practice. This preaching, or giving the sense, in the process of time, came to be greatly abused, and it was thought allowable to make the Scriptures mean not only what they were obviously intended to signify, but every possible sense was put upon them which human ingenuity could devise. Thus the original text became obscured instead of elucidated by their expositions; and so, according to the complaint of our Saviour, they made the word of God of none effect by their traditions. And it must be confessed, that modern preaching has gone very much the same way. Creeds and catechisms have taken the place of the traditions of the elders, and we go into the house of God and hear a passage of Scripture introduced, not to be explained according to its original meaning and connexion, but to be made the apology for the introduction of all sorts of human conceits and inventions; or if interpreted at all, it is made to square with the dogmas of some doctor or council, that has undertaken to interpose between God's word and the soul of man, which He has made amenable to himself alone.

The services of the synagogue consisted in prayers, singing, reading the law and the prophets, interpreting them to the people, and preaching. They commenced and closed with a prayer, which in some of its expressions closely resembles the form which was left us by the Saviour. “Hallowed be his great name in the world, which he hath created according to his good pleasure, and may his kingdom be established. May we behold his redemption spring up and flourish. May his Messiah suddenly appear in our days, and in the days of all the house of Israel to deliver his people.”

In singing they made especial use of the eightyfourth psalm.

“How amiable are thy tabernacles, O Lord of hosts ; My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the Lord; My heart and my flesh crieth for the living God.”

Some of the prayers which were used in that service breathe the true spirit of devotion, and are clothed in language which bears a near resemblance to the Psalms in beauty and sublimity. Take for instance, the first of the nineteen : “ Blessed be thou, O Lord our God, the God of our fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob, the great God, powerful and tremendous, the high God, bountifully dispensing benefits; the Creator and Possessor of the Universe, who rememberest the good deeds of our fathers, and in thy love sendest a Redeemer to those who are descended from them, for thy name's sake, O King, our Helper, our Saviour, and our Shield.”

Such is a mere outline of the institution and services of the synagogue, and let it suffice to say, that they were so wisely contrived as to answer the end for which they were designed. They supplied the deficiencies of the temple service. They enlightened the mind, as well as cultivated the devotional sentiments. They kept alive a knowledge of the oracles of God, and effectually cured all tendency to idolatry, and through all the bloody reigns of the successors of Alexander, and the military despotism of the Romans, kept

them loyal to their invisible Sovereign, who had separated them from all the nations of the earth.

The synagogue was the cradle of Christianity. The Christian church was borne in its infancy upon the bosom of the Jewish. It was in the synagogues of Judea that the Gospel was first preached by Christ himself. It was in the synagogue of his native village that after reading, he appropriated to himself that beautiful passage of Isaiah: “ The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captive, the opening of the prison to them that are bound, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord,” thereby claiming to be that great prophet that was to come into the world. And when, after his ascension, the apostles were sent forth to teach all nations, they found a place to commence their labors in every considerable city of the Roman empire.

They entered the Jewish synagogue, heretofore devoted to the posterity of Abraham alone; they abolished its sectarian and peculiar rites, set wide open its doors to the nations, appropriated all that was valuable in its ministrations, and in a few centuries enthroned the God of Abraham in the reverence of the Roman world. To the temple and the synagogue then, the offspring of Jewish piety and wisdom, are we indebted for the model of our Christian institutions, which have moulded all modern civilization, and have been the chief means of realizing God's ancient promise to Abraham, “ that in his seed all nations of the earth should be blessed." To these England, our mother country, owes her moral and physical supremacy in the world. On the preservation of these institutions rests every hope which we can cherish for the happiness, the prosperity, and even the existence of our own country. And if the time shall ever come when the Sabbath shall be desecrated, and the voice of prayer and instruction no longer heard in the sanctuary, then may we be sure that the sun of our prosperity is about to set in blood, and the day of our destruction draweth nigh.



Lecture VII.


John 4: 9.–Then saith the woman of Samaria unto him, How is it that thou being a Jew, askest drink of me, who am a woman of Samaria? For the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans.

A Jew, at the time of Christ, would not have thought himself complimented to have heard the Samaritans reckoned among Jewish sects, and perhaps, in strictness, they cannot be considered as such. But as many of them were originally of Jewish extraction, and received the laws of Moses as their fundamental constitution, lived in the very centre of Palestine, and are often introduced in the New Testament, a history of Christianity would be imperfect which should neglect to give some account of them.

The reign of Solomon, though so glorious to himself and so advantageous to his nation, sowed the seeds of disunion and dissolution in his kingdom. The temple, and the vast public works which he completed, could not have been constructed without heavy taxation. That was borne, during his reign, with patience

« ElőzőTovább »