GENERAL ACCOUNT OF THE SACRED WRITINGS
GENERAL ACCOUNT OF THE SACRED WRITINGS
"Search the Scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of Me"(John 5:39).
"All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works" (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
That collection of writings delivered by divine authority to the Jews by Moses and the prophets, and which the Jewish Church has always received as divinely inspired, includes thirty-nine books, the names of which are the following:
Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, 1 Kings, 2 Kings, 1 Chronicles, 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Canticles, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi.
These books collectively have had a variety of appellations, each of which serves to point out some excellence of those writings, as contradistinguished from all others.
The Jews have divided them into three classes, which they have termed, 1. Torah; 2. Nebyim; 3. Ha-ke-thubim: or, as we sometimes express it, The Law, The Prophets, and The Hagiographa.
The Law, included in the Pentateuch, or first five books, they considered as coming immediately from God himself to Moses.
The Prophets, greater and smaller, (with which they connected Joshua, and Judges the two books of Samuel, and the two books of Kings,) they received as extraordinary messengers, deriving their authority from God without the intervention of man; and delivering predictions and expostulations as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.
The Hagiographa, containing the Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Canticles, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Chronicles, they acknowledged as divinely inspired also; but not to have been given on such extraordinary occasions as those on which the law, and the different oracles delivered to the prophets, had been communicated.
1. The whole of these books collectively, they sometimes termed Ha-Mikra, The Reading; emphatically signifying that these records were alone worthy to be read and studied, because of their importance, antiquity, and divine inspiration. It was from this epithet of the sacred writings of the Jews, that Mohammed borrowed the word Al-Koran, which he prefixed to his pretended revelations; and which has the same meaning with the Hebrew Ha-Mikra, both signifying The Reading.
2. In order to distinguish these sacred books from all others, they were termed by the Jews, in those places where the Greek language prevailed, Al-Graphai, The Scriptures, or Writings, as being alone worthy of being written and preserved;
Because of their high importance.
Because they contained the most ancient writings in the world; the Decalogue, or Ten Commandments, a part of the book of Exodus, being probably the first regular production in alphabetical characters ever seen by man, and the Pentateuch, or five books of Moses, being unquestionably the oldest record in existence.
3. Testament, Berith, or Covenant, was another term used at a very early period to designate these divine oracles; as they contained the covenant, or agreement made between God and the people of Israel. St. Paul calls the sacred books before the time of Christ, he Palaia Diatheke, The Old Covenant,
"But their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same veil untaken away in the reading of the Old Testament; which veil is done away in Christ"(2 Corinthians 3:14),
which is a very proper and descriptive title of the grand subject of those books. This apostle evidently considers the Old and New Testaments as two Covenants,
"For these are the two Covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar... But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all... Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise"(Galatians 4:24,26,28),
and, in comparing these two together, he calls one the Old Covenant; the other the New; one the first; the other that which is recent. In opposition to the Old Covenant, which was to terminate in the New, he calls this better, more excellent,
"By so much was Jesus made a surety of a better testament... But now hath He obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also He is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises"(Hebrews 7:22, 8:6),
"Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our LORD Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting Covenant"(Hebrews 13:20),
because it is never to be changed, or terminate in any other; and is to endure endlessly itself.
The word covenant we borrow from the Latin convention, from con, together, and venio, I come; signifying a contract or agreement made between two parties; to fulfil the conditions of which they are mutually bound. The Old Covenant, in its essential parts, was very simple; I WILL BE YOUR GOD, YE SHALL BE MY PEOPLE; the spirit of which was never changed. The people were to take Jehovah as the sole object of their religious worship; put their whole trust and confidence in him; and serve him in his own way, according to the prescribed forms which he should lay before them.
