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in the habit of meeting together on a certain day, at that time early in the morning, through fear, no doubt, of their persecutors, for the purpose of social worship, though it was very natural for him to be mistaken concerning the object of their adoration, since he had never been present in their assemblies, and would readily consider them as practising idolatry, though in a form very different from that which he had been accustomed to witness.
Speedily after the death of the apostles, then, we have proof which no one will venture to dispute, that the followers of Christ regularly assembled, both in the cities and surrounding country, on the first day of the week, for the purpose of religious services, which consisted of reading the Scriptures, exhortations, the Lord's Supper, prayers and thanksgivings, conducted by one individual, and in which the people joined. The question therefore occurs, How came it to pass, in so short a time after the death of the apostles, some of whom it is possible at least might have been personally known to individuals then living, that social prayer had become the stated and universal practice in their religious assemblies on the first day of the week, if this custom had received no sanction from the example and instructions of the apostles, if Christ himself had expressly forbidden it, and if the first converts to his religion, who had the best means of becoming acquainted with his will on the sub
ject, had lived in the general neglect of it? Did it spring up every where in Justin's time on a sudden? And were heathen converts especially brought over instantly to a habit so different from all they had been accustomed to, if they had no warrant for it in the new religion which they had adopted? No person surely will have credulity enough to believe thisa.
The Resemblance between the religious Services in the first Christian Assemblies, and those of ancient Synagogues.
So evident is it that social worship was the
Nothing has been said in these pages on the subject of singing in the religious assemblies of the first Christians, or of the Synagogue, because, as it was sufficient to prove that prayer, which constitutes the chief part of public worship, was their usual and habitual practice on these occasions, it was desirable not to add unnecessarily to the length of this little work. Singing, besides, was not only a subordinate part of these services, but was less suitable to the circumstances of danger and persecution with which the first Christians were surrounded, than prayer; and for these reasons we should not expect to meet so frequently with reference in the New Testament to the practice of it among them. Notwithstanding this, however, there are several passages which are sufficient to show that singing was in common use among them, as, Matt. xxvi. 30; 1 Cor. xiv. 15, 26; Eph. v. 18, 19; Col.' iii. 16; James v. 13. Singing, moreover, is in its own nature a social exercise. Few persons would be disposed to sing alone in their closets; and if the first Christians sang at all, it would be, of course, in society. After the apostolic age it is also certain that this useful and exhilarating practice was continued regularly and universally.
common practice of Christians in the apostolic age, that it has been maintained by those who have investigated the subject with the greatest care, that the Jewish Synagogue furnished the model by which their religious services, as well as the general constitution of their churches, were formed. One object of Vitringa's elaborate and valuable work on the Ancient Synagogue was to prove this. And though the resemblance was certainly not designed, nothing could be more likely to take place. The great founder of the Christian religion, though he showed his approbation of social worship by his practice, and by the encouragement which he gave it, left no specific direction concerning the mode in which it should be conducted, enjoining only that it should be free from ostentation and hypocrisy, and assuring his followers that not a multitude of forms and ceremonies, but sincerity and truth alone, would render their religious services acceptable to God. The method of prayer, as well as the regulations to be adopted in their religious societies, he left, in a great measure, as matters of discretion and expediency, to be modified and determined by circumstances, as prudence and sound judgment should direct, without allow ing one, or any number of individuals, in the Christian community, to assume pre-eminence over others. Having this liberty, sacred and inviolable as it ought ever to be, the first converts to his religion, guided by the powerful influence of habit, if they were constituted like other men,
would naturally be disposed to carry into their new profession whatever there might be in the mode of worship to which they had been accustomed that was consistent with the liberal and rational principles which they had adopted; and the first instruments of its propagation being Jews, who had been in the habit of attending the religious services of the Temple and the Synagogue with great regularity, they would be inclined, as a matter of course, to transfer the Jewish method of prayer and praise into their new societies, especially as their master had given them a warrant for this by his attendance upon that worship. But the Gentile Christians, having nothing in their ancient superstitions that could be substituted for them, would readily take these services as they found them among the Jewish converts, without attempting any innovations of their own, except perhaps as to the object of their worship. And accordingly, from all the sources of information relative to this subject that remain, there is every reason to believe this to have been the case. Whoever has perused Vitringa on this subject, cannot fail to be convinced that in the worship of the early Christians and that of the Synagogue, though in some instances there were considerable variations, yet, in all the most essential particulars the resemblance was singularly exact and striking. He states first the instances of corre spondence between the services of the Temple and those of the Synagogue, showing from ancient Jewish writers that all the religious services of
the latter were observed in the former; such as prayer, the reading of the law, and teaching the people from the Scriptures, whilst the sacrifices, the burning of incense, and the Levitical music, belonged exclusively to the Temple. And though the mode of prayer was different, yet in both places it was social. As the worship of the Synagogue was more rational, conducted with greater simplicity, more liberal, and better adapted to general use, than that of the Temple, so the worship in use among Christians in all these respects was a still further improvement. They had no forms but the Lord's prayer, which, after the apostolic age at least, they appear frequently to have repeated in their religous assemblies. But in other instances the resemblance was preserved. The worship of both was equally social;
a In his Prolegomena, cap. i. p. 3, is the following passage:-"In cultu templi et synagogarum occurrunt ritus quidam et ceremoniæ, iis ad omnia similes, quas in sacris nostris observare licet. Si enim animum advertamus ad lectionem legis, psalmodiam, conciones, preces, benedictiones, aliosque sacros, constat utique, eos non minus apud veteres Judæos quam nunc apud Christianos usu receptos fuisse. Quod qui attenta mente considerat, quid illi magis in proclivi est quam cogitare de communi horum sacrorum origine?
"In Templo et Synagogis fuerunt sacrarum rerum præfecti et miniştri ratione officiorum, (imo et nominum,) cum iis comparandi, qui in ecclesiis præsident iisque ministeria exhibent. Quapropter jure quæritur, quæ sit hujus convenientiæ ratio, aut esse possit?
"Præcipuam hic meretur animadversionem, quod non tantum officiales et consuetudines sacrorum conventuum Christianorum et Judaicorum plurimis partibus inter se consentiunt, sed quod ipsi Scriptores sacri ecclesiam Christianorum ejusque præfectos, ministros et consuetudines iisdem subinde nomini