« AnteriorContinuar »
hath its original from a troromical mistake in the church's falsely supposing that the new moons and full moons would, after every nineteen years, all come over again to the same point of time in the Julian year, as in the former nineteen years, whereas they do not so by an hour and an half, and that therefore, there is still an errour in this matter; the answer hereto is, that it would be so, were the feast of Easter, and the time of observing it appointed by divine institution: but since both are only by the institution of the church, wherever the church placeth it, there it is well and rightly observed. But,
Secondly. Were it truly the natural full moon, and, not the ecclesiastical, that is meant in the rule, yet since in this supposal it would be only an astronomical, and not a theological errour, this rule may be used without sin; and the use of it is all that the declaration of assent and consent obligeth to, as it is more than once plainly expressed in the act that enjoins it.
Thirdly. But it seems to me that neither the calendar, nor this rule belonging thereto, is within that declaration, and therefore no errour in either can be urged as a reason against it. For the assent and consent required to be given by the act of uniformity is "To the book of Common-prayer, and administration of the sacraments, and other rites and ceremonies of the church of England, together with the Psalter or Psalms of David, pointed as they are to be sung or said in churches, and the form and manner of making, ordaining, and consecrating of bishops, priests, and deacons," but neither the calendar, nor this rule belonging to it, can be brought under any of these particulars; and therefore cannot be contained within that declaration at all. If it be said, that the words rites and ceremonies include the calendar, and with it all the rules belonging thereto; my answer is, that the astronomical calculations, and the appointing thereby the times of the moveable feasts, concerning which our whole present dispute is, cannot be called either rites or ceremonies. If it be further urged, that both the calendar and the rule are in the book; the reply here
to is, so are several acts of parliament, but no one will say, that by the declaration any assent or consent is given unto them. But,
Fourthly. Supposing all to be in this case as the Dissenters object, to make such a trifle to be a reason of breaking communion, and separating from the church, is what men of common sense or common integrity may be ashamed of. They may as well urge the errata of the press against this declaration. For these afford as good a reason against it as the other. This shews how hard they are put to it to find reasons for their separation, when they urge such a wretched and frivolous one for it as this.
Thus much of the objection as far as the Dissenters have urged it. But there being something that may be further said on the same argument, with much more plausible appearance of reason, which the Dissenters have taken no notice of, I shall do it for them, that so by answering it I may clear this whole matter, and thereby fully justify the usage of our church herein. For it may be objected, that allowing the full moon in the rule of the calendar abovementioned to be the ecclesiastical full moon, and not the natural, yet the making of Easter-day to be the next Sunday after that full moon, is contrary to the rule which all other churches have gone by b till pope Gregory's reformation of the calendar, and contrary also to the present usage of our own. For, 1st. It is contrary to the rule which all other churches have gone by till the said reformation of pope Gregory; because, till then, from the time of the council of Nice, their rule hath been, that Easter-day is always to be the first Sunday after the first fourteenth moon which shall happen after the one and twentieth of March, which fourteenth moon is therefore called the Paschal term: but the full moon never happens till the fifteenth day of the moon; and therefore to put Easter-day on the first Sunday after the said full moon will be to make the first fifteenth moon after the said one and twentieth of March to be the Paschal term instead of the fourteenth, which no
b This reformation was made, A. D. 1582, and gave birth to what we call the New Style.
church in the whole Christian world hath ever yet done. And, 2dly. It is contrary to the present usage of our own church. For, in the tables subjoined to the said calendar, Easter-day is every where put on the Sunday next after the first fourteenth moon after the one and twentieth day of March, and never otherwise. And therefore, should Easter-day be always put, according to the rule abovementioned, on the next Sunday after the full moon of that rule, seeing no full moon can ever happen till the fifteenth day of the moon, Easter-day would sometimes fall on a Sunday different from that where it is placed in the tables; as, for example, A. D. 1668, the placing of Easter on the first Sunday after the fifteenth day of that moon, would make it fall on the twenty-ninth of March, but the tables place it on the twenty-second of March, which was the Sunday before, and then it was accordingly observed. And, A. D. 1678, the placing of Easter on the first Sunday after the fifteenth day of that moon, would make it fall on the seventh of April, but the tables place it on the last of March, which was the Sunday before, and there it was accordingly observed. And so it will be found in many other instances. And, therefore if the rule by which all other churches, till pope Gregory's reformation of the calendar abovementioned, observed their Easter, be right, and if the tables whereby our church keeps that festival be right, then the rule which is in our Common Prayerbook must be false, and consequently cannot be assented to as true. Thus far the objection.