This was their part. On his side, God was to accept them as his people; give them his Spirit to guide them, his mercy to pardon them, his providence to support them, and his grace to preserve them unto eternal life. But all this was connected with the strict observance of a great variety of rites and ceremonies, at once expressive of the holiness of God, the purity of divine justice, and the exceeding sinfulness and utter helpless state of man. A great part of the four latter books of Moses is employed in prescribing and illustrating these rites and ceremonies; and what is called the New Covenant is the complement, or fulfilment and perfection of the whole.
4. When the writings of the evangelists and apostles were added, to distinguish them from the others they were termed He Kaine Diatheke, The New Covenant, or Testament, signifying the New agreement made between God and ALL mankind, the Gentiles as well as the Jews, the first or Old Covenant being made principally in favour of the latter; which new covenant was ratified by the incarnation, sufferings, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, as the succeeding collection of PRINCIPLES point out. The books containing this New Covenant or Testament are twenty-seven in number; and have been divided into four classes.
I. The GOSPELS.
II. The ACTS of the Apostles.
III. The EPISTLES.
IV. The APOCALYPSE, or Revelation.
The names of these books are the following:
The Gospel of St. Matthew, of Mark, of Luke, and of John.
The Acts of the Apostles, probably written by St. Luke.
The Epistles of St. Paul:
To the Romans
1st and 2nd to the Thessalonians
1st and 2nd to the Corinthians
1st and 2nd to Timothy
To the Galatians
To the Ephesians
To Philemon and
To the Philippians
To the Hebrews
To the Colossians
The Epistle of St. James.
The First and Second Epistles of St. Peter.
The First, Second, and Third of St. John.
The Epistle of St. Jude.
And the book of the Apocalypse, or Revelation; probably written by St. John, the author of the gospel and the three epistles mentioned above.
Having given a general view of the Bible, as a collection of sacred writings, it may be necessary for the benefit of the young and inexperienced to give a more particular account of the contents or subject of each book, included in this collection.
THE BOOKS OF THE OLD COVENANT
I. THE PENTATEUCH, OR FIVE BOOKS OF MOSES
This book has its name from the Greek word [genesis] used by that ancient Greek version of the Scriptures commonly called the Septuagint which signifies generation, or origination; because this book gives an account of the origin or beginning of all things. It begins at the creation of the heavens and the earth; gives an account of the creation and fall of man, the history of the first inhabitants of the world, the origin of nations, the call of Abraham, and the history of the Hebrew patriarchs, and ends at the death of Joseph: comprehending the space of about 2400, or at the lowest computation of 2369 years.
The name of this book is also borrowed from the Greek [echodos] Exodus, which signifies the going out or departure; because the departure of the people of Israel from Egypt to go to Canaan, or the land of Judea, promised by God to their father, is the most remarkable fact contained in the book. It gives an account of the birth of Moses, the Jewish lawgiver; and contains a history of the transactions of one hundred and forty-five years, beginning at the death of Joseph, B. C. 1635, where the book of Genesis ends, and coming down to the erection of the tabernacle in the wilderness of Arabia, at the foot of Mount Sinai, B. C. 1490.
This book has the name of Leviticus, because it treats principally of the Levites, the descendants of Levi, the son of the patriarch Jacob, who were all devoted to the service of God in the tabernacle and temple. It also gives an account of the priests, the sons and descendants of Aaron, the brother of Moses; and of all the ceremonies to be observed in the different sacrifices and religious feasts prescribed by God. It seems to contain little more than the history of what passed during the eight days employed in consecrating Aaron and his sons to the priesthood. The above occurrences are supposed to have taken place in the year of the world 2514, i.e., 1490 years before Christ.
This book has been called Numbers from its containing an account of the numbering and marshalling the Israelites in their journey through the wilderness, or desert of Arabia, to the promised land. It comprehends the history of between thirty-eight and thirty-nine years; i.e., from 1490 B. C. to 1451 B. C., and gives a distinct account of the several stages of the Israelites journey; the various occurrences in the way; their trials, rebellions, punishments, deliverances, conquests, i.e., with the several laws and ordinances not mentioned in the preceding books; together with a repetition and explanation of several others which had been previously mentioned. The whole forming a most interesting history of the justice, mercy, an providence of God.
