« AnteriorContinuar »
Revelation. The title of this book is contained in its first
It is called Revelation, from the signification of A pochalypsos, 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 tbe 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.
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
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 judgınent 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
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 di vine 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.
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.
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. ji. 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 bis 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 indulged in the vilest impurities, to the scandal of their profession, and to the destruction of their souls.
The Antichrists mentioned by the apostle, 1 Joon ii. 18. were certain heretical teachers, whose principles contradicted the true doctrines of the gospel. They were called Ebionites, from one Ebion ; Cerinthians from one Cerinthus; and Gnostics, from gnostis, a Greek word signifying knowledge. Simon Magus, Acts viii. 9—24. is said to have been the parent of these heresies. It is difficult to ascertain precisely what doctrines these heretics taught; some making a distinction between Jesus and the Christ; some denying the divine nature of our Lord, and others his humanity; some rejecting his vicarious atonement, and all disregarding his holy precepts. To refute and destroy these pernicious absurdities, the apostle John was inspired to write his gospel and epistles, testifying the proper Godhead, the real manhood, and the propitiatory sacrifice of our Lord and Saviour. John i. 1–3. 14. 1 John i. 1, 2. ii. 18-24. iii. 1. 3. 9. 10.
The Stoics, Acts xvii. 18. were pagan philosophers, the founder of whose sect was Zeno, who flourished about 350 years before the Christian era. They affected a perfect indifference both to pleasure and pain, professing to believe that all things are governed by an irresistible necessity, called fate, which was superior to the will of all their gods.
The Epicureans were another sect of philosophers, who were the disciples of Epicurus, an Athenian, who flourished about 300 years before the Christian era. They taught principles the very opposite to the Stoics; they ascribed all things to chance, and considered pleasure as the chief good.