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understand where we are, and what directions we have to take, in every part of our course.
The pains we were at in settling with due solid ty, our judgment in the first instance will also serve as a foundation to rest upon in attending to subsequent parts of revelation. Nor will the future superstructure be unlikely to repay the support by adding to the consolidation of our early decisions. And, when the various books of Divine scripture become, as it were, confronted, by a just dis. crimination of their respective siniilarities and differences, they will reflect a reciprocal light, by which some parts may be illustrated, even after they had been given up as irrevocably obscure. This will especially be probable if a close attention be paid to those hints of the chronological order of writings and facts, and of the geographical disposition of places and countries, with which the various books of the Old and New Testaments mostly abound. The book of Kings, and the Acts of the Apostles, will, in this view, be the best key to the prophetic and epistolary divisions. Much latent information and evidence will likewise be mutually afforded by a comparison of the several prophecies and epistles among themselves, grounded, not upon their casual places in ourBibles,but upon the order in which they may be arranged by the historical facts to which they refer.
In following the connected narrative or argument of each book, an almost insurmountable obstacle occurs in the divisions, so long and universally adopted, of chapters and verses. This distribution, it is well known, was first occasioned by the want of some method of ref. erence to particular expressions of scripture; and lras gradually assumed its present form, more by accident than contrivance. It has produced such a metamorphosis in the sacred books, and made them so much like one another, and so unlike themselves, that it is difficult for a common reader to conceive that they were ever otherwise; or for any body to figure to himself what they would appear to be, if not deranged by so unnatural an analysis. The most beautiful statue, if hacked into fifty pieces, and those again broken into morsels, would scarcely be restored to its pristine dignity and beauty with greater difficulty. Considerable help would probably be afforded to a sincere and studious inquirer after scriptural knowledge, by an edition of the Bible, corrected from the common version, were it indispensably necessary for clearness or justice, with the books arranged suitably to their apparent dates, and those which are poetical distinguished by lines, according to the Hebrew MSS. as in Lowth's Isaiah; admitting no subdivisions but such paragraphs as the sense required; and printed, perhaps with a very few notes, in a size and form adapted to general circulation.
Farther hints upon this subject are precluded by necessary limitations. It may possibly be resumed in another place, with a view to the application of our stated opportunities of public worship to the same important purpose.
ON THE HISTORICAL PART OF THE SCRIPTURES.
The Holy Scriptures are a most invaluable treasure: they are a celestial light, shining in this dark world. Without them the most polished people on earth would be like the Egyptians, under the plague of darkness:
“They saw not one another, neither did any rise from his place for three days." In like manner, the most civilized people, without the Bible, see not one another; they know nothing truly of themselves or of God; they rise not from their places; they are idle, in a religious sense; they know not what way to take to please God; and make no progress towards a happy future state. They know not whence they came, nor whither they are going. The book of Nature is open before them. “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handy-work." Day and night, and the revolving sun, declare through all the earth God's eternal power and Godhead; but the 19th Psalm says nothing about any saving effect on any soul, by the preaching of these glorious luminaries. No change is wrought until the law of God, the word of God (the Bible) is opened; then it says, “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul. The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.” Di. vine life, and wisdom, and joy, attend the Bible, and are not to be found where that sacred volume is not found. This is the incorruptible seed, by which souls are born of God, and grow up into Christ in all things.
The historical part of the scripture, which some so little esteem, is of infinitely greater worth than all the writings extant in the world, except the other inspired writings; because here we are assured of the truth of the records. And to be certain that an his. tory of important events is in all parts true, is an important blessing. The Bible history, however, has far more to recommend it than barely its authenticity; for in it have a faithful record, by what persons, in
what manner, and for what purpose, the things spoken of were brought to pass. Here we are not only informed of the creation of the world, but told, that God made it in six days; also, that he made it to be inhabited, and to be a theatre, on which he would exhibit to men his glorious designs of redeeming love.
The historical part of the Bible is filled up with various appearances of God, in his providence, in favo of good men; which at the same time, form parts of the history, and exhibit patterns of our duty, and encouraging hints for us to follow the example of those good men. They are also made types and figures of the great Messiah, who was to come. Here we have amazing displays of God's power, grace, and condescension, in favor of his servants; and of his vengeance against his enemies. We are informed of the destruction of the old world; of seas and rivers being divided; of God speaking to his people from the top of a mountain; of the earth's opening and swallowing up rebels; of God's feeding a million of souls for the space of forty years, in a desolate wilderness; and many other wonderful events, which are related with amazing simplicity; and so interwoven with the history of a great nation, that it is impossible to deny the facts, without denying that there ever was such a nation of men in the world. Whatever occurrences are related in this history, we are taught to ascribe them not to chance, for. tune, or human power and policy, but to God only, who in the Holy Scriptures is invariably represented as the only Grand and Supreme Disposer of all events.
Here are no labored political disquisitions on the probable designs of kings and their ministers, in res.
pect to the events which are related; but God is always kept in view. If a profane writer had recorded the history of Naaman the Syrian, he would perhaps have treated largely on the courage of that officer; on his military skill, and great success in battle; and have imputed all to his great abilities; but the sacred historian, after mentioning his courage, success, and favor with his master, places all in its true order, when he adds, Because, by him the Lord hath given deliverance to Syria. By this, and many other such hints in Scripture, we may perceive the excellency of the inspired writers, when compared with those whose chief delight is to exalt man, and keep God out of sight in the government of his own world.
The historical part of Scripture should be received, and rigidly preserved in its literal sense. Some Christian writers have made very free with the history of the creation of the world, and the fall of man; and have endeavored to spiritualize the meaning and the truth of these events quite away.
But such a method of writing is both unjustifiable and dangerous.
The scripture history, in judicious hands, may indeed be accommodated, to experimental religion, as was done by St. Paul, when he says, “The God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, has shined into your hearts:" and again, in his allegorical representation of Isaac and Ishmael; also in his producing the history of Melchizedech as a type of Jesus, our great High Priest. But in this, a proper degree of Caution is absolutely needful.
The history of the Flood has been strangly tortured to persuade us that it is only a fabulous account; or