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in all the different stages of Christian experience. Some of these books are truly sublime pieces of poetry, especially the Psalms of David. “As poetical effusions they excel every thing written by man; and from their depth and sublimity, their just descriptions of the majesty and perfections of God, the nature and consequences of sin, and the heights and depths of holiness, properly challenge a distinguished place among the inspired writings of the Old Testament."
(4.) The prophetical books. This division comprises sixteen books, viz., from Isaiah to Malachi, inclusive. The first four of these books are called the major prophets ; the remaining twelve the minor prophets. The reason of this division has already been given.These books were anciently written in one volume by the Jews, lest any of them should be lost. They consist chiefly of predictions of future events, though many historical and doctrinal passages are interspersed through them; as there are also many predictions of future events scattered through those books which are more strictly historical. They contain predictions respecting nations and individuals; many of the latter refer to the Messiah. The Prophet Isaiah is very clear, pointed, and descriptive in his predictions of the advent, sufferings, death, resurrection, and glorious conquests of the Son of God. Many of the prophecies are so minute and descriptive, that they appear rather to be narrations of past events than predictions of things to come. Who can carefully read and weigh the contents of these books without coming to the conclusion that they are divinely inspired? Infidelity can never destroy the arguments in favor of the authenticity of the Scriptures drawn from the inspired prophecies. The utter futility of their labors in this work in times past fully demonstrates this position.
5. The epistolary writings. In this division are included the thirteen epistles of St. Paul, the general epistles of James, Peter, John, and Jude. These epistles, addressed to various communities and individuals by the apostles, form one of the most important divisions of the sacred writings. They abundantly confirm all the material facts related in the gospels and the Acts of the Apostles. The particulars of our Saviour's life and death are often referred to as grounded upon the undoubted testimony of eye-witnesses, and as being the foundation of the Christian religion. The speedy propagation of the Christian faith, recorded in the Acts, is contirmed beyond all contradiction by innumerable passages in the epistles, written to the churches already planted; and the miraculous gifts with which the apostles were endued are often appealed to in the same writings, as undeniable evidence of the divine mission of the apostles.
“ The general plan on which these epistles are written is, first, to discuss and decide the controversy, or to refute the erroneous no. tions which had arisen in the church, or among the persons to whom they were addressed, and which was the occasion of their being written; and, secondly, to recommend the observance of those duties which are necessary and of absolute importance to the Christian church in every age, consideration being chiefly given to those particular graces or virtues of the Christian character which the disputes that occasioned the epistles might tempt them to
neglect.” In these epistles we have all the great fundamental doc. trines of the Bible clearly stated and ably defended. If read carefully and prayerfully, we see not how an individual can question their divine origin. In every line we can trace the marks of their divine original.
(6.) The Apocalypse, or book of the Revelation. With this division terminates the canon of the holy Scriptures. “ It opens with a splendid appearance of the Lord Jesus, as the Ancient of days, in his sacerdotal vestments, who dictates to John seven epistles or letters, which he orders him to send to the seven churches in Asia Minor.
“ After these there is a profusion of hieroglyphic representations, accompanied by a tissue of most solemn prophecies, supposed to regard not only the church, but the different governments of the world, from that time to the day of judgment. Several of these prophecies appear to have been already fulfilled; some are being fulfilled, and others remain which respect future ages. The book is written with great dignity and majesty of figure, metaphor, and coloring; and several of the prophecies in it bear a striking similitude to some of the prophets—Ezekiel and Daniel. Obscure as it is, God pronounces a blessing on all them who shall read it.” Thus we have the holy Scriptures in their most important divisions. What symmetry and harmony are observable in all their parts! In this respect they are dissimilar to every other production extant.
