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THE SECOND PART of this history, which I now offer to the public, completes the whole of what I intend. My first purpose was to have concluded at the birth of our Saviour, and to have left what thenceforth ensues to the ecclesiastical historian of the Christian church, to whom it properly belongs. But since what is to connect the Old Testament with the New will there best end where the dispensation of the Old Testament endeth, and that of the New begins, and since that was brought to pass in the death and resurrection of our Saviour, I have drawn down this history thereto. For then the Jewish church was abolished, and the Christian erected in its stead; then the law of Moses ceased, and that of Christ and his gospel commenced, and therein the accomplishment of all the prophecies of the Old Testament relating to the person of the Messiah, which began at his birth, was fully perfected. And therefore, here I have thought it properest, to fix the conclusion of this work. But to avoid encroaching too far upon the Christian ecclesiastical historian, I have from the time of Christ's birth treated but in a very brief manner of what afterwards ensued to his death; and have passed over the whole time of the public ministration both of him and his forerunner. For all things that were done therein being fully related in the four gospels, which are, or ought to be, in every one's hands, barely to repeat them here would be needless, and all that can be done beyond a bare repetition, is either to methodise them according to the order of time, or to explain them by way of interpretation; but the former belonging to the harmonist, and the latter to the commentator, they are both out of the province I have undertaken.
I having, in the preface to the First Part of this history, recommended to the reader, for his geographical guidance in the reading of it, the maps of Cellarius,
the bookseller hath, in the third edition of that part, inserted into it as many maps out of him as may be useful for this purpose. And there hath also been added, in the same edition, a map of the temple of Jerusalem, which had been drawn and published by me in a single sheet, some years before. All these may serve for the Second Part, as well as for the First.
Perchance there may be some, who will think the history which I give of the Jewish cycle of eighty-four years, and of the other cycles, which as well as that have been made use of for the fixing of the time of Easter, to be too long a digression from that which is the main subject of this work. And therefore I think it necessary to acquaint the reader, that I have been led hereto by these following inducements. First, To give him an account of the controversies which happened among Christians about the time of celebrating Easter, during the use of this eighty-four years cycle among them. Secondly, To explain one important part of our ancient English history, by shewing upon what foot that dissension about Easter stood, which was here carried on between our British and Saxon ancestors on the account of the same Jewish cycle, during the whole seventh and eighth century, which hath no where else, that I know of, had a thorough and clear account given of it. And, lastly, To open the way to a better understanding of the modern dispute, which our Dissenters have here set on foot among us, upon the same argument. For they allege it as one reason of their dissension, that Easter is put wrong in the calendar before the Common Prayer-book, and that therefore they cannot give their assent and consent thereto.
It is a very odd thing that this sort of people, who are against keeping any Easter at all, should raise any quarrel about the time of its observance. But since they are pleased so to do, I will here apply what is written in the ensuing history, about the time of this festival, to the present case, and endeavour thereby to give them full satisfaction in it. In order whereto I shall lay down, first, The rule in the calendar, against which the objection is made; secondly, The objection
itself that is urged against it; and then, in the third place, I shall give my answers thereto.
I. The words of the rule in the calendar, as they lie in the page next after the months of the year, are these following, "Easter-day is always the first Sunday after the first full moon, which happens next after. the one and twentieth day of March. And if the full moon happens upon a Sunday, Easter-day is the Sunday after.'
II. The objection urged against this rule is, that if we take the common almanacks, in which the new moons and full moons are set down as they are in the heavens, it will seldom be found, that the first Sunday after the first full moon, which happens next after the one and twentieth day of March, is the Easter-day, which is appointed to be observed, according to the tables in the Common Prayer-book; and that therefore, if the rule be true, the tables must be false. And this, the Dissenters think, is reason enough for them to deny their assent and consent to the whole book.
III. I answer hereto, first, That it must be acknowledged, this objection would be true, were it the natural full moon that is meant in the rule. But besides the natural full moon, that is, that which appears in the heavens, when the sun and moon are in direct opposition to each other, there is also an ecclesiastical full moon, that is, a full moon day so called by the church, though there be no natural full moon thereon. To explain this by a parallel case, it is in the same manner, as there is a political month, and a political year, different from the natural. The natural month is the course of the moon, from one new moon to another; the political month is a certain number of days, which constitute a month according to the political constitution of the country, where it is used. And so a natural year is the course of the sun from a certain point in the Zodiac, till it come about again to the same; but the political year is a certain number of months or days, which constitute a year, according to the political constitution of the country where it is used. And so, in like manner, there is a natural new moon day, and an ecclesiastical new moon day. The natural new
moon day is that on which the natural new moon first appears, and the fourteenth day after is the natural full moon day. And the ecclesiastical new moon day is that which, by the ecclesiastical constitutions, is appointed for it, and the fourteenth day after is the ecclesiastical full moon day. And the primes, that is, the figures of the golden numbers, which are in the first column of every month in the calendar, are there placed to point out both, that is, the ecclesiastical new moon day first, and then, by consequence from it, the ecclesiastical full moon day, which is the fourteenth day after. This order was first appointed from the time of the council of Nice; and then the natural new moon and full moon, and the ecclesiastical new moon and full moon, fell exactly together. And had the nineteen years' cycle, called the cycle of the moon (which is the cycle of the golden numbers,) brought about all the new moons and full moons exactly again to the same point of time in the Julian year, as it was supposed that it would, when this order was first made, they would have always so fallen together. But it failing hereof by an hour and almost an half, hereby it hath come to pass, that the ecclesiastical new moon and full moon have overshot the natural new moon and full moon an hour and near an half in every nineteen years, which, in the long process of time that hath happened since the council of Nice, bath now made the difference between them to amount to about four days and an half; and so much the ecclesiastical new moons and full moons, do at this time, in every month, over-run the natural. However, the church still abiding by the old order, still observes the time of Easter, according to the reckoning of the ecclesiastical moon, and not according to that of the natural. And therefore it is of the ecclesiastical full moon, and not of the natural, that this rule is to be understood, and consequently what the Dissenters object against it from the full moon in the heavens, is nothing to the purpose. But if it be still objected, that this ecclesiastical full moon different from the natural, is the product of errour, for that it
a This council was held A. D. 325.