« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »
simple manner, yet with a majesty which commands our utmost reverence. I think you will receive great pleasure, as well as improvement, from the historical books of the Old Testament, provided you read them as an history, in a regular course. No history is more wonderful, interesting, and affecting; none more simple in its diction, and is of all the most authentic.
6. I shall give you some brief directions, concerning the method and course best to be pursued, in reading the holy scriptures. May you be enabled to make the best use of this most precious gift of God; this sacred treasure of knowledge! May you read the bible, not as a dull task, nor as the employment of that day only, in which you are forbidden more lively entertainments; but with a sincere and ardent desire of instruction; with that love and delight in God's word, which the holy Psalmist so pathetically felt and described, and which is the natural consequence of loving God and virtue.
7. The having of some general notion of what you are to expect from each book, may possibly help you to understand them, and will heighten your relish for them. The time and manner in which children usually read the bible, are very ill calculated to make them really acquainted with it; and to many people who have read, without understanding it, in their youth, satisfy themselves that they know enough of it, and never afterwards study it with attention, when they come to a maturer age.
OF GENESIS. The Doctrine of Resignation and Faith. 1. GENESIS contains the most grand, and, to us, the most interesting events, that ever happened in the universe; the creation of the world, and of man; the deplorable fall of man, from his first state of excellence and bliss, to the distressed condition in which we see all his desecndants continue; the sentence of death pronounced on Adam, and on all his race, with the reviving promise of that deliverance, which has since been wrought for us by our blessed Saviour; the account of the early state of the world; of the universal deluge; the division of mankind into different nations and languages.
2. The story of Abraham, the founder of the Jewish people; whose unshaken faith and obedience, under the severest trials human nature could sustain, obtained such favor in the sight of God, that he vouchsafed to style him his friend, and promised to make his posterity a great nation, and that in his seed, that is, in one of his descendants, all the kingdoms of the earth should be blessed. This, you will easily see, refers to the Messiah, who was to be the blessing and deliverance of all nations.
3. It is amazing, that the Jews, possessing this prophecy, among many others, should have been so blinded by prejudice, as to have expected, from this great personage only a temporal deliverance of their own nation from the subjection to which, they were reduced under the Romans, It is equally amazing, that some Christians should, even now, confine the blessed effects of his appearance upon earth, to this or to that particular sect or profession when he is so clearly and emphatically described as the Saviour of the whole world.
4. The story of Abraham's proceeding to sacrifice his only son, at the command of God, is affecting in the highest degree; sets forth a pattern of unlimited resignation that every one ought to imitate, in those trials of obedience under temptation, or of acquiescence under afflicting dispensations, which fall to their lot. Of this we may be assured, that our trials will always be proportioned to the powers afforded us. If we have not Abraham's strength of mind, neither shall we be called upon to lift the bloody knife against an only child; but if the almighty arm should be lifted up against him, we must be ready to resign him and all we hold dear, to the divine will.
5. This action of Abraham has been censured by some who do not attend to the distinction between obedience to a special command, and the detestably cruel sacrifices of the heathens, who sometimes voluntarily, and without any divine injunctions, offered up their own children under the notion of appeasing the anger of their gods. An absolute command from God himself, as in the case of Abraham, entirely alters the moral nature of the action; since he, and he only, has a perfect right over the lives of his creatures, and may appoint whom he will, either angel or man, to be his instrument of destruction.
6. That it was really the voice of God, which pronounced the command, and nota delusion, might be made certain to Abraham's mind, by means we do not comprehend, but which we know to be within the power of Him, who made our souls as well as bodies, and who can control and direct every faculty of the human mind. We may be assured, that if he was pleased to reveal himself so miraculously, he would not leave a possibility of doubting whether it was a real or an imaginary revelation.
7. Thus the sacrifice of Abraham appears to be clear of all superstition; and remains the noblest instance of religious faith and submission that was ever given by a mere We cannot wonder that the blessings bestowed on him for it, should have been extended to his posterity. This book proceeds with the history of Isaac, which becomes very interesting to us, from the touching scene already mentioned; and still more so, if we consider him as the type of our Saviour. It recounts his marriage with Rebecca ; the birth and history of his two sons, Jacob, father of the twelve tribes, and Esau, father of the Edomites; the exquisitely affecting story of Joseph and his brethren,and of his transplanting the Israelites into Egypt, who there multiplied to a great nation.
