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not by pictures or marks, the exact meaning of which, after all, is difficult exactly to find out. They are explained to us by letters and syllables, which form words, of the meaning of which there is little if any doubt; thus many things are made plain to us, which could not be represented by pictures.
The earliest mention of writing that we find in the Bible, is in Exodus xvii. 14. God commanded Moses to write in a book the memorial of the defeat of Amalek, and that he would utterly put out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven. We may observe that this direction to write was not mentioned as a new thing, we may therefore conclude that writing had been practised before.
The next passage is Exod. xxiv. 4. where we find that "Moses wrote all the words of the Lord." And we read, xxxi. 18. that when the Lord had made an end of communing with Moses upon mount Sinai, he gave unto Moses "two tables of testimony, tables of stone, written with the finger of God." These, as my readers well know, contained the ten commandments; and when Moses saw the children of Israel worshipping the golden calf," he cast the tables out of his hands, and brake them
beneath the mount," ch. xxxii. 19. to show that the Israelites had broken the law of God. In ch. xxxiv. 1. we find that "the Lord said unto Moses, Hew thee two tables of stone like unto the first and I will write upon these tables the words that were the first tables, which thou brakest." And, in ver. 28. we read that the Lord "wrote upon the tables the words of the covenant," that is, the ten commandments. In one respect these differed from the first tables, which were the work of God; they were made by Moses, but the writing was the same in both, "the writing of God, graven upon the tables," ch. xxxii. 16. These tables, as the reader knows, were put into the ark and kept there. We find, 1 Kings viii. 9. that these two tables of stone were in the ark when Solomon caused it to be carried into the temple, after which time we have no particular account of the ark, nor of the tables of stone. They probably perished when the temple was destroyed by the Babylonians. The candlesticks, table of shew-bread, trumpets, and some other articles, were either made again, or remained to the time when Jerusalem was taken by the Romans.
During the first ages the patriarchs lived a great many years, and the will of the Lord was easily handed down from one generation to another, by the fathers telling their sons what had passed. But when the Israelites were delivered from Egypt, the life of man had been shortened, and many more instructions were given about sacrifices and offerings. It was then necessary that these directions should be preserved correctly, which could only be done by writing. Therefore the Lord ordered Moses, "Write thou these words," Exod. xxxiv. 27. And, in Deut. xxxi. 9. we find it recorded, that "Moses wrote this law, and delivered it unto the priests." It was also directed that when they had a king, he should "write him a copy of this law in a book, out of that which is before the priests and Levites: and it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God, and to keep all the words of this law, and these statutes to do them."
We find directions concerning the writing of parts of the law, or the promises of the Lord, to those who kept his covenant; they were to be bound upon their hands, and as frontlets between their eyes. They were to be taught to their children, and to be written upon the door. posts of their houses, and upon their gates, Deut. xi. 18-20. God further commanded the children of Israel, "On the day when ye shall pass over Jordan unto the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee, thou shalt set thee up great stones and plaster them with plaster: and thou shalt write upon them all the words of this law, when thou art passed over, and ye shall set up these stones in mount Ebal, and thou shalt write upon the stones all the words of this law very plainly;" Deut. xxvii. 2-4. 8. Accordingly we find that when Joshua had conquered the land, and came to mount Ebal," he wrote there upon the stones a copy of the law of Moses, in the presence of the children of Israel," Josh. viii. 32.
Thus we see that the law of the Lord was a written law, and we find that upon several occasions the words of the law were publicly read to the people. In particular, when Ezra brought the book of the law of Moses, and read therein to the people, with the assistance of some of the Levites, he gave the sense, and caused them to understand the meaning; see Nehemiah viii. After the return of the Jews from Babylon, portions of the law were always read in the synagogues, and this custom still continues among the Jews to the present day. I need not remind the reader, that our Lord himself used to read to the Jews in their synagogues, and teach them from the words of the law, and the prophets; see Luke iv. 16. Matt. xiii. 54. John xviii. 20, &c.
There are many passages in the scriptures, which tell us that the will of God is fully revealed in his word. We find that our Lord himself repeatedly rebuked the Jews, for laying aside the commandments of God, and teaching the doctrines of men instead: making the word of God of none effect through their traditions, Mark vii. 3-13. This is not contradicted by the apostle Paul, when he tells the brethren to stand fast, and to hold the
traditions they have been taught, 2 Thess. ii. 15. for the original plainly shows that he refers to the things which were taught or handed down to them in the scriptures.
But the Roman catholics teach many things which are not commanded in the Bible, which they pretend were spoken by our Lord and holy men of old, and say that they have been repeated from fathers to their sons to the present time. Now many of these things are quite contrary to what is written in the scriptures, so that it is evident both cannot be true, and this is the great reason why Roman catholic priests object to people reading the Bible. But let us hold fast to the word of God. "Not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God," 1 Thess. ii. 13. Especially may the young remember what the aged apostle John says to them, "I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one, 1 John ii. 14.
How the commandments of God and other things mentioned in the Bible were written down, is sufficiently explained to us. It was not by picture writing or hieroglyphics, but by letters, for as these writings are not mentioned till after the Jews had become a separate people, they would be written according to the language they used; and it is known, as already has been said, that this was very similar to what is called the Hebrew language, though the letters rather differed in shape, as appears from some ancient inscriptions. We may also here notice that the ancient Hebrew and the languages similar to it, as Chaldean, Samaritan, Syriac, &c. are written, not like ours from the left to the right, but from right to left, so that you begin to read at the other end of the line, and the other end of the book, from what you do in English.