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5. Sorts of Compositions. The Bible comprises, not only the most ancient learning, but also every kind of it, in prose and verse. All literary tastes may be gratified and improved.
In the original, a word (700 sapher, the parent of cypher ?) of very extensive application, expresses the idea of history in general. In Gen. v. 1, it means a genealogy; and Job xxxi. 35, 36, a meinorial, or emblematic writing on linen; 2 Chron. xiii. 22, a memoir to be consulted, has another term; and of historiographers, or public recorders, we read in 2 Sam. viii. 16; 1 Kings iv. 3.
In those periods of remote antiquity, which were the infancy of societies and nations, a very common mode of instruction was, by detached aphorisms or proverbs. Nor could it prove inefficacious; for it professed not to dispute, but to command; it conducted, not by a circuit of argument, but immediately to the approbation and practice of virtue. That it might not, however, be altogether destitute of allurement, some degree of ornament became necessary; and hence the instructors of mankind added to their precepts the graces of harmony, and enriched them with a variety of captivating and useful allusions. This manner of writing, which with other nations prevailed only during their first civilization, continued among the Hebrews to be a favourite style to the latest ages of their literature. They termed it (
oswn) meshlim, as well because it consisted in a great measure, of " parables,” strictly so called, as because it possessed uncommon force and authority over the minds of the hearers; Prov. xxv. 11, is at once a rule and happy specimen :
How beautiful is the oldest parable, or “ fable,” in the world, Judges ix. 7–20; and the most ancient enigma, or “ riddle,” of Samson, Judges xiv. 14, 18, the whole of which is metrical!
No part of biblical literature can be more interesting than that of its poetry, the impressive characteristics of which have obtained a minute, but not an exhausted attention. But on this all-enchanting theme it is impossible to expatiate here. The beautiful illustrations of Scripture, so ably furnished by Lowth, in his charming and well known “ Sacred Poetry of the Hebrews,” have received some valuable additions from the late Dr. Jebb, by applying the same principles to the New Testament.
Of letters or cpistles some notice should be given in examining the literary character and aspect of the sacred writings. How different are the biblical specimens from those produced in the present day, particularly in the western world ; and consequently how desirable a satisfactory explanation. The circumstance (Neh. vi. 5) of Sanballat's sending an “ open” letter to Nehemiah, like that of 2 Kings xviii. 27, was regarded as a marked disrespect and public insult. The form and composition of the New Testament “ Epistles” were exactly similar to synchronical letters among the Grecians and Romans, but more resembling our " notes" than the regular letters. The late Editor of Calmet supplied some useful explanations with engravings; and Mr. MontgOMERY, in his Preliminary Essay to the “ Christian Correspondent,” has just published some excellent observations on this topic, but it is astonishing how the subject has been overlooked by our commentators and critics in general.
6. Places of Publication. It must be interesting and useful to know the places where, as well the times when, and the persons by whom the several portions of Scripture were originally composed and published. “Geography and chronology are the eyes of history.”
Mount Sinai was resorted to by Moses “ forty days and nights," Ex. xxiv. 18, xxxiv. 28; Deut. ix. 9, for inditing all his several laws, under the direct and special inspiration of the Almighty. It is supposed that one part of Moses' work there, was his regulating the muster roll of all the tribes and families of Israel, in reference to the parts they were respectively to act, both in the wilderness and land of promise; and this being done under the immediate direction of God, is termed “his book," which “ he had written.” Dr. A. CLARKE, on Ex. xxxii. 32.
The titles of the Psalms are not always to be implicitly regarded as authentic and worthy of much notice, but that of Ixiii. may now be mentioned ; “ Wilderness of Judah.” This would seem to be the most celebrated desert in Sacred History. In the time of Joshua, it had “ six cities, with their villages," Josh. xv. 61, 62. It was a mountainous, wooded, and thickly-inhabited tract of country, but abounding in pastures, situated near to the Dead Sea and the River Jordan. Herein abode John the Baptist until the day of his showing unto Israel, Luke i. 80, and where he first taught his countrymen, Matt. iii. 1; Mark i. 4; John x. 39.
