Page images

until the death of Saul. The second book contains the eventful and instructive reign of David, the man after God's own heart-who yet, being human, sinned in more than one instance before God, and received the punishment of his iniquity. It is plain that only a small portion of these books could have been written by Samuel:* the remainder was added after his death, probably by the prophets contemporary with David, Nathan and Gad. The first book of Kings contains an account of the reign of Solomon ; the division of his kingdom after his death into that of the ten tribes, or Israel, and that of the two tribes, or Judah; which latter retained possession of the capital city Jerusalem, and of the temple built within it; and carries on the history of the divided kingdoms to the death of Ahab and of Jehoshaphat. The course of the narrative is pursued in the second book of Kings, up to the destruction of both these kingdoms ; first, that of Israel by the Assyrians, and afterwards that of Judah by Nebuchadnezzar the Chaldean. In the two books of Chronicles, we possess a nearly similar relation, beginning with the reign of David, but dwelling with more particular detail upon the events which occurred within the kingdom of Judah. The books of Ezra and Nehemiah inform us of the steps taken by the Jews, after the termination of their captivity in Babylon, under the direction of these eminent men, to rebuild their city, and reestablish themselves in the possession of their land, having received permission to this effect from the kings of Persia, by whom their former enemies, the Chaldeans, had been conquered. The book of Esther relates a marvellous preservation of the Jewish people from a destruction devised against them by Haman, their bitter enemy, which Esther, being a Jewess, and

* 1 Chron. xxix. 29.

the favoured wife of the Persian king, was enabled to procure for them.

The book of Job affords a memorable example of patience under severe afflictions, in the person of the Arabian Job, as well as a most interesting specimen of the poetry of the eastern nations, and their manner of life in times of very high antiquity. Next in order of arrangement are placed the Psalms of David, united with some others penned by various writers, comprising the most valuable manual of devotion ever offered to man. The book of Proverbs is a rich collection of acute and impressive sentences, mostly, if not entirely, composed by Solomon, and profitable in the highest degree for instruction in righteousness. Two works succeed this, ascribed to the same sagacious author: the former called Ecclesiastes, or the Preacher, generally supposed to have been written by him in his latter days, when he had seen the folly of departing from the ways of God, and of looking to this vain and perishable world for any real enjoyment; the latter, called the Song of Songs, occasioned by his marriage with Pharaoh's daughter, but representing also, in a spiritual manner, the mystical union which is betwixt Christ and his church. The Prophets, strictly so called, sixteen in number, conclude the volume of the Old Testament; to which must be added the book of the Lamentations, placed after the prophecies of Jeremiah, as written by him. In this part of the sacred writings, especially in the books of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Zechariah, and Malachi, are to be found a variety of predictions concerning Christ, the greater portion of which were fulfilled during his stay upon earth, while the completion of the remainder is to be looked for, by his faithful servants, in the latter days. We come now to the second great division of the Bible, which to us Christians is an object of the greatest reverence and

affection; namely, the New Testament of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. The history of his birth, life, death, resurrection from the grave, and ascension into heaven, is first presented to our notice, as given by four of his disciples: two of them apostles, and eye-witnesses of that which they relate; the other two associates of the apostles, and consequently informed upon the very best authority as to the facts recorded by them. We have therefore the good tidings of salvation, or the Gospel, according to St. Matthew, St. Mark, St. Luke, and St. John, who, on this account, are termed Evangelists; that is, declarers of the gospel. St. Luke, the friend and companion of Paul of Tarsus, has moreover given us a history of the Acts of the Apostles, after the ascension of Jesus, confining himself, however, more especially to that with which he was best acquainted the proceedings of St. Paul. Thirteen epistles, written by that same apostle to various churches of Christ, principally those which he himself had founded, or to individual disciples, follow the history of his life; containing a most invaluable treasure of christian doctrine and practical admonition. The Epistle to the Hebrews, in which the insufficiency of the Levitical law, and the superiority of the christian dispensation, is fully shown, has been ascribed by the church to St. Paul also, though the name of its author is not to be ascertained from the epistle itself. We have next an epistle written by St. James, the brother of our Lord, to the twelve tribes which were scattered abroad; and two from the apostle Peter, addressed in a similar manner to his dispersed countrymen and fellow-converts to the religion of Jesus. Three epistles follow, the first resembling rather a doctrinal and practical discourse, the other two addressed to individual Christians,-from the pen of St. John; with whose book of Revelation,

after a short epistle from St. Jude, the whole New Testament is concluded. From the brief account here given of the composition of the Bible, you perceive that it is made up of many books, written in various ages of the world, dictated however by one and the self-same Spirit, and combined into one perfect whole by their unity of object. Out of this sacred volume,

it is the duty of God's ministers to teach you, the people entrusted to their care, the good and the right way; your duty is to pray earnestly for his heavenly help, that you may hear and read it with perseverance, with understanding, and with endless profit to your immortal souls. It is not to gratify a trifling curiosity, or to amuse a passing hour, that you are called upon to study this book-it is to acquire a knowledge of the things belonging to your eternal peace, to learn the grounds of all your hope of happiness, to understand the mercies of your God towards you, to accept the offered dispensation of grace, and to be wise unto salvation. "These things were written," says the apostle John, "that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.

[blocks in formation]

MAN, placed as he is in the midst of an universe

full of wonders, which the more he investigates and understands them, delight and astonish him so much the more, is naturally prompted to ask the

John xx. 31.

question, How these things began to be? Whether there was ever a time when the world was not; and if so, by what power it was called into existence, and subjected to the laws that govern it? The very first words of his Bible afford an answer to this question: they assure him that "in the beginning God created the heaven and the earth,"* the whole material universe: it had therefore a beginning, and that beginning was a creation of something where nothing was before; and He who created it, was that all-wise and almighty Being, known by the name of God. In our reception of this testimony of God concerning himself, in our acknowledgment of Him as the Creator of all things, is laid the foundation of all true religion: our faith must exercise itself first upon this truth, and may then proceed to embrace and hold fast every other assurance, and doctrine, and promise of the Bible. "Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear;"† that is, the universe was a completely new creation : it was not, and God willed that it should be. This creation did not, however, take place all at once: it is divided into six days, or periods of time, during each of which some addition was made to the things previously existing, until the whole was completed. We have our habitation upon this planet, which is called the earth: what concerns it, therefore, is that which principally concerns us: the other parts of God's creation are accordingly only so far noticed in the Bible as they are connected with it, and exercise an influence over the well-being of mankind.


earth then, before its adaptation to the use of man, appears to have been a mass of matter, in a nearly fluid state, buried in profound darkness, but subjected

* Gen. i. 1.

+ Heb. xi. 3.

« PreviousContinue »