This book has its name from the Greek, Deuteronomion, which signifies the second law, because it contains a repetition of the preceding laws. It includes an account of what passed in the wilderness from the first day of the eleventh month of the fortieth year after the departure of the Israelites from Egypt, to the seventh day of the twelfth month of the same; making in the whole the history of the transactions of exactly five weeks. Beside a repetition of the previous laws, this book gives us the finest illustrations of each, so that it may well be called a spiritual comment on the laws of Moses; and also an account of the death of this most eminent man, and all his last discourses with the people. It is continued about seven days after his death. For he began to deliver his first discourse to the people in the plains of Moab the first day of the eleventh month of the fortieth year, chap. 1:3, and died on the first day of the twelfth month of the same year, aged one hundred and twenty years.
2. THE HISTORICAL BOOKS
This book was probably written by the person whose name it bears; and is properly a continuation of the book of Deuteronomy. It begins where that ends, immediately after the death of Moses; for by this great man Joshua was appointed general and leader of the Israelitish people; and under his direction it was that they entered the land of Canaan. It contains an account of all Joshuas battles; his conquest of the land; division of it by lot to the twelve tribes according to their different families; exhortations to the people; remarkable providences of God; and concludes with Joshuas death, at the age of one hundred and ten years, 1443 years before the Christian era. It seems to include the period of about eight years.
This book contains a history of a high class of Israelitish magistrates, called by the name of judges, raised up at particular times by the especial providence of God, to deliver the people from their enemies, and to govern them according to the law of God. The duration of this species of government, from the death of Joshua to the reign of Saul, was about three hundred and forty-eight years. But as this book does not include the government of Eli and Samuel, the last two judges, but ends at the death of Samson, which happened in the year of the world 2884; consequently it includes the period of only three hundred and twenty-three years.
This book, which contains the interesting history of the woman whose name it bears, is a sort of appendix to the book of Judges, and introduction to the books of Samuel, next following. Ruth was a Moabitess, who was married to a Hebrew of the name of Mahlon, born in the land of Moab, where his parents Elimelech and Naomi had gone to sojourn in a time when a famine had obliged them to leave their own country. Elimelech dying, Naomi, his widow, returned to Judea, her daughter-in-law Ruth accompanying her, whose husband had lately died. Arriving at Bethlehem, Ruth was soon known by a kinsman of her own named Boaz, who took her to wife, from whom sprang Obed, the father of Jesse, who was the father of David, the progenitor of the Messiah. The book seems to have been written to ascertain the genealogy of our Lord.
FIRST BOOK OF SAMUEL
Samuel was an eminent prophet, and the last of the Israelitish judges; and most likely the author of the materials which constitute the two books that go under his name, though probably compiled by another hand. The first book contains an account of the Israelitish affairs under the government of Eli the high priest, who was the fourteenth judge; under Samuel, the fifteenth; as also an account of Saul, the first king of Israel, his reign and death, with which the book concludes. It seems to include a period of about one hundred and fifteen years.
SECOND BOOK OF SAMUEL
This book is a continuation of the preceding; and includes the history of the reign of David, the successor of Saul, and comprises the period of about forty years.
FIRST BOOK OF KINGS
This book gives an account of the death of David; the reign of Solomon his son; the building of the temple; the death of Solomon; the division of the empire under his son Rehoboam into the kingdoms of Israel and Judah; the idolatry of the ten tribes under Jeroboam, who seized on that part of the empire called the kingdom of Israel; and the transactions of the various kings of Israel and Judah down to the death of Ahaziah, king of Israel, and Jehoshaphat, king of Judah. The whole including a period of one hundred and nineteen years.
SECOND BOOK OF KINGS
This book contains the history of the Jewish and Israelitish kings down to the destruction of Judah by the Chaldeans, succeeded by the Babylonish captivity; including a period of three hundred and eight years.
FIRST BOOK OF CHRONICLES
This and the following book have their name from the Greek word chronica, from chronos, time, signifying a narrative of events, registered according to the times, reigns and years, in which they happened. The first book, in the first nine chapters, contains several genealogies, from the creation down to the Babylonish captivity. The rest of the book gives the history of the reign of David, beginning at the death of Saul, B. C. 1056.
SECOND BOOK OF CHRONICLES
This book contains the history of the king of Judah, from Solomon to the Babylonish captivity. It is very similar to the books of Kings; giving in many places the same events; but scarcely ever mentions the idolatrous kings of Israel; confining itself in general to the kings of Judah who reigned in Jerusalem.
In this book we are informed that Cyrus, king of Persia, into whose hands the Babylonian empire had fallen, permitted the captive Jews, whom he found scattered through his provinces, to return to their own land, under Zerubbabel, one of the Jewish princes, and Jeshua the high priest: the opposition they met with till the accession of Darius to the Persian throne, who gave leave to the Jews to rebuild their temple which had been destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon; and sent Ezra, a man of great eminence, to assist them in the work. This man was full of faith and the Holy Spirit: he collected all the sacred books of the Jews, placed them in that order in which they now stand, and rendered the returned Jews the most important services. Ezra flourished about four hundred and fifty years before Christ.
BOOK OF NEHEMIAH
This is a continuation of the history of the Jews after their return from captivity. Nehemiah was cupbearer to Artaxerxes Longimanus, or, as the Persians call him, Ardsheer Dirazdest, the long-handed Ardsheer, who, at his request, permitted him to go to Jerusalem, several years after Ezra had gone thither to settle the Jewish state, which was in great disorder. He took two several journeys to Jerusalem, rebuilt the walls, restored the divine worship, rectified a number of abuses, and again returned to the Persian court. He was a man of amazing resolution and fortitude, tempered with much wisdom, piety, and prudence; and is a model for all civil governors. Nehemiah flourished about four hundred and forty years before Christ.
This woman was a Jewish captive; and became queen to Ahasuerus, king of Persia, about four hundred and fifty-eight years before Christ. She was, in this capacity, the means of preventing the massacre of the whole Jewish nation, which had been plotted by Haman, prime minister and favourite of the king. It details the whole history of these transactions, and of the wonderful providence of God in raising her to the throne, preserving the Jews, and defeating their enemies.
3. POETICAL BOOKS, AND THOSE WHICH CONTAIN MAXIMS FOR THE GOVERNMENT OF LIFE
This book gives the history of an Arabian chief illustrious for his riches, patience, and piety. It contains principally conversations in a highly poetical strain between him and his friends, concerning the providence and perfections of God. He was at first very rich and affluent; but God permitted him to be deprived of his property and children, and also to be sorely afflicted in his body: all which he bore with exemplary patience, which was at last rewarded with a double increase of temporal blessing, and the high approbation of his Maker. When he flourished, is very uncertain.
This is a book of one hundred and fifty most elegant and spiritual hymns, chiefly written by King David. As poetic effusions, they excel every thing written by man; and from their depth and sublimity, their just descriptions of the majesty and perfections of God, the nature and consequences of sin, and the heights and depths of holiness, properly challenge a distinguished place among the inspired writings of the Old Testament.
This book contains a very large collection of wise sayings, spoken at different times by Solomon, king of Israel, and other eminent sages; affording counsels and maxims for the direction and regulation of every department, office, and circumstance of life. They are delivered in a high oriental strain; and may be said to contain all the wisdom of the ancient world.
A book supposed to have been written by Solomon in order to show the vanity of the world, and of human life, whether in high or low estate: and that no happiness can be expected by the human soul, but in the fear, love, and obedience of God.
CANTICLES, OR THE SONG OF SOLOMON
This is a very highly finished Hebrew ode, which, if literally taken, seems to describe the great love and affection which subsisted between Solomon and his queen, the daughter of Pharaoh, king of Egypt. But most commentators suppose it to be an allegorical poem, in which Solomon represents Christ, and his queen the Christian Church. Taken in this sense, it shows the great love which Christ bears to his genuine followers, and the duty and affection which they owe to him. It is in the form of a pastoral.