3. The manuscripts of the sacred writings. A knowledge of the materials upon which the Scriptures were primarily written is a matter of curiosity, if not of importance. It may, however, assist us in determining the meaning of some of the sacred passages. The Scriptures were probably written, (with the exception of the Decalogue, which was written on tablets or slabs of stone,) on skins, leaves, or paper. The skins were principally sheep, goat, or calf skins, and sometimes dyed red. These skins, being semi-tanned, were almost imperishable, if kept from fire and damp. This accounts for the remarkable fact, that some of the ancient manascripts are still preserved. Most of the ancient manuscripts now in existence are written upon parchment or vellum. Parchment was made of sheep or goat skins ; vellum of calf skins. Dr. Kennicott thinks that the first manuscripts were upon skins, sewed together, and that the transpositions so often occurring were occasioned by the separation of the skins from each other. Mr. Yates, in his Collation, &c., thinks it probable, that the very autograph of the law, written by Moses, was upon prepared skins. Dr. Claudius Buchanan, in 1806, obtained from one of the synagogues of the black Jews,* in the interior of Malaya, in India, a very ancient manuscript roll, containing a large part of the Hebrew Scriptures, written upon goat skins, mostly dyed red; and the Cabul Jews, who travel annually into the interior of China, remarked, that in some synagogues the law is still found written on a roll of leather; not on vellum, but on soft, flexible leather, made of goats' skins, dyed red. This ma
* The black Jews are those who have lived in India from time immemorial, and are nearly of the color of the Hindoos. There is reason to believe that they descended from the remains of the first dispersion of that nation by Nebuchadnezzar.
nuscript, procured by Dr. Buchanan, is now deposited in the University Library, at Cambridge, (Eng.) The date of the manuscript cannot be ascertained; but it is supposed to be derived from those copies which their ancestors brought with them into India. Diodo. rus Siculus informs us, that the Persians of old wrote all their records on skins; and Herodotus, who lived more than five hundred and fifty years before the Christian era, tells us, that sheep and goat skins were used in writing by the ancient Ionians. A very valuable Hebrew manuscript of the Pentateuch was presented to the London University in 1828. It contains two hundred and twenty columns, written upon skins. It was purchased from the heirs of Mr. Samuel Chai Ricco, a descendant of a Jewish family that flourished in Italy some centuries ago, and gave birth to several learned men, whose works are still esteemed among the Jews. Mr. Húnwitz thinks that this manuscript was written in the eleventh or twelfth century, if not earlier.
Some portions of the Scriptures were undoubtedly written on leaves. The white palmira leaves were generally used. The characters are in general black; and the ends of the leaves and margins are painted with flowers of various hues. Two holes were made in each leaf, several inches asunder, and a string passed through the holes at each end, which secured the whole ; but the leaves, being written on both sides, must be untied before they can be read. Sometimes the inner bark of trees was used for writing, though this was not so common. Dr. A. Clarke supposed the former parts of the Scriptures were written in this manner; and that in consequence of the leaves, or portions of bark, having been displaced, the transpositions so often noticed in the Pentateuch have occurred. He says, in his comments on Num. ix, 1:
“We have already met with instances where transpositions have very probably taken place, and it is not difficult to account for them. As in very early times writing was generally on leaves of the Egyptian flag papyrus, or on thin laminæ of different , substances, facts and transactions thus entered were very liable to be deranged: so that when afterward a series was made up into a book, many transactions might be inserted in wrong places, and thus the exact chronology of the facts be greatly disturbed. MSS. written on leaves of trees, having a hole in each, through which a cord is passed to keep them all in their proper places, are frequently to be met with in the cabinets of the curious, and some such are now before me. Should the cord break, or be accidentally unloosed, it would be exceedingly difficult to string them all in their proper places ; accidents of this kind I have often met with, to my great perplexity; and, in some cases, found it almost impossible to restore each individual leaf to its own place; for it should be observed, that these separate pieces of oriental writing are not paged like the leaves of our printed books; nor are there frequently any catch-words or signatures at the bottom to connect the series. This one consideration will account for several transpositions, especially in the Pentateuch, where they occur more frequently than in any other part of the sacred writings.”
The paper on which some of the ancient MSS. were written was made of a sort of flag or bulrush, growing in the marshes of Egypt, near the river Nile. Many of the manuscripts found in the ruins of Herculaneum, which was destroyed by an eruption of Vesuvius, in the year 79 of the Christian era, are of this kind of paper. The invention of this kind of paper nearly superseded the use of every other mi erial for writing upon, until Eumenes, king of Pergamus, substituted parchment instead of Egyptian paper, in emulation of Ptolemy, king of Egypt, whose library he was ambitious to excel by an invention superior to paper. But the invention of parchment did not entirely supersede the use of the Egyptian paper; for St. Paul, when writing to Timothy, des res him to bring with him the books, (probably made of Egyptian paper,) but especially the parchments. (2 Tim. iv, 13.) No book is found written on paper made of cotton or linen rags, the paper now in use, antecedent to A. D. 1270.
