« PreviousContinue »
CH. XXI.-BOOKS, AND SUBSTANCES WRITTEN Upon.
WE are plainly told that the commandments were "the writing of God, graven upon the tables." These tables were flat, thin pieces of stone. Also the names of the children of Israel, worn upon the high priest's shoulders, were to be engraved on different sorts of precious stone, with the work of an engraver, like the engravings of a signet. And for the high priest's mitre it was directed, "Thou shalt make a plate of pure gold, and engrave upon it like the engravings of a signet, Holiness unto the Lord."
The letters were engraved or cut into these hard substances that they might last, and not be rubbed out like common writing. When Job wished that his words should be preserved, he says, "Oh, that they were graven with an iron pen and lead in the rock for ever," Job xix. 24. This method of writing is still used for inscriptions on buildings, &c. but it was much more used formerly. Among the ruins of ancient cities in Persia, Egypt, Greece, &c. many very long inscriptions are found, engraved upon the walls of buildings, and upon rocks. In a part of Arabia, near mount Sinai, there are large mountains or rocks covered with writing, though the meaning of the words cannot be made out.
Among the ruins of Babylon, bricks are found with inscriptions upon them. The letters or marks are something like the heads of arrows or nails, but no one has yet been able to make out their meaning. It is supposed they may have been part of the tower of Babel; whether this is correct or not, they must be very ancient. The writing has been engraved or impressed into these bricks. Major Denham, who lately travelled in Africa, also found long inscriptions cut into the rocks in several places.
This engraving of writing, or cutting the letters upon hard substances, was very generally practised in cases of importance, as being much more lasting than other methods. When Dr. Buchanan was in India, the Jews
in Malabar showed him a brass plate, on which was engraved the grant of some privileges from an ancient king, about the year A. D. 490. He also found similar tablets in the possession of the Syrian christians in the south of India. Some of these, and copies of others, are now in the public library at Cambridge. And some persons have supposed that Samuel engraved the word Ebenezer
upon the stone he set up when God had smitten the Philistines, 1 Sam. vii. 12. This method of writing was practised in later times, upon wood and other substances.
To the law of God being engraven the apostle refers, when describing the work of God the Holy Spirit upon the heart of the believer; he speaks of it as written, not with ink, (which might be rubbed out,) but as engraved or cut into the substance, and not upon tables of stone, but upon the heart of the believer, 2 Cor. iii. 3. see also Jer. xxxi. 33. Ezek. xi. 19. O that this may be the case with our hearts. My dear readers, may the Lord write his law in your hearts, and be your God, making you his children, forgiving your iniquity, and blotting out the writing that is against you. For dreadful is the state of those in whom sin is graven upon the
table of their hearts, Jer. xvii. 1. O let us earnestly pray, that this may not be our case; but that God will put his truths into our minds, enabling us to do his will in all things.
And if the law of the Lord be thus engraved in our hearts, we must beware lest we should be satisfied to let it be obscured or covered with the evil which by nature cleaves to our hearts, even as a writing engraved upon a stone may be covered over with dirt or rubbish. Remember, God says, "My son, give me thy heart," Prov. xxiii. 26. He will not be satisfied with a divided heart, and he also commanded, "Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life," Prov. iv. 23. But it is the Lord himself who engraves the graving thereof, Zech. iii. 9. and upon him that overcometh will be written the name of the Lord; see Rev. iii. 12. and that writing shall not perish or decay. Reader, watch over your heart; pray that God the Holy Spirit may sanctify or make it holy.
We may inquire farther respecting the substances used for writing upon. Job, chap. xix. 24. expresses his desire, that his words should be written upon lead as well as upon a rock, Montfaucon says, that in the year 1699, he purchased at Rome an ancient book, entirely of lead, about four inches long and three inches wide; it had six leaves, and two covers, and was written over with ancient Egyptian figures, and writing which he could not understand.
Brass was used for matters of importance. In the first book of Maccabees we read of treaties between the Romans and the Jews, written on tables of brass, chap. viii. 22. and xiv. 18. and although the books of Maccabees are not the word of God, yet they may be referred to for information as to history and customs, as they were certainly written a very long time ago. It was the custom of the Romans to preserve their laws and records upon tablets of brass; and it is related that a fire in the capitol at Rome, in Vespasian's reign, destroyed three thousand of these tablets. The ancient tablets of brass, discovered by Dr. Buchanan in India, have been already
noticed; they are six in number, and, upon the plate said to be the oldest, the writing is very like that upon the bricks found at Babylon.
Wood was very frequently used. Sometimes the tab. lets of wood were engraved, the letters being cut into them. Or a thin coat of wax was spread over the wood, and the words were scratched upon the wax, with a sharp pointed metal bodkin, or a stick. And sometimes the words were written with ink upon the tablets. The writing upon sticks, mentioned Ezek. xxxvii. 16. appears to have been engraved or cut into them. In our own country, in former times, words were engraved upon sticks, which were put into a wooden frame; some of these still exist. Almanacks also were cut upon sticks; these may be found among the inhabitants of Sweden.
The ancient letters sent by persons one to another were in general written upon tablets of wood. The dif. ferent pieces were tied together with a thread or string, and a seal put upon the knot, so that no one could read what was written till the seal was broken.
Among the natives of Africa and the east it is very common to have writing boards, like schoolboys' slates, upon which persons write with ink, and rub it out when done with. When Mr. Park was at Koolkorro, in Africa, his landlord brought him a writing board, asking him to write upon it. Mr. Park did so; the African then washed the writing from the board, and drank the water, for the poor ignorant man thought it would be of use to protect him from harm! Such tablets of wood are commonly used in schools in those countries. The prophets sometimes wrote upon tables of wood; see Isa. xxx. 8. Hab. ii. 2. and the writing table which Zacharias made signs for, when desired to name his son, Luke i. 63. was a wooden tablet; perhaps it was covered with wax. Such tablets are mentioned by Greek and Roman writers, and were used in England till after the year 1300.
Leaves were formerly used, and still are so, for writing upon; many ancient authors mention them. In India, and particularly in Ceylon, they make use of the leaves of some trees which are very broad and thick; these are