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a common man in the town of Nazareth, he regularly attended the Synagogue of the place, as one of its members and used often to bear part as a reader in its stated services and we find him, directly after he had assumed his official character, clothed with the power of the Holy Ghost, addressing the same congregation as a preacher; in which capacity he continued afterwards to give instruction in these Jewish churches all over Galilee, and in other parts of Judea, wherever he came. (Luke iv. 14-44.) As it is not to be supposed that he taught in this way, in any casc, without the consent of the rulers of the Synagogues, if not by their express invitation, it has seemed strange to some, that a person so much disliked as he was, by the religious leaders of his country, should have been suffered, to such an extent, to enjoy this great advantage for the dissemination of his doctrine among the people: but we are to remember, that he was not only a Jew himself, of fair and unblemished character, and strictly attentive to all the requirements of the law, but a man at the same time, of acknowledged wisdom and deep skill in the knowledge of religion, who had full claim to the title of Rabbi or Doctor; and that he was a prophet withal, "mighty in deed and word before God, and all the people," held in honour and glorified by the general multitude, notwithstanding the humble style in which he lived, and the weight of reproach that was flung upon him by the great and the learned of the land: so that there was no reason or room whatever, to hinder him from speaking in the Synagogues; and those who had the direction of them, even if they had been otherwise disposed in their own hearts, could not refuse to allow the privilege, where the right was so universally acknowledged, out of the respect which they were constrained to exercise toward popular sentiment. The apostles, who were also endowed with the highest ability to teach, made use of the same opportunity for preaching to the people ; and for a time, the Gospel uttered its loudest sound, week after week, from the pulpit of the Synagogue: but it soon became too offensive to Jewish prejudice and pride, to be quietly endured, and was, accordingly, expelled, to seek for itself a separate accommodation, in some different quarter. We have on record, a full exhortation delivered on one
occasion by Paul, in the Synagogue of Antioch, in Pisidia, which may give us some idea of the style in which he was accustomed to improve such opportunity for proclaiming the glorious doctrines of the cross. (Acts xiii. 14-41.)
It has been already intimated, that it was the business of those who had the supreme direction of the Synagogue, not only to superintend and direct its public worship, but to exercise some sort of government, also, over the congregation that belonged to it. They were invested with authority to take cognizance of particular offences and inflict discipline upon such of their society as were found guilty of them. They might employ, it seems, private reproof and public rebuke; and when the offence was held particularly grievous, or these milder means proved unavailing to bring the offender to repentance and amendment, the more terrible penalty of excommunication was at their disposal. This, we are told, might be either partial, in which case the person on whom it fell was cut off from the liberty of free intercourse with every person out of his own family, for the space of thirty days, though he was still allowed to enter the Synagogue, provided he came not within four cubits of any body that was in it; and this was the LESSER EXCOMMUNICATION: Or it was complete, excluding him from all the privileges of the Synagogues, entirely, and cutting him off as a heathen man, from the worshipping assemblies of his people; and then it was denominated the GREATER EXCOMMUNICATION. The design of each was to produce in the of fender, humiliation and sorrow for his conduct, and to bring about a reformation of temper and practice, in whatever respect he had been found guilty; whence it was common to inflict the heavier sentence, only after the other had been made use of once or twice, without accomplishing its purpose. It is not clear that these two sorts of excommunication were so distinctly recognized in the time of our Saviour, as they came to be at a later period; but we have sufficient notice that the punishment itself was in general use, and, as it seems, under its most severe form, so as to be held in universal dread by the people. The malice of our Saviour's enemies took advantage of the power which was thus lodged in their hands, to hinder the influence of his doctrine: they
agreed, and caused it to be understood, that if any man did confess that he was Christ, he should be put out of the Synagogue; and many, we are told, even such as stood high in society, were deterred, by this consideration, from making such a confession, though they were convinced of his true character; for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God. (John ix. 22, 34. xii. 42.) The rulers of the synagogue had power to inflict, also, when it was deemed proper, the punishment of scourging, which, as we have already seen, might consist of any number of stripes under forty, but was in no case allowed to exceed that amount. Though full enough of severity and shame, it was not reckoned so disgraceful or terrible, by any means, as excommunication. Our Saviour warned his disciples to expect the one as well as the other. (Matt. x. 17. John xvi. 2.)
