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“But, is it possible, any reasonable man should be so weak, as to suppose the book, called the Bible, can be the word of God?"
No intelligent Christian will distinguish it by that name, without a large restriction of its contents. All we assert respecting it, is, that it is a collection of writings, containing a history of the Divine dispensations to our world, and that the proper word of God, with numberless other particulars, is interwoven all the way through these most ancient and invaluable writings.
" Is it to be conceived by any man, who h:ith the least pretension to common sense, that the several simple relations recorded in the Books of Moses, Joshua, Judges, and those which follow, can be founded in truth?”
Most of our misapprehensions of this kind arise from not duly considering the infant state of the world, the progressive nature of civil society, and the different manners of the several ages and countries of the earth. The customs of the eastern nations, where the Bible was originally written, were then, and, indeed, are at this day, extremely different from our own; almost as much so as between the manners of the inhabitants of the South-sea islands, and those of this country.
And while we are wondering at the simplicity of their customs, they are entertaining themselves with the novelty of ours.(4)
of Hindostan, are singularly valuable. Harmer's Observations on divers passages in Scripture, is a work superior to every thing of the kind, as it contains a selection, from a variety of voyages and travels, of such circumstances as have a tendency to illustrate the meaning of a large number of obscure passages in the Sacred Writings.
(4) The character of Moses and his writings is very amply and satisfactorily vindicated from all the usual objections of infidels in the first of bishop Newton's Dissertatio on some parts of the Old Testament. Little more either need or can be added to what this learned man hath advanced. If the reader is disposed, he may add Gray's Key to the Old Testament.
“ But then, what occasion was there for a Mediator? Is not God the wise and good parent of all his creatures? and cannot he pardon our offences, and make us happy in the future state, without the interposition of any other being whatever?"
What God can do, what he hath done, and what he will do, are very different considerations. If it were equally consistent with his wisdom and goodness to save mankind without a Mediator, we may be assured it would have been done. But as the Divine Being hath thought proper to institute the mediatorial scheme, we may be assured there are the best reasons for the appointment, though we may be incapable of discovering, and even comprehending, what those reasons are. Indeed, even in this state, few of the blessings of Providence are conveyed to us but by the interposition of mediators. The whole plan of the world is carried forward by the assistance of others. How many mediators must there be, before we can be supplied with our daily bread?
" If a revelation must be made to mankind, why was it delivered in the historic form? Why was it, not rather given in some set and regular composition, worthy of its author?”
The reason of this must be resolved into Divine wisdom. He, that best knew the nature of man, chose this method in preference to every other; and there is no reason to question, but that the variety of compositions, of which the Bible is formed, is much better adapted to the circumstances of the great bulk of mankind, than any set and regular discourse in the didactic form.(5)
Hervey's Remarks on Bolingbroke's Letters on History, consain many pious and satisfactory observations on the history of the Old Testament, especially on the writings of Moses.
(5) Let the reader consult Wakefield's Evidence of Christianaty, where he will find a number of remarks well adapted to display the excellence, recommend the purity, illustrate the character, and evince the authenticity of the Christian religion. See too Cobbold's Essay on the Historic form of Scripture.
66 The books of Moses are thought by many to have been written some ages after his time.”(6)
The authenticity of those books is unquestionable, and has been amply vindicated by men every way furnished for the inquiry.
“Though some parts of the books of Moses are written with great beauty and simplicity, yet many of his laws are trifling, and unworthy of a great legislator?"
This objection arises from a want of due attention to the state of the people for whom those laws were enacted. When the circumstances of the Jews are properly considered, the Mosaic institutions will appear to be adapted with the most consummate propriety to these circumstances. It is extremely hard the Bible should be made accountable for our ignorance.
66 The character and conduct of David who is called a man after God's own heart, can never be defended by. any person who has the least regard to truth and moral excellency?”