OF EXODUS.-The Mercies of GOD.
1. IN Exodus you read of a series of wonders wrought by the Almighty to rescue the oppressed Israelites from the cruel tyranny of the Egyptians, who, having first received them as guests, by degrees reduced them to a state of slavery. By the most peculiar mercies and exertions in their favour, God prepared his chosen people to receive with reverent and obedient hearts, the solemn restitution of those primitive laws, which probably he had revealed to Adam and his immediate descendants, or which, at least, he had made known by the dictates of conscience; but which time, and the degeneracy of mankind had much obscured.
2. This important revelation was made to them in the wilderness of Sinai; there assembled before the burning mountain, surrounded " with blackness and darkness, and
tempests," they heard the awful voice of GoD pronounce the eternal law, impressing it on their hearts with circumstances of terror, but without those encouragements, and those excellent promises, which were afterwards offered to mankind by Jesus Christ. Thus were the great laws of morality restored to the Jews, and through themtransmitted to other nations; and by that means, a great restraint was opposed to the torrent of vice and impiety, which began to prevail over the whole world.
3. To those moral precepts, which are of perpetual and universal obligation, were superadded, by the ministration of Moses, many peculiar institutions, wisely adapted to different ends, either to fix the memory of those past deliverances, which were figurative of a future and far greater salvation; to place inviolable barriers between the Jews and the idolatrous nations by whom they were surrounded, or to be the civil law by which the community was to be governed.
4. To conduct this series of events, and to establish these laws with his people, GoD raised up that great prophet Moses, whose faith and piety enabled him to undertake and execute the most arduous enterprises; and to pursue with unabated zeal, the welfare of his countrymen. Even in the hour of death, this generous ardour still prevailed; his last moments were employed in fervent prayer for their prosperity, and in rapturous gratitude for the glimpse vouchsafed him of a Saviour far greater than himself, whom GOD would one day raise up to his people.
5. Thus did Moses, by the excellency of his faith, obtain a glorious pre-eminence among the saints and prophets in heaven; while on earth, he will be ever revered as the first of those benefactors to mankind, whose labours for the public good have endeared their memories to all ages.
OF LEVITICUS, NUMBERS, AND DEUTERONOMY.
1. LEVITICUS contains little besides the laws for the peculiar ritual observance of the Jews, and therefore affords no great instruction to us now. Numbers is chiefly a continuation of the history, with some ritual laws.
2. In Deuteronomy, Moses makes a recapitulation of the foregoing history, with zealous exhortations to the people, faithfully to worship and obey that GOD, who had worked such amazing wonders for them. He promises them the noblest temporal blessings, if they prove obedient; and adds the most awful and striking denunciations against them, if they rebel, or forsake the true God.
3. The sanctions of the Mosaic law were tempoaal rewards and punishments; those of the New Testament, are eternal; these last, as they are infinitely more forcible than the first, were reserved for the last, best gift to mankind, and were revealed by the Messiah, in the fullest and clearest manner.
4. Moses, in this book, directs the method in which the Israelites were to deal with the seven nations, whom they were appointed to punish for their profligacy and idolatry, and whose land they were to possess, when they had driven out the old inhabitants. He gives them excellent laws, civil as well as religious, which were ever after the standing municipal laws of that people. This book concludes with Moses' song and death.
OF JOSHUA.-The Punishment of Idotatry.
1. THE book of Joshua contains the conquests of the Israelites over the seven nations, and their establishment in the promised land. Their treatment to these conquered nations must appear to you very cruel and unjust, if you consider it as their own act,unauthorized by a positive command; but they had the most absolute injunctions not to spare these corrupt people, " to make no covenant with them, nor shew mercy to them, but utterly to des troy them." The reason is given, "lest they should turn away the Israelites from following the Lord, that they might serve other gods."
2. The children of Israel are to be considered as instruments in the hand of the Lord, to punish those, whose idolatry and wickedness had deservedly brought destruction on them. This example, therefore, cannot be pleaded in behalf of cruelty, or bring any imputation on the character of the Jews. With regard to other cities, which