« AnteriorContinuar »
tures, much facility is acquired in the duty undertaken, by an attention to the design of the various books, the persons by whom they were written, and the circumstances and relations under which they were composed. The members of a Bible-class find themselves often ignorant in regard to points like these, and on this account, unable to derive a satisfactory benefit from the studies of the class. There is, indeed, in most commentaries of a respectable character, the information which they need, scattered throughout their pages; but it is so scattered, that those who are unaccustomed to the rules of study, find great difficulty in connecting it for the furtherance of their particular object. And even this opportunity very many want. Commentaries are expensive works. All are not able to purchase them. They are large works. All have not time to study them. The Bible Companion has collected, in a small compass, the information which is necessary as an introduction to the profitable study of the Scriptures, and in the analysis of the several books, as well as in the chapters upon other independent subjects, will be found well adapted to accomplish the purpose for which it is intended.
In the use of this Companion, as a help to Bible-class instruction, I would recommend a particular attention to the analysis which is presented of each book of Scripture. It is amazing to an unpractised student, what degree of light is thrown upon the doctrinal statements, as well as the historical references found in them, by a previous consideration of the scope and design of the work. Let one of the epistles be taken for an example. If it be taken up and read, as they often are, as an independent writing, it will be found, to a very greai degree, unintelligible. References will be found which cannot be explained, and assertions to the comprehension of which there is no key. And it may be read over many times without any distinct impression being made upon the mind, or any real information having been derived from it. If the same writing be taken up again, after information has been obtained in regard to the writer, the circumstances under which it was written, the persons to whom it was addressed, the object and purpose for which it was written, it will appear like another productian. Difficulties will be cleared up. Dark passages will seem quite intelligible. And the epistle will give new information and light, as often as it is considered. I have seen a Bible-class astonished and delighted at the amount of knowledge in regard to one of St. Paul's epistles, which a mere reference to the circumstances contained in his history in the Acts was able to communicate. Such kind of information is here collected in a compact and convenient form. And I cannot but hope that the publication of this work will be found a real service to the youthful readers of the Bible among our churches.
In this short introduction, which the highly respectable publisher has requested me to prepare, I have desired simply to awaken attention to the worth of the Bible, and to the merits of this Companion. In the revision of the latter, which I have done as carefully as I have been able to do, I have found some alterations and some additions absolutely necessary. With these, which I trust will not diminish the worth of the book, I commend it to the notice of the rgy and members of the various churches in this land, as well adapted for the purpose which its title-page has specified.
S. H. T. Philadelphia, May 1st, 1833.
CHAPTER I.–TITLE OF THE BIBLE. THE word Bible is taken from the Greek word Biblos, which signifies book; and the volume to which Christians give that title, by way of eminence, is called The Bible, because of its supreme excellency, being the book of books, the best book.
The Bible is called The Scriptures, from the Latin word Scriptura, which signifies a writing; and it is called The Holy Scriptures, because it contains the collection of the writings of holy men, who, at different times, were raised up and inspired of God, for the purpose of publishing his commandments, and promises, and the records of his mercies and judgments, for the instruction and salvation of mankind.
The two parts of the Bible are called the Old and New Testaments, (2 Cor. iii. 6 and 14.) or covenants. They are so named because they contain the revelations or testaments of God's covenant of mercy, for the redemption of mankind by the interposition of the Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, as the only Mediator between God and man.
CHAPTER II.—THE ANTIQUITY OF THE BIBLE. That the Bible has existed from very remote ages, is universally acknowledged. The proofs of its antiquity are more numerous and convincing, than can be advanced in favour of any other book in existence. It has never been without its intelligent witnesses, and zealous
guardians; though some of them have been the greatest perverters of its peculiar principles, or the bitterest enemies of the Christian name.
The Old Testament has been preserved by the Jews in every age, with a scrupulous jealousy, and with a veneration for its words and letters, bordering on superstition; demonstrating their regard for it as divinely inspired. The Hebrews never were guilty of negligence in relation even to the words of their sacred books; for they used to transcribe and compare them so carefully, that they could tell how often every letter came over again in writing any book of the Old Testament.
The Old Testament contains, besides the account of the former ages of the world, the code of the Jewish laws, both civil and religious; and the records of their national history, for more than one thousand nine hundred years, from the call of Abraham ; as well as prophecies, which regarded a distant futurity, and which have respect to times yet to come. The celebrated Roman historian Tacitus, who lived in the apostolic age, speaks of the Jewish books as very ancient in his time. They were translated from the Hebrew into the Greek language more than two thousand and one hundred years ago ; and they were possessed in both those languages by the Jews. By those Jews who lived among the Greeks, they were read in their synagogues every sabbath day, in the translation, the same as the Hebrew Scriptures were read by the native Jews : commentaries were written upon them by their learned doctors; copies of them were circulated in every nation where the Jews were scattered, and thus the sacred books were multiplied without number.
The books of Moses, including Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, were written more than three thousand and three hundred years ago, and nearly fifteen hundred years before the Christian era : many of the other books were published above a thousand years, and those of the elder prophets about eight hundred years before the advent of Christ.
The writings of all uninspired men, are modern, compared with the Holy Scriptures. The earliest profane history which is known, is that of Herodotus, in Greek; which was written no earlier than the time of Malachi, the last of the Old Testament writers. Somewhat more ancient than Herodotus, are the poems of Homer and Hesiod : the period in which they were written cannot be correctly ascertained; but those who allow them the remotest antiquity, place Homer only in the days of Isaiah the prophet, and Hesiod in the age of Elijah. It is not, indeed, agreed among the learned, whether there ever was such a person as Hesiod. The books of these ancient, uninspired writers are of a quite different character from the Holy Scriptures; they are filled with silly and absurd fables, and contain many impurities. They make no discovery of the just character of the only living and true God, though they contain much concerning religion. As to the history by Herodotus, it contains much that is merely fabulous and untrue; but as far as it records the transactions of his own age, or describes the things within the compass of his own observation, or details matters of fact, of which he was correctly informed, his statements confirm the faithfulness and accuracy of the records contained in the holy and inspired word of the Lord.
CHAPTER III.—THE EXCELLENCY OF THE BIBLE.
That the Bible is the best book, might be proved sufficiently from its sanctifying and transforming influence upon the minds of all who read it with a proper spirit. But this is manifest more especially from the fact of its having God for its author : and that God is its author is evident, from its being the only book which teaches every thing that our Creator requires of us, either to know, or believe, or do, that we may escape his deserved displeasure, obtain his sovereign favour,