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It deserves also to be remembered that the chronology of the Bible is definite. The most authentic ancient historians abound with chronological inconsistencies. Sir Isaac Newton has clearly detected great errors in the system of pagan chronology by bringing his powerful mind to the study of the Bible.* The authors of profane history are greatly indebted in this particular to the chronology of the Scriptures. By a careful comparison of its history with its prophecies, a standard is formed by which the chronological errors of pagan historians have been rectified, and the order of a great multitude of dates and events satisfactorily determined. Nor is the facility of doing this at all diminished by the discrepancy between the chronology of the Hebrew and Samaritan texts and the Septuagint. Geography and chronology have been well called the “two eyes of history.” Nor can our notions of history be otherwise than exceedingly confused, where the series of events does not lie before us in the due and proper order of time.
What adds peculiar interest to the historical notices of the Scriptures, is that they are so replete with instruction on the great and important subject of efficient and final causes, as well as moral causes generally. They bring forward in bold relief the superintendent and all-governing providence of the Most High :as in the history of Joseph, the revolt of the ten tribes, and the books of Esther and Daniel. They exhibit a luminous picture of the human character in every age and country with which they are conversant:-as in the history of the antediluvian world, and the entire
*For information on this subject, see the different Encyclopædias, Bedford's Chronology, and Winder.
history of the Jewish nation. They present a history of the divine purposes and the divine government, and every where illustrate the great truth, that “there is a God that judgeth in the earth,” and that he “worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.” They furnish a history of the church for more than four thousand years. They present as their great subject the all-absorbing work of Redemption." They have an object which they never lose sight of; a cause to which they are always subservient; principles which are developed with some new accession of strength and beauty on every page; a Hero, not of mortal nature, whom they every where honour; a deity, not of the poet's creation, whom they worship with a pure ritual, and to whom they ascribe eternal praise.
Nor need we hesitate in saying, that no work possesses such literary merit generally, and has equal claims to be considered as the standard of a polished and useful literature. The characteristic style of the Bible is, that it is always adapted to the subjects of which it speaks. A chaste, terse, nervous diction distinguishes all its compositions. It is strongly marked by its simplicity, its strength, and often its unrivalled sublimity and beauty. Its words and figures, though not a few of the latter are altogether new, and probably never would have been thought of except by the inspired mind who conceived them, and are even symbolical and hieroglyphic, when once presented, are seen and felt to accord with the familiar conceptions of men. Its manner of writing with regard to the choice and arrangement of words, is at all times dignified and serious, and at a great remove from the pomp and parade of artificial ornament. Everywhere we see that its great object is to inculcate truth, and that it uses words only to clothe and render impressive the thoughts it would convey. There is both rhetoric and inspiration in the Bible ; but amid all the boldness and felicity of its inventions, there is no overdoing—no making the most of every thing—no needless comment_but every thing is plain, concise, and unaffectedly simple.
In the historical compositions of the Scriptures, we have the most simple, natural, affecting, and well told narratives in the world. Witness the history of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and his family—the recapitulations in Deuteronomy—the narratives of Ezra and Nehemiah—the story of the Saviour's trial and crucifixion, and the life of the Apostle Paul. For fidelity and impartiality, for unvarnished truth, for the choice of matter, for unity, concise and graphic descriptions of character, and above all, usefulness, the historical parts of the Bible are without a parallel. No critic can say of them, “They are too monotonous—too wordy-or too uniformly stately, tragical and emphatic.” The characters walk and breathe. They are nature, and nothing but nature. By a single stroke of the pencil you often have their portrait. You see them. You hear them. Every scene in which you behold them is a fit subject for the painter. And does it not deserve remark, that the finest subjects for historic painting within the entire circle of the Fine Arts have been selected from the Scriptures? Such are Lot and his two daughters hastened by the angels out of Sodom, and the Finding of Moses on the Nile, by Rembrandt -Moses striking the Rock, by Poussin-The Deluge, by Trumbull-Belshazzar's Feast, by Martin-The Transfiguration and the Madonna, by Raphael-Moses receiving the Law-Abraham and Isaac, at the foot of the mountain-Paul's Shipwreck—Christ Rejectedand Death on the Pale Horse, by West,--the Last Supper, by Da Vinci-Christ in the Garden, by Guido —the Fall of the Damned—and the Resurrection of the Just, by Rubens. Raphael, the first painter in the world, who was employed so extensively by Leo X., painted chiefly scriptural subjects. His famous Cartoons are all scriptural themes. Nor may it be denied, that these and other similar subjects have been selected with inimitable judgment and taste. None knew better how to make or prize the selection, than these illustrious artists; for none brought to the selection minds better furnished or more intensely devoted to the object. I look upon it as no unmeaning compliment to the Bible, that the best artists have awarded to it this distinguished honour; and one reason why they have done so, obviously is, that profane history furnishes no such themes.
Nor do I know any thing to equal the didactic and argumentative parts of the Scriptures, especially as they are presented in some of the Prophets, in the discourses of our Saviour, and the epistles of Paul. Read the instructions of the greatest of all teachers to Nicodemus; advert to his conversation with the woman of Samaria ; study his argument to the complaining Jews in the temple, and to the deceived multitude that followed him across the sea to Capernaum ; turn to his discourse to the people at Nazareth, and then read his farewell address to his disciples. Where will you find so rich a vein of thought, argument, and alternate rebuke and tenderness? There is nothing in the compositions of Addison, the most neat and nervous of all the English classics, to be compared with these, or with the Sermon on the Mount. Nor is there anything in the finest orations and treatises of the most celebrated masters of antiquity, so eloquent as the glowing prediction of the great Apostle
of the restoration of his countrymen, or his triumphant argument for the resurrection, or his bold and exquisitely wrought description of the privileges of the people of God. You recollect how he closes the first. “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out. For who hath known the mind of the Lord ? Or who hath been his counsellor? Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed to him again ? For of him, and through him, and to him are all things: to whom be glory forever!” I cannot do justice to his illustration and argument relative to the second, without rehearsing a part of it. 6 All flesh is not the same flesh : but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, another of fishes, and another of birds. There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial : but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars : for one star differeth from another star in glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption; it is sown in dishonour, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. The first man is of the earth, earthy; the second man is the Lord from heaven. As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy; and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly. Now this I say, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. Behold I shew you a mystery : We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed in