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Scripture by the Name of Synagogues; which Word signifies Congregations. Synagogues therefore, were Places, where the sews of such a certain District or Quality, us'd to assemble and meet together to hear the Law expounded.
The first Mention we find of them, is in one of the Psalms, to which the Name Psal. of Afapb is prefix'd; tho' it is reasonable lxx' 8' to conclude, from the Contents of it, that it could not be compos'd by that Musician; nor any one else so old as the Time of David: but by some inspired Person after the Captivity; when their Temple and City, and all that .belong'd to them were destroy'd and burnt by the Babylonians: when this Psalmist might well say, They have burnt up all the synagogues of God in the land.
Whoever was the Author, it is pretty plain from hence, that these Synagogues were in use before the Babylonijh Captivity; and probably from the very Time of Moses himself. St. James says, Moses Acts xv of old time bath, in every city, them that *i. preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day. They were scatter'd
up and down in the Countreys of Judæa, Galilee, and ;that' Neighbourhood 5 -in whatever City a competent Number of Jews sojoum'd, they had a Synagogue, one 'or more, if the Government would Actsix. permit them. We read of several in?Daib. vi. g.majcus: and of one in Jerusalem it self; for the Benefit of those of the Jewish Religion who were Foreigners: the Citizens themselves resorting to the Temple upon all religious Occasions.
The Scribes (of whom we shall speak more particularly hereafter) us'd to officiate in these Synagogues, as the Priests did in the Temple: and some of them were call'd Rulers of the Synagtgue; who had the ordering of Matters there. But they all affected to appear considerable, and were remarkably ambitious of sitting in the chief Seats there, for which our Mark. Lord rebukes them. xu. 39. Those who had been guilty of any notorious Crime, or were otherwise thought unwerthy, were cast out of these Synagogues j that is, excommunicated; reckon'd as mere Heathens; shut out from all Benefits of the Jewish Religion. They came
P L A C E S 0/ W O R S H I *r III
to a Resolution, that whoever confess'd Johnix* that Jesus was the C H R I S T, he should be put out of the Synagogue. And therefore, when the blind Man who had been restored to Sight, persisted in confessing that he believ'd the Person who had been able to work such a Miracle, could not have done it if he were not of Qod, they cast him out. These Synagogues are in use among them to this Day.
SECT. L Their Holy Days.
WE have done with the Tlaces us'd for religious Worship by the Jews; we come next to treat of the Days that were accounted sacred among them. The more effectually to do which, it may be proper to take notice of their Manner of dividing and computing Time in general; and to fee what Account we have of their Tears, Month, and Weeks j by which means we jttiali get the most advantageous,
vantageous View of such Days, as were to be observ'd by them with more than ordinary Solemnity.
Their Computation of Time, by Tears.
It is agreed on all Hands, that the fewifl Year was Lunifolar; consisting of twelve Lunar Months, with an Intercalation, to make the whole agree with the Solar Year. Those Luminaries, the Sun and Moon, were ordain'd partly for this Purpose, at their Gen. i. Creation. Godsaid. Let there be lights in '4* the firmament of the heaven, to divide the day from the night: and let them be for signs, andfor seasons^ and for days and years.
However their Year was of two kinds, natural and legitimate; or common and sacred. Their natural or common Year began with the Autumnal Æquinox; that being the Time when they suppos'd the World was first created. The legal or sacred took its Beginning, by God's special Direction, from the Time of their Emigration out of Egypt-, which was about the Vernal Æquinox. This was just before their Harvest began j that, after they had gather'd
all in: One^ answering to our March ; the Other tb September.
Of the natural Year's beginning with the latter, we have Proofs from these two Ordinances j by which the feast of in-gathering is appointed to be kept, at the End of the Year: The feast of in-gathering, Exod. •which is in the end of the year, when thou xxi"'1 hast gathered in thy labours out of the field. Again, thou Jhalt observe the feast of ingathering at the year's end *
Concerning the Beginning of the sacred or legal Year, we find the following Direction, at the Institution of the Passover in Egypt; This month Jhall be unto you the Exod. beginning of months, it jhall be the first month of the year to you. And accordingly this Month is most commonly call'd the Month of Abib, from the Earing of the Corn, and the Blooming of the first Fruits about that Season: which is another Rea
* Exod. xxxiv. 22. The Chaldee Paraphrast upon 2 Kings 8. 2. fays, The Month Ethanim, now the seventh Month, but formerly the first. And Josephus, in his Antiquities, tells us that Noah's Flood began in the second Month of the Tear, which the Macedonians call Dios, the Hebrews Marelhuan, and the Romans October.