Charles Buck, Theological Dictionary


The religious worship and discipline of Pagans, or the adoration of idols and false gods. The theology of the Pagans according to themselves, as Scxvola and Varrs, was of three sorts. The first of these may well be called fabulous, as treating of the theology and genealogy of their deities, in which they say such things as are unworthy of deity; ascribing to them thefts, murders, adulteries, and all manner of crimes; and therefore this kind of theology is condemned by the wiser sort of heathens as nugatory and scandalous: the writers of this sort of theology were Sancho-niatho, the Phoenician; and of the Grecians, Orpheus, Hesiod, Pherecyde, &c. The second sort, called physic, or natural, was studied and taught by the philosophers, who, rejecting the multiplicity of gods introduced by the poets, brought their theology to a more natural and rational form, and supposed that there was but one Supreme God, which they commonly make to be the sun; at least, an emblem of him, but at too great a distance to mind the affairs of the world, and therefore devised certain demons, which they considered as mediators between the Supreme God and man; and the doctrines of these demons, to which the apostle is thought to allude in 1 Tim. 4:1. were what the philosophers had a concern with, and who treat of their nature, office, and regard to men; as did Thales, Pythagoras, Plato, and the Stoics. The third part called politic, or civil, was instituted by legislators, statesmen, and politicians: the first among the Roman and Numa Pompilius; this chiefly respected their gods, temples, altars, sacrifices, and rites of worship, and was properly their idolatry, the care of which belonged to the priests; and this was enjoined the common people, to keep them in obedience to the civil state. Thus things continued in the Gentile world, until the light of the Gospel was sent among them: the times before were times of ignorance, as the apostle calls them: they were ignorant of the true God, and of the worship of him; and of the Messiah, and salvation by him. Their state is truly described, Eph. 2:12. that they were then without Christ; aliens from the commonwealth of Israel; strangers from the covenants of promise: having no hope, and without God in the world; and, consequently, their theology was insufficient for their salvation.

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A philosophical species of idolatry, leading to atheism, in which the universe was considered as the Supreme God. Who was the inventor of this absurd system, is, perhaps, not known, but it was of early origin, and differently modified by different philosophers. Some held the universe to be one immense animal, of which the incorporeal soul was properly their god, and the heavens and the earth the body of that god; whilst others held but one substance, partly active and partly passive, and therefore looked upon the visible universe as the only Numen. The earliest Grecian pantheist of whom we read was Orpheus, who called the world the body of God, and its several parts his members, making the whole universe one divine animal. According to Cudworth, Orpheus and his followers believed in the immaterial soul of the world: therein agreeing with Aristotle, who certainly held that God and matter are co-eternal; and that there is some such union between them, as subsists between the souls and bodies of men. An institution, imbibing sentiments nearly of this kind, was set on foot about eighty or ninety years ago, in this kingdom, by a society of philosophical idolaters, who called themselves Pantheists, because they professed the worship of All Nature as their deity. They had Mr. John Toland for their secretary and chaplain. Their liturgy was in Latin: an English translation was published in 1751, from which the following sentiments are extracted:–“The ethereal fire environs all things, and is therefore supreme. The aether is a reviving fire: it rules all things, it disposes all things. In it is soul, mind, prudence. This fire is Horace’s particle of divine breath, and Virgil’s inwardly nourishing spirit. All things are comprised in an intelligent nature.” This force they call the soul of the world; as also, a mind of perfect wisdom, and, consequently, God. Vanini the Italian philosopher, was nearly of this opinion: his god was nature. Some very learned and excellent remarks are made on this error by Mr. Boyle, in his discourse on the vulgarly received notion of nature.

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The doctrine of a plurality of gods, or invisible powers superior to man.
”That there exists beings, one or many, powerful above the human race, is a proposition,” says lord Kaims, “universally admitted as true in all ages and among all nations. I boldly call it universal, notwithstanding what is reported of some gross savages; for reports that contradict what is acknowledged to be general among men, require more able vouchers than a few illiterate voyagers. Among many savage tribes there are no words but for objects of external sense: is it surprising that such people are incapable of expressing their religious perceptions, or any perception of internal sense? The conviction that men have of superior powers, in every country where there are words to express it, is so well vouched, that, in fair reasoning, it ought to be taken for granted among the few tribes where language is deficient.” The same ingenious author allows, with great strength of reasoning, that the operations of nature and the government of this world, which to us loudly proclaim the existence of a Deity, are not sufficient to account for the universal belief of superior beings among savage tribes. He is therefore of opinion that this universality of conviction can spring only from the image of Deity stamped upon the mind of every human being, the ignorant equal with the learned. This, he thinks, may be termed the sense of Deity.

This sense of Deity, however, is objected to by others, who thus reason: All nations, except the Jews, were once polytheists and idolaters. If, therefore, his lordship’s hypothesis be admitted, either the…

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(from knowing,) ancient heretics, famous from the first rise of Christianity, principally in the east. It appears from several passages of Scripture, particularly 1 John 2:18; 1 Tim. 6:20; Col. 2:8; that many persons were infected with the Gnostic heresy in the first century; though the sect did not render itself conspicuous, either for numbers or reputation, before the time of Adrian, when some writers erroneously date its rise. The name was adopted by this sect, on the presumption that they were the only persons who had the true knowledge of Christianity. Accordingly they looked on all other Christians as simple, ignorant, and barbarous persons, who explained and interpreted the sacred writings in a low, literal, and unedifying signification. At first, the Gnostics were the only philosophers and wits of those times, who formed for themselves a peculiar system of theology, agreeable to the philosophy of Pythagoras and Plato; to which they accommodated all their interpretations of Scripture. But Gnostics afterwards became a generical name, comprehending divers sects and parties of heretics, who rose in the first centuries; and who, though they differed among themselves as to circumstances, yet all agreed in some common principles. They corrupted the doctrine of the Gospel by a profane mixture of the tenets of the origin of evil and the creation of the world, with its divine truths. Such were the Valentinians, Simonians, Carpocratians, Nicholaitans, &c.

Gnostics sometimes also occurs in a good sense, in the ancient ecclesiastical writers, particularly Clemens Alexandrinus, who, in the person of his Gnostic, describes the characters and qualities of a perfect Christian. This point he labours in the seventh book of his Stromata, where he shows that none but the Gnostic, or learned person, has any true religion. He affirms, that, were it possible for the knowledge of God to be separated from eternal salvation, the Gnostic would make no scruple to choose the knowledge; and that if God would promise him impunity in doing of any thing he has once spoken against, or offer him heaven on those terms, he would never alter a whit of his measures. In this sense the father uses Gnostics, in opposition to the heretics of the same name; affirming, that the true Gnostic is grown old in the study of the holy scripture, and that he preserves the orthodox doctrine of the apostles, and of the church; whereas the false Gnostic abandons all the apostolical traditions, as imagining himself wiser than the apostles.

