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of religion, the synagogues were equally calculated for an increase of personal piety, and to perpetuate in the minds of the people the knowledge of revealed truth. After these were established, degenerate as the sons of Israel became, we never read of their relapsing into idolatry. The denunciations of the law were so often thundered in their ears, the calamities which their fathers had suffered for this offence were too familiar to their recollection, ever to allow them thus “to tempt the Lord to jealousy."
There is undoubtedly a great resemblance betwixt the edifices erected for christian worship amongst us, and those of the Jews. They appear to me to bear a much greater analogy to the synagogues than to the temple. The temple was a single building, which the Israelites were forbidden to multiply, it being designed to be a centre of union to the whole nation, as well as the immediate seat of the divine presence, which was confined to that spot : synagogues might be built at pleasure, and were spread over the whole land. The very idea of a temple is that of an immediate habitation of the Deity, who manifests himself there in a supernatural manner, or, at least, is believed so to do by his votaries. In the heathen temples, after they were duly consecrated, the gods, in whose honour they were erected, were supposed to take an immediate and preternatural possession of them. What was mere pretence or delusion among the heathen, was, at the temple of Jerusalem, an awful reality: the Lord visibly “ dwelt betwixt the cherubim.” In places set apart for christian worship, there were no such visible tokens of the presence of God. The manner of his presence is spiritual, not local; he dwells in the hearts of his worshippers. St. Stephen taught the Jewish nation, that it was one of the distinctions of the christian dispensation, that the Highest no longer “dwelleth in temples made with hands.” An altar, a sacrifice, and a priest, were the necessary appendages of the temple. But, among christians, we have no altar so called but the cross; no priest but the Son of God, who remaineth " a priest for ever ;” and no sacrifice, but the sacrifice “ once offered for the sins of the world.” The priestly office of Christ put an end to the typical priesthood of the sons of Aaron. It is an everlasting priesthood, and admits of no rival or substitute. In popular language, indeed, we give the appellation to that order of men who are set apart to minister in sacred things; and it is of no consequence, providing we recollect that it is but figurative language, not designed to be rigorously exact : for the apostolic definition of a priest, in the strict sense of the word, is one “ taken from among men, and ordained for men in things pertaining to God, that may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins.” In the temple-service, no provision was made for the regular instruction of the people in the principles of religion, beyond what the more serious attention might call out from the typical import of its services, which were, indeed, “a shadow of good things to come,” and obscurely pointed to the Saviour. It was erected as a place of national rendezvous, where God gave audience to the people as their temporal sovereign, and received their sin-offerings and peace-offerings, as an acknowledgement of their offences and tokens of their allegiance. The ceremonial institution was then in the highest degree pompous and splendid. Synagogues were established, it has already been observed, for the worship of individuals, for the instruction of the people in religious principles, and for the exercise of prayer and devotion every sabbath, as well as on other suitable occasions. The mode of worship was plain and simple, and more corresponding to the genius of christianity.
To this we must add, that the platform of the church was framed, in a great measure, on the plan of the Jewish synagogues, as is generally acknowledged by the most learned men. The Scriptures were read and interpreted in both, which was the origin of preaching; prayer was addressed to God in the name of the congregation ; each was governed by a council of elders, over which one presided, which gave birth to the title of bishops; and irregularities of conduct, and errors in doctrine, were the subjects of censure and animadversion. Excommunication in the christian church was similar, in its effects, to an expulsion from the synagogue.
So great was the resemblance
betwixt christian assemblies and synagogues, that they are sometimes, in scripture, used as synonymous terms.
“ If there come into your assembly," says St. James, “a man with a gold ring, or goodly apparel :” in the original it is synagogue. We need not be surprised at that close analogy we have traced, when we reflect that the first converts to christianity were principally Jews, who, incorporating themselves into societies, adopted, as far as they were permitted by the Holy Ghost, the usages and forms to which they had so long been accustomed.
III. The passage which is the ground of this discourse represents the conduct of the centurion as highly praiseworthy and exemplary. “ He is worthy,” say the Jewish elders, “ for whom thou shouldst do this; for he loveth our nation, and hath built us a synagogue.”
To assist in the erection of places of worship, providing it proceed from right motives, is unquestionably an acceptable service to the Most High. Whatever extends his worship, in facilitating the means of it, is directly calculated to promote his glory and the salvation of men, with which the worship is inseparably connected. The service and worship of God is the very end of our creation; the perfection of it constitutes the glory of heaven; and its purity and spirituality, in whatever degree they subsist, are the chief ornaments of earth.
The increase of places dedicated to public worship ought surely to be no matter of lamentation
or offence. They are rendered necessary by the increase of population. It is this which renders that accommodation quite inadequate at present, which was sufficient in former times. The edifices devoted to the established religion in our country are plainly too few, and the accommodation afforded to the poor especially too scanty, were the people ever so well disposed, to accommodate all who might wish to resort to them. Were I to advance this on my own [authority), I am well aware it would be entitled to little weight. I must be allowed to corroborate it by the testimony of one of the most distinguished ornaments of the church of England, a clergyman, a man of elevated rank, of enlarged and profound observation, and of exalted piety, who notices this evil in the following terms :—“Where are the poor in our large towns, where are the poor in the metropolis, to find room? One of the consequences obviously resulting from this deficiency, wherever it subsists, of accommodation in a parochial church for the poor, is this, that they are reduced to the alternative of frequenting no place of worship, or of uniting themselves with some of the methodists or dissenters. Each branch of the alternative has been adopted within my knowledge. That those who cannot obtain admittance into our places of worship should frequent the religious assemblies of some of our brethren in Christ who differ from us, ought to be a subject of thankfulness to ourselves. But are we justified in driving them from