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READING OF THE BIBLE.
"Sanctify the Lord God in your hearts; and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear."-1 PET. iii. 15.
THE reader will find in the following pages a series of notes, rather than a full and detailed account of such knowledge as may be required for a profitable study of the Scriptures. The object of the author has been merely to give such a view of the Sacred Volume, as shall, through the Divine blessing, awaken a desire to "search the Scriptures" (John v. 39; Acts xvii. 11), and assist those who may be making a first effort to do so.
The practical benefit to be derived from the Holy Scriptures depends upon the disposition of mind in which we read them. Under this conviction the general plan pursued has been,―
First, To remind the reader of the Divine authority of the Bible, by slightly noticing some of the evidences on which it is proved to be the word of God.
Having thus shown the state of mind in which the Sacred Volume should be approached, as the word not of men, but of God, the object of the writer has been to explain,
Secondly, The purpose for which the Bible was given to mankind; as also,
Thirdly, The manner in which that purpose has been fulfilled. Some general remarks will then be given,
Fourthly, On the interpretation of the Bible.
The Jews were the people through whom God communi
cated his will to man. This consideration has suggested the propriety of giving a slight sketch,
Fifthly, Of the government, the worship, and the different sects, &c. of the Hebrew people.
After this has been added,
Sixthly, A short account of the several books of the Old and New Testament, with such a notice of their contents as will in some measure illustrate the previous remarks.
The use which has been made of the Sunday Exercises on the Morning and Evening Services of the Church has suggested the attempt to form what may be used as a Sunday Exercise on the Bible. This being the author's object, will offer some apology for the number and abruptness of the references to Scripture. To those who may use it as an exercise for the instruction of the young, it is strongly recommended that the substance of each section should be reduced to questions, and written answers required. A few questions have been given; but to have pursued this further would have increased too much the size of the volume.
Bishop Horne remarks: "When we study the writings of men, it is well if, after much pains and labour, we find some particles of truth amongst a great deal of error: when we read the Scriptures, all we meet with is truth. In the former case we are like the Africans on the Gold Coast; of whom it is said that they dig pits nigh the water-falls of mountains abounding in gold; then, with incredible pains and industry, wash off the sand till they espy at the bottom two or three shining grains of metal, which only just pay their labour. In the latter case we work in a mine sufficient to enrich ourselves and all about us."-The object of this work is to draw the reader to this mine, and just to loosen its surface for him.
Bishop Jewel says: "The Scriptures are manna given to us from Heaven, to feed us in the desert of this world." The author can truly state, that his heart's desire and prayer to God is, that by his humble efforts these Scriptures may be endeared to the reader; that being led to partake of the Bread of Life, he may eat and live for ever. (John vi. 31, &c. 47, &c. with Col. iii. 16; John xvi. 13.)
OF THE BIBLE.
THE DIVINE AUTHORITY OF THE BIBLE.
CONTENTS.-i. The Preservation of the Bible. § ii. The Moral Effects of the Bible. § iii. The Agreement of all the Parts with each other. Siv. The Spirit of the Writers. §v. Miracles and Prophecy proving it to be the Word of God.
WHAT IS THE BIBLE? This seems naturally the first inquiry which suggests itself as an introduction to the study of the Bible. And for this reason-because the answer at once directs us to the disposition of mind in which it should be read; and our right use, and even our understanding, of the Sacred Volume, entirely depends on the disposition in which we read it. (Dan. xii. 10; see also Isa. xxix. 13, 14; Matt. vi. 23. xi. 25. xiii. 11, 12; John iii. 19. v. 44; 1 Cor. ii. 14; 2 Cor. iv. 4; 2 Tim. iii. 13.)
These texts are given by Bishop Butler on this subject; Analogy, Part ii. page 321.
The Bible is the word of God, and this solemn thought should be ever present to the mind when we read it. It is not, however, the object of this chapter to enter into any detailed proof of the Divine authority of the Bible, but only to remind the reader of some of those remarkable circumstances, which distinguish it as such from all other books. Among these, may be noticed what (till the attention had been drawn a little to the subject) might not appear so; namely, first, its Preservation.
Si. The Preservation of the Bible.
1. The Bible is the oldest book in the world; the first part of it, which is the foundation upon which all the others rest, having been written 3300 years ago; that is to say, nearly 1000 years earlier than the date of any other history which we have.
Herodotus and Thucydides, the oldest profane historians whose writings have reached our times, were contemporary with Ezra and Nehemiah, the last of the historians of the
Between them and Moses, the writer of the first five books of the Bible, there is an interval of The Poems of Homer and Hesiod are somewhat more ancient than Herodotus, but they are nearly 600 years after Moses.
nearly 1000 years.
And it is the more remarkable that the Bible should be the oldest book in the world, from these two considerations:
(1.) The Jews, who had the care of these books, were, at different periods of their history, a very despised and oppressed people. (See an account of their treatment from the Midianites, Judges vi. 2; also from the Philistines, 1 Sam. xiii. 20; from the Syrians, 2 Kings xiii. 7; the Egyptians, 2 Chron. xii. 2-9; and particularly from the Assyrians, 2 Kings xvii. 6; and the Chaldeans, 2 Kings xxiv. xxv. 2 Chron. xxxvi. Jer. lii.)
During their captivity in Babylon, their temple having been burnt, the very ark in which the original copy of the Law was kept (Deut. xxxi. 26), and every glory of the Jewish worship perished, and their city laid waste for more than a hundred years. Antiochus Epiphanes, when he took Jerusalem, murdered about 40,000 of its inhabitants, sold as many more to be slaves, and ordered, that whoever was found with the Book of the Law should be put to death; and every book that could be found was burnt. (1 Maccab. i. 56, 57.)
(2.) The Jews themselves were tempted, by their continual disobedience, to a frequent disregard of their own Scriptures. (See Deut. xxxi. 29, verified by all their subsequent history. Neh. ix.)
Their constant disposition to idolatry before the Babylonish captivity was calculated, humanly speaking, to endanger the safety of the Sacred Volume. Jezebel, the wife
of a king of Israel, attempted the utter destruction of the prophets of the Lord (1 Kings xviii. 4), and with them, as a necessary consequence, of the Sacred Books; and so far, indeed, did these and similar (Matt. xxiii. 34) attempts succeed, that in a subsequent period of their history, Josiah, a pious king of Judah, and Hilkiah, the high priest, were destitute of an authentic copy of the Scriptures, until the latter found it in the house of the Lord. (2 Kings xxii.; 2 Chron. xxiv.)