Gnostics was sometimes also more particularly used for the successors of the Nicholaitans and Carpocratians, in the second century, upon their laying aside the names of the first authors. Such as would be thoroughly acquainted with all their doctrines reveries, and visions may consult St. Irenaeus, Tertullian, Clemens Alexandrinus, Origen, and St. Epiphanius; particularly the first of these writers, who relates their sentiments at large, and confutes them. Indeed he dwells more on the Valentinians than any other sect of Gnostics; but he shows the general principles whereon all their mistaken opinions were founded, and the method they followed in explaining Scripture. He accuses them of introducing into religion certain vain and ridiculous genealogies, i. e. a kind of divine processions or emanations, which had no other foundation but in their own wild imagination. The Gnostics confessed, that these aeons, or emanations, were no where expressly delivered in the sacred writings; but insisted that Jesus Christ had intimated them in parables to such as could understand them. They built their theology not only on the Gospels and the epistles of St. Paul, but also on the law of Moses and the prophets. These last were peculiarly serviceable to them, on account of the allegories and allusions with which they abound, which are capable of different interpretations; though their doctrine concerning the creation of the world by one or more inferior beings of an evil or imperfect nature, led them to deny the divine authority of the books of the Old Testament, which contradicted this idle fiction, and filled them with an abhorrence of Moses and the religion he taught; alleging, that he was actuated by the malignant author of this world, who consulted his own glory and authority, and not the real advantage of men. Their persuasion that evil resided in matter, as its centre and source, made them treat the body with contempt, discourage marriage, and reject the doctrine of the resurrection of the body, and its re-union with the immortal spirit. Their notion, that malevolent genii presided in nature, and occasioned diseases and calamities, wars and desolations, induced them to apply themselves to the study of magic, in order to weaken the powers, or suspend the influence of these malignant agents. The Gnostics considered Jesus Christ as the Son of God, and inferior to the Father, who came into the world for the rescue and happiness of miserable mortals, oppressed by matter and evil beings; but they rejected our Lord’s humanity, on the principle that every thing corporeal is essentially and intrinsically evil; and therefore the greatest part of them denied the reality of his sufferings. They set a great value on the beginning of the gospel of St. John, where they fancied they saw a great deal of their xons, or emanations, under the terms the word, the life, the light, &c. They divided all nature into three kinds of beings, viz. hylic, or material; psychic, or animal; and pneumatic, or spiritual. On the like principle they also distinguished three sorts of men; material, animal, and spiritual. The first, who were material, and incapable of knowledge, inevitably perished, both soul and body; the third, such as the Gnostics themselves pretended to be, were all certainly saved; the psychic, or animal, who were the middle between the other two, were capable either of being saved or damned, according to their good or evil actions. With regard to their moral doctrines and conduct, they were much divided. The greatest part of this sect adopted very austere rules of life, recommended rigorous abstinence, and prescribed severe bodily mortifications, with a view of purifying and exalting the mind. However, some maintained that there was no moral difference in human actions; and thus confounding right with wrong, they gave a loose rein to all the passions, and asserted the innocence of following blindly all their motions, and of living by their tumultuous dictates. They supported their opinions and practice by various authorities: some referred to fictitious and apocryphal writings of Adam, Abraham, Zoroaster, Christ, and his apostles; others boasted that they had deduced their sentiments from secret doctrines of Christ, concealed from the vulgar; others affirmed that they arrived at superior degrees of wisdom by an innate vigour of mind; and others asserted that they were instructed in these mysterious parts of theological science by Thendas, a disciple of St. Paul, and by Matthias, one of the friends of our Lord. The tenets of the ancient Gnostics were revived in Spain, in the fourth century, by a sect called the Priscillianists. At length the name Gnostic, which originally was glorious, became infamous,by the idle opinions and dissolute lives of the persons who bore it.

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One who denies the existence of God:–this is called speculative atheism. Professing to believe in God, and yet acting contrary to this belief, is called practical atheism. Absurd and irrational as atheism is, it has had its votaries and martyrs. In the seventeenth century, Spinosa, a foreigner, was its noted defender. Lucilio Vanini, a native of Naples, also publicly taught atheism in France; and, being convicted of it at Toulouse, was condemned and executed in 1619. It has been questioned, however, whether any man ever seriously adopted such a principle. The pretensions to it have been generally founded on pride or affectation. The open avowal of atheism by several of the leading members of the French convention seems to have been an extraordinary moral phenomenon. This, however, as we have seen, was too vague and uncomfortable a principle to last long. Archbishop Tillotson justly observes, that speculative atheism is unreasonable upon five accounts. 1. Because it gives no tolerable account of the existence of the world.–2. It does not give any reasonable account of the universal consent of mankind in this apprehension, that there is a God.–3. It requires more evidence for things than they are capable of giving.–4. The atheist pretends to know that which no man can know.–5. Atheism contradicts itself. Under the first of these he thus argues.–“I appeal to any man of reason whether any thing can be more unreasonable than obstinately to impute an effect to chance, which carries in the very face of it all the arguments and characters of a wise design and contrivance. Was ever any considerable work, in which there was required a great variety of parts, and a regular and orderly disposition of those parts, done by chance! Will chance fit means to ends, and that in ten thousand instances, and not fail in any one? How often might a man, after he had jumbled a set of letters in a bag, fling them out upon the ground, before they would fall into an exact poem; yea, or so much as make a good discourse in prose? And may not a little book be as easily made by chance as the great volume of the world? How long might a man be in sprinkling colours upon canvass with a careless hand, before they would happen to make the exact picture of a man? And is a man easier made by chance than his picture? How long might twenty thousand blind men, who should be sent out from several remote parts of England, wander up and down before they would all meet upon Salisbury plain, and fall into rank and file in the exact order of an army? And, yet, this is much more easy to be imagined than how the innumerable blind parts of matter should rendezvous themselves into a world. A man that sees Henry the Seventh’s chapel at Westminster might with as good reason maintain (yea, with much better, considering the vast difference betwixt that little structure and the huge fabric of the world) that it was never contrived or built by any means, but that the stones did by chance grow into those curious figures into which they seem to have been cut and graven; and that upon a time (as tales usually begin) the materials of that building, the stone, mortar, timber, iron, lead, and glass, happily met together, and very fortunately ranged themselves into that delicate order in which we see them now, so close compacted, that it must be a very great chance that parts them again. What would the world think of a man that should advance such an opinion as this, and write a book for it? If they would do him right, they ought to look upon him as mad; but yet with a little more reason than any man can have to say, that the world was made by chance, or that the first men grew up out of the earth as plants do now. For, can any thing be more ridiculous, and against all reason, than to ascribe the production of men to the first fruitfulness of the earth, without, so much as one instance and experiment, in any age or history, to countenance so monstrous a supposition? The thing is, at first sight, so gross and palpable, that no discourse about it can make it more apparent. And yet, these shameful beggars of principles give this precarious account of the original of things; assume to themselves to be the men of reason, the great wits of the world, the only cautious and wary persons that hate to be imposed upon, that must have convincing evidence for every thing, and can admit of nothing, without a clear demonstration of it”.

