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when any one was by the arbitrary will of the governors, in the degenerate and declining state of the Jewish church, deposed from the high-priesthood, barely to make way for another favourite to enjoy that honour, he was, though divested of his office, nevertheless called chief priest. This will give light to several scriptures in the New Testament, in which we often read of many chief priests at the same time, See Luke iii. 2. Mark xiv. 53.
Again, as to the Levites, these were not only appointed to be the high priest's ministers in offering gifts and sacrifices in the temple; but many of them were engaged in other offices; some in instructing the people, in the respective cities where they dwelt, who were to resort to them for that purpose, or in synagogues, erected for this branch of public worship. Others were employed as judges in determining civil or ecclesiastical
Again, we often read, in scripture, of Scribes: These were of two sorts; some were employed only in civil matters; and we sometimes read of one person, in particular, who was appointed to be the king's scribe. Thus in David's reign, we read of Shemaiah the scribe, and in Hezekiah's of Shebna, 1 Chron. xxiv. 6. 2 Kings xviii. 18. This seems to have been a civil officer, not much unlike a secretary of state among us; and we seldom find mention made of more than one scribe at a time, except in Solomon's reign in which there were two, 1 Kings iv. 4.
But besides this, we often read of scribes who were engaged in other works; thus it is generally supposed, that many of them were employed in transcribing the whole, or some parts of scripture, for the use of those who employed them therein, and gratified them for it; which was necessary for the propagating religion in those ages, in which printing was not known.
There were others who explained the law to the people. Thus Ezra is styled, a ready scribe in the law of Moses, Ezra, vii. 6. This was an honourable and useful employment, faithfully managed by him and many others, in the best ages of the church. But, in our Saviour's time, there were scribes who pretended to expound the law, and instruct the people; but the doctrines they propagated, were very contrary to the mind of the Holy Ghost in Moses's writings; and their way of preaching was very empty and unprofitable: Upon which occasion it is said, that our Lord taught as one having authority, and not as the scribes, Matt. vii. 29.
Moreover, we sometimes read in the New-Testament, of Lawyers, against whom our Saviour denounces woes, for opposing him and his gospel. This supposed by some, to ba
only a different name given to the scribes; inasmuch as they practised the law in public courts of judicature, and pleaded causes in the Sanhedrin, or taught in their schools or religious assemblies; both which the scribes did. And the evangelist Matthew, speaking concerning a lawyer, who asked our Saviour a question, Which is the great commandment, chap. xxii. 35, 36. Mark mentioning the same thing, calls him one of the scribes, Mark xii. 28. So that the same thing, for substance, seems to be intended by both of them; or if there was any difference between them, as others suppose there was, from what is said in Luke xi. 44, 45. that when our Saviour had been reproving the scribes and Pharisees, One of the lawyers said unto him, thus saying thou reproachest us also, where they speak as though they were distinct from them: yet it is evident from hence, that however they might be distinguished from them, in other respects, they agreed with them as engaged in expounding the law, and herein are said to lade men with heavy burdens and grievous to be born; which they themselves would not touch with one of their fingers.
As for those civil officers which we read of in the Old Tes tament before the captivity, especially in David and Solomon's reign, they were either such as were set over the tribute, the principal of which was at the head of the treasury, 1 Kings iv. 6. and others were employed under them, to see that the taxes were duly levied and paid: These are called receivers, Isa. xxxiii. 18. Others were employed in keeping and adjusting the public records, of which, one was the chief; who, by way of eminence, is called the recorder: And others were appointed to manage the king's domestic affairs, of which, the chief was set over the household, 2 Kings xviii. 18. Another is said to be set over the host, 1 Kings iv. 4. who either had the chief command of the army, or else was appointed to muster and determine who should go to war, or be excused from it. And there is another officer we read of once in scripture, viz. he that counted the towers, Isa. xxxiii. 18. whose business seems to have been to survey and keep the fortifications in repair; but these not being so frequently mentioned in scripture as others, we pass them over, and proceed more espe cially to consider some characters of persons we meet with in the New Testament.
There was one sort of officers who were concerned in exacting the public revenues, after the Jews were made tributary to the Roman empire: These, are called publicans; the chief of which were generally persons of great honour and substance, who sometimes farmed a branch of the revenue, and they were, for the most part, Romans of noble extract, of
whom we have an account in Cicero *, and other heathen wri ters; but there is no mention of them in scripture. This honourable post was never conferred on the Jews; nevertheless, we read of Zaccheus, who is said to have been one of the chief among the publicans, though a Jew, Luke xix. 2. the meaning of which is, that he was the chief officer in a particular port, who had other publicans under him; whose business was, constantly to attend at the ports, and take an account of the taxes that were to be paid there, by those of whom they were exacted. Of this latter sort was Matthew, who is called the publican, i, e. one of the lowest officers concerned in the revenue, Matt. x. 3. compared with chap. ix. 9. These were usually very profligate in their morals, and inclined to oppress those of whom they received taxes, probably to gain advantage to themselves; and were universally hated by the Jews, There was another sort of men often mentioned in the New Testament, that made the greatest pretensions to religion, but were most remote from it, and justly branded with the character of hypocrites, to wit, the Pharisees, who made themselves popular by their external shew of piety. There is not, indeed, the least hint of there being such a sect amongst the Jews before the captivity; though, it is true, the prophet Isaiah, Isa. Ixv. 5. speaks of a sort of people that much resembled them, which said, Stand by thyself, come not near to me, for I am hoher than thou; from whence, it seems, that there were some of like principles in his day; unless we suppose that this scripture had its accomplishment when the sect of the Pharisees appeared in the world in a following age; which was not long after the reign of Alexander the great †, between two and three hundred years before our Saviour's time. They are generally described in scripture, as pretending to be more expert than all others in the knowledge of the law; but, in reality, making it void, by establishing those oral traditions, which were contrary to the true intent and meaning thereof, and, as setting up their own righteousness, and depending on the performance of some lesser duties of the law, as that from whence they expected a right to eternal life. These were the
Vid. Cic. in Orat. pro Planc. florem equitum Romanorum ornamentum civitatis, fermamentum reipublicæ publicanorum ordine contineri. And in his gration, ad Quintum Fratrem, he has many things concerning the dignity of the publicans, and their advantage to the commonwealth : accordingly he says, Si publicanis adversequr ordinem do nobis optime meritum, & per nos cum republica conjunctum, & a nobis, & a republica disjungimus. And, in his familiar epistles, Lab, xix. Epist. x. le calls them, Ordinem sibi semper commnendatissimum; & ad Atticum, Lib. vii. Epist. vii. he says, Cæsari amicissimos fuisse publicanos.
