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Under these circumstances, is it not remarkable that this Book of the Jews should have been preserved; and that not a single book of the Egyptians, Chaldeans, Phænicians, (the most flourishing and civilized nations which lived at the same time with them,) has reached us ? * 2. The Bible has been preserved unaltered.
As to that part of the Bible written before the coming of our blessed Lord, called the Old Testament, we know :
(1.) That a copy of the Five Books of Moses, called the Pentateuch, was made by the Samaritans, who, after the Babylonish capivity (more than 500 years before Christ), became the rooted enemies of the Jews. (Ezra iv. 1, 4; John iv. 9; viii. 48.)
(2.) That nearly 300 years before Christ, by order of Ptolemy Philadelphus, king of Egypt, a translation was made, and widely circulated, of the whole of the Old Testament into Greek, the language then most generally understood. - (3.) That, on comparing this Hebrew Samaritan Pentateuch, and this Greek translation, called the Septuagint, they substantially agree with each other and with our Bible.
(4.). But the strongest proof that the Old Testament is unaltered is, that our Lord declared the Old Testament (as the Jews possessed it in his time) to be the word of God (Mark vii. 13). He adopted (Luke xxiv. 44) that threefold division of it, as the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms, in which the Jews comprehend all the Old Testament as we now have it. Our Lord frequently charges the Jews with making the word of God of none effect by their traditions, but never of corrupting the text.
As to that part of the Bible written after the coming of our Lord, called the New Testament, we know
(1.) That it was very widely circulated, and that therefore no alteration could be made without its being known : for before the middle of the second century, the greater part of the different books of which it is composed were read in every Christian assembly throughout the world.
(2.) That these writings were held in highest reverence, were received as a Divine rule of faith and conduct-received as such, to the rejection of many others pretending to revelation, and even to the rejection of those written by eminent Christians, as the Epistle of Clement, &c.--received as Divine by those who were called to lay down their lives in attestation of their belief, and who, therefore, would exercise the greatest jealousy over the preservation of those wri. tings unaltered.
(3.) That very ancient manuscripts of the New Testament are extant, which, though made in different countries at a vast distance from each other, differ very
little. (4.) That, as before the coming of our Lord, the enmity of the Jews and the Samaritans was overruled to the preservation of the Bible unaltered, so since His advent, the enmity of Jews and Christians, and the divisions of Christians amongst each other, have been overruled to the same great end. No alteration could be made by one sect, either in the Old or New Testament, without the detection of such alteration by some other sect (Ps. lxxvi. 10).*
“ Cities fall, kingdoms come to nothing, empires fade away as the smoke. Where is Numa, Minos, Lycurgus ? where are their books ? what is become of their laws ?" But that this Book " no tyrant,' as Bishop Jewel remarks, " should have been able to consume, no tradition to choke, po heretic maliciously to corrupt;" that it should stand unto this day, amid the wreck of all that is human, without altering or changing one sentence so as to change the doctrine taught therein ; surely, here is a very singular providence attending it, claiming our attention in a very remarkable manner. (1 Pet. i. 24, 25; Prov. xxi. 30; Matt. xxiv. 35.)
$ ü. The Moral Effects of the Bible. As the Bible is the most ancient book, so is it the most influential on the heart; not only changing men's opinions,
* The preceding remarks do not apply to the Apocrypha, which is sometimes bound up with the Bible, but is no part of the canon of Scripture. The last council of Trent, held in the year 1550, under Pope Pius IV. presumed to call it so; but it was never considered as sacred by the Jews, was never alluded to by our Lord or his Apostles, and is not in the catalogue of Sacred Books given by the fathers during the first four centuries : so that, as Bishop Burnet says, we have the concurrent sense of the whole Church, on the matter. The apocryphal books were read in the Church after the fourth century; but Jerome expressly informs us, “they were read for example of life, and instruction of manners, but were not applied to establish any doctrine," plainly implying they had no Divine authority. (See the 6th Article of the Church of England.)
but producing a total alteration of character, of their principles, motives, and conduct.
St. Paul relates what occurred at Corinth (1 Cor. vi. 10, 11), and St. Peter what effect was produced in Pontus, Galatia, and other places (1 Pet. iv. 3) nearly 1800 years ago.
Justin the martyr, who was educated a heathen philosopher, and flourished about the middle of the second century, in his celebrated Apology, presented to the emperor Trajan, says, “We, who formerly delighted in adultery, now observe the strictest chastity; we, who used the charms of magic, have devoted ourselves to the true God; who valued money and gain above all things, now cast what we have in common, and distribute to every man according to his necessities."