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A collective term, comprehending all such as follow the doctrines and opinions of some divine, philosopher, &c. The word sect, says Dr. Campbell, (Prelim. Diss.) among the Jews, was not in its application entirely coincident with the same term as applied by Christians to the subdivisions subsisting among themselves. We, if I mistake not, invariably use it of those who form separate communions, and do not associate with one another in religious worship and ceremonies. Thus we call Papists, Lutherans, Calvinists, different sects, not so much on account of their differences in opinion, as because they have established to themselves different fraternities, to which, in what regards public worship, they confine themselves; the several denominations above-mentioned having no inter-community with one another in sacred matters. High church and low church we call only parties, because they have not formed separate communions. Great and known differences in opinion, when followed by no external breach in the society, are not considered with us as constituting distinct sects, though their differences in opinion may give rise to mutual aversion. Now, in the Jewish sects (if we except the Samaritans,) there were no separate communities errected. The same temple, and the same synagogues, were attended alike by Pharisees and by Sadducees: nay, there were often of both denominations in the Sanhedrim, and even in the priesthood.–Another difference was also, that the name of the sect was not applied to all the people who adopted the same opinions, but solely to the men of eminence among them who were considered as the leaders of the party.

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In a general sense, something that relates to religion. It is also used for a person engaged by solemn vows to the monastic life; or a person shut up in a monastery, to lead a life of devotion and austerity under some rule or institution. The male religious are called monks and friars; the females, nuns and canonesses.

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Is a Latin word, derived, according to Cicero, from rilegere, “to re-consider;” but according to Servius and most modern grammarians, from religare, “to bind fast.” If the Ciceronian etymology be the true one, the word religion will denote the diligent study whatever pertains to the worship of God; but, according to the other derivation, it denotes that obligation which we feel on our minds from the relation in which we stand to some superior power. The word is sometimes used as synonymous with sect; but, in a practical sense, it is generally considered as the same with godliness, or a life devoted to the worship and fear of God. Dr. Doddridge thus defines it: “Religion consists in the resolution of the will for God, and in a constant care to avoid whatever we are persuaded he would disapprove, to despatch the work he has assigned us in life, and to promote his glory in the happiness of mankind.”) The foundation of all religion rests on the belief of the existence of God. As we have, however, already considered the evidences of the divine existence, they need not be enumerated again in this place.

Religion has been divided into natural and revealed. By natural religion is meant that knowledge, veneration, and love of God, and the practice of those duties to him, our fellow-creatures, and ourselves, which are discoverable by the right exercise of our rational faculties, from considering the nature and perfections of God, and our relation to him and to one another. By revealed religion is understood that discovery which he has made to us of his mind and will in the Holy Scriptures. As it respects natural religion, some doubt whether, properly speaking, there can be any such thing; since, through the fall, reason is so depraved, that man without revelation is under the greatest darkness and misery, as may be easily seen by considering the history of those nations who are destitute of it, and who are given up to barbarism, ignorance, cruelty, and evils of every kind. So far as this, however, may be observed, that the light of nature can give us no proper ideas of God, nor inform us what worship will be acceptable to him. It does not tell us how man became a fallen sinful creature, as he is, nor how he can be recovered. It affords us no intelligence as to the immortality of the soul, the resurrection of the body, and a future state of happiness and misery. The apostle, indeed, observes, that the Gentiles have the law written on their hearts, and are a law unto themselves; yet the greatest moralists among them were so blinded as to be guilty of, and actually to countenance the greatest vices. Such a system, therefore, it is supposed, can hardly be said to be religious which leaves man in such uncertainty, ignorance, and impiety. On the other side it is observed, “that, though it is in the highest degree probable that the parents of mankind received all their theological knowledge by supernatural means, it is yet obvious that some parts of that knowledge must have been capable of a proof purely rational, otherwise not a single religious truth could have been conveyed through the succeeding generations of the human race but by the immediate inspiration of each individual. We, indeed, admit may propositions as certainly true, upon the sole authority of the Jewish and Christian Scriptures, and we receive these Scriptures with gratitude as the lively oracles of God; but it is self-evident that we could not do either the one or the other, were we not convinced by natural means that God exists; that he is a being of goodness, justice, and power; and that he inspired with divine wisdom the penmen of these sacred volumes. Now, though it is very possible that no man, or body of men, left to themselves from infancy in a desert world, would ever have made a theological discovery, yet, whatever propositions relating to the being and attributes of the First Cause and duty of man, can be demonstrated by human reason, independent of written revelation, may be called natural theology, and are of the utmost importance, as being to us the first principles of all religion. Natural theology, in this sense of the word, is the foundation of the Christian revelation; for, without a previous knowledge of it, we could have no evidence that the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are indeed the word of God.”

The religions which exist in the world have been generally divided into four, the Pagan, the Jewish, the Mahometan, and the Christian; to which articles the reader is referred. The various duties of the Christian religion also are stated in their different places.

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A solemn festival of the Jews, instituted in commemoration of their coming out of Egypt; because, the night before their departure, the destroying angel, who put to death the first-born of the Egyptians, passed over the houses of the Hebrews, without entering therein; because they were marked with the blood of the lamb, which was killed the evening before, and which for this reason was called the paschal lamb. See Exod. 12.

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Or the law of Moses, is the most ancient that we know of in the world, and is of three kinds; the moral law, the ceremonial law, and the judicial law. Some observe, that the different manner in which each of these laws was delivered may suggest to us a right idea of their different natures. The moral law, or ten commandments, for instance, was delivered on the top of the mountain, in the face of the whole world, as being of universal influence, and obligatory on all mankind. The ceremonial was received by Moses in private in the tabernacle, as being of peculiar concern, belonging to the Jews only, and destined to cease when the tabernacle was down, and the veil of the temple rent. As to the judicial law, it was neither so publicly nor so audibly given as the moral law, nor yet so privately as the ceremonial; this kind of law being of an indifferent nature, to be observed or not observed, as its rites suit with the place and government under which we live. The five books of Moses called the Pentateuch, are frequently styled, by way of emphasis, the law. This was held by the Jews in such veneration, that they would not allow it to be laid upon the bed of any sick person lest it should be polluted by touching the dead.

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A small chest of coffer, three feet nine inches in length, two feet three inches in breadth, and two feet three inches in height, in which were contained the golden pot that had manna, Aaron’s rod, and the tables of the covenant. The ark was reposited in the holiest place of the tabernacle. It was taken by the Philistines, and detained twenty (some say forty) years at Kirjath-jearim; but, the people being afflicted with emerods on account of it, returned it with divers presents. It was afterwards placed in the temple.

