« PreviousContinue »
ORIGIN OF THE MISHNA, GEMARA, MASORITES, &c.
Julian Pe- translation of the Scriptures is quoted even by the Jerusalem Asia Minor. riod, 4799. Gemarists. The Sanhedrim bad ‘now removed from Jabneb to Vulgar
Æra, Usha and Shepbaraim. 96.
R. Simeon was succeeded by his son, R. Judah the Holy. He was held in very high estimation among his countrymen, and is said to have been much valued by one of the Antonines. It was R. Judah who caused the traditional law to be collected into one mass. This is called the Mishoah, and is the great code by which the Jews still prosess to be regulated. The number of pupils who might be the preservers of this code of traditionary law was daily diminishing, and he resolved therefore to commit it to writing, that it might be preserved. He appointed teachers. of these traditions also in all the cities remaining to the Jewish name. The Sanhedrim, in bis reign, removed to Bethshuarain, Tsipporis, and Tiberias. R. Judab compiled the Mishnah, as some traditions relate, in the year 190, in the latter end of the reign of Commodus; but, as others affirm, in the year 220, ono hundred and fifty years after the destruction of the city.
R. Judah was succeeded by his son R. Chaninah, in whose presidency we first read of the commentaries on the Mishna, which are called the Gemara. The Mishna, which is the text of the traditional law, and the Gemara, which is the comment, make up together the Talmud. The Targums are commentaries on Scripture.
R. Chaninab was succeeded by R. Jochanan, who was president of the Sanhedrim at Tiberias eighty years. Though the country abounded with schools, and the surviving Jews made every effort in their power to perpetuate their pow corrupt religion, no school or college obtained so much celebrity as that at Tiberias. Jerome was instructed by a learned man of Tiberias; and it was most probably about this time, that that edition of the Hebrew Bible was prepared, which has erer been of high authority among both Jews and Christians; the edition of the Masorets, or, as they are more generally called, the Masorites.
This term is derived from a Hebrew word, signifying tradition. The Masorites were the learned Jews of Tiberias, who, being anxious before their nation was finally separated, to secure the sacred text from corruption, prepared an edition of the Old Testament, in which tbey marked, by certaio arbitrary vowel points, accents, and pauses, the traditionary pronunciation of every word, The Bibles which the Jews read in their synagogues are now, and it is believed have always been, written without the vowel points; but the minister is required to read each chapter according to the traditionary sounds of the words, which are preserved in tbe poioted Bibles; and an inspector or superintendant stands by him when he reads, to correct any error. This pronunciation is not borrowed from the Masoretic Bible, as I bave been informed by some learned Jews, whom I consulted on this matter; but it is the traditionary mode of reading which has been handed down from remote antiquity. Should this statement be correct, it appears to afford one very satisfactory argument, that the Masoretic punctuation is entitled to more respect than many moderu Hebraists entertain for it. This, however, is not the place to enter upon this discus. sion. The Masorets, by their great care and diligence, have left us an edition of the Old Testament, which secures the text from all interpolations, while it checks also the licentiousness of conjectural criticism, and gives a definite meaning to many obscure passages; at the same time it by no means precludes the labours of the learned from aiming at greater accuracy in their attempts to understand Scripture, as the sense which the Masorets may have put upon any passage, can only be said to
Jalian Pe- be bighly probable: the meaning of Seripture in all cases being Asia Mino.
the Masoretic text was formed from a collation of manuscripts,
The precise time when the Masorets of Tiberias completed
We will now return to the history of the Christian Church. Though the view which may be now taken of the effects of Christianity on buman happiness, is unavoidably brief and imperfect, the memory will be assisted by a regular division of the subject.
I. The first stage is the state of the Christian Church from the death of St. John to the establishment of the persecuted faith by Constantine.