See Joseph. Antiquit. Lib. xiii. Cap. ix. And we have an account of their pride and insolence in the same author, chap. xv. and of the great disturbance that they szade in civil governments, if chief magistrates did not please them.
greatest enemies, in their conduct, as well as their doctrines, to Christ, and his gospel.
There was another sect that joined with the Pharisees, in persecuting and opposing our Saviour; though otherwise they did not, in the least, accord with one another; and these were the Sadducees, who appeared in the world about the same time with the Pharisees: These were men generally reputed as profligate in their morals, and for that reason, as much hated by the common people, as the Pharisees were caressed by them. They adhered to the Philosophy of Epicurus; and took occasion, from thence to deny the resurrection, angels, and spirits, as they are said to do in scripture, Acts xxiii. 8. It is true they did not desire to be thought irreligious, though they were really so; yet our Saviour describes them, as well as the Pharisees, as hypocrites, and inveterate enemies of the gospel.
There was another sort of people sometimes mentioned in the New Testament, viz. the Samaritans, who separated from the Jews, out of a private pique, and built a distinct temple on mount Gerizzim *; and for this they were excommunicated by the Jews, and universally hated, so that there was no intercourse between them, John iv. 9, especially in those things in which one might be said to be obliged to the other: These did very much corrupt the worship of God, so that Christ charges them with worshipping they knew not what, ver. 12. and it is observed concerning them, after the ten tribes were carried captive into Assyria, and they who were left in the land feared not the Lord, that he sent lions amongst them, 2 kings xvii. 25. upon which occasion a priest was dismissed by the king of Assyria, under pretence of instructing them in the manner of the God of the land; and he erected a strange medly of religion, consisting partly of those corruptions therein, which had been practised by the Israelites for some ages past, and partly of the Heathen idolatry, which they brought from Assyria; upon which account it is said, They feared the Lord, and served their own gods after the manner of the nations whom they carried away from thence, 2 Kings xvii. 33.
There is another sort of men, mentioned in the New Testament, who are called Herodians: These seem to have been a political rather than a religious sect. Some of the Fathers, indeed, think that they were so called because they complimented Herod with the character of the Messiah †, who, as they supposed, would be a very flourishing prince, who was to
See Joseph. Antiquit. Lib. xi. Cap, viii.
*See Tertull. in præscrip.adv. Hær. Cap. xlv. and Epiphanius, in Her. Cap. xx.
reign over them, according to the ancient prediction of the pa triarch Jacob, after the sceptre was departed from Judah: But this seems to be a very improbable conjecture; for Herod the Great was dead, before we read any thing of the Herodians in scripture: And the Jews had an opinion, about this time, that the Messiah should never die, John xii. 34. Therefore, the most probable opinion is, that these Herodians were, in their first rise, the favourites and courtiers of Herod, and disposed to give into any alterations that he was inclined to make in the religious or civil affairs of the Jews *. By what is said concerning them in scripture, it is supposed, that they were, for thy most part, Sadducees; for if we compare Matt. xvi. 6. with Mark viii. 15. our Saviour warns his disciples upon the same occasion, to wit, their having forgot to take bread, to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees; as the former evangelist expresses it, and of the leaven of Herod, viz. the Herodians, as it is in the latter: Now, though these Herodians, or court-parasites, might take their first rise in the reign of Herod the Great; yet there was a party of men suc ceeded them, who held the same principles, and were disposed to compliment their governors with their civil and religious rights; but they more especially distinguished themselves, by their propagating principles of loyalty among the people: And, whereas the Jews, under a pretence that they were a free nation, were very unwilling to give tribute to Cesar,) (though they would not venture their lives as Judas of Galilee, and some others had done, by refusing it;) these Herodians laid it down as an article of their faith, that they ought to pay tribute to Cesar; and therefore, when they came with this question to our Saviour, Is it lawful to give tribute to Cesar, or not? Matt. xxii. 17. he soon discovered their hypocrisy, and knew the design of that question as he might easily do from their being Herodians. Thus concerning the various characters of persons mentioned in scripture, as subservient to our understanding thereof.
(8.) After all these helps for the understanding the sense of scripture, there is one more which is universally to be observed; namely, that no sense is to be given of any text, but what is agreeable to the analogy of faith, has a tendency to advance the divine perfections, stain the pride of all flesh, in the sight of God, and, promote practical godliness in all its branches.
1st, Scripture must be explained agreeably to the analogy
That Herod was disposed to make alterations in the Jews religion, by adding to it a mixture of several rites and ceremonies, taken from the Heathen, is affirmed by some. See Cuneus de Rep. Hab. Lib. i Cap. xvi. who quotes Josephus as saying, that he altered Ute ancient lists of their country.