A Scripture Help Designed to Assist in Reading the Bible Profitably.

By Rev. Edward Bickersteth,

14th ed.  Seeley, 1829.

[Spelling selectively modernized.  Bible citations converted to all Arabic numerals.  Notes moved into or near their places of citation.]



1.  The Value of the Bible

2.  The Importance of habitually studying it

3.  The Necessity of Divine Assistance to enable us properly to understand it

4.  General Remarks on the whole Bible

5.  Short Observations on each Book of the Bible

6.  Practical Remarks on various subjects in the Bible, and particularly

    on the Law and the Gospel

7.  Practical Remarks on the Prophecies, with reference to Efforts

    to spread the Gospel, and to Personal Edification

8.  On the Jewish State, including Remarks on their Feasts, Offices, and Sacrifices,

    the Seasons in Dudes, and the Religious Sects mentioned in the Scriptures

9.  An Explanation of some Expressions peculiar to the Scriptures

10.  A Chronological Table

11.  General Remarks on the History of the World

12.  On Scripture Difficulties

13.  Summary of Divine Truth

14.  Reasons why the Reading of the Scriptures is frequently attended with little advantage

15.  Practical Rules for Daily Study

16.  Scripture Prayers before and after Reading

17.  An Address to Persons in different Stations of Life on this Duty

[Maps & plates omitted.  Index omitted for web.]



         The want of a plain Tract, cheap enough to be easily procured, and yet sufficiently full to be useful to those who are beginning to read the Bible, induced the writer to set about this little work.  His first design was only to write a Pamphlet of a few pages; but be was led on by degrees to a much greater length than he originally intended.  [His extension of the plan (with the addition of a few Maps), having necessarily increased the price, an Abridgment of the Work has been published for the use of the poor.]

         His great object has been, first, to direct the Reader’s attention to THE BIBLE; to lead him to study the pure Scriptures diligently, and to point out the vast importance of seeking the help of the Holy Spirit.  He has endeavoured to add such hints as might assist the reader to study practically and profitably; give him clear views of the various parts of divine truth; and remove apparent difficulties.  The most important points which demand attention, are then summed up in several practical Rules, and the whole is concluded with a few Scripture prayers, and an Index of Texts and of Subjects.

         Although much has been wisely and usefully done to illustrate the Bible by Commentaries, yet it is evidently of great importance that it should not be chiefly studied through the medium of uninspired authors.  There is a majestic authority, an unaffected and beautiful simplicity and plainness in the Holy Scriptures, which speaks more powerfully to the heart than the most laboured expositions.  On this account the writer has been anxious to excite his readers to study constantly, with fervent prayer, the Sacred Volume itself (without continually going to other works to guide them in reading it), and thus to take their religious sentiments from the fountain head.  The writer from his heart embraces the great protestant principle that it is every man’s duty and privilege to read the Bible for himself: and the important truth expressed in the sixth article of the Church of England, that “Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation; so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man that it should be believed as an article of the faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation.”  He also fully assents to what is stated in the excellent Homily on this subject, “That man’s human or worldly wisdom or science is not needful to the understanding of Scripture; but the revelation of the holy Ghost, who inspireth the true meaning unto them that with humility and diligence do search therefore.” [The whole of this Homily, which may be had separately, well deserves attention.]

         The Bible is in many respects its own interpreter; it contains in itself the key which will open its treasures; and it is hoped that the following pages may assist in pointing out this key to the reader.

         As the writer aimed rather to furnish a useful work than to obtain credit for originality, he has freely borrowed from others whatever appeared likely to promote his object.  He desires particularly to acknowledge his obligations to Jones’s Scripture Directory, for many observations in the fifth chapter.  He wishes also to express his thanks to several friends who have kindly favoured him with their remarks on the former editions.  To one he is more especially indebted for some important suggestions, several corrections, and two or three valuable notes.  Should other editions be called for, and the writer’s life be spared, he will always be glad to rectify any errors, that may be pointed out to him through the medium of the publisher.

         This work has been found to be useful to the young, as containing information respecting the most important of all books, on many points which before lay scattered in a variety of publications not likely to fall in their way.  Others have used it as a convenient compendium for schools.  The observations on the books of the Bible may be read at the time of family worship, when any book is beginning to be read, and thus give the family a general view of that book.

         May the reader join in praying the great HEAD OF THE CHURCH to bless this and every attempt to lead men to the study of that book which is so peculiarly HIS OWN.

E. B.

14, Salisbury Square,

18th Jan. 1820.


Advertisement to the Twelfth Edition.

         The Author has added to this edition his little Tract on the Prophecies, it having a direct connection with this work.  It may be had separately from the Publishers, (price 6d.) by the purchasers of former editions.

E. B.

Islington, April 6, 1825.


Chapter 1 – The Value of the Bible.

         Suppose a person, compelled to quit a foreign country, were invited to return home to receive a large possession which his father had promised him.  Suppose he is entirely unacquainted with the road he has to go, but knows that it is often rugged, difficult, and dangerous: that there are also many false guides to mislead him, and many enemies to encounter: and that thus he will be exposed not only to the loss of the promised possession, but of everything he has, and even of life itself.  What would be such a person’s chief enquiries? – Where can I get a sure direction? – Is there any protector who can defend me from my enemies?  With what delight he would hear, “Your Father has given you a plain, full, and particular direction, and an all-sufficient Protector.”  How diligently would he look at this direction as he went along, and how entirely would he trust his Protector!

         This journey is the Christian’s life; God is his Father; heaven is his home; eternal bliss is the promised possession; Christ is the all-sufficient Protector; the Captain of our salvation, who has himself gone the road, and conquered every enemy, and who now guards and defends all who commit themselves to him; and THE BIBLE affords a sure direction to God, to heaven, to everlasting bliss.

         The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.  By means of the Bible, God himself “directs your paths”.  In all important points, it is so plain “that he who runs may read.”  It is also so full and particular that you may find in it something adapted to remove your most perplexing doubts, and to guide you aright through your greatest difficulties.  Its fullness speaks its divine Author.

         The Bible is altogether TRUE: thy word, says Christ, is truth.  It is truth without any mixture of error.  It is the source and the only unerring standard of all religious truth and knowledge.  Men may deceive us, or be deceived themselves: our own minds and hearts may deceive us, and therefore we are told, lean not to thine own understanding; and, he that trusteth in his own heart is a fool: but the Bible will never deceive us; it is truth that we may always depend and act upon.  Hence David says, Thy word is a light to my feet, and a lamp to my paths; it renders the way to eternal life manifest and clear.

         There are the most satisfactory EVIDENCES of its truth.  I will endeavour to make this plain to you.  The Bible is evidently an ancient book, written by different persons, at different periods, and yet in all its parts promoting one great design.  Bad men could not write a book so plainly condemning all sin.  Good men would not have deceived mankind by pretending that an invention of their own was a divine revelation; especially when they were likely to get nothing by this deception but reproach, imprisonment, torture, and death.  Its doctrines and precepts are evidently superior to all human wisdom, and directly contrary to that corruption of human nature, which impostors would indulge, as the means of gaining their ends.  The Bible points out the way to eternal life; a way honourable to God, suitable to the wants of man: whilst by the strongest arguments it promotes practical holiness, so that you cannot read the book without feeling that it is a holy book.  It gives you an account of various miracles which could only have been performed by the power of God, which from their nature could not be deceptions, and which was wrought in the midst of vast multitudes for a purpose worthy of God.  The religion of the Bible was, at the time of its promulgation, supported by these miracles: and has ever since continued in the world.  There are various prophecies in the Bible, the completion of which shew its divine original.  Those concerning Jesus Christ have in a great measure received their accomplishment; these were known to have been written long before his coming.  The prophecies concerning Babylon were delivered many ages before they were fulfilled: and the fall and continued ruin of that great city, which at the time when the predictions were delivered, no human sagacity could foresee, prove that they were dictated by the inspiration of God.  Those prophecies also respecting the Jews which pointed out their dispersion, and yet predicted their preservation as a distinct people, are openly fulfilling to the present day in the sight of all men.”  [See Porteus’s Summary of Evidences, Paley’s Evidences, and Horae Paulinae.  For further remarks on this subject, see Chapter 4, as to the canon of Scripture; and the observations on Miracles and Prophecies, Chap. VI, and VII.]

         All these things prove that the Bible is true, and that we may depend and act on its statements.  But the Bible is not only true as an historical book – it also contains a revelation to man of the mind and will of God.  Holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. 2 Peter 1:21.  Hence it is expressly declared, that all Scripture is given by inspiration of God. 2 Tim. 3:16.  By inspiration is here meant, “such an immediate and complete discovery, by the Holy Spirit, to the minds of the sacred writers, of those things which could not otherwise have been known, and such an effectual superintendency as to those matters which they might be informed of by other means, as entirely to preserve them from all error in every particular, which could in the least affect any of the doctrines or commandments contained in their writings.” – Scott.

         The New Testament, as well as the Old, was given by the same divine inspiration.  Before his death our Lord promised that after his departure the Holy Spirit would be given to the disciples to bring all things that he had spoken to their remembrance, and to guide them into all truth.  John 14:16–17, 26; 16:8, 13–14.  He also declared to them, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth, shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth, shall be loosed in heaven.  Matt. 18:18.  To bind is a Jewish phrase, signifying to declare anything unlawful, and thus to prohibit it: and to loose is to declare anything lawful.  These promises were fulfilled “when the Apostles were inspired by the Holy Ghost, to deliver that doctrine to the church, according to which the state of all men, in respect of acceptance or condemnation, is and will be finally decided.”  Nor was St. Paul in any respect behind the other Apostles.  He often asserts his own inspiration (Gal. 1:11–12, 1 Cor. 2:10–13), with that of the other Apostles, Eph. 3:2–4.  St. Peter considered St. Paul’s Epistles as a part of the Scriptures (2 Peter 3:16), and bids those to whom he wrote to be mindful of the commandments of the Apostles, as well as of the word spoken before by the Holy Prophets.  2 Peter 3:2.

         The evidence above stated has been admitted by the wisest men in all ages as a sufficient proof of the truth and divine inspiration of the Bible, but it is not sufficient of itself to produce that saving faith which is so much commended in the Scriptures.  Whoever possesses this faith is not only convinced in his mind of the Authenticity and inspiration of the Bible, but his heart is purified and his life changed.  The grace of God has removed the pride and prejudice which before prevented his seeing the excellence of the truth and feeling its importance.  Hence this faith is said to be the gift of God.  If you experience the power of God’s grace in thus leading you to see the truth in its glory, you will believe the Bible to be a divine revelation with an evidence which you never felt before: he that believeth – hath the witness in himself.  The Bible, when accompanied by the influence of the Spirit, “with a powerful and penetrating energy, alarms and pierces the conscience, discovers the thoughts and intents of the heart, convinces the most obstinate, and makes the most careless to tremble.  With equal authority and efficacy it speaks peace to the troubled mind, and heals wounded spirit.  It expands the understanding, it leads men to delight in God, to desire to know him more and serve him better; it makes them meet for the happiness of the heavenly world, and thus prepares them for an infinitely superior state of existence.  All these considerations unite in one point, and produce a complete conviction, that such a system, so pure, so animating, so sanctifying in its operations, so elevating in its effects, cannot proceed from any other source than the Father of lights.”

         The Bible claims our attention on account of the INVALUABLE TRUTHS WHICH IT CONTAINS. – It discovers to us things which the wisest of men in vain attempted to find out.  It shews who is our Creator: his love to us, and our duty to him.  It plainly declares what should be our great care and concern in this life; it affords light to those who are in darkness, rest to the weary, and strength to the weak; and opens to our view the realities of another world.

         As all men have sinned, the Bible is above everything valuable, since IT IS ADDRESSED TO SINNERS, AND DISCOVERS TO US THE PERSON, CHARACTER, AND OFFICES OF CHRIST THE SAVIOUR: – This discovery, if the expression may be used, throws a splendour on the pages of the Bible.  It is therefore particularly called the word of Christ.  When men feel themselves to be sinners, and discover their need of a Saviour, and find in Christ just that which they want, they see that there is an infinite value in everything which relates to him and his salvation.

         The important question, What must do to be saved? is here then satisfactorily answered.  Forgiveness of sins through the blood of Christ, reconciliation with God, peace of mind, and a solid hope of eternal life, are clearly set before us in the Scriptures, and freely offered to our acceptance, through the mediation of a Saviour.  The Bible also contains the promise of the Holy Spirit to restore the divine image to the soul.  Do you feel yourself sinful, and do you fear the wrath of God, and mourn under the burden of your sins?  In the Bible you will find the means pointed out which God hath provided both for your pardon and your sanctification.

         There you will read that God sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins; that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; that he is the Lamb of God which taketh away the sins of the world; and that the grace of God which bringeth salvation hath appeared unto all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world.  These things were written that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing ye might have life through his name. John 20:31.  Thus you see the Bible has “God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth without any mixture of error for its contents.” – Locke.

         The Bible is AN UNSPEAKABLE CONSOLATION IN SEASONS OF DISTRESS. – This is a benefit which the real Christian has often experienced.  He is able with David, to say, This is my comfort in my affliction.  In the loss of all that is valuable upon earth, in contempt and ill usage from others, when tried, tempted, and weighed down by his sins, the Christian has two resources – the throne of grace, and the Bible.  Though his heart may be nearly broken with grief, yet he can say, Why art thou cast down? O my soul, and why art thou disquieted within me? hope in God!  The Bible has calmed his agitated mind, and given him, even in his worst distress, such a peace as he would not part with for all the world.  Thy statutes, says David, have been my sang in the house of my pilgrimage; unless thy law had been my delight, I should have perished in mine afflictions.

         The Bible is also inexpressibly valuable, because ITS TRUTH ENDURES FOREVER. – The time will come when all earthly blessings will be taken from us; the friends and relatives who daily comfort us, the wife of our bosom, the children that are dear to us, the possessions which we enjoy, the sun which shines upon us, yes, every earthly good, will fail us.  All in this world is changing and uncertain.  Where can we rest? where can we fix our feet and say, This will not sink under me, this will abide forever?  All flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man is as the flower of the field: the grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: but the word of the Lord endureth forever.  And this is the word which by the Gospel is preached unto you.  Heaven and earth, says Christ, shall pass away, but my word shall not pass away.  Here, then, is something that is valuable in every period and every state.  The truths of the Bible are the Christian’s best support under the vicissitudes of the present life; and he will find them equally true and increasingly precious in the hour of death, at the day of judgment, and through eternity.


Chapter 2 – The Importance of Habitually Studying the Bible.

         The BIBLE, if rightly used, is one of the greatest blessings and advantages that can be conferred upon us.  Everything, however, depends upon the use we make of it.  If a person had swallowed poison, the best remedy in the world would do him no good unless he took it.  So it is here: you are infected with the poison of sin, and your Bible shews you the antidote: but it will do you no good unless you know and use it.  Nay, it would have been better never to have had a Bible, than to have one and neglect to use it; because the Bible is a talent entrusted to your charge, for the use or abuse of which you must account; besides, to disregard it, as of no value, is a high affront to that great God who gave it.  Suppose a parent wrote a letter to a child at a distance, full of affectionate admonitions and kind promises, and that child never opened the letter, or only read a line now and then; what an unworthy part such a child would act!  Just so are we acting, if we neglect that book which our heavenly Father has sent to us his children.

         I purpose to shew the importance of studying the Bible frequently, patiently, and thoroughly, from – the command of Christ; the practice of pious men; the knowledge, practical benefits, and real happiness gained by it; and the ill effects of neglecting it – and then to answer some objections, and point out the danger of not attending to it.  I know, indeed, there are many young persons and others, who have not the command of their own time, from whom so much cannot be expected as will be required from those who have more leisure.  To such I would say, Still you may do something: cannot even you often find time for folly, or perhaps for sinful books or company, when you will not give time to the Bible?  Let no excuse satisfy you, but such as you are convinced will stand good in the solemn day of account.  It may indeed require much self-denial, when, wearied with the labours of the day, you retire at night to your room, to read, perhaps in the cold, a portion of Scripture; and again, to rise somewhat earlier for this purpose in the morning, or to snatch a few moments in the middle of the day; but would you not do this to gain a great temporal good? if so, here is a far more important, a spiritual, an eternal good to be obtained.  Let all do the best they are able in their different circumstances.  If there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not.  Let all therefore, consider, that,

         THE STUDY OF THE SCRIPTURES IS PLAINLY COMMANDED.  Thus Christ says, Search the Scriptures, for in them ye think ye have eternal life, and they testify of me; and again, Blessed are they that hear the word of God and keep it.  And St. Paul says, Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom.  Solomon gives much the same directions when he says, Cry after knowledge, seek her as silver, and search for her as for hidden treasure.  Wisdom is the principal thing, therefore get wisdom.  He, then, that hath an ear to hear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.  Let us not live in the neglect of a plain command.

         IT WAS THE PRACTICE OF PIOUS MEN. – It appears from the 119th Psalm that David was continually studying the Scriptures; and he describes the righteous man by this character – His delight is in the law of the Lord, and in his law doth he meditate day and night. Psa. 1:2.  O that this were the character of all who call themselves Christians! that they would not only read their Bibles, but continually meditate upon them, and delight in them.  Timothy had known the Scriptures from a child.  Apollos was mighty in the Scriptures.  What a solemn injunction St. Paul gives respecting his epistle to the Thessalonians – I charge you by the Lord, that this epistle be read unto ALL the holy brethren.  It is said that the first Christians read the Scriptures with great diligence.  We cannot follow a better example.  Remember, then, that this blessed book has been the daily study of the wisest and the best of men, of the saints of God, ever since it was written, and that under the influence of the good Spirit, it has constantly guided them through every temptation and difficulty, till they have been received to the glory of God.  Here David’s holy devotion, Isaiah’s elevation of spirit, Jeremiah’s tender feelings, Ezekiel’s vehemence, Daniel’s firm integrity, Paul’s ardent zeal, and Peter’s warm affection, received much of that daily supply of unction and grace, by which they were blessed in themselves, and made blessings to their country and the world.  How many of the saints of God have here received the first kindlings of that bright flame which distinguished them as burning and shining lights.  Nay, the study of this volume is consecrated by the sanction and example of the Lord of glory himself.

         This study, in a dependence on the help of the Holy Spirit, is necessary IN ORDER TO ACQUIRE AN EXTENSIVE KNOWLEDGE OF THE TRUTH. – A thorough acquaintance with any subject cannot be acquired without great attention; still less can an extensive knowledge of religion without much perseverance and study.  It is well said, “The Scriptures are a treasure of divine knowledge, which can never be exhausted.  The most learned, acute, and diligent student cannot, in the longest life, obtain an entire knowledge of this one volume.  The more deeply he works the mine, the richer and more abundant he finds the ore.  New light continually beams from this source to direct his conduct, and to illustrate the works of God, and the ways of men.”  Scott.

         It is one great means of ATTAINING the GREAT PRACTICAL BENEFITS which result from the religion it teaches. – Hence, when the Bereans received the word with all readiness of mind, they searched the Scriptures daily, and therefore many of them believed.  David says, The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul.  He beautifully describes the prosperity of the man whose delight is in the law of the Lord – He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither, and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper. Psa. 1.  Jesus Christ prays for his people, Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth: and St. Paul says, What things were written aforetime, were written for our learning, that we, through patience, and comfort of the Scriptures, might have hope.Beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, we are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.  And he sums up these benefits when he says, The Scriptures are able to make us wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus, and are 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.  Observe, too, how our Lord answers every temptation of Satan with a text of Scripture. Matt. 4.  Reading the Scriptures is one of the great means of bringing our souls near to God, and enabling us to enjoy communion with him.  “In prayer, we speak to God; in the Scriptures, God speaks to us.”

         THIS STUDY ALSO BRINGS REAL HAPPINESS. – You have not found happiness in the world.  How often have you been compelled to feel, if not to acknowledge, the vanity and emptiness of all worldly good: try, then, to find happiness in the Bible.  You will not be disappointed there, but will be led to that fountain of living waters, of which whosoever drinketh shall never thirst.  Great peace have they that love God’s law.  The Thessalonians received the Gospel with joy of the Holy Ghost.  In reading or hearing the words of Christ, you will often find your hearts, like those of the disciples going to Emmaus, burning within you.  As your faith grows, you will have an increasing conviction that God’s promises will be fulfilled: you will see your interest in them, and exult in the hope of boundless bliss beyond the grave.  Christ says, He that heareth my words, and believeth in me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.  John 5:24.

         Do not, however, be discouraged, if these practical benefits are not immediately obtained, or you seem not to make rapid advances in the divine life.  Your progress may be real, though slow and hardly perceptible.  Although the newborn babe daily receives nourishment, yet it does not instantly grow up to manhood, but gradually passes through the stages of childhood and youth, – so it is here.  Be not disappointed if reading the Bible should sometimes appear a task, and your corrupt nature should be ready to call it a dry, dull, and tedious study: still persevere in it, remembering that in all this labour there is profit, and that nothing valuable is gained without self-denial.  The more constantly you read in a right spirit, the more comfort and pleasure, profit and happiness, you will find.

         When a man, by much patient study of his Bible, has taken his sentiments and principles simply from that source, he has the satisfaction of being able to say, I rest on a solid foundation; I did not take my opinions from this man or the other, but from the Bible alone; I have Thus saith the Lord for the reason of the hope that is in me.  Who can describe the value of this persuasion in the hour of temptation and trial?

         Lastly, VERY ILL EFFECTS ARISE FROM THE NEGLECT OF THIS STUDY. – This is the reason why so many are ignorant of the first principles of Christianity, scarcely knowing that there is a Saviour, or whether there be any Holy Ghost.  This is the cause why so many false and groundless notions prevail amongst us; for when we follow our own reasonings, and neglect the Scriptures, we must of necessity go astray.  Ignorance of the Scriptures is one great cause of error and vice. Matt. 22:29.  We are apt to think that ignorance is no sin; but in many instances it is not only sinful in itself, but it is the fruitful parent of numerous iniquities.  It was through this that the Gentiles were alienated from the life of God, and worshipped idols. Eph. 4:17–18, Gal. 4:8.  It was through ignorance that the Jews crucified the Lord of Glory. Acts 3:17, 13:27.  This ignorance keeps you from much happiness and comfort; it is the indirect cause of many anxieties and great misery in this life; and, what is far worse, it ruins immortal souls.  Christ says, He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judged him.  The word which I have spoken shall judge him at the last day. John 12:48.

         Some, however, say, – Yes; I am satisfied with the truth of all this; but I am unlearned; the Bible too is a large book; and when I begin to read it, I find MANY THINGS WHICH I CANNOT UNDERSTAND.  Be it so; but are there not many so plain that you cannot mistake them – such as these, except ye repent, ye shall all perish – he that believeth on the Son of God, hath everlasting life, and he that believeth not, shall not see life – thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and love thy neighbour as thyself.  Attend to and practice what is easy and plain, and in due time you will be better able to understand what may now appear difficult.  Jesus Christ did not think your want of learning a reason why you should neglect the Bible: he thanks God, who had hid these things from the wise and prudent, and revealed them unto babes; (Matt. 11:25), and he says, The poor have the Gospel preached unto them. Matt. 11:5.  Your ignorance is the very reason why you should immediately begin to learn.  How do you judge in the common affairs of life?  Let me ask you, are you not every day labouring to provide for yourself and family?  Now, in the beginning of the week you do not say, My labour is too difficult for me – I will sit down and do nothing; because you know that if you did, yourself and your family would suffer.  But remember, the soul is of far more value than the body.  Your soul will live forever; it wants food whereby it may be nourished up unto eternal life, and this food may be obtained, under the divine blessing, by patient labour, in reading your Bible.  Besides, you did not learn your trade at once, nor can you learn the whole truth contained in your Bible at once.  The Bible is indeed a large book, but it consists of many small books; each of these is complete in itself, such as Genesis, Matthew, etc. – Read one of these smaller books through before you begin another, and by degrees (observing the rules hereafter mentioned) the most ignorant may gain a considerable knowledge of their Bibles.  You may not thoroughly understand any part of the Bible at the first reading; but what appears obscure or unimportant at one time, may be easy and of immense value at another.

         I fear that it is a secret thought in the mind of numbers, though few venture to give it utterance, “I FIND THIS STUDY DULL AND TEDIOUS.” – Without noticing the presumption of this objection, I answer, the fault is not in the Bible, but in yourself; your corruption makes it dull; you neither read it in a right spirit, nor as if it related to you.  This is evident, because those who read it with prayer and in faith, and knowing that they have an all-important concern in its contents, find it inexpressibly interesting.  Every sentence of Scripture has its proper value.  How precious, says David, are thy thoughts to me. Psa. 139:17.  Is it dull to be taught by an infallible guide the most important lessons of wisdom?  Is it tedious to learn what will make you happy in this life, and forever?  If some parts of the Bible are uninteresting to you at present, it is because you have not yet seen their connection with other parts.  All are needed for the great purposes for which it was written.  Therein is contained the proclamation of mercy to sinners like you.  Would a condemned criminal think the message of his pardon dull?  Nay, when you really see things aright, all other books in comparison to this will be insipid and trifling.  Make not this objection, lest you shew at once in what a wretched state your own mind is.

         Others say, I HAVE NOT TIME TO READ MY BIBLE. – I have enough to do. in my daily occupation without attending to anything else.  Ah! remember, you must give an account of all your time to God: and you will indeed give a wonderful account, if you make it appear that those portions of time were misemployed, which were spent in reading your Bible.  I appeal to your conscience, whether you do not often needlessly give time to things of far less importance; and however busy you may really be, the study of the Bible will not hinder, but help your business, by teaching you to go through it with a quiet and diligent spirit.  Besides, you can always find time for eating and drinking, and sometimes for amusement; but is not the food of your soul of infinitely greater consequence?  Job said, I have esteemed the words of thy mouth more than my necessary food.  Many at the close of life have regretted their neglect of this book, but no one ever then repented of his attention to it.  Do you not profanely despise God himself when you disregard this sacred volume, or imagine that it is not worth your while to peruse it carefully and frequently?  Remember again, the eunuch was reading the Scriptures while travelling on the road, when he did not well understand it: and you know how God rewarded his diligence, by sending Philip to explain what he read, and to preach unto him JESUS.  But are you indeed so busy?  This then is the reason why you should read the Bible.  You are deeply engaged in pursuits in which the Bible will direct you how to turn them to real advantage.  Or, you are like a man in the midst of a battle – this is your armour.  O do not throw it away, lest you be wounded, and perish forever.

         Others urge this objection, I would read the Bible, but I HAVE NOT GOT ONE, AND AM TOO POOR TO PROCURE IT. – To such it may be answered, if you are really desiring a Bible, there are many opportunities for obtaining one at the present time at a cheap and easy rate.  Should you be too poor to embrace any of these, make your wants known to those who can supply you.  If you are as much in earnest to obtain food for your never-dying souls, as you are for your perishing bodies, you may hope that God will incline the heart of some kind friend to impart this gift to you.  Let me say also to those to whom God has given property, can you dispose of your talents in a more useful way, than by assisting the poor to obtain Bibles?  Should you ever rest satisfied till your poorer neighbours have this invaluable treasure?

         Some may perhaps be kind enough to read parts of this work to persons, who, in reply to all that has been said, may answer, I AM UNABLE TO READ THE BIBLE MYSELF. – To such it may be said, you must make use of the best helps in your power.  If you are thoroughly persuaded the knowledge of the Bible is not only an important duty, but a great advantage, you will make every effort, you will use every opportunity, to gain this knowledge.  Hence, when persons have become really in earnest in religion, they have learnt even in their old age to read their Bible, and happily for you at the present day, there are means peculiarly favourable to this end, in the adult schools which are becoming so general.  But if you cannot read the Bible, your children, neighbours, or friends, will surely be glad to read a chapter to you.  You should also be diligent in attending public worship, where you may hear the Bible read.  If a kind father had left a will, would you ever rest satisfied till you knew what it contained?  Be, then, at least as much in earnest about your eternal welfare, as you are about those temporal concerns which most interest you.

         Yet, after all that I have said, I fear that many who have a Bible will disregard it; suffer it to lie unopened on the shelf, or consider it merely as a task book for their children.  What shall I say to you, or how shall I engage you to attend to this great duty?  I know the true reason why you neglect it: you love your sins, and you are afraid that the study of the Bible will either oblige you to forsake them, or make you more guilty if you continue in them.  But, ah! be not deceived!  What does Jesus Christ himself say?  This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.  John 3:19.  Your disregard of the Bible, instead of being an excuse, will be an evidence of your sin, an aggravation of your guilt, and will condemn you forever.  Whoso despiseth the word shall be destroyed: but he that feareth the commandments shall be rewarded. Prov. 13:13.  How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him. Heb. 2:3.  If the love of Christ does not constrain you, O let the terrors of the Lord persuade you continually to read your Bible, and intreat that Divine assistance without which all your reading will be unprofitable.


Chapter 3 – The Necessity of Divine Assistance

to Enable Us Properly to Understand the Bible.

         Of all the works of creation, THE SUN is the most glorious and splendid, the most enlivening and useful: it not only enlightens the world, but cherishes and invigorates the various tribes of animated nature; it causes universal joy and gladness of heart; it renews the face of the whole earth, and there is nothing hid from the heat thereof.

         So is the Holy Bible: it is a bright and glorious light, shining in a dark world; but the light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehendeth it not. John 1:5.  The world lieth in darkness: men are dead in trespasses and sins; and while they continue in that state, they no more perceive the glory of the Bible, than a blind man perceives the light of the sun, or a dead man its warmth.  Hence we may learn the need of the help of the Holy Spirit.  When this is given, the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear will live.  John 5:25.

         The necessity of divine assistance may be proved from:

         The EXPRESS DECLARATIONS OF SCRIPTURE. – When David prays, Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law, he shews that he felt the need of divine aid to enable him properly to understand the Bible.  Christ says to Nicodemus, Verily verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.  John 3:3.  He cannot discern the spiritual nature and glory of the Gospel; he cannot see the excellency of the holiness of God, the goodness of the strict and spiritual precepts of the law, the justice of its awful sanctions, the malignity in sin, which deserves eternal ruin, the infinite value of Christ, and the happiness of being like him.  Hence our Lord says, No man can come to me, except the Father, which hath sent me, draw him; and every man that hath heard and learned of the Father cometh unto me: (John 6:44–45), and St. Paul says, The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him, neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. 1 Cor. 2:14.

         THE PROMISES OF DIVINE TEACHING. – Thus our Lord says to the Apostles, When the Spirit of Truth is come, he will guide you into all truth.  John 16:13.  And though this promise was, in the first place, peculiarly applicable to them as it respected their divine mission, yet it comprehends the more lasting operations of the Holy Spirit.  Our Lord says of this Spirit, the Father shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you FOREVER. John 14:10.  And speaking of true Christians, he says, they shall be all taught of God.  John 6:45.  And again, it is said, If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God – and it shall be given him. James 1:6.

         The CONDUCT OF UNBELIEVERS. – The Israelites did not profit by the miracles they saw, and one reason was because the Lord had not given them an heart to perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear. Deut. 29:4.  How often the Jews accused our Lord himself of being mad, and having a devil. John 8:48, 10:20.  How deaf were their ears, how hard their hearts, how blind their eyes, notwithstanding all the miracles which our Lord did amongst them! and the reason assigned is, it was not given to them to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven. Matt. 8:11, etc., John 12:37–40.  The learned Athenians mocked Paul, and ridiculed the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead (Acts 17:18–32); and how few wise, mighty, or noble among the Corinthians, embraced the Gospel at first (1 Cor. 1:26): for the world by wisdom knew not God. 1 Cor. 1:21.  Unbelievers, not attending to the instructions of God’s word, and not admitting their need of divine assistance, do not ask for it, and therefore it is not given to them.

         THE EXPERIENCE OF CHRISTIANS. – How dark were the minds of the disciples respecting the prophecies concerning Christ, till he opened their understanding that they might understand the Scriptures. Luke 24:45.  Lydia was just as ignorant and careless as other people, till the Lord opened her heart that she attended to the things which were spoken of Paul. Acts 16:14.  God alone makes believers to differ from others, and they have nothing which they did not receive from him. 1 Cor. 4:7; see also 2 Cor. 4:6 and 1 John 5:20.