The lid or covering of the ark was called the propitiatory or mercy-seat; over which two figures were placed, called cherubims, with expanded wings of a peculiar form. Here the Shechinah rested both in the tabernacle and temple in a visible cloud; hence were issued the Divine oracles by an audible voice; and the high priest appeared before the mercy-seat once every year on the great day of expiation; and the Jews, wherever they worshipped, turned their faces towards the place where the ark stood.

In the second temple there was also an ark, made of the same shape and dimensions with the first, and put in the same place, but without any of its contents and peculiar honours. It was used as a representative of the former on the day of expiation, and a repository of the original copy of the holy Scriptures, collected by Ezra and the men of the great synagogue after the captivity; and, in imitation of this, the Jews, to this day, have a kind of ark in their synagogues, wherein their sacred books are kept.

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Or Noah’s Ark, a floating vessel built by Noah for the preservation of his family, and the several species of animals, during the deluge. The form of the Ark was an oblong, with a flat bottom, and a sloped roof, raised to a cubit in the middle; it had neither sails nor rudder; nor was it sharp at the ends for cutting the water. This form was admirably calculated to make it lie steady on the water, without rolling, which might have endangered the lives of the animals within. The length of this ark was 300 cubits, which according to Dr. Arbuthnot’s calculation, amount to a little more than 547 feet; its breadth, 50 cubits, or 54-72 feet; and its solid contents 2,730-782 solid feet, sufficient for a carriage for 81,062 ton. It consisted of three stories, each of which, abating the thickness of the floors, might be about 18 feet high, and no doubt was partitioned into a great many rooms or apartments. This vessel was doubtless so contrived, as to admit the air and the light on all, though the particular construction of the windows be not mentioned.

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Among the Hebrews, a kind of building, in the form of a tent, set up by the express command of God for the performance of religious worship, sacrifices, &c. Exod. 26. 27. Feast of Tabernacles, a solemn festival of the Hebrews, observed after harvest, on the 15th day of the month Tisri, instituted to commemorate the goodness of God, who protected the Israelites in the wilderness, and made them dwell in booths when they came out of Egypt.

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This word has different significations in Scripture. 1. A clerk, or writer, or secretary, 2 Sam. 8:17.– 2. A commissary, or muster-master of the army, 2 Chron. 24:11, 2 Kings, 25:19.–3. A man of learning, a doctor of the law, 1 Chron. 27:32.

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A famous sect of the Jews who distinguished themselves by their zeal for the traditions of the idlers, which they derived from the same fountain with the written word itself; pretending that both were delivered to Moses from Mount Sinai, and were therefore both of equal authority. From their rigorous observance of these traditions, they looked upon themselves as more holy than other men, and therefore separated themselves from those whom they thought sinners or profane, so as not to eat or drink with them; and hence, from the Hebrew word pharia, which signifies “to separate,” they had the name of Pharisees, or Sepharatists.

This sect was one of the most ancient and most considerable among the Jews, but its original is not very well known; however, it was in great repute in the time of our Saviour, and most probably had its original at the same time with the traditions.

The extraordinary pretences of the Pharisees to righteousness, drew after them the common people, who held them in the highest esteem and veneration. Our Saviour frequently, however, charges them with hypocrisy, and making the law of God of no effect through their traditions, Matt. 9:12. Matt. 15:1,6. Matt. 23:13, 33. Luke 11:39, 52. Several of these traditions are particularly mentioned in the Gospel; but they had a vast number more, which may be seen in the Talmud, the whole subject whereof is to dictate and explain those traditions which this sect imposed to be believed and observed.

The Pharisees, contrary to the opinion of the Sadducees, held a resurrection from the dead, and the existence of angels and spirits, Acts 23:8. But, according to Josephus, this resurrection of theirs was no more than a Pythagorean resurrection, that is, of the soul only, by its transmigration into another body, and being born anew with it. From the resurrection they excluded all who were notoriously wicked, being of opinion that the souls of such persons were transmitted into a state of everlasting woe.

As to lesser crimes, they held they were punished in the bodies which the souls of those who committed them were next sent into.

Josephus, however, either mistook the faith of his countrymen, or, which is more probable, wilfully misrepresented it, to render their opinions more respected by the Roman philosophers, whom he appears to have, on every occasion, been desirous to please. The Pharisees had many Pagan notions respecting the soul; but Bishop Bull, in his Harmonia Apostolica, has clearly proved that they held a resurrection of the body, and that they supposed a certain bone to remain uncorrupted, to furnish the matter of which the resurrection body was to be formed. they did not, however, believe that all mankind were to be raised from the dead. A resurrection was the privilege of the children of Abraham alone, who were all to rise on Mount Zion; their incorruptible bones, wherever they might be buried, being carried to that mountain below the surface of the earth. The state of future felicity in which the Pharisees believed was very gross: they imagined that men in the next world, as well as in the present, were to eat and drink, and enjoy the pleasures of love, each being re-united to his former wife. Hence the Sadducees, who believed in no resurrection, and supposed our Saviour to teach it as a Pharisee, very shrewdly urged the difficulty of disposing of the woman who had in this world been the wife of seven husbands. Had the resurrection of Christianity been the Pharisaical resurrection, this difficulty would have been insurmountable; and accordingly we find the people, and even some of the Pharisees themselves, struck with the manner in which our Saviour removed it.

This sect seems to have had some confused notions, probably derived from the Chaldeans and Persians, respecting the pre-existence of souls; and hence it was that Christ’s disciples asked him concerning the blind man, John 9:2. “Who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?” and when the disciples told Christ that some said he was Elias, Jeremias, or one of the prophets, Matt. 16:14. the meaning can only be, that they thought he was come into the world with the soul of Elias, Jeremias, or some other of the old prophets transmigrated into him. With the Essenes they held absolute predestination, and with the Sadducees free will; but how they reconciled these seemingly incompatible doctrines is no where sufficiently explained. The sect of the Pharisees was not extinguished by the ruin of the Jewish commonwealth. The greatest part of the modern Jews are still of this sect, being as much devoted to traditions, or the oral law, as their ancestors were.

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A famous sect among the Jews; so called, it is said, from their founder, Sadoc. It began in the time of Antigonus of Socho, president of the Sanhedrim at Jerusalem, and teacher of the law in the principal divinity school of that city. Antigonus having often, in his lectures, inculcated to his scholars that they ought not to serve God in a servile manner, but only out of filial love and fear, two of his scholars, Sadoc, and Baithus, thence inferred that there were no rewards at all after this life; and, therefore, separating from the school of their master, they thought there was no resurrection nor future state, neither angel nor spirit. Matt. 22:23. Acts, 23:8. They seem to agree greatly with the Epicureans; differing however in this, that, though they denied a future state, yet they allowed the power of God to create the world; whereas the followers of Epicurus denied it. It is said also, that they rejected the Bible, except the Pentateuch; denied predestination; and taught, thet God had made man absolute master of all his actions, without assistance to good, or restraint from evil.

