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tion of the scribes, confirmed by our Lord himself, “To love God with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbour as himself, is more than all whole burntofferings and sacrifices,” Mark xii. 33. The book of Psalms may be considered as expressions of spiritual worship in prayer and praise. And we must not forget the noble hymns of praise, sung by Miriam, Moses, Deborah, and Hannah, in earlier times.
Prayer and praise are especially directed under the third, or Christian dispensation. Note the precept, to “Pray always,” and “Pray without ceasing;" the promise, “ Ask, and ye shall receive;" the injunction, “In every thing give thanks ;" and the assurance, that “Whatsoever we ask in the name of Christ it shall be given.” And“ Speak to yourselves in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.”
Does the reader ask why so much is here said upon a matter so plain, and in itself so evident? The answer may easily be given, Mankind are not inclined to act as though these Divine precepts were self-evident. Do we not find many acting like Saul of old ? How else do those act who perhaps scarcely ever pray, or commune with their God in private, yet are punctual in their attendance on outward ordinances, regular at their place of worship, constant in receiving the Lord's supper, and perhaps never omitting to use the formularies in their “Companion to the Altar !” Wherein do these sacrifices differ from the rejected offerings of old? They are outward, formal acknowledgments of the Saviour, just as were the typical sacrifices; but are they more than the sacrifice of fools, spoken of Eccl. v. 1? The words in ver. 4, “He hath no pleasure in fools,” should startle many, for what are prayers but vows, solemnly expressed, therefore to be performed as solemnly.
The Pharisees in the time of our Saviour wore the phylacteries and fringes while at prayer. The former are strips of parchment, on which are written passages from the law; these were worn on the left arm. The fringes were ordered, Num. xv. 28, that they might be reminded of the commandments. Modern Jews wear them as represented in page 254. These were and are merely formal observances, and as such were expressly condemned by our Lord.
The places used for prayer and praise are often mentioned. Isaac meditated and prayed in the field, and Abraham planted a grove in Beersheba, Gen. xxi. 33, and there called on the name of the Lord, the everlasting God. In early days buildings were not erected for this purpose, and kept separate for this use only. The social worship was family worship; and on the most solemn occasions, doubtless, was at the place of sacrifice : perhaps other persons might attend from various motives.
The earliest mention of any separate building, apparently used expressly for religious worship, is of the first tabernacle, mentioned Exod. xxxiii. 7. The use of this, indeed, is uncertain, and the most probable opinion is, that it was a temporary building erected for the use of Moses, in transacting the daily affairs of the congregation. Soon after, a tabernacle expressly for religious typical worship was erected ; this was carried by the Israelites in their journeyings to the promised land, and set up wherever they rested.
But as individuals continued to offer sacrifices in other places, even after the tabernacle had been erected and the ceremonial rites instituted, we may conclude that they resorted to those places also for prayer and praise. The history of Micah, shows that he had a house, or apartment, especially devoted to the images, the worship of which he mixed with the worship of Jehovah ; and those who continued faithful to the true religion, would have places where they assembled for Divine service.
Prideaux considers that from an early period there were places for the people to offer up prayers to God, which were called by a name signifying the assemblies of God, but in after times proseuchas. These were open inclosures, built in private and retired spots, frequently in high places, and on mountains, without any covering, except perhaps the shade of trees. Those high places which are not condemned in Scripture probably were proseuchas. Samuel resorted to such a place, 1 Sam. ix. 19 : another is mentioned in the following chapter, and others elsewhere. Prideaux thinks that the sanctuary of the Lord in Shechem, by which Joshua set up a pillar under an oak, Josh. xxiv. 26, was one of these proseuchas ; it is evident there were trees near it. Epiphanius describes such a place near Shechem, in the fourth century. Several passages in the New Testament mention proseuchas as resorted to among the Jews in later times. The passage, Luke vi. 12, when literally translated, is, “In those days Jesus retired to a mountain to pray, and he passed all the night in a proseucha of God.” We cannot suppose our Lord would have resorted with this intent to a building forbidden by the law, or used for idolatrous worship, nor did any such places exist at that time in Judea. St. Paul found a proseucha at Philippi, to which Lydia resorted, Acts xvi. 13. He taught there, and her conversion encourages regular attendance on public worship. The Jewish proseuchas are noticed by Juvenal, who was a heathen Roman poet. Other writers mention the existence of proseuchas in different countries. Philo complains that the people of Alexandria, in Egypt, cut down the trees by which the proseuchas in that city were shaded. A proseucha at Mispah is mentioned by the author of the first book of the Maccabees, (iii. 46.)