         THE PRAYERS OF BELIEVERS PROVE THE SAME NECESSITY. – How earnestly David prays, Teach me thy statutes, make me to understand the way of thy precepts, so shall I talk of thy wondrous works. Psa. 119:26–27.  Give me understanding, that I may know thy testimonies. Psa. 119:125.  The whole of the 119th Psalm completely shews how needful David thought divine teaching.  Observe also St. Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians – That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him; the eyes of your understanding being enlightened, that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints. Eph. 10:17–18.

         Thus you see in how many various ways God has declared this truth, that it is necessary to have divine assistance to enable us properly to understand the Bible.  In doing this, he has shewn us that it is a point of great importance, and very apt to be neglected.  It may perhaps be a new and strange doctrine to you, but do not on that account despise or disregard it: search the Scriptures, and you will find their testimony on this head decisive.  When you are convinced of this, you will then earnestly implore the aid of the Holy Spirit.

         How infinitely kind and condescending is that God who is thus willing to guide and teach his sinful creatures – Good and upright is the Lord, therefore will he teach sinners in the way.  And shall we not seek this help?  Settle it, then, as a firm principle in your mind, that God alone can enable you profitably to understand and attend to his truth; be earnest in prayer for his assistance; and if ye being evil know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give his Holy Spirit to them that ask him.  Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.

         Thus we see the reason why we should seek the influence of the Holy Spirit, that we may enter into the true spirit of the Bible.  It is his office not only to sanctify and comfort the church, but to take of the things of Jesus Christ, and to shew them to us. John 16:14.  The Apostles themselves did not understand the meaning of the Gospel, till they were taught by the Holy Ghost.  Whenever, therefore, you open your Bible, never forget to pray that the Spirit of God may open your understanding.

         Though the degrees of light and grace communicated by the Holy Spirit to different persons are various, for he divides to every man severally as he will; (1 Cor. 12:11) yet some general marks may be pointed out by which we may ascertain whether we are in any measure partakers of it.  The believer feels his influence in turning him from sin to God, and exciting him earnestly to seek the salvation of his soul, as the one great object of his life.  The Holy Spirit produces in him humility of mind, and a willingness to receive instruction.  He manifests to him the wisdom of God in the great doctrines of the Bible, being justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, and the necessity of a new heart and a new spirit.  He leads him earnestly to desire to see the character and glory of God, to enjoy his presence, and to be conformed to his likeness.  He inclines the heart to love holiness, because God is holy; and heaven, because it is a holy place; and he gives an efficacy to the Scriptures, making them powerful to excite and promote every holy temper and disposition.  He enables him to say, Thy testimonies are my delight; and through his influence the believer often finds the Bible to be a source of the greatest comfort, filling him with joy unspeakable, and a hope full of glory.  Reader! ask your own conscience, Have I experienced any of these things?  Has the Bible been thus brought home to my heart?  How can it be so, if you have never diligently and perseveringly sought the influence of this blessed Guide and Comforter?

         Whilst the necessity of having this Divine teacher is thus strongly and absolutely insisted upon, the above statement clearly shews that it is not meant that we must look for the Holy Spirit to guide us to any new revelation, or to doctrines contrary to the revealed will and word of God: nor can we expect his guidance without prayer and the use of the other means and helps which God has given us for understanding his truth.  Such ideas do not proceed from the Spirit of God, but are the spirit of delusion and enthusiasm.

         I purpose now to go very briefly through the Bible with you.


Chapter 4 – General Remarks on the Whole Bible.

         The word BIBLE means book, and the sacred volume is so called because it is the book of books – the best book.  The word SCRIPTURE signifies writings.  The Bible was not written at one time, or by one person; but consists of various parts, written at different times by different men.  It is divided into two Testaments, called the old and the new, chiefly with reference to the time when they were published; the old (see 2 Cor. 3:14) before the coming of Christ, and the new after his death.  As a testament, the Bible is the will of our gracious Redeemer, full of noble gifts and legacies, confirmed to us by the death of the Testator.  Heb. 9:16–18.  The great promise of the Old Testament is a Saviour to come.  The New shews us that this Saviour is come, and gives us another great promise (though this promise is not excluded from the old), viz. the promise of the Holy Ghost.  The word translated testament may be also rendered covenant; and the Old Testament may properly be called the Old Covenant, as containing various covenants made with the Patriarchs, and the covenant made with the Jewish nation.  The New Testament may properly be called the New Covenant, as containing the account of the work of redemption accomplished by Christ Jesus, and more fully manifesting the new covenant (Heb. 8:8) or that Gospel, which is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth. Rom. 1:16.  The nature of the covenants, and of the Law and Gospel, will be farther explained in another part of this work.  See Chapter 6.

         The following is a general view of the writers of the various books of the Bible.  There are, however, differences amongst the learned about some of them.  The Pentateuch, or first five books, consists of the writings of Moses, put together by Joshua or Samuel; with a very few additions.  The book of Joshua was probably written by himself.  See Joshua 5:1, 24:26.  The books of Judges and Ruth by Samuel; the first part of Samuel by him, and the remainder by Gad and Nathan. 1 Chron. 29:29.  The books of Kings and Chronicles were probably completed by Ezra from the public records.  Of these we read in various places. 1 Kings 11:41; 2 Chron. 9:29, 12:15, 20:34, 26:22, 32:32.  The books of Ezra and Nehemiah were probably written by them.  Esther has been attributed to Ezra, Mordecai, and others.  Perhaps Job wrote his own history.  The Psalms were written by David, Moses, Asaph, and others.  Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Solomon, by Solomon; the Prophecies, by the Prophets whose name they bear, and the books of the New Testament, by the persons to whom they are usually ascribed. [The APOCRYPHA, sometimes bound up with the Bible, is no part of the inspired volume, nor has any divine authority.  The books which compose it were never received as sacred amongst the Jews, to whom were committed the oracles of God (Rom. 3:2); and they are not thus quoted in the New Testament.  The Apocryphal books were not enumerated among the canonical, nor quoted as such by any Jewish or Christian writer for many centuries after Christ.  Josephus in the first century gives a list of the sacred books and omits them.  Melito in the second century does the same.  Origin in the third does the same; as do Athanasius, Cyril, Epiphanius, Jerome, and Ruffinus in the fourth century.  Ruffinus and Jerome mention some of the Apocryphal books as not Canonical.  The Council of Trent, held in the year 1550, under Pope Pius IV, admitted the greater part of the Apocrypha into the sacred canon, and this is the only authority on which it has been received as equal to the sacred writings.  It is evident, therefore, that it has not that just claim to divine authority, which the Old and New Testament have.  The sixth article of the Church says of the Apocryphal books, “The other books (as Hierome saith) the Church doth read for example of life; and instruction of manners; but yet doth it not apply them to establish any doctrine.”]

         The STYLE OF THE BIBLICAL WRITERS is, in general, simple, yet powerful; evident, yet full; concise, yet connected.  The New Testament has however some Hebraisms, Chaldee-Syriac idioms, and Syriac words.  The styles of the different authors vary considerably; and each style may be traced, and plainly seen, in their respective writings.  A consideration of the previous character, life, and habits of the author whose book we read, will be of advantage in giving us new and just views of various expressions.

         The CANON OF SCRIPTURE is that body of sacred books which serves for the rule of faith and practice.  It is the authorized catalogue of sacred writings. – The word Canon is derived from a Greek word signifying rule.  Should any one ask, How am I to know that the books of the Bible, now in my possession, are the same as what they were when they were first written? I reply as follows – We have greater evidence of their authenticity than of any other ancient book whatsoever.  The Old Testament has always been, and still is, in the keeping of the Jews, who were so minutely scrupulous respecting the sacred text that they counted the letters.  Long before the coming of Christ, it was translated into Greek, and dispersed among the Gentiles, which version, called the Septuagint, we now have.  The very circumstance that the book, which the Jews own to be an inspired volume, contains so much history unfavourable to them, and so many plain predictions, which were fulfilled in the life of Jesus Christ, whom yet they deny as their Messiah, is a strong argument in favour of the authenticity of the Old Testament.  The New Testament of itself establishes the Old by its numerous references and quotations; and the evidence respecting the canon of the New is most decisive and satisfactory.  The history is corroborated by heathen writers.  Tacitus the Roman historian, within thirty-four years after the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, states his death, the spread of his religion, and the great number of Christians at Rome.  Suetonius, Martial, and Juvenal, mention their sufferings and punishments.  There is also an interesting letter from Pliny to the Emperor Trajan, about seventy years after Christ’s death, describing their numbers as very great, and giving a short account of their doctrines and customs.  In the early ages of Christianity, there were numerous versions (some into languages not now spoken) of all the books of the Bible; these were more or less dispersed far and wide.  Various sects soon arose in the Christian church, contending with each other, yet admitting the authenticity of the Scriptures.  Before the middle of the second century after Christ, the principal part of the New Testament was read in every Christian church.  There were soon, also, numerous writers commenting upon the Scriptures, or continually quoting them, many of whose works still remain, in some of which are contained the same list of all the books of the Bible we have at present.  A discussion indeed took place respecting a few of these books; but that very discussion only shows how careful those who formed the present canon were, before they admitted the authenticity of the books which compose it.  Add to this, in conclusion, that there are now in our possession, vast numbers of ancient manuscript copies of the Scriptures, some of them seven or eight hundred years old, and some probably above a thousand years old.  Take all these circumstances together, and consider, that though in such a multitude of versions, commentaries, and manuscripts there are, as without a continued series of miracles there must have been, various readings, yet none of these furnish any material difference, or differences affecting doctrine or practice in our present text of the Bible; and it will be manifest that it was utterly impossible that the Scriptures, in whole or in part, should have been cunningly devised fables, or in any respect so materially altered, as that the words of man should have been put upon us as the words of God.

         The Old Testament was chiefly written in the Hebrew language, and the New Testament in the Greek.*  The present authorized English Bible was translated out of the original languages in the reign of King James I.  Where LORD is printed in capital letters, it is in the original, Jehovah, or self-existent and independent Being.  The word Lord in the common characters, is, in the original, Adonai, that is, Ruler, or Sustainer.  The distinction, thus marked, may be observed, Psa. 110:1, and elsewhere.  Such words as are printed in italics, are used to complete the sense in the translation, there being no corresponding original words.  In the margin of the larger Bibles, there are references to parallel, or similar passages, the knowledge of which often helps us in understanding the Scriptures.  There are also various readings; for when the excellent translators of the Bible thought any passage might justly bear a different construction, they have put this in the margin: and where they thought that the idioms of the English language would not permit them to translate the Hebrew literally into English, they still put the literal translation in the margin.  This is pointed out in the Old Testament by putting Heb. before it, that is, literally in the Hebrew; and in the New Testament, Gr. that is, literally in the Greek language.  It has been observed that the readings in the margin, are frequently more correct than those in the text.  The books of the Bible, when first written, were not divided into chapters and verses.  This was a modern invention, useful in many respects, but the sense is frequently obscured by it.  Thus the first verse of the 2d Corinthians, 7th chapter, should be read along with the 6th chapter.  In order to obtain a general view of the plan and connection of any particular book, we should disregard this arbitrary division.  The names in the New Testament are sometimes differently spelled from what they are in the Old.  Thus Isaiah is called Esaias, Matt. 3:3, etc.  Joshua is called Jesus, Acts 7:45, Heb. 4:8.  Hosea is called Osee, Rom. 9:25.  This should be kept in mind, to prevent our mistaking the names, which frequently occur in reading.

         *[The knowledge and study of the Scriptures in the original languages, is very important and desirable to all who have sufficient leisure to pursue this object.  Dr. Owen says –

            “It must be acknowledged that reading the Bible as written in the original is accompanied with many and great advantages.  In them peculiarly it is γραφη θεοπνευσος, a writing by divine inspiration, (2 Tim. 3:16) and יהוה םפך, the book of the writing of the Lord (Isa. 34:16) with a singular privilege above all translations.  Hence the very words themselves, as there used and placed, are sacred, consecrated by God to that holy use.  There is, in the original, a singular emphasis of words and expressions, and in them a special energy, intimating the sense of the Holy Ghost, which cannot be translated so as to retain that power and efficacy.”  Cecil also says, “The habit of reading the Scriptures in the original, throws new light and sense over numberless passages.”

            The following list of books will be useful for beginners in each language.

            D’Allemand’s, or Simom’s, or Boothroyd’s Hebrew Bible.  Valpy’s, or Griesbach’s, or Vater’s New Testament.

            For the Greek. – Grammars. – The Westminster, or Eton Greek Grammar, (in Latin); Bell’s, Jones’s, and Valpy’s, which are in English.  A Greek Grammar of the New Testament, by Winer, has been translated by Stuart, and printed in America.

            Greek LexiconsDawson’s Greek and Latin Lexicon is useful to the learner who has not a master at hand, as it gives a resolution of all the various parts of the Nouns, Adjectives, Pronouns, and Verbs, which are in the New Testament; besides giving the roots of indeclinable words, with a short account of their usual meaning.

            If he cannot read Latin, he may be assisted by Parkhurst’s, Robinson’s, or G. Ewing’s Greek and English Lexicons.

            But for the purpose of a critical acquaintance with the sense and application of the words, the advanced student will derive great assistance from Schleusneri Les. Gr. and Lat. or from Wahis Clavis Philologica.  Schleusner must be used with caution, as his interpretations cannot be wholly trusted.

            For the Hebrew. – Grammars. – Dr. Caleb Ashworth’s Hebrew Grammar, republished by Yeates, and frequently called Yates’s Grammar, and Principia Hebraica, by Keyworth and Jones, are useful.  Dr. James Robertson’s Grammatica Hebrea, Schroederi Institutiones, and Schultensii Fundamenta (especially Schroeder) are some of the best Hebrew Grammars.  Professor Lee has also published a Grammar of the Hebrew Language.

            As an introductory book, Dr. James Robertson’s Claris Pentateuchi is a valuable work; so is Bythneri Lyra Prophetica, which is a grammatical resolution of the Psalms, and at the end of which is a short but excellent Hebrew Grammar.

            Hebrew Lexicons. – Buxtorfii Lexicon Heb. et Chald. will give the learner the sense of every word in the Bible, according to the Jewish interpretations.  Stockii Clavis is a valuable Lexicon, as is Gibbs’s Hebrew and English Lexicon.

            Johan. Simonis Lexicon Manuale Heb. et Chald. is an excellent work.  The editions by Eichhorn include many criticisms from J. D. Michaelis, and others, by which it is much enriched with valuable observations on matters which were not discovered in Buxtorfs time.  A recent edition (1828) has been published by Winer.

            Parkhurst’s Hebrew Lexicon has the advantage to the mere English scholar, of being in a language which he understands; and contains much curious and valuable erudition.  But his plan of reading Hebrew without points, and his theory of the language, besides his Hutchinsonian sentiments, which frequently occur in his Lexicon, appeal to some Hebrew scholars drawbacks from the merit of what they think would otherwise be an excellent work.

            There is also a valuable old work by Leigh, entitled Critica Sacra, which is a Lexicon of both the Hebrew of the Old Testament, and of the Greek of the new, and is very useful.  A supplement was afterwards published, which the learner would do well to obtain with the work if he can.

            A popular and useful work on the Hebrew language was published in 1654, by William Robertson, with the quaint title of The first Gate or Outer Door to the Holy Tongue; and the Second Gate or Inner Door.  The first is a Grammar, and contains also the resolution of different parts of the Hebrew Bible, as examples to the learner.  The second is a Lexicon, followed by an additional number of passages resolved hi English.  The Lexicon answers common purposes very well.]

         The New Testament continually quotes or refers to the Old, and thus not only confirms it, but helps us to understand and improve it.  I shall, therefore, at the end of the observation on each book, in the following chapter, point out some references, naming only the chapter and verse of the book.  Thus under Genesis you will find – 3:4; 2 Cor. 11:3, meaning that the 11th chapter of 2d Corinthians, 3d verse, refers to the 3d chapter of Genesis, 4th verse.


Chapter 5 – Short Observations on Each Book of the Bible.

         The first five books of the OLD TESTAMENT, sometimes called the Pentateuch, or five books, were written by Moses more than 3000 years ago, and are the most ancient writings in the world.  They contain an account of the nation of Israel, preceded by a general sketch of the first state of mankind.

         GENESIS signifies generation, original, or beginning.  It contains the history of about 2369 years.  It makes known to us that there is but one God, the creator of all things.  It gives an account of the happiness of man in Eden – his fall – the promise of Christ, the seed of the woman – the deluge – how Noah and his family were saved in an ark – the history of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob (afterwards called Israel), and Joseph, – and the settlement of the Israelites in Egypt.  Observe in this book that in Cain and Abel we see the beginning of two distinct classes of men, and you will find that they have continued through all ages; I mean the Church of God, and the ungodly world.  The saints, though few in number and despised of the world, are most dear to God.  See his kindness to Abraham, and the amazing condescension and familiarity with which he treated him.

         What a privilege it is to belong to that church which God regards with peculiar favour.  Take particular notice of the covenant which he entered into with Abraham, saying, that in his seed all the nations of the earth should be blessed: and see Gal. 3:8–16, etc.

         The 11th of Hebrews will give you a view of the motives and principles which animated the Patriarchs.  In reading Genesis you may discover intimations of Christ, not only in the promises, but in the characters described, many of whom were types or figures of the Saviour.*  See in the intended sacrifice of Isaac, the only Son of Abraham, a lively picture of the real sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the only and well-beloved Son of God.  Compare Gen. 2:7, etc. with 1 Cor. 15:45–49, etc.; and Gen. 14:18–20, etc. with Hebrews 7.

         *[In the character of Joseph, for instance, while we see an example of excellent conduct in a variety of situations, let us also endeavour to notice many signs of the Saviour.  This is illustrated by Pascal in the following manner: – “Jesus Christ, prefigured by Joseph, the beloved of his father, and by him sent to visit his brethren, is the innocent person whom his brethren sold for twenty pieces of silver, and who by this means became their Lord, their Saviour, the Saviour of strangers, and of the whole world, which had not happened, but for their plot of destroying him, making him an outcast, and selling him for a slave: Joseph was an innocent man in prison between two criminals: Jesus on the cross between two thieves.  Joseph foretells deliverance to one of his companions, and death to the other from the same tokens: Jesus Christ saves one and leaves the other, after the same crimes.  Joseph could only foretell: Jesus Christ performed what he foretold.  Joseph requests the person who should be delivered to be mindful of him in his glory: the man saved by Jesus Christ intreats he will remember him when he comes into his kingdom.”  See Pascal’s Thoughts on Religion, an impressive, and, in many respects, valuable book.

            Perhaps Pascal may have gone into more minute particulars than could be fully justified: yet it has doubtless pleased God to give in the history of the Old Testament many hints, marks, and intimations of Him who was to come.  Almost every benefit and blessing will remind the believer, whose heart is filled with the love of Christ, of the Saviour.  The bread which he eats, the house in which he dwells, the light and life he enjoys, and the way in which he walks, will all, not only bring Christ to his mind, but help him more to understand the blessings which he imparts to his people.  And so, in reading the Bible, the Christian discovers almost innumerable memorials of Christ, and thus experiences more what it is to dwell in Christ and Christ in him, and can more easily adopt the language of St. Paul, to me to live is Christ, and to die gain.  It is communion with the Saviour that forms the distinguishing character of the real Christian, and which is seen in his life, by his having the same mind that was in Christ, and following his example.]

         I cannot conclude the observations on Genesis better than in the impressive words of a recent commentator; – “Reader, thou hast now before thee the most ancient, the most authentic history in the world: a history that contains the first written discovery that God has made of himself to mankind: a discovery of his own being in his wisdom, power, and goodness, in which thou and the whole human race are so intimately concerned.  How much thou art indebted to him for this discovery, he alone can teach thee, and cause thy heart to feel its obligation to his wisdom and mercy.  God made thee and the universe, and governs all things according to the counsel of his own will.  While under the direction of this counsel thou canst not err; while under the influence of this will thou canst not be wretched.  Give thyself up to his teaching, and submit to his authority; and after guiding thee here by his counsel, he will at last bring thee to glory.”


References in Genesis.


1:l. – Heb. 11:3.

3:4. – 2 Cor. 11:3.

3:6 – 1 Tim. 2:14.

4:4. – Heb. 11:4.

4:8. – 1 John 3:12.  Jude 11.

5:24. – Heb. 11:5.

6:12. – 1 Peter 3:20.

6:14. – Heb. 11:7.  2 Peter 2:5.

7:4. – Matt. 24:37–38.

12:1. – Heb. 11:8.

14:18. – Heb. 7:1.

15:6. – Rom. 4:3.  James 2:23.

16:15. – Gal. 4:22.

18:10. – Heb. 11:11.

18:12. – 1 Peter 3:6.

19:24. – Luke 17:28–29.

19:25. – 2 Peter 2:6.  Jude 7.

19:26. – Luke 17:32.

21; 1:3. – Gal. 4:28.

22:1-10. – Heb. 11:17.  James 2:21.

22:18. – Luke 1:55.

25:22. – Rom. 9:10.

25:33. – Heb. 12:16.

27:27. – Heb. 11:20.

48:15. – Heb. 11:21.

49:10. – John 1:49.  Luke 1:32.

1:24. – Heb. 11:22.


         EXODUS signifies departure, or going forth.  It contains the history of 145 years.  It describes the bondage of the Israelites – God’s raising up Moses as their deliverer – the plagues of Egypt – the departure of the Israelites, and their passage through the Red Sea – their being fed with manna, having water given them from a rock – and the giving of the law from Mount Sinai.  How gracious God was to Israel!  How dreadfully he punished his enemies!  The base returns Israel made to God present a picture of what we now frequently see.  The 10th chapter of the first Corinthians furnishes a practical improvement of many events in this book.  Here is contained the covenant of the Mosaic Law, distinct from the covenant made with Abraham. Gal. 3:17.  Christ was prefigured by the rock that followed Israel, and the manna which fed them, and he was the angel who conducted them.  Moses was a type of Christ as a lawgiver, mediator, deliverer, and intercessor; as the head of the Church, as the guide and Saviour of Israel.  The study of the mediation of Moses will greatly help us to understand the mediation of Jesus.  The deliverance of Israel from Egypt, and their journey through the wilderness, are lively figures of our deliverance from the bondage of sin, and of our journey through this world’s wilderness, to the land of heavenly rest.


References in Exodus.


2:2. – Heb. 11:23.

2:11. – Heb. 11:24.  Acts 7:24.

3:2. – Acts 7:30.

11:7. – Heb. 11:28.

14:22. – 1 Cor. 10:2.  Heb. 11:29.

16:15. – John 6:31, 9.  1 Cor. 10:3.

17:6. – 1 Cor. 10:4.

19:6. – 1 Peter 2:9.

19:12. – Heb. 12:18.

24:8. – Heb. 9:19–20.

26:35. – Heb. 9:2.

32:6. – 1 Cor. 10:7.


         LEVITICUS is so called, because it treats of the laws, ordinances, and offices, of the Levitical priesthood.  It describes sacrifices of various kinds; the nature of legal uncleannesses, and the means of purification from them – several solemn festivals – the punishment of Nadab and Abihu for offering unhallowed fire.  The Epistle to the Hebrews is the best commentary on this book.  The things here described are shadows of better things to come, even of Christ and redemption through him.  The burnt offering shews us the full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice of Christ, once offered, whose blood cleanses from all sin.  The meat offering shews us Christ as the spiritual food of our souls.  The peace offering shews us Christ as our peace, bearing our sins, and reconciling us to God.  The sin offering, part of which was burnt without the camp,  represents Christ our sin offering, dying for us without the gate of Jerusalem. The trespass offering equally points out the Saviour, whose blood alone can cleanse from the least sin.  Christ is the sum and substance of all.  In Christ behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sins of the world: in Christ behold all the sacrifices completed and abolished; all the shadows lost in him, the substance.  Behold in Aaron, anointed to his office, going before the people, interceding for them, obtaining the pardon of their sins, and blessing them, a figure of your great High Priest Jesus Christ.  The washings and cleansings may point out to us the purifying influences of the Holy Spirit.  The oil may be considered as an emblem of its unction.  The particular directions respecting worship shew us the vast importance of reverence and attention in all our worship.  In the long, tedious, and painful train of sacrifices, behold also God’s unalterable displeasure against sin, and learn to love that Saviour who has done away sin by the sacrifice of himself, and admitted you to the privileges of a better dispensation.  The unclean could not enter the camp of the Lord, nor can the unconverted sinner enter the kingdom of God.  Boyle observes, “The ceremonial law, with all its mystic rites, like the manger to the shepherds, holds forth, wrapped in his swaddling clothes, the infant Jesus.”

         The Old Testament Gospel is well expressed in the following hymn by Cowper.


Israel, in ancient days,

Not only had a view

Of Sinai in a blaze,

But learned the Gospel too:

The types and figures were a glass,

In which they saw a Saviour’s face.

The paschal sacrifice,

And blood-besprinkled door,

Seen with enlightened eves,

And once applied with power,

Would teach the need of other blood

To reconcile the world to God.

The lamb, the dove, set forth

His perfect innocence,

Whose blood of matchless worth

Should be the soul’s defense;

For He who can for sin atone,

Must have no failings of his own.

The scapegoat on his head

The people s trespass bore,

And, to the desert led,

Was to be seen no more:

In him our Surety seemed to say,

Behold, I bear your sins away.

Dipped in his fellow’s blood,

The living bird went free:

The type, well understood,

Expressed the sinner’s plea;

Described a guilty soul enlarged,

And, by a Saviour’s death, discharged.

Jesus, I love to trace,

Throughout the sacred page,

The footsteps of thy grace,

The same in every age:

O grant that I may faithful be

To clearer light vouchsafed to me!


References in Leviticus.


12:3–4, 6. – John 7:22.  Luke 2:21–24.

14:4. – Matt. 8:4.

16:14. – Heb. 9:13.

16:17. – Luke 1:10.

18:5. – Rom. 10:4–5.  Gal. 3:12.

19:15. – James 2:1.

19:17. – Matt. 18:15.  Luke 17:3.

19:18. – Gal. 5:14.

20:10. – John 8:5.

26:12. – 2 Cor. 6:16.


         NUMBERS is so called because it begins with the numberings of the people.  It shews us how literally the promise was fulfilled to Abraham, that his seed should be as the stars of heaven for multitude, though this promise has also a spiritual fulfillment.  Gal. 3:29.

         This book comprehends a period of about thirty-eight years.  It gives an account of the journeys of Israel, their murmurings and punishment, and the history of Balsam and Balak.  In this book we see that Jehovah guides his people in the right way: they were afflicted in the wilderness, yet what miracles were wrought for them; but in the midst of these they sinned against God, and did not escape unpunished. – These things, says Paul, happened unto them for examples, and they are written for our admonition.  The visible church of God on earth is in all ages a mixed church.  The brazen serpent hung upon the pole (see 21:9) was a striking type of Jesus Christ; and the recovery of the Israelites, of the recovery of the perishing soul through faith in him.  See John 3:14–15.


References in Numbers.


8:16. – Luke 2:23.

9:18. – 1 Cor.10:1.

11:4. – 1 Cor. 10:6.

7:7. – Heb. 3:2.

14:27. – 1 Cor. 10:10.  Heb. 3:17.

16:1. – Jude 11.

19:3. – Heb. 13:11.

20:8. – 1 Cor. 10:4.

21:5–6. – 1 Cor. 10:9.

21:9. – John 3:14.

22:23. – 2 Peter 2:16.

22:39. – 2 Peter 2:15.  Jude 11.

24:14. – Rev. 2:14.

25:9. – 1 Cor. 10:8.

26:65. – 1 Cor. 10:5.

28:9. – Matt. 12:5.


         DEUTERONOMY signifies the law repeated.  It may be considered as a spiritual commentary on the four preceding books.  It briefly touches on many former circumstances, strongly urges the people to obedience, describes the glory of Canaan, and contains an account of the death of Moses, which is supposed to have been aided by his successor, Joshua.  In chapter 18, there is a very plain prophecy of Christ; see Acts 3:22.  This admirable book was written with a warm spirit of affection to Israel: it is full of instruction, and contains many practical directions which are as applicable to us as they were to Israel, and it is worthy of our most diligent perusal.  It has been thought that the last chapter of this book, containing an account of the death of Moses, was  originally the beginning of the book of Joshua.


References in Deuteronomy.


6:13. – Matt. 4:10.

6:16. – Matt. 4:7.

8:3. – Matt. 4:4.

10:17. – Acts 10:34.  Rom. 2:11.  Col. 3:25.

10:17. – Eph. 6:9.

17:6. – Heb. 10:28.

18:1. – 1 Cor. 9:13.

18:18. – John 1:45.  Acts 3:22.  Acts 7:37.

24:1. – Matt. 5:31.  Matt. 19:7.  Mark 10:4.

25:4. – 1 Cor. 19:9.

27:26.– Gal. 3:10.

30:12–14. – Rom. 10:6–9.


         The next twelve books, from Joshua to Esther inclusive, are called HISTORICAL books.

         JOSHUA contains the history of Israel under Joshua, from the death of Moses to the deaths of Joshua and Eleazer, a space of about thirty years: it contains an account of the conquest and division of the land of Canaan, the happiness of the people of God, the mercies bestowed on them, and the tremendous judgments inflicted on his enemies.  The Israelites of this generation seem to have been in a happy state of piety.  How exactly God fulfilled his promise to Abraham, of giving Canaan for a possession to his seed.  Joshua was a type of Christ conducting his people through every difficulty to the heavenly Canaan.


Though numerous hosts of mighty foes,

Though earth and hell their way oppose,

He safely leads their souls along;

His loving kindness, O how strong!


References in Joshua.


1:5. – Heb. 13:5.

2:1. – Heb. 11:31.

2:1. – James 2:25.

3:14. – Acts 7:45.

6:20. – Heb. 11:30.

14:1–2. – Acts 3:19.


         JUDGES contains the history of about 309 years, being a short account of the affairs of Israel under the administration of Judges, from the death of Joshua to that of Samson.  It consists of two parts: the first, ending at the 16th chapter, contains the regular history and the remaining five chapters contain an account of some remarkable events which happened during that time, and particularly of the introduction of idolatry, chapters 7 and 18.  Observe the sinfulness of man, in the conduct of Israel, and how certainly punishment follows sin.  See again the goodness of God in forgiving them.  All their temporal deliverers may point out to us that great DELIVERER who is the Captain of our salvation.


References in Judges.


2:16. – Acts 13:20.

Generally Heb. 11:32–40.


         RUTH is the history of a private family, recorded to shew the genealogy of Christ, through David, to the line of Judah; the merciful providence of God towards the afflicted; the reward of obedience.  Let us follow Christ, as Ruth followed Naomi.  Chap. 1:16–17.


References in Ruth.

4:18. – Matt. 1:4–5 and Luke 3:31–33.


         1 SAMUEL includes the history of eighty years.  See 1 Chron. 29:29.  It contains an account of the birth of Samuel, the destruction of Eli’s house, the Israelites desiring a king, and the appointment of Saul – his persecutions of David, who overcame Goliath; and the death of Saul and his sons.  How great is the difference that true religion makes.  Compare Saul and David: Eli’s sons and Samuel. – The history of Eli, Samuel, and David, shews us that we must through much tribulation enter the kingdom of heaven; but observe in Eli’s sons, in Saul, and in Nabal, that sin is the road to disgrace, misery, and death.  Above all, direct your eyes to Christ, of whom David was an eminent type; under the opposition he met with in his way to the throne, his afflictions, deliverances, and final triumph, you may see much of your Redeemer.


References in 1 Samael.


21:6. – Matt. 12:3–4.  Mark 2:25.  Luke 6:4.

16:1. – Acts 7:46, 10:34.

Generally Acts 13:21, 53.


         2 SAMUEL contains the history of the reign of David for about forty years.  His accession to the throne, his victories, his endeavours to promote religion, his grievous sins and consequent troubles, and his deep repentance, are fully described.  Mark, in his fall, the strength and prevalence of human corruption, and in his repentance and recovery, the extent and efficacy of divine grace.  Augustine remarks, “Many fall with David, who do not rise with David.”  The reign of David prefigures the reign of Christ; Luke 1:32–33.


Reference in 2 Samuel.

12:24. – Matt. 1:6.


         1 KINGS contains the history of 126 years.  It begins with Solomon’s appointment to the throne, and describes David’s death, the reign of Solomon, the building of the temple, Solomon’s sin – his death.  The twelve tribes are divided into the kingdoms of Israel and Judah (from which time the people of the ten tribes are called Israel, and those of the kingdom of Judah are called Jews), and we have an account of Elijah the prophet, and of several kings.  The reign of Solomon is a figure of the peaceful reign of the Saviour.  The temple itself, where alone sacrifice was offered, and of which so much is afterwards said, is often used by the sacred writers as an image of the beauty and perfection of the Church of God.  When Israel became idolaters, they never prospered.


References in 1 Kings.


2:10. – Acts 2:29.  Acts 13:36.

10:1. – Matt. 12:42.  Luke 11:31.

17:1. – Luke 4:25.

18:42. – James 5:17–18.


         2 KINGS contains the history of 344 years.  The history of Israel and Judah is here carried on together.  Elijah is taken up to heaven, and Elisha succeeds him: the reigns of many kings in Israel and Judah are described: the ten tribes of Israel are carried captive to Assyria, and in about 160 years afterwards, Judah is carried captive to Babylon.  See the long-suffering of God, and the evil and consequences of sin.  How unstable are those kingdoms from which piety and justice are banished!  In Elijah, and afterwards in Elisha, we see how much good one resolute man of God may effect.  The seed of David is continued on the throne.  See the faithfulness of God.


References in 2 Kings.


4:29. – Luke 10:4.

5:14. – Luke 4:27.


The Reigns of the Kings of Judah and Israel.

Chapter in 2 Chron.

Kings of Judah

Years before Christ

Years of Reign

Kings of Israel

Years before Christ

Years of Reign

Prophets and Events

Chapter in Kings








Temple built.

1st Kings




















































7 days









yrs. 11




















2 Kgs 1


















































Jerobo. 2






Azariah or Uzziah














6 mo.









1 mo.









10 yrs




























1st Captivity of Israel










16 to 25

















2d Captivity

16 to 25









16 to 25








3d Captivity

16 to 25








Habakkuk and

16 to 25

34, 35








16 to 25








1st Captivity of Judah.

16 to 25




3 mo.




Daniel, Obadiah

16 to 25




11 yrs




2d Captivity of Judah

16 to 25




3 mo.




Ezekiel, and

16 to 25




11 yrs





16 to 25





The temple destroyed, and Judah and Israel carried captive to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar






         Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi prophesied after the destruction of the Temple and the return of the Jews from the Captivity.


         1 and 2 CHRONICLES give a general view of the whole history from the creation, to the return from the captivity in Babylon, a period of about 3468 years.  The history contains a full account of the reigns of David and Solomon, and afterwards is chiefly confined to the Kings of Judah, adding many circumstances not before recorded.  The genealogies or list of ancestors are of importance to shew that Christ came from Abraham.  What a pattern of zeal and piety is David!  Observe how pious kings, when the country was plagued for its sin, applied to God, and were heard.  Imitate their example in your distress.  See in Jehoshaphat, how dangerous it is for those who fear God to enter into connection with the wicked.  See also in him the value of faith and prayer.


References in 1 Chronicles.


23:13. – Heb. 5:4.

24:10. – Luke 1:5.


         EZRA contains an account of the return of the Jews from Babylon to Jerusalem, after the 70 years’ captivity, under Zerubbabel, and afterwards under Ezra, and gives the history of about 80 years.  Zerubbabel erects the new Temple, and Ezra restores the service of God.  The benefit of affliction may be seen in the conduct of the Jews who seek God in their captivity.  Their faith and patience are tried in the building of the temple, but persevering, they finally prevail; an encouraging example to excite us to be zealous in the cause of God, however low it may be depressed.

         NEHEMIAH is a continuation of the history for about twelve years.  Under great concern for the afflictions of Jerusalem, Nehemiah leaves all the comforts he enjoys in the court of Artaxerxes, stirs up the Jews to build the walls of Jerusalem, and reforms many abuses.  How deeply affected the people were on hearing the law read!  May you hear or read your Bible with a similar spirit.  It is evident how profitable afflictions had been to them.  Observe the spirit of prayer in Nehemiah throughout the book: see in him also a pattern of the love of the Saviour to his church.

         ESTHER is an account of a remarkable deliverance of the Jews.  The history is continued through a space not exceeding twenty years.  It is supposed Ahasuerus is the same person with Artaxerxes, or with Darius, mentioned in Ezra.  God never fails to help his church in distress.  Observe the various links in the chain by which the deliverance is effected.  Imitate Esther’s confidence in God under trying circumstances. – In Haman David’s expression is verified – I have seen the wicked in great power, and flourishing like a green bay tree: I passed by, and lo, he was not.

         The five following books are more simply and entirely religious than most of the preceding, and declare to us the will of God in a more doctrinal way; they are called the POETICAL BOOKS, being chiefly written in meter or verse in the original: Job is doctrinal, the Psalms devotional, the Proverbs practical, Ecclesiastes penitential, and the Canticles experimental.  We should read less of these at one time, and meditate more upon what we read.

         JOB is supposed to have lived before Moses.  The book contains an account of Job’s piety – his prosperity, his trials and afflictions – his debates with his friends – his self-justification – God’s address to Job – his self-condemnation, and restoration to greater prosperity than before.  It inculcates the great duty of submission to the will of God.  We see in Job an eminent type of the suffering and glorified Saviour, and a pattern of the believer’s passing through much tribulation.  Job’s righteousness (Ezek. 14:14) his patience, and his faith in a divine living Redeemer (Job. 19) are exemplary.  How unprofitable are religious debates, when conducted in a spirit of contention and self-justification.  Rom. 1:29.


References In Job.


1:21. – 1 Tim. 6:7.

2:10. – James 5:11.

5:13. – 1 Cor. 3:19.

5:17. – Heb. 12:5.

34:19. – Acts 10:34.


         PSALMS.*  This book was written at various times, by different persons; chiefly, however, by David.  It contains the sum of the Bible, adapted to the purposes of devotion.  While it has generally a literal sense applying to David or others, its main design is to set forth the Saviour, and to unveil the heart of a believer.  David himself was the great type of Christ; the Jewish nation prefigured the professing people of God; their Canaan, our heaven; their redemption from Egypt, our redemption from sin; as their guilt was atoned for through sacrifices, so is ours by the one great sacrifice of Christ; their temporal saviours, kings, priests, and prophets, shew the one great Saviour Jesus Christ; their enemies, the enemies of the Church of God.  Nor is this a bare accommodation of the words, but one great intention of the Spirit of God, as is evident from the direct application of many of the Psalms in this way in the New Testament.  Study them first, indeed, in the literal sense as it respects David, and then you will be better able to consider and improve them, in the higher and spiritual sense, where they relate to Christ and his church.  The prayers in the Psalms poured out unto God in a variety of circumstances, whilst they express the mind of those who wrote them under the Jewish dispensation, are thus well suited to express our feelings under the Christian dispensation.  Do you desire to confess your sins? take the 51st Psalm: to praise God? take the 103d: to pray for grace and strength to be taught and to keep His law? take the 119th: to pray for the heathen? take the 67th: to pray for the church? take the 122d: to rejoice in the assurance of Messiah’s final triumph, and the universal establishment of his kingdom, take the 72d.  The more we know of practical experimental religion, the more we shall value and read the book of Psalms.  The history of David, in the 1st and 2d books of Samuel, and the first book of Chronicles, should be read before you study the Psalms, as it much illustrates many of them.  [See Bishop Horne on the Psalms.  The word Selah frequently occurs in the Psalms; it is supposed to signify pause, or rest, and to call us to observe particularly what has been said.]


         *[The following Table of Psalms may be found useful in directing you to such as suit your state of mind.


            For pardon of sin – 6, 25, 38, 51, 130.  Penitential – 6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, 143.

            When prevented attending public worship – 42, 43, 63, 84.

            When dejected under afflictions – 13, 22, 69, 77, 88, 143.

            Asking help of God – 7, 17, 26, 35.

            Expressing trust in God in afflictions – 3, 16, 27, 31, 54, 56, 57, 61, 62, 71, 86.

            Under affliction or persecution – 44, 60, 74, 79, 80, 83, 89, 94, 102, 123, 137.

            In trouble – 4, 5, 11, 28, 41, 55, 59, 64, 79, 109, 120, 140, 141, 142.

            Intercession – 20, 67, 122, 132, 144.


Thanksgivings for Mercies.

            To particular persons – 9, 18, 22, 30, 34, 40, 75, 103, 108, 116, 118, 138, 144.

            To the Israelites – 46, 48, 65, 66, 68, 76, 81, 85, 98, 105, 124, 126, 129, 135, 136, 149.


Psalms of praise and adoration, displaying God’s attributes.

            His goodness and mercy and care of good men – 23, 34, 36, 91, 100, 103, 107, 117, 121, 145, 147.

            His power, majesty, glory, and other attributes – 8, 19, 24, 29, 33, 47, 50, 65, 66, 76, 77, 93, 95, 96, 97, 99, 104, 111, 113, 114, 115, 134, 139, 147, 148, 150.


Instructive Psalms.

            The characters of good and bad men, their happiness and misery – 1, 5, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12, 14, 15, 17, 24, 25, 32, 34, 36, 37, 50, 52, 53, 58, 73, 75, 84, 91, 92, 94, 112, 119, 121, 125, 127, 128, 133.

            The excellence of God’s law – 19, 119.

            Vanity of human life – 39, 49, 90.

            Advice to magistrates – 82, 101.

            Humility – 131.

            Prophetic Psalms – 2, 16, 22, 40, 45, 68, 72, 87, 110, 118.

            Historical Psalms – 78, 105, 106.]


References in the Psalms.

Nearly fifty Psalms are quoted or referred to in the New Testament.

1:1. – Acts 4:25–26.

2:7. – Acts 13:33.  Heb. 1:5, 5:5.

8:4. – Heb. 2:6.

16:10. – Acts 2:27, 13:35.

18:49. – Rom. 15:9.

19:4. – Rom. 10:18.

22. – Matt. 27.  Mark 15.

31:5. – Luke 23:46.

40:6. – Heb. 10:5.

41:9. – John 13:18.

44:22. – Rom. 8:36.

45:6. – Heb. 1:8.

68:18. – Eph. 4:7–8.

69:22–23. – Rom. 11:9–10.

69:25. – Acts. 1:20.

78:2. – Matt. 13:34.

91:11. – Matt. 4:6–7.

95. – Heb. 3 and 4.

109:8. – Acts 1:20.

110:1. – Matt. 22:44.  Luke 20:42.

117:1. – Rom. 15:11.

118:22. – Matt. 21:42.  Acts 4:11.  Eph. 2:20.  1 Peter 2:4–7.

132:5. – Acts 2:30, 7:46.


         The PROVERBS, written chiefly by Solomon, are designed to instruct men in true wisdom.  They contain useful practical lessons for every day’s conduct, in short sentences, which can be easily remembered.  Christ is commonly supposed to be represented under the name of WISDOM.  This book teaches us how to walk daily with God.  A pious man said, whenever he was in difficulty respecting the path of duty, his practice was to read over again this book, and it generally suggested something which was useful, in guiding him aright through the intricacies of life.


References in the Proverbs.


3:11–12. – Heb. 12:5–6.

3:34. – James 4:6.  1 Peter 5:5.

10: 12. – James 5:20.  1 Peter 4:8.

11:31. – 1 Peter 4:17–18.

17:27. – James 1:19.

20:9. – 1 John 1:8.

24:23. – James 2:1.

25:6–7. – Luke 14:8–10.

25:21–22. – Rom. 12:20.

27:1. – James 14:13–14.


         ECCLESIASTES (signifying a Preacher) is supposed to have been written by Solomon, at the close of his life, as the book of his repentance.  It shews us that no created good can satisfy the soul, and that happiness is to be found in God alone.  No one ever had such advantages as Solomon for proving these truths, and he, here as a penitent, wise, and faithful preacher, gives us the conclusions drawn from his own experience.


Reference. – 7:20. – Rom. 3:23.


         The SONG OF SOLOMON was written by him.  It is commonly understood to represent the mutual love of Christ and the Church, under the well-known and endearing figure of a bridegroom and bride.  The bridegroom is considered as pointing out Christ; his friends, the angels and ministers; the bride, the church of Christ; and her companions, all who seek to belong to the church.  We have here a lively representation of the spiritual state of Christ’s church in this world, and of its various experiences.  It is impossible that a natural or unconverted man should understand this book.  None but those who can truly say of Christ, This is my beloved, and this is my friend, are qualified to read it with advantage.


Similar figures used in Matthew 9:15, 22:2, 25:1–11; John 3:29; 2 Cor. 11:2; Eph. 5:23–27; Rev. 19:7–9, 21:2, 9; 21:17.  See Fry on the Canticles.

1:4. – John 4:44.

4:7. – Eph. 5:27.

5:2. – Rev. 3:20.

7:1. – Rom. 10:l5.  Eph. 6:15.

8:11. – Matt. 21:33–43.

8:14. – Rev. 22:20.


         The sixteen following books are prophetic: foretelling things to come to pass after the books were written.  The first four are called the greater, and the other twelve the lesser prophets.  The prophecies relate to Jesus Christ, and the Christian church, the Jewish nation in particular, and the several other nations and empires of the world, as they were in various ways connected with the church of God.  The language of the prophets is full of figures, chiefly borrowed from nature.  The sun, moon, and stars, are often used to represent kings, queens, and men in authority: mountains, and hills, kingdoms and cities: marriage, the covenant of God: adultery, departure from God to idols.  Difficulties in understanding the prophecies are either owing to our ignorance of history and Scripture, or because the prophecies are yet unfulfilled.  See the Observations on Prophecies, chapter 6.

         It will be found useful, before we begin to study a Prophet, to read those chapters in the historical books in which the history of the times when the prophets lived is related.  I shall therefore refer to them as we go along.

         In many passages may be observed a prophetical meaning, applying generally to some event in history, and a spiritual meaning, applicable to every believer.  Mr. Scott remarks, that “the union of the prophetic and spiritual meaning forms one of the greatest beauties and excellencies of this part of Scripture, and exceedingly illustrates the divine wisdom by which it was dictated.”

         ISAIAH prophesied before the captivity, from Uzziah to Hezekiah, for about sixty years.  He is so full in his descriptions of the Saviour that he has been called the fifth evangelist; he describes minutely his birth, ch. 7:14; his sufferings and death, ch. 53; his kingdom and glory, ch. 52. 54, between 700 and 800 years before he came into the world.  He also forcibly describes and reproves the sins of the Jewish and other nations, and foretells the ruin of several great cities and countries.  Many of his predictions respecting these have received a full accomplishment.  With his predictions are mixed repeated invitations to persons of every condition to partake of the blessings of the Gospel, earnest exhortations to faith and obedience, awful threatenings against impenitent sinners, and many comfortable promises to the truly pious.  He describes in glowing language the glorious state of the church, when it shall be enlarged by the conversion of the Jews, and the fullness of the Gentiles.  For the history of the times in which he lived, read 2 Kings 14 to 20, and 2 Chron. 26 to 32.


References in Isaiah.


1:9. – Rom. 9:29.

6:9. – John 12: 40.

7:14. – Luke 1:34.

8:14. – Luke 2:34.

8:18. – Heb. 2:13.

9:1–2. – Matt. 4:16.

9:7. – Luke 1:32–33.

11:10. – Rom. 15:12.

13:10. – Matt. 24:29.  Mark 13:24.

21:9. – Rev. 18:2.

22:22. – Rev. 3:7.

25:8. – 1 Cor. 15:54.

28:11. – 1 Cor. 14:21.

28:16. – Rom. 9:33.

29:13. – Matt. 15:8.

35:5–6. – Matt. 11:4–5.

40:3. – Matt. 3:3.  Luke 3:4.

40:6. – 1 Peter 1:24.

42:1, etc. – Matt. 12:18, etc.

45:9. – Rom. 9:20.

45:23. – Rom. 44:11.

49:6. – Acts 13:47.

53 – Matt. 26, 27.

54:1. – Gal. 4:27.

54:13. – John 6:45.

58:7. – Matt. 25:35.

59:20. – Rom. 11:26.

61:1. – Luke 4:18.

63:1–2. – Rev. 19:13.

65:1. – Rom. 10:20.

56:24. – Mark 9:44.


         JEREMIAH prophesied at Jerusalem, near the time of the captivity, and during a part of it.  He began in the 13th year of Josiah, and continued about forty-three years.  He dwells upon and faithfully reproves the idolatry and other sins of the Jews; foretells the destruction of Jerusalem, the captivity of the people (ch. 21, etc.), and yet the ultimate deliverance of the church of God, and the ruin of the enemies of Judah.  The destruction of Babylon is accurately foretold in terms applicable likewise to the mystical Babylon, or Antichrist.  It has been supposed that Jeremiah alludes to the miraculous conception of Christ (ch. 31:22), but he clearly foretells him as the Lord our righteousness (ch. 23:5–6), and predicts the spiritual character of the new covenant, its inward efficacy, and the full forgiveness of sins, ch. 31:31–36, 33:8.  We see in the case of Jeremiah, what treatment the people of God met with when reproving the ungodly.  We have also an example of persevering fidelity in delivering God’s message, however unwelcome.

         For the history of the times in which he lived, read 2 Kings 23 to 25, and 2 Chron. 34 to 36; and for the first fulfillment of the prophecies respecting the return of the Jews, read Ezra and Nehemiah.


References is Jeremiah.


2:21. – Matt. 21:33.  Mark 12:1.  Luke 20:9.

6:16. – Matt. 11:29.

9:23–24. – 1 Cor. 1:29, 31.

18:6. – Rom. 9:20–21.

31:15. – Matt. 2:17–18.

31:31, etc. – Heb. 8:8, etc.; 10:16–17.


         The LAMENTATIONS are a pathetic mourning over the miseries of Judah.  Its design seems to have been to lead the Jews to the exercise of repentance, faith, and prayer; and shew them how to obtain comfort in their afflictions, and benefit from them.  Jeremiah met with nothing but ill usage from Judah, yet how he mourns over their afflictions, and thus returns good for evil.  The true believer is the best patriot.  Let us be equally well affected to the welfare of Sion.  The 3d chapter will be found particularly useful to any one in great trouble.

Reference. – 3:45. – 1 Cor. 4:13.


         EZEKIEL wrote his prophecies in Chaldea.  He began in the 5th year of Jehoiachin’s captivity, and continued nineteen years.  The exact agreement of the prophecies of Jeremiah and Ezekiel, written at so great a distance as Babylon from Judea, must have struck the Jews.  He foretells the calamities impending over Judea, and occasionally looks forward to another period of yet greater misery, and more extended dispersion.  He predicts the ruin of many cities and nations which had insulted the Jews in their affliction.  He exhorts the Jews to repent, and comforts them with promises of approaching deliverance under Cyrus, intimating the more glorious redemption under the Messiah.  He foretells of Christ as the SHEPHERD.  Ezek. 34:23, 37:24.  Under the figure of a new temple, he reminds the people of God of what they had lost by their sins, and comforts them with promises of the future glory of the church.  How awakening the calls of the 18th – how inviting the promises of the 36th chapter!  May we be earnest in prayer, that we may obey the calls to repentance, and partake of the promised blessings.  Earnestly pray for the new heart and the new spirit; the heart of flesh.  For the history of the times in which he lived, read 2 Chron. 36; 2 Kings 24, 25.


References in Ezekiel.


1:10. – Rev. 4:7.

9:4. – Rev. 7:1–3.

9:6. – 1 Peter 4:17.

12:22. – 2 Peter 3:4.

17:7. – Matt. 25:35.

34:23. – John 10:11.

36:26. – 2 Cor. 5:17.

37:24. – 1 Peter 2:25.

38:2–3. – Rev. 20:8.


         DANIEL prophesied under the captivity.  The six first chapters are historical, and the six last prophetic.  He flourished from the 3d year of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, to the 3d of Cyrus.  Observe the calm, resolute, and firm conduct of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, (ch. 3) and be you faithful to Christ in the midst of an evil world. – See also how Nebuchadnezzar exposes himself to shame before the whole world, (ch. 4) that he may glorify the Lord of heaven and earth.  This is the true way of praising God.  The prophecies of Daniel chiefly relate to the four universal empires, viz. the Assyrian, Persian, Grecian, and Roman, whose rise and fall he mentions, ch. 2 and 7; and to the period of the Messiah’s appearance on earth, which he more exactly foretells than any other prophet.  Daniel says, seventy weeks (that is, according to the language of prophecy, 490 years) are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgressions, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness; and then afterwards tells us that, Messiah shall be cut off, but not for himself, ch. 9:24–27.  Hence the Messiah was generally expected at the time that Jesus Christ came, and the Jews have here an insurmountable difficulty; they cannot account for his not coming; while we have the fullest evidence that he actually did come at the precise time foretold.  We have in the prophecies of this book a comprehensive view of all the great events which should take place in the world from the time of Daniel till the general resurrection. Chap. 11 has been supposed to relate to Rome in its threefold state, Pagan, Christian, and Anti-Christian.  Daniel shews us the different conditions of the just and unjust at their resurrection, ch. 13:2–3.  The 9th chapter contains a striking confession of national sins.  Recur to it when you pray for your country.


References in Daniel.


7:10. – Rev. 5:11.

9:27. – Matt. 24:15.

12:7. – Rev. 10:5–6.


         HOSEA prophesied before the captivity for about eighty years, in the days of Jeroboam, the 2d king of Israel, and of Uzziah, Jotham, and Ahaz, kings of Judah.  His prophecies chiefly relate to the ten tribes.  They were then in prosperity, but their sins were preparing the way for their ruin.  He convicts them of idolatry under the figures of adultery and whoredom, denounces grievous threatenings against them, and strongly exhorts them to faith and repentance.  The 6th and 14th chapters contain earnest invitations to all sinners to return to God, and encouraging promises to those who do return.  Use them in this view for yourself.  [Cecil says, “In reading the Scriptures, we are apt to think God further removed from us than from the persons to whom he spake therein.  The knowledge of God will rectify this error – as if God could be further from us than from them.  In reading the Old Testament especially, we are apt to think that the things spoken there, in the prophet Hosea for instance, have little relation to us.  The knowledge taught by experience will rectify this error, – as if religion were not always the same sort of transaction between God and the soul.”]  Before you study this prophet, read 2 Kings 15; 2 Chron. 26 to 28.


References is Hosea.


1:10–11. – Rom. 9:25–26.

2:23. – 1 Peter 2:10.

6:6. – Matt. 9:13.

10:8. – Luke 23:30.  Rev. 6:16.

11:1. – Matt. 2:15.

13:14. – 1 Cor. 15:54, etc.


         JOEL prophesied before the captivity, in the days of Uzziah.  He threatens the desolation of the land, and gives a minute description of a plague of locusts, under the figure of an invading army.  He calls to repentance and prayer, to which great blessings are promised, particularly an abundant outpouring of the Spirit of God.  He foretells the conversion and restoration of the Jews, the overthrow of their enemies, and the future glorious state of the church.  Read 2 Chron. 26; 2 Kings 15.


References in Joel.


2:28, 32. – Acts 2:16–21.

2:32. – Rom. 10:13–16.

3:15. – Matt. 24:29.  Mark 13:24.


         AMOS prophesied after Joel, in the days of Uzziah.  He denounces judgments on the neighbouring nations, dwells on the many sins of Israel, calls them to repentance, foretells the captivity, the setting up of Christ’s kingdom, and the restoration of Israel.  How long God bears with Israel! how often he warns them! and yet when they continue impenitent, how surely he executes his threatenings!  Let us take heed.


References is Amos.


5:25–27. – Acts 7:42–43.

9:11–12. – Acts 15:15–17.


         OBADIAH prophesied probably about the time of Jeremiah – he foretells the ruin of the Edomites, and the final triumph of the church.  Christ must reign till he has put all enemies under his feet.  Let us submit to him now.


Reference in Obadiah:  21. – Rev. 11:15.


         JONAH lived in the days of Jeroboam, son of Joash, king of Israel.  Commissioned to go to Nineveh to proclaim its ruin; instead of going there he flees, through fear, to Tarsus – is cast into the sea, and swallowed by a fish – prays, and is delivered.  Nineveh repents upon his preaching, at which Jonah grieves. – See the danger of disregarding God’s command – the power of prayer in distress – the forbearance of God towards repenting sinners – the selfishness, pride, and perverseness of man’s heart.  Jonah’s deliverance is a well-known type of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Be encouraged, by Jonah’s example (chap. 2) to pray to God in your trouble. – See Matt. 12:39, 41, and 16:4, Luke 11:30, 32.  Read 2 Kings 14 and 15 for the history of Jeroboam’s reign.

         MICAH prophesied in the days of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah.  He assisted Isaiah – he foretells the destruction of Samaria and Jerusalem – reproves the sin of all ranks – speaks of the inefficacy of sacrifices and ordinances, without a spiritual mind, and a holy life – mentions Christ’s coming, the place of his birth (chap. 5:2), and his universal dominion.  See again the evil of sin – the danger of self-righteousness, and the blessings purchased by Christ.  For the history of the time in which he lived, read 2 Kings 15 to 20; 2 Chron. 27 to 32.  See also Jeremiah 26:18–19.


References in Micah.


2:10. – Heb. 13:13–14.

4:7. – Luke 1:33.

5:2. – Matt. 2:5–6.  John 7:42.

7:6. – Matt. 10:35–36.


         NAHUM prophesied in the days of Hezekiah and Manasseh.  He foretells, in language particularly simple and sublime, the fall of Nineveh, which, abusing God’s long-suffering, is finally consigned to destruction.  This prediction has been so completely executed that not even the ruins of this great city are known.  How dangerous it is to trifle with the forbearance of the Almighty.  His enemies are destroyed – his church stands forever.  Read 2 Kings 18 to 21; 2 Chron. 29 to 33.

Reference in Nahum: 1:15. – Rom. 10:15.


         HABAKKUK prophesied in the days of Jehoiakim.  He describes the sins of the Jews and Chaldeans, the captivity, the punishment of the Chaldeans, and the mercy of God to his people.  He points out the duty of living by faith (ch. 2:1–4), and concludes with shewing the efficacy of a believer’s dependence upon God as a Saviour to sweeten the worst afflictions.  May we, like him, be enabled to rejoice under trials, in the God of our salvation.  Read 2 Kings 23; 2 Chron 36.


References. – 1:5. – Acts 13:40–41 and 2:3–4.  Rom. 1:17.


         ZEPHANIAH prophesied in the days of Josiah, king of Judah.  He threatens Judah for idolatry – calls them to seek the Lord – foretells the ruin of the enemies of the Jews, their captivity, and the future prosperity of God’s church.  The true church will triumph at last.  Happy are they only who are members of it (ch. 3:17).  Read 2 Kings 22 and 23; 2 Chron. 34 and 35.

         HAGGAI prophesied after the return of the Jews from captivity; see Ezra 5:1, 6:14.  To encourage them to rebuild the temple, he shews them that their distresses were occasioned by their disregard and neglect of the house of God (ch. 1:9), and foretells the coming of Christ, the desire of all nations, to it.  Chap. 2:7–9.  The glory of the Christian church in which the Saviour ever dwells, and which shall never be destroyed, is greater than that of either the former or the latter temple.  Under the name of Zerubbabel, Christ and his kingdom are foretold.  Read Ezra and Nehemiah.


References. – 2:6–7. – Heb. 12:26–27.  2:9. – John 1:14.


         ZECHARIAH prophesied about the same time as Haggai.  See Ezra 5:1, 6:14.  He delivers many remarkable predictions respecting Christ and his Gospel, 9:9–10, 11:11–13.  We may learn also from this book the duty of seeking the welfare of the spiritual temple, the church of Christ.  He gives many animating descriptions of the blessings of the Gospel.  See the promises of the spirit of grace and supplication, faith in the pierced Saviour, and deep repentance, chap. 12, and that of a fountain for sin and uncleanness, chap. 13.  Read Ezra and Nehemiah.


References in Zechariah.


9:9. – Matt. 21:4–5.  John 12:14–16.

11:12–13. – Matt. 27:7–10.

12:10. – John 19:34, 37.  Rev. 1:7.

13:7. – Matt. 26:31.  Mark 24:27.


         MALACHI prophesied after Zechariah, about 400 years B.C.  He foretells the ministry of John the Baptist, and the speedy coming of the Messiah.  Chap. 3:1.  The nearer the morning approaches, the more clearly the light shines.  What advantages we have in the full blaze of Gospel day!  O may we duly improve them, lest they rise up in judgment against us.


References in Malachi.


3:1. – Matt. 11:10.  Mark 1:2.  Luke 7:27.

4:5–6. – Matt. 17:10–12.  Mark 9:11–12.  Luke 1:16–17.


         A late prelate gives us the following clear and concise account of the history of the Jews, from the time of their captivity to the time of Christ; forming a connection between the Old and New Testament history.

         “The Jews had many revolutions of peace and war, and some changes in the mode of their government, from the time of their return from the Babylonian captivity to their complete subjection to the Romans; but their sacerdotal (or priestly) government, as it is sometimes called, continued with but little interruption through this whole space of about 600 years.  Having returned into their own country under the sanction and authority of Cyrus, they acknowledged the sovereignty of the kings of Persia, till that empire was overturned by Alexander the Great (according to Dean Prideux, B.C. 330).  They then became subject to his successors, first in Egypt, afterwards in Syria, till having been deprived of their civil and religious liberties for three years and a half, by Antiochus Epiphanes (B.C. 168), they were restored both to the exercise of their religion and their ancient independence, by the piety and bravery of Mattathias and his descendants (B.C. 165).  Under these Maccabean princes they became an entirely free state, supported by good troops, strong garrisons, and alliances, not only with neighbouring powers, but with remote kingdoms, even Rome itself.  This glory of the Jews was but of short duration; for, though the decline of the kingdoms of Egypt and Syria prevented their interference in the affairs of other states, yet the entire ruin of these two kingdoms, by the great accession of power which it brought to the Romans, paved the way for the destruction of the Jewish commonwealth.  Pompey compelled the Jews to submit to the arms of Rome (B.C. 63), and from that time their country was tributary to the Romans, although it was still governed by Maccabean princes.  The last of that family was conquered and deposed by Herod the Great, an Idumean by birth, but of the Jewish religion (B.C. 37), who had been appointed king of the Jews by the Romans, and enjoyed a long reign over the whole of Palestine, in the course of which he greatly diminished the civil power of the high priests.  He was succeeded in the government of the greater part of Palestine by his son Archelaus (B.C. 3), [That is, according to the common computation, being one year after the birth of Christ.] whose misconduct caused Augustus to banish him, and to reduce his dominions into the form of a Roman province (A.D. 8), and thus it appears that, with the exception of a short predicted period of Antiochus Epiphanes, the kingdom of Judah, for some time independent, but generally tributary, continued to enjoy its own religion and the form of its civil government till after the birth of the Messiah.”

         Manasseh, the brother of Jaddua the high priest, having married the daughter of Sanballat, of the seed of strangers, was on that account deprived of the priesthood by Nehemiah: see Neh. 13:28.  We are informed that Sanballat afterwards built a temple in favour of his son-in-law on Mount Gerizim in Samaria, in opposition to that of Jerusalem.  After this a schism arose between the Jews and the Samaritans, chiefly from the enmity of the Samaritans against the Jews, because the Jews would not admit them into their temple in opposition to the law of God.

         In general the Jews were never so faithful to God, as immediately after their return from captivity.  We never hear of idolatry being set up again by them.  Plenty was soon seen; and there was profound peace and tranquility for nearly 300 years, from Nehemiah to the Maccabees.  To this period we may apply many of the glowing descriptions which occur in the prophets; though we hope and believe that they will receive a fuller and much more glorious accomplishment when the kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ.

         The GOSPELS. – The word Gospel signifies glad tidingsgood news; and can there be better news to sinful man than to be informed that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners? or to lost man than to learn that he came to seek and to save that which was lost?  Here we see how all that was foretold respecting the appearance of the Messiah was exactly accomplished.  There are four histories of Christ, commonly called the Gospels, written at different periods, and by different persons.  The variations which occur in their relations shew that they did not write in concert; and by their general agreement they strongly corroborate each other’s testimony.  The great end of all is to shew us Jesus Christ, the salvation he has procured for us, and the example he has left us.  He is God and man; the same yesterday, today, and forever.  All the compassion that he manifested, and all the relief that he afforded to the bodies of men, is but a shadow of what he is ever ready to do for our souls.  All the instructions that he gave on earth shew how willing he is now to guide his people into the way of truth.  All the miracles shew his power to help us in the worst distress.  Believe in this Saviour; he will give you his Spirit, and you will be blessed in him, both in time and through eternity.  He has also left us an example, that we should follow his steps.  We should endeavour to be likeminded with Christ.*

         *[This is a very important point to be intended to in reading the Gospel; and to assist you in this respect, I subjoin some particulars in him which we should imitate.

            1.  His early piety, Luke 2:46–47.

            2.  His obedience to his earthly parents, Luke 2:51.

            3.  His unwearied diligence in doing good, Acts 10:38.

            4.  His humility and lowliness of mind, Matt. 11:29.  His self-denial, Phil. 2:7–8.  His contentment in a mean condition in this world.  Luke 9:58, Phil. 4:11.  He submitted to be a carpenter, Mark 6:3.

            5.  His frequent and long-continued private prayer, Matt. 14:23, Mark 1:35, Luke 6:12, 9:18.  His faith in prayer, John 11:42.

            6.  His frequent praise and thanksgiving, Matt. 11:25, John 11:41.

            7.  His compassion towards the miserable and distressed, Matt. 20:44.  His sorrow for their sufferings, Matt. 14:14.

            8.  His edifying and useful discourse, Luke 14:7, 24:13, etc.

            9.  His kind and condescending behaviour, Matt. 11:19, Luke 5:29.

            10.  His patience under sufferings and reproaches, 1 Peter 2:23.  His readiness to forgive injuries, Luke 23:34, 9:54–56.

            11.  His laying to heart the sins, as well as the sufferings of others, Mark 3:5.

            12.  His zeal for the public worship of God, John 2:17, Luke 4:16.  His impartial reproof of sin, Matt. 23:17, etc.

            13.  His cheerful submission to his heavenly Father’s will, Matt. 26:39.

            14.  His love and practice of universal holiness, John 4:34, 1 Peter 1:15–16.

            15.  His subjection to government, Matt. 17:27, 22:21.

            16.  His victory over temptations, Matt, 4:1–10.


         The Gospel also makes known the great work of the Holy Spirit.  The great and visible end and effect of the Holy Spirit’s work in bearing witness to the truth of what was said and done in that day by the Apostles and primitive Christians was in their circumstances of great importance.  That same Spirit creates our hearts anew, and puts us in possession of the spiritual blessing which God has promised in Christ Jesus.  The Gospel dispensation is peculiarly the ministration of the Spirit.

         MATTHEW, the author of the Gospel which is placed first in the New Testament, was a publican, which means a collector of taxes.  He was also named Levi.  Christ called him to be one of his apostles, and he remained constantly with him.  It is supposed that Matthew wrote about eight years after the death of Christ, and perhaps in the Hebrew language for the use of the Jews and Jewish Christians, as well as in the Greek for more general use.  It being most circulated in the Greek language, in time the Hebrew copy was lost.  He, having accompanied Christ in his journeyings, and witnessed his miracles, is considered as having written in exact order of time.  He gives us the genealogy of Christ, according to his legal descent from Joseph, and thus shews his title to the throne of David, agreeably to the Jewish customs.

         MARK’S Gospel is supposed to have been written under the inspection of the Apostle Peter, at the request of the Christians at Rome.  He records many of the same facts as Matthew, with some additional occurrences.  Mark was a Jew who had lived in Judea, and is considered as having written nearly in the order of time.  He is called Marcus, 1 Peter 5:13.

         LUKE was a physician, and probably descended from Gentile parents; but having embraced Judaism in his youth, he is supposed to have written his Gospel while travelling with St. Paul.  His history is more full than the others, and probably was written for the use of the Gentile converts.  Luke, having lived in Antioch, and not having himself seen the events he describes, is supposed to have little regard to the order of time in his account of Christ’s ministry.  He gives us the genealogy of Christ according to his natural descent from the Virgin Mary, and carries it up to Adam, shewing us that Christ was that seed of the woman which was promised for the redemption of the whole world.  It is evident that he was almost a constant companion of St. Paul (Acts 16:10, 27:1–2, 28:7, 16; Col. 4:14; 2 Tim. 4:11; Philem. 24), who possibly alludes to him.  2 Cor. 8:18.  [There have been considerable differences of opinion in accounting for the variations and yet verbal agreements in the three first Gospels.  Some have even supposed that the three Evangelists copied from one original written document.  A late Bishop well says on this subject, “I admit of a common document; but that document was no other than the preaching of our blessed Lord himself.  In looking up to him the author of their faith and mission, and to the very words in which he was wont to dictate to them (which not only yet sounded in their ears, but were also recalled by the aid of his Holy Spirit promised, John 14:26, for that very purpose), they have given us three Gospels, often agreeing in words (though not without much diversification), and always in sense.”]

         JOHN was the beloved disciple of Christ, and wrote his Gospel last of all.  His design was to confirm our faith in the Messiah (20:31), to add many of our Lord’s discourses not included in the other Gospels, and to confute several heresies then springing up respecting the person of Christ.  An account of the sentiments which he opposed, will be found in chapter 8 of this work.  As John was one of the Apostles, he wrote in the order of time, but principally with a view, however, of recording some remarkable particulars, which the other evangelists had either omitted or stated very briefly.

         The book of the ACTS OF THE APOSTLES was written by Luke, and contains the history of the church for about thirty years after Christ’s death.  It points out the situation of the followers of Christ on his ascending into heaven.  It shews us how completely his promise was fulfilled, that he would send them the Holy Spirit, and endue them with power from on high.  We here have a full record of the striking and important fact that the Christian Church first rose at Jerusalem, in the place where the enemies of Christ and of his disciples resided, and within a few weeks of his ascension.  So that if those enemies could have proved the Gospel a delusion, they had the opportunity; and could they have crushed it by power, we have every reason to believe they would have done it.  Yet, in spite of all their efforts, the first Christian Church rose and flourished, and the opposition of its enemies only more decidedly proved that it was the building of God.  Here also we see in how singular a manner the way was prepared for preaching the Gospel to the Gentiles.  We see the evident blessings of God upon it in its progress through the world, although superstition and idolatry were everywhere established, and Christianity was generally opposed and persecuted.  A thorough knowledge of this book will throw much light upon the Epistles which follow.  We here see the beginning of new day in the Church of God – that church which consists of a people distinct from the world – distinct from nominal or professing Christians – a people converted by the work of the Holy Spirit on their hearts.  These have ever felt and owned themselves lost and undone sinners, and have found themselves comforted and refreshed with divine peace, through faith in the righteousness and salvation of Christ.  They have obtained a new heart and a new spirit, have enjoyed communion with the Saviour, and through a spiritual union with him have received strength to overcome sin.  They have lived in him spiritually – have followed his example – had their conversation in heaven, and though despised and ill-treated by the world, yet they have returned good for evil, blessings for curses, prayers for persecutions, and kindness for injuries.  These are the real friends of mankind, the people of God, the church of Christ.*

         *[It is generally agreed that the first ages of the church of Christ were the purest, and that the character and conduct of the primitive Christians were such as greatly to recommend their religion.  We must not indeed imagine that the primitive churches were perfect.  It is one remarkable instance of divine providence that we have recorded in the inspired volume with the utmost simplicity the defects of every Church, and sometimes as in the case of the Corinthians, those defects were of a very serious character.  But had not these things been recorded, what minister, what missionary would not sink in despondency under his manifold trials and discouragements in the cause of Christ.  Still, with every abatement, it may be fully allowed that the primitive Christians were bright examples to succeeding ages.  The following outline of some particulars recorded of them, may help to shew us what is the real religion of the Gospel.

            1.  Dispositions towards God and Christ.  Deep impressions of their sinfulness and danger at the time of conversion, Acts 2:37, 9:6, 16:29–30; and a complete and entire change afterwards, 1 Cor. 6:9–11, Eph. 2:5–6.  Faith in Christ, Col. 1:3–4; 1 Thess. 1:5; 2 Thess. 1:3.  Fear of God, Acts 9:31.  Love of God, Rom. 5:5.  Hope in God, 1 Thess. 1:3.  Peace with God, Rom. 5:1.  Joy in God, Rom. 5:11.  Thankfulness to God, Acts 2:47, Eph. 5:19.  Love to Christ, 1 Cor. 16:22; 2 Cor. 5:14.

            2.  Attention to the ordinances of God and the means of grace.  Joy and reverence in receiving the Gospel, Acts 2:41, 46–47, 8:8; 1 Thess. 2:13.  Diligent study of the Scriptures, Acts 17:11.  Private devotion, Acts 2:42, 10:9.  Social prayer, Acts 16:25.  Public worship, Acts 3:1, 20:7.  Early in the morning, Acts 12:12; and late at night, Acts 20:7.  Prayers for their enemies, Acts 7:60.

            3.  Tempers and conduct towards others.  Esteem of their ministers, Gal. 4:14, Acts 20:38.  Prayers for them, Acts 12:5.  Care of them, Phil. 2:25, 4:10–18; and the love which the ministers had for their people, 2 Cor. 6:11.  Love to all the brethren, 1 Thess. 4:9–10, Eph. 1:15, Heb. 13:1; 1 Peter 1:22; and charity of relieving the necessities of those in want, Acts 11:29, Rom. 15:26, 1 Cor. 16:1–2; 2 Cor. 8:2, 5; Philem. 7; 3 John 6; Acts 2:45; 2 Thess.1:3.  Great unanimity and union, Acts 4:32.  Diligence in spreading religion, Acts 7:30.  Liberality and bounty, Acts 4:34, 2:45.  Separation from the wicked, 1 Cor. 5:11; 2 Thess. 3:6–14.

            4.  Conduct as it respected themselves.  Sober deportment, 1 Peter 1:4.  Deep humility, and thorough conviction of their own sinfulness, Eph. 3:8, 1 Tim. 1:13, 15–16; Rom. 7.  Patience and joy in affliction, 2 Thess. 1:4, Heb. 10:34, Acts 13:52, Rom. 5:3.  Willingness to die, and joy in the prospect of eternity, Phil. 1:23.

            5.  Suffering for Christ’s sake, Acts 5:41, 7:58, 8:1, 12:2, 13:50, 14:22, 16:23; 2 Thess. 1:4.

            This lovely picture might have been extended, but the above will suffice. Blots there were indeed, but it may be safely said that this was the general character of the first Christians. They were the glory of their ministers, who could appeal to the lives of Christians for the excellency of the Gospel.

            For a further account of this Church, see Milner’s admirable History of the Church of Christ, in 5 vols. 8vo. a most interesting and truly valuable book.]

         The EPISTLES are letters which were written and sent by the Apostles to the churches of Christ, or to particular persons.  Many of the peculiar doctrines, duties, and blessings of Christianity were so connected with the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ, and so dependent on these grand events, that they evidently could not be openly declared till the facts had taken place.  The Apostles themselves were not prepared to receive them till then.  Jesus said to them a short time before his death, I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now; howbeit, when he, the Spirit of Truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth; and then he promises, he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you. John 16:12–15.  After the resurrection of Christ, and the descent of the Holy Spirit, the Apostles understood what Jesus had said unto them; saw much more clearly than before the nature of the Gospel, and of the doctrines which distinguished it; and then they revealed them to the world plainly and distinctly.  The Epistles, therefore, as might be expected, display the doctrines of grace and the mysteries of godliness, even more than the Gospels: in them we see that the Holy Spirit taught the Apostles, when he took of the things of Jesus, and shewed them unto them.  Indeed they speak continually of Christ, and their great end seems to be to magnify his person, his salvation, and his glory.

         In order to obtain a general view of an Epistle, Frank advises to “read it as a letter from a friend three or four times over, without interruption, until you fully apprehend the meaning, and the subject of the whole becomes clear.  In fact, it should be perused, as it may be supposed the Epistles which Paul addressed to the Corinthians were perused by them – frequently; not with many interruptions; not by chapters; but in larger portions, and until they perfectly understood the Apostle’s mind.”

         St. Paul sometimes appears to wander from his subject; but it is only like the winding of a noble stream, which does not flow in a direct line to the ocean, but sometimes even seems to turn back: yet thus it fertilizes the country, and obtains fresh supplies of strength to pursue its course.

         For the supposed dates when, and the places whence the Epistles were written, see Chronological Table, seventh period.  The notes respecting these at the end of the Epistles in the Bible are not of inspired authority, and, in general, are far from being correct.

         ROMANS.  This Epistle was written to Christians whom the Apostle had not yet seen, who lived at Rome, which was then the capital or chief city of the whole world.  It contains a statement of the doctrines of the Gospel in regular order.  The groundwork or first principles of the Gospel are given in the first five chapters; the blessed fruits arising to believers from an experimental knowledge of those principles are displayed in the privileges enumerated in the six following chapters, and in the precepts or moral duties of the five last.  St. Paul shews that all mankind are guilty before God; and that the only way to be justified or accounted righteous in his sight, to obtain pardon, and a title to eternal life, is by believing with the heart in Jesus Christ; not that faith merits salvation; but it has pleased God to appoint faith as the means of our enjoying the blessings of the Gospel, that salvation might be altogether through grace.  He proves these doctrines by various arguments, illustrates them by the case of Abraham, and then shews their practical tendency.  No part of Scripture ought to be more thoroughly read, marked, learned, and inwardly digested.  It is altogether opposed to all ideas of salvation by our own works, either ceremonial or moral, either in whole or in part.  It sets before us free redemption, justification, and salvation in Christ Jesus alone, and yet shews us that the people of Christ will be a peculiar people, zealous of good works.

         1 CORINTHIANS.  Corinth was a large and wealthy city in Greece.  For the history of the formation of the Church at Corinth, read Acts 18:1–18.  St. Paul stayed here nearly two years.  After he had left Corinth, a false teacher, who was a Jew by birth (2 Cor. 11:22), came thither with letters of recommendation (2 Cor. 3:1), probably from the brethren in Judea, for which reason he is called a false apostle (2 Cor. 11:13), having been sent forth by men.  This teacher was of the sect of the Sadducees, (see 1 Cor. 15:12) and of some note on account of his birth (2 Cor. 5:16–17) and education.  He suited his doctrines to the prejudices, and his precepts to the practices of the Greeks.  Paul, being informed of these things (1 Cor. 1:11), sent Timothy and Erastus to Corinth (Acts 19:22; 1 Cor. 4:17), purposing soon to go himself. 2 Cor. 1:15.  But, receiving a letter from the sincere part of the church, and having a great field of usefulness at Ephesus, he determined to remain there for a time, and then go first into Macedonia. 1 Cor. 16:5–10.  In the meantime he wrote this his first Epistle, about three years after he left Corinth, to correct abuses arising from the conduct of the false teachers, and to give advice in some particular cases which had been submitted to him.  Few churches were more blessed with miraculous gifts than that of Corinth; but these gifts becoming occasions of pride, no church was so corrupt.  We need not wonder at there being scandals and divisions in our day, since they existed even in the time of the Apostles.  Learn from this Epistle the difference between gifts and grace, and be not discouraged at the want of the former, if you have the latter, which is infinitely more needful and valuable.  Notice the admirable description of Christian love in the 13th chapter, and of the resurrection of the righteous in the 15th.

         2 CORINTHIANS.  This Epistle was written within twelve months after the former, after receiving satisfactory information about them, to confirm them in their reformation, and to give them further advice and instruction.  St. Paul here defends himself from charges made against him, exhorts to reformation, and threatens the impenitent.  If Paul was unjustly reproached, why should Christians expect to escape reproach now?  Let us be more careful not to deserve censure, than to avoid it.  Observe and imitate Paul’s prudent, firm, and zealous measures in effecting a reformation.  What he says of the love of Christ, of the new creature, and of God’s beseeching sinners to be reconciled to himself in the fifth chapter is particularly important.

         GALATIANS.  Galatia was a province in Lower Asia.  Paul here writes against false teachers, who mingled the Mosaic Law with the Gospel, as if men could not be saved by faith in Christ without being circumcised and obeying the Jewish law; thus representing Christ as insufficient to save those who were not, by circumcision, proselyted to the Mosaic law. Acts 15.  The Apostle shews that the boasted law of the Jews was subsequent to promises and prophecies, which related to the Gospel, and therefore could have no controlling effect over that Dispensation of Grace to which, in reality, it was subservient.  Man has always been prone to think that he may be saved partly by works of one kind or other; but Christ, and Christ alone, is the only and complete Saviour of sinners, redeeming those who apply to him, both from the guilt and power of their sins.  This St. Paul proves in various ways; and then in the two last chapters he exhorts the Galatians to be fruitful in good works.  Real faith ever worketh by love.

         We have an account of St. Paul’s visiting Galatia, Acts 16:6, 18:23.

         EPHESIANS.  Ephesus was the chief city of Lower Asia, and famous for its temple to the Goddess Diana.  This Epistle of St. Paul breathes nothing but affection.  This church was evidently in a happy state (ch. 1:15), and in addressing it, St. Paul could pour out his whole heart.  The first three chapters of this interesting Epistle contain the doctrines, and the last three the practice, of the Gospel.  The order in which doctrine and practice are delivered, and the connection between both, are instructive.  Milner says, “This epistle, next to the Romans, may be looked on as a most admirable system of divinity.  Everything of doctrine and of duty is in it; and what the Gospel really is may hence be collected with the greatest certainty.” (Milner, vol. i, p. 87.)  Before you study this epistle, it may be useful to read Acts 18:18–28; and 19 and 20. – Read also Rev. 2:14, for an account of the state of this church many years afterwards.

         PHILIPPIANS.  This Epistle was written by St. Paul to the church at Philippi, a city of Macedonia.  The Christian church here, though small, appears to have been in a truly happy state.  There is not one censure in the whole Epistle.  None more generously and considerately manifested their care and regard for the Apostle.  The Epistle was written to encourage them to walk worthy of the Gospel; to warn them against false teachers and false doctrine; to exhort them to press forward, and to express his regard for their welfare.  It shews the strong love which subsisted between ministers and people in the first ages, and the blessed effects which the Gospel produces when cordially received.  Read Acts 16:9–40, and 20:1–6.

         COLOSSIANS.  Colossae was an ancient city in Phrygia.  It is uncertain by whom the church at this place was founded, though it appears from Acts 16:6 and 18:23 that  St. Paul had been in Phrygia.  This church, likewise, was in a flourishing condition, though exposed to false teachers; for an account of whose opinions, see chapter 7.  The two first chapters of this Epistle are doctrinal, the two last practical.  It sets forth the glory of the Saviour; the completeness of his salvation, and the fruits of faith.  The Epistles to the Ephesians and Colossians may be read together with advantage, as illustrating each other.

         1 THESSALONIANS.  Thessalonica was a chief city of Macedonia.  Probably this was the first Epistle which Paul wrote, and he solemnly directs that it be read unto all the holy brethren.  The church here formed was only just raised, and it was much persecuted.  Paul highly commends them, states the principles on which he acted, confirms them in the faith, tells them of Christ’s coming, and exhorts them to holy conversation.  Do we resemble these first Christians?  Read Acts 17:2–15.

         2 THESSALONIANS.  This seems to have been written to comfort them in their tribulation; to guard against the mistakes into which some had fallen, as if the day of judgment was close at hand: and to exhort those who neglected their employment, with quietness to work and eat their own bread.  A Christian will be diligent in every station in which he may be placed.  The second chapter appears to contain a very striking prophecy of Popery, under the characters of the man of sin, and the mystery of iniquity.

         1 TIMOTHY.  Timothy was converted under Paul’s ministry; and after labouring some time with him, was appointed over the church at Ephesus.  This Epistle was written to assist Timothy in the duty of watching over that church, and choosing proper ministers.  It is useful for the direction of ministers in the discharge of their office, wherever they may be placed.  The Apostle foretells future apostasies, and exactly describes what we have since seen in popery; ch. 4:1–4.  See in Paul’s example, what truly humble views of themselves real believers have, and examine your own heart.  For an account of Timothy, see Acts 16:1–3; 2 Tim. 1:5, 3:14–15.  See also Observations on the Epistle to the Ephesians.

         2 TIMOTHY.  This was probably written near the close of Paul’s life, and consists of exhortations to animate Timothy to endure persecutions with courage, and to caution him against false teachers.  It describes, in very striking language (ch. 3:1–5), the conduct and character of a class of persons who arose soon after, and corrupted the church by false doctrines and immoral maxims; and the spirit of the description applies with lamentable exactness to that general corruption of Christianity, which we see everywhere around us, in the characters of those who profess a religion which they neither truly believe, nor faithfully practice.  The whole Epistle may be considered as the advice of a dying and pious father to a much-beloved son.

         TITUS was converted under Paul’s ministry, and after accompanying him for some time, was left at Crete, an island which is now called Candia.  Paul here gives instruction to Titus, containing important and truly excellent advice to ministers, respecting the regulation and edification of the church.  We have, in a very few words, a summary of the whole Gospel, ch. 2:11–14; and again, ch. 3:4–8.  For an account of Titus, see 2 Cor. 7:6–7, 13–15; 8:16–23.

         PHILEMON was a Christian of some eminence at Colossae.  Onesimus, his slave, had run away, and afterwards was converted by the preaching of Paul, who sent him back to his master, with this truly kind, persuasive, and excellent letter.  What lessons it affords, and what a pattern it exhibits both to master and servant!  You will find Onesimus named with affection, Col. 4:9.

         HEBREWS.  This Epistle, generally considered to have been written by Paul to the converted Jews living in Judea, is intended to prove that the Gospel plan of salvation was prefigured and foretold in the Old Testament; and that those who believed the latter ought on that account to receive the former, and give up the shadow for the substance.  The Jews boasted of the majesty and glory attending the dispensation of Moses, and St. Paul here shews the superiority of Christ and the Gospel church.  This Epistle connects the Old and New Testament in an instructive, practical, and impressive way.  The beginning of this book (especially if you consult the references to the other Scriptures) is a most striking testimony to the Divinity of Christ.  In chapter 8 he explains the difference between the Jewish covenant made at Mount Sinai, and the Gospel covenant; and in chapter 11 he displays the admirable nature and effects of true faith, in many examples of the Old Testament saints.  O that we may obtain like precious faith with them.

         JAMES the less, the son of Alpheus, or Cleophas, wrote his Epistle a short time before his martyrdom and the destruction of Jerusalem.  It is supposed to have been either addressed to the Jewish nation in general, sometimes speaking to Christians, and sometimes to those who did not believe the Gospel; or to Jewish believers.  The converted Jews seem to have been in a low state; too many of them were hearers only, and not doers of the word.  The Scriptural doctrine of free justification was perverted and made an excuse for sin.  This Epistle was designed to correct these evils, and also to comfort sufferers under the cross.  He here shews the chief practical errors of mere professors.  Paul proves against the self-righteous, and against those who trusted in their ceremonial obedience that man is saved by faith; and James proves against the licentious, that the faith which saves will ever lead men to obey God, and produce good works.  They both bring the same example of Abraham.  Where James speaks of justification by works, he does not mean that works are the cause of our being justified, but the effects invariably connected with it.  Good works proceeding from faith shew that we are justified, and are also a test by which we may judge ourselves as to the reality and strength of our faith.

         1 PETER.  This Epistle was written to the Corinthians in the different provinces of Asia Minor.  The churches in that country were chiefly founded by St. Paul.  This Epistle was perhaps more particularly intended for the use of the Jewish converts, and designed to edify and comfort them in their afflictions.  Here the Apostle fulfills our Saviour’s directions, feed my sheep.  The great doctrines of the Gospel are powerfully, affectionately, and practically applied.  The relative duties are also pointed out and explained. [I cannot but refer such of my readers as can obtain it, to Leighton’s valuable Commentary on this Epistle.  One person truly says, “there is a spirit in Archbishop Leighton I never met with in any human writings, nor can I read many lines in them without being moved.”]

         2 PETER, written shortly before the Apostle’s death, warns believers against false prophets who perverted the Gospel; and exhorts them not only to stand fast in the truth, but also to grow in grace.  An awful description is given of the burning of the world!  What a motive for all holy conversation and godliness!

         1 JOHN, written by him either just before the destruction of Jerusalem, or, as others suppose, when full of years, after the death of the other apostles.  Heresies of various kinds (for a further account of which, see chapter 8 towards the end) began to abound.  Some denied that Christ had in reality come in the flesh, and asserted that he was manifested in appearance only.  These the Apostle attacked in a pointed manner; and in so doing, gives us extended views of Christ as the Son of God.  He adapted his instructions to the exigencies of the times, and dwelt much on the character of Christ as the eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us as the Son of God sent to be the Saviour of the world, and the propitiation for our sins; – and he brings the whole home to our hearts, by shewing us the love of God, and its practical tendency when truly felt, to excite us to love others.  He strongly urges the duty of brotherly love.  Here are marks and signs continually mentioned, whereby we may judge whether we are real Christians.  Let us try and examine ourselves by these marks.

         2 JOHN was written to some lady of rank and piety to encourage her to persevere in the truth and love of God, and to exhort her to beware of those heretics who denied the incarnation of Christ.

         3 JOHN was written to Gaius, a man of wealth, piety, and hospitality, to encourage him in helping forward some missions among the Gentiles.  It is equally addressed to us for the same end, as far as we have ability and opportunity.  He warns them against the ambition of Diotrephes, and recommends Demetrius.  Let us avoid the pride of Diotrephes, and copy the love of Gaius, and the unblameable conduct of Demetrius.

         JUDE was one of the Apostles (the same mentioned John 14:21–23), and called also Lebbeus, whose surname was Thaddeus.  He wrote this Epistle to guard believers against the same persons whom Peter, in his second Epistle, had opposed; persons who pretended to trust in the divine mercy, while they lived an ungodly life; nominal Christians, but dead in trespasses and sins.  Endeavour to understand by experience what he means, when he says, praying in the Holy Ghost, verse 20.

         REVELATION is so called because it consists chiefly of prophecies revealed to John while living in banishment at Patmos.  Many of these being yet unfulfilled, there is necessarily some difficulty in understanding this book.  It was written by John at the close of his life, and relates to the Church of Christ from that period to the end of time.  It describes (ch. 1) John’s vision of Christ in glory: – ch. 2, 3, the state of the seven churches of Asia, with suitable admonitions to each; that which applies to bodies of professing Christians may often be applied to individuals, and under one or other of the characters described, the reader will probably find his own.  Ch. 4 and 5, give a view of the Lamb on the throne, and the book of God’s decrees as to future events.  The remaining chapters shew the contents of that book.  The prophecies have been considered as dividing themselves into two parts.  The first part proceeding nearly in a regular succession of historical events, from the 6th chapter to the 18th verse of the 11th.  The second part (from the 19th verse of the 11th chapter) beginning again and containing an enlargement and illustration of the former, but in the same regular succession.  This latter part is supposed to be designed as a supplement to the former, the first describing the destinies of the Roman Empire, and the last relating to the state of the Christian Church.  It has been remarked, when men suffer for the name of Christ, they may here find consolation both for themselves and the Church; for themselves by the prospect and certainty of a reward; and for the Church, by the testimony that Christ never forsakes it, but will conquer at last.  The whole book contains many allusions to the temple of Jerusalem and its services, and to the priests and sacrifices.  Here, indeed, are shallows in which the Lamb may wade, and depths in which the elephant may swim.  The descriptions of the Saviour, his love, his atonement, and his glory – of heaven and the happiness of redeemed souls, and of the awful destruction of the wicked, are so peculiarly striking and interesting, that those who cannot at all understand the prophecies, may be greatly edified by these things, which are so plain and obvious.  Let us study and practice what is plain, and God will discover to us all that it is needful we should know.  Dr. Lowth well says – “An ordinary reader may receive great edification from those noble hymns offered up to God and Christ (ch. 4:8–11, 5:9–13, 7:12, 15:3–4), and may likewise discover many useful truths, such as the adoration of the one supreme God, in opposition to all creature worship (ch. 9:20, 14:7, 21:8, 22:15), the relying upon the merits of Christ only for pardon, sanctification, and salvation, ch. 5:9, 7:14, 12:11, 13:18; and that we ought to wait patiently for Christ’s appearing and his kingdom, and in an earnest expectation of it; to continue steadfast in the profession of the true faith, and practice of sincere holiness, notwithstanding all the sufferings that may attend a good conscience.  Ch. 13:10, 14:12–13, 16:15.  All may learn those marks and characters of Antichrist which it most nearly concerns us to take notice of, viz. pride, ambition, and affectation of worldly pomp and grandeur (Rev. 13:7, 17:4); a cruel and persecuting temper (ch. 9:21, 11:7, 13:7–17, 16:6, 18:20, 24; 19:2), seeking to reduce others rather by force and compulsion, than by reason and argument; the love of ease and softness; and a careless and luxurious life (ch. 17:3, 18:3–14); and that whoever are guilty of these things, are so far departed from the true spirit of Christianity; and surely he that takes warning from the plain and frequent admonitions of this book to avoid these sins has not wholly lost his labour in reading it, and withal has entitled himself to the blessing which is pronounced upon those who keep its sayings. Rev. 1:3.”

         For the historical events foretold in this book, which have been already fulfilled, the reader is referred to the Chronological Table.


Chapter 6 – Some Practical Remarks on Various Subjects in the Bible,

Particularly on the Law and the Gospel.

         The book of God, like the book of nature, is full of wonders, and contains such an endless variety of matter as may well engage the study and attention of our whole lives.  It is like a rich landscape, beautifully varied with woods and hills, meadows and rivers: and yet, while there are heights and depths which none can measure, there is a road so plain that a wayfaring man, though a fool, need not err therein.  I purpose briefly to mention some of the various subjects of which the Bible treats.

         The HISTORY of the events, which are recorded in the Bible, is the most ancient and the only authentic account which we have of the origin of the various nations of the earth, and of their early state and condition.  It shews us that God has ever had a church in the world; it exhibits the character of his people, and of the wicked, in various trying circumstances; it proves the corruption of human nature; and plainly discovers to us that God ordereth all things after the counsel of his own will.  Observe how slightly mighty conquerors and kings, who have made so much noise in the world, are passed over; whilst in the lives of good men, circumstances, which many are disposed to think insignificant, are dwelt upon with particularity.  How short an account is given of Nimrod, the founder of Nineveh and Babylon, the two greatest cities in the world; whilst the various events of the life of Abraham, are described with great minuteness.  This may teach us who are the persons that God best approves; and it clearly points out that those who are little noticed by the world around them, are sometimes very important links in the chain of his purposes.  History shews the fulfillment of prophecy.  It affords us also examples of the rules which God gives in the Scriptures, and thus greatly assists us in understanding those rules.  In the Old Testament history there is a frequent display of types, the explanation of which, however, requires judgment and wisdom, a knowledge of their law, order, and right use.  (See Types.)  To read history profitably, you must enquire as you go along, – Is my character like that of this good man?  May God make it so.  Or unlike this or that evil man?  May God keep me from his sin.  Mark how sad the end of the wicked; but the end of the righteous is peace.  Read the lives of good men as a pattern for your imitation, in those duties which belong to your calling.  Thus endeavour to be upright among evil men, as Noah was in a corrupt world.  Imitate the faith of Abraham, the meekness of Moses, the devotion of David, the zeal of Josiah, the boldness of Peter and John, and the indefatigable labours of Paul.

         In studying history, endeavour to get clear ideas of some great epochs, or remarkable points of time, such as the creation of the world, 4004 years B.C.  The deluge, 2348 B.C.  The calling of Abraham, 1921 B.C.  The departure of Israel out of Egypt, 1491 B.C.  The building of Solomon’s temple, 1012 B.C.  The captivity, 588 B.C.  The close of the Old Testament history, 409 B.C. and the birth of Christ.  Other events between these periods will then be more easily arranged in your mind.

         MIRACLES are wonderful acts, or effects superior or contrary to the known laws of nature.  Such are the miracles of the Bible.  To lead a nation through the sea, or across a river, on dry land; to feed that nation for forty years together with bread from the clouds; to open the eyes of the blind, to walk on the Sea, to feed several thousand people with a few loaves and fishes, and to restore life to the dead with a word, are evidently effects far above the common course of nature, and which plainly manifest the power of God.  These things were not done in a corner, but openly before vast multitudes; not once, but repeatedly, in a great variety of cases and situations; not in the dark, but in the noon day; in the midst not only of friends, but of enemies, who were either converted by means of them, or when they could not deny the miracles, attributed them to Satan; an objection evidently confuting itself, as they tended to destroy his kingdom.  They were also worthy of God; in the acts themselves, which either manifested his justice or his mercy, and in the ends for which they were wrought, to confirm a religion, the knowledge and reception of which was of inestimable importance to man.  Their truth is supported by the strongest evidence.  The reception of the Mosaic law, with all its burdensome rites and ceremonies by the Jews, and the lives and sufferings of the first Christians, plainly prove that those who had the fullest opportunity for investigation, and the greatest interest in being assured of their truth, did really and completely give credit to them.  On no other ground can we account for their conduct, especially when we know that so many Christians suffered even unto death for the sake of their religion.  When we consider the nature of these signs and wonders, their number and the powerful inducement which all who saw them had to examine and reject them if they were in any respect suspicious, there is no conceivable method left either of accounting for the events themselves, or for the effect which was produced by them, except that of attributing them to the mighty power of God.  The miracles therefore recorded in the Bible prove to us the divine mission of those by whom they were wrought.  No man, saith Nicodemus to Christ, can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.  The truth of the Scripture miracles was never denied in the ages when they were performed.  Moses appeals to those that knew them, as being themselves witnesses of the truth of what he relates, and the Apostles of Christ do the same.  Thus the miracles, when properly considered, confirm and strengthen our faith in the Bible, and in the Saviour’s power and love.*


He turns water into wine, John 2:1–11.

Raises the dead, Luke 7:11–17, 8:40–56, John 11:1–57, Matt. 9:18–26.

Heals the sick, Mark 3:1–5, Luke 4:38–44, 5:17–26, 7:1–10, 8:43–48, 13:10–17, John 4:46–54, 5:1–16, Luke 22:49–51, Mark 1:30–31, Matt. 8:5–13, 9:1–8, 12:10–13, 15:22–28, Luke 14:1–6, 22:50–51.

Cleanses the lepers, Matt. 8:1–4, Luke 17:11–19, Mark 1:40–45.

Casts out devils, Luke 4:33–37, Matt. 8:28–34, Luke 8:2, Matt. 15:21–28, 17:14–21, Mark 1:23–28, Matt. 12:22–23.

Makes the deaf to hear, Mark 7:31–37.  The dumb to speak, Matt. 9:32–33, 12:22–23.  The blind to see, Matt. 9:27–31, 20:29–34, John 9:1–7, Mark 8:22–26.

Walks on the sea.  Matt. 14:25, 32.

Calms the tempest, Matt. 8:24–27.

Feeds five thousand, John 6:5–14, Matt. 14:15–21.

Feeds four thousand, Matt. 15:33–39.

Procures tribute money, Matt. 17:24–27.

Escapes the Jews, John 8:59.

Drives the buyers and sellers out of the temple, John 2:13–17.

Causes the barren fig tree to wither, Matt. 21:18–22.

Causes a miraculous draught of fishes, Luke 5:1–11, John 21:1–6.

See Campbell and Douglas on the Miracles.

         PROPHECIES are predictions of future events.  Since God alone can foresee with certainty the future actions of free agents, and the remote consequences of those laws which he himself has appointed, prediction, when clearly fulfilled, affords the most convincing evidence of a divine mission.  The progressive fulfillment of prophecy is, as it were, a standing miracle.  The chain of Scripture prophecies accomplished in the present state of almost all nations – the Arabians, Africans, Egyptians, Jews, Saracens, Turks, Mahomedans, Papists, and Protestants, and also of Nineveh, Babylon, Tyre, Jerusalem, Rome, and the seven churches of Asia – furnishes indeed an unanswerable argument of the truth of the Bible.  This miracle is open to the observation of all mankind, and after so many ages is still growing – still improving as time advances, and as history interprets its meaning.  Many of the prophecies will necessarily be obscure, partly from our ignorance, and partly because the events are not accomplished.  Let this humble us and exercise our faith.  But others, particularly those respecting Jesus Christ, will be plain and obvious.  Feeble glimmerings of this great light of the world began to appear immediately after the fall.  The prophecies respecting him became more clear and minute, as their accomplishment approached.  The whole chain of prophecy, first committed to the Jews, and still preserved by them, when compared with its fulfillment in Christ, affords another striking evidence of the truth of our religions, and is calculated to impress us with exalted views of that Saviour so long expected, and to whom give all the prophets witness.*

         *[Some of the most important of these predictions, with the passages in the New Testament shewing their fulfillment, are subjoined.

Predictions. — Fulfillment.

Gen. 3:15. — Gal. 4:4, 1 John 3:8.

Gen. 18:18, 22:18 — Gal. 3:8, 16; Matt. 1:1.

Gen. 49:10. — John 10:36, 17:18, 21, 23; Heb. 1:10.

Exod. 12:46. — John 19:33, 36.

Numb. 24:17. — Rev. 22:10.

Deut. 18:15, 18. — Acts 7:37.

2 Sam. 7:12–13. — Matt. 1:1.

Job 19:25–26. — 1 Thess. 4:16–17; 1 Cor. 15:24, 26; 1 Tim. 3:16.

Psa. 2:1. — Acts 4:26–27.

Psa. 2:6–7, 9. — Acts 13:33, Heb. 5:5, Rev. 2:27.

Psa. 8:2, 118:25–26. — Matt. 21:9, 16.

Psa. 16:10. — Acts 2:31, 13:33, 37; 1 Cor. 15:54.

Psa. 22 and 69. — Matt. 27:35, 46, 48; John 19:23–24.

Psa. 40:6–8. — Heb. 10:5, etc.

Psa. 41:9. — Matt. 26:47.

Psa. 45:6–7. — Heb. 1:8–9, John 3:35.

Psa. 68:17–18. — Eph. 4:8, Col. 2:15.

Psa. 89:19. — Col. 1:15, Rev. 19:16.

Psa. 97:7, 102:25, 27. — Heb. 1:6, 10–12.

Psa. 110:1, 4. — Matt. 22:42–44, Acts 2:33; Heb. 5:6, 7:2–3, 17.

Psa. 118:22. — Matt. 21:42, Eph. 2:20; 1 Peter 2:7.

Isaiah 6:9–10. — Matt. 13–15.

Isaiah 7:14. — Matt. 1:20–23.

Isaiah 8:14, 28:16. — Rom. 9:33; 1 Peter 2:8.

Isaiah 9:1– 2. — Matt. 4:14–16.

Isaiah 11:1–2. — John 3:34, Col. 2:3, John 1:32.

Isaiah 41:1–3. — Luke 4:18, 21.

Isaiah 35:5–6. — Matt. 11:5.

Isaiah 40:3. — Matt. 3:1–3, Luke 3:4–6.

Isaiah 43. — Matt. 26 and 27.

Jer. 23:5–6 — Luke 1:32–33.

Ezek. 34:23–24, 37:21, 24. — John 10:1–16, 1:49, 19:19, 21.

Dan. 7:13–14. — Matt. 24:30, 26:64, 28:18.

Dan. 9:24–26. — Heb. 9:26, John 1:41.

Dan. 9:27. — Matt. 24:15.

Hosea 11:1. — Matt. 2:19–20.

Joel 2:28–29. — Acts 2:16, etc.

Micah 5:2. — Matt. 2:1, 6; Luke 2:4–5.

Haggai 2:6–7, 9. — Luke 2:10–11, 27; Heb. 12:26.

Zech. 3:8, 6:12. — Luke 1:78–79.

Zech. 9:9. — Matt. 21:5, John 12:15.

Zech. 11:12–13. — Matt. 26:15, 27:9–10.

Zech. 12:10. — John 19:34, 36; Acts 2:23.

Zech. 13:7. — Matt. 26:31.

Mal. 3:1, 5. — Matt. 11:10, 3:1, 3.


The spring of the waters of salvation, hid in the councils of God before time began, was opened immediately after the fall, and began to flow in a small but reviving brook.  Increasing by degrees, and, from the very first, making everyplace it passed through fertile and pleasant, it soon became a large stream; at length the main current of the Gospel flowed in, and now it rolls on, full of water, greatly enriching the earth, a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, the streams whereof, make glad the city of God, and shall do so, till this river empties itself into the ocean of eternity. [See Leighton on Peter.]

         The history of the church of God seems to close in the Bible with the Acts of the Apostles; but prophecy contains a declaration from Him of what shall take place to the end of time.

         There is a double sense in which prophecy is sometimes fulfilled; the first relating to some temporal blessing or deliverance of the Jews, and the second and fuller sense relating to the diffusion and blessings of the Gospel.  Thus the restoration of the Jews from captivity may be the groundwork of those predictions of the flourishing state of the church, described in such glowing language in the 40th and following chapters of Isaiah; but the prophet evidently enlarges his views to the spread of the Gospel, and a more happy state than the church has ever yet been blessed with.  The 72d Psalm may, in the first instance, relate to Solomon, but has obviously a complete fulfillment only in Christ. [See Chapter 7; also Bishop Newton on the Prophecies.]  There is also a spiritual sense in which many of the prophecies may be usefully and practically applied for our edification.  Thus we may consider the return of Israel from Babylon to Canaan, as resembling our return from the bondage and captivity of sin, to the freedom of the children of God and the heavenly Canaan.

         It should be observed, that the meaning of the word prophecy in the Scriptures is not always confined to the foretelling of future events.  It sometimes signifies to preach and interpret Scripture, and to edify, exhort, and comfort others; see Neh. 6:7; 1 Cor. 14:3, etc.

         A knowledge of THE GEOGRAPHY OF THE BIBLE, or the situation and state of the countries mentioned in Scripture is of importance, as it explains many parts of the sacred writings.  The mode of building their houses with flat roofs, the peculiarities of the atmosphere, the state of the seasons, the natural productions of the soil, and the condition of the neighbouring nations, are all useful to be known, as this knowledge satisfactorily accounts for many things otherwise difficult and obscure. [Those who are able to pursue this subject, may consult Wells’s Geography of the Old and New Testament, Maundrel’s Travels, Shaw’s Travels, etc.; Calmet’s Dictionary, by Taylor.]

         A knowledge of THE CHRONOLOGY OF THE BIBLE, or the times when the events recorded took place, and when particular books were written, will assist you in understanding many parts of Scripture, particularly the Psalms of David and the prophecies.  A Bible with margin references will greatly help you in this respect.

         The PROMISES of the Bible exercise, support, and strengthen our faith; and excite, guide, and encourage our prayers.  They ought to cheer the heart and animate the hopes of a Christian, even in the worst times.  They convey and assure to him, under the seal of God who cannot lie, immense blessings here and hereafter.  We should read them in the same spirit with which Abraham received them, being fully persuaded that what God had promised he was able also to perform.  We should long and pray for an interest in them. [See Clarke’s Collection of Scripture Promises, with a useful Introduction.]

         There are THREATENINGS also; and we should receive these in the same spirit with which Noah received the threatening of the deluge.  By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house, by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.  We read that the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men; and Jesus Christ will be an ark to the soul of the sinner who feels his danger, and flies to him for refuge from eternal ruin.

         There are DOCTRINES to illuminate our minds, and animate our hearts; and PRECEPTS to be the guide of our daily conduct.  The different parts of divine truth have particular places, where each is more expressly declared and explained.  Thus justification is chiefly treated of in the Epistles to the Romans and Galatians; faith and its effects in the 11th of Hebrews; charity or Christian love in the 11th; and the resurrection of the righteous in the 15th of the first Corinthians.  There are other passages which may, at particular times, have been much impressed on your mind.  Some may have been a source of great comfort, others may have convinced you of sin, and others may have been practically useful in guiding your judgment on disputed points.  It is useful to have a knowledge of such places, and you might with advantage form an index of them for your own use.

         The DEVOTIONAL parts of the Bible, particularly the Psalms, give us suitable words for our addresses at the throne of grace.  They shew us the feelings of good men, when drawing near to God in prayer, and their religious experience in the various circumstances of life.  Try to kindle your own devotion from theirs, in simple dependence on the Holy Spirit. – Boyle said, “No book of devotion does constantly affect me so powerfully as the Bible.”

         FIGURATIVE language is continually used to represent divine truth.  Milner says, “Who does not see that divine things may often be more strongly and more simply conveyed to the understanding of the common people by parables and comparisons, than by abstract reasonings?  God knows what suits his creatures best.  An unlearned, simple mind, will feed on a divine truth conveyed in a type or emblem, and will receive a clear and strong impression in that way, when the capacity is not able to go through a strict course of reasoning.  Many, indeed, I fear, have helped to strengthen the prejudice against figures by the wrong, though well-meant, use made of them.  This, however, lessens not their real value.”

         The figures are taken from nature, such as light and darkness, sun, moon, and stars, etc. – from the persons and actions of holy men, as those of Moses, David, etc. – from the institutions of the law, as the sacrifices and fasts – and from the history of the church as the saving of Noah and his family from the flood.  It is the excellence of this mode of speaking, particularly as it respects figures from nature, that it is not confined to any particular nation, or language, but applies itself equally to all men in all nations.  Words are changeable, and language has been confounded; but the visible works of nature speak to us now, as they spoke to Adam in Paradise.  The Scripture itself generally contains a key to the figures, and is the best guide to their interpretation – as the book of Hebrews to the ceremonial law.

         Dr. Coke has the following useful observation on this subject in his Introduction to his Notes on the Bible. – “In order to judge of the extent of the spiritual sense in the Old Testament, it must first be recollected that in every emblem and enigma, in every parable and comparison, the parallel can never be perfect, because the shadow and the image are always below the truth.  The shadow would be no longer a shadow, if it contained all the perfections of the body which it represented; the image would be no longer an image, if it contained all the substance of the original.  Thus Christ says, Behold, I cone as a thief!  Rev. 16:15.  Is he then a thief? – he has not the wickedness of one; but, as the thief comes and surprises us in the stillness of the night, so Christ, at his last coming, shall surprise men who are resting in perfect security.  And so in the parable of the unjust steward (Luke 16:1–8), his prudence, not his injustice, is the thing approved and intended to be enforced.  Thus the comparisons must never be strained beyond the points of which they are the objects; yet the imperfection of the comparisons destroys not their truth, because from their nature they must necessarily be incomplete.”

         TYPE signifies a person, or thing, that prefigures something to come.  The word Type does not occur in our translation of the Bible (the Greek word τυπος, being rendered, figure, example), but the idea is given, 1 Cor. 10:6, 11; Heb. 10:1.  It means a model of the great things that were afterwards to be fully manifested.  “It might be expected,” says Cecil, “that when God had determined to send his Son into the world, there would be a train and concatenation of circumstances preparatory to his coming – that the history which declared that he was to come, should exhibit many patterns and things which should form a grand preparation for the event, though not so many as an absurd fancy might imagine.”  The types of the Saviour were, however, very numerous, for no single type, figure, or shadow, can fully point out him who is the great antitype of all types, the substance of all figures and shadow.  There were typical persons, as Adam, Melchizedek, and Moses, etc.  Typical things, as Noah’s ark, the manna, etc.  Typical institutions, as circumcision, not muzzling the ox treading out the corn, etc.  Typical places, the city of refuge, Jerusalem, etc.  Typical utensils, the ark of the covenant, the golden candlestick, etc.  Typical offerings, the various offerings of the law.  Typical seasons, the Passover, Pentecost, etc.  Typical purifications, cleansing from leprosy, etc.  “The old dispensation was typical, but the new is a dispensation unrolled – a dispensation of substance and realities.  Much folly on the subject of allegorical interpretation has arisen from a want of holy awe on the mind.”  Cecil.

         PARABLES are a figurative or historical representation of the truth, illustrating something we do not know, by a statement of something we do know, to impress it more strongly on the mind; such as those of the prodigal son, the lost sheep, etc.  To understand a parable, you must chiefly attend to its scope or design, which may be gathered either from an express explanation, or from the introduction or conclusion.*


[*List of Parables in the Old Testament.

Jotham’s, the trees making a king, Judges 9:7.

Nathan’s, the poor man’s ewe lamb, 2 Sam. 12:1.

Two brothers striving together, 2 Sam. 14:1.

The prisoner that made his escape, 1 Kings 20:39.

The thistle and the cedar, 2 Kings 14:9.

The vineyard yielding wild grapes, Isa. 5:1.

In the Gospels.

The sower, Matt. 13:3, Mark 4:3, Luke 8:5.

The tales, Matt. 13:24.

The mustard seed, Matt. 13:31, Mark 4:30, Luke 13:18.

The leaven, Matt. 13:33, Luke 13:20.

The hidden treasure, Matt. 13:44.

The pearl of great piece, Matt. 13:45.

The barren fig tree, Luke 13:6.

The prodigal son, Luke 15:11.

The good Samaritan, Luke 10:30.

The rich man and Lazarus, Luke 16:19.

The unjust steward, Luke 16:1.

The lost sheep, Matt. 18:12, Luke 15:4.

The lost piece of money, Luke 15:8.

The importunate widow, Luke 18:1.

The Pharisee and publican, Luke 18:10.

The nobleman who went to receive a kingdom, Luke 19:11.

The creditor who had two debtors, Luke 7: 41.

The vine and the branches, John 15:1.

The seed opening insensibly, Mark 4:26.

The net cast into the sea, Matt. 13:47.

The unmerciful servant, Matt. 18:28.

The labourers in the vineyard, Matt. 20:1.

The two sons sent into the vineyard, Matt. 21:28.

The wicked husbandmen, Matt. 21:33, Mark 12:1, Luke 20:9.

The invitation to the feast, Matt. 22:1, Luke 14:16.

The man not having on the wedding garment, Matt. 22:11.

The ten virgins, Matt. 25:1.

The talents, Matt. 25:14.

The door and the good shepherd, John 10:1.]


On the Covenants

         A Covenant, in the English language, is an agreement between two or more parties, and supposes that each consents to the agreement made; but the original word (both in Hebrew and the Greek) commonly rendered Covenant, has also a more enlarged signification.  It sometimes evidently signifies the absolute appointment of a person in those matters that are entirely at his own disposal; Gen. 9:9–17, Isa. 54:9–10, Jer. 33:20, Heb. 8:8–13.  The Greek word is often translated Testament.  Dispensation, or the Dealings of God with his creatures, seems more exactly to convey the meaning in those places, [See Campbell’s Dissertation on the words, καινη διαθηκη. Vol. 1, Dissert. 5, Part 3.] where it refers to the Jewish or Christian religion.  When we meet with the term covenant, we must bear in mind, then, that all things which are essential to an agreement, are not to be considered as necessarily included in it.

         There are various covenants mentioned in the Scripture; the principal of which are, the Old Covenant, or Jewish Dispensation, and the New Covenant, or Christian Dispensation.  See Heb. 8:6–13.

         While our first parents kept their innocence in the garden of Eden, they were, in the strict sense of the term, under A LAW OF WORKS: and pious and learned men have therefore sometimes represented them as under a covenant of works, though the law given to them is not expressly so called in the Scriptures.  Upon the fall of Adam, we read of the promise of grace made to him.  The method of obtaining life by obedience was to sinful beings impossible; every hope revealed to man was on the ground of that Dispensation of mercy, of which Christ is the mediator, and which, in the fullness of time, was more completely made known.

         In the meanwhile, God made a COVENANT WITH ISRAEL, as a nation, in which he gave them a more full revelation of his holy will, and of his promises of mercy, than he had done before.  This is called the first covenant, and the old covenant, in relation to the second or the new covenant, which is the Dispensation of the Gospel.  The Jews deputed Moses to appear before God for them, and promised to hear and to do whatsoever the Lord should speak unto him; and, accordingly, Moses drew near to God, and God delivered the law to him.  Deut. 5:27–31.  To this covenant St. Paul continually alludes (Gal. 4:24, 26; Heb. 12:18–22), in order to contrast it with the Gospel Dispensation, and shew the superior excellency of the latter.

         The advantages of the NEW COVENANT are shewn at length by the Apostle in the 8th of Hebrews.  He gives an account of its benefits, as consisting not only in the pardon of sin, but in the writing of the law of God on the heart.  He says that Jesus Christ is the Mediator of a better covenant which was established on better promises.  For if the first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second.  For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah; not according to the covenant which I made with their fathers, in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord.  For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts; and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people; and they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know ye the Lord; for all men shall know me, from the least to the greatest.  For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.

         Of this new covenant there have been, if the expression may be used, several hints or manifestations, beside the promise made to Adam, viz, to the patriarchs, – to Moses – and to the prophets.  Each explained its nature more fully and clearly than the preceding. [Watts’s “Harmony of all Religions, which God ever prescribed to man, and all his dispensations towards them,” is well worth the reader’s perusal on this subject.]  This may be easily traced in the list of predictions under the head Prophecy in this chapter.

         We Christians have, then, now the advantage of a better covenant than the Jews had; and, being come to Jesus the mediator of this new covenant, the Apostle thus practically improves the subject:  See that ye refuse not him that speaketh; for if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven.  A careful regard to the word of Christ, an earnest application to him for help, and a cordial reception of him as our Saviour, are the great means of escaping the deserved anger of God, and gaining the advantages of the better covenant.

         Besides the two already described, there are other covenants spoken of, as the covenant which God made with Noah, with Abraham, and with David.  Jesus Christ, as the Messiah, is spoken of in prophecy as given for a covenant of the people. Isa. 42:6.  All these, more or less, had a direct reference to one or the other of the two great dispensations, the Law and the Gospel, in which God had made known his will to man.

         The nature of the dispensation of the Law and the Gospel will be further seen in subsequent observations.


On the Law Generally.

         A LAW is a rule of action given by a superior to his subjects, and sanctioned by suitable rewards and punishments,

         The law which God gave to Adam required perfect obedience, under pain of death.  Gen. 2:16–17.  Adam, as the father of the human race, did not act simply for himself; but his conduct, in its result, affected all his posterity; he had full power to obey the law given to him; but by his fall he broke it, became sinful and guilty, and incurred the penalty and curse; in consequence of which the whole race of man fell in him, since they all became mortal and prone to evil; for in Adam all die (1 Cor. 15:24): he begat a son in his own likeness, after his image (Gen. 5:3–4), not in the image and likeness of God; so that if there had been no other method of obtaining life than by perfect obedience, he and all mankind would necessarily have been left in a state of sin, condemnation, and utter ruin. Rom. 5:18–19.  But it pleased God, who is rich in mercy, immediately after Adam’s fall (see Gen. 3:15) to reveal to him, as has been observed, the first display of the covenant of grace, of which we have already spoken.  Yet Christians are not thereby released from the obligation of that obedience which is due to the law of God from all his creatures; they being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ; “bound to receive the moral law from his hand, as a rule of duty, taught by his grace to love it, and delight in it; and being delivered from its curse, engaged by additional motives to yield a prompt obedience to it.”

         The term law is frequently used, especially in the Old Testament, in a general sense, for the sacred Scriptures, or the revelation of God’s holy will.  See Psa. 19, and many passages in Psa. 119, etc.  But when we speak of the law in general, we mean the moral law, which is the declaration of God’s holy will; and the neglect or transgression of which law is sin.  1 John 3:4.  In this view the Law is frequently opposed to the Gospel, and distinguished from it by St. Paul in the Epistle to the Romans (see chapter 7:5), though he sometimes uses the term in other senses.


Of the Jewish Law.

         The Jewish law may be considered in a threefold point of view.  1st, the JUDICIAL, or political law, for the government of the Jewish nation:  2d, the CEREMONIAL law, prefiguring Jesus Christ and his church and kingdom.  This law was also designed to preserve the Jews from falling into the idolatries of the neighbouring countries.  Many of the ordinances which seem strange to us had a particular respect to the religions customs of the nations around them.  It was, besides, of great use in promoting a number of moral habits, and in uniting the people together as one body, separate from other nations; and, 3d, the law of MORAL CONDUCT, or those commandments which are usually called moral, and in that respect binding upon all.  The ten commandments contain a convenient and comprehensive summary of the most important duties of the moral law, by which the Jews were to regulate their conduct, as the people who had chosen the Lord to be their God and obedience to which would both glorify him, and promote their own welfare.*

         *[There is a considerable difference of opinion respecting the nature of the law given on Mount Sinai.  Perhaps it maybe justly said that many of the distinctions used were more artificial than those made in the New Testament; but the reader may probably like to see the following view given of it by Brown, of Haddington.

            As the ten commandments inculcate moral duties, were accompanied by thunder and lightning, and awful displays of the divine glory, and were sanctioned by the authority of God, they may be considered as a republication of the COVENANT OF WORKS.  As they are introduced by the preface, I am the Lord thy God which, brought thee out of the land of Egypt, and out of the house of bondage, and were to be laid up in the ark, and to be attended with sacrifices, there appears in them a declaration of the COVENANT OF GRACE, with the law, as a rule of life.  And as they were required to be observed in order to secure a happy entrance into Canaan, and a peaceful residence there, they may justly be considered as a NATIONAL COVENANT between God and Israel.]

         Should any one ask, How far is the Old Testaments binding upon Christians? it may be replied, “The law given from God by Moses, as touching ceremonies and rites, does not bind Christian men, nor ought the civil precepts of necessity to be received in any commonwealth; yet notwithstanding no Christian man whatsoever is free from the obedience of the commandments which are called moral.”  The Epistle to the Hebrews is a general confirmation of the truth of this observation and that Epistle fully shews that the Old Testament contained sufficient to convince the Jews that the Mosaic dispensation was not designed to be perpetual.

         Moses foretold that a prophet should be raised like unto him, and added, Unto him shall ye hearken: and it shall come to pass, whosoever will not hearken unto my words, which He shall speak in my name, I will require it of him. Deut. 18:15–19.  And when our Lord was transfigured, and Moses and Elias appeared unto him, the voice from the cloud said, This is my beloved Son, hear ye him.  Jeremiah also foretold that God would make a new covenant with his people: see Jer. 31:31, etc.; Heb. 8:8, etc.  Whatever, therefore, shewed that the promised Messiah was come; – had  brought in a new covenant; – had fulfilled the great purposes of the sacrifices and other rites of the law; – had exhibited a new display of the divine will; clearly proved that the authority of the dispensation by Moses was annulled; and whatever was peculiar to that dispensation was no longer binding.

         The gradual abolition of the Judicial and ceremonial part of the Mosaic dispensation, from the coming of John the Baptist to the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, is worthy of observation.  Our Lord gave his Apostles the power of declaring things to be lawful or unlawful.  Matt. 18:18.  The death of Jesus fulfilled the types of the law.  The introduction of the Gentiles into the church of God shewed that he was establishing the new covenant; the old having done its office.  That which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away. Heb. 8:13.  Before the first Gentile convert was brought into the Christian Church, St. Peter had a vision respecting UNCLEAN ANIMALS, when a voice spake to him, and said, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common. Acts 10:15.  The Apostles, met in counsel, decreed that the Gentiles should not be troubled about CIRCUMCISION and other rites of the law of Moses. Acts 15:24–29.  And St. Paul says, Christ abolished in his flesh, the enmity (that is, the separation between Jew and Gentile), even the law of commandments contained in ordinances.  Eph. 2:14–15.  The TEMPLE SERVICE was by the law of Moses confined to Jerusalem: but Jesus says, The hour cometh when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father – the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth. John 4:21, 23.  And upon the destruction of Jerusalem and the dispersion of the Jews, it became impossible to perform the temple service according to the law of Moses.

         But still the Old Testament in all parts is of use to us, either in the way of prophecy, type, deduction, direction, or analogy.  The following instances may shew the use made in the New Testament of Old Testament facts, declarations, promises, and institutions.  For the use made of historical fact, compare Gen. 21:10–12, with Gal. 4:30; of an occasional declaration, compare Gen. 15:6, with Rom. 4:22, 24; of a personal promise, compare Joshua 1:5, with Heb. 13:5–6; of an appointment of the Judicial law, compare Deut. 25:4, with 1 Cor. 9:9–10.

         The whole may be summed up in a few plain remarks.  Whatever was peculiar to the PATRIARCHAL dispensation (before the time of Moses) could continue no longer than that dispensation lasted.  Whatever was a part of the dispensation given to the Jews by Moses could not continue in force when that dispensation was repealed by the introduction of another.  But whatever God has enjoined on men as reasonable and accountable creatures continues the same through all dispensations: and is now enforced by the authority of the Lord from heaven.

         The Jewish law as a whole answered also many valuable ends to the Jews themselves.  The church of God was then, as it were, in its infant state.  This law restrained sin by its awful sanctions, kept Israel shut up or garrisoned from the heathen nations and their customs, gave many important hints of the Gospel, and thus prepared the way for it, and served as a schoolmaster or tutor to conduct the people of God to Christ. Gal. 3:19–24.  Given in mercy like the Gospel, it convinced them of sin and of their need of a remedy, and in many respects pointed out the Saviour, and redemption through his blood.


On the Law and the Gospel.

         As a clear knowledge of the Law and Gospel is exceedingly important, and throws much light upon Scripture, it may be right to enter more into particulars.

         The LAW, being a declaration of the will of God, is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good. Rom. 7:12.  The precepts of it are thus summed up and described: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and thy neighbour as thyself.  And it is added, This do, and thou shalt live. Luke 10:27–28.  It is evident, therefore, that the law is spiritual, and requires that the powers of the mind, and the affections of the heart, as well as the actions of the life, be unreservedly and at all times devoted to God.  It also obliges everyone to personal, perfect, and perpetual obedience; be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect (Matt. 5:48); so that one single failure at any time, and in any instance, incurs its curse and penalties, temporal and eternal; cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.  Gal. 3:10.  Whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. James 2:10.  It has various important uses.  It is a complete standard by which our motives and actions may be ascertained, and by which they will be measured.  It informs us what is the holy will of God, and what is our duty to him.  It discovers our sinfulness and weakness, humbles us, and shews us our need of Christ.  By it every mouth may be stopped, and all the world become guilty before God. Rom. 3:19.  It serves to alarm the wicked; and by its awful denunciations keeps them from sin, and sends them to Christ for salvation, or leaves them inexcusable if they continue in their evil ways.  It teaches Christians their obligations to Christ, who hath redeemed them from the curse of the law by his death. Gal. 3:13.  Thus, from gratitude to him who hath redeemed them from their conviction of the rectitude of the law which they had transgressed, and from the whole influence of those holy principles by which they are renewed in the spirit of their minds, they are excited to regard it as a rule of their obedience, and they find that motives derived from the Gospel are the most powerful means to promote a love for the law, and a conformity to it.  Rom. 3:31.

         The Jewish law is called the ministration of death, and also of condemnation (2 Cor. 3:7, 9), because many of the commands in that law were sanctioned by the penalty of death; and though the law, including the moral, as well as the ceremonial precepts, was ordained to life, since it pointed out the way in which the obedient should live; yet, says the Apostle (Rom. 7:10), I found it to be unto death; because no human being, in the present fallen state of man, can possibly be justified or saved by his own obedience to it.  It therefore leaves all men without hope. Rom. 3:20.

