« AnteriorContinuar »
divided. And since the birth of Christ, the Jews and Christians have been a mutual guard and check upon each other.
3. The agreement of all the manuscripts of the Old Testament, amounting to a great number, which are known to be extant, is a clear proof of its uncorrupted preservation.
That the New Testament has not been corrupted is manifest,
1. From the fact, that, as early as the two first centuries, the very same facts and doctrines were universally received by the Christians which we at this time believe on the credit of the New Testament.
2. The dispersion of the copies of the New Testament, which were multiplied and disseminated, either in the original Greek or the translations, as rapidly as the boundaries of the church enlarged, and also the effectual check interposed by various sects that existed in the Christian Church, rendered their corruption impossible.
3. The agreement of all the manuscripts is another proof of their purity. The manuscripts of the New Testament are far more numerous than those of any single classic author. Upward of three hundred and fifty have been collected by Griesbach. This agreement clearly shows that the books of the New Testament exist at present, in all essential points, precisely the same as they were when they left the hands of their authors. Let us now consider,
6. The means for the circulation of the Scriptures. These are too numerous for a detail in this place. We will notice but two of them-viz., Bible societies, and the translation of the Scriptures into the different languages of the earth. Though these means are somewhat connected, yet they seem to require a separate exami. nation:
(1.) There are about sixty-seven principal Bible societies in operation on the globe, fifty-four of which are in Europe, ten in Asia, and two in America. The professed object of these societies is the circulation of the holy Scriptures. The “British and Foreign Bible Society," and the "American Bible Society” require particular notice. The former of these societies was instituted in England in 1804. Its receipts for 1837 were 103,1711. 58. 2d. The issues of books for the same time, at home, were 378,797 copies; and from depots abroad, 163,046 more; making in all 541,843, and an aggregate since the formation of the society of 10,297,645 copies. These books have been scattered in almost every quarter of the globe, and in very many different tongues. Says a distinguished writer, in speaking of this society," simple, original, and comprehensive in its plan, this institution knows no distinction of sect or party. Equally open to 'Jew and Gentile, barbarian, Scythian, bond and free,' to aid its exertions, or receive its benefits, it calculates upon unparalleled utility, and embraces in its vast design the communication of the word of God to every nation, and kindred, and people, and tongue." Of this society, which has done more during the few years of its establishment toward the translation of the word of God into all languages, and its circulation among all nations, than had been effected by the collective energies of the whole Christian world in more than a thousand years previous to its institution, it is scarcely possible to speak too highly. To allow that it may have had imperfections, either in its construction or
operations, is only to allow that it bears the impress of every thing connected with human nature; but its defects, like spots in the sun, have been few and incidental, and scarcely at all perceptible, amid that splendor of light and truth by which it is surrounded. Bible,' says an amiable and universally admired writer,*" is a light to our feet, and a lamp to our path. It points us to the way, the truth, and the life. It is our guide while we live, and our trust when we die. It is the charter of our salvation, and the pledge of our immortality. If there were but one Bible in the world, all the wealth of that world would not be adequate to the value of that Bible. How, then, can we sufficiently extol that society which has sent millions of this divine treasure into the most distant lands, and conveyed spiritual illumination into the darkest corners of the earth."
The American Bible Society was instituted at New-York in 1816. The receipts of this society for the year ending May 1838 amounts to eighty-five thousand six hundred and seventy-six dollars and eighty-three cents. During the year it has printed one hundred and fifty-eight thousand two hundred and ninety-eight copies of Bibles and Testaments, and an aggregate, since the formation of the society, of two millions three hundred and fifty-three thousand two hundred and ninety-eight. Most of the copies have been distributed, and a large number gratuitously. What a flood of light and glory has this circulation of the Scriptures shed forth on our dark and benighted world! “When that morning star, the British and Foreign Bible Society," first shone upon the world, presaging millennial day, many saw its beauty-felt its importance and rejoiced at its rising. When the “ American Bible Society” was formed, then the day dawned-and, through the mists of the morning, its radiance beamed faintly, but benignly, on the world; and “great was the company' of the pious, of different names and sects, that beheld and admired. Since then the shades of night have been retiring, and the effulgence of day has been shining stronger and clearer; and as its coruscations of light and glory have shot up around us, and streaked the moral heavens with living lustre and celestial brightness, eye after eye has been arrested by its resistless beams, until now it commands the wondering and approving gaze of the Christian. It is true, many at first looked at it as they were accustomed to look upon the northern aurora, as a phenomenon that would quickly pass away, leaving nothing but shadows and obscurity behind it. But they have looked again-it was brighter, and had spread further than before. Again they looked, and its dazzling brilliancy was fast overspreading the whole horizon. They turned their eyes to those parts of the earth where its vivifying rays had fallen, and they saw the midnight darkness of heathenism and sin fleeing away as the morning shadows from the mountain-topthe “lily of the valley,” blooming in freshness and beauty in the land of benighted, though holy Palestine-the “rose of Sharon" rendering fragrant and salubrious the moral breezes of injured and neglected Africa—our own western wilderness budding and blossoming as “the garden of the Lord. Thus has the Bible gone forth in its benign and ameliorating influences among the different
* Miss Hannah More.
