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GENESIS, i. 31.
The order of the Proper Lessons for the Sunday service, throughout the year, may be said to begin from this day. On this day we, as it were, begin the Bible, and the first Lessons continue to be taken from the books of the Law and the Prophets successively, till we come again to the season of Advent; those for Advent and the Sundays after Epiphany being taken, for particular reasons, from the book of Isaiah alone. Now it is impossible that so small a portion of the Old Testament, as can be read at the rate of two chapters a week, can give us any thing like a full notion of its contents: indeed, there are several books from 2
which none of the Sunday Lessons are ever taken at all. Still the selection takes many of the most important parts, and forms a skeleton, more or less perfect, of the substance of the whole Bible. In particular those great events recorded in the earlier part of Genesis, which concern directly the whole race of mankind, are read in the Proper Lessons with tolerable fulness. I mean the Creation, the Fall, and the Flood. It is true that there is much in the accounts of all these events, the real meaning of which it is not easy to understand ; and on which, therefore, it does not seem wise to dwell. But still the main facts are sufficiently clear, and contain matter which we can perceive most fit to hold the place which it does hold, as the beginning of the volume of God's revelations to man.
Now, for instance, if we take the account of the Creation in its details, as a piece of natural history, we not only involve ourselves in a number of questions full of difficulty, but we lose the proper and peculiar character of the Scripture as a revelation. This will be well shown by a contrast. There is preserved to us in a Greek writer, the lexicographer Suidas, a very remarkable extract from an old Etruscan author, giving an account of the creation of all things. It says that God designed His creation to last for twelve thousand years; that in the first thousand years He made
or less Bible. in the ly the
the heaven and the earth; in the second thou-
years He made the firmament; in the third
Now the resemblances of this account to what we have in the first chapter of Genesis are manifest; and it would be a waste of time to point your attention to them. Nor is it of any consequence to speculate as to the causes of this resem: blance, or to ask where the old Etruscan writer obtained the notions which he has recorded. What I wish to dwell on is the difference in the two accounts; for it is in this difference that we shall recognise the peculiar character of Scripture. First, let us observe what the Etruscan writer has got, which the Scripture has not; and then what he has not, which the Scripture has. It will be seen that he begins with a declaration respecting the times and the seasons, one of that sort which, is most welcome to the curiosity of man, but which, as far as regards his practice, is rather mischievous