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whole seven days of the feast, the Book of the Law was read to them day by day, until the whole was gone through. In this review of their law they saw much of which they had been ignorant, and much more that they had neglected ; and with one accord, they professed their determination to adopt another course of conduct. Ezra and Nehemiah, therefore, to improve and confirm them in a temper so desirable, appointed a day of fasting, confession, and prayer, after which a formal adoption of the whole Mosaic law took place, and the covenant was solemnly signed and sealed by the princes, the levites, and the priests, for the whole congregation.
Nehemiah's leave of absence having now expired, he gave Jerusalem in charge to Hannani and Hannaniah, two men of distinguished character, and returned to the palace, with an account of his mission. After some years, perhaps five or six, he obtained leave again to go and inquire into the affairs of Judea. These particulars are but hinted in his history ; but it his highly probable that the king of Persia was not insensible to the benefits which must accrue to his empire, by the skilful efforts of such an upright man as Nehemiah, in promoting order and morality in his distant provinces, and, therefore, authorized this second visit. It is also probable, that the time of his stay at Shushan was considerable, for he found much to correct on his return to Jerusalem. Some had again transgressed the law, by forming connexions with the heathens. The most noted amongst these was Manasseh, a priest, who had married the daughter of Sanballat, the governor of Samaria. He was immediately driven from the sacred order. Leaving Jerusalem, he was received by Sanballat, who obtained a license to erect a temple in Samaria, resembling
that in Zion, and Manasseh became the high priest. Sam maria then became the resort of violaters and apostates, and the mongrel religion which had been adopted by the colonists, after the deportation of the Israelites, in the reign of Shalmaneser, was the religion of Manasseh's temple.
In process of time, however, it was purified from its dross: the statutes of Moses alone were acknowledged ; yet the hatred of the Jews to the Samaritans, as we find by the New Testament, still continued.
Another grievous vexation to Nehemiah, was the profanation of the Sabbath, which, in his absence, had gone to a shocking length. Jerusalem again rising to opulence, her commerce with the neighbouring states was revived; the Tyrians especially, who, in all periods of their history, were celebrated for their extensive trade, again brought in their merchandize. Ability to purchase, brings with it a tas te for foreign luxuries; the Tyrians could well minister to this, and the Jews were not only tempted to defraud the levites of their tithes, that themselves might indulge in the rich manufactures of Tyre, but they admitted the sellers to expose their wares on the Sabbath, and even laboured in their own vineyards on that sacred day. To put a stop to such outrages, Nehemiah ordered the gates of the city to be shut and strictly guarded on the Sabbath: the traders then erected their stalls under the walls of Jerusalem on the outside; but this, too, was forbidden, and menaces of seizure and punishment, at length, effected a reformation.
Ignorance of the law still prevailed amongst the people, and to this fruitful source of all evil, their transgressions might be generally referred. To disseminate knowledge is the best means to promote virtue, and to this great end Nehemiah next directed his care.
FANNY. How could the people possibly be ignorant with the book of the law in their hands?
Mrs. M. That it was not generally in their hands, was their misfortune. Books of all kinds, in every age and nation, must have been but scarce, whilst they could alone be multiplied by the pen. It is to the inestimable art of printing that we are indebted for the blessed light of literature: by means of that, the Bible now traverses the globe, and illuminates the palace and the cottage. But few of us can extenuate our sins by the plea of ignorance; for, besides the sacred Scriptures, we have a thousand helps in our way—the very first of which is public instruction on the Sabbath.
CATHERINE. Can you tell us how and when that great benefit originated.
MRS. M. That is the point to which my remarks were intended to lead you-to the origin of Christian churches, in the synagogues of the Jews, which, about this period of their history, were instituted as a means of popular instruction. That the churches of the first Christians, were but a continuance of the Synagogue, where they had been accustomed, before their conversion, to worship, was never questioned; but the precise time of their institution is not so exactly ascertained; to the time o. Ezra and Nehemiah, however, they are assigned by the best authorities. They are not mentioned in Scripture until after the captivity, wherefore it is argued that they did not exist. Whether these two zealous reformers lived long enough to lend their personal services to the erection of synagogues, we cannot tell; but the conclusion is just,
that the pains which they took to bring the common people acquainted with the Scriptures, and the good effects which were seen immediately to flow from the hearing them read and expounded, first suggested this most excellent mode of instruction.
The temple service, although wrapt in obscurity, was calculated to teach them that they were sinners, and stood in need of continual intercession ; but those who lived at a distance from Jerusalem, would receive but little advantage from attending there but three times in the year; and even at these solemn convocations, the males alone were commanded to appear. To these, then, and to the women ind children, the synagogue was invaluable; for, placed in all their cities and villages, whetesoever a very small congregation might be collected, they were opened every Sabbath, and frequently throughout the week, and there the sacred books were read and explained, and the assembly united in prayer.
Fanny. Did singing, in our manner, make a part of the synagogue form of worship?
Mrs. M. Music, both vocal and instrumental, made a part of the temple service, which was altogether imposing and magnificent, and it was used on other religious occasions, and at the celebration of a great national event; but it has never been, so far as I know, introduced into the synagogue.
The great change in the circumstances of the Israelites, on their re-establishment in their own land, is a good reason for referring the institution of some new mode of enlightening their minds to this era of their history. From the calling of their father Abraham to this moment, they had been guided and governed in an extraordinary manner.
The Divine Oracle had given them counsel from between the Cherubims-fire from heaven had testified the acceptance of their oblations—their prophets had been instructed by visions, and by dreams—and lastly, they had invariably prospered “ in their basket and their store," when they
“ obeyed the Divine commands, and were as constantly afflicted when they transgressed. All these marks of a direct superintendance were now to be withdrawn, and they were to participate with other nations in that coinmon Providence whicb “ sends bis rain on the just, and on the unjast.” The book of the law was now to be their monitor and their guide, and, at this critical juncture, they are provided with the means of becoming acquainted with its precepts. To this judicious measure it is ascribed, that the Jews were never more chargeable with the sin of idolatry. This had been their besetting sin, and a chief cause of their sufferings. They now saw the denunciations of the law against it in all its righteous terrors, and they could no more be allured to the worship of false deities. Their sacred books became more and more dear to them; they preserved them to the minutest letter with religious devotion, and it is owing to that scrupulous care, that they are handed down to us in their original purity.
CHARLES. We are more indebted to the Jews than I had supposed. I shall not, in future, dislike them as I used to do.
Mrs. M. To dislike any class of people, my son, is a breach of that charity which we are commanded to exercise towards the whole world of mankind. But the descendants of Shem are entitled to our affectionate regard : if they are now blind to their best interests, let us pity them; but let us not forget their claims to our veneration, enumerated in