Page images
PDF
EPUB

and Antiquities of Palestine; and to give “form and pressure" to those facts and phenomena which illustrate the sense, display the beauties, and establish the truth of the Inspired Records.

It has been justly observed by Bishop Horsley, that every sentence of the Bible is from God, and every man is interested in the meaning of it.” The Bible is the common property of the world; and no just reason can be assigned, for withholding from the least or the lowest any information that may tend to dissipate its obscurity, or throw fresh light and lustre around the Oracles of God. A knowledge of the geography and history of the East, and of the civil and ecclesiastical usages of antiquity, will invest the narrations of Scripture with additional charms, by displaying the incomparable beauty and sublimity of its style, the aptness of its imagery, and the correctness of its allusions. “The sacred writers," says Paxton, “ borrowed their figures from scenery of a peculiar kind; they alluded to phenomena in the heavens and on the earth, of which we can form almost no conception from the state of nature around us. They connect the events they record and the predictions they utter, with places whose history is unknown to the rest of the world. This, it must be admitted, throws a shade of obscurity over the pages of inspiration, which it is the duty, as it is the interest, of the Biblical student to remove. To understand the meaning of many passages in the Sacred Records ; to discern the force and beauty of the language in which they are clothed, and the admirable propriety and significance of their allusions; in one word, to derive all the advantage from the Sacred Volume which it is calculated and intended to bestow, we must render ourselves familiar with the physical and moral condition of the countries where it was written; we must examine the geographical situation of Canaan and the surrounding states, ascertain the sites of their principal towns and cities, and acquire some knowledge of their history."

“If, in order to enter fully into the meaning, or correctly apprehend the various beauties, of the Greek and Roman classics, it be necessary to be acquainted with the peculiar forms of government which prevailed —the powers of magistrates-modes of executing the laws—the punishments of criminals—tributes or other duties imposed on subjects—their military affairs, sacred rites and festivals-private life, manners, and amusements-commerce, measures, and weights, &c. &c.—how much greater difficulties will be interposed in his way, who attempts to interpret the Scriptures without a knowledge of these topics ! For, as the customs and manners of the Oriental people are widely different from those of the western nations; as, further, their sacred rites differ most essentially from everything with which we are acquainted, and as the Jews in particular, from the simplicity of their language, have drawn very numerous metaphors from the works of nature, from the ordinary occupations and arts of life, from religion and things connected with it, as well as from their national history ;—there are many things recorded, both in the Old and New Testament, which must appear to Europeans either obscure, unintelligible, repulsive, or absurd, unless forgetting our own peculiar habits and modes of thinking, we transport ourselves in a manner to the East, and diligently study the customs, whether political, sacred, or civil, which obtained there."*

Without some acquaintance with Sacred Geography, many of the finest passages in the Bible must be unintelligible and meaningless. The reader may test the correctness of this remark by a simple experiment. Let him ask himself the mcaning of the following passages :—“His seed shall be in many waters.” (Numb. xxiv. 7.) “Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days.” (Eccles. xi. 1.)

“And the glowing sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty soil bubbling springs.” (Isa. xxxv. 7., Lowth's Trans.) “ Make them like a wheel, as stubble before the wind.” (Psalm lxxxiii. 13.) “ The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night.” (Psalm cxxi. 6.) “Ye shall not see wind.” (2 Kings üi. 17.) “Whoso boasteth himself of a false gift, is like clouds and wind without rain.” (Prov. xxv. 14.) “For the land whither thou goest to possess it, is not as the land of Egypt from whence ye came out, where thou sowedst thy seed, and wateredst it with thy foot, as a garden of herbs.” (Deut. xi. 10.) We hazard nothing by the assertion, that a person entirely ignorant of the agricultural usages and atmospheric phenomena of the

Horne.

[ocr errors]

East, would find it exceedingly difficult to give a cor-
rect explanation of these allusions. “ How much does a
knowledge of the places where events happen, increase
the power of narratives of those events to affect us !
With how much greater impression shall we read the
narrative of the location of our first parents in Paradise,
of the events which happened to them there, and of
their expulsion from it, when, in our imagination, we
can fix on a spot in the map of the earth, and say,
There all these occurrences took place. With how
much greater impression shall we read the story of the
Deluge when we can readily recur to the country where
the ark was built, can follow it in its course, from the
point where it began to float to that on which it rested,
when the waters had retired from it; and can descry
the region in which Noah and his family settled, on
disembarking from this stupendous vessel! What over-
whelming pathos does it give to the narrative of Jesus
weeping over Jerusalem when we can place ourselves
by his side on the Mount of Olives, and stretching our
vision across the intervening valley, can survey the
magnificence and animation of the devoted city, while
he exclaims, 'Oh! that thou hadst known, even thou,
in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace,
but now they are hid from thine eyes!' How much
more tragical is the scene of our Lord's passion when
we are familiar with the 'garden of Gethsemane,' and
'the place which is called Calvary !' How much more
readily do we participate in the joy of the disciples at

the resurrection of their Lord, when we are acquainted with 'the garden, in which was a new tomb, hewn out of a rock !'"*

It is also important at the present juncture, when scepticism and infidelity are rampant around us, and designing men are practising on the credulity of the young and ignorant, to draw them away from the simplicity of the truth, that a larger measure of attention should be paid to the Prophecies, to the proofs of their exact and literal fulfilment, and to the evidence, the triumphant and decisive evidence, they furnish, in support of the Divine authority and Inspiration of the Bible.

Prophecy is a miracle of knowledge, an effort of superhuman intelligence; it is the foretelling or describing of some future accident or event, beyond the power of human sagacity to discern, and in the absence of any of the ordinary indications of its occurrence. This is the highest kind of evidence that can be given of supernatural converse with the Deity, and of the truth of a revelation from God. The prophecies of the Bible form a regular chain, extending almost from the birth of time to the consummation of all things. Many of them relate to events so distant, so improbable, and so apparently incongruous, that no human foresight could have anticipated them. Some relate to dates, persons, and minute circumstances, that require the most exact accomplishment; and some are being fulfilled at the present time, and before our eyes; so that, however

* Ransom.

« PreviousContinue »