         The GOSPEL is a gracious declaration of the good will of God to sinful men, and freely invites all men, even the most sinful and vile, to come unto God in the name of Jesus Christ, and to seek through him the blessings of salvation and eternal life.  These are pointed out as the gift of God which are received on our application to him by faith.  The character of the Gospel is thus described by the angel – Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people, for unto you is born this day, in the city of David, a Saviour, which is Christ our Lord: (Luke 2:10–11) and by our Lord thus – God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. John 3:16.  Jesus Christ by his coming hath abolished death, and brought life and immortality to light, in a far more clear, full, and enlarged manner, than it was by any former dispensation.  Yet it was made known to the saints of old by prophecies, promises, sacrifices, types, and ceremonies; so that they, in a restricted sense, may be said to have believed in a Saviour who was to come, as we now do in a Saviour who has come.

         The Gospel is called the ministration of the Spirit (2 Cor. 3:8), for it was made known by his teaching to the Apostles, and by them communicated unto the world through his direction and influence; and a larger measure of this blessed influence is vouchsafed under the Christian than ever was under the Jewish dispensation.

         Very much of the true knowledge of religion consists in rightly distinguishing between the Law and the Gospel.  Many think all the New Testament must necessarily be the Gospel, and all the Old Testament the Law; but they are quite mistaken.  The preaching of the Law and the Gospel is mixed together in both Testaments; and these two cannot be distinguished by books, as being one in this book and the other in that, but by difference of matter wherever it is found.  Sometimes God speaks comfort by the Gospel, in the Old Testament; as when he comforted Adam with the promised seed of the woman. Gen. 3:15.  Isaiah again is full of the Gospel.  In the New Testament, Christ, in his discourses with the Pharisees and Jews, dwells and insists chiefly upon the works of the Law; these, though contained in the New Testament, are the voice of the Law, leading us to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. [See Patrick’s Places, a Tract of one of the Reformers.]

         The following description of the Law and Gospel, from Platon’s Summary of Divinity, in the Greek Church, seems clear and correct.  He says, “The Holy Scriptures are divided into the Law and the Gospel.  Under the term LAW we include all those passages in which God requires the exact fulfillment of his commandments, and for the breaking of which he threatens to inflict punishments.  And by the word GOSPEL is to be understood all that respects the merciful promises of God, and that love wherewith our heavenly Father hath loved us, for the sake of his well-beloved Son.  Thus the words which were spoken by God to Abraham, In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, belong to the Gospel.”

         It may be useful to consider how a sinner becomes a partaker of the blessings of the Gospel; but as the work of the Spirit on the heart is various, so the means by which he works are various also.  Yet we may observe that the word of God preached or read is described as the principal outward means of converting the sinner, 1 Peter 1:2–3, James 1:18, Rom. 10:14.  Faith, the work of God in the heart (Eph. 1:18, 20; 2:8; Phil. 1:29) is the grace which makes us one with Christ, and thus gives us an interest in all the promises of the Gospel. Gal. 3:26–29.  By virtue of this union we derive grace to abound in every good work, and bring forth much fruit (John 15:5); so that it is evident, salvation (including in this term justification and sanctification) is altogether of grace.  This grace enlightens the mind by removing the prejudices which hindered us from seeing the baseness and evil of sin, and the excellence of holiness; and thus sweetly changes that will of man, which is by nature perverse and rebellious.

         The Law of God points out the method of obtaining life by perfect obedience (Matt. 19:17, Luke 10:28); but as all have sinned, it evidently condemns all; so that mankind are universally, with respect to the law, bound at once, as accountable creatures, to perform the will of their Creator; and as sinful creatures, to suffer the penalty of disobedience.  Believers in Jesus Christ, alone have obtained deliverance from this state.  There is no condemnation to them.  They are dead to the law, as to all hopes of life by their own obedience; but being by faith united to Christ, and considered as one with him, they are redeemed from the penalty of the law through his death, accounted righteous through his obedience, and partaking of his Spirit, they walk in his steps.  Yet believers are not delivered in this life wholly either from the power or punishment of sin.  Through remaining corruption they sometimes sin, and lose the rewards of obedience (Psa. 19:11), and endure the present punishment of their sins; (Psa. 89:30–33), but these are the chastisements of a parent, who will not wholly forsake them.  They have an Advocate with the father, Jesus Christ, who is the propitiation for their sins.  Unbelievers, who proudly, presumptuously, or carelessly, reject this salvation, remain in an awful state of condemnation.  This our Lord expressly declares – He that believeth on him is not condemned; but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only-begotten Son of God. John 3:18.

         It is very important also to understand the true application of the Law and the Gospel, both to ourselves and others.  When a person sees the excellence, purity, spirituality, and strictness of God’s holy law, and his own inability to perform it, and is oppressed and heavy laden with the burden of sin, and the weight of a guilty conscience, so that he feels himself deserving God’s wrath and eternal ruin, and his heart is softened and broken under a sense of his transgressions; let him go to the Saviour and believe the Gospel, that he may obtain the sweet comfort of God’s promise, in the forgiveness of sin, and in deliverance, through the exceeding riches of his grace in Christ Jesus, from the love and dominion of it.  The Saviour freely invites all such characters to seek and accept these great privileges and blessings, saying, Come unto me, all ye that are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  On the one hand take special heed, lest you deceive yourselves, and be numbered with those who wrest the Scriptures to their own destruction.  Worldly and sensual characters often apply to themselves the promises of the Gospel, though they have never felt the burden and sinfulness of sin, nor fled to Christ for refuge, nor are partakers of his Spirit; and on the other hand, contrite hearts for whom the joyful tidings are intended, often remain, in a greater or less degree, entangled in the bondage of the law, distressed and wretched, instead of rejoicing in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free.

         The Law sends the Christian to the Gospel for salvation and comfort, and again the Gospel sends him back to the Law, with new motives and new strength to keep it as a rule of life; the rule to which he constantly endeavours to be conformed in his spirit, that he may glorify God, and adorn in all things the doctrine of Christ his Saviour.  Much, therefore, of the Christian life, consists in rightly understanding and applying the Law and the Gospel. [The following is a list of some texts relating to the Law and Gospel, which may perhaps illustrate the preceding remarks.  Law. – Rom. 10:5, Gal. 3:12, Ezek. 18:4, Gal. 3:10, Nahum 1:3, Rom. 1:18; 2 Cor. 3:7, Rom. 3:20, James 2:10.  Gospel. – Rom. 10:4, 10:10; Col. 1:14, Gal. 3:13, 2:16; 1 John 1:9; 1 Thess. 1:10; 2 Cor. 3:8, Rom. 3:21–26, 1:16.]

         These are not trifling distinctions.  How we are to be justified in the sight of that God, before whom we must all appear to give account, is the most interesting subject that can engage our attention, and it is therefore frequently pressed upon our consideration by the inspired writers.  There are but two ways described in Scripture, by which God accounts man just – either through the righteousness arising from perfect obedience to the Law, or through the righteousness which is by faith in Jesus Christ.  The first, as we have already observed, is unattainable by sinful creatures; the second is, therefore, the only method in which we can obtain eternal happiness.  There is no mixed plan of justification.  Those who are expecting to be justified, partly by their own works and partly by Christ, who suppose that he will make up what is deficient in their righteousness, are in reality seeking their salvation from the Law.  The foundation of their hope is laid on a principle which rejects the great distinguishing sentiments of the Gospel.  Christ profits them nothing; they will be condemned as transgressors of the law, and as unbelievers in the Gospel.  They may ascribe all their works to God, and thank him, as the Pharisee did, for enabling them to do those works, but all will not avail.  If they do in one jot or one tittle fail to fulfill the whole law, they are lost forever, while they remain trusting in their obedience to it.  But on the other hand, there is no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the fresh, but after the Spirit.  They are not under the law, but under grace; and they love God because he first loved them, and the Holy Ghost has shed abroad his love in their hearts. Rom. 5:5.

         Reader! on what are you depending for salvation?  If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature.  If you are in Christ, you will have received the Holy Spirit, and you will daily bring forth the fruit of that Spirit – love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance.  If ye be led by the Spirit, ye are not under the law.  Try and examine yourself.

         Thus I have endeavoured to give you some hints for understanding and improving various subjects in the Bible; but depend not upon human teaching alone, nor lean to your own understanding.  Read the Bible for instruction, and ask for wisdom from God.  He has promised that he will give it liberally, and will not upbraid. James 1:5.


Chapter 7 – Practical Remarks on the Prophecies, with Reference to

Efforts to Spread the Gospel, and to Personal Education.

         Having in the previous Chapter given some remarks on the general subject of the Prophecies, we would in this chapter enter at some length into the interpretation of Prophecy, as it regards the conversion of the world, and our individual interest in the promises of God, under distinct sections.


Section I – General Observations.

         The subject of Prophecy is important in itself, and in its reference to future events it has recently, from the remarkable state of the world, and the progress of societies for the conversion of the Jews and Gentiles, justly attracted much attention.  Some, indeed, think it attended with so many difficulties, that it had better not be considered at all.  But the sacred writers urge us to this consideration.  St. Peter says, We have also a more sure word of prophecy, whereunto ye do well that ye take heed.  And St. John declares of the most difficult book of prophecy, Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein, for the time is at hand.  It is, however, very needful to study this subject with a holy awe on the mind, remembering that we are considering that which was given by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost.

         More or less obscurity attends all predictions previous to their fulfilment; and even when they are fulfilled, and illustrated by the facts of history, it is allowed that the obscurity of the language in some degree remains.  This has been sufficiently accounted for.  Bishop Sherlock remarks, “No event can make a figurative or metaphorical expression to be a plain and literal one: to enquire why the ancient prophecies are not clearer, is like enquiring why God has not given us more reason, or made us as wise as angels.  He has given us, in both cases, so much light as he thought proper, and enough to serve the ends which he intended.”

         Besides, we are living in the dispensation which, considered as comprising the glory of the latter day, is the great theme of prophecy.  As the predictions, then, are admitted to be more or less obscure, till after they are completed, and perhaps in some cases till some considerable time after their completion; the true explication of those which may have their incipient or commencing accomplishment in our own time, must be left to posterity.  If the whole course of events belonging to any particular prophecy be not before us, we are not adequate judges of the subject.

         But there is a moral advantage even in this obscurity, similar to that which there is in many of God’s dealings with us; where, in an important sense, we are in a state of probation.  Light enough is afforded to guide and cheer, quicken and excite the humble and sincere; and darkness enough is left to check the pride of human speculation, and to try the spirit; so that the character of those, who from the love of sin do not choose to see the truth, will be manifested.  They will make this obscurity a plausible excuse for rejecting a system of divine truth which the upright mind gladly and gratefully welcomes.  The minds of men are thus exercised, strengthened, and enlarged by the necessity of studying this solemn subject in that frame of mind which can alone make it a source of genuine edification. [Bishop Hurd remarks, “Christianity is plainly a state of discipline and probation, calculated to improve our moral nature, by giving scope and exercise to our moral faculties.  So that though the evidence for it be a real evidence, and on the whole sufficient evidence, yet neither can we expect it to be of that sort which should compel our assent.  Something must be left to quicken our attention, to excite our industry, and to try the natural ingenuousness of the human mind.” – See Bishop Hurd’s valuable Sermons, introductory to the study of the prophecies.]

         Prophecy is not designed, then, to gratify our curiosity respecting futurity, but to try and exercise our graces in the view which we take of it; to encourage the hopes, and refresh the hearts of Christians; to prepare them for times of suffering; and to increase their patience and their zeal by the general assurance of the ultimate triumph of the Church of Christ over all its enemies.  It is therefore written just in sufficient obscurity to answer these ends, without our becoming prophets, or perfectly comprehending the predictions previously to the occurrence of the predicted events; and yet it becomes adequately plain, immediately or more remotely after the events may have taken place, to every candid mind that the God revealed in the Scriptures had foreseen and foretold them.  These things have I told you, that when the time shall come, ye may remember I told you of them.

         Future things are not, however, to be too closely pried into.  Secret things belong unto the Lord our God; but the things which he has revealed, unto us and to our children.  Most of those who have attempted particularly to describe future, or even passing events, have, in the result, been found egregiously to fail; and have, if they have lived, had to retract their assertions, and restate their views.  These things have helped to bring this sacred subject into contempt.  It is true that the Apostles and sacred writers in the New Testament speak of passing events as then accomplishing prophecy; but an inspired writer might with authority and propriety say, Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by the prophet, which would require a far greater degree of circumspection in any but an inspired teacher.  Let us rest in general statements till events have been so completed as to shew what God intended; and let us contemplate the future prospects of the Church with that waiting spirit which leaves to God the unfolding of his own will and purpose.

         But on that point which especially concerns our highest interest, even our eternal salvation, and which is the grand theme of all the prophets, from the beginning to the close, there is no obscurity of any moment.  The predictions are, in the main, clear as the noonday.  Even those who deny their application to Jesus Christ still refer them to the Messiah.  Let it ever be remembered, then, that THE PROPHECIES OF SCRIPTURE CHIEFLY BEAR ON THIS ONE POINT, OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST.  Their great design is to do honour to him, to manifest the nature and glory of his kingdom, the sufficiency of his atonement, and the riches and fullness of his grace, that thus we may be led to believe in him, and be filled with joy and peace in believing.  It is expressly said, The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.  Rev. 19:10.  To him give all the prophets witness.

         There are many plain, express, and literal prophecies referring to Christ that have no other application, and cannot be expected to have any other fulfilment than in him.  The following instances have been selected as proving this: – Mal. 3:1, 4:5–6;  Haggai 2:6–9, Zech. 9:9, 12:10; Dan. 2:44, 7:13–14, 9:24–27; Micah 5:2, Isa. 53.

         The due consideration of the many minute circumstances, literally and expressly described so long beforehand; the many improbable and apparently contradictory events respecting Him, which were foretold successively for nearly four thousand years, connected with their exact accomplishment, as related to us by eyewitnesses who laid down their lives in confirmation of their testimony; and corroborated as that is by the actual state of the world at present.  Such a consideration is peculiarly calculated to strengthen and establish our faith in Christ.

         Especially when we remember farther that those very prophecies are now in the possession of the Jews – the avowed enemies of Jesus of Nazareth.  They thus become unsuspected and unexceptionable librarians, living witnesses testifying to all ages that the predictions have been preserved unaltered.  If it be asked how it is that they are not themselves convinced, the answer is sufficient; multitudes were convinced by this very evidence when the events had taken place, and the hardness of heart of others, and their rejection of Christ, were expressly foretold in the very same writings, and form an actual part of those prophetic records of which they are the depositories.

         As all the prophecies bear on Christ and his Church, whether Jewish or Christian, but little is said about those nations and kingdoms that have no direct concern with the Church.  The reason is obvious.  The Scriptures were written for the use of those who receive them.  Prophecies would be useless to those who have no connection with the Church of Christ, and either reject or are ignorant of the Sacred Writings.  Yet the prophecy of Noah, respecting his three sons (Gen. 9:25–27) is an epitome of the history of all nations.  The prophecies of Daniel too contain an abridgment of the history of the four great empires that have prevailed in the earth. [See Bishop Newton’s Work on the Prophecies, a judicious and valuable work.  See also Davison on Prophecy, and Keith on the Prophecies.]

         Having made these general observations, the future remarks will be confined to the interpretation of the prophecies which respect the Jews and the Christian Church, and chiefly of those recorded in the Old Testament.


Section II – Prophecies respecting the Jews.

         Many of the prophecies of the Old Testament, as far as they regard the Jewish Church, have already been LITERALLY ACCOMPLISHED.  Let us, when we have to consider a prophecy, first enquire after this point, and endeavour to ascertain whether it may not have received a literal accomplishment.  The value of such a prophecy still remains.  It still marks the constant and particular foreknowledge and providence of God, illustrates his dealings with his creatures, and furnishes a most solid evidence of the divine inspiration of the Holy Scriptures.

         The actual accomplishment must therefore never be overlooked, especially that which regards the first coming of our Saviour in the flesh among the Jews, and the diffusion of his Gospel among the nations of the earth, through the labours of Apostles selected from the Jewish Church.  The first advent of Christ was the greatest event which this lower world has witnessed, and the confirmation of it affects the faith and happiness of the whole human race: and no wonder, therefore, that it is so much dwelt upon both in prophecy and in the history of the New Testament, where the fact is confirmed, and the truth and inspiration of the prophecies are established.  In order rightly to interpret other prophecies, we must notice the time when they were delivered.  There are generally express statements in connection with every particular prophecy which discover this important circumstance.  All the prophets of the Old Testament, except the last three, flourished before the return from the captivity in Babylon.  Zechariah and Haggai also prophesied at the time of the return of the Jews under Zerubbabel, and seventy years before the return of a large body under Ezra.  It appears from various expressions that some of the ten tribes also returned at the same time.  Ezra 6:17–21, 8:35.  The prophecies, therefore, foretelling their return to their own land, received at least a commencing accomplishment in their return from captivity.

         We say commencing, for it is evident that a variety of events may fulfill in a regular series the same prophecy.  The first promise of Christ (Gen. 3:15) and the prophecies respecting Noah’s sons shew this.  Hence many events in successive ages may be but as parts of one full sense in which a prophecy shall ultimately be fulfilled.  Hereby the divine foreknowledge, and the inspiration of the Holy Scriptures, are in the result most remarkably displayed and illustrated.  Thus there may be a growing accomplishment of prophecy through many ages.  [Lord Bacon’s statement on this subject is in the usual style of that great man, who takes original and comprehensive views of all that he considers.  It occurs in the first section of his Work, “De augmentis Scientiarum,” and is as follows: – “The history of prophecy consists of two relatives; the prophecy, and the accomplishment: whence the nature of it requires that every Scripture prophecy be compared with the event, through all the ages of the world, for the better confirmation of the faith, and the better information of the church, with regard to the interpretation of prophecies not yet fulfilled.  But here we must allow the latitude which is peculiar and familiar to divine prophecies; which have their completion not only at stated times, but in succession, as participating of the nature of their author, with whom a thousand years are but as one day, and therefore are not fulfilled punctually at once, but have a growing accomplishment through many ages, though the height or fullness of them may refer to a single age or moment.”]

         But let us confine our attention more particularly to the expectations which we may justly entertain respecting THE FUTURE STATE OF THE JEWS.

         There are many expressions in the Old Testament which may lead us to expect not only the conversion of the Jews, but their NATIONAL RESTORATION FROM THEIR PRESENT DISPERSION to their own land.  The late Mr. Scott thus summed up his own views on the subject, in his work on the Restoration of Israel.  He says, –

         “It is now becoming more and more the opinion of serious Christians, that when Israel shall be converted to their long-rejected Messiah, they will be gathered from their dispersions, and reinstated in their own land; which being rendered as fertile as in times past (perhaps much more so), and extended to the utmost limits of the grants made to the Patriarchs, will yield them, in rich abundance, all things needful and comfortable for this present life.  It is also thought that they will live in this land under rulers of their own nation as the vicegerents of the Messiah, of David, or the son of David, in entire peace and security, free from invader or oppressor, and from the fear of any: and that, along with all spiritual blessings in rich abundance, they will be voluntarily regarded by all other nations, then truly converted, with peculiar love, and gratitude, and honour, as the source of all their spiritual blessings, and especially as most nearly related to their common Messiah and Saviour, who is the light of the Gentiles, and the glory of his people Israel.”

         Without advancing any objection to such a view, it may be still useful to remember, when we are forming an opinion respecting minute particulars of unfulfilled prophecy, that the utmost caution, forbearance, and reverence become us, lest we intrude upon the glories and peculiar attributes of Jehovah, and go a step beyond what he has authorized or revealed.  The result may shew that any interpretations which would refer the main promises concerning the Jews to any state of worldly glory and splendour, fall as far short of the event, as their expectations respecting the temporal kingdom of the Messiah fell short of that spiritual kingdom which he established, and which is righteousness, and peace, and joy, in the Holy Ghost.

         It appears, however, from a careful consideration of the whole series of prophecy in the Old Testament, to be very probable, that several of the prophecies delivered before the captivity may have even a primary reference to a yet future return of Judah and Israel to their own land.

         The expressions in the Old Testament on this point are the most strong.  The returns from Babylon, both of Judah and of Israel, were very limited, but especially those of the ten tribes,  so as hardly to seem to meet the promises in any literal fulfillment. [Josephus says (Book xi, chap. 5.), “The entire body of the people of Israel remained in that country [where they were carried captive]; wherefore there are but two tribes in Asia and Europe subject to the Romans, while the ten tribes are beyond the Euphrates till now, and are an immense multitude not to be estimated by numbers.”]  The expressions in Deut. 30:1–6 (following that remarkable prophecy of their dispersion among all nations) naturally lead our minds to a return from their present dispersion to their own land.  The declaration (Isa. 11:11) that the Lord will again put forth his hand a second time to recover the remnant of his people that remaineth, from Assyria, and from Egypt, and from Pathros, and from Cush, and from Elam, and from Shinar, and from Hamath, and from the Islands of the sea, received not, as far as we are informed, a full literal accomplishment in the return from Babylon: neither did that recorded in Jeremiah, chapters 30 and 31, where the distinction made between the captivity of Israel and of Judah (30:3) leads us to expect the return of Israel, an event which appears to us yet to be accomplished.  The Apostle (Rom. 11:26) quotes Isa. 59:20, as referring to their future conversion, and thereby justifies our taking such a view of that prophecy, and others of a similar kind.  The whole series of chapters, Ezek. 36 to 39 inclusive, with several other instances, might be added, as prophecies that have yet, as far as we can at present judge, to receive their chief accomplishment.

         In the New Testament, but little is said on this subject.  The two strongest passages are rather oblique hints, than positive assertions.  Both proceed from our Lord.  One is, Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled. Luke 21:24.  The other is his reply to the inquiry of his disciples, Wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?  And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons which the Father hath put in his own power. Acts 1:6–7.  The book of Revelation, the last discovery given to the Church of future events, says little or nothing on this part of our subject.  The general tendency of what we read in the New Testament is to lead our minds from any temporal kingdom and earthly glory, to that spiritual kingdom which is to be established in every believer’s heart, as a preparation for his possessing an heavenly inheritance; but still a spiritual kingdom which shall one day universally prevail, – for a day is coming when it shall be said, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign for ever and ever.

         Respecting the future CONVERSION of the whole Jewish nation, as distinct from their national restoration, there can be no reasonable doubt whatever; the prophecies are sufficiently clear and decisive.  For the children of Israel shall abide many days without a king and without a prince, and without a sacrifice, and without an image, and without ephod, and without teraphim.  Afterward, shall the children of Israel return, and seek the Lord their God, and David their King, and fear the Lord and his goodness in the latter days.

         The New Testament does not here speak obscurely.  Nevertheless, when it (the Jewish nation) shall turn to the Lord, the veil shall be taken away. 2 Cor. 3:16.  If they have in part now fallen, their fullness shall hereafter come in. Rom. 11:12.  If they are now cast away, they shall be received (verse 15); if they have been broken off, they shall be again grafted in (verse 23); and so all Israel shall be saved, verse 26.  How cheering are such promises; and they are accompanied with the delightful assurance that their recovery shall be a blessing even as life from the dead to the world.

         It is to be feared that some who are warm friends to missions among the heathens have not sufficient faith with regard to efforts among the Jews, and think it almost a hopeless undertaking.  But is not this directly contrary to the plain argument of the Apostle on this very point; – They also, if they abide not in unbelief, shall be grafted in; for God is able to graft them in.  For if thou wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and wert grafted contrary to nature into a good olive tree, HOW MUCH MORE shall these, which be the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree?  Rom. 11:23–24.

         The promised future conversion of the Jews, with its effects on the world, should both encourage out hopes and excite out labours for them.  This duty is brought before us in the statement of God’s design in their present unbelief – They have now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy.  Rom. 11:31.

         There are other points respecting this subject on which Christians have been more divided, and to which it may be desirable briefly to advert.

         The PRIORITY OF THE GENERAL CONVERSION OF THE JEWS to that of the Gentiles has been much discussed.  It appears to be left just in that obscurity in which it is in many respects desirable it should be, that Christians may not pay an exclusive attention to either, or labour for the benefit of one to the neglect of the other.  Plausible arguments have been urged on both sides of the question.  Are they not concurrent events?  Only let us consider the vastness of the scene of labour, and the immense work to be accomplished, and we shall see how easily both may be advancing at the same time, and mutually promoting each other.  Very small is at present the real Church of Christ; a very large progress may be made in the purification of the Church, and the conversion of the world, before the Jews are gathered into the fold of Christ; and yet quite enough may be left after their conversion to realize the assured hope that that event shall be as life from the dead to the world.  On this point, then, let not the friend of the Jew or the Gentile use expressions which may have any tendency to damp that little flame of zeal, which as yet far too sparingly and too partially burns for the salvation of either.

         The supposition that the Jews are to be the ONLY EMINENTLY SUCCESSFUL MISSIONARIES to the Gentiles, and those for whom the honour of their NATIONAL conversion is reserved, does not appear to be adequately founded, if we regard either history or Scripture.  Undoubtedly the Evangelists sowed the first seeds of Christianity in many kingdoms now nationally professing the Christian faith; yet the Christian nations were not in general, nor exclusively, probably, in any particular instance, brought to that profession by the means of Jewish Missionaries: but the effects of the labours of the Apostles, the way in which their writings have been and are blessed, and the fact that all the knowledge of true religion that is now in the world comes originally through the Jewish nation, have, as it appears to many, remarkably fulfilled already those predictions on this point in the Old Testament (such as Isa. 2:1–5, Micah 5:7, Zech. 8:23) on which the supposition that they are to be the only successful Missionaries has been founded: though we would by no means shut out hopes of yet more extended blessings from this people.  Indeed, who can but feel a joyful hope when he looks at the whole history of the Jews and their present state, and the promises connected with their conversion – Who can but rejoice in the blessed anticipation that they will be again, as in the first days of the Church, most effective Missionaries to the Gentiles?  See them scattered in every country, knowing almost every tongue, valuing everywhere their original Scriptures, marked as a peculiar people by all nations, and a city set on a hill in every land.  Consider yet farther that the New Testament is translated into their beloved original language, circulated among them, and received and read by them.  Then look at the cheering promise of the gift of the Holy Ghost – I will pour upon the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplication; and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him.  Observe them, thus penitent and believing, rising up in every land as witnesses above all exception to the veracity of God; and who can but hope, both from the providence and prophecy of God, that such events will be a spiritual blessing beyond calculation to every nation, and that the converted Jews shall most effectively aid the general conversion of the Gentiles.

         Yet it becomes us to speak of unfulfilled prophecy with reserve and humility; while the general result is clear, the particular mode of accomplishment is left in obscurity for the most important practical purposes – the exercise of faith, and hope, and humility.  Let us then be satisfied with general views, without being anxious to understand or state the exact mode in which God will accomplish his purposes, and explain the various minute particulars connected with them; about which, after all, we may entirely mistake, for we are not prophets, and should not speak as if we were.  Let us be willing to suspend our judgment concerning such deep subjects as the various particulars of God’s purposes, till it shall please him to make them manifest by the event.  Let us not stir up a spirit of controversy about things which it is impossible before the event to determine.  Surely there is much wisdom in the saying of one of the Fathers – melius est dubitare de occultis quam litigare de incertis.

         Having given these general remarks, we need not pursue the subject much farther as to particular prophecies respecting the Jews in the Old Testament yet unfulfilled.

         The following rules have been given to assist in ascertaining whether prophecies respecting the Jews are yet to be fulfilled.  1. When Judea and Israel are both included in the promised blessings, as Isa. 11:12, – 2. When permanent blessings are promised to them, as Ezek. 39:29. – 3. When the time for the fulfillment is designated by the latter days, as in Hosea 3:5. – 4. When they are accompanied by predictions of universal peace, as in Isaiah 11. [The Rev. John Scott has, in his Treatise on the Destiny of Israel, given rules more definitely expressed, and in the authors view more unexceptionable.  He says: “With respect to many particular prophecies, the great point to be made out is that they refer to the present dispersion, and to a restoration which is still to take place; and not merely to events connected with the Babylonish captivity.  Now four ways have occurred to my mind in which I think this may be satisfactorily proved, concerning a variety of passages.  Such must be the case (first) whenever the prophecy was delivered after the restoration from Babylon; (secondly) whenever the order and series of the prophecy refer us for its accomplishment to times subsequent to the Messiah; (thirdly) whenever the restoration of Israel (by which term I mean the ten tribes) is unequivocally (I say unequivocally, for the mere use of the name of Israel is by no means sufficient to shew that the ten tribes as distinct from Judah are intended) promised, no such restoration having ever yet taken place: or, (lastly) whenever the language is such as can with no propriety be considered as fulfilled in the recovery from Babylon.”]

         We would not enter into a particular examination of these rules which would lead to a lengthened discussion; but only observe generally that it should ever be duly considered whether the prophecies which would come under them may not have received their designed accomplishment as it regards the Jews, – be now in a course of accomplishment, – or  be hereafter accomplished in a higher and more important sense as it respects the Church at large.  The term forever, annexed to promises, does not necessarily imply perpetuity.  The statutes and ordinances of the Jews were said to be forever (Exod. 12:17, 31:16), when they were only given while that dispensation lasted.

         Two or three instances may illustrate the subject.  In Isa. 2:1–5, there is a promise of the extension of the Redeemer’s kingdom, by the going forth of the law out of Zion.  That it was in some degree fulfilled in the apostolic times will be generally admitted; and we would not deny that a fuller literal accomplishment may yet take place: at the same time that we do not see why it may not be justly applied to the additions made from the Gentiles in every age, since the commencement of the Christian ere, to the Church of Christ.  In like manner, Isa. 50:1–5, began its course of accomplishment on the day of Pentecost, is still advancing by fresh accessions of converts from the Gentiles, and will in the fullness of time all be realized; and we may well hope that it may yet, through the converted Jews,* be more abundantly literally fulfilled.  The prophecy of Zechariah (8:23) that ten men should take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, was remarkably accomplished in the preaching of the word by the Apostles, though we would not preclude a farther accomplishment hereafter, nor the present fulfilling of it by the spread of the Gospel in our days.

         *[Archbishop Leighton, in a sermon on Isa. 50:1, applies the text to the whole Church of Christ, yet thus speaks of it with reference to the Jews – “Undoubtedly the people of the Jews shall once more be commanded to arise and shine, and their return shall be the riches of the Gentiles, and that shall be a more glorious time than ever the Church of Christ did yet behold.  Nor is there any inconvenience if we think that the high expressions of this prophecy have some spiritual reference to that time, since the great doctor of the Gentiles applies some words of the former chapter to that purpose. (Rom. 11:29)  They forget a main point of the Church’s glory, that pray not daily for the conversion of the Jews.”]

         For a particular explanation of the various prophecies, the reader is referred to the Rev. Thomas Scott’s Commentary.  He has, in general, as it appears to the Author, with much good sense and discrimination, solidly and wisely explained this difficult subject, and though subsequent researches and events have thrown fresh light on this subject, his Exposition will often furnish a valuable guard against adventurous speculations.  Expectations of an earthly kingdom, and worldly splendour, and glory, seem inconsistent with our Saviour’s declaration, My kingdom is not of this world; the special blessings which he bestows on his people, promised perhaps under the figure of earthly good, are holy, and spiritual, and heavenly.

         The whole history of the Jewish Church foretold and illustrated by prophecy, presents many a striking lesson.  It shews us the sovereign, righteous, and merciful government of Jehovah; the fatal consequences of unbelief; the infinite importance of knowing the day of salvation, and rightly improving our spiritual privileges.  It holds forth many an effecting illustration of the wisdom and power, the forbearance and loving kindness, the justice and compassion, of the great Lord of all.


Section III – Prophecies respecting the Christian Church.

         There are many PROPHECIES THAT HAVE BEEN FULFILLED in the state of the Christian Church since the coming of Christ, and that are now manifestly fulfilling.  We may refer to Bishop Newton on the Prophecies, in proof of this.  A considerable part of the book of Revelation has in this way been made sufficiently clear by the event.