The Hebrew manuscripts of the Old Testament are of two kinds, viz., autographs, or those actually written by the inspired penmen, and apographs, or copies from the originals, and multiplied by numerous transcriptions. The rolled manuscripts were used in the synagogues, and transcribed with great care, designed to secure the purity of the sacred text. One of these manuscripts is deposited in the British museum. It is written with great care on forty brown African skins. These skins are of different breadths, some containing more columns than others. The columns are one hundred and fifty-three in number, each of which contains about sixty-three lines, is about twenty-two inches deep, and generally more than five
inches broad. The letters have no points, apices, or flourishes | about them. The initial words are not larger than the rest; and a
space equal to about four lines is left between every two books. Altogether this is one of the finest specimens of the synagogues' rolls that have been preserved to the present time.* The square manuscripts were in private use among the Jews. They were written after the manner of our printed books, on vellum, parchment, or paper, of various sizes.
The Greek manuscripts of the Old and New Testaments were generally written on vellum, or paper made of cotton or linen. The letters were capital or small. They were written in capital letters until the seventh century, and a few even so late as the ninth century; but the small letters were generally adopted at the close of the tenth century. No existing manuscripts of the New Testament can be traced further back than the fourth century, and most of them are still later.
The Alexandrian manuscript is one of the most precious relics of Christian antiquity. It consists of four folio volumes, and contains nearly all the sacred writings. It was procured at Alexandria by Cyrillus Lucaris, patriarch of Constantinople, by whom it was sent as a present to King Charles I., in the year 1628; since 1752 it has been deposited in the British museum. It was probably written between the middle and the end of the fourth century. Ву whom it was written is not known. It was written in capital letters. The Vatican and Cambridge MSS. are worthy of notice. The former is preserved in the Vatican library at Rome, and con
See Townley's History. The writer is indebted to this truly valuable work for many facts in the historical part of this discourse.
tains nearly all the holy Scriptures; the latter is to be found in the university at Cambridge, and contains a considerable proportion of the New Testament. These MSS. were probably written about the fifth century. The Vatican MS. was written on vellum, the other on paper. To say more on this subject would exceed our design.
Who that properly considers the materials on which the holy Scriptures were primarily written, can but mark the wisdom and goodness of God ? Had the materials been different from those that were used, the sacred writings might have long since sunk into oblivion, with other writings of antiquity. But the materials being of a durable nature, shows that God designed their perpetuity, that they might be handed down entire for the correction, instruction, and salvation of the world. Let us, then, properly value this law, bearing so many ostensible marks of the infinite benevolence of their great Author in their preservation.
4. The versions of the Scriptures. As these are so numerous, it will not be expected that we should even mention all of them in this discourse; we will only glance at some of the most important.
The Old Testament was originally written in the Hebrew language, with the exception of a few words and passages in the Chaldean dialect, which occur in Jer. x, 11; Dan. ii, 4, to the end of vii; and Ezra iv, 8, to vi, 19, and vii, 12-17. The New Testament was written in Greek, because this language was best understood both by writers and readers throughout the Roman empire. The prevalence of Hebrew phraseology characterized the style of the language of the New Testament, by a mixture of oriental idioms and expressions with those which were properly Greek. Hence it has been called Hebraic Greek. A large proportion of the phrases and constructions of the New Testament, however, are pure Greek; equally pure with that spoken in Macedonia.*
The first printed edition of the whole Hebrew Scriptures was published at Loncini, Italy, in 1488, in folio. A part, however, of the Hagiographa had been printed at Naples the preceding year. The Pentateuch was translated into Greek in the reign of Ptolemy Philadelphus, king of Egypt, about 285 years before the Christian era. This version is usually designated the Septuagint, from a tradition that seventy or seventy-two learned Jews were employed in this work by order of the Jewish high-priest and sanhedrim, and that it was accomplished in seventy-two days. This fabulous story is now exploded. The probability is, that the translation was effected by five learned and judicious men, which was afterward declared to be a faithful version by seventy or seventy-two elders, constituting the Alexandrian sanhedrim. The other books of the Old Testament were translated at different times, by different persons; and being added to the books already translated, were comprehended with them in the appellation Septuagint version. By this translation - Divine providence prepared the way for the preach. ing of the gospel which was then approaching, facilitated the promulgation of it among many nations, by the instrumentality of the finest, most copious, and most correct language that was ever
See Horne's Introduction.