The Jews resorted to the cities of the Levites, and the schools of the prophets, to be instructed in religious matters; and from the observation of the husband of the Shunamite, 2 Kings iv. 23, it appears that these assemblies were usual on the new moons and sabbaths. But there is no clear statement of regular public services till after the Babylonish captivity. Prideaux thinks this may have been one of the causes why the people were so easily led into idolatry, when the kings and rulers were men who did not take active measures to keep up true religion throughout the country. Such times appear to be pointed out by the expression, They did that which was right in their own eyes.” It is plain, from Scripture, that during the times of the judges, and also under many of the kings, public matters of a religious, as well as of a civil nature, were in many respects subject to changes, and often in confusion. The synagogues were buildings expressly for worship. It is now generally agreed, that there are no sufficient grounds for believing that these existed before the Babylonish captivity. It is thought that Psalm lxxiv. was either written after that period, and that ver. 8, refers to the destruction of the synagogues by Antiochus, or that the expression, which in the original is, “all the assemblies of God,” describes the proseuchas already mentioned.
During the captivity, the Jews appear to have resorted to the houses of the prophets or other holy men, who were accustomed to instruct their families, and to read the Scriptures, especially the law : see Ezek. xiv. 1, xx, 1; Neh. viii. 18. Though it is impossible to trace the origin of synagogues, we may conclude that the advantages found to result from such assemblies induced their general adoption. Probably they might be used by the Jews in foreign countries, before they became general in Judea. Philo, a Jewish native of Alexandria, contends for their antiquity. The practice of Ezra, to read the law publicly, with explanations, Neh. viii. 1–8, xii. 1-3, may also have had something to do with these assemblies becoming general, and they were very numerous in the time of the Asmonean princes. The best way to reconcile the different opinions on the subject appears to be, to suppose that the people from their first settlement in Canaan used to meet in the open air, in high places and proseuchas; also in houses, particularly at the houses of the prophets. But that, after the captivity, when these meetings became more general and regular, houses were built expressly for the purpose of worship; and, before the time when our Saviour was upon earth, the synagogue worship had become regularly established. The assembling together in the open air, Neh. viii..1, and Ezra x. 9, would soon be found inconvenient.
The rules respecting synagogues were, that one should be built wherever at least ten persons of full age and free condition could be got together to form a congregation, for unless that number of persons were present, the service could not be performed. It was therefore usual to appoint ten men to attend whenever the service was performed ; in some cases they seem to have had regular salaries for so doing. In our Saviour's time, the synagogues had so increased, that there was no town without one or more of these buildings. In Tiberias, the Jewish writers say, there were twelve synagogues, and in Jerusalem no less than four hundred and eighty. Even if this number is an exaggeration, it shows that the synagogue worship was general, and that the temple worship did not render it unnecessary. It is an additional proof, that the national typical services were not intended to prevent spiritual and personal worship, though even these had often been allowed to degenerate into formality.
The synagogues were not required to be of any particular form, although they were similar in their internal arrangements; the western end being for the ministers and elders, the eastern for the body of the congregation. There was a table on which the roll or book of the law was spread, and on the east side a chest or ark, covered with a rich veil, in which the roll was kept. Also there was a pulpit or reading-pew, large enough to hold several persons. The seats were so arranged that the people looked towards the book of the law and the elders. The elders sat with their backs to the ark and their faces towards the people. These were the chief seats the Pharisees were so eager to occupy, see Matt. xxiii. 6; and a similar desire among the Christian Hebrews seems to be condemned, James ï. 3. The women sat in a gallery inclosed with lattice-work, so that they could see without being seen.
To build a synagogue appears to have been deemed an act of piety, as the erecting of a church or chapel is considered at the present day, Luke vii. 5. The modern Jewish synagogues, one of which is represented page 258, resemble the ancient ones as to many points of their interior arrangements.