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persecutions of their idolatrous rulers. These, and many other particulars that might be mentioned, are sufficient to show, that the ecclesiastical polity of the Jewish synagogue was very closely copied by the apostles and primitive Christians in the organization of their assemblies.

In support of the foregoing statements, authorities, to any extent, and of the highest character, might easily be adduced. Let the following, however, suffice, from Neander, who is generally acknowledged to be more profoundly skilled in the history of the Christian church than any other man now living. "The disciples had not yet. attained a clear understanding of that call, which Christ had already given them by so many intimations, to form a church entirely separated from the existing Jewish economy; to that economy they adhered as much as possible; all the forms of the national theocracy were sacred in their esteem; it seemed the natural element of their religious consciousness, though a higher principle of life had been imparted, by which that consciousness was to be progressively inspired and transformed. They remained outwardly Jews, although, in proportion as their faith in Jesus as the Redeemer became clearer and stronger, they would inwardly cease to be Jews, and all external rites would assume a different relation to their internal life. It was their belief that the existing religious forms would continue till the second coming of Christ, when a new and higher order of things would be established, and this great change they expected would shortly take place. Hence the establishment of a distinct mode of worship was far from entering their thoughts. Although new ideas respecting the essence of true worship arose in their minds from the light of faith in the Redeemer, they felt as great an interest in the temple worship as any devout Jews. They believed, however, that a sifting would take place among the members of the theocracy, and that the better part would, by

the acknowledgment of Jesus as the Messiah, be incorporated with the Christian community. As the believers, in opposition to the mass of the Jewish nation who remained hardened in their unbelief, now formed a community internally bound together by the one faith in Jesus as the Messiah, and by the consciousness of the higher life received from him, it was necessary that this internal union should assume a certain external form. And a model for such a smaller community within the great national theocracy already existed among the Jews, along with the temple worship, namely, the synagogues. The means of religious edification which they supplied, took account of the religious welfare of all, and consisted of united prayers and the addresses of individuals who applied themselves to the study of the Old Testament. These means of edification closely corresponded to the nature of the new Christian worship. This form of social worship, as it was copied in all the religious communities founded on Judaism (such as the Essenes), was also adopted, to a certain extent, at the first formation of the Christian church. But it may be disputed, whether the apostles, to whom Christ committed the chief direction of affairs, designed from the first that believers should form a society exactly on the model of the synagogue, and, in pursuance of this plan, instituted particular offices for the government of the church corresponding to that model-or whether, without such a preconceived plan, distinct offices were appointed, as circumstances required, in doing which they would avail themselves of the model of the synagogue with which they were familiar."2 The latter supposition is forcibly advocated by Neander,3 who proceeds to say, Hence, we are disposed to believe, that the church was at first composed entirely of members standing on an equality


2 Apost. Kirch., 3d edit., p. 4. Comp. 179, 198.

3 Comp., also, Rothe, Anfänge, p. 163. Note.

one with another, and that the apostles alone held a higher rank, and exercised a directing influence over the whole, which arose from the original position in which Christ had placed them in relation to other believers; so that the whole arrangement and administration of the affairs of the church proceeded from them, and they were first induced. by particular circumstances to appoint other church officers, as in the instance of deacons."4 To the same effect is also Neander's account of this subject in his Church History, where he shows that this organization of Christian churches was the most natural under existing circumstances, and the most acceptable, not only to Jewish converts, but to those who were gathered from the subjects of the Roman government.5 If the reader require other authority on this subject, he has only to examine Vitringa, De Synagoga Vetere, especially his third book, to say nothing of Selden, Lightfoot, and many others. Vitringa himself has fully sustained the bold title which he gives to his immortal work,-" 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.”

