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same time, the place in which the assembly is convened. This community of signification, indeed, is so remarkable, that in the Septuagint translation of the Old Testament, the Hebrew word for expressing an Assembly, is thirty-seven times rendered Synagogue (Euvaywyn) and seventy times translated Church, (Exxandia), the precise word employed in the New Testament to express a Christian assembly. In fact, in one instance, a Christian congregation is by an inspired writer denominated a Synagogue. The Apostle James says— My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ the Lord of glory, with respect of persons. For if there come into your assembly, (in the original your Synagogue) a man with a gold ring, &c. I am aware that this coincidence in the meaning of these words is not absolutely conclusive; but it is one among the numerous concurring facts which prove that our Lord and his Apostles adopted that language which was familiar to the Jews, and to all who were acquainted with their Scriptures; and especially to those who frequented the Synagogue service.
2. The mode of worship adopted in the Christian Church by the Apostles, was substantially the same with that which had been long practised in the Synagogue. In the Synagogue, as we learn from Maimonides, and others, divine service was begun by the solemn reading of a portion of Scripture, by a person appointed for that service; to this succeeded an exhortation or sermon, by the Ruler of the Synagogue, or Bishop, whose office will be hereafter noticed. The sermon being finished, solemn prayers were offered up, by the same ruler, at the end of which the people said, Amen. Now, if we examine the New Testament, and those writings of the primitive Fathers, whose authenticity has never been questioned, we shall find, not only a striking similarity, but almost a perfect coincidence, in the mode of conducting the worship of Christian assemblies. That the ministers of the Christian Church, in like manner, made a practice, in their religious assemblies, of reading the Scriptures, delivering discourses and offering up solemn prayer, at the close of which the people gave their assent, by saying, Amen, is expressly stated in Scripture. And when Justin Martyr gives an account of the Christian worship, in his day, it is in the following terms—“Upon the day called Sunday, all the “ Christians, whether in town or country, assemble in the same “place, wherein the commentaries of the Apostles, and the writings
" of the Prophets, are read, as long as the time will permit. Then “the reader sitting down, the President of the assembly stands up « and delivers a sermon instructing and exhorting to the imitation 6 of that which is comely. After this is ended, we all stand up to
prayers : prayers being ended, the bread, wine, and water, are “all brought forth; then the President again praying and praising “ according to his ability, the people testify their assent by saying, " Amen." Here we
no material difference between the Synagogue and Christian worship, excepting the introduction of the Lord's Supper into the latter.
3. The titles given to the officers of the Synagogue were trans. ferred to the officers of the Christian Church. In every Synagogue, as those who are most profoundly learned in Jewish Antiquities tell us, there were a Bishop, a bench of Elders, and Deacons. The first named of these officers was called indifferently, Minister, Bishop, Pastor, Presbyter, and Angel of the Church*. The presbyters or Elders in each Synagogue, according to some writers, were three, and, according to others, more numervus. And the Bishop was called a presbyter, because he sat with the presbyters in council, and was associated with them in authority. It is remarkable that all these titles were adopted in the organization of the Christian Church, as will appear, on the slighest perusal of the New Testament. And it is still more remarkable that not only the same variety, but also precisely the same interchange of titles, in the case of the principal officer of the Synagogue, was retained by the Apostles in speaking of the Pastors of Christian congregations.
4. Not only the titles of officers, but also their characters, duties, and powers, in substance, were transferred from the Synagogue to the Christian Church. The Bishop or pastor who presided in each Synagogue, directed the reading of the Law; expounded it when read; offered up public prayers; and, in short, took the lead in conducting the public service of the Synagogue. This description applies with remarkable exactness to the duties and powers of the Christian Bishop. The bench of Elders in the
• Maimonides, the celebrated Jewish Rabbi, who lived in the 12th century, in his learned work, De Sanhed. cap. 4. decribes the Bishop of the Synagogue, as "the Presbyter who laboured in the word and doctrine.”
Synagogue had entrusted to them the general powers of government and discipline; and in like manner, the Elders or presbyters, in the Christian Church are directed to rule the flock, and formal directions are given them, for maintaining the purity of faith and practice. The bench of Elders, in the Synagogue, appears to have been made up of two classes; of those who both taught and ruled, and those who, in fact, whatever their authority might have been, were employed only in ruling. And accordingly, in the Christian Church, we read of Elders who labour in the word and doctrine, as well as rule ; and of other Elders who rule only. In the Synagogue the office of the Deacons was to collect and distribute alms to the poor. In conformity with which, the Deacons of the Christian Church are represented, in the sixth chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, as appointed for the purpose of ministering to the poor, and serving tables.
