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peculiar idioms, unusual figures, -the venerable drapery of Truth, - which may often be so explained as to increase our interest in and our knowledge of the word of God. And surely it is not the part of wisdom to reject even those inferior instruments by which the principles of the Gospel are placed in their clear, bold relief, and due perspective.
But, with this difference of estimation attached to scriptural learning, there can be no difference of opinion as to the great end to which all biblical studies and criticisms should ultimately reach, the quickening of man in the spiritual life. His dim and broken conceptions of truth are to be brought nearer into harmony with the Divine Archetype. His low and weak character is to be exalted and invigorated, so that he shall live the life of God in his soul, so that Jesus Christ shall be formed within him. The same desire for man's salvation, that caused the glad tidings of the Gospel to be originally sent abroad over the earth, should still inspire the heart of the philologist and critic, and sanctify all his labors. May it not be added, with all due deference to his most profound attainments in sacred learning, that this desire of human good is the most important qualification for his office? It has been thought, with justice, that the increased knowledge of ancient languages, arts, manners, and opinions, enjoyed in our day, has illuminated the sacred
page with a new light. But have not the moral and spiritual movements of the present age, the great principles of Freedom, Toleration, Peace, Union, Temperance, that begin to stir in the hearts of men, and to shake the kingdoms of the world, done as much or more ? From the struggle for his rights, from the sacrifices of philanthropy, from the efforts of reform, has not man gone to the volume of Truth, with a newly couched eye, to see the length and breadth and depth of its immortal principles ? In other words, can the Scriptures be understood or explained truly, except in the same enlarged spirit of love to God and man in which they were composed ? Then must the interpreter be imbued with the spirit of benevolence and piety, as well as conversant with Hebrew and Greek, to discharge his office.
It was the far-reaching observation of Robinson, the Puritan Pastor, at that eventful crisis in human affairs, when he dismissed, with religious solemnities, from the shores of the Old World, the pioneers of liberty and religion to the New, that “the Lord had more truth and light yet to break forth out of his holy Word,” and he besought them to remember it as an article of their church covenant, that they should be ready "to receive whatsoever light or truth should be made known to them from the written Word of God.” Since he bade farewell to that immortal company, freighted with the seeds of a new empire and a new world, and with noble forecast directed them to act worthily as the founders of a new church, it is believed that more light has broken forth from God's word as well as from his works. It is believed that the red rays of the morning, the early beams, shooting aslant a cloudy horizon, and betokening wrath and vengeance, and filling men's hearts with the chills of fear more than the fervors of love, have been succeeded by the white light of broad day, the warm and cheering radiance of an unclouded Gospel.
Every religion retains for a time the characteristics, and breathes the spirit, of that which preceded it. Thus Judaism slowly emerged from idolatry, until the One God was at last worshipped without rival. Thus has Christianity risen out of the bosom of Judaism, and has long retained the family likeness.
Even now, notions, essentially Jewish, or Heathen, predominate in the Christian body. To what source, but to Jerusalem or to Rome, shall we assign the doctrine of Sacrifice, as spiritually atoning for human sins ; the overweening importance attached to forms, and meetings; the belief that men could sin before they were born (John ix. 2); the greater estimation given to inferred, than to declared doctrines ; and the exclusive spirit which says, “Stand by thyself, come not near to me ; for I am holier than thou” ?
But the gilded pomp of Pagan and of Papal worship, the superstitions and fears of brahmin and monk, are slowly vanishing.
6. One spell upon the minds of men
Breaks, never to unite again.”
The contracted Hebrew age of Christianity is also passing away. The sceptre is departing from Judah. But let the sheet-anchor of that elder dispensation, the inviolable Unity of God, in which the Jews were disciplined for fifteen hundred years to trust, still hold us from drifting away into mists and mysticism. With that central principle, the additional disclosures of the Gospel, the fatherly character of the Almighty, mildly reflected in his Son, beaming with mercy towards the penitent sinner, inviting his children to glory and immortality, and the brotherhood of man with man everywhere, beautifully harmonize. These truths are great, and they will prevail. Not more surely does the mighty sun mount the steep of heaven in his strength, burning up the vapors of night, blazing with his awful glories, and quickening all things into life, than will these everlasting principles rise above all sectarian enclosures, enlighten in due time the whole moral world, and vivify all souls with the spirit of the living God.
If the following pages should become instrumental, in the remotest degree, in hastening this consummation, the labor bestowed upon them will not have been in vain. If they should, by the favor of God, prove useful to the Sabbath-school teacher in his disinterested efforts ; to his pupils in their faithful studies ; to the parent in the religious education of his family ; and to the inquirer after truth and duty, of whatever age or office ; if, in the quaint, but expressive language of an old writer, they should be found to contain " the slip for use, and part of the root for growth,” the most fervent desire of the author will be satisfied ; but if it should be otherwise, none will greet more cordially than he a better work to supersede his own.
To those friends who have cheered and aided him in his task, and favored him with the loan of necessary books, he would
take this opportunity of rendering his most grateful acknowledgments.
If life and health are spared, a second volume, containing an exposition of Mark, Luke, and John, will be published early in the next spring.
KEENE, N. H., May, 1841.
The New Testament is the received collection of books written by the Apostles and Evangelists of Jesus Christ. The more appropriate title would be, the New Covenant, as it contains the covenant or compact made with mankind by God through his Son, and designed to supersede the preliminary and partial covenant with the Jews. These books are also called canonical, from canon, a rule, because they are believed to contain the authoritative rule of faith and practice. At what time, or by whose authority, they were first collected together, cannot now be determined. Probably no formal step was taken to effect it; but gradually those works that found most favor among the early Christians, because they were known to have been written by inspired apostles and disciples of Christ, were admitted into the Canon by common consent. Those that were rejected fell into a class called Apocryphal, which bears the same relation to the New Testament that the books of Esdras, Maccabees, and others, do to the Old.
The writings of the New Testament all date back to the first century, between A. D. 40 and 98, or even narrower limits. They were composed in the Greek language, which was then generally spoken in the East. One or two books, however, have been conjectured by many critics 1 have been written in a dialect of the Hebrew tongue; but if so, they were very early translated, and no copies in the original now remain. Catalogues of the Gospels, Acts, Epistles, and Revelation, with their present titles and authors mainly, are given by the Christian Fathers of the second and third centuries. Numerous quotations are also found in their writings, by which the text may often be corrected or verified. The Scriptures were generally read in the churches, diffused through different countries, and translated into foreign languages; by which means their authority was more fully substantiated, and their uncorrupted preservation insured.