4. THE MAJOR PROPHETS
This most eminent and holy man began to prophesy about seven hundred and sixty years before Christ, under Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, Hezekiah, and Manasseh, kings of Judah. This last king was extremely wicked; and under his reign, and by his command, it is said that Isaiah suffered martyrdom, being sawed asunder with a wooden saw! He is supposed to have been of the blood royal of Judah; and is the most sublime of all the prophets. His prophecies are so clear and minute, that they appear rather to be narrations of things past, than predictions of things to come.
Of these prophecies the first five chapters are supposed to have been delivered in the reign of Uzziah; the sixth in the reign of Jotham; the seventh to the fifteenth in the reign of Ahaz; and the rest in that of Hezekiah. His predictions of the advent, sufferings, death, resurrection, and glorious conquests of Jesus Christ, are so clear and pointed, as to have gained him the appellation of the evangelical prophet. He spoke clearly also of the calling of the Gentiles; and foretold the ruin that Nebuchadnezzar brought on the Tyrians, Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, and Philistines; and also the ruin of Nebuchadnezzar himself, and the Babylonish empire. He is supposed to have prophesied about fifty or sixty years.
This man was a priest of the tribe of Benjamin; and entered on the prophetic office about the thirteenth year of the reign of Josiah, king of Judah, seventy years after the death of Isaiah. He foretold the ruin, captivity, and restoration of the Jews, and the destruction of the Babylonish empire. He also predicted the calling of the Gentiles. He lived to see the siege and destruction of Jerusalem, and suffered much himself; all which he feelingly describes. When Jerusalem was taken, and the king of Babylon had committed the government of the land to Gedaliah, Jeremiah continued in Judea: but Ishmael, who was of the seed royal, having slain Gedaliah, the remaining Jews, fearing the Chaldeans, fled to Egypt, whither this prophet was carried, and there died or was put to death. He prophesied about forty-five years, during the reigns of Josiah, Jekoiakim, and Zedekiah, and under the government of Gedaliah; about five hundred and eighty-eight years before Christ.
The Lamentations of Jeremiah, composed after the destruction of Jerusalem, and the captivity of Judah, are divided into five distinct chapters, which are so many beautiful elegies bewailing those sad events. Chap. i-iv, are written in acrostics, each verse beginning with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet in consecutive order. The third chapter is written in double acrostics; and the fifth in single lines, without this artificial order.
This prophet was one of the Jews who were carried captive to Babylon, with Jehoiakim, king of Judah. He began to prophesy in Chaldea, about the fifth year of the captivity, before Christ five hundred and ninety-five years; and continued about twenty-five years. He preached against the iniquities of the Jews; and foretold the destruction of several neighbouring nations, enemies to the Jews. He was chiefly sent for the edification of the poor captives in Babylon. He foretold the calling of the Gentiles, and the glorious state of the church of God, under the similitude of a temple, the parts of which he very minutely describes. He is on the whole very obscure.
This prophet was also one of the captives in Babylon, whither it is supposed he was carried when very young. He was contemporary with Ezekiel; and was famous for wisdom, penetration, and piety. His prophecies concerning the Messiah, the destruction of Jerusalem, the formation of the Chaldean, Persian, Greek, and Roman empires, and their revolutions, are so very clear that their very dates are fixed. That concerning the advent and death of our Lord is the clearest prophecy ever delivered: though he lived nearly six hundred years before our Lord, he foretold the very year in which he should be manifested, and the year in which he should be cut off. He, and his companions, after running great risks, and suffering great hardships, were raised to great honours in, the kingdom of Babylon. His prophecy is a lasting monument against the Jews of the truth of the Christian religion. He died about five hundred and thirty-six years before Christ.
5. THE TWELVE MINOR PROPHETS
This prophet is thought by some to have been the earliest of all the prophets. He was certainly contemporary with Isaiah; and exercised his office in the kingdom of Israel, about the same time that Isaiah exercised his in the kingdom of Judah. His prophecies are chiefly directed against the ten tribes, previously to their being carried into captivity. He also predicts the coming of the Messiah, and the glorious state of the Christian church. He flourished from seven hundred and eighty-five to seven hundred and twenty-five years before Christ.
This prophet was contemporary with Hosea, and flourished about seven hundred and eighty-five years before the incarnation. His prophecy may be considered in the light of a very solemn sermon, warning the Jews to repent of their sins; foretelling a grievous famine which was to be occasioned by an innumerable host of locusts; promises the penitent Gods mercy; and foretells in a very pointed manner that great outpouring of the divine Spirit which should take place under the gospel dispensation.
This man was neither of the sacerdotal nor prophetic order: but was a herdsman, a keeper of cattle, in the territory of Tekoa; and was sent by God to call the people of Israel to repentance, and denounce the divine judgements against the workers of iniquity. He foretells the judgements of God which were to fall on the Syrians, Philistines, Tyrians, Edomites, Moabites, and Ammonites. He flourished about seven hundred and eighty-seven years before Christ.
This is the shortest of all the prophets. His prophecy refers to the Edomites, the descendants of Esau, whom he threatens with utter destruction, because of their cruelty and oppression to the Jews. It is supposed that he lived about five hundred and eighty-seven years before the Christian era; and was contemporary with Jeremiah and Ezekiel.
Jonah was a native of Gath-Hepher, in Galilee; and was sent by God to denounce his judgements against the Ninevites: but, fearing for his personal safety, he determined on leaving is own country; and so took ship, and endeavoured to escape to Tarshish. Meeting with an extraordinary storm, the sailors, concluding that there must be some person aboard against whom there was divine wrath, questioned him on the subject. He confessed his sin, was thrown overboard, and was swallowed by a fish, in whose belly he remained three days and three nights; and was a type of our Lords death and resurrection. The fish having cast him up on dry land, he went to Nineveh, delivered the divine message; the people trembled, fasted, and repented, and were saved. He is supposed to have flourished about eight hundred and sixty-two years before our Lord.
This prophet was sent to reprove both Israel and Judah for their manifold sins, which he did with great warmth and fidelity. He foretold their captivities; comforted the godly; and predicted the incarnation of our Lord, mentioned the very place of his birth, Bethlehem, described his offices as King and Priest of his people, and foretold the glory of the Christian church in the latter days. He flourished at the same time with Isaiah and Hosea, about seven hundred and fifty years before the Christian era.
Though the Ninevites had repented at the preaching of Jonah, they did not continue to bring forth the fruits of repentance. This prophet was, therefore, sent to foretell their destruction, and the ruin of the Assyrian empire, of which Nineveh was the capital. This destruction was effected by the Medes and Babylonians, about sixty years after. Nahum lived under the reign of Hezekiah, about ninety years later than Jonah, or about seven hundred and seventy-two years before the Christian era. He is the most sublime and energetic of all the minor prophets.
The preceding prophet foretold the destruction of the Assyrians who carried the ten tribes into captivity; and Habakkuk foretold the ruin of the Chaldeans, who completed the captivity of this unhappy people, by carrying away the two tribes that remained. He is suppose to have been contemporary with Jeremiah, and to have flourished about six hundred and twenty-six years before our Lord. The prayer in the third chapter of this prophecy is inimitably fine.
This prophet was sent to the Jews under Josiah to foretell them of their approaching captivity by the Chaldeans, on account of their idolatry, and other heinous offensives; of which he strenuously exhorts them to repent. He foretells also the destruction about to be brought on the Philistines, Moabites, Ethiopians, and Assyrians. He flourished about six hundred and thirty years before Christ.
This prophet, with the two following, was sent to the Jews after their return from the Babylonish captivity. He reprehends their negligence in not building the temple, being more intent on their secular interests than on the glory of God; on account of which God sent a dearth, by which they had been grievously distressed. At his instigation, the people resumed the work, which had been sadly neglected, and the temple was soon finished: and though that temple was much inferior to that built by Solomon; yet he foretold that its glory should be greater than that of the former; which was accomplished in the Messiahs honouring it with his presence and preaching. He lived about five hundred and twenty years before Christ.
This was the second prophet sent to the Jews after their return from captivity; and he encouraged the people to proceed with the building of the temple. There are many prophetic visions in this book which relate to the Jews; and several prophecies relative to our Lord; his riding into Jerusalem as a King; the thirty pieces of silver, for which Judas sold his Master; the destruction of the Jews; and the calling of the Gentiles. He flourished about five hundred and twenty years before our Lord.
This was the third and last prophet sent to the Jews after their return from the Babylonish captivity. From his prophecy, it appears that the Jews were in his time generally corrupted. They had not only neglected, but profaned the divine service; these he sharply reproves; and encourages them much who in those times of degeneracy continued faithful. He foretells the coming of Christ, and very clearly speaks of his forerunner, John the Baptist. He intimates that no other prophet would be sent to them; and that they must be careful to observe the law of Moses till the advent of the Messiah. He flourished about three hundred and ninety-seven years before the incarnation; and was the last prophet ever sent to the Jewish people. His book, therefore, properly closes up the canon of the Old Testament.
About this time Ezra, under the direction of the Holy Spirit, had made a complete collection of all the sacred books of the Jews, in which all the major as well as the minor prophets were included; though some think that Simon the Just added Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, and Malachi, to Ezras work. This is the same collection which exists to the present day; to which nothing has been added, and from which nothing has been taken away. See Ezra.
The next extraordinary messenger with whom the Jews were favoured, was JOHN THE BAPTIST, of whom this prophet (Malachi) so clearly speaks. After him came GOD MANIFESTED IN THE FLESH; who before his ascension to heaven, commissioned his disciples, who were afterwards called apostles, to go into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature, beginning first at Jerusalem,"And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His Name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem"(Luke 24:47). This was accordingly done; and the word of the Lord had free course, ran, and was glorified.
GENERAL ACCOUNT OF THE BOOKS CONTAINED IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
"Whatsoever things were written afore time were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope"(Romans 15:4).
I come now to consider the writings of the New Covenant, which were the effect of this revelation of Jesus Christ, and the mission of his apostles; and shall divide them into four classes:
I. The historical books: including the four gospels, and the Acts of the Apostles.
II. The thirteen epistles of St. Paul.
III. The catholic or general epistles: viz., of James, Peter, John, and Jude.
IV. The Apocalypse, or book of the Revelation. Of these different books I shall endeavour to point out the author, the time when written, and the chief subject of each.
1. THE HISTORICAL BOOKS, VIZ., THE FOUR GOSPELS, AND ACTS OF THE APOSTLES.
This evangelist is supposed to be the same who is also called Levi, son of Alpheus. He was by birth a Jew; and, like the rest of our Lords disciples, a native of Galilee; and appears to have been at first a collector of the public taxes under the Roman government. He was called by our Lord to be a disciple when sitting in his public office by the seaside, near the city of Capernaum.
He was placed by our Lord in the number of his apostles, and continued with him during his life. After the ascension of Christ, he was at Jerusalem; and received the Holy Spirit with the rest of the disciples, on the day of Pentecost.
His gospel (i. e., his history of the incarnation, preaching, miracles, death, resurrection, and ascension of our Lord) is generally allowed to be the most ancient part of the writings of the New Covenant. It is very probable that he wrote this book in Hebrew, about the eighth year after the ascension of our Lord, or A. D. 37, and that it was, by himself or some other, translated into Greek about A. D. 61.
Matthew being a constant attendant on our Lord, his history is an account of what he saw and heard; and, being influenced by the Holy Spirit, his history is entitled to the utmost degree of credibility. Whether he was martyred for the truth, or died a natural death, is uncertain.
