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The two principal names by which this volume is designated, are, THE SCRIPTURES, or the Holy Scriptures ; and, THE BIBLE. Scripture, which is the singular of Scriptures, signifies merely a writing; from inscribe, which signifies to write. A holy scripture is a holy writing, or a writing of holy thoughts; for all the holiness in the case must consist in the sentiments and ideas, and not in the chirography: because, as I think, I have shown conclusively, words alone are not distinguished by any moral peculiarities. Is the Orthography or the Etymology of Lindley Murray any more sacred than the concise Phonographic system of Isaac Pitman? or vice versa ? Who will pretend it? The thought, only, that we associate with the word, may possess holy or unholy characteristics. One mode of writing, considered only as a mode, cannot be more divine than another.
The other term applied to these records, the word Bible, is a derivative from the Greek term biblos, signify. ing book, and which was used in the first place as a name for the bark of trees appropriated as material to write upon: for it must be remembered, that before the invention of either parchment or paper, bark was the most approved substance used in writing-wood, stone and metals having gone into general disuse, being the materials employed almost universally in a less cultivated age. Before the appropriation of the bark in this way, the leaves of trees were used for writing-purposes; from whence came into vogue the term leaf, in reference to a book. Linguists inform us that our English word book
is a derivative from the Saxon term boc and the Danish word bog, both of which designated the bark of the beechtree, which was once very commonly in use for preserving records. The literal definition of “Bible” is, therefore, simply book; and we may, with strict accuracy, according to the original import of the phrase, call every book a bible. In styling the Old and New Testaments The BIBLE, i. e. The Book, by way of pre-eminence, we virtually, whether realizingly or not, give expression to the idea that we regard it to be (as, all things considered, it certainly is) the greatest, the most remarkable book of which we have any knowledge.
From our earliest childhood, we have been taught to venerate these pages—to regard them as sacred above all other transcripts whatever. And connected with their numerous incidents and allegories, their lofty and sublime poetry, their wise aphorisms, their pure and beautiful morality, their simple, affecting narratives, and lessons of trust and hope,-nay, associated with the very name of the volume that contains them,-are hallowed and delightful recollections of our early life; sweet memories of the glad and genial spring-time of human existtence. We are reminded of the scenes of our paternal home—the scenes disassociated from the cares and anxieties that bear full heavily upon us, at best, in each later stage of our experience ; lovely scenes, the memory of which goes with us through all after-life, as the enchantment of a happy morning-dream will sometimes linger in our thoughts through the day. There are many fibres
in the heart that thrill at the breathing touch of the associations which are awakened by this Book. We remember instinctively the voice which had such wondrous melody in our infant-ears; in which were read to us, the first time in our lives, the Gospel stories of the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Son: and for a moment, in imagination, we gaze upon the visible forms—whether they be still animate, or have long since mouldered--of those two beings in whom our childish hearts reposed more confidence than in all others. We think, too, of our school hours, and our earliest companions in study and in pastime ; for with every primary institution of learning, here in New England, is inseparably linked the periodical reading of some portion of the Bible.
Thus hallowed in our memories by the tenderest recollections of our watchful guardians in the dawn of being,, and by the associative instincts of early friendship,-a reverential admiration for it, partially vague though it be, having grown up with us, almost as naturally as our manhood,—it is scarcely to be wondered at that we should, at first thought, feel reluctant to question manfully even the current interpretations of this book, though somehow long convinced of their inaccuracy, in part. Much greater hesitancy do we feel in entering upon a thorough investigation, or merely proposing a query, respecting the soundness of the letter itself, in any instance ; although our commonly received version is criticised and paraphrased, sometimes with considerable freedom, by commentators of almost every religious
sect. To cite a few instances, I would mention the criticisms of Universalists on the word “everlasting”-the phrases, “the end of the world," "in danger of eternal damnation,” and several other passages; the rejection, by several eminent Unitarians, as spurious, of a verse in one of the Epistles of John,* thought by many to afford a strong argument for the Trinity; the estimation, by the authors of the "Improved Version of the New Testament,” of large portions of some of the first chapters of the Gospels of Mathew and Luke, as of exceedingly doubtful authority; with various annotations, by men learned and pious, of every creed, too multiform to be specified here; to say nothing of the reconstruction of sentences, and the supplying of words, by translators, in instances fatiguing to enumerate. Let
us, if we have done so in the past, cease to turn an entirely deaf ear to the injunction of a gifted Apostle, “Be not children in understanding : ...... in understanding be men.”+
Setting aside entirely that just admiration and reverence which many portions of the Scriptures win from us by their intrinsic excellency, does not that other species of veneration for them as a whole, which renders some otherwise reasonable persons apparently as awe-struck and fearful in their presence, as a trembling page before the King, rest solely upon the powerful influence of early teaching? If we ask the Bible a fair question, will it smite us dead? Or, if we suffer not, in consequence of
* 1 John, v.7. ti Corinthians, xiv. 20.
our interrogation, will the Bible be seized with affright, its cheeks suddenly turn pale, and itself give up the ghost ?
We receive certain documents collectively, without discrimination, as oracles as authoritative, infallible echoes of the voice of God. To what extent, in Christendom, is such a reception thoroughly understanding and intelligent? How many of the great mass actually know, from patient historical research, or any other source, the validity of many things to which they assent nominally, and for the honest doubting of which they are prone to condemn others as unworthy the name of Christian, though their belief in every truth which Christ taught be unshaken, and their lives be free from moral blemish? The learned and upright Professor Bush, for having the moral courage to attempt to rationalize the insane popular Theology, which has, for so long a time, been running at large, has been severely anathematized by some of his former brethren; who, at the same time, pass lightly over the melancholy fact, that those who buy and sell God's image in the public mart, as they would purchase a horse or dog—the man who "puts an enemy in his" brother's “mouth, to steal away his brains," and he who though a bankrupt To-Day, is very rich TO-MORROW,---may proudly take high seats within the synagogue, and wear unblushingly the title, Christian!
It is possible that some who are sincere and conscien.. tious in the occupancy of a conservative position, may