         The statements given by St. Paul respecting a falling away of the Christian Church, are very striking.  He tells the Thessalonians (2 Thess. 2:3–4) that the last day should not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God; sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.  All history shews how exactly this, with the following part of the description (verses 6–12), marks the Pope of Rome, arrogating the title of His Holiness, claiming infallibility, dispensing absolution, restraining the Scriptures, exalting his own decrees above them, usurping a right to depose kings, and the like.  The same falling away is described again (1 Tim. 4:1), Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times, some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their consciences seared with a hot iron; forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats.  The apostasy of the Roman Catholic Church is here again distinctly marked – their multitude of mediators – worship of saints – legends, and pretended miracles – the celibacy of their Clergy – and the numerous fastings from particular meats, are clearly foretold.

         Now these very predictions are in the keeping of the Roman Catholics.  They, like the Jews, are unexceptionable librarians of the prophecy.  Ant if it be asked why they do not renounce popery, we have the very same reason to give as we had respecting the Jews; thousands and tens of thousands, and millions and tens of millions, when the Holy Scriptures were fully laid before men at the reformation, on this very ground forsook the Roman Church, and the perseverance and corruption of the rest, till the entire destruction of this fallen Church, is foretold in the very same writings which predict its fall from primitive purity.

         Respecting THE FUTURE STATE OF THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH, the whole course of prophecy leads us to expect a full and extended triumph of Christian truth over error of every kind.  Whatever may be the precise and exact meaning of the promises, the general result is clear.  Without pretending to explain exactly such promises as that the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea; or those which shew that the kingdom and dominion, and greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him; and which describe Satan as being bound for a thousand years, and the saints being priests of God and of Christ, and reigning with him a thousand years: our hopes cannot but be raised by these and multitudes of similar promises, to a far happier scene than this lower world has ever yet witnessed – a scene which must now be fast approaching.

         For unquestionably we live in a remarkable day of the Church of Christ.  Undoubtedly larger efforts are making by faithful Christians to diffuse the Gospel, and the word of God has been circulated to a greater extents than in any former era of Christianity.

         The success in modern missionary exertions has been indeed supposed by some to be inadequate to the means used, and the expectations reasonably excited by them; and it has been thought that the cause of this has been the neglect of the Jews as the great medium for the conversion of the world.  But is not the supposed fact itself really unfounded?  Looking at the miraculous gifs of the primitive Church, and especially that of tongues, and looking at the large outpouring of the Holy Spirit, we need not be surprised that the Gospel spread then as it did.  National conversions however did not then take place in a few years.  The Christian Church was, during the whole of the first three centuries, more or less persecuted and despised, and consisted of individual Churches.  A person at first sight maybe apt to suppose that when the Apostle wrote the Epistles to the Romans and Corinthians, the whole of Rome and Corinth were Christians: but it need not be proved that this was far indeed from being the case.  Though it is freely allowed that the Gospel then spread with a rapidity unexampled in any age since, yet we apprehend that the reason for this, in subordination to the divine will, must be looked for, not in the neglect of employing men of any particular nation, but in the sins of Christians; in their lukewarmness and coldness; in the want of a missionary spirit in the Church at large; and especially in the want of a general and enlarged spirit of prayer for the outpouring of the Holy Ghost; in the small extent to which the doctrine of Christ crucified has been preached; and in the defect of a spirit of union and love among real Christians.

         Passing by Roman Catholic Missions, as not needing here distinct consideration, it may justly be said that the success, which has been already given to efforts to spread the Gospel, is larger than some seem to think; especially when we consider the few instruments employed, the short space of time in which they have laboured, and the difficulties which they have had to encounter before they could simply and fully declare to the Heathen, in their own tongue, the unsearchable riches of Christ.  It was long in general after the formation of their Societies, before the Missionaries went forth to their work, and long after they landed before they could preach to the natives.  There are even now very few European or American Missionaries preaching to the Heathen in their native tongues; probably the number falls short of the seventy disciples whom our Lord sent forth, and most of these even cannot, from the very necessity of the case, speak with the ease and fluency of a native; many of them must speak with that broken and foreign accent, and those hesitating expressions, which will necessarily greatly hinder the power of their statements.

         But notwithstanding these difficulties, the Gospel has spread, and is spreading, more extensively every year: thousands and tens of thousands are converts and communicants: nor is there any reason to doubt but that this shall be as leaven, which by the blessing of God shall work and increase till the whole be leavened.

         Look at the effects of the labours of Swartz and others.  They began in great discouragement; and now there are, as the result of those labours, upwards of twenty thousand Native Protestant Christians in South India.  Look at the state of the Colony of Sierra Leone, where I witnessed the negroes a few years since in the greatest degradation, as naked savages and miserable Idolaters, and of whom a competent and unexceptionable witness now says that their spirit and conduct are such that he is persuaded there is not to be seen upon earth a community of equal size so truly exemplary.  Look at the thousands of Christian Negroes in the West Indies blessed by the Gospel, imparted in modern times through the labours of the Wesleyan and Moravian Missionaries.  Look again at the South Sea Islands emerging from the lowest barbarism and idolatry to piety and civilization, through the persevering efforts of Christian Missionaries in our own day.  Everywhere, in proportion as the Gospel of Christ has been fully and faithfully preached, it has been the power of God to the salvation of the heathen.

         The promise then still abides faithful.  My word – that goeth forth of my mouth – shall not return unto me void; and the extent to which that word is going forth, concurs with the cheering light of prophecy to strengthen our hopes that the dawn of the millennial day of glory cannot be far distant.

         Let us then contemplate and meditate upon the future glory of the Church, as revealed in the prophetic pages of Scripture.  The study of this, though yet unfulfilled, is not to be neglected, for it is connected with important practical duties.  Daniel understood by books the number of the years whereof the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah the prophet, and he began to seek the Lord by prayer and supplication with fasting.  The first Christians, warned by the prophetical intimations of our Lord, fled from Jerusalem, and escaped the tremendous visitations which came upon its inhabitants: and so there are still duties connected with the expected fulfillment of future prophecies.  Behold, I come quickly!  Blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book.

         We cannot indeed fix any precise time as to when future events are to happen.  For though there are several important periods specifically named in scripture; and especially the great era of 1260 years, yet we cannot tell, till events have declared it, when that era commenced.  The whole chain of prophecy manifestly leads us to expect that we are on the verge of remarkable events.  If it be admitted that the 1260 years have not closed (as some think they did in 1792), and will not come to an end for some years, they must obviously be hastening to their close. [See Mr. Cooper’s “Crisis”.  Whatever may be the; difference of opinion on his prophetical views, all Christians must feel the practical and holy tendency of this work.]  But a short period can then elapse before the general conversion of the world.  Daniel intimates two farther brief periods of thirty and forty-five years; and then says, Blessed is he that waiteth and cometh to the thousand three hundred and five and thirty days.  The servants of Christ then may well lift up their heads, enlarge the preparatory work, and anticipate, notwithstanding intervening trials and awakening judgments, happier and more prosperous times than the Church has ever yet enjoyed.  Far would we be from depriving Christians of the great encouragement that may be drawn from the general strain of prophecy to the most vigorous labours for the conversion of Jew and Gentile.  There is enough of clear prediction to animate us to the most strenuous and self-denying exertions in either cause, the one cause of our Lord and Saviour Christ.

         It is a delightful fact that though real Christians differ in some respects about the order in which the latter-day glory of the Church shall be brought on, and in some particulars as to the instruments by which it shall be accomplished: there is no difference on all essential points.  There is no question but that the preaching of the Gospel, whether by the diffusion of the Holy Scriptures, or the faithful ministry of devoted Missionaries, shall be the great human means.  There is no doubt but that the larger outpouring of the Holy Ghost in his sanctifying influence shall be the main divine agency.  Neither is there any question but that the work of God is manifestly reviving everywhere, and that under circumstances promising greater success than ever, from a more general and explicit reference to that only power, the Holy Spirit, from which the success can come.  There is no obscurity in the truth that it is our duty to seek the conversion of the whole world, whether Jewish or Gentile.  There is one general expectation of the full triumph of the Gospel.  The duty is plain and admitted by each intelligent Christian, the encouragements are great and felt by all, and the difficulties are only such as have been and shall be surmounted.  Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain: and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

         In the meantime, and ere this blessed day arrive, the prophetic parts of Scripture have a most important practical application to each individual believer.


Section IV – The general Application of Prophetical Promises to the Christian Church.

         Prophecies of the Old Testament have often a farther fulfillment in reference to the Christian Church, beyond their first fulfillment in reference to Israel and Judah, the children of Abraham, after the flesh.

         We apprehend that it may be clearly established that the promises at any time made to the Church of God, composed of true believers, belong to that Church in similar circumstances at all times.  They display the will of Him who is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and who has given and revealed these promises as revealing his mind towards his people, and for the benefit of the Church at large.  The prophecies of spiritual blessings made originally to the Old Testament Church, are now properly applied to, and really inherited by the Christian Church, and will only be inherited by any as they believe in Jesus Christ.

         This is so important a part of divine truth, that it calls for particular proof and illustration.

         The Jews derive their right to the promises of the blessings of the Messiah from the covenant made with Abraham: that covenant included promises that he should be a father of many nations: that his seed should be multiplied as the stars of heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and that in his seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed.  Abraham was a father of many nations, literally; but the Apostle shews in the 4th of Romans, that he is the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised.  There is a seed not only which is of the law, but that also which is of the faith of our father Abraham, as it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations. Rom. 4:11–16.  These are the children of the promise, as well as the children of the flesh. Rom. 9:8.  [Bishop Hall says, “Whosoever shall have duly digested this distinction will easily find how wild a paradox it is to tie those frequent and large promises of the prophets made to Judah, Israel, Zion, and Jerusalem, to a carnal literality of sense, and to make account of their accomplishment accordingly, which were never otherwise than spiritually meant.”]

         Jesus Christ is the uniting cornerstone of the Jewish and Gentile churches, who hath made both one – an holy temple in the Lord. Ephes. 2:11–22.  He was the promised seed of Abraham in the fullest sense. Gal. 3:16.  By faith in him we are united to him, and become one with him; and in this way alone are either Jews or Gentiles true children of Abraham. Gal. 3:25–29, Rom. 9:6–8.

         The Apostle speaks to the Hebrews of the superior privileges of the Christian Dispensation in these terms – Ye are come to Mont Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem: plainly intimating, as the context sufficiently shews, that the Christian church was the true Mount Zion, and the real Jerusalem on which the blessing of God rested.  St. Paul tells us there is a Jerusalem which is above, which is free, which is the mother of us all, in contradistinction from the Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children. Gal. 4:25–26.  It is evident that the Apostle intends by the Jerusalem which is above (typified by Sarah) the true church which has its origin from heaven, is espoused to Christ, and is the mother of all believers, whether Jews or Gentiles, who are born of the Spirit by means of the word and ordinances which are dispensed in the church.  It is plain, therefore, that following the Apostle, we are warranted on considering the prophecies and promises of spiritual blessings to be conferred on Jerusalem, as belonging to the universal spiritual church of Christ.

         Our Lord assured the Jews that those who do not the works of Abraham are not the true children of Abraham, though lineally descended from him, John 8:39.

         The Apostle shews at length (in Rom. 4, 9, 10, 11, and Gal. 3 and 4) that those who had not Abraham’s faith had no interest in the spiritual blessings which he obtained.  He shews that the promises of the Old Testament belong only to the true church, and will only be realized to each true believer.  While he excludes the literal Israel, not believing in Christ (Rom. 9:7–8, 31; 11:7), he expressly says to the Gentiles, If ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.  Gal. 3:29.  See also Rom. 2:28–29, 4:11, 16; 9:6–8; 2 Cor. 1:20, Gal. 3:14, 26–28, 4:25–26; Eph. 2; 1 Peter 2:9.

         In this way the Apostles continually use the prophecies and promises of the Old Testament.  The oath sworn to Abraham (Gen. 22:16–17) is applied to all believers, the heirs of promise. Heb. 6:13–20.  The promise given to Israel (Deut. 31:6), he will not fail thee nor forsake thee, and repeated to Joshua (Josh. 1:5), the Apostle quotes (Heb. 13:5–6) as belonging to believers in general.  Is it not clear, therefore, from the Apostle’s application of the promise, that believers under the Christian Dispensation may rely on the promises made to the faithful under the Jewish?  Jerusalem, Zion, and in fact the whole Mosaic Dispensation, were all types of the spiritual church of Christ.  Indeed we may be well assured that the promises and prophecies which concern the types have a yet more important reference to the antitype.  Nor can we suppose that many spiritual prophecies and promises belong to the inferior or antiquated dispensation, from which believers under the better covenant established upon better promises are altogether excluded.

         The prophesies in the 2d of Joel are quoted by St. Peter in the first instance as fulfilled on the day of Pentecost, in the gifts of the Spirit to the Jewish church: while a promise there mentioned is also stated by St. Paul as belonging to all believers.  Rom. 10:13.

         The prophesies in Isa. 54:1, which at first sight might appear simply to belong to Judah, is thus applied by St. Paul in the Galatians (4:26–28), to the whole church of Christ – Jerusalem, which is above, is free which is the mother of us all; for it is written, Rejoice, thou barren that bearest not; break forth, and cry, thou that travailest not, for the desolate hath many more children than she which hath an husband.  Now we (that is who believe in Christ, whether Jew or Gentile), as Isaac was, are the children of the promise.

         In a similar way St. James, under the same inspiration of the Holy Spirit, applies Amos 9:11–12, to the general spread of the Gospel in the days of the Apostles, which otherwise we might have thought more applicable to a future fulfillment – Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name.  And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written, After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up; that the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things.  Acts 15:14–17.

         We might think that Hosea 1:10 and 2:23 applied only to Israel; but the Apostle applies them more extensively – to us whom he hath called; not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles, as he saith in Hosea, I will call them my people which were not my people, and her beloved which was not beloved.  And it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said to them, Ye are not my people, there shall they be called the children of God.  Rom. 9:24–26.

         We are not here contending against a farther fulfillment of such prophecies, but making as clear and as manifest as we can, the all-important point of the propriety of their application to Christians.  Supposing that there are prophecies which may be yet more literally and extensively fulfilled in a primary sense respecting the Jewish nation, yet the promises which they contain are every day fulfilled to real Christians, and are justly applied to them.  Thus the promises of the new covenant in the prophecy contained in the 20th and 31st of Jeremiah, are applied by the Apostles in the 8th of Hebrews to believers under the Christian dispensation, and belong to all real Christians.

         With these examples in our mind of the New Testament application of the Old Testament prophecy, we have felt the need of that measured language in which it appeared proper to speak of any future literal accomplishment respecting the Jews.

         In this general application of the sacred writings, there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond, nor free; but Christ is all and in all. Col. 3:11.  In this general view, all scripture is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.

         The Bible thus remarkably adapts itself to the wants of mankind, and becomes the statute book and the great charter of salvation for the whole world.  Thus the accumulating and enriching blessings of the various divine dispensations belong to every living soul believing in Jesus Christ, and shall in the fullness of time flow to, pervade, and bless every nation, kindred, tribe, and tongue.  Some have endeavoured to shew that no such passages as we have quoted ought to be applied to the Christian church, but where we have the authority of Christ and his Apostles; but surely the way in which they apply the prophecies is rather given as an example of the way in which we may do so.

         It strengthens these considerations when we remember that the Scriptures speak so much of the Jewish Dispensation as being of a typical character, and prefiguring the Christian.  Heb. 8:5, 9:9, 10:1; 1 Cor. 10:1–11.  It was only temporary and preparatory to the full establishment of a more permanent system. Heb. 8.  In the Epistle peculiarly addressed to the Jewish nation, the Apostle, instead of giving any intimation of a reestablishment of their Dispensation, shews that it was to be removed, that the Christian, which he calls those things which cannot be shaken, may remain.  Heb. 12:26–28.

         Having given this scriptural illustration of the subject, many human authorities need not be added.  Mr. Lowth’s remark in the preface to his commentary is perfectly just – “All the privileges appropriated to the Jews in the Old Testament, as God’s peculiar people, do in a more eminent manner appertain to the Church of Christ, which is the true kingdom of God, the Jerusalem coming down from heaven, of which the earthly Jerusalem and the Temple there, was only a type and figure.”

         This view of the subject is the more important to be thus fully established, as it not only respects the interpretation of prophecy, but the right of Christians to all the promises of the Old Testament.  Hereby all the promises of God, in Christ are yea, and in him amen: unto the glory of God by us.

         In this view the Psalms are appointed by the Church of England to assist the daily devotions of her worshippers.  Bishop Horne’s introduction to his commentary forcibly shews the truth and solidity of this mode of interpretation; and the commentary itself, without defending every particular, in general wisely and beautifully illustrates and exemplifies it.

         It shews how judiciously and how piously, and with what edification, the promises and prophecies of the Old Testament may be thus expounded, and how easily and naturally they express the devout feelings of the Christian believer.*

         *[It may be interesting to the reader to see the way in which the above view is in the main confirmed by different writers; though we allow that several of the writers’ quotations go too far, and would exclude the literal interpretation of prophecy altogether.  The course of events have thrown a light around prophecy which several of these authors did not possess in their day, and would now thankfully improve.  Augustine shews in his Treatise on the City of God (Book 17, ch. 3.) that the promises concern partly the bondwoman bringing forth into bondage, that is, the earthly Jerusalem, and partly the free city of God, the true Jerusalem, eternal and heavenly, whose children are pilgrims on earth in the way of God’s word: and there are some who belong to both, properly to the bondwoman, and figuratively to the free; for the prophets have a triple meaning in their prophecies, some concerning the earthly Jerusalem, some the heavenly, and some both.  As I think it a great error in some to hold no relation of things done in the Scripture more than mere historical, so do I hold it a great boldness in them that bind all relations of Scripture unto allegorical reference, and therefore I avouch the meaning in Scripture to be triple, and not twofold only.

            Bishop Hall, writing against those who had in his days carnal notions of a Millennium, says, “their general fault is that they put a merely literal construction upon the prophecies, which the Holy Ghost intended only to be spiritually understood.  Hence it is that those frequent predictions which we meet in every page of the prophets concerning the kingdom of Christ, the re-edifying of the Jewish cities, the pomp and magnificence of restored Israel, their large privileges, and marvelous achievements, are altogether drawn to a gross, corporal, and syllabilical sense; which the judgment of the whole Christian Church, seconded by the event, hath upon good grounds ever construed, not of the letter, but of the spirit.  The truth is, these prophecies have their reference either to God’s merciful dealings with Jerusalem on their return from the Babylonish captivity; or by an usual allegory, express his gracious purposes to the Church under the Gospel.”  See Bishop Hall’s Revelation Unrevealed.

            Dr. Owen says on this subject, “Those promises which we find recorded concerning Sion, Jerusalem, the seed of Abraham, Jacob, Israel, respect the Elect of God called to the faith of Abraham, and worshipping God according to his appointment, of what people or nation soever they be.”  See Dr. Owen on the Hebrews, Exercitations vi and xviii.

            This application of the prophecies and promises of the Old Testament to the Christian Church, is by some called the mystical, and by others, the secondary sense of prophecy.

            Mr. Lowth, the author of the Commentary, observes, in his directions for reading the Scriptures, – “A particular, very observable in those prophecies which relate to the times of the Messiah, is the mystical sense of several passages in them contained under the literal, of which we may assign several examples.  As (1) When the prophets describe him under such characters as have a more immediate aspect upon some eminent person in or near their own times.  2 Sam. 7:14, Psa. 2:6–7; 45, and 72; 89:26–27; Hag. 2:23, Zech. 6:11–12.  (2) When they represent the redemption of mankind which he was to accomplish by such expressions as do in their first and primary sense allude to some temporal deliverance which God had vouchsafed (Psa. 68:22–23), or would vouchsafe to their own nation.  Isa. 40:3, etc.; 49:8, etc.; 52:7, etc.; 60:1, etc.  Or lastly, when they set forth the benefits of the Gospel by phrases taken from the forms of divine worship prescribed by their law.”  Isa. 60:6–7, 66:23; Zech. 14:16, 20.

            He farther shews, that “these providential congruities between the times of the Old and New Testament, as a learned writer styles them, do very much confirm the authority of both Testaments.  From hence we learn that the Scriptures comprehend one entire scene of Providence, which reaches from one end of the world to the other: and that God, who is the beginning and end of all things, by various steps and degrees pursues one great design, viz. the setting up the kingdom of his Son, through the several ages of the world, and will still carry it on by such measures as seem best to his infinite wisdom, till the great day of the consummation of all things. Such a gradual opening of this wonderful scene of Providence is a new argument of that infinite wisdom which contrived it, and so fully justifies this mystical way of propounding it.

            Bishop Lowth also remarks in his Lectures that, “In the sacred rites of the Hebrews, things, places, times, offices, and such like, sustain as it were a double character, the one proper or literal, the other allegorical; and in their writings these subjects are sometimes treated of in such a manner as to relate either to the one sense or the other singly, or to both united.  For instance, a composition may treat of David, of Solomon, of Jerusalem, so as to be understood to relate simply either to the city itself and its monarchs, or else to those objects which in the sacred allegory of the Jewish religion are denoted by that city, and by those monarchs; or the mind of the author may embrace both objects at once, so that the very words which express the one, in the plain, proper, historical, and commonly received sense, may typify the other in the sacred, interior, and prophetic sense.”  He afterwards illustrates this by a particular consideration of the 2d and 72d Psalm.

            Bishop Hurd has many valuable remarks on this subject.  He says, “The same oracles which attest the first coming of Christ, as if impatient to be confined to so narrow bounds, overflow as it were into the future, and expatiate on the principal facts of his second coming.  By this Divine artifice, if I may so speak, the two dispensations, the Jewish and the Christian, are closely tied together, or rather compacted together, into one harmonious system.  The events which both these prophetic schemes point out are so distributed through all time as to furnish successively to the several ages of the world the means of a fresh and still growing conviction.”

            Bishop Horne’s introduction to his Commentary on the Psalms, as noticed above, dwells at considerable length on this mode of interpretation.  He says, “The writers of the New Testament shew us that there is another Israel of God, other children of Abraham and heirs of the promise; another circumcision; another Egypt from the bondage of which they are redeemed; another wilderness through which they journey; other bread from heaven for their support; and another rock to supply them with living water; other enemies to overcome; and another land of Canaan, and another Jerusalem, which they are to obtain and possess forever.”

            It is allowed on all hands that wisdom is needful in such an application of prophecy, and that many have carried it too far.  The literal meaning should ever be first attained, where the sacred text will evidently bear a literal sense.  It has pleased the Holy Spirit also to reveal things in a variety of different ways.  “Sometimes,” says Bishop Lowth, “the obvious or literal sense is so prominent and conspicuous, both in the words and sentiments, that the remote or figurative sense is scarcely permitted to glimmer through it.  On the other hand, and that more frequently, the figurative sense is found to beam forth with so much perspicuity and luster, that the literal sense is quite cast into a shade, or becomes indiscernible.”  A judicious commentator, such as Mr. Scott, will furnish great help in difficulties.  But let us not lean on our own or any other man’s wisdom, so much as upon the constant teaching of the Holy Ghost.]

         The wisdom of God is thus wonderfully seen in so foretelling future events that, while they confirm the divine inspiration of the Scriptures, and answer other important ends, as PREDICTIONS, accomplished or accomplishing; they cheer and comfort every individual believer as PROMISES in which he has a personal interest.

         At the same time, the way in which the promises are assured to Christians furnishes a most tender motive for the kindest consideration of the Jews.  We can claim none of the promises of the Old Testament without being reminded of the lost sheep of Israel, and of our connection with their father Abraham as the channel by which the blessings flow to us.  With such views, how inexcusable is contempt of, or indifference to the Jews!  Boast not against the branches.  But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee.


Section V – Concluding Reflections.

         The whole view of the subject will, we trust, serve to CAUTION us against speculative anticipations of future events, as if we could unfold the purposes of Jehovah.  Let us guard against what St. Peter mentions (2 Peter 1:20) [See Mr. Scott’s Note on the passage.], any private interpretation of prophecy, referring it to our own concern, or those of any particular party, or the passing events of a day.  Scripture prophecy takes large and comprehensive surveys of events.  Let us watch against any views not according to the mind of the Spirit. 1 Cor. 2:10–15.

         It may serve also as a guard against censuring a view of prophecy which may not accord with our respective partialities.  One, strongly and justly impressed with the magnitude of the conversion of the Jews in its consequences on the world at large, may be disposed to find fault with an application of the prophecies of the Old Testament to the Christian Church, and to the extension of the kingdom of Christ among the Gentiles; but the preceding observations will shew that such an application is made by the inspired writers, and justly adopted in the judgment of the soundest divines.  Another, under equally strong and just feelings of the immense and innumerable multitudes of the Gentiles, all having immortal souls and perishing yearly, the promises made of their conversion, and the blessing already given to missionary efforts, may be apt to disregard the peculiar situation and privileges of the Jews, and not only to lose sight of those prophecies which concern their conversion and restoration, but to undervalue that which is of immense moment in the future glory and blessedness of the world at large.  But why should the servants of Christ, aiming at the same happy result, and agreeing in every essential point, be disunited on this, or in any way use expressions that may damp any effort made for the salvation of either Jew or Gentile?

         We may from this subject learn also the true USE OF PROPHECY.  It is not intended as a rule of duty.  Precepts are the rule of duty.  Much less should prophecy ever be so interpreted as to interfere with plain duty.  For instance, if any one should suppose from the predicted hardness of the Jews that it was our duty not to endeavour to promote their conversion; or if anyone should suppose, because the conversion of the Jews will be a blessing to the Gentiles, that therefore we should do nothing for the heathen till the Jews were converted, they would be equally wrong; for the precept, which is the rule of duty, is express, go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel TO EVERY CREATURE.  But the use of prophecy is of another kind; previously to the event, to raise general expectations, and thus excite our hopes, and stimulate our labours, and prove our faith, and strengthen us to endure present trials: and subsequently to the event, to turn to us for a testimony, becoming an evidence of the divine inspiration of the Scriptures, which may confirm our own faith as to all that is yet to be accomplished, and sufficiently answer all gainsayers and objectors to their just claim to the title of the word of God.

         Therefore let us not rest any material part of the support of such a blessed cause as promoting the conversion of immortal souls on any private and questionable views of unfulfilled prophecy, but on plain and positive precept: and on those broad, solid, and effective grounds which cannot be shaken, and on which Christians are generally agreed.  The ultimate success of the whole work is certain, and the present duties are plain and obvious.  He who neglects the care of either Jew or Gentile, neglects a plain duty, and a blessed privilege.  Let us seek to carry on this great work in our Saviour’s spirit, and labour to save immortal souls in that union of heart for which he poured the affecting prayer – that they all may be one, as thou Father art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us, that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.

         This practical point is of immense moment.  O that we may all carefully and habitually maintain the spirit of love in all our discussions.  The kingdom of the great enemy of God and man has been vigorously assailed, and he is doubtless watching to divide Christians, that he may weaken and impair their efforts.  Let us not be ignorant of his devices.  There is one all-important rule that we should constantly bear in mind – Whereto ye have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing.  This will lead us rather to dwell on those things in which Christians unite, than to press our particular sentiments, especially if those sentiments are allowedly of inferior moment.  Why should not we rather all hail, and help, and rejoice, in each other’s hopes, and labours, and success in the salvation of men, even as the Apostle presses the prophetical exhortation – Rejoice, ye Gentiles, with his people. Rom. 15:10.

         Not that the subject of prophecy should not be fully discussed, or that those who have studied the subject with care and attention should not state their sentiments freely, and firmly, and at length; only with humility and brotherly love, of which we have seen in our days many delightful examples.  Far be it from us to repress a full and free investigation of prophecy in a right spirit.  In guarding against one evil, we would not fall into another.  Such writers as Mede, Sir Isaac Newton, Bishop Newton, Hurd, Lowth, and others, not to mention living authors, have done much, notwithstanding some lesser mistakes which here seem inevitable, to elucidate this deep subject.  Even those who have allowedly fallen into great mistakes, have yet cleared up some things: and there is no writer of eminence who has not shed some important light on its difficulties.  Let the whole range of prophecy, then, be canvassed; let mind, and research, and piety, be cast into it; and thus many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.  We may justly expect, as we draw nearer the grand events which are before the church, that there will be more light beaming on its future hopes and prospects.

         Let the Holy Scriptures therefore be searched diligently respecting this, as well as every other part of their invaluable contents; especially is it to be desired that the original Scriptures should be more generally studied and understood.  Sacred criticisms, modestly advanced, with competent knowledge, is far from being injurious to the cause of truth; and we owe much to those learned men who have thus removed difficulties by which the sacred writings had been long needlessly obscured.

         Nor must we forbear here earnestly to press the great importance of fervent and persevering prayer for the spirit of divine wisdom, the anointing which teacheth us all things.  We press this, not because we can expect any direct inspiration to discover to us the future purposes of the Almighty, but because fervent prayer will keep far from us all dogmatism, pride, and fancied superior wisdom and knowledge; fervent prayer will produce that humble waiting state of mind which God delights to bless; fervent prayer will obtain the gift of the Holy Spirit to remove our prejudices, and will make us willing to see, embrace, and profess the truth, however contrary to our former sentiments; fervent prayer will keep alive in us a cordial interest for the whole cause of Christ, with a jealous fear of being biased by a favorite part; and with such tempers and dispositions we shall doubtless be preserved from any material error.

         The interpretation of prophecy is a subject, therefore, that should not be lightly entered upon, lest instead of shewing what is really the mind of the Lord, we put our own mind in its place, and either add to, or take from his word.  Especially when our sentiments contradict the general opinion of the main body of Christians through successive ages, it becomes more especially incumbent on us not to advance and press our particular opinions but with great caution and diffidence.

         Another suggestion may be allowed the writer perhaps, from having witnessed the evil of neglecting it – that in our devotions, and especially in published forms of prayer, in pleading the promises of God, we should be careful not to urge any private or disputed views of prophecy as a plea with our God, lest those who join with us should be stumbled, their devotional feelings be checked, and that union of desire to which the special blessing is promised should be hindered.

         To view the prophecies in their large aspect, as comprehending the general dealings of God with mankind through successive ages, enlarges and raises the mind; but exclusively or mainly to confine our views of it to one particular point or time has a tendency to narrow the mind, and lead it off from the great intent of prophecy.

         Remembering, then, that the advancement of God’s kingdom is peculiarly his own work, and that he will unfold his own plan in his own time and way, we should watch for the openings of his providence, not attempting to force our own schemes, but rather leave it to that providence to interpret his own commands.  Yet we should enter heartily when a great and effectual door is opened, and never was there a greater door opened, and never did the voice of Providence more manifestly call Christians to labour for the benefit of the whole human race, both Jew and Gentile, than in this day.  O may we be wise to discern the signs of the times, and to obey the plain command of our Saviour.  May we be quickened in promoting his cause, by the cheering light of prophecy, which, when accomplished, confirms our faith in the Divine Records; and while unaccomplished, supports and animates the Church in its labours and sufferings with the bright hope of a future triumph and a final recompense.

         How delightful is the thought that the day is coming on when as to the prophecies they shall fail, for they shall all in their most glorious extent be accomplished!  Though now we see through a glass darkly, then we shall behold Him whom the prophets foretold face to face: and though we now know in part, then shall we know even as also we are known.


Chapter 8 – On the Jewish State, Including Remarks on Their

Feasts, Offices, and Sacrifices, the Seasons in Judea, and

the Religious Sects Mentioned in the Scriptures.*

[The design in this chapter is merely to give a very brief outline of the above subjects.  A complete view of them would have swelled the book too much.  Those who wish for further information, may consult Jennings’s Jewish Antiquities, Lightfoot’s Temple Service, Calmet’s Dictionary, and Relandi Antiquitates Sacrae Veterum, Hebraeorum, etc.]