Tertullian, an African, born at Carthage, who lived about sixty years after Justin, makes the same public appeal. Revenge was one of the virtues of heathenism; but, he says, we now render to no man evil for evil.
Origen, born at Alexandria in Egypt, in his reply to Celsus, written about A.D. 246, and Lactantius, who was appointed preceptor to the Roman emperor Constantine, were able to make similar appeals: and in confirmation of the justice of such appeals, even the Emperor Julian, after he became an apostate from the faith, in an epistle to Arsacius, an heathen priest (written A.D. 430), held up Christians to the imitation of pagans, on account of the sanctity of their lives, and their love not only to strangers, but to enemies. And as it was at Corinth, Pontus, Galatia, Rome, Carthage, and Alexandria, so now, through the influence of the Bible, adulterers, thieves, drunkards, overcome their bad habits, becoming chaste, honest, sober. Through its influence the headstrong become gentle, the proud humble, the covetous generous, the cruel merciful. Where hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, and envyings prevailed; through the Bible are produced love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, meekness, temperance; and that not only in countries before civilized, but in the most barbarous.
“Here, in England, St. Paul's church, in London, was the temple of Diana ; St. Peter's church, in Westminster, was the temple of Apollo. The darkness of those times was such, that men slew their own children, and offered them up to idols.” What has produced the great moral change we now see? a change affecting not only England, but all Europe; for when St. Paul set foot at Philippi, all Europe was given to idolatry. How is it that there is not now one heathen temple in it, though Athens alone had hundreds of altars dedicated to idolatry? That change was effected by the Bible. (Jer. xxiii. 29; John xvii. 17.)
Such, also, has been the support it has afforded under the extremity of human sorrow, as to enable men in the very agony of death to pray for their murderers (Acts vii. 60). How many death-beds is it at this moment cheering with hopes of eternal happiness, which could be derived from no other source! (2 Tim. i. 8—10; 1 Cor. xv. 55–59.)
· And therefore, if the providence of God is seen in the preservation of the Bible, his grace is seen equally in its effects. $ iï. The Agreement of all parts of the Bible with each
But besides the Preservation and Moral Effects of the Bible, there are other very remarkable circumstances illustrating its divine authority.
We might suppose that the oldest book in the world would tell us many things of which we should otherwise be ignorant; and so the Bible does. We are indebted to the first and second chapters of Genesis for all we know of the creation of the world and of man: we are indebted to the tenth chapter of Genesis for all we know of the origin of nations as they at present exist; and to the eleventh chapter for the reason why, though all are descended from one father and mother, there are so many languages in the world.
But there is a circumstance still more worthy of notice than any yet mentioned with regard to the Bible ; and that is, the agreement of all the parts with each other.
In this respect there are two circumstances quite peculiar to the Bible, and which make it unlike any other book. The one respects the writers; the other, what they have written.
1. As to the writers of the Bible.
(1.) The Bible was not written by one person, but by many, of different stations, abilities, and education.
Moses, who wrote the Pentateuch, was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and brought up as the son of Pharaoh's daughter. Amos was a herdsman, filling one of the lowest stations in society (Amos vii. 14). Matthew was a tax-gatherer ; Luke, a physician ; Paul, a learned Pharisee; Peter and John, fishermen, "unlearned and ignorant men," i. e. they filled no public station, and had not received a liberal education.
(2.) These persons lived at different periods, and therefore could not have any intercourse with each other.
David, the sweet Psalmist of Israel, wrote about 400 years after Moses; Isaiah, about 250 years after David ; Matthew, more than 700 years after Isaiah, and 400 years after Malachi, the last of the writers of the Old Testament. Between Moses, who wrote the first, and John, who wrote the last of the sixty-six books which form our present. Bible, there is an interval of more than 1500 years.
Now, in such a Book—or rather such a collection of books, such a library—so written, is it not a remarkable fact that there should be an exact agreement in all its parts? In this respect there is no other such book in the world. But this agreement is the more wonderful when we consider,
2. What they have written.
These writers treat of the purposes of God. Th unfold to us what is his great design in the government of the world, from the beginning to the end of time. (Gen. iii. 15; 1 John iii. 8; Eph. i. 10.) The first writer, in the Book of Genesis, gives an account of the creation of the world ; the last writer, in the Book of the Revelation, gives us a view beyond its close, into an eternal world “where time shall be no longer.”
These writers treat of the nature and end of man. They lay bare the human heart, so that every one may see reflected his own motives and character. They treat of the nature of trúe happiness (Eccles. xii. 13; Matt. v. 2, &c. xi. 28).
These subjects; being of infinite importance to all, have engaged the deepest study of the most profound minds: and