tribes of men, by means of Bible societies; and thus is it destined to go forth until irradiating light shall be seen in every part of the habitable globe. But we pass to notice,
(2.) That the circulation of the Scriptures is greatly facilitated by their translation into the different languages of men. Already has the Bible been translated into about one hundred and sixty languages of the babbling earth. The last report of the American Bible Society says, “ The Bible is already translated into all those tongues most widely spoken by men, and further translations are in rapid progress by those who have taken up their abode among the heathen." How glorious will be the day when the holy Bible shall be read in the vernacular tongue of every nation under heaven! May we not speedily look for its appearance? Let the Christian church only come up to their duty in this work, and it will soon appear in all its heavenly effulgence! Fellow Christian, are you doing all in your power to circulate the holy Scriptures ? Are you willing properly to exert your influence, give of your possessions, &c., for this holy work? Remember, that Bible and missionary societies will give you arms sufficiently long to reach the destitute in any portion of the earth. All nations are now accessible to the word of life. Will you send it to them ? Remember that "commerce is bringing us into rapid contact with almost every people; motives innumerable are set before those who are favored with the light of revelation, to aim at the speedy and universal diffusion of this light among those who are yet in darkness. The Bible itself enjoins, and the success of those who attempt, in dependence on God, to perform this duty, gives encouragement in perseverance.”
For the Methodist Magazine and Quarterly Review.
BY REV. D. SMITH, OF THE NEW-YORK CONFERENCE. Evidence of the Truth of the Christian Religion, derived from the literal fulfil.
ment of Prophecy, particularly as illustrated by the History of the Jews, and by the Discoveries of recent Travelers. By the Rev. ALEXANDER Keith, minister of St. Cyrus, Kincardineshire. From the sixth Edinburgh edition. NewYork: J. & J. Harper, 1835.
It is a fact of a somewhat humiliating character, that the best books are often the least read. Light and fugitive publications teem from the press, and cover the land, like the frogs of Egypt; while the wri. ter who devotes his time and talents to the production of works of real utility, and the publisher who ventures his capital in bringing them before the public, are often doomed to “ labor for naught, and spend their strength in vain.”
Take one or two illustrations :-Dr. Webster spent about twenty years in preparing a dictionary of the English language. It was published, and met with the warmest approbation from men of the highest literary acquirements, and was republished in Europe ; but, after passing through a single edition, such was the want of literary taste, that no publisher could be found to undertake a second edition.
This great work—an imperishable monument of the talent, learning, and industry of its author--which ought to be an honor to the nation, is now its standing reproach.
Again : Alexander Wilson, a most eloquent writer and indefatigable naturalist, spent years in traversing the fields and woods of America, gathering information for the preparation of a work on ornithology. He is said to have been “a man of sincere piety, and to have been animated in his great work by Christian principles."'-- Davenport. The only reward he received for his labor was a small compensation for the mechanical business of coloring the plates of his own work.
In the mean time the American people have expended money enough on the novels, of very questionable morality, of Edward Lytton Bulwer, to publish twenty such works as Webster's Dictionary and Wilson's Ornithology. With such facts before us, we have little reason to congratulate ourselves on being “ a reading community," or to continue ringing the changes on these familiar notes, “the march of intellect”—“ the age of improvement”—“ the advance of science."
