Page images
PDF
EPUB

of the need in which they stood of instruction, why would not the same necessity induce the other apostles to write to the churches under their care? Nor is there any reason why we should complain of the great loss which we have sustained, because these precious documents have perished; it is rather matter of gratitude that so many have been preserved by the provident benevolence of God towards us, and so abundantly sufficient to instruct us in the things pertaining to salvation.”*

Although I have cited this passage from this excellent and orthodox theologian, in favour of the sentiment advanced, yet I do not feel at liberty to go the whole length of his opinion here expressed. There is no reason to think that any of the other apostles composed such works as those which constitute the Canon of the New Testament. If they had, some of them would have been preserved, or at least, some memorial of such writings would have been handed down in those churches to which they were addressed. These churches received and preserved the Canonical books of those whose writings we have, and why should they neglect, or suffer to sink into oblivion, similar writings of apostles from whom they first received the Gospel?

Indeed, after all, this argument is merely hypothetical, and would be sufficient to answer the objections which might be made, if it could be proved that some inspired writings had perished; but, in fact, there is no proof that any such ever existed. It is, therefore, highly probable that we are in actual possession of all the books penned under the plenary inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

4. The last remark which I shall make in relation to the books of the Old Testament supposed to be lost, is, that it is highly probable that we have several of them now in the Canon, under another name. The books of Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles, were probably not written by one, but by a succession of prophets.

There is reason to believe, that until the Canon of Sacred Scripture was closed, the succession of prophets was never interrupted. Whatever was necessary to be added, by way of explanation, to any book already received into the Canon, they were competent to annex; or whatever annals or histories it was the purpose of God to have transmitted to posterity, they would be directed and inspired to prepare. Thus, different parts of these books might have been penned by Gad, Nathan, Iddo, Shemaiah, &c.

* Meletem. De Vita Pauli. Sect. vii, 11.

That some parts of these histories were prepared by prophets, we have clear proof, in one instance; for Isaiah has inserted in his prophecy several chapters which are contained in 2 Kings, and which I think there can be no doubt were originally written by himself.*

The Jewish doctors are of opinion that the book of Jasher is one of the books of the Pentateuch, or the whole law.

The book of the Wars of the Lord has by many been supposed to be no other than the book of Numbers.

Thus I think it sufficiently appears, from an examination of particulars, that there exists no evidence that any Canonical book of the Old Testament has been lost. To which we may add, that there are many general considerations of great weight, which go to prove that no part of the Scriptures of the Old Testament has been lost.

The first is, that God by his providence would preserve from destruction, books given by inspiration, and intended for the perpetual instruction of his church. It is reasonable to think that he would not suffer his gracious purpose to be frustrated; and this argument a priori, is greatly strengthened by the fact, that a remarkable providential care has been exercised in the preservation of the Sacred Scriptures. It is truly wonderful, that so many books should have been preserved unmutilated, through hundreds and thousands of years; and during vicissitudes so great; and especially when powerful tyrants were so desirous of annihilating the religion of the Jews, and used their utmost exertions to destroy their sacred books.

Another consideration of great weight is, the religious, and even scrupulous care, with which the Jews, as far as we can trace the history of the Sacred Scriptures, have watched over their preservation. There can, I think, be little doubt that they exercised the same vigilance during that period of their history of which we have no monuments.

The translation of these books into Greek, is sufficient to show that the same books existed nearly two hundred years before the advent of Christ.

And above all, the unqualified testimony to the Scriptures of the Old Testament, by Christ and his Apostles, ought to satisfy us that we have lost none of the inspired books of the Canon.

The Scriptures are constantly referred to, and quoted as infallible authority by them, as we have before shown. These oracles were committed to the Jews as a sacred deposit, and ⚫ See 2 Kings. xviii, xix, xx, compared with Isaiah, xxxvi, xxxvii, xxxviii.

they are never charged with unfaithfulness in this trust. The Scriptures are declared to have been written " for our learning;" and no intimation is given that they had ever been mutilated, or in any degree corrupted.*

SECTION VII.

THE ORAL LAW OF THE JEWS WITHOUT FOUNDATION.

BUT however the Jews may seem to agree with us, in regard to the Canon of the Old Testament, this concord relates only to the written law; for they obstinately persist in maintaining, that besides the law which was engraven on tables of stone, and the other precepts and ordinances which were communicated to Moses, and were ordered to be written, God gave unto him another Law, explanatory of the first, which he was commanded not to commit to writing, but to deliver down by oral tradition.

The account which the Jewish doctors give of the first communication, and subsequent delivery of this law, is found in the Talmud. It is there stated, that during the whole day while Moses continued on the mount, he was learning the written law, but at night he was occupied in receiving the oral law.