This is the same who is called John Mark; and who travelled from Jerusalem to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas, and afterwards into other countries."And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem, when they had fulfilled their ministry, and took with them John, whose surname was Mark"(Acts 12:25).
It is supposed that he wrote this gospel at Rome, about A. D. 64, and that he died at Alexandria, in in the eighth year of the reign of Nero, the Roman emperor. It is very probable that he had seen the gospel written by St. Matthew, as he omits several things which are amply detailed by that evangelist. At the same time he inserts several curious particulars not mentioned by any of the others.
St. Luke is the most elegant of all the evangelical writers; his language being purer and much more free from Hebraisms than any of the rest. He was an early convert to Christianity, and was St. Pauls fellow labourer, (Philemon, ver. 24,) and accompanied him when he first went to Macedonia; and from Greece, through Macedonia and Asia, to Jerusalem; and from Jerusalem again to Rome, where he stayed with him the two years of his imprisonment in that city. It is generally believed that he finished and published his gospel and the Acts of the Apostles in Greece, about A. D. 47, both of which he dedicates to Theophilus, an honourable Christian friend of his in that country. His gospel, like those of the preceding evangelists, gives an account of the birth, preaching, miracles, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension of our Lord. It is supposed that he died in peace about the eightieth or eighty fourth year of his age.
This evangelist was the son of a fisherman named Zebedee, and his mothers name was Salome. They were probably of Bethsaida; and the father and his sons James and John followed their occupation on the sea of Galilee. Both these brothers were called to the apostleship; and John is supposed to have been about twenty-five years of age when he began to follow our Lord. It is likely that he was one of our Lords relatives; and was that disciple whom it is said our Lord loved: that is, he had a peculiar affection for him. He was also an eye and ear witness of our Lords labours, journeyings, discourses, miracles, sufferings, crucifixion, death, resurrection, and ascension.
The gospel of John presupposes the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke: the grand facts he has in common with them; but he supplies many particulars which are not found in the others. St. Matthew seems to labour to prove the fact of the reality of our Lords incarnation or humanity: on the other hand, John takes up the eternal divinity, which he powerfully establishes; and gives us many invaluable discourses and conversations of our Lord with his disciples, as well as several miracles that are not found in the other evangelists. No one of the gospels gives us the whole history of our Lord; we must read all four, to have this complete.
John was banished by the Roman emperor, Domitian, to the isle of Patmos, in the AEgean Sea: but his successor Nerva having recalled all the exiles banished by Domitian, John returned to Ephesus, where he died, aged upward of one hundred years. The holy Virgin is said to have lived with him till her death, which took place about fifteen years after the crucifixion.
ACTS OF THE APOSTLES
The book of the Acts of the Apostles is the fifth and last of the historical books. It was doubtless written by St. Luke, probably about A. D. 63; and is dedicated to the same noble personage, Theophilus, to whom he dedicated his gospel. The design of the apostle in writing this book appears to have been twofold:
To relate in what manner the gifts and graces of the Holy Ghost were communicated on the day of Pentecost; and the subsequent miracles performed by the apostles, by which the truth and divine origin of Christianity were confirmed.
To deliver such accounts as proved the claim of the Gentiles to admission into the church of Christ. In this book we see how the Christian church was formed and settled.
The apostles simply proclaimed the truth of God, relative to He passion, death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ; and God accompanied their testimony with the demonstration of his Spirit. The consequence was, thousands embraced Christianity, and openly professed it at the risk of their lives. They were converted, not merely from one religious sentiment to another, but from sin to holiness. Their tempers, passions, and moral prospects were all changed; and they only lived to bring glory to God, and to do good to men. This mighty change is everywhere in this book attributed to the power of the Holy Spirit, which took of the things which were Christs, and applied them to the souls of the people. Such was the Christian church at its formation: and such it must be to the end of the world, if it deserve the name of Christian.