5. Finally, the mode of ordaining officers in the Synagogue was transferred to the Christian Church. In the introduction of men to the ceremonial priesthood of the Jews, or into the offices pertaining to the Temple service, there was no such thing, strictly speaking, as ordination. Both the Priests and Levites came to their respective offices by inheritance, and were inducted or installed, simply by being brought before the Sanhedrin, and receiving the approbation of that body. But, in the Synagogue service, the officers were solemnly elected, and ordained by the imposition of hands. Every presbyter, who had himself been regularly ordained, was authorized to act in the ordination of other Presbyters : and to make a valid ordination in the Synagogue, it was necessary that three ordainers should be present, and take part in the transaction. In like manner, we learn from the New Testament, that in Apostolic times, as well as ever since, the ministers of the Christian Church were ordained by the imposilion of hands ; that Presbyters, as well as the Apostles themselves, were empowered to ordain ; and that in the first ordination of ministers of the Gospel recorded by the inspired writers, there were always a plurality of ordainers present, and engaged in the solemnity.
Thus I have given you a very brief sketch of the evidence that Christian Churches were organized by the Apostles, after the model of the Jewish Synagogues. 'I have shown that the mode of worship adopted in the Church, the titles of her officers, their
powers, duties, and mode of ordination, were all copied from the Syoagogue. This evidence might be pursued much further, did the limits which I have prescribed to myself admit of details. It might easily be shown, that in all those respects in which the service of the Synagogue differed from that of the Temple, the Christian Church followed the former. The Temple service was confined to Jerusalem; the Synagogue worship might exist, and did exist wherever there was a sufficient number of Jews to form a congregation. The temple service was restricted with regard to the vestments of its officers; while in the Synagogue there was little or no regulation on this subject. And, finally, it is remarkable, that the mode in which the Bishop and Elders of each Synagogue were seated during the public service, was exactly copied into the Christian assemblies. With regard to these and many other particulars which might be mentioned, the Christian Churches in primitive times, it is well known, departed from the ceremonial splendour of the Temple, and followed the simplicity of the Synagogue. ' In fact, there is ample proof, that the similarity between the primitive Christian Churches, and the Jewish Syna. gogues was so great, that they were often considered and represented by the persecuting Pagans as the same.
In support of the foregoing statements, it would be easy to produce authorities of the highest character. The general fact, that the Christian church was organized by the inspired apostles, not on the plan of the Temple service, but after the Synagogue model, is amply shown, by the celebrated John Selden, in his work, De Synedriis; by Dr. Lightfoot, a learned Episcopal divine, in his Horæ Hebraicæ; by the very learned Grotius, in several parts of his Commentary ; by Dr. (afterwards Bishop) Stilling fleet, in his Irenicum; and, above all, by Vitringa, in his profound and able work, De Synagoga Vetere-to which ihe author has given this bold title—“ Three books on the ancient Synagogue; in which it is demonstrated, that the form of government, and of the ministry in the Synagogue was transferred to the Christian Church.” If there be any points concerning the history and polity of the Church, which may be considered as indubitably established, this, unquestionably, is among the number. Out of many more modern' writers, who concur in the same testimony, I shall content myself with three, whose opinion no adequate judge will disregard.
The first is the celebrated Augustus Neander, 'Professor in the University of Berlin, and generally considered as, perhaps, more profoundly skilled in Ecclesiastical History, than any other man now living. He is, moreover, a minister of the Lutheran Church, and, of course, has no sectarian spirit to gratify in vindicating Presbyterianism. After showing at some length that the government of the primitive Church was not monarchical or lordly, but dictated throughout by a spirit of mutual love, counsel, and prayer, he goes on to express himself thus— We may suppose that where
any thing could be found in the way of Church forms which was « consistent with this spirit, it would be willingly appropriated by “the Christian community. Now there happened to be in the « Jewish Synagogue a system of government of this nature, not " monarchical, but rather aristocratical, (or a government of the “ most venerable and excellent.
A council of Elders, Diapi πρεσβυτεροι, who conducted all the affairs of that body. It seemed " most natural that Christianity, developing itself from the Jewish “ religion, should take this form of government. This form must also “ have appeared natural and appropriate to the Roman citizens, ( since their nation had, from the earliest times, been, to some
extent, under the control of a 'senate, composed of seniors or « elders. When the Church was placed under a Council of Elders, “ they did not always happen to be the oldest in reference to
years; but age here, was, as in the Latin Senatus, and the « Greek yegovora, expressive of worth or merit. Besides the common
name of these overseers of the Church, to wit, 7850 Buregor, there “ were many other names given, according the peculiar situation " occupied by the individual, or rather his peculiar field of labour ; « as ποιμενες, shepherds, ηγουμενοι, leaders, προεστωτες των ασελφων, « rulers of the brethren, and ETISCOTO), overseers.*
Of the same purport, is the judgment of the celebrated German Commentator, Professor Kuinoel, of Leipsic, as exhibited in his Commentary on the 20th chapter, and 28th verse, of the Acts of Apostles. After showing conclusively that the very same persons, who in the New Testament are called Bishops, and Shepherds, are also called presbyters, which he says, "some have rashly " denied, dreaming of a difference between Bishops and Presbyters
Kirchengeschichte, p. 283–285.