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THE BIBLE: WHAT IT IS, AND WHAT IT IS NOT.
BY REV. JAMES MARTINEAU.
" AND THE WORD WAS MADE FLESH, AND DWELT AMONG US, (AND WE
BEHELD HIS GLORY, THE GLORY AS OF THE ONLY-BEGOTTEN OF THE FATHER,) FULL OP GRACE AND TRUTH." —John i. 14.
The Bible is the great autobiography of human nature, from its infancy to its perfection. Whatever man has seen and felt and done on the theatre of this earth, is expressed therein with the simplicity and vividness of personal consciousness. The first wondering impressions of the new-created being, just dropt upon a scene quite strange ;—the hardened heart and daring crimes of the long-resident here, forgetting that he dwells in a hospice of the Lord, and not a property of his own;—the recalled and penitent spirit, awakened by the voice of Christ, when, to a world grown old and dead in custom, he brought back the living presence of God, and to the first reverence added the maturest love ;-all this is recorded there, written down in the happiest moments of inspiration, which Have fallen upon our race during the lapse of sixteen centuries.,
ne volume stations us on a spot, well selected as a watchwwer, from which we may overlook the history of the world;
-an angle of coast between the ancient continents of Africa and Asia, subtended by the newer line of European civili
hence have we a neighbouring view of every form uman life, and every variety of human character. The
solitary shepherd on the slopes of Chaldæa, watching the changing heavens till he worships them ; the patriarch pitching his tent in the nearer plain of Mamre; the Arab, half merchant, half marauder, hurrying his fleet dromedaries across the sunny desert; the Phænician commerce gladdening the Levant with its sails, or, on its way from India, spreading its wares in the streets of Jerusalem; the urban magnificence of Babylonia, and the sacerdotal grandeur of Egypt; all are spread beneath our eye, in colours vivid, but with passage swift. Even the echo of Grecian revolutions, and the tramp of Roman armies, and the incipient rush of Eastern nations, that will overwhelm them both, may be distinctly heard; brief agents, every one, on this stage of Providence, beckoned forward by the finger of Omnipotence, and waved off again by the signals of mercy ever new.
The interest of this wide and various scriptural scene, gradually gathers itself in towards a single point. There is One who stands at the place where its converging lines all meet; and we are led over the expanse of world-history, that we may rest at length beneath the eye of the Prophet of Nazareth. He is the central object, around whom all the ages and events of the Bible are but an outlying circumference; and when they have brought us to this place of repose, to return upon them again would be an idle wandering. They all are preliminaries, that accomplish their end in leading us hither.“ The law," aye, and the prophets too, we esteem “our schoolmasters to bring us to Christ :'* and though, like grateful pupils, we may look back on them with true-hearted respect, and even think their labours not thrown away on such as may still be children in the Lord, we have no idea of acknowledging any more the authority of the task, the threat, the rod. To sit at the feet of Jesus we take to be the only proper position for the true disciple; to listen to his voice
hetk ends of Seripture are and the Bible which makes us 3x d paramount interest. C risks, to nartow our inquiry
impure, I take up the New specially the Gospels, for exas
men that these books are put
istered, if you please. 2 -rithout title, name, date, na and that with unembarrassed Sie quant with these treasures to es nilang believe their extraordinary che li sinds are known by their wor sely as the Divine : and if “ the
same deals seen" « by the things A mesternal structures of the univers pils mature may be discerned, -15 porte secret qualities of a man's s
to his truthfulness or fraud,-imps fire and writings. To a clear ese hl a lestes itself, even in a disqus ha ril, in a history; and me la personal companion and te
Galatians iii. 24.
“ the one thing ne notwithstanding that " anxious and trou! themselves still about we choose to quit
le thing needful;" and however much others,
to quit all else, and keep close to him, as that ;', . part, which shall not be taken from” us. Whatever holy influences of the Divine Word may be found in the old Scriptures, are all collected into one at length; “ the Word hath been made Flesh," and in a living form hath“ dwelt among us;" and from its fulness of “grace and truth” we will not be torn away.
If the ultimate ends of Scripture are attained in Christ, that portion of the Bible which makes us most intimate with him, must be of paramount interest. Compelled then as I am, by my limits, to narrow our inquiry into the proper treatment of Scripture, I take up the New Testament exclusively, and especially the Gospels, for examination and comment to-night.
Suppose then that these books are put into our hands for the first time ;disinterred, if you please, from a chamber in Pompeii ;—without title, name, date, or other external description; and that with unembarrassed mind and fresh heart, we go apart with these treasures to examine them.
It is not long before their extraordinary character becomes evident. All minds are known by their works,—the human quite as distinctly as the Divine : and if “ the invisible things of God” “ are clearly seen” “ by the things that are made, and on the material structures of the universe the moral attributes of his nature may be discerned,—with much greater certainty do the secret qualities of a man's soul, his honesty or cunning, his truthfulness or fraud,-impress themselves on mis speech and writings. To a clear eye his moral nature will unerringly betray itself, even in a disquisition; more, in a
ction; more still, in a history; and most of all, in a biography of a personal companion and teacher, drawing forth