When Moses descended from the mount, they say that he first called Aaron into his tent, and communicated to him all that he had learned of this oral law; then he placed him on his right hand; next he called in Eliezer and Ithamar, the sons of Aaron, and repeated the whole to them; on which, they also took their seats, the one on his right hand, the other on his left. After this the seventy elders entered, and received the same instruction as Aaron and his sons. And finally, the same communication was made to the whole multitude of the people. Then Moses arose and departed, and Aaron, who had now heard the whole four times, repeated what he had learned, and also withdrew. In the same manner, Eliezer and Ithamar,

Note I.

[ocr errors]

each in turn, went over the same ground, and departed. And finally, the seventy elders repeated the whole to the people; every one of whom delivered what he had heard to his neighbour. Thus, according to MAIMONIDES, was the oral law first given.

And the Jewish account of its transmission to posterity is no less particular. They pretend that Moses, when forty years had elapsed from the time of the Israelites leaving Egypt, called all the people, and telling them that his end drew near, requested that if any of them had forgotten aught of what he had delivered to them, they should repair to him, and he would repeat to them anew what they might have forgotten. And they tell us, that from the first day of the eleventh month, to the sixth day of the twelfth, he was occupied in nothing else than repeating and explaining the law to the people.

But, in a special manner, he committed this law to Joshua, by whom it was communicated, shortly before his death, to Phineas the son of Eliezer; by Phineas to Eli; by Eli to Samuel; by Samuel to David and Ahijah; by Ahijah to Elijah; by Elijah to Elisha; by Elisha to Jehoiada; by Jehoiada to Zechariah; by Zechariah to Hosea; by Hosea to Amos; by Amos to Isaiah; by Isaiah to Micah; by Micah to Joel; by Joel to Nahum; by Nahum to Habakkuk; by Habakkuk to Zephaniah; by Zephaniah to Jeremiah; by Jeremiah to Baruch; and by Baruch to Ezra, the president of the great synagogue. By Ezra this law was delivered to the high priest Jaddua; by Jaddua to Antigonus; by Antigonus to Joseph, son of John, and Joseph, son of Jehezer; by these to Aristobulus, and Joshua the son of Perechiah; by them to Judah son of Tibous, and Simeon son of Satah. Thence to Shemaiah, to Hillel, to Simeon his son, supposed to have been the same who took our Saviour in his arms in the temple, when brought hither to be presented by his parents. From Simeon it passed to Gamaliel, the preceptor, as is supposed, of Paul. Then to Simeon his son; and finally to the son of Simeon, JUDAH HAKKADOSH, by whom it was committed to writing.

But although the above list brings down an unbroken succession from Moses to Judah the Holy, yet, to render the tradition still more certain, the Jewish doctors inform us that this oral law was also committed in a special manner to the high priests; and handed down, through their line, until it was com mitted to writing.

Judah Hakkadosh was the president of the Academy at Tiberias, and was held in great reputation for his sanctity, from

which circumstance he received his surname, Hakkadosh,i.e. the Holy. The temple being now desolate, and the nation scattered abroad, it was feared lest the traditionary law might be lost, therefore it was resolved to preserve it by committing it to writing. Judah the Holy, who lived about the middle of the second century, undertook this work, and digested all the traditions he could collect in six books, each consisting of several tracts. The whole number is sixty-three. But these tracts are again subdivided into numerous chapters. This is the famous Mishna of the Jews. When finished, it was received by the nation with the highest respect and confidence; and their doctors began forthwith to compose commentaries on every part of it. These comments are called the Gemara, or the Completion; and the Mishna and the Gemara, together, form the Talmud. But as this work of commenting on the text of the Mishna was pursued not only in Judea but in Babylonia, where a large number of Jews resided, hence it came to pass that two Talmuds were formed; the one called The Jerusalem Talmud, the other The Babylonish Talmud. In both these, the Mishna, committed to writing by Judah, is the text; but the commentaries are widely different. The former was completed before the close of the third century of the Christian era; the latter was not completed until towards the close of the fifth century. The Babylonish Talmud is much the largest of the two; for, while that of Jerusalem has been printed in one folio volume, this fills twelve folios. This last is also held in much higher esteem by the Jews; and, indeed, it comprehends all the learning and religion of that people since they have been cast off for their unbelief and rejection of the true Messiah.

MAIMONIDES has given an excellent digest of all the laws and institutions enjoined in this great work.

The Jews place fully as much faith in the Talmud as they do in the Bible. Indeed, it is held in much greater esteem, and the reading of it is much more encouraged. It is a saying of one of their most esteemed Rabbies, "That the oral law is the foundation of the written; nor can the written law be expounded but by the oral." Agreeably to this, in their confession, called the Golden Altar, it is said, "It is impossible for us to stand upon the foundation of our holy law, which is the written law, unless it be by the oral law, which is the exposition thereof." In the Talmud it is written, "That to give attention to the study of the Bible, is some virtue; but he who pays attention to the study of the Mishna, possesses a virtue which shall receive a reward; and he who occupies himself in

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »