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altogether from its consecration, after it was put up, without being affected at all by any previous circumstances. (Luke vii. 4, 5.) This consecration was merely by prayer, with very little ceremony or formality.
We are told by Jewish tradition, that the general form of Synagogues was always the same. They consisted, in some measure, of two parts: one of which was called the temple, and was designed to have some correspondence with the Most Holy Place of the Sanctuary, being, like it, retired in the back part of the building, and furnished also with an ark or chest, made after the model of the ark of the covenant, in which was kept a copy of the law for the service of the place; the other, which occupied the principal body of the house, was appropriated for the use of the people, when they assembled for worship, and was provided accordingly, with ranges of seats or pews, for their accommodation. Before the place where the ark was kept, and toward the middle of the Synagogue, was erected a low pulpit or platform, with a desk in front, where the law was read and expounded before the congregation. A few seats were placed behind this pulpit, on which those that were called elders were accustomed to sit, with their backs turned towards the ark, and their faces directed toward the rest of the people, who were all arranged round about in front of the reader, facing the end of the building in which the sacred chest of the law had its retreat. Those seats which were farthest up toward the pulpit, and the place where the ark was deposited, particularly the seats on which the elders sat, seem to have been the chief seats of the Synagogue, which it was considered honourable to occupy, and which, we are told, the hypocritical Pharisees were accustomed so much to covet on that account. (Matt. xxiii. 6.) The women, it is said, did not sit among the men, but in a sort of balcony or gallery that was raised along one side, from which they could see into the body of the house, and hear all the service of the place without being themselves much exposed to view.
There is a different plan of building Synagogues in use, at the present day, in the East, more completely accommodated to the manner of the ancient temple at Jerusalem. They are made to consist of a court with porches
round about; a chapel in the middle of it (answering to the Sanctuary in the Court of the Israelites,) which is supported simply upon four columns, and has within it the desk on which the law is spread out and read; and a covered hall near this last, furnished with seats, for the people to occupy when the weather happens to be stormy or cold. It has been imagined by some, that the ancient Synagogues were constructed upon this plan; but since the New Testament leaves us without any hint to determine the matter, it becomes us rather to acquiesce in the general tradition upon the subject, and to adopt as correct, the representation already given.
It was a rule, we are told, that no place might have a Synagogue erected in it, unless it contained at least as many as ten persons of some learning and respectability, who were in such easy worldly circumstances that they could always have leisure to take care of its affairs, and devote some attention to the study of the law. A congregation, it was supposed, might not consist of any number smaller than this; though there was no limit, other than covenience, to the greatness it might have; and in this way, accordingly, it was secured, that so many, at least, should be found in every assembly gathered for religious worship for it was the duty of the ten men selected for the purpose, to take care that their Synagogue should never suffer a defect in its service in this respect. These select men seem always to have sustained the dignity of elders, (which title had respect not so much to their age, as to their gravity and authority,) and to have had their place, accordingly, on the seats that were fixed behind the pulpit. There is another opinion, however, respecting these ten men of leisure, as they were called, not without considerable reason in its favour, which represents them to have been only common persons hired to be always present at the Synagogue, when worship was to be performed, that there might be a certainty of having, at all times, a sufficient congregation for the purpose. It is a Jewish saying, that the Divine Majesty will not dwell among less than ten, that is, that God will not meet graciously with a less number assembled for public worship; and he is represented as turning away in anger from a Synagogue
that should happen to be found without that complement : but our Saviour inculcated a very different doctrine, for the encouragement of the pious in every age; If two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven: for where Two or THREE are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them. (Matt. xviii. 19, 20.)