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Light and perfection, among the ancient Hebrews, a certain oracular manner of consulting God, which was done by the high priest, dressed in his robes, and having on his pectoral, or breast-plate. There have been a variety of opinions respecting the Urim and Thummim, and after all we cannot determine what they were. The use made of them was, to consult God in difficult cases relating to the whole state of Israel, and sometimes in cases relating to the king, the sanhedrim, the general of the army, or some other great personage.

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Paaagans who worship false gods, and are not acquainted either with the doctrines of the Old Testament or the Christian dispensation. For many ages before Christ, the nations at large were destitute of the true religion, and gave themselves up to the grossest ignorance, the most absurd idolatry, and the greatest crimes. Even the most learned men among the heathens were in general inconsistent, and complied with or promoted the vain customs they found among their countrymen. It was, however, divinely foretold, that in Abraham’s seed all nations should be blessed; that the heathen should be gathered to the Saviour, and become his people, Gen. 22:18. Gen. 49:10. Ps. 2:8. Isa. 42:6,7. Ps. 72. Isaiah 60. In order that these promises might be accomplished, vast numbers of the Jews, after the Chaldean captivity, were left scattered among the heathen. The Old Testament was translated into Greek, the most common language of the heathen; and a rumour of the Saviour’s appearance in the flesh was spread far and wide among them. When Christ came, he preached chiefly in Galilee, where there were multitudes of Gentiles. He assured the Greeks that vast numbers of the heathen should be brought into the church, Matt. 4:23. John 12:20,24. For 1700 years past the Jews have been generally rejected, and the church of God has been composed of the Gentiles. Upwards of 480 millions (nearly half the globe,) however, are supposed to be yet in pagan darkness. Considerable attempts have been made of late years for the enlightening of the heathen; and there is every reason to believe good has been done. From the aspect of Scripture prophecy, we are led to expect that the kingdoms of the heathen at large shall be brought to the light of the Gospel, Matt. 24:14. Isa. 40. Ps. 22:28, 29. Ps. 2:7,8. It has been much disputed whether it be possible that the heathen should be saved without the knowledge of the Gospel: some have absolutely denied it, upon the authority of those texts which universally require faith in Christ; but to this it is answered, that those texts regard only such to whom the Gospel comes, and are capable of understanding the contents of it. The truth, says Dr. Doddridge, seems to be this; that none of the heathens will be condemned for not believing the Gospel, but they are liable to condemnation for the breach of God’s natural law: nevertheless, if there be any of them in whom there is a prevailing love to the Divine Being, there seems reason to believe that, for the sake of Christ, though to them unknown, they may be accepted by God; and so much the rather, as the ancient Jews, and even the apostles, during the time of our Saviour’s abode on earth, seem to have had but little notion of those doctrines, which those who deny the salvability of the heathens are most apt to imagine, Rom. 2:10-22. Acts 10:34,35. Matt. 8:11,12. Mr. Grove, Dr. Watts, Saurin, and Mr. Newton, favour the same opinion; the latter of whom thus observes: “If we suppose a heathen brought to a sense of his misery; to a conviction that he cannot be happy without the favour of the great Lord of the world; to a feeling of guilt, and desire of mercy, and that, thought he has no explicit knowledge of a Saviour, he directs the cry of his heart to the unknown Supreme, to have mercy upon him; who will prove that such views and desires can arise in the heart of a sinner, without the energy of that Spirit which Jesus is exalted to bestow? Who will take upon him to say, that his blood has not sufficient efficacy to redeem to God a sinner who is thus disposed, though he have never heard of his name? Or who has a warrant to affirm, that the supposition I have made is in the nature of things impossible to be realized?

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A name derived from the patriarch Judah, and given to the descendants of Abraham by his eldest son Isaac. We shall here present the reader with as comprehensive a view of this singular people as we can.

1. Jews, history of the.–The Almighty promised Abraham that he would render his seed extremely numerous: this promise began to be fulfilled in Jacob’s twelve sons. In about two hundred and fifteen years they increased in Egypt from seventeen to between two and three millions, men, women, and children. While Joseph lived, they were kindly used by the Egyptian monarchs; but soon after, from a suspicion that they would become too strong for the natives, they were condemned to slavery; but the more they were oppressed, the more they grew. The midwives, and others, were therefore ordered to murder every male infant at the time of its birth; but they, shifting the horrible task, every body was then ordered to destroy the male children wherever they found them. After they had been thus oppressed for about one hundred years, and on the very day that finished the four hundred and thirtieth year from God’s first promise of a seed to Abraham, and about four hundred years after the birth of Isaac, God, by terrible plagues on the Egyptians, obliged them to liberate the Hebrews under the direction of Moses and Aaron. Pharaoh pursued them with a mighty army; but the Lord opened a passage for them through the Red Sea; and the Egyptians, in attempting to follow them, were drowned. After this, we find them in a dry and barren desert, without any provision for their journey; but God supplied them with water from a rock, and manna and quails from heaven. A little after, they routed the Amalekites, who fell on their rear. In the wilderness God delivered them the law, and confirmed the authority of Moses. Three thousand of them were cut off for worshipping the golden calf; and for loathing the manna, they were punished with a month’s eating of flesh, till a plague brake out among them; and for their rash belief of the ten wicked spies, and their contempt of the promised land, God had entirely destroyed them, had not Moses’s prayers prevented. They were condemned, however, to wander in the desert till the…

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Heads of families; a name applied chiefly to those who lived before Moses, who were both priests and princes, without peculiar places fitted for worship, Acts. 2:29. 7:8,9. Heb. 7:4.

Patriarchs among Christians, are ecclesiastical dignitaries, or bishops, so called from their paternal authority in the church. The power of patriarchs was not the same in all, but differed according to the different customs of countries, or the pleasures of kings and councils. Thus the patriarch of Constantinople grew to be a patriarch over the patriarchs of Ephesus and Caesarea, and was called the (Ecumenical and Universal Patriarch; and the patriarch of Alexandria had some prerogatives which no other patriarch but himself enjoyed; such as the right of consecrating and approving of every single bishop under his jurisdiction. The patriarchate has ever been esteemed the supreme dignity in the church: the bishop had only under him the territory of the city of which he was bishop; the metropolital superintended a province, and had for suffragans the bishops of his province; the primate was the chief of what was then called a diocess, and had several metropolitans under him; and the patriarch had under him several diocesses, composing one exarchate, and the primates themselves were under him. Usher, Pagi, De Marca, and Morinus, attribute the establishment of the grand patriarchates to the apostles themselves, who, in their opinion, according to the description of the world then given by geographers, pitched on three principal cities in the three parts of the known world, viz. Rome in Europe, Antioch in Asia, and Alexandria in Africa: and thus formed a trinity of patriarchs. Others maintain, that the name patriarch was unknown at the time of the council of Nice; and that for a long time afterwards patriarchs and primates were confounded together, as being all equally chiefs of diocesses, and equally superior to metropolitans, who were only chiefs of provinces. Hence Socrates gives the title patriarch to all the chiefs of diocesses, and reckons ten of them. In deed, it does not appear that the dignity of patriarch was appropriated to the five grand sees of Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem, till after the council of Chalcedon, in 451; for when the council of Nice regulated the limits and prerogatives of the three patriarchs of Rome, Antioch, and Alexandria, it did not give them the title of patriarchs, though it allowed them the pre-eminence and privileges thereof: thus when the council of Constantinople adjudged the second place to the bishop of Constantinople, who, till then, was only a suffragan of Heraclea, it said nothing of the patriarchate. Nor is the term patriarch found in the decree of the council of Chalcedon, whereby the fifth place is assigned to the bishop of Jerusalem; nor did these five patriarchs govern all the churches.

There were besides many independent chiefs of diocesses, who, far from owning the jurisdiction of the grand patriarchs, called themselves patriarchs, such as that of Aquileia; nor was Carthage ever subject to the patriarch of Alexandra. Mosheim (Eccles. Hist. vol. i. p. 284.) imagines that the bishops who enjoyed a certain degree of pre-eminence over the rest of their order, were distinguished by the Jewish title of patriarchs in the fourth century. The authority of the patriarchs gradually increased till about the close of the fifth century: all affairs of moment within the compass of their patriarchates came before them, either at first hand, or by appeals from the metropolitans. They consecrated bishops; assembled yearly in council the clergy of their respective districts; pronounced a decisive judgment in those cases where accusations were brought against bishops; and appointed vicars or deputies, clothed with their authority, for the preservation of order and tranquility in the remoter provinces. In short, nothing was done without consulting them, and their decrees were executed with the same regularity and respect as those of the princes.

It deserves to be remarked, however, that the authority of the patriarchs was not acknowledged through all the provinces without exception. Several districts, both in the eastern and western empires, were exempted from their jurisdiction. The Latin church had no patriarchs till the sixth century; and the churches of Gaul, Britain, &c. were never subject to the authority of the patriarch of Rome, whose authority only extended to the suburbicary provinces. There was no primacy, no exarchate, nor patriarchate, owned here; but the bishops, with the metropolitans governed the church in common.

Indeed, after the name patriarch became frequent in the West, it was attributed to the bishop of Bourges and Lyons; but it was only in the first signification, viz. as heads of diocesses. Du Cange says, that there have been some abbots who have borne the title of patriarchs.

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A memorable event which happened in the one hundred and first year, according to the Hebrew chronology, and the four hundred and first year by the Samaritan, after the flood, at the overthrow of Babel, Gen. 11. Until this period there had been but one common language, which formed a bond of union that prevented the separation of mankind into distinct nations. Writers have differed much as to the nature of this confusion, and the manner in which it was effected. Some think that no new languages were formed; but that this event was accomplished by creating a misunderstanding and variance among the builders without any immediate influence on their language; and that a distinction is to be made between confounding a language and forming new ones. Others account for this event by the privation of all language, and by supposing that mankind were under a necessity of associating together, and of imposing new names on things by common consent. Some, again, ascribe the confusion to such an indistinct remembrance of the original language which they spoke before, as made them speak it very differently: but the most common, opinion is, that God caused the builders actually to forget their former language, and each family to speak a new tongue; whence originated the various languages at present in the world. It is, however, but of little consequence to know precisely how this was effected, as the Scriptures are silent as to the manner of it; and after all that can be said, it is but conjecture still. There are some truths, however, we may learn from this part of sacred writ.–1. It teaches us God’s sovereignty and power, by which he can easily blast the greatest attempts of men to aggrandize themselves, Gen. 11:7,8.—2. God’s justice in punishing of those who, in idolizing their own fame, forget him to whom praise is due. ver. 4.–3. God’s wisdom in overruling evil for good; for by this confusion he facilitated the dispersion of mankind, in order to execute his own purposes, ver.8,9.

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Of mankind was occasioned by the confusion of tongues at the overthrow of Babel, Gen. 11:9. As to the manner of the dispersion of the posterity of Noah from the plain of Shinar, it was undoubtedly conducted with the utmost regularity and order. The sacred historian informs us, that they were divided in their lands: every one, according to his tongue, according to his family, and according to his nation, Gen. 10:5,10, 31. The ends of this dispersion were to populate the earth, to prevent idolatry, and to display the divine wisdom and power.

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A general name for all mankind who lived before the flood, including the whole human race from the creation to the deluge.

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The flood which overflowed and destroyed the earth. This flood makes one of the most considerable epochas in chronology. Its history is given by Moses, Gen. 6. and 7. Its time is fixed by the best chronologers to the year from the creation 1656, answering to the year before Christ 2293. From this flood, the state of the world is divided into diluvian and ante-diluvian.

Men who have not paid that regard to sacred history as it deserves, have cavilled at the account given of an universal deluge. Their objections principally turn upon three points: 1. The want of any direct history of that event by the profane writers of antiquity.–2. The apparent impossibility of accounting for the quantity of water necessary to overflow the whole earth to such a depth as it is said to have been.– And, 3. There appearing no necessity for an universal deluge, as the same end might have been accomplished by a partial one.

To the above arguments we oppose the plain declarations of Scripture. God declared to Noah that he was resolved to destroy every thing that had breath under heaven, or had life on the earth, by a flood of waters; such was the threatening, such was the execution. the waters, Moses assures us, covered the whole earth, buried all the mountains; every thing perished therein that had life, excepting Noah and those with him in the ark. Can an universal deluge be more clearly expressed? If the deluge had only been partial, there had been no necessity to spend an hundred years in the building of an ark, and shutting up all sorts of animals therein, in order to re-stock the world: they had been easily and readily brought from those parts of the world not overflowed into those that were; at least, all the birds never would have been destroyed, as Moses says they were, so long as they had wings to bear them to those parts where the flood did not reach. If the waters had only overflowed the neighbourhood of the Euphrates and the Tigris, they could not be fifteen cubits above the highest mountains; there was no rising that height but they must spread themselves, by the laws of gravity, over the rest of the earth; unless perhaps they had been retained there by a miracle; in that case, Moses, no doubt, would have related the miracle, as he did that of the waters of the Red Sea, &c. It may also be observed, that in regions far remote from the Euphrates and Tigris, viz. Italy, France, Switzerland, Germany, England, &c. there are frequently found in places many scores of leagues from the sea, and even in the tops of high mountains, whole trees sunk deep under ground, as also teeth and bones of animals, fishes entire, sea-shells, ears of corn, &c. petrified; which the best naturalists are agreed could never have come there but by the deluge. That the Greeks and western nations had some knowledge of the flood, has never been denied; and the Mussulmen, Chinese, and Americans, have traditions of the deluge. The ingenious Mr. Bryant, in his Mythology, has pretty clearly proved that the deluge, so far from being unknown to the heathen world at large, is in reality conspicuous throughout every one of their acts of religious worship. In India, also, Sir William Jones has discovered, that in the oldest mythological books of that country, there is such an account of the deluge, as corresponds sufficiently with that of Moses.

