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were exposed to grievous suffering on account of their profession of Christ. In some respects, the epistle to the Hebrews is the most important of the New Testament scriptures; it is an invaluable appendix to the epistle to the Romans, inculcating precisely the same momentous doctrines. James. This epistle is called catholic or general, because it was not written to any particular church, but to the whole Jewish nation then dispersed abroad. It also addresses Christians in some passages, and in others, those who did not believe. Peter I. The first epistle of Peter appears to have been written in a time of grievous persecution, by which Christians were scattered abroad. It is called general, because it was addressed to all believers in their dispersion; the converts both from among the Jews, and from idolaters. Peter II. The second epistle of Peter was addressed to the same persons as the former, and was written, as is believed, about a year later. It was evidently written in the anticipation of a violent death, ch. i. 14. and it is supposed from Rome, where, it is believed, the author suffered.
John I. The name of John is neither prefixed or subscribed to this epistle, yet from the earliest times it has always been attributed to him. The peculiar style and spirit of the writing declare it to have been the work of John. It begins without a salutation, and ends without a benediction, and, therefore, some have doubted the propriety of calling it an epistle.
John II. Though this epistle does not bear the name of the author, it was evidently written by John the apostle.
Jude. The epistle of Jude was written about A. D. 65. The design of it was to guard believers against the principles and practices of the false teachers who had arisen in the church during the apostolic age.
Revelation. The title of this book is contained in its first verse. It is called Revelation, from the signification of Apochalypsos, its Greek title. It was written by the apostle John during his banishment in the isle of Patmos, and was imparted to him especially to exhibit the prophetic history of the church of Christ down to the end of the world. Many parts of the revelation are necessarily obscure to us, because they contain predictions of events still future.
On the restoration of the Jewish church, after the Babylonish captivity, there arose two parties among them, who manifested a regard for religion. One of them adhered to the Scriptures only, rejecting all human traditions. Professing to observe the whole law, they assumed the name Zadikim, the righteous. From these proceeded the Samaritans and Sadducees. The other party, besides the inspired Scriptures, superadded the traditions of the elders; and from a supposed superior degree of sanctity were called Chasidim, the pious. From these arose the Pharisees and Essenes.
T H E S A M A R IT A. N. S.
The Samaritans were originally the idolatrous successors of of the ten tribes, part of whom the king of Assyria sent to unite with the scattered few in repeopling Samaria and the land of Israel. At first, as a punishment for their idolatry, they were plagued with lions; but on this being reported to the king, a priest was sent from among the captives to instruct them in the law of God. “So they feared the LORD, and made unto themselves of the lowest of them priests of the high places, which sacrificed for them in the houses of the high places, and served their own gods, after the manner of the nations whom they carried away from thence,” 2 Kings xvii. 24–33.
Afterwards they became partially reformed, admitted the
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writings of Moses, built a temple on mount Gerizim, and worshipped the God of Israel. From the conversation of the woman of Sychar, we learn that even the more corrupt class had some knowledge of the Messiah, and expected his appearance, John iv. 25.
The Sadducees were a kind of deists. They received their appellation from Sadoc their founder, who lived B. c. 280 years. At first they rejected only the traditions of the elders, as being destitute of divine authority, but afterwards they adopted many impious notions like those of Epicurus a heathen philosopher, and rejected the whole of the sacred writings, except the five books of Moses. They denied the resurrection of the dead, the existence of angels, and the immortality of the soul. They admitted the being and providence of Almighty God; but they rejected the doctrine of rewards and punishments in a future state. Josephus, the Jewish historian, observes, “Whenever they sat in judgment upon criminals, they always were for the severest sentence against them.” He also says, “Their number was the fewest of all the sects of the Jews; but they were only those of the best quality, and of the greatest riches among them.”
The Pharisees were the principal sect among the Jews; and though they were haughty despisers of the common people, the vulgar entertained such an opinion of their sanctity, that it became a common notion among them that if only two persons were received into heaven, one of them must be a pharisee. The greater part of the doctors of the law and the scribes were of this party. They esteemed the traditions of the wise men as of nearly equal authority with the word of God, and generally gave them the preference : They were intolerably proud of their religious attainments ; supposing themselves to merit divine favor by their duties and observances. On these accounts they were justly characterised by our Lord as grossly hypocritical, and at a greater distance from the kingdom of God than even publicans and harlots.
The Essenes were a rigid sect of the Jews, a branch of the Pharisees; but they entered upon a more mortified way of living, and were probably more free from hypocrisy. Though our Saviour often censured the other sects, we have no account of his mentioning them; nor are they noticed specifically by the writers of the New Testament. This has been accounted for by their living in solitary places, somewhat in the manner of Romish monks, and from their seldom coming to the temple or into public assemblies. Many suppose that John the Baptist lived among them. They believed in a future state of happiness, but doubted of the resurrection. They mostly disallowed marriage, and adopting the children of the poor to train up in their principles. Candidates for communion with them were in probation for three years, and when fully admitted, they were required to bind themselves to worship God, to practise justice, to conceal none of their mysteries from any of the society, and to communicate them to no other, even to save their lives. They despised riches, and held their property in common; they were remarkably abstemious, ate at a common table, and were extremely plain in their apparel.
0 T H E R S E C T S. The Scribes among the Jews were not a particular sect, but transcribers of the sacred books; also persons who addicted themselves to literary pursuits. They were interpreters of the law and instructers of the people.
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The Herodians were not so much a religious sect as a political party. They complied with many heathen practices to ingratiate themselves with Herod and his patrons, the Romans.
The Galileans, or Gaulonites, appear to have been a turbulent political party among the Jews, rather than a religious sect. Their first leader was Judas, the Galilean. Acts v. 37.
The Libertines, Acts vi. 9. were such Jews or proselytes as were free citizens of Rome, having a synagogue in Jerusalem peculiar to themselves.
It will be evident to every reader of the New Testament, that during the apostolic age many pernicious heresies infested the infant churches. Some of them were introduced by judaizing teachers, who wished to incorporate the Levitical ceremonies with the simplicity of the gospel. . Others arose from a false philosophy which was borrowed from the heathen, and which the apostle denounces as vain deceit, Col. ii. 8. To draw up a detailed account of these pagan principles, would be unsatisfactory in itself and unsuitable to this work; yet it seems indispensable to give some short notices concerning the chief of them.
The Nicolatians have been supposed to have had Nicolas, one of the seven deacons, for their leader in false doctrine and immorality; but this seems contrary to his character, as declared by the evangelists, Acts vi. and we have no evidence that Nicolas, the deacon, ever departed from the faith of the gospel. These corruptors of religion were a kind of practical antinomians; they allowed themselves to participate in the sacrifices of the idolaters, and