The Jewish Synagogue is entitled to our careful attention, on its own account, as an institution full of wisdom in all its general arrangement, to which the true religion has been greatly indebted in ancient time: but it derives a still stronger claim upon our interests and regard, from the consideration, that our Lord was pleased to have it used as a model or pattern, in the original constitution of the Christian Church; so that both in its service and in its government, as all who have thoroughly examined the matter are agreed, the latter became a lively image of the former; and though in certain respects altered, of course, to a somewhat different aspect, was made to exhibit, on the whole, the general outline of its features, with clear and striking resemblance. Hence, a familiar acquaintance with the order and usages of the Synagogue, cannot fail to contribute much to a right understanding of what we find written in the New Testament relative to the manner of the early churches; and even the most general information on the subject sheds light, in this way, on such points, and is adapted to guard the mind from error, and help it to a fair conception of truth, when it attempts to interpret the language of revelation concerning them. As the Synagogues had their presidents, their companies of elders, and their deacons, so had the churches; and as an evidence that the officers of one were considered as corresponding in every respect with those of the other, we find the names, as well as the general powers,
with which they were distinguished in the Jewish congregations, faithfully appropriated to them in the assemblies of the Christians. (Acts vi. 1-6. xx. 17, 28. Philip. i. 1. 1 Tim. iii. 1—13. v. 17. Tit. i. 5, 7. Heb. xiii. 7, 17. 1 Pet. v. 1-4.) We find, too, as far as we have any information on the subject, the same mode of worship, in a great degree, with that of the Synagogues, practised in the early churches; only those who had the direction of it, in the latter case, were not accustomed to employ other persons to take the lead in religious exercises, under their eye, and in their stead, in the same way as the rulers of the Synagogues used to do; but in almost all cases exercised, themselves, in this respect, the right, for the use of which they were responsible. Thus there was no such a person in the churches as the angel of the Synagogue, who, without any official character, was employed to go before the congregation in their prayers: the presiding elder, or bishop, himself, discharged this duty, as well as that of addressing the people with religious instruction; on which account, as it seems, he was sometimes distinguished by the appellation of the angel of the Church,* as we find the bishops of the seven churches of Asia, severally denominated in the second and third chapters of the book of Revelation. It may be remarked, also, that the Lord's Supper, which was regularly celebrated in the Christian churches every week, was an institution altogether peculiar to their worship, to which there was nothing that corresponded, in any way whatever, in the services of the Synagogue.
The only question respecting these angels, or bishops of the Churches, is, whether they were pastors of single churches, or diocesan bishops, who superintended all the churches within a certain district, and who were superior, by their office, to presbyters. We are not disposed to enter into a discussion of this controverted point. It manifestly does not relate to the vital principles of Christianity. Let every man investigate this subject for himself, and be fully persuaded in his own mind. And let not the sweet bond of brotherly love be severed by differences of opinion respecting points of external order and government."
THE Jews, before the time of Christ, had become very extensively dispersed. Various causes had contributed to scatter them into every country of the civilized world, and they did not fail to make proselytes to their religion wherever they happened to reside. Thus God was pleased, in his sovereign wisdom, to prepare the way for the dissemination of the light of the gospel, among all nations; for, not only was some knowledge of the first principles of all true religion diffused abroad by this means, but an opening was secured for the introduction of Christianity into every part of the Roman empire; since, in every important place to which the Apostles came, they found those that professed the Jewish religion; and being Jews themselves, were always allowed at first to preach in the Synagogues. These Jews, dispersed among the Gentiles, (John vii. 35,) carefully preserved themselves, wherever they dwelt, separate from other people, and still continued to cherish, with religious fidelity, their connexion with the temple of Jerusalem; not only paying for its use the yearly half-shekel tax, as regularly as their brethren in Palestine, but making it their practice, also, to visit it personally, for the celebration of their great festivals, as often as circumstances would allow; or, when this could not be done, to send gifts by the hands of others. (Acts ii. 5-11.) In Egypt, indeed, where a great number of them resided, they had erected, about 150 years before the time of our Saviour, a new temple, exactly after the plan of that which was at Jerusalem, and established in it a separate system of public worship, under the care of Levites and regular priests of the family of Aaron, justifying the measure by a wrong interpretation of Isaiah xix. 18, 19; but still the superiority of the temple at Jerusalem was acknowledged, and the privilege of being connected with it, by no means relinquished; so that the Jews of Pales