Page images
PDF
EPUB

296

947

686325

PREFACE TO PART II.

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 afterward 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 showing 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 dissensions, that Easter is put wrong in the calendar before the Com. mon 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 a 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 a half in every nineteen years, which, in the long process of time that hath happened since the council of Nice, hath now made the difference between them to amount to about four days and a half; and so much the ecclesiastical new moons and full moons do at this time, in every month, overrun 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

1 This council was held A. D. 325.

[ocr errors][merged small]

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 error, for that it hath its original from astronomical 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 a half, and that, therefore, there is still an error 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 error, 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 error 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 farther urged, that both the calendar and the rule are in the book, the reply hereto 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 shows 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, so far as the dissenters have urged it. But there being something that may be farther 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 above mentioned 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 till Pope Gregory's reformation of the calendar,' and contrary also to the present usage of our own. For, first, 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 day of

I This reformation was made A. D. 1582, and gave birth to what we call the New Style.

March, which fourteenth moon is therefore termed 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 church in the whole Christian world hath ever yet done. And, secondly, It is contrary to the present usage of our own church: for in the table subjoined to the said calendar, Easter day is every where put on the Sunday next after the first fourteenth moon after the one-andtwentieth day of March, and never otherwise. And therefore, should Easter day be always put, according to the rule above mentioned, 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, Anno 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, Anno 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 above mentioned, 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 Prayer Book 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 appearance,' as I have already shown 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, which 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 error 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 purpose 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 1 Talmud in Rosh Hashanah. Maimonides in Kiddush Hachodesh. Selden de Anno Civili Veterum Ju. dæorum.

2 The ancient Christians appointed their Easter by the same rule by which the Jews appointed their Paseover, and the Asian churches for a long while observed it on the same day with them.

« PreviousContinue »