Ezekiel (i. 1.) specifies at least the River “ Chebar," on the banks of which he was placed in exile, when inspired of God to write his visions. That river flowing into the Euphrates, 100 miles north of Babylon, can easily be traced on the map; but the aids and services of geography are yet very much wanted for the illustration and vindication of all the prophets!
“ Isle of Patmos," Rev. i. 9, was the place of John's abode " for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ,” which he has so symbolically, but splendidly “disclosed" in the “Revelation." Not that he was banished thither ; but it was his divinely-chosen residence ; most geographically convenient for the “ seven churches in Asia,” and most central between the famed and then fighting cities of Rome and Jerusalem !*
* Vide l’hitridge's Tubular View and Analysis of the Revelation.
(To be concluded in our next.)
REPRINT OF DR. WEST ON THE ATONEMENT.
(To the Editor.) Dear Sir,Will you allow me to draw your attention and that of your numerous readers to a valuable little work just published by the Religious Tract Society? It is entitled, “ The Scripture Doctrine of the Atonement proposed to careful Examination,” by Stephen West, D.D., Stockbridge, America. It was originally published in 1785, and till this new edition was put forth, could very rarely be met with in England. It was a very favourite book with the late venerable Dr. Ryland, of Bristol, who, not long before his death, intimated that he should not regret if the last effort of his pen was employed in recommending it to the attention of his friends. The late Dr. Harris, of Hoxton Academy, considered the work as an able and unanswerable defence of the doctrine, and strongly urged his students to procure a copy whenever it could be met with. For many years I had been endeavouring to obtain one, but was unsuccessful till last summer, when I found a copy most unexpectedly and happily. The book now in my possession originally belonged to the late Dr. Ryland, and contains some marginal notes in the Doctor's own hand-writing, and a statement on the fly leaf that it was given by Captain Timothy Edwards, grandson of the late President Edwards, of America.
On carefully reading the work, (which, indeed, requires close attention,) I was not surprised at the high estimation in which it was held by the excellent and learned individuals referred to. It is a masterly defence of the great “ Doctrine of Atonement," and is well worthy the attention of our English Divines. It does not appear to have come under the notice of our celebrated modern writers on this subject. No allusion is made to it in the works of Bishop Magee, Dr. Pye Smith, or Wardlaw, nor in the admirable volume lately published by the Rev. Joseph Gilbert. Impressed with the conviction of its value, I drew the attention of the Committee of the Tract Society to the work, and suggested its rc-publication, if compatible with their rules. This suggestion has been complied with, and the work has just issued from the press. It is reprinted from the Stockbridge edition of 1809, with a few trifling corrections and omissions. I hope the volume will be speedily reviewed by one of your learned critics, that its merits may be more fully appreciated, and made more generally known.
I am, dear Sir,
the work, the attentiert. Im
Affaires de Rome. Mémoires addressés au Pape ; des maux de
l'Eglise et de la Société, et d'y rémédier, par M. F. de la
Mennais. Bruxelles, 1837. pp. 400. This is a volume of absorbing interest to every one who is observing the signs of the times.” Some, indeed, observe them through a distorting medium, and are “afraid where no fear is ;" others, calmly and attentively beholding them, discern the profundity of the divine counsels in the measured approximation of events, uncontrollable by man, but all tending to the establishment of the kingdom “ which cannot be moved.”
The days of Rome are numbered : so are those of Mecca. Would that some reforming mufti had given to us a volume similar to that before us on “ the affairs of Constantinople!" Par nobile fratrum! Born under the same star, their destinies are inseparably linked together, and their catastrophe will be as terrible as their deeds have been sanguinary and detestable.