The answer hereto is, that there is a twofold reckoning of the moon's age, the astronomical and the vulgar; the astronomical reckoning is from the conjunction of the moon with the sun, the vulgar from its first appearance, which is never till the next day after the conjunction. The Jews followed the vulgar reckoning, and, according thereto, accounted that to be the first day of the moon which was the first day of its
c Talmud in Rosh Hashanah. Maimonides in Kiddush Hachodesh. Selden De Anno Civili Veterum Judæorum.
appearance, as I have already shewn in the preface to the First Part of this history, and by this reckoning settled the times of their Paschal festival; which usage the ancient Christians borrowing from them did the same in their settling the feast of Easter, and so it hath continued to be done ever since. The first day therefore of the moon, which is marked out by the prime in the calendar of our Common Prayer-book, is not the day of its conjunction with the sun, but the day of its first appearance, which is always the day after; and the fourteenth day from thence is the fifteenth from its conjunction; on which fifteenth day the full moon happens, being applied to the Paschal moon, solves the whole difficulty of this objection. For the fourteenth day of that moon, as reckoned from its first appearance, will be from its conjunction the fifteenth day on which the full moon happens. And therefore this fourteenth day of the moon being the same with the full moon, and both the same with that which hath ever been the Paschal term, the first Sunday after which is Easter-day, the said Paschal term may be expressed by either of them: and therefore this rule in the calendar of our Common Prayer-book, in that it expresseth it by the full moon, doth the same, as if it had expressed it by the fourteenth day of the moon, and consequently it is not to be charged with any fault or errour in this matter. And thus having opened the cause in all its points, I shall leave the further prosecution of it to those who shall think fit to contend about it. All that I propose hereby is only to give such light into it, that neither side may, like the Andabatæ, fight in the dark, as both in the handling of this particular seem hitherto to have done.
In the compiling of this history I have taken all the helps that the Jewish writers could supply me with; but these, I must confess, are very poor ones. Of the succession of the presidents and vice-presidents of their
d The ancient Christians appointed their Easter by the same rule by which the Jews appointed their Passover, and the Asian churches for a long while observed it on the same day with them.
sanhedrim, by whom they say their traditions were handed down from Simon the Just, and the men of the great synagogue, I have given their names as far as this history goes. But, besides their names, there being scarce any thing related of them, but what carries with it a manifest air of improbability and fable, I have foreborne troubling. the reader with such trash. Only about Hillel and Shammai I have enlarged; for their followers constituting two opposite sects among the Jews, in the same manner as the Scotists and Tho-. mists among the schoolmen, their names run through both their Talmuds and all their Talmudic writings, and they are of all that have been in that station within the compass of this history, of the most eminent note and fame among them, and have had more said of them than all the rest. And therefore I have given as full an account of them as the Jewish writers can afford me within the limits of a just credibility.
But nothing can be more jejune and empty than the histories which the rabbinical Jews give of themselves. Josephus' History in Greek is a noble work, but they disown and condemn it, and instead of it would obtrude upon us an Hebrew Josephus, under the name of Josippon Ben Gorion. This, they say, is the true and authentic Josephus, but ours, that is, the Greek Josephus, a false one. There is a Josephus Ben Gorion mentioned in Josephus' History of the Jewish War, who is there said to have been one of the three to whose conduct that war was first committed. This person, the impostor who composed this book, mistaking for Josephus the historian, set forth that spurious work under his name, intending thereby to quash the credit of the true Josephus, which we have in Greek, as if that were the imposture, and this in Hebrew the only true and authentic work of that historian. But the book itself proves the fraud. For there is in it mention made both off names and things, which had
e Lib. 2, Ko μß.
f For in that book there is mention made of Lombardy, France, England, Hungary, Turkey, &c. which are all modern names, and never heard of till several hundred years after the time, in which it is pretended this book was written.