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In fulfilment of a design formed several months ago, I commence, this evening, the delivery of a brief course of Lectures on the Bible.
My object will be, to impart, if possible, some degree of instruction—to shed some light upon this book, in a historical and critical point of view to bring forth, from the treasury of the past, such well-attested facts and circumstances as may serve to elucidate such portions of the Record as are now, with the generality of people, almost entirely obscure, or (to say the least) but partially apprehended.
I shall make no effort at the display of Oratory; such an attempt would be decidedly out of place here, even did the nature of the subject admit of its being successful; which, generally speaking, is not the case. The style adopted will be a plain one; for my own purpose will be accomplished, and my mind well satisfied, if I succeed in presenting my thoughts in such a manner as to have them readily understood. If any, therefore, are disposed to be over-nice and hypercritical in reference to the drapery or garb in which the statements and sugges
tions of this contemplated course of lectures shall appear, I shall not deem it worth the while to turn aside and cater to mere fastidiousness. I shall take but little pains to construct ornate sentences; and whatever beauty of expression may chance to enliven the sober train of thought and relieve the dryness of detail, will be merely the spontaneous utterance of the emotions of sublimity and grandeur, which may be awakened by the ruins among which she shall wander,—the monuments of past wisdom and greatness which stand up in the Kingdom of Thought, and excite mingled emotions of wonder and admiration, sadness and pity, like the leaning towers and pyramids, and the lingering remnants of once proud and beautiful edifices, in other climes; which lead the traveller weary miles to slake the burning thirst of curiosity.
However novel some of the positions I shall venture to assume, may appear to the listener, upon the first hearing, I ardently hope that all final judgment, in regard to the accuracy of statement, in the premiss, or the correctness of the conclusion drawn therefrom, will be suspended till the termination of the course; for in laying down propositions, according to a well-digested plan, it is not always convenient, nor specially needful, to adduce the qualifying rule in immediate connection with the point it is designed to modify or explain. afterwards very properly be brought in, as a corollary, perhaps—something which flows naturally from what has been previously broached, though the connection may not at first have been perceived. Besides, we know well
how the meaning of any production may be distorted by a garbled abstraction of different portions of it from the relations in which they stand: we know what fanciful and ludicrous interpretations have been given of certain passages of the book whose merits we are about to discuss, in consequence of said passages being isolated from their proper connexion, insomuch that the unreflecting skeptic has sometimes been led to imagine that the Bible was an instrument on which any tune might be played, or an image of wax, susceptible of being wrought into almost any conceivable shape, however fantastical. A better idea of the truth or falsity of any thing I may advance in these Lectures, will be obtained when I shall have concluded them, than can possibly be reached at an earlier stage of their progress. And to derive any considerable benefit from the inquiries which will be proposed, and the attempted answers which may be given, it will be necessary that we divest our minds, as far as possible, from all bias, and the prejudicial appendages superinduced by our early education. So much, in behalf of myself, bespeaking, in the commencement, the exercise of the utmost candor and impartiality of judgment,
The characteristic which distinguishes man from eve. ry lower grade of animate being, is his intelligencehis power of mental and moral perception. The mysterious and wonderful faculty of Thought, which is capa. ble of being expanded to infinity, is his chief glory. is this which assimilates him in his nature to the Deity.
. It is this which is breathed upon by the Almighty—it is
this which is inspired of God; for to inspire, according to the standard lexicographers, means but to breathe upon; (or breathe into) to endow; to qualify. It is his thought, therefore, which makes the man. All else is but the environment—the garment in which the man is enrobed, or the edifice he lives in. If he were alone in the world, having no occasion for the society of others, or in fact having no access to any society, and requiring no aid or counsel from any kindred being, then his thought, unexpressed by any articulate sound or legibly written character, would be, as far as we can determine, all he would need; except for the refreshment of his own memory. He could perform labor, prompted by mute and invisible thought; prepare his food, collect and arrange materials for his dwelling, compose himself to rest, each night, and rise at every dawn,—do every thing for his own sustenance; yes, and be divinely inspired-hold communion with the Infinite One, and be spiritually illuminated by Him; and yet be destitute of the power of speech—incapable of producing an oral sound. What particular need would there be of the faculty of speech, unless there were some finite, kindred being, who might be spoken to ? Surely none, as far as we can see. . The power of speech is given to mankind as a medium through which they may convey their thoughts, or a knowledge of them, to each other; to facilitate social intercourse, and to enable him who is wiser, more advanced than his fellows, to benefit those who are less wise.
That it may be intelligible, speech is divided into parts -sentences, words, syllables; which are either spoken into the air, or inscribed upon some substance ; such as wood, stone, bark of trees, the dried skin of an animal, cloth, or paper.
Now words are nothing to us, disassociated from the ideas of which they are the representative signs. Language which we do not understand, when vocally uttered, is to us mere jargon; and when written, if we do not comprehend its meaning, it is to our minds as insig. nificant as a chance-scrawl, an accidental blot, or stain. Of themselves alone, considered as mere marks or characters, they have no mental or moral quality. Ideas only, which are suggested by sounds or written letters, are moral or immoral. Words, therefore, in themselves, cannot properly be objects of veneration. It is true we are rightly taught to revere the Word of God: but by his "word,” we do not mean phraseology-language. That is merely the channel through which the “Word" flows. By the word we mean the truth--the principle, the idea.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Not "in the beginning was” phraseology, or language, and language “was with God,” and language-articulate or written speech—“was God!" But, rather, “in the beginning was” the divine principle, or attribute—the concentrated elements of Wisdom, Truth, Purity and Love : these were “with God,” and formed component parts of his