         The peculiarities of the Jewish state are so connected not only with the history, but also with the doctrines of the Bible, that our conceptions of many parts of Scripture, and of circumstances which are frequently alluded to, both in the Old and New Testament, must be very indistinct, unless we have some general view of the nature of the Jewish government, and the design of their festivals and ceremonies.  A knowledge of these and of some other things peculiar to the land of Canaan, will often throw new light upon passages of Scripture, and enable us to read with interest and edification what might otherwise seem tedious and unimportant.

         On EVERY DAY throughout the year, one lamb was offered in the morning and one in the evening, as a burnt offering for the sins of the people.  Exod. 29:38, etc.

         God appointed THE SABBATH to be observed as a weekly festival.  It was sanctified and set apart by him, at the beginning of the world, in remembrance of his having finished the work of creation.  The Sabbath appears to have been observed through every dispensation; but it was reinstituted at Mount Sinai, with an additional sanction as a memorial of the deliverance of the people of Israel from Egypt (Deut. 5:15), and to be kept with peculiar strictness; for if any profaned this day, they were to be put to death. Numb. 15:35.  The Jews were required to rest on this day from all labour (excepting the priests, who might go through their duty in the temple service), and to meet for the public worship of God.  The daily sacrifice also was doubled.  This day pointed out that rest which remaineth to the people of God in heaven.

         The NEW MOONS were feasts observed at the beginning of every month; when the Jews rested from labour and offered special sacrifices, and the priests blew the silver trumpets.  Numb. 10:10, 28:11, etc.

         The Jews had three great annual feasts – the Passover, Pentecost, and Feast of Tabernacles; at which all their males, who were able to travel, were to appear before God at the place which he should choose for the residence of the ark and tabernacle.  Psa. 122:4.  God promised that at those times no man should desire their land (Exod. 34:23–24.), and thus tried and rewarded their faith.

         The PASSOVER was the first of these yearly feasts.  The original Hebrew word signifies to pass, or leap over.  It was instituted in Egypt.  When the time came in which God designed to deliver his people, he determined to slay the firstborn in every house of the Egyptians, thus convincing them in the most awful manner, that the God of Israel was the true God, punishing them for their past evil conduct, and making them willing to let his people go.  To escape this judgment, the Israelites were directed to take a lamb without blemish, and having killed it, to sprinkle the blood on the doorposts; and when the destroying angel, who was to slay the firstborn of Egypt, should see the blood on the doorposts, he was to pass over and spare the houses, which were distinguished by this token.  Exod. 12.  The passover was to be observed on future occasions in the first month of the sacred year, i.e. reckoning the beginning of the year from the month Abib, which began generally about the middle of our March.  The civil year began in September; and this double mode of reckoning should be kept in view to prevent confusion.  On the tenth day of the month every household was to take a lamb, and to keep it up till the 14th day, when it was to be slain.  Exod. 12:3–6, 8.  Before the lamb was slain, all the leavened bread in their houses was to be destroyed.  No bone of the lamb was to be broken, it was to be roasted whole, and the flesh was to be eaten on the 14th day at night with unleavened bread.  This feast continued seven days, and because during this time all the bread that was eaten was to be unleavened, it was called the feast or days of UNLEAVENED BREAD.  The first fruits of the barley harvest were at this period given to the priest and presented before the Lord.  In some years, called intercalated years (from having a month extraordinary added) the passover was kept a month later.  The great intention of this feast was to commemorate the deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt, and it typified our redemption by Christ, who is expressly called our passover.  1 Cor. 5:7.  The Lamb typified Christ, the Lamb of God; its death and being roasted with fire, his sufferings and death; the safety of the Israelites, through the sprinkling of its blood, our security through Christ’s blood; and their eating the flesh, our faith in Jesus Christ.  John 6:53.

         The PENTECOST was so called because it was kept fifty days after the passover.  It was called the feast of WEEKS, being held a week of weeks and one day after the passover; and it was also called the feast of HARVEST, as it was kept at the beginning of wheat harvest, the first fruits of which were presented in a solemn manner.  This feast appears, at first, to have continued only one day.  There were peculiar sacrifices appointed for this day. Lev. 23:9–21.  The intention of the Pentecost seems to have been to commemorate the giving of the Law from Sinai.  On this feast day (corresponding with our Whit-Sunday) the Holy Ghost descended on the Apostles, and they began to preach the Gospel in Jerusalem.  It deserves attention, too, that on the year of our Lord’s crucifixion, he rose from the dead on the first day of the week, on which day also the feast of Pentecost fell.  Thus two great Christian facts, the resurrection of Christ, and the descent of the Holy Ghost, each took place on the Lord’s day.

         The feast of TABERNACLES was observed with peculiar solemnity in the month of Tisri, the first month in the civil year, but the seventh month of the sacred year, reckoning from Abib.  It was ushered in by the feast of TRUMPETS on the first day of the month, when the Jews rested from labour and offered sacrifices.  This might be designed to commemorate the work of creation, and to prepare for the great day of ATONEMENT on the 10th of the month.  This last day was a public fast, and kept as a most holy day.  The great design of it appears to have been to make an atonement for the sins of the people, and it is evidently referred to, in the Epistle to the Hebrews in various places, as typifying the sacrifice of Christ.  On this day alone the high priest, after making an atonement for himself and his house, entered into the holy of holies in a peculiar dress.  He was also to take two goats, present them before the Lord, and cast lots for them.  One lot was to be a sin offering for the Lord (typifying Christ made to be sin for us, 2 Cor. 5:21) and the other for a scapegoat.  The high priest was to lay his hands on the head of the scapegoat, confess over it the sins of the people, and send it away into the wilderness.  See Lev. 16.  So Jesus hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows. Isa. 53:4.  The feast of TABERNACLES, properly so called, began on the fifteenth day of the same month, and continued eight days.  On the first day they cut down branches of palm trees, willows, etc. and with these erected booths to dwell in, during the feast.  They also carried small bundles of branches to the temple, crying, Hosanna.  Various sacrifices were offered during these seven days.  On the eighth day, the people drew water out of the pool of Siloam, and the priests poured it forth at the bottom of the brazen altar.  But this appears to have been one of their ancient customs, and not an appointment of the law.  To this our Lord is supposed to allude, John 7:37.  It appears from Nehemiah 8:14, 18, that the due observance of the feast had been greatly neglected by the Jews, and was restored by an attention to the plain directions of the Levitical law.  Its design was to commemorate the dwelling of the Israelites in tents in the wilderness (Lev. 23:43), previous to their settlement in the promised land.

         Every seventh year was a SABBATICAL YEAR or a year of rest or release.  The land was to keep a sabbath by resting this year from the plough, and the people were neither to sow seed nor prune the vineyard.  The spontaneous produce was to be the property of the poor (Exod. 23:11), and the Hebrew bond servant was to be dismissed free.  God promised so to command his blessing in the 6th year, that it should bring forth fruit for three years. Lev. 25:21.  In this seventh year the law was to be publicly read in the ears of the people by Divine authority.  Deut. 31:10–13.  This was probably observed in the days of Joshua and the elders who survived him.  Israel then revolted from the Lord and served Baal; and as we do not find it mentioned in the subsequent history, it was probably afterwards kept merely as an era of time, or civil institution.  We find the neglect of it assigned as one reason for the seventy years’ captivity.  2 Chron. 36:20–21.

         The year of JUBILEE was observed after every seventh sabbatical year, that is, every 50th year.  The word Jubilee signifies, as some think, the sounding of a trumpet.  Others derive it from a word signifying to cause to bring back.  Notice of its approach was given on the evening of the day of atonement; and the Rabbins write that every Israelite was required to sound the trumpet nine times.  The Jubilee had remarkable effects both on property and on liberty.  If an Israelite from poverty had sold his possession, it was to be restored to him in this year; for the land, says God, is mine (Lev. 25:23); and if for a similar cause he had sold himself, he was to be freed this year, for, says God, they are my servants. (Lev. 25:42).  This must have been a grand and delightful era to Israel.  When they heard the joyful sound (Psa. 89:15), the captive was free, and the bondman set out for his native inheritance, to enjoy liberty, plenty, and peace.  Their privileges and property were again restored to them.  By this institution the possessions of the tribes were preserved in their respective families, and being restored again at the close of fifty years, there could be no disputed titles to property.  The lineage of Christ, like that of every other Jew, being by this means intimately connected with the ownership of property, could be distinctly traced, and was indisputably proved.  This festival preserved a well-regulated equality of property, without injustice, for all who bought or sold knew that the year of Jubilee was to come.  It was also a season of religious reflection and improvement, and inculcated the virtues of humanity and charity by the release of the debtor and the captive.  It was a remarkable type of the redemption by Christ. Isa. 61:1–2.  The analogy of the Jubilee to the Gospel will be seen at once, and seems plainly referred to by the Lord himself.  Luke 4:19.

         The Jewish year was divided into SIX SEASONS, each of two months’ duration: taking in one whole month, and the halves of two other months.  They had different times from which they reckoned the beginning of the years according to the objects which they had in view.  The sacred year began in the month of Abib, because in that month the Israelites were delivered from Egypt (Exod. 12:2.), and by this year their festivals and religious services were regulated.  The civil year began in the month of Tisri.

         The following Calendar may serve to explain the seasons, and periods of the festivals more clearly.


CALENDAR of the Jews, shewing the Seasons of the Weather, and

some of the Productions of the Earth

Jewish Months.

Answering to the Moons of

Months in the Civil Year.

Months in the Sacred Year


Tisri, or Ethanim.

1 Kings 8:2.

2 Chron. 5:3.




Cold season.


Seed time.

Marchesvan, or Bul.

1 Kings 6:38.




Seed time.





Seed time.


Esther 2:16.






Zech. 1:7.




Cold season.

Adar.  Ezra 6:15.

Esther 3:7.

Veader comes in here, when an additional month is wanted.




Cold season.


Year, the Time of the Public Festivals, the State of the in Palestine.

Festivals, etc.

Weather and Productions, etc.

1. Feast of Trumpets

10. Day of Atonement

15. Feast of Tabernacles

22. Last day of the feast.

Great heat in the day, and nights cold.

Rain frequently falls at the end of this month.

There are abundance of grapes ripe.

They begin to plough and to sow.


Sometimes the rainy season (called the early or former rain) does not commence till this month.

The extreme heat is now abated.

The dew is more plentiful than with us.

Wheat and barley are sown.

The latter grapes are gathered.

25. The Feast of Dedication

If the rainy season has not begun, it certainly commences this month.

The heat of the sun is considerable in the daytime, but the nights very cold.

General sowing of corn is in this month.


Rains fall in this month.

The cold is sometimes very piercing so that persons have perished from cold, but the snow seldom remains all day on the ground.

The grass and herbs spring up after the rains.

14 and 15. Beginning of the Year of Trees.

There is snow on the mountains, but near Jericho the cold is hardly felt.

The winter is chiefly remarkable for frequent showers, which fall more in the night than day time.

Corn is still sown.

The winter fig is still found on the trees, though they are stripped of leaves.

14. & 15.  The Feast of Purim.

Chiefly remarkable for rain.

Towards the end of this month the   snows and winter colds cease.

Barley sometimes sown at Aleppo, till the middle of this month.


Jewish Months.

Answering to the Moons of

Months in the Civil Year.

Months in the Sacred Year


Nisan, or Abib.

Exod. 12, 13:4.

Nehem. 2:1.

Esther 3:7.







Jiar, or Iyar, or Zif.

1 Kings 6:1.






Esther 8:9.







Thammuz, or Tammuz.







Lev. 26:5.








Hot season.





Hot season.


Nehem. 6:15.




Hot Season.

            The remarks on the Weather and Productions, etc. in the above Calendar are taken from Buhle’s Calendar of Palestine in the Fragments added to Calmet’s Dictionary.


Festivals, etc.

Weather and Productions, etc.

14. The Paschal Lamb killed.

15. The Passover.

16. The first Fruits of the Barley Harvest presented.

21. The end of the Passover, and unleavened Bread.

Rain, called the latter rain, frequent.

Great heat in the plains of Jericho, persons have perished through the heat of the sun.

The rivers swell from the rain, and thawing of the snow.

Barley ripe at Jericho, but little of the wheat is in the ear.

The fig tree blossoms, even while the winter fig is on the tree.

The vine produces the first clusters; about Sidon they have a triple produce in the year.


Frequent rains – heat excessive near Jericho.

The harvest depends on the duration of the rainy season.

Barley generally cut down this month.

Wheat begins to ripen.

6. Pentecost, or the Feast of Weeks.

The first Fruits of the Wheat Harvest presented.

Excessive heat renders the earth barren, as a sharp winter does with us – north and east winds increase heat.  West wind decreases it at Aleppo.

The snow on Libanus thaws rapidly.

Barley sometimes not all cut down till this month.

Wheat is cut in this month.

The grass and herbs have grown in some places above a yard high.


Weather extremely hot, not cold even in the night – rain is now very rare.

The inhabitants pass their nights on the roofs of the houses.

The rice and early figs ripen.

9. The Temple taken on this day, 1st. by the Chaldeans, and afterwards by the Romans.

The heat is still more intense.

Libanus is for the most part freed from snow, excepting places not exposed to the sun.

Ripe dates at Jericho.


The sky is serene and fair, and the heat extreme.

Ripe figs at Jerusalem, and ripe olives near Jericho.

Grapes ripe, and the clusters very large.


         Their months consisted alternately of 29 and 30 days, and when needful they added an intercalary month, formed out of the surplus days in the year, and called it Veadar, or 2d Adar.  The months of course could not exactly correspond with ours, as they answered rather to the moon than the month.  Thus Tisri would include part of September and part of October.

         The Jews began their day at the setting of the sun, and an hour with them was the 12th part of the time the sun continued above the horizon.  The night was divided into four parts or watches, each lasting three hours.  They had the natural day, and the civil day: the natural day was 24 hours, reckoning from one sun setting to another.  The civil day was 12 hours, reckoning from the rising to the setting of the sun; so that their first hour corresponded with our seven in the morning.

         The weather in the land of Judea is different from ours.  The summer is dry in general, without intervening showers; and the winter is wet, rain falling for many days successively.  The weather is not, however, the same throughout Judea.  It is hottest near Jericho, and coldest near Lebanon.

         The SACRIFICES, properly so called, may be divided into two general parts, bloody, or animate, and unbloody, or inanimate.  The first were of three sorts, whole burnt offerings, sin offerings, and peace offerings.  It will be proper to set down what was common to them all.  1. Sacrifices in general were holy offerings, but the public ones were the holiest.  2. It was unlawful to sacrifice anywhere but at the tabernacle, and afterwards in the temple.  3. All sacrifices were to be offered in the daytime, never in the night.  4. There were only five sorts of animals which could be offered up, namely, bullocks, sheep, goats; and among birds, pigeons and turtle doves.  All these animals were to be perfect, and without blemish or spot.  5. Certain ceremonies were to be observed in every sacrifice, some of which were performed by those that offered it, as the laying their hands on the head of the victim, killing, flaying, and cutting it in pieces, and washing the entrails, of it; others were to be done by the priests, as receiving the blood in a vessel appointed for that purpose, sprinkling it upon the altar, which was the most essential part of the sacrifice, lighting the fire, setting the wood in order upon the altar, and laying the parts of the victim upon it.  6. All sacrifices were salted.

         The unbloody or inanimate sacrifices were, 1. The Offerings and Libations.  2. First-fruits.  3. Tenths.  And,  4. Perfumes.  They were forbidden to mix honey with the offerings, and salt was absolutely necessary in every oblation.  [See Beausobre and l’Enfant’s Introduction to the New Testament.]  Mark 9:49–50, Col. 4:6.

         It has been remarked, that, “though there were various kinds of sacrifices, yet they may all be referred to two classes.  For either they were, 1. Oblations made for sin in a way of satisfaction, by which guilt was expiated before God; or, 2. They were symbols of divine worship and attestations of devotion.  The second class comprehended three kinds of sacrifices; some were offered in a way of supplication, to implore the favour of God: some in a way of thanksgiving, to testify the gratitude of the mind for benefits received; and some as simple expressions of piety, to renew the confirmation of the covenant: to this class belong burnt offerings and drink offerings, first fruits and peace offerings.”

         With respect to the sacrifices, it may be observed, generally, that no particular sacrifices were appointed for offences of a moral nature, except in a few prescribed instances: although as the sins of the people were to be confessed over the head of the goat of the sin offering on the day of atonement, the high priest would not forget the acknowledgment of their moral transgressions: yet so completely did their sins exceed the means provided by the ceremonial law for their being purged away, that in the Epistle to the Hebrews, the sentiments of the thoughtful and serious Jews are strongly expressed. – It is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins. Heb. 10:4.  There was a need of the better sacrifice of Christ, by whom he that believeth is justified from all things from which he could not be justified by the law of Moses. Acts 13:39.

         Besides these sacrifices, the Jews had many ceremonies appointed for purification: they had PLACES which were considered SACRED, or set apart for some particular purposes, as the tabernacle and its court, the holy of holies; and afterwards when they came to be settled in their own land, the cities of refuge, the city of Jerusalem, and the temple.  They had also many HOLY THINGS, as the ark, the altar of incense, the table, the candlestick, the layer, the altar of burnt offering, the holy garments, etc.

         To enter into a description of these would extend this work too much; they were of a mixed character – ceremonial, moral, civil, and political; typifying in many respects the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  The general nature of the law of Moses has been already pointed out, under the account of the Law and the Gospel; and the precise object of every particular part is perhaps not now fully understood.  The meaning of some of them, like many of the unfulfilled prophecies, is now obscure; but we may, perhaps, expect that they will be made manifest hereafter.

         We will now briefly notice the nature of the JEWISH GOVERNMENT.  It is evident that it was quite peculiar.  It has been rightly called a Theocracy.  God himself was not only the object of the worship of Israel, but, if the expression may be used, the political owner of their country.  He governed them immediately, not only by the laws which he had given them, but by appointing peace and war; going before them to battle, and directing them in various circumstances of their lives.  All the land belonged to him, and was held as it were in fee under him, as the chief Lord of the soil.  Hence, when they desired a king, it was considered as rejecting the government of God.  1 Sam. 8:7.

         The HIGH PRIEST was the first character in the Jewish Government, and the medium of communication with God.  He was consecrated to his office with oil composed of the richest ingredients and perfumes.  He had two kinds of garments; one of which was worn in his usual services (Exod. 28), and the other was only put on when he entered alone, once a year, on the great day of atonement (Lev. 16), into the most holy place which was a figure of the true heavens, Heb. 9:24.  He had a breastplate on which were engraven the names of the twelve tribes of Israel, that he might bear them as a memorial before the Lord, when he went into the holy place.  Exod. 28:29.  He is pointed out to us in the Hebrews as a remarkable type of Jesus Christ.

         The PRIESTS were the ministers of religion for common purposes.  They were all descendants of Aaron, to whose family the priesthood was confined, and the officiating priests were to have no defect of body.  They conducted the temple service, and offered the sacrifices to God, of which they partook for their maintenance.  They were to decide who were clean, and who were unclean; and were publicly to teach the law of God to the people.  They were many, because no one man could do what was needful to keep up the whole system of sacrifices; and because of their mortality, a succession was indispensably necessary.  But they were all of one family; and viewed as a body, they point our attention to one great High Priest; and their whole exertions may be considered as figurative of one great atoning sacrifice.  The priests that offer gifts according to the law – serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things. Heb. 8:4–5.  Thus the Levitical priesthood was a shadow of the priesthood of Christ.

         The LEVITES were the descendants of Levi, who were not of the family of Aaron, and they were taken into the service of God instead of the firstborn of all the tribes of Israel.  They waited on the priests, doing the lower services of the sanctuary.  They were dispersed also among the tribes as teachers of the people, and as magistrates or judges.  They had no inheritance in the land, though they possessed cities; for God was their inheritance, and he gave them the tithes of the increase of the land, as a reward for their service in the tabernacle.  Num. 18:20–21.

         We have seen that God appointed a variety of seasons and festivals, ceremonies and offices, among the Jews, and that they were designed for various important purposes: to perpetuate the memory of his great works; to afford the Jews frequent opportunities of instruction; to form useful sentiments and habits; constantly to keep in view their subjection to him, as their deliverer and Governor; and farther, one great intention of the whole was to point out Jesus Christ and the blessings of the Gospel.  They were figurative, and a shadow of things to come, Christ being the body or substance.  Col. 2:17.  Hence the law is said to be a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things. Heb. 10:1.

         It may reasonably be doubted whether the Jews understood the complete intention of their own ceremonies; but we know that those amongst them who were pious believed in a Saviour to come.  Abraham rejoiced to see his day, and he saw it and was glad. John. 8:56.  The Church of God, however, in its infant state (Gal. 4:1–3, etc.) was taught, by its great Parent, things of which it could not perhaps comprehend the full meaning, but which were still very useful as elements preparatory to farther instruction.  This the Epistle to the Hebrews plainly manifests.

         Dr. Buchanan says, “from the early oblivion of many of the divine ordinances, and from other circumstances, it evidently appears that the Law of Moses was intended by Providence to be of more use, as to example and practical benefit, to the Christian than the Jewish people; see 1 Cor. 10:11.  The volume of the Pentateuch has probably been more studied, and more spiritually understood, and has also been more largely productive of the fruits of righteousness under the Christian than under the Jewish dispensation.  The first or golden age of Israel does not seem to have extended much beyond a hundred years from their arrival in Canaan.  The glory of Israel was indeed revived in the days of David and Solomon, but even this lasted but for a short time.  It existed, as it were, but for a moment, merely to be a type of another kingdom, the more striking for its being short.”

         The FEASTS and offices, which have been described, were appointed by the law of Moses; but other feasts were added, and other classes of persons were afterwards formed amongst the Jews; and it may be useful to give a very brief account of some of these.

         The feast of Purim, or Lots, was instituted to commemorate their deliverance by the providence of God from the massacre which Haman had designed, and for which he had procured a decree.  See Esther.

         The feast of the DEDICATION was instituted by Judas Maccabaeus, to commemorate the recovery of the temple, and its dedication to the service of God.  John 10:22.

         The Jews had many other feasts and fasts: but as they do not appear to be alluded to in Scripture, they need not be mentioned here.

         The PROPHETS were persons whom God raised up and sent, as teachers and instructors, to revive the spirit of religion among the people, and to foretell such future events as he thought fit to reveal.

         The NETHINIM (from Nathan, given or offered) were made servants to the Priests and Levites, and appointed to perform the meaner offices in the house of God.  They are supposed to have been chiefly the descendants of the Gibeonites, whose lives were spared by Joshua.  Josh. 9:27.  They were appointed by David for the service of the Levites.  Ezra 8:20.

         The NAZARITES were persons separated or devoted to God, either for life or a limited time.  Num. 6:2, etc.

         The SCRIBES were the writers of the law.  The doctors and LAWYERS were of this class.  Their original office was to make copies of the law; but they soon began to read and expound it.  In the time of our Saviour they had almost lain aside the Scriptures for their traditions which had then grown large: these in the New Testament are called the tradition of the elders (Matt. 15:2); and were, when afterwards reduced to writing, called the Mishnah; or the oral or traditional law.  To this they were too much attached; being inclined rather to interpret the Scriptures by their traditions, than to make their traditions bend to the authority of the Scriptures.

         The PUBLICANS were tax gatherers and collectors of customs due to the Romans.  They were particularly odious to the Jews, who bore with impatience the taxes imposed by the Romans.  They were generally Jews, they were often extortioners, and the people ill-endured these exactions from their brethren.

         After the return of the Jews from the captivity, and before the time of our Lord, they became divided into various religious parties.  The RELIGIOUS SECTS mentioned in the New Testament were as follow: the PHARISEES, or Separatists, so called because they separated from others under profession of particular strictness.  They trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others. Luke 18:9.  They probably existed as a sect at least 150 years before Christ came.  They were particular in wearing broad Phylacteries, which were scrolls of parchment bound to their foreheads and wrists, on which were written certain words of the law.  They enlarged also the borders or fringes of their garments. Matt. 23:5.  These customs they founded on what is said, Exod. 13:9, 16; Num. 15:38–39.  Extremely particular in small things, they neglected justice, mercy, and faith.  Under a profession of extraordinary sanctity, they were hypocritical, proud, censorious, and covetous.  They substituted human traditions in the room of revelation, and they expected to be saved by their descent from Abraham, by circumcision, and by their works.  Jesus Christ often severely reproved them for perverting the commandments of God.

         The SADDUCEES, so called from Sadoc, the founder of the sect.  They denied the immortality of the soul, the resurrection, and the existence of angels or spirits; they asserted man’s freewill, denying the superintendence and control of providence, and they rejected traditions.  They were the men of pleasure of their day.  This sect probably arose a few years before the Pharisees.

         The HERODIANS shaped their religion to please Herod, complying with many heathen practices, and opposing the Pharisees.  They sought to please man, and feared man more than God.  They may be considered as rather a political party, favouring the claims of Herod and the Romans, than a religious sect.  Matt. 22:16.

         The SAMARITANS were the descendants of the nations whom the kings of Assyria settled in the country of the ten tribes, and who were intermixed with some of the people of Israel.  They established a mixed system of religion, compounded of Judaism and Heathenism, but did not worship idols, and admitted the divine authority of the Pentateuch, of which they have preserved copies, which agree in the main with those of the Jews.  There was great enmity between them and the Jews.  John 4:9.  (See above.)

         The STOICS (Acts 17:18) were a sect of heathen philosophers, who prided themselves in an affected indifference to pleasure or pain.  They professed to consider virtue as its own reward, and maintained that all events were determined by fate, and not by the direction of the Divine Being.  They held also that a wise man ought to be free from all passions.

         The LIBERTINES (Acts 6:9) were freed men of Rome, who, being Jews or Proselytes, had a synagogue or oratory for themselves.

         The Grecians or Hellenists (Acts 6:1, 9:29, 11:20) were Jews or Proselytes, who having generally resided in other countries, spoke only the Greek language, and used the Greek version of the Scriptures in their synagogues.  They were thus distinguished from those who spoke a dialect of the Hebrew.  By the Greeks are in general meant the idolatrous Gentiles.  The Greeks being the most celebrated of the Gentile nations near Judea, the Jews call all the Gentiles by that general name.  Rom. 10:12, Gal. 3:28, Col. 3:11.

         The EPICUREANS (Acts 17:18) were a sect of heathen philosophers, who ascribed all things to chance, and considered pleasure as the chief good; but Epicurus asserted, that there was no pleasure except in virtue.

         The GALILEANS were a turbulent seditious sect amongst the Jews, who refused subjection to any other nation, and who by degrees swallowed up almost all other sects.  Probably the ZEALOTS were of this sect.

         It is no part of the design of this work to explain the opinions of those sects which arose after the New Testament was finished; but as sentiments are alluded to in the Apostolic writings, of which a distinct account can only be obtained from writers of the succeeding ages, it may be useful to give here a short summary of the tenets held by those who in the earliest periods deviated from the truth.  From hence the intelligent render will see that many passages in the New Testament are directed against similar opinions; although during the lives and influence of the Apostles, those opinions had neither gathered the strength, nor acquired the form and size, by which they were afterwards distinguished.

         Most of the errors which then perplexed the church arose from a false philosophy, which the Apostle Paul calls vain deceit (Col. 2:8), and which is usually denominated the ORIENTAL PHILOSOPHY.  Much of the system was ancient; it had extended over many countries, and possessed considerable influence.  It contained some good sentiments, but mingled with so many errors, that the effect of the good was scarcely perceptible, whilst the evils of the system were productive of much mischief.

         According to this system, God was a being supremely good, and infinitely happy; – he dwelt in light diffused through the immensity of space, which the philosophers called the PLEROMA, or Fullness. [References to this term may be observed Col. 1:19 and elsewhere.]  They imagined that after the Deity had dwelt from eternity in silence and solitude, he produced two celestial beings who bore his image, but were of different sexes.  These produced two others, and so on, till a large family was formed who inhabited the Pleroma or Fullness of God.  These were called AEons, and were the agents by which the Divine Being was supposed to carry on his designs: they possessed different degrees of excellence; but were all superior to any order of beings that we are acquainted with, and inferior only to the Most High.

         The great difficulty which perplexed these philosophers was how to account for the evil existing in the world.  Some thought it arose from matter (which they imagined was eternal) and concluded that whatsoever was material must therefore necessarily have a portion of evil mingled with it.  Some maintained that there was an eternal evil principle who presided over matter, and was the cause of sin; and others held, that the world was formed of the matter which existed beyond the Pleroma where the Deity dwelt, and that the agent employed in making and governing the world (who was one of the AEons) fell from the purity of his first condition, and thus brought evil into the creation.  They also imagined that the supreme Being used various methods of counteracting this evil, chiefly by the agency of those celestial beings who inhabited the Pleroma: and that in the end he would be completely victorious.

         It is easy to see that when persons who were tinctured with this philosophy embraced Christianity, they would be under a great temptation to compare the points of resemblance in the two systems, and to suppose that in many things they were essentially the same.  They would be especially struck with the Christian doctrine of the Preexistence, the Deity, and the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, as agreeing very much with their opinions concerning the AEons, who were to be the instruments which the Supreme God would employ in the destruction of evil.  This, in fact, appears to have been the case.

         Those who combine this philosophy with their views of Christianity were commonly called GNOSTICS.  They thought that nearly everything depended on knowledge; and hence they derived their name from the Greek word γνωσις, (gnosis) signifying Knowledge.  They were much elated with their opinions, and (as they imagined them) their sublime conceptions of the Gospel.  There were different classes of the Gnostics, but some common sentiments united them all.

         The Jews were not free from the influence of this philosophy.  They had formed exalted notions of the dignity of some of the angelic beings who were before the throne of God; paying them a veneration which approached at least to worship; and some Jewish Christians thought so highly of the dignity of angels that the first chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews was written to prove the superior glory of Jesus Christ.

         These facts suggest an explanation of many passages in the New Testament.  Col. 1:15, etc. is directly opposed to this system of philosophy.  The Apostle not only exalts Christ above all created beings, but ascribes to him the creation of all things; and here he does not limit his agency to visible things, but includes the invisible also, – those which are in heaven, as well as those on the earth; in the enumeration of these things visible and invisible, he mentions, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: the names by which the orders of angelic beings were known.  We see an allusion to the same system in chapter 2:8–10: and in both passages the opposition is so marked that we cannot help conceiving it to be designed.  We know that the patrons of this philosophy amused themselves with supposed genealogies of the AEons, in arranging which, they shewed much ingenuity; hence we see the force of the Apostle’s exhortation, neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, etc. 1 Tim. 1:4.  See also chapter 6:20.

         The ancient writers uniformly represent Simon Magus (the person mentioned in Acts 8:9, etc.) as the great parent of the Heretics who infested the Christian Church; in a certain sense, he was so; and there appears to have been a considerable portion of the Oriental Philosophy in his opinions.  Yet, in reality, he ought rather to be considered as an enemy to Christianity altogether, than as professing it even in a corrupt and mutilated form.

         Many of these heretics denied that Jesus Christ had a real body, or that he really suffered.  They were probably led to this strange idea from their notion of matter.  Supposing matter to be the necessary source of evil, they imagine that it could not form a part of the holy Jesus.  They asserted that he only seemed to be a man, but was not partaker of flesh and blood; and some said that the person who did suffer was not Jesus, but another who was mistaken for him.  Against this erroneous and strange notion, many passages in the first Epistle of John were evidently pointed; in which the Apostle insisted on the importance of believing that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh.  See particularly chapter 4.

         They made a distinction between Jesus and The Christ, asserting that Jesus was the name of the man who appeared, or at least seemed to appear, as the Messiah; and Christ was the superior spiritual being, or AEon, which came from the Pleroma, and descended on Jesus at his baptism.  To this sentiment St. John alludes in several places.  See 1 John 1:1–3, 2:22–24, 4:14–15, etc.

         From their notions of matter as the source of evil, they thought little of the body; and though they believed in the immortality of the soul, which they supposed would after death ascend to the Pleroma, they considered what was said of the resurrection of the dead as figurative; and were not willing to admit the declarations of the Apostles concerning it in their plain sense.  To this erroneous notion the New Testament refers: the Apostle Paul warned Timothy against some who said the resurrection is passed already, etc.  2 Tim. 2:18