It is gratifying to observe, that these views of the great Lutheran historian are fully avowed by Archbishop Whately with his usual independence and candor. "It is probable that one cause, humanly speaking, why we find in the Sacred Books less information concerning the Christian ministry and the constitution of church-governments than we otherwise might have found, is that these institutions had less of novelty than some would at first sight suppose, and that many portions of them did not wholly originate with the apostles. It appears highly probable,-I might say, morally certain,-that wherever a Jewish synagogue existed, that was brought,-the whole,

4 P. 44. Comp. 195, seq. So, also, Rothe, Anfänge, p. 146-148.
5 Kirchen. Gesch., I, p. 183-185.


or the chief part of it,-to embrace the gospel, the apostles did not, there, so much form a Christian church (or congregation, ecclesia), as make an existing congregation Christian; by introducing the Christian sacraments and worship, and establishing whatever regulations were requisite for the newly-adopted faith; leaving the machinery (if I may so speak) of government unchanged; the "rulers of synagogues, elders, and other officers (whether spiritual or ecclesiastical, or both), being already provided in the existing institutions. And it is likely that several of the earliest Christian churches did originate in this way; that is, that they were converted synagogues; which became Christian churches as soon as the members, or the main part of the members, acknowledged Jesus as the Messiah.

"The attempt to effect this conversion of a Jewish synagogue into a Christian church, seems always to have been made, in the first instance, in every place where there was an opening for it. Even after the call of the idolatrous Gentiles, it appears plainly to have been the practice of the apostles Paul and Barnabas,t when they came to any city

* The word "congregation," as it stands in our version of the Old Testament (and it is one of very frequent occurrence in the Books of Moses), is found to correspond, in the Septuagint, which was familiar to the NewTestament writers, to ecclesia; the word which, in our version of these last, is always rendered-not "congregation," but "church." This, or its equivalent, “kirk," is probably no other than "circle ;" i. e., assembly, ecclesia.

These seem to be the first who are employed in converting the idolatrous Gentiles to Christianity,* and their first considerable harvest among these seems to have been at Antioch in Pisidia, as may be seen by any one who attentively reads the 13th chapter of Acts. Peter was sent to Cornelius, a "devout" Gentile ;-one of those who had renounced idolatry, and frequented the synagogues. And these seem to have been regarded by him as in an especial manner his particular charge. His epistles appear to have been addressed to them, as may be seen both by the general tenor of his expression, and especially in the opening address, which is not (as would appear from our version) to the dispersed Jews, but to the "so

journers of the dispersion,” παρεπιδήμους, διασπορας, i. e, the devout Gentiles living among the "dispersion."

*See Barrington's Miscellanea Sacra.

† See Hinds's History, Vol. II.

in which there was a synagogue, to go thither first and deliver their sacred message to the Jews and 'devout (or proselyte) Gentiles;'-according to their own expression (Acts 13: 17), to the 'men of Israel and those that feared God:' adding, that 'it was necessary that the word of God should first be preached to them.' And when they founded a church in any of those cities in which (and such were, probably, a very large majority) there was no Jewish synagogue that received the gospel, it is likely they would still conform, in a great measure, to the same model."6

It is, then, an admitted fact, as clearly settled as any thing can be by human authority, that the primitive Christians, in the organization of their assemblies, formed them after the model of the Jewish synagogue. They discarded the splendid ceremonials of the temple-service, and retained the simple rites of the synagogue worship. They disowned the hereditary aristocracy of the Levitical priesthood,7 and adopted the popular government of the synagogue.8

We are here presented with an important fact in the organization of the primitive churches, strongly illustrative of the popular character of their constitution and government. The synagogue was, essentially, a popular assembly, invested with the rights and possessing the powers which are essential to the enjoyment of religious liberty. Their government was voluntary, elective, free; and administered by rulers or elders elected by the people. The ruler of the synagogue was the moderator of the college of elders, but only primus inter pares, holding no official rank above them.9 The people, as Vitringa has

6 Kingdom of Christ, pp. 83-86.

7 The prelatical reference of the Christian ministry to the Levitical priesthood is a device of a later age, though it has been common from the time of Cyprian downward to the present time.

8 Totum regimen ecclesiasticum conformatum fuit ad synogogarum exemplar. Hugo Grotius, Comment., ad Act. 11: 30.

9 Vitringa, De Vet. Syn., L. 3, c. 16.

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