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AN ACCOUNT OF THE BOOKS OF THE BIBLE,
The object of this chapter is not to enter into any detailed account of the Books of the Bible, yet occasionally to dwell a little more on the contents of one book than on those of another, in order to illustrate the views already taken of the Bible in the preceding chapters. The three principal subjects on which (as has been already hinted, page 34) the Bible informs us, are,—the character of God, the character and condition of man, and the great work of man's redemption; and to these our attention should be chiefly directed, with a view to a knowledge of our duty, our character, and the foundation of our hopes for eternity. Short illustrations, reminding the reader of these and other topics, will therefore be occasionally made; especially in the Old Testament, where there is perhaps the greater danger of these subjects being overlooked. The Book of Genesis has been particularly selected as suggesting remarks, which the Scripture reader himself may so apply to the other books.
Short Account of the Books of the Old Testament. The Old Testament contains thirty-nine books, which may be thus divided into four parts, namely, the Pentateuch, the Historical Books, the Poetical Books, and the Prophets. It has been said, page 48, that in the Old Testament is the preparation made for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ as a Saviour. In noticing the contents of each book, it will be the leading object to illustrate this.
$ 1.—THE PENTATEUCH, OR LAW. The Pentateuch is so called from a Greek word signifying five books, and is the title given to Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. These were written by Moses in one continued work, and still remain in that form in the public copies now read in the Synagogues.
These books were also called the Law, or the Law of Moses, because throughout the four last of them are interspersed the laws which God, through Moses, appointed for the regulation of the civil government and religion of the Israelites.
The Pentateuch presents us with a compendious history of the world, from the Creation to the death of Moses, a period of about 2553 years.
“ It is a wide description gradually contracted : an account of one nation, preceded by a general sketch of the first state of mankind."
On the Book of GENESIS. This book, from the first page of which it has been truly said that a child may learn more in one hour than all the philosophers in the world learnt without it in one thousand years, has been properly named Genesis. Genesis means generation, or origin : and here, emphatically, we have an account of the origin of all things; that is, so far as it concerns us to know; the origin of the world and of man; but especially of moral evil among men, and of the remedy which God in his infinite love has provided against it. Indeed, as has been already hinted, page 35, an observation of the topics of this book, and of the manner in which they are here treated, is a clue to the design of the whole Bible. For instance :
Though this book is the foundation of all history, of all that we know of the origin of nations, it may be observed, that, in the fifty chapters of which it consists, the general history of mankind before the Flood, referring to a period of 1656 years, and including the account of the creation of the world, occupies only seven chapters : the general history of mankind after the Flood, referring to a period of 427 years, occupies only four chapters; and, in fact, a very small portion of these eleven chapters refers to the general history of mankind, whilst the particular history of Abraham and his descendants, consisting principally of the details of the life of a few individuals, and referring to a period of only 286 years, occupies thirty-nine chapters.
The reason is, that the Bible is not merely a history of man, a moral history of man, but emphatically a history of the Church of God, of that Church of which Christ is the Head (Eph. i. 22). And hence it is that, before the Flood, Seth and his descendants, particularly Noah, and after the Flood, Shem and his descendants, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, occupy the chief place in the history. They constituted
the Church of God: in their line was Messiah to come. Through the medium of the history of this Church, her wanderings and warfare in the wilderness of this world, are we principally taught those subjects of deepest importance to us, namely, just views of God and of our nature, and how we may attain eternal salvation.
The book of Genesis contains the history of about 2369 years, embracing the period from the creation, to the death of Joseph.
Bishop Blomfield (Lent Lectures on St. John's Gospel) suggests the following important hint. After having read through a book of Scripture, and thus obtained a general knowledge of its contents, he recommends that it should be read through again, with reference to some one subject. Many illustrations of one subject deepen its impression on the mind. Take, for instance, the general notices of the instruction to be obtained from this book concerning God. t.
The Nature of God.
It has been remarked, page 40, that God revealed his nature gradually; and in addition to the references there made to Genesis, tracing the early dawn of the doctrine of the Trinity, may be added the following.
The Attributes of God. Instances of his justice. Gen. Üï. the punishment of the sin of Adam : iv. of Cain : vi. the Flood : xix, the cities of the plain, and of Lot's wife: as also the evils brought on Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and his children, when they sinned.