Various have been the conjectures of learned men as to the natural causes of the deluge. Some have supposed that a quantity of water was created on purpose, and at a proper time annihilated by Divine power. Dr. Burnet supposes the primitive earth to have been no more than a crust investing the water contained in the ocean; and in the central abyss which he and others suppose to exist in the bowels of the earth at the time of the flood, this outward crust broke in a thousand pieces, and sunk down among the water, which thus spouted up in vast cataracts, and overflowed the whole surface. Others, supposing a sufficient fund of water in the sea or abyss, think that the shifting of the earth’s centre of gravity drew after it the water out of the channel, and overwhelmed the several parts of the earth successively. Others ascribe it to the shock of a comet, and Mr. King supposes it to arise from subterraneous fires bursting forth with great violence under the sea. But are not most, if not all these hypotheses quite arbitrary, and without foundation from the words of Moses? It is, perhaps, in vain to attempt accounting for this event by natural causes, it being altogether miraculous and supernatural, as a punishment to men for the corruption then in the world. Let us be satisfied with the sources which Moses gives us, namely, the fountains of the great deep broken up, and the waters rushed out from the hidden abyss of the bowels of the earth, and the clouds poured down their rain incessantly. Let it suffice us to know, that all the elements are under God’s power; that he can do with them as he pleases, and frequently in ways we are ignorant of, in order to accomplish his own purposes.

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Is a word which, in its proper sense, signifies a sign or indication of some future event, especially of an alarming nature. Against the belief of omens it is observed, that it is contrary to every principle of sound philosophy; and whoever has studied the writings of St. Paul must be convinced that it is inconsistent with the spirit of genuine Christianity. We cannot pretend to discuss the subject here, but will present the reader with a quotation on the other side of the question. “Though it be true,” says Mr. Toplady, “that all omens are not worthy of observation, and though they should never be so regarded as to shock our fortitude, or diminish our confidence in God, still they are not to be constantly despised. Small incidents have sometimes been prelusive to great events; nor is there any superstition in noticing these apparent prognostications, though there may be much superstition in being either too indiscriminately or too deeply swayed by them.”–Toplady’s Works, vol. iv. p. 192.

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The expelling of devils from persons possessed, by means of conjuration and prayers. The Jews made great pretences to this power. Josephus tells several wonderful tales of the great success of several exorcists. One Eleazer, a Jew, cured many daemoniacs, he says, by means of a root set in a ring. This root, with the ring, was held under the patient’s nose, and the devil was forthwith evacuated. The most part of conjurers of this class were impostors, each pretending to a secret nostrum or charm which was an overmatch for the devil. Our Saviour communicated to his disciples a real power over daemons, or at least over the diseases said to be occasioned by daemons.

Exorcism makes a considerable part of the superstition of the church of Rome, the ritual of which forbids the exorcising any person without the bishop’s leave. The ceremony is performed at the lower end of the church, towards the door. The exorcist first signs the possessed person with the sign of the cross, makes him kneel, and sprinkles him with holy water. Then follow the litanies, psalms, and prayer; after which the exorcist asks the devil his name, and adjures him by the mysteries of the Christian religion not to afflict the person any more; then, laying his right hand on the daemoniac’s head, he repeats the form of exorcism, which is this: “I exorcise thee, unclean spirit, in the name of Jesus Christ: tremble, O Satan, thou enemy of the faith, thou foe of mankind, who hast brought death into the world; who hast deprived men of life, and hast rebelled against justice, thou seducer of mankind, thou root of all evil, thou source of avarice, discord, and envy.” The Romanists likewise exorcise houses and other places supposed to be haunted by unclean spirits; and the ceremony is much the same with that for a person possessed.

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Or MAGIANS, an ancient religious sect of Persia and other eastern countries, who, abominating the adoration of images, worshipped God only by fire, in which they were directly opposite to the Sabians. The Magi believed that there were two principles, one the cause of all good, and the other the cause of all evil; in which opinion they were followed by the sect of the Manichees. They called the good principle Jazden, and Ormuzd, and the evil principle Ahraman or Aherman. The former was by the Greeks called Oromasdes, and the latter Arimanius. The reason of their worshipping fire was, because they looked upon it as the truest symbol of Oromasdes, or the good god; as darkness was of Arimanius, or the evil god. In all their temples they had fire continually burning upon their altars, and in their own private houses.

The religion of the Magi fell into disgrace on the death of those ringleaders of that sect who had usurped the sovereignty after the death of Cambyses; and the slaughter that was made of the chief men among them sunk it so low, that Sabianism every where prevailed against it; Darius and most of his followers on that occasion going over to it. But the affection which the people had for the religion of their forefathers not being easily to be rooted out, the famous impostor Zoroaster, some ages after, undertook to revive and reform it.

The chief reformation this pretended prophet made in the Magian religion was in the first principle of it; for he introduced a god superior both to Ommasdes and Arimanius. Dr. Prideaux is of opinion that Zoroaster took the hint of this alteration in their theology from the prophet Isaiah, who brings in God, saying to Cyrus king of Persia, I am the Lord, and there is none else: I form the light, and create darkness; I make peace and create evil, ch. 45:7. In short, Zoroaster held that there was one supreme independent Being, and under him two principles, or angels; one the angel of light or good, and the other the angel of evil or darkness; that there is a perpetual struggle between them, which shall last to the end of the world; that then the angel of darkness and his disciples shall go into a world of their own, where they shall be punished in everlasting darkness; and the angel of light and his disciples shall also go into a world of their own, where they shall be rewarded in everlasting light.
Zoroaster was the first who built fire-temples; the Magians before his time performing their devotion on the tops of hills and in the open air, by which means they were exposed to the inconvenience of rain and tempests, which often extinguished their sacred fires. To procure the greater veneration for these sacred fires, he pretended to have received fire from heaven, which he placed on the altar of the first fire- temple he erected, which was that of Xis, in Media, from whence they say it was propagated to all the rest. The Magian priests kept their sacred fire with the greatest diligence, watching it day and night, and never suffering it to be extinguished. They fed it only with wood stript of the bark, and they never blowed it with their breath or with bellows, for fear of polluting it; to do either of these was death by their law. The Magian religion as reformed by Zoroaster, seems in many things to be built upon the plan of the Jewish. The Jews had their sacred fire which came down from heaven upon the altar of burnt offerings, which they never suffered to go out, and with which all their sacrifices and oblations were made Zoroaster, in like manner, pretended to have brought his holy fire from heaven; and as the Jews had a Shekinah of the divine presence among them, resting over the mercy seat in the Holy of Holies, Zoroaster likewise told his Magians to look upon the sacred fire in their temples as a Shekinah, in which God especially dwelt.–From these and some other instances of analogy between the Jewish and the Magian religion, Prideaux infers that Zoroaster had been first educated and brought up in the Jewish religion.

