« PreviousContinue »
1. Those devoted by their parents to God in infancy, or before birth; as Samson, Samuel, and John the Baptist. 2. Those who devoted themselves, either for life or a limited time. (Acts xviii. 18; xxi. 24.)
For the law of the Nazarites, see Numbers vi.
§ vi. The Herodians
May be considered rather as a political than a religious sect. They were a party strongly attached to the family of Herod; of particularly profligate principles; and, from comparing Mark viii. 15, with Matt. xvi. 6, chiefly Sadducean in their religious tenets. Political expediency was the rule of their religious tenets. Herod being made and continued King by the authority of the Romans, they were, though Jews, easily reconciled to conform to Roman customs in some particulars which were forbidden by the Mosaic Law.
What are they but Herodians in spirit, who attempt to serve God and mammon?
S vii. The Galileans
In one respect, appear in striking contrast to the Herodians, inasmuch as they were distinguished by the constant attempt to shake off the authority of the Romans. They at length infected the whole nation with their turbulent spirit, which ended in its destruction by Titus. Jehovah being in so peculiar a sense their King, they perverted this into the doctrine that tribute was due to God only; and that religious liberty, and the authority of the Divine laws, were to be defended by force of arms.
Such passages as Rom. xiii. 1, &c.; 1 Tim. ii. 1, &c.; 1 Pet. ii. 13, &c. would be peculiarly suitable to preserve Christian converts from such an abuse of Christian liberty.
Sviii The Publicans,
Though generally Jews, were a class of men peculiarly odious to their countrymen. They were tax-gatherers, and collectors of customs due to the Romans; and thus became associated, in the mind of a Jew, with the loss of that which most men hold to be most dear to them, money and liberty; and as the characters of men are formed more by the temptations than the duties of their station, these Publicans, having
the opportunity, by farming the taxes, of practising injustice, were notorious extortioners. This serves to magnify the grace of God in such characters as Zaccheus and Matthew.
Six. The Proselytes
Were Gentiles who fully embraced the Jewish religion: such were the Ethiopian (Acts viii.), and the Roman centurion (ib. x.): see also Acts ii. 10; vi. 5; xiii. 43.
§x. The Samaritans.
For an account of their origin, see 2 Kings xvii. ; from which it will appear that they were partly of Heathen and partly of Jewish extraction. The ivth chapter of the Gospel of St. John will also give a view of their religious state in the time of our Lord.
Governing themselves exclusively by the Five Books of Moses, in which the place, where God would set his name, was not mentioned; and Mount Gerizim, being the spot from which the blessings were pronounced on the entering of the Israelites into Canaan; they, in a spirit of opposition to the Jews, on their return from the Babylonian captivity, fixed, under the direction of Sanballat, their temple on Mount Gerizim: thus illustrating the remark, that error has always some association with truth, and that in religion error is generally the perversion of truth to gratify a worldly mind.
In conclusion it may be remarked, that most of the errors presented to us in this review of the Jewish sects, &c. may be traced to a disregard of "the sufficiency of the Holy Scriptures for salvation; so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man that it should be believed as an article of faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation."-Sixth Article of the Church of England.
[Prayer being the great preservative from error, the following passages, suggesting petitions for Divine teaching, may properly form the close of this chapter: Col. i. 9, 10; Eph. i. 17, &c.; 1 Pet. ii. 1, 2; Ps. cxix.]
N. B. The substance of this chapter may be easily reduced to questions for the examination of the young.
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.
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. iii. 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