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94 MASONIC FORM OF THE FIRST CHRISTIAN CHURCH.
their fancy, and wished for in vain—the idea of a community united by no other bond than the golden chain of universal love.
By the foregoing, it appears to be demonstrated beyond a doubt that Christianity at its birth enveloped itself in secrecy and mystery. Divine and unspeakably important as its idea was, it did not disdain these human agencies which, in all the institutions of antiquity, were found so useful in winning the attachment and training the thoughts of the people. While Christianity was unquestionably the highest and divinest revelation of eternal truth, and brought to man the means of solicitation from sin, it sought in its material organism to provide for many of the wants and to alleviate many of the distresses of the outward life, which all human institutions had overlooked. The Christian Brotherhood was based on a new social idea, and the only one that can ever renovate society, and that idea could in no way be so well illustrated as in that secret order in which it was first enshrined. Protected by its mysterious veils from the assaults of its enemies, the gospel worked its way in the world, and finally gained the material dominion thereof, and promises in the end to subdue all things to itself.
Essene an free masonry.
WHEN Solomon had matured his magnificent design of a Temple to be consecrated to the Most High, he found it impossible to carry that design into execution without foreign assistance. The Hebrew nation, constantly struggling for its material existence, and just rising to the condition of a civilized people, had made little proficiency in science and architecture, and especially the ornamental arts. There were few artificers, and probably no architects in Judea.
Impelled, we know not by what motives, Hiram, king of Tyre and Sidon, sent to Solomon a society of architects, under the presidency of Hiram, the Sidonian, to assist him in building the Temple, or rather to superintend the construction of that magnificent edifice.* These builders, like the Collegia Fabrorum of ancient Rome and the Grecian orders, were without doubt a secret society; and it is very reasonable to suppose, that after the Temple was completed, a branch of so useful a society would be planted permanently in Judea. This conjecture is confirmed by the fact, that many years afterward some of the Hebrew Prophets condemn the secret Mysteries of the Sidonians, probably through a misapprehension of their real import, or because they had really degenerated, and been perverted to evil uses.
* 2 Chron. ii. 3–15.
The secret principle thus introduced among the Jews would not be likely soon to die out. But in the absence of all historical records regarding the particular forms it might have assumed, it would be presumption to propose any theory thereon. All that is certainly known is, that the secret Mysteries of the Cabiri were celebrated in Syria from the remotest times, and were carried to Jerusalem by Hiram, the chief of the Sidonian architects, who built the Temple of Solomon. After this period, through the long lapse of centuries, although secret societies must have existed in Judea, we have no account of them, only in a few remote allusions by some of the Hebrew writers.
In the time of the Maccabees, when Philosophy came to be cultivated by the Jews, and a taste for learning began to manifest itself, schools and sects were undoubtedly formed, modeled after the Grecian societies. To this epoch some writers refer the rise of the SOCIETY OF THE ESSEN,* or the Essenes. This may or may not be true. What is true, how ever, is, that very early in the beginning of the Christian era such a society did exist, and was a well known order among the Jews. It is much to be regretted that more ample materials have not been preserved out of which to construct the history of this extraordinary association. All our information is derived from Josephus and Philo, the former claiming to have been a member of the brotherhood ; although, if this be true, it is certain he never advanced beyond the first degree. As his account is important, and comprises everything that can be known, we give it entire in his own words.*
* Essen is the name of the jeweled plate containing twelve precious stones which the High Priest wore upon his breast.
“And now Archelaus's part of Judea was reduced into a province; and Coponius, one of the equestrian order among the Romans, was sent as a procurator, having the power [of life and death] put into his hands by Cæsar. Under his administration it was that a certain Galilean, whose name was Judas, prevailed with his countrymen to revolt, and said they were cowards if they would endure to pay a tax to the Romans, and would, after God, submit to mortal men as their lords. This man was a teacher of a peculiar sect of his own, and was not at all like the rest of those their leaders.
“For there are three philosophical sects among the Jews: the followers of the first of which are the Pharisees, of the second the Sadducees, and the third sect, which pretends to a severer discipline, are called Essenes. These last are Jews by birth, and seem to have a greater affection for one another than the other sects have. These Essenes reject pleasures as an evil, but esteem continence, and the conquest over our passions, to be virtue. They neglect wedlock, but choose out other persons' children while they are pliable and fit for learning, and esteem them to be of their kindred, and form them according to their own manners. They do not absolutely deny the fitness of marriage, and the succession of mankind thereby continued ; but they guard against the lascivious behavior of women, and are persuaded that none of them preserve their fidelity to one man.
* Vide Josph. Antiq., b. ii. c. viii.
“These men are despisers of riches, and so very communicative as raises our admiration. Nor is there any one to be found among them who hath more than another; for it is a law among them that those who come to them must let what they have be common to the whole order, insomuch that among them all there is no appearance of poverty, or excess of riches, but every one's possessions are intermingled with every other's possessions, and so there is, as it were, one patrimony among all the brethren. They think that oil is a defilement; and if any one of them be anointed without his own approbation, it is wiped off his body; for they think