The priests of the Magi were the most skilled mathematicians and philosophers of the age in which they lived, insomuch that a learned man and a Magian became equivalent terms. This proceeded so far, that the vulgar, looking on their knowledge to be more than natural, imagined they were inspired by some supernatural power. And hence those who practised wicked and diabolical arts, taking upon themselves the name of Magians, drew on it that ill signification which the word Magician now bears among us.

The Magian priests were all of one tribe; as among the Jews, none but the son of a priest was capable of bearing that office among them. The royal family among the Persians, as long as this sect subsisted, was always of the sacerdotal tribe. They were divided into three orders; the inferior clergy, the superintendents, or bishops, and the archimagus, or arch-priest.

Zoroaster had the address to bring over Darius to his new-reformed religion, notwithstanding the strongest opposition of the Sabians; and from that time it became the national religion of all that country, and so continued for many ages after, till it was supplanted by that of Mahomet. Zoroaster composed a book containing the principles of the Magian religion. It is called Zendavesta, and by contraction Zend.


A science which teaches to produce surprising and extraordinary effects; a correspondence with bad spirits, by means of which a person is able to perform surprising things. This was strictly forbidden by the law of God, on pain of death, Lev. 19:31.

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A supernatural power which persons were formerly supposed to obtain the possession of, by entering into a compact with the Devil. Witchcraft was universally believed in Europe till the 16th century, and even maintained its ground with tolerable firmness till the middle of the 17th. The latest witchcraft phrensy was in New England in 1692, when the execution of witches became a calamity more dreadful than the sword or the pestilence. Some have denied the existence of witchcraft altogether. That such persons have been found among men seems, however, evident from the Scriptures, Deut. 18:10. Exod. 22:18. Gal. 5:20. Lev. 19:13. Lev. 20:6. The inconsistency of holding such persons in estimation, or having recourse to fortune-tellers, diviners, charmers, and such like, appear in this, 1. It is imitating the heathens, and giving countenance to the foolish superstition and absurd practices of pagans.–2. Such characters are held in abhorrence by the Lord, and their very existence forbidden, Lev. 20:6. Exod. 20:18.–3. He threatens to punish those who consult them, Lev. 20:6.—4. It is wrong to have any thing to do with them, as it is setting an awful example to others.–5. It is often productive of the greatest evils, deception, discord, disappointment, and incredible mischief.

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An adversary to Jesus Christ. There have been various opinions concerning the Antichrist mentioned in the Scripture, 1 John 2:18. Some have held that the Jews are to be reputed as Antichrist; others Caligula; others Mahomet; others Simon Magus; others infidelity; and others, that the devil himself is the Antichrist. Most authors agree, however, that it applies to the church of Rome. Grotius, Hammond, Bossuet, and others, supposed Rome pagan to be designed; but Rome Christian seems more evident, for John “saw the beast rise up out of the sea,” Rev. 13:1. Now, as heathen Rome had risen and been established long before his time, this could not refer to the Roman empire then subsisting, but to a form of government afterwards to arise. As, therefore, none did arise, after Rome was broken to pieces by the barbarians, but that of the papal power, it must be considered as applying to that. The descriptions also, of the beast as the great apostacy, the man of sin, the mystery of iniquity, and the son of perdition, will apply only to Christian Rome. See Daniel 7:2 Thess 2 and Rev. 13. Besides the time allowed for the continuance of the beast will not apply to heathen Rome; for power was given to the beast for 1260 years, whereas heathen Rome did not last 400 years after this prophecy was delivered. Authors have differed as to the time when Antichrist arose. Some suppose that his reign did not commence till he became a temporal prince, in the year 756, when Pepin wrested the exarchate of Ravenna from the Lombards, and made it over to the pope and his successors. Others think that it was in 727, when Rome and the Roman dukedom came from the Greeks to the Roman pontiff. Mede dates this rise in the year 456; but others, and I think with the greatest reason, place it in the year 606. Now, it is generally agreed that the reign of Antichrist is 1260 years; consequently, if his rise is not to be reckoned till he was possessed of secular authority, then his fall must be when this power is taken away. According to the first opinion, he must have possessed his temporal power till the year 2016; according to the second, he must have possessed it till the year 1987. If this rise began, according to Mede, in 456, then he must have fallen in 1716. Now that these dates were wrong, circumstances have proved; the first and second being too late, and the third too early. As these hypotheses, therefore, must fall to the ground, it remains for us to consider why the last mentioned is the more probable. It was about the year 606 that pope Boniface III. by flattering Phocas, the emperor of Constantinople, one of the worst of tyrants, procured for himself the title of Universal Bishop. The bishops of Rome and Constantinople had long been struggling for this honour; at last, it was decided in favour of the bishop of Rome; and from this time he was raised above all others, and his supremacy established by imperial authority: it was now, also, that the most profound ignorance, debauchery, and superstition, reigned. From this time the popes exerted all their power in promoting the idolatrous worship of images, saints, reliques, and angels. The church was truly deplorable; all the clergy were given up to the most flagrant and abominable acts of licentiousness. Places of worship resembled the temples of heathens more than the churches of Christians; in fine, nothing could exceed the avarice, pride, and vanity of all the bishops, presbyters, deacons, and even the cloistered monks! All this fully answered the description St. Paul gave of Antichrist, 2 Thess. 2 It is necessary also to observe, that this epoch agrees best with the time when, according to prophecy, he was to be revealed. The rise of Antichrist was to be preceded by the dissolution of the Roman empire, the establishment of a different form of government in Italy, and the division of the empire into ten kingdoms; all these events taking place, make it very probable that the year 606 was the time of his rise. Nor have the events of the last century made it less probable. The power of the pope was never so much shaken as within a few years: “his dominion is, in a great measure, taken from him;” and every thing seems to be going on gradually to terminate his authority; so that, by the time this 1260 years shall be concluded, we may suppose that Antichrist shall be finally destroyed.

In this we have to rejoice, that, however various, the opinions of the learned may be as to the time when Antichrist rose, it is evident to all that he is fast declining, and will certainly fall, Rev. 18:1,5. What means the Almighty may farther use, the exact time when, and the manner how, all shall be accomplished, we must leave to him who ordereth all things after the counsel of his own will.

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