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"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." Divine 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 history 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 we 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 inform ed 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 favor 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, fortune, 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
that it was brought about by a concurrence of natural But the more this stupenduous fact has been examined by learned men, the literal truth of it has more appeared. And when the inspired historian ascribes the whole of it to the will and power of God, it becomes us to believe it on his word, unless any manifest contradiction be discovered. We had better give entire credit to the word of God, than shew that we are slow of heart to believe; because, in the first case, we acknowledge ourselves to be weak and ignorant, and God worthy of unbounded credit; but in the last case, we appear too tender of our own wisdom and reputation, and had rather affront God than sacrifice our imperfect and blind reason to his declarations.
In the history of the New Testament, the wonders of our Lord's incarnation, life, and death, are still related by the Evangelists, with the same simplicity which runs through the Old Testament. Although they treat of the most wonderful facts that can be conceived, they move modestly on, and fill up their surprising narrative without passion or panegyric. They speak of God and Christ without hesitation, and without apology, as being both of them God and Lord. And they do this in such terms, as our modern Arians and Socinians care not to adopt. It is a sure sign of an erroneous mind in any writer, when he hesitates to follow an inspired writer's manner of treating his subject.
Finally, Let us thankfully read the historical part of the Holy Scriptures; and in all we hear of what is passing in the world around us, let us consider that it is. the work of the same God, carrying on his great designs towards their full accomplishment, and bring
ing forward that period, when the systems of Providence and of Grace will be complete. And let us pray for the commencement of the glorious years of jubilee, when God will make wars to cease in all the earth, and perfect and establish the government of Christ, the Prince of Peace; when his people will have happy leisure to contemplate the records of time, and therein perceive God's redeeming love as the point to which the whole history of the Bible, and all the works of Providence in the world, do invariably tend.
ON THE DOCTRINAL PART OF HOLY SCRIPTURE.
THE doctrines of the scripture form by far the most important part of it, and, no doubt, to instruct mankind in these was the great reason for which a revelation was given. Every other part of the Word is made subservient to this: For if our minds be not rightly informed respecting the grand object of divine worship, and whether he will accept any service from such sinful creatures as we are, it is often of very little signification what we know of his creating power or providential goodness, or of what has been done in different ages and nations of the world. Whatever knowledge we might have of these things, we should not be able to make a right use of it; because the great truths which are to regulate our ideas and our actions would be wanting. In such a case, we should act in the dark, and be quite at a loss to know whether any of our religious services would yield us any benefit.