Every Synagogue had its officers, appointed to manage its government, and conduct its religious services. The supreme direction of its affairs was committed to the care of a council of elders, and one styled the ruler of the Synagogue, who sustained among them the place of a President. These elders were persons of respectable and influential character in society, and such as had more than ordinary acquaintance with the law, so as to be qualified to take part with their President, and assist him with their counsel, in the government of the congregation. It seems, that, on account of their authority in this way, they also, at times, were called rulers of the Synagogue, though the title properly belonged only to the officer just mentioned, who was placed at their head. (Acts xiii. 15.)-Then, besides its presiding ruler and its company of elders, each Synagogue had its deacons, or collectors of alms, whose business it was to receive the charitable contributions of the congregation from week to week, and disribute them among the poor, as they might happen to be found in need of such assistance. It was usual, we are told, to have always three persons appointed to manage this business; who, although they acquired some considerable authority from the nature of their charge, were yet completely under the control of the superior officers just noticed, and could never dispose of the alms that were put into their hands in any way which these might refuse to sanction with their approbation.-There were also certain ministers, or attendants, of a still more subordinate character, who had particular employment assigned to them connected with the general care of the Synagogue and its service; one especially, whose business it was to take the book of the law out of the chest in which it was kept, and give it to the person who was called upon to read, and afterwards to re
ceive it from him again and restore it to its place; who was entrusted, moreover, as it seems, with the charge of having the house in order for worship, took care that it should be swept, when necessary, and kept clean, and still opened the doors and closed them before and after the times of meeting. (Luke iv. 20.)
It was the duty of the ruler of the Synagogue to preside in all its meetings, and to superintend and direct the whole of its worship. It was not considered necessary, however, that he should himself, or that some one of the elders associated with him should always take the lead personally in every religious exercise; though the whole right of doing this was vested altogether in their body; and the exercise of it, accordingly, as well as its responsibility, seemed naturally to devolve upon them alone: it was held to be suf ficient, notwithstanding, if it proceeded merely under their immediate direction and oversight; so that other persons might, by their order or permission, perform such service with perfect propriety: and hence it was actually the custom, to have it performed, to a considerable extent, in this way altogether. Thus in every meeting, different individuals, who had nothing to do with the direction and government of the Synagogue, used to take part in conducting its public exercises of worship, under the eye of the president and elders. One of these exercises was to lead in the prayers of the congregation; another, to read a particular portion of the Scriptures; another, to address the people. The person who performed the first mentioned service used to be denominated the angel of the Synagogue, that is, its delegate, or representative, appointed to address the throne of God in the name, and on the behalf, of the whole assembly. It was usual to have some one appointed to officiate in this character with regular and stated duty; and it was a maxim at the same time, that the individual selected for the purpose should be one of the greatest dignity and worth, eminent above most others in the congregation for wisdom and virtue, and, if possible, clothed with the venerable solemnity of age and the experience of a multitude of days. In some cases, however, the angel of the Synagogue was constituted merely for a single occasion, and the person chosen to officiate sustained the character VOL. II.
no longer than the particular service lasted which he was called upon to perform. The other exercises that have been mentioned were not appropriated, in any case, as stated services, to any particular individuals to the exclusion of others; but different persons were in the habit of officiating on different occasions, as they were invited to come forward by the president, either to read or to speak, or as they received his approbation when they presented themselves of their own accord for the purpose, and he found no reason to deny them the liberty. The privilege of addressing the people, however, was considered much more important than that of reading, and was, accordingly, allowed with much less freedom: it was, in fact as it appears, confined in a considerable measure to those who had the supreme direction, the president either exercising the right himself, or yielding place only to some one of the company of elders of which he was the head; and so far as it was not thus confined, (for it was still not uncommon to allow it to persons who held no office in the Synagogue,) it seems to have been a principle that no one should be suffered to teach in this way who was not in a more than ordinary degree versed in the knowledge of the law, and so entitled to rank among the wise men, as such used to be styled, by way of distinction from the common unlettered multitude.
As those who ruled the Synagogue, and superintended its regular service, were called presbyters or elders, so they were denominated, (especially, as it would seem, the president and such of the others as were accustomed to take part in teaching,) by a figure familiar to the east, pastors, or shepherds; and had the title also of bishops, or, to use a different word of the same meaning, overseers, in reference to the watchful care and authority which it was their duty to employ in the government of the congregation for its general welfare and the right order of its public worship.
We find no express mention in the New Testament of public worship in the Synagogues, on any other day of the week than the Sabbath. Jewish tradition, however, asserts that it was common anciently, as well as in more modern times, to have it regularly celebrated also on the second and fifth days, (our Monday and Thursday,) and on all festiva' days besides, such as new moon, &c. We are told too, that