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. cept that of Aquila, that so render this passage. The chief place where the Israelites assembled for the worship of God, was the temple at Jerusalem-and, before that was built, the tabernacle; and the open court, before the altar, was that part in both of them where the people assembled to offer up their prayers to God. But those that lived at a distance from the tabernacle, while that was in being, and afterward from the temple, when that was built, not being at all times able to resort thither, they built courts like those in which they prayed at the tabernacle and at the temple, therein to offer up their prayers unto God, which in after times we find called by the name Proseuchæ. Some of the Latin poets (Juv. Sat. 3) make mention of them by this name; and into one of them our Saviour is said to have gone to pray, and to have continued therein a whole night. (Luke, vi. 12: 'And he continued all night in a Proseucha of God.') And in another of them, St. Paul taught the people of Philipi. (Acts xvi. 13, 16, what we render in our English version by the word prayer, is in the original a proseucha, a place of prayer.)
“And, besides these proseuchæ, there were other places in which the Israelites, before the captivity, frequently assembled, upon the account of religion ; for they often resorted to the cities of the Levites, to be taught the ritual and other ceremonies of Mosaical law, and to the schools of the prophets for all other instructions relating to the things of God; and to these last, it is plain from Scripture, that they usually resorted on the Sabbaths and New Moons; and what end could there be of this resort, but for instruction in their duties to God? And therefore these places also, as well as the proseuchæ, were Moadhe Al-i. e., places of assembling on account of religion--and consequently of all these may the Psalmist be understood to speak in the places above mentioned. Whether this Psalm, as well as the seventy-ninth, was written by David, or by that Asaph who lived in the time of the Babylonish captivity (to which it is plain they both relate), or by some other after it, as is most probable, I shall not here examine. All that is proper for me here to take notice of is, that nothing which is in either of these Psalms can prove, that there were any such things as synagogues, wherein the Scriptures were read, or public prayers offered up unto God, till after the Babylonish captivity.
“And if it be examined into, how it came to pass that the Jews were so prone to idolatry before the Babylonish captivity, and so strongly and cautiously, even to superstition, fixed against it after that captivity, the true reason hereof will appear to be, that they had the law and the prophets every week constantly read unto them after that captivity, which they had not before. For before that captivity, they having no synagogues for public worship or public instruction, nor any place to resort to for either, unless the temple at Jerusalem, or the cities of the Levites, or to the prophets, when God was pleased to send such among them, for want hereof great ignorance grew among the people —God was little known among them, and his laws in a manner wholly forgotten; and therefore, as occasions offered, they were easily drawn into all the superstitions and idolatrous usages of the neighboring nations that lived round about them. Till at length, for the punishment hereof, God gave them up to a dismal destruction in the Babylonish captivity. But after that captivity, and the return of the Jews from it, synagogues being erected among them in every city, to which they constantly resorted for public worship, and where every week they had the law from the first; and after that, from the time of Antiochus's persecution, the prophets also read unto them-and were, by sermons and exhortations, then delivered at least every Sabbath day, instructed in their duty, and excited to the obedience of it. This kept them in a thorough knowledge of God and his laws. And the threats which they found in the prophets, against the breakers of them, after these also came to be read among them, deterred them from transgressing against them. So that the law of Moses was never more strictly observed by them, than from the time of Ezra (when synagogues first came into use among them,) to the time of our Saviour; and they would have been unblameable herein, had they not overdone it by adding corrupt traditions of their own devising, whereby at length (as our Saviour chargeth them.) they made the law itself of none effect. And as, by this method, the Jewish religion was preserved in the times mentioned, so was it also, by the same, that the Christian religion was so successfully propagated in the first ages of the church, and hath ever since been preserved among us.
For as the Jews had their synagogues, in which the law and the prophets were read unto them every Sabbath, so the Christians had their churches, in which, from the beginning, all the doctrines and duties of their religion were every Lord's Day taught, inculcated, and explained unto them. And by God's blessing upon this method chiefly was it, that this holy religion still bore up against all oppressions, and, notwithstanding the ten persecutions, and all other artifices and methods of cruelty and oppression which hell and heathenism could devise to suppress it, grew up and increased under them which Julian, the apostate, was so sensible of, that, when he put all his wits to work to find out new methods for the restoring of the heathen impiety, he could not think of any more effectual for this purpose than to employ his philosophers to preach it up every week to the people, in the same manner as the ministers of the gospel did the Christian religion."
Calmet, under the word “Synagogue," observes, p. 871:
"Synagogue, a word which primarily signifies an assembly, but like the word church, came at length to be applied to places in which any assemblies, especially those for the worship of God, met, or were convened. From the silence of the Old Testament with reference to these places of worship, most commentators and writers on Biblical antiquities are of opinion that they were not in use till after the Babylonish captivity. Prior to that time, the Jews seem to have held their social meetings for religious worship in the open air, or in the houses of the prophets. (See 2 Kings iv. 23.) Synagogues could only be erected in these places when ten men of age, learning, piety, and easy circumstances, could be found to attend to the service which was enjoined in them. Large towns had several synagogues; and soon after their captivity, their utility became so obvious, that they were scattered over the land, and became the parish churches of the Jewish nation.
“ The stated office-bearers in every synagogue were ten, though in rank they were but six. Their names and duties are given by Lightfoot, to whom the reader is referred, But we must notice the Archisynagogos, or Ruler of the Synagogues, who regulated all its concerns, and granted permission to preach.
“ The service of the synagogue was as follows:- The people being seated, the minister, or angel of the church, ascended the pulpit and offered up the public prayers; the people rising from their seats, and standing in a posture of deep devotion. The next thing was the repetition of their phylacteries ; after which came the reading of the law and the prophets. After the return from the captivity an interpreter was employed in reading the law and the prophets, (see Neh. viii. 2-10) who interpreted them into the Syro-Chaldaic dialect, which was then spoken by the people. The last part of the service was the expounding of the Scriptures, and preaching from them to the people. This was done either by one of the officers, or by some distinguished person who happened to be present. The reader will recollect one memorable occasion, on which our Saviour availed himself of the opportunity thus afforded to address his countrymen, (Luke iv. 20) and there are several other instances recorded of himself and of his disciples teaching in the synagogues. The whole service was concluded with a short prayer or benediction.”
Horne, in his “ Introduction to the Study of the Bible," treating of “ The High-Places, The Proseucha or Oratories," Vol. II., pp. 101, 102, says:
“Besides the Tabernacle, which has been described in a former section, frequent mention is made, in the Old Testament, of places of Worship, called High-Places, which were in use both before and after the building of the Temple.
"From the preceding facts and remarks, however, we are not to conclude that the prohibition relating to HighPlaces and groves, which extended chiefly to the more solemn acts of sacrificing there, did, on any account, extend to the prohibiting of other acts of devotion, particularly prayer, in any other place beside the Temple, the high places and groves of the heathen, (which were ordered to be razed) only excepted. For we learn from the sacred writings, that prayers are always acceptable to God, in every place, when performed with that true and sincere devotion of heart which alone gives life and vigor to our religious addresses. And therefore it was that in many places in Judea, both before and after the Babylonian cap