It is not the business of these papers to enter into a minute defence of all those parts of the Bible which may seem objectionable. The character of David, however, stands high in our estimation, except in the case of Uriah; and as it has been virulently attacked by some considerable men, so it has been no less ably
(6) Le Clerc was of this opinion in his younger days, but after more reading, and a better informed judgment, he changed his mind, and wrote in defence of their genuineness and authenticity
" The first, and truly original historians, are those of the He. brew Scriptures. The Sacred writers, to the unequalled dignity of their subject, unite a majestic simplicity, and even perspicuity of stile and narration. Moses, the most ancient, is the most perfect of historians. His stile is copious, even, and clear. Like a deep river, he bears his reader with a calm and majestic
It was his purpose, to give a body of laws, as well as a thread of history; and by interweaving them together he has authenticated both; for it is impossible to forge the civil and religious policy of a great nation."
defended. And to such defence, we refer those readers who find themselves concerned.(7) “ The characters and manners of the ancient
prophets were uncouth, and unworthy of God, who is said to have sent them ?”
In general, they were moral and religious men; and their manners were in perfect conformity to the times in which they lived, and the people among whom they conversed. Besides, it is not essential to the character of a prophet of the true God, that he should be a good man.
Balaam is an instance to the contrary. God, indeed, in the course of his providence, frequently uses bad men as instruments to accomplish his own purposes.
“ But there are many actions ascribed to the servants of God in the Old Testament, which very much wound the feelings of every good man.
Noah was guilty of intoxication; Abraham of dissimmulation; Jacob of lying; Aaron of idolatry ; Jael of treachery and murder; David of adultery and murder; Solomon of idolatry and lewdness; and many others of crimes of several kinds ?”
(7) Chandler's Critical History of the Life of David enters at large into the subject, and it is particularly satisfactory. Another learned man says:
“ If we consider David, in the great variety of his fine qualifications; the ornaments of his person, and the far more illustrious endowments of his mind; the surprising revolutions in his fortune; sometimes reduced to the lowest ebb of adversity; sometimes riding upon the highest tide of prosperity :-his singular dexterity in extricating himself from difficulties, and peculiar felicity in ac. commodating himself to all circumstances;- the prizes he won, as a youthful champion; and the victories he gained as an experienced general; his masterly hand upon the harp, and his inimitable talent for poetry ;-the admirable regulations of his royal gov. ernment, and the incomparable usefulness of his public writings; the depth of his repentance, and the height of his devotion ;-the vigour of his faith in the divine promises, and the ardour of his love to the divine Majesty ;-If we consider these, with several other marks of 'honour and grace, which ennoble the history of his life; we shall see such an assemblage of shining qualities, as perhaps were never united in any other merely luman character."
The relation of all these instances of wickedness in the servants of God, is a proof of the disinterestedness and impartiality of the sacred historians; and these crimes are recorded, not for our imitation, but for our admonition. If we attend to the consequences
of these several transactions, we shall see no good reason to imitate them. It is not any where recorded, that these faulty parts of their conduct met with the approbation of heaven.
“How may the horrible destruction of the nations of Canaan be reconciled with the principles of mercy and goodness?"
Just as pestilence, famine, storins, tempests, and earthquakes may be reconciled with those lovely perfections. The moral Governor of the world is at liberty to destroy offending nations and individuals in any manner he judges meet. We see this to be the constant course of Divine Providence. But, you
should like to have been eye-witnesses of the mighty works wrought by Moses(8) and Jesus Christ?"
So should we. Has not every man, in every age, and in every country under heaven, the same right to expect this indulgence? Miracles must therefore, be wrought at all times, in all places, and before every individual of mankind. And what would be the consequence? Miracles must cease to be miracles, and the whole course of nature would be thrown into confusion and disorder. So unreasonable are the demands of wayward men!
“ Many parts of the Old Testament are extremely dull
, uninteresting, and even unintelligible?” Considering the ages in which it was written; the
(8) The writings of Moses have received much confirmation and elucidation from the learned labours of Sir William Jones, and Mr Maurice. Most of the leading circumstances of the Mo. saic history are found detailed, with various degrees of corruption and perversion, among the writings of the East Indies.