These thoughts occurred on looking into the title-page of the work named at the head of this article. It comes from a press possessing unequalled facilities for bringing its publications into notice; and yet, though a book of uncommon merit, and published in 1835, a second edition does not appear as yet to have been called for. This leads us to remark upon a fact which appears to us somewhat singular: That is, that although prophecy-the subject of the book before us—among the evidences of Christianity stands second to no one, and may perhaps be considered as the first, yet that it is least studied and under. stood. If we consider the number of books printed and circulated on the other branches of theology, we shall find this comparatively neglected. While in family libraries we shall find a variety of books on other religious subjects, it is believed we shall seldom find so much as a single treatise on this. The pulpit also is comparatively silent on the subject of prophecy. It may be often named, or indefinitely alluded to, but seldom is it taken up as the theme of a discourse, in which definite predictions are given with their definite accomplishment. It may be suggested that commentaries supply the deficiency; but, if the writer is not mistaken, many of the most popular commen. taries are singularly sparing in their illustrations of the fulfilment of prophecy. Besides, there are thousands of even Christian families who possess no such large works as a commentary on the whole Bible. But, admitting commentaries contained all that is desirable on this subject, and were in every family, yet the evidence would be scattered through different parts of several large volumes, and would not therefore be as likely to be read, or to make a distinct impression, as though found in a single volume.
We may further remark, that the “ tract societies” seem to be defi. cient in this particular branch of their duty. Amid the great number which find their way into our houses, it is seldom we find a well-writ. ten tract upon prophecy. Could a number of the best Christian writers of the age be persuaded to employ their pens in writing half a score of tracts on prophecy, bringing the subject into a popular form, they would, without doubt, find a most promising field, and reap an abundant harvest. There are numbers of tracts on the evidences of Christianity, but they frequently cover too much ground, and divide the attention too much. The impression should be a unit to attain the greatest amount of success.
But to return to the point from which we set out the failure of this subject to receive a due share of attention—we may inquire why. it is so? It cannot be that it is devoid of interest. So far is this from being true, that scarcely any subject can be more interesting. It connects with itself some of the most thrilling incidents in history; it leads us forth with the traveler and antiquary amid the ruins and records of ancient cities; and it also comes home to our understand. ings and consciences, as a subject of the truth or falsity of which we have the highest interest in being assured.
Let any one follow Mr. Keith through a description of ancient Babylon, as drawn by the pens of Herodotus or Diodorus Siculus, and embodied in his work. Let him then listen to the doom of Babylon, uttered by Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Daniel, when the proud city was in its glory, and when its frowning battlements “ appeared rather like the bulwarks of nature than the workmanship of art.” Then let him go with Porter, Rich, Mignan, or Buckingham, and (through the ample quotations from their travels, found in the book before us) visit fallen Babylon. The votary of romance himself could not find, even in the pages of a Scott, a theme of more thrilling interest.
Again : it cannot be that the argument from prophecy is not adapted to produce conviction in the popular mind. No argument can be plainer, and none, we apprehend, more forcible or better calcu. lated for this purpose. To foretell events, ranging down the line of coming time for years or even ages-events “ depending on causes not so much as existing when the prophecy was spoken and recorded and likewise upon various circumstances, and a long arbitrary series of things, and the fluctuating uncertainties of human volitions, and even sometimes not at all upon any external circumstances, nor upon any created being, but merely upon the counsels and appointment of God himself-as such events can only be foreknown by that Being, one of whose attributes is omniscience," so to foretell them proves an inspiration from the Father of lights” beyond the possibility of successful contradiction. Indeed, the argument from prophecy is one of the most conclusive and best adapted for producing conviction imaginable. “ To foresee and foretell future events is a miracle ;” and not only a miracle, but one of which the testimony remains in itself. It is a miracle, because to foresee and foretell future events, to which no change of circumstances leads, no train of probabilities points, is as much beyond the abilities of human agents, as to cure diseases with a word, or even to raise the dead, which may properly be termed miracles of power. That actions of the latter kind were ever performed can be proved at a distant period only by witnesses, against whose testimony cavils may be raised, or causes for doubt advanced ; but the man who reads a prophecy, and perceives the corresponding event, is himself the witness of the miracle. He sees that thus it is, and thus by human means it could not possibly have been. A prophecy yet unfulfilled is a miracle, at present incomplete; and these, if numerous, may be considered as the seeds of future conviction, ready to grow up and bear their fruit whenever the corresponding facts shall be exhibited on the theatre of the world. So admirably has this sort of evidence been contrived by the wisdom of God, that in pro
VOL. X.-April, 1839. 28