Instances of God's mercy and grace. Chap. iii. 15, in the promise of a Saviour, even before the sentence on man was pronounced : iv. expostulating with Cain : vi. so long delaying the Flood.
“How loth is God to strike, that threats so long! He that delights in revenge surprises his adversary; whereas he that gives long warning, desires to be prevented."-Bp. Hall.
Thus one reason why Abraham and his descendants (xv. 16.) were not permitted to possess Canaan for 400 years, was, that the iniquity of the Amorites was not yet full.
Instances may also be collected of
God's readiness to hear prayer. See xx. 17. the prayer of Abraham for Abimelech : and xviii. for Sodom: xxiv. 12, that of Eleazar for Abraham
xxi. 17, Ishmael's prayer. God's faithfulness to his promises. See viii. 22, “ seed time, harvest,” &c. Compare xxviii. 15, with xlviii. 15. But particularly the faithfulness of God is seen in the provision made for the fulfilment of his great promise, iii. 15. Trace this, on His raising up Seth after Abel, iv. 25; and again in Enos, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, &c. : particularly observing how God most helped his Church when they most needed help. In this period of the history of the Church, the whole plan of redemption seems frequently to have depended upon a single life; yet, after 4000 years of peril, in the fulness of time, how was the promise fulfilled, in a manner which it had not entered into the heart of man to conceive !
The honour which God puts upon his people. This is shewn by His blessing others for their sake. As : xviii. 32 ; for ten righteous He would have spared Sodom. Again, xix. 21, God spared Zoar even for Lot's sake, and Sodom itself while Lot was in it. And xxx, 27, selfish Laban was blest for Jacob's sake; xxxix. 5, Potiphar for Joseph's sake.
Remark, too, how
God tries the faith of his people. Trace this in Noah; Abraham (xxi. 5.) who had received the promise of a son twenty-five years before Isaac was born. Notice how Abraham's other sons abound in children, while Isaac, in whom his seed is to be as the stars of heaven for multitude, goes childless for twenty years after his marriage; and that a marriage on which the Divine blessing had been so remarkably sought and obtained. Consider Esau's posterity : at first much more numerous and distinguished among men than Jacob's, (xxxyi. 15.)
The sovereignty of God. That is called the sovereignty of God when the reasons of his conduct are hid from us. Thus Abel slain for righteousness' sake; Enoch translated ;-sparing Zoar, destroying Lot's wife ;-destroyed in the plain, when she had escaped from the city ;—the wife perishes, the infamous daughters preserved :-Jacob preferred before Esau, and this determined before they were born (Rom. ix. 11).
Observe also the practical use which God would have us make of the consideration of his attributes as motives to duty. xvii. 1. “I am the Almighty,” &c. This was to strengthen Abraham's faith under the delay of God's promise of Isaac, and to check him from adopting sinful expedients to hasten it.
Motives. It is very important to observe the various motives urged in Scripture to lead us to obedience.
Thus on Adam, even in Paradise, an appeal is made to his fears as well as his hopes (ii. 17). In the day, &c.; surely die. So Noah moved with fear, &c. Heb. xi. Abraham rejoiced to see the day of Christ, but on him the consideration of temporal as well as eternal good was urged. (Gen. xiii. 14.) Nor are such motives limited to the Old Testament, see 1 Pet. iii. 10), though the great constraining motive is the love of Christ (1 Pet. i. 8).
The leading subject of the Old Testament being the preparation made for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Book of Genesis may be read with this view. Collect the prophecies respecting Christ, iii. 15. ; xii. 3, &c.
Notice the types, particularly that of sacrifice. iv. 4, Abel; viii, 20, Noah.
Observe that the promise to Noah follows the acceptance of the burnt offering ; the covenant with Abraham is also with sacrifice, (xv. 9.)
xxii. : Abraham offering up Isaac. As the sacrifice of Abel and its circumstances particularly shadowed the evil of sin; so that of Isaac shadowed forth the love of God as the means of its removal (John iii. 16; Heb. xi. 17; Rom. viii. 32). See also xxvi. 25, Isaac; and xxxi. 54, Jacob's use of sacrifice.
As soon as prophecy declared that the sons of Jacob