a generation; no age is unduly favoured, Pagan priest representing an oracle, none penuriously depressed. Each (that is, speaking on behalf of the has its separate advantages, each its Pagan interests,) full forty years be- peculiar difficulties. The worst has fore the legal establishment of Chris- not so little light as to have a plea tianity, which shows how insensibly for infidelity. The best has not so the Christian faith had crept onwards much as to overpower the freedom of
election-a freedom which is indis- The period of Josephus' connexion pensable to all moral value, whether with Palestine, running abreast, (as in doing or in suffering, in believing it were,) with that very generation or denying.
succeeding to Christ, with that very Meantime, though this obscurity Epichristian age which dated from of primitive Christianity is past deny- the crucifixion, and terminated in ing, and possibly, for the reason just the destruction of Jerusalem-how, given, not without an a priori purpose by what possibility, did he escape and meaning, we nevertheless maintain all knowledge of the Christians as a that something may yet be done to body of men that should naturally relieve it. We need not fear to press have challenged notice from the very into the farthest recesses of Christian stocks and stones of their birthplace ; antiquity, under any notion that we the very echo of whose footsteps ought are prying into forbidden secrets, or to have sunk upon the ear with the carrying a torch into shades conse. awe that belongs to spiritual phenocrated to mystery. For wherever it mena ? There were circumstances of is not meant that we should raise the distinction in the very closeness of the veil, there we shall carry our torch in confederation that connected the early vain. Precisely as our researches are Christians, which ought to have made fortunate, they authenticate themselves them interesting. But, waiving all as privileged: and in such a chase all hat, what a supernatural awe must success justifies itself.
naturally have attended the persons No scholar--not even the wariest of those who laid the corner-stone of -has ever read with adequate care their faith in an event so affecting and those records which we still possess, so appalling as the Resurrection ! Greek or Latin, of primitive Chris- The Chi, therefore, that should be in tianity. He should approach this Josephus, but it is not, how can we sugsubject with a vexatious scrutiny. He gest any approximation to a solution should lie in ambush for discoveries, of this mystery-any clue towards itas we did in reading Josephus.
any hint of a clue ? Let us examine his chapter on the True it is, that an interpolated pasEssenes, and open the very logic of sage, found in all the printed editions the case, its very outermost outline, of Josephus, makes him take a special in these two sentences :- A thing there . and a respectful notice of our Saviour. is in Josephus, which ought not to be But this passage has long been given there; this thing we will call Epsilon, up as a forgery by all scholars. And (E.) A thing there is which ought to in another essay on the Epichristian be in Josephus, but which is not; this era, which we shall have occasion to thing we call Chi, (X.)
write, some facts will be laid before The Epsilon, which ought not to be the reader exposing a deeper folly in there, but is—what is that? It is the this forgery than is apparent at first pretended philosophical sect amongst sight. the Jews, to which Josephus gives True it is, that Whiston makes the name of Essenes; this ought not the astounding discovery that Josephus to be in Josephus, nor any where else, was himself an Ebionite Christian. for certain we are that no such sect Josephus a Christian ! In the inever existed.
stance before us, were it possible The Chi, which ought by every ob- that he had been a Christian, in that ligation-obligations of reason, pas- case the wonder is many times greatsion, interest, common sense—to have er, that he should have omitted all been more broadly and emphatically notice of the whole body as a fraterpresent in the Judæan history of Jo- nity acting together with a harmony sephus' period than in any other period unprecedented amongst their distracted whatever, but unaccountably is omitted countrymen of that age; and, secondly, -what is th..t? It is, reader, neither as a fraternity to whom was assigned more nor les than the new-born bro- a certain political aspect by their enetherhood of Christians. The whole mies. The civil and external relations monstrosity of this omission will of this new party he could not but not be apparent to the reader, until have noticed, had he even omitted the his attention be pointed closely to the religious doctrines which bound them chronological position of Joseph-his together internally, as doctrines too longitude as respects the great meri- remote from Roman comprehension. dian of the Christian era.
In reality, so far from being a Christian, we shall show that Josephus enigma had brought a key to the was not even a Jew, in any con- other; and that by means of two mysscientious or religious sense.
He had teries there had ceased even to be one never taken the first step in the di- mystery. rection of Christianity ; but was, as Now, then, first of all, before sta. many other Jews were in that age, ting our objections to the Essenes as essentially a Pagan ; as little impressed any permanent or known sect amongst with the true nature of the God whom the Jews, let us review as rapidly as his country worshipped, with his possible the main features by which ineffable purity and holiness, as any Joseph characterises these supposed idolatrous Athenian whatsoever. Essenes; and in a brief comment
The wonder therefore subsists, and point out their conformity to what revolves upon us with the more vio- we know of the primitive Christians.: lence, after Whiston's efforts to ex• That done, let us endeavour to ex. tinguish it - how it could have plain all the remaining difficulties of happened that a writer, who passed the case. The words of Josephus we his infancy, youth, manhood, in the take from Whiston's translation ; hav. midst of a growing sect so transcen- ing in fact, at this moment, no other dently interesting to every philosophic copy within reach. But we do this mind, and pre.eminently so interesting unwillingly: for Whiston was a poor to a Jew, should have left behind him, Grecian; and, what is worse, he knew in a compass of eight hundred and fifty- very little about English. four pages, double columns, each col
“ The third sect” (i.e. third in umn having sixty-five lines, (or a dou. relation to the Pharisees, who are ble ordinary octavo page,) much of it ranked as the first, and the Sadducees, relating to his own times, not one para- who are ranked as the second) “ are graph, line, or fragment of a line, by called Essenes. These last are Jews which it can be known that he ever by birth, and seem to have a greater heard of such a body as the Christians. affection for one another than the
And to our mind, for reasons which other sects have." we shall presently show, it is equally We need not point out the strong wonderful that he should talk of the conformity in this point to the distinEssenes, under the idea of a known, guishing features of the new-born stationary, original sect amongst the Christians, as they would be likely to Jews, as that he should not talk of the impress the eye of a stranger. There Christians; equally wonderful that he was obviously a double reason for a should remember the imaginary as stricter cohesion amongst the Christhat he should forget the real. There tians internally, than could by possiis not one difficulty, but two difficul- bility belong to any other sect-Ist, ties; and what we need is, not one in the essential tendency of the whole solution but two solutions.
Christian faith to a far more intense If, in an ancient palace, re-opened love than the world could compreafter it had been shut up for centuries, hend, as well as in the express charge you were to find a hundred golden to love one another; 2dly, in the strong shafts or pillars, for which nobody compressing power of external affliccould suggest a place or a use; and if, tion, and of persecution too certainly in some other quarter of the palace, anticipated. The little flock, turned far remote, you were afterwards to out to face a wide world of storms, find a hundred golden sockets fixed in naturally drew close together. Over the floor_first of all, pillars which no- and above the indefeasible hostility of body could apply to any purpose, or
the world to a spiritual morality, refer to any place; secondly, sockets there was the bigotry of Judaical suwhich nobody could fill ;—probably perstition on the one hand, and the
“ Wicked Will Whiston” might bigotry of Paganism on the other. be capable of a glimmering suspi. All this would move in mass against cion that the hundred golden shafts nascent Christianity, so soon as that belonged to the hundred golden socks moved; and well, therefore, might ets. And if, upon applying the shafts the instincts of the early Christians to the sockets, it should turn out that instruct them to act in the very closest each several shaft screwed into its concert and communion. own peculiar socket, why, in such a “ These men are despisers of riches, case, not “ Whiston, Ditton, and Co." and so very communicative, as raises could resist the evidence, that each our admiration.
Nor is there any