Of all this the Abbé de la Mennais seems, in a great measure, unaware. Profound, learned, philosophical, liberal and highly gifted as he is, yet he does not appear to anticipate the certain overthrow of that “ mother of abominations," who has seated herself on her seven hills, as the mistress of the world. Comprehensive as his views are, he does not appear to have connected the cause of ecclesiastical despotism with political tyranny, as, in fact, one and the same, whether under the crescent or the cross. His main doctrine is, that Catholic Christians, especially the clergy, must be unconnected with state influence, and with the power and policy of civil governments : in short, that it is not good for the church of Christ to be in alliance with the state ; that the spiritual and the temporal powers are quite distinct in their nature; and that, while we may acknowledge the most unlimited authority over our faith and conscience to reside in the Vicar of Christ at Rome, we are not at all bound, on that account, to render to him the homage of our political opinions or our national rights and privileges.
This he asserts to be the true Catholic doctrine of the Church of Rome; and, to support it, he, with several coadjutors, established, immediately after the days of July, in France, a Society for the defence of Religious Liberty, and a journal, intituled l'Avenir, for the dissemination of their opinions.
These proceedings gave great offence at Rome. Briefs and bulls were issued to stay the plague; and the Abbé and his friends stopped the work in which they were engaged. A deputation of three, headed by the Abbé himself, immediately repaired to Rome, to explain their proceedings. The Pope allowed them one interview of etiquette, upon the express condition of abstaining from
any reference to the subject on which they had come to address him. They returned, therefore, to France, not a little mortified with the result of their visit, and with no very pleasing reflections on the politics of the Vatican.
The Abbé, having resolved not to touch any more on the Catholic religion and the church, retired into the country, where, as he says, “the internal life has more energy.” “Here," he adds, " a crowd of thoughts and emotions, such as the present state of society naturally produces, wearied and oppressed my soul. I thought that it would solace me to commit my sentiments to writing: hence the • Paroles d'un Croyant.'” The publication of this work created a great sensation. It denounced the despotism of kings, and their employment of Christianity to promote their personal ends. He says,
“ That which determined me to publish it, is the frightful state into which I see France on one hand, and Europe on the other, sinking rapidly every day, It is impossible that this state of things can remain ; and I am convinced that, as nothing, henceforth, can arrest the development of civil and political liberty, we must endeavour to unite it to order, right, and justice, if we would not wish to see society entirely overthrown. This is the end which I propose to myself. I forcibly attack the system of kings, their odious despotism.-I am on the side of the people. I identify myself with their sufferings and their miseries, in order to make them comprehend, that, if they cannot be released from them, except by the establishment of true liberty, they will never obtain that liberty but in separating themselves from the doctrines of anarchy, and in respecting property, the rights of others, and every thing just. I endeavour to excite in them the sentiments of fraternal love, and the sublime charity which Christianity has promulgated in the world for their happiness.”
Such was the intention of the work, as explained by the Abbé in a letter to the Archbishop of Paris. He adds,
“Rome was highly incensed with it: and it is but just to say, that, in truth, nothing could have been published more completely in opposition to her political system. She, therefore, very naturally expressed her profound disapprobation, in the circular of the 10th July, 1834. "Every thing was introduced into it-ber traditional maxims of perseverance in her resolutions taken, ber diplomatic engagements, her interests, in short, such as, after mature reflection, doubtless, she had considered them. The public, also, had to form their judgment on the same book. Some blamed it: others, and by far the greater number, received it with sympathy. Translated immediately into the principal languages of Europe, more than a hundred thousand copies were, almost as soon, disposed of, in spite of the prohibitions of the governments and the activity of their police.”
What shall we then think of the Abbé's views both of church and state, when we find him agitating still these doctrines which are so offensive to both. The present work on “the Affairs of Rome," must be still more distasteful to the Holy See than either of the preceding publications on the subject. The whole story is told with all the verifying documents attached. All Holy Alliances are warned against the effusions of popular discontent. The weakness of despotic governments, the Papacy being included, is clearly exposed ; and the inevitable convulsion of continental affairs, without a timely concession to the growing illumination of the people, is not obscurely anticipated.