II. From thence to the rise of the Papal power.
OBJECT, DESIGN, AND MEANING OF CHRISTIANITY. 727 Julian Pe- III. The progress and triumph of the Church of Rome. Asia Minor. riod, 4799. IV. The Reformation, both iv its good and bad effects. Vulgar Æra, V. And the subsequent history of Christianity, particularly 96.
in England; with the prospect of its future dominion over all
I. The state of the Christian Church from the death of St.
In closing the volumes wbich it was necessary to peruse, for
Christianity is the completed revelation of those sanctions of, and motives to, virtue, which the uoassisted reason of man could not have discovered. Its object is to promote the present and future happiness of the human race, which can only be effectually secured by virtuous principles and habits. One sys. tem of religion is distinguished from another, by the opinions it teaches, the conduct it enforces, the institutions it establishes, and the means which it adopts for its preservation. The fundamental opinions, or essential doctrines of Christianity, may be included in these three-that the nature of man is now different from that with which bis first parents were created--that a Divine Being undertook to recover mankind from this state of degradation, by offering bimself as an atonement, after a life of blamelessness and purity, and by rising from the dead, to demonstrate the certainty of our own resurrection-that divine assistance is afforded to all those who desire to be restored to that condition in which man was originally created.
The conduct which Christianity requires, does not extend to outward morality only, but to internal purity of motive, to spirituality of disposition, and, as far as possible, to a change of pature.
The Scriptural institutions of Christianity are the commemorations of the facts which prove the truth of its doctrines. They are few, but important. The observance of the first day in (the week) is the celebration of the resurrection of Christ, and a declaration of the truth of our own. In haptism, we commemorate the descent of the Spirit, and assert the necessity of a Divine influence, to recover man from the fall. In the other sacrament, of the Lord's Supper, we commemorate the crucifixion, and profess our belief in the atonement. The observance of Easter is also mentioned in Scripture, as the time of the more solemn commemoration of our Lord's resurrection.
The scriptural means by which the knowledge of the Christian religion is to be preserved in the world, are the perpetual observance of the institutions, and the right interpretation of the completed Scriptures. To secure these great objects, the divine Founder of Christianity appointed twelve teachers, and after them he appeared from the invisible state to appoint apo..
Jolian Pe- ther, who should establish societies from among the mass of Asia Mias
religion. The apostles were equal among themselves. They
Such was the Christianity which was established over the
This view of Christianity epables us to form some criterion of trulb, in the midst of all the discordant opinions of modern systems. Whatever doctrine bas been invented by later writers, whether it be gradually established, as many of the corruptions of the Romanists have been, or proposed as a more correct interpretation of Scripture, as many of the Unitarian and Ger-' man speculators have suggested their various novelties, is probably false, as it is certainly suspicious. If it was pot once received by all Christians, in the primitive ages, in all their Churches, it is probably heretical. If it is not supported by some of the facts of Scripture it is suspicious. It is not gene. rally remembered that the peculiar doctrines which characterize Christianity are all identified with acts. The facts are the foundation of the doctrine, and moral inferences are deducible from the doctrine which is thus sanctioned and established. The first creeds were very scanty, because controversies were few, and were decided by inspired or highly venerated teachers. They were enlarged, as the decisions of the Catholic Church, represented by its general councils, concluded the controversies which were commenced by the philosophy which wrongly explainod, or wilfully rejected, the faith which was generally received. The general reception of an opinion among all Churches, was esteemed a proofthat it had been originally taught by the apostles and their successors.
Such was the new faith which at the closing of the canon of Scripture, had begun to leaven the whole mass of the subjects of the imperial dominion. Even where it was not fully cmbraced, it elevated the mind, and restrained tbe conduct of many who would not openly profess it. The very philosophy which opposed or corrupted it, inculcated in various insiances the necessity of purity, the belief in one God, and the certainty of a future state.
Churches had been founded in Rome, Corinth, Crete, the cities of Asia Minor, in Britain, Spain, Italy, Antioch, and many others. The nations of the world had been brought under the Roman yoke, that a free communication might be maintained between all parts of the civilized world.
The usurpations of the Papacy had not begun, neither had the people proceeded to the opposite extreme of rejecting all government, as an infringement of their liberty. Every sepa. rate Church was a society complete in itself, governed through all its gradations of laily, and through the minor oflices of the priesthood, the deacous, and the presbyters, by one episcopal
PERSECUTIONS IN THE THREE FIRST CENTURIES.
729 Jalian Pe- head, who was liable to be deposed by the sentence of bis own Asia Minori riod, 4799. order, if he violated the faith of Christ. Every ruler was con• Vulgar Æra, trolled by the rest of his brethren, while every independant hie.
rarchy preserved its freedom under the empire of known law.
The Churches of God in these early ages were opposed by every
It was not only the menace and the torture, the rack and the