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THE LITERARY MERIT OF THE SCRIPTURES.
We do not claim for the Scriptures simply the honour of having given the world its letters. This they might have done, and have left the field of literature barren, and with all the difficulties of cultivating it to be overcome by the tedious toil of successive generations. But they open before you a “goodly land,” everywhere fruitful and luxuriant, and ripened already to a full harvest. Mountain, and meadow, and pure streams diversify and adorn its surface; and at each step a mine is disclosed, yielding as it is explored, new and exhaustless treasures. Who would not be a wayfarer amid such scenes?
If the Bible is of human origin, it must certainly be regarded as the most wonderful effort of created intelligence. That there should be so perfect a book in so early a state of the world ; that no volume, either ancient, or modern, and written in the most advanced and cultivated condition of human society, should compare with this ancient record, originating in a comparatively rude age, is to my own mind, a fact not easily accounted for on the principles of infidelity. The world is filled with books that are the product of the mightiest sons of genins; but they are sterile and
LITERARY MERIT OF THE SCRIPTURES.
jejune, deformed and ungainly, in comparison with the riches of thought, the extent of research, the accuracy, the grace and beauty, which distinguish the Bible.
Without the Scriptures, the world would be profoundly ignorant of some of the most important and interesting points of historical inquiry. Within the narrow compass of the first few chapters in the book of Genesis, we are furnished with a distinct and connected history of more than two thousand of the earliest years of time. The narrative of Moses completely covers that period of history, which with other nations is called fabulous, and which is merged in the regions of fabrication and conjecture. There are no ages of uncertainty here—no regions of fable—no chasm. From the first dawn of the creation down to the capture of Babylon by Cyrus, the entire period is filled up with events, the effects of which are widely extended over the earth and are visible to the present hour
There are multitudes of facts and phenomena, both in the natural and moral world, that never could be accounted for, but for the Mosaic history; while a slight acquaintance with that history shows us how exactly it is accordant with the existing state of things both in the physical and moral creation. The history of the creation of the material universe, about which so much has been written by wise men, whose speculations are only indicative of their own folly, is here given so succinctly, and so philosophically, that all the quibbles of infidelity, and all the researches of natural science, instead of invalidating, have only served to strengthen and confirm our confidence that the narrator was supernaturally taught of God.
The ancient account of the creation of the world among the Chaldeans was, that there was a time when all was water and darkness, and in these were contained the original elements of all future existence; that a woman was the great presiding mind; that Belus clove her asunder, and formed earth of the one part, and heaven of the other; that he divided the darkness, separated earth from heaven, and arranged the order of the universe; that he then ordered one of the gods to cut off his head, to mix the blood which flowed from the wound with earth, and of this mixed mass to form men and animals; and that after this, he framed the stars and planets, and thus finished the production of -all things. This account is indeed sufficiently ridiculous, and yet is it the sober narrative of Berosus, who was a priest in the temple of Belus at Babylon, who lived in the time of Alexander the Great, and was the author of the history of Chaldea. The Phænician Theogony of Sanchoniatho is still more ludicrous, and too absurd to be narrated in an intelligent assembly; it may be found in Eusebius, and Winder's History of Knowledge. The Egyptian account as given by Diodorus Siculus, was that all beings originally existed in a chaotic state ; that the sun and stars were formed by the continual agitation of the air ascending upwards; that the gross and earthy matter sunk below, and was gradually made hard by the heat of the sun; that animals were created from the heat and moisture, and eventually perpetuated, each, its own species. And what was the Theogony of the Greeks-the learned Greeks? I may not utter it for its debasing impurities. Compared with these, and others such as these, how simple, how rational the narrative of Moses. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth !” Here is a cause equal to the wonderful effect, while every view of the effect leads to adoring admiration of the power, wisdom and goodness of the mighty Author.
The formation of man too with all his full grown powers of body and of mind-his primeval rectitude, federal character, and fall—the promise of a Saviour and his predicted victories—the patriarchal age—the deluge—the foundation of the new world—the settlement of the mother country—the division of the earth—the confusion of tongues, and the dispersionthe early settlement of Egypt—the rise and fall of the Assyrian Empire, even to the names of all its successive princes from the first to the last—the origin, peculiarities and overthrow of the Hebrew Statethe progress and decline of Canaan, Persia, and Media, are all familiar topics of biblical history. Ancient cities too_Thebes, the No-Ammi of Nahum -Nineveh, Jerusalem, Babylon, with all that rendered them the wonders of the world, would be traced to the remote darkness of the fabulous age, but for the Old Testament. The only authentic history of these remote events and kingdoms, is in the Pentateuch and in the Prophets. Before the days of Moses, there were no historical records either in Assyria, Egypt, Phænicia, Chaldea, or Greece. No other historian lived at so remote a period as the exodus from Egypt. Dr. Winder shows at considerable length, that Moses is the only man who had any considerable materials for Egyptian history; as the ancient learning of Egypt must have been chiefly lost by the excision of the first born and the disasters of the Red Sea. Since the priests, the more common depositaries of learning, usually attended in their wars, the people who were left behind must have been chiefly the common people; so that for a long time after this disaster, Egypt was involved in ignorance and darkness; nor is this nation subsequently mentioned in the Hebrew Scriptures, until the reign of Solomon.
“ Moses was the father of history." Infidels have affirmed, there were astronomical calculations in Babylon, that reached back to a period much farther than the Mosaic history; which therefore, if true, invalidate the entire account given by Moses. This assertion has received a very conclusive refutation from the astronomical calculations of Bedford. But there is a fact stated by Gillies, in his history of Greece, that confirms the calculations of Bedford. This historian states, that after the conquest of Babylon by Alexander, he “ eagerly demanded the astronomical calculations that had been carefully preserved in that ancient capital about nineteen centuries. By the order of Alexander they were faithfully transcribed and transmitted to Aristotle,” who was the preceptor of this prince; and “they remounted to twenty-two hundred and thirty-four years beyond the Christian era," a period not even so remote as the deluge. There is no history that can be so safely relied on, or that is so ancient, as the Mosaic history. Every other attempt at history until the reigns of David and Solomon, is but a mass of shapeless re-arranged tradition, as corrupt as it is fabulous. Long after this time indeed, the pages of writers esteemed the most authentic, are disfigured by absurd and disgusting fictions. This defect in the annals of earlier times must be everywhere and deeply felt, if we exclude the information obtained from the Bible. There only is the deficiency supplied. Sanchoniatho, Berosus, Ctesias and Manetho. are the oldest human historians; but “ Moses was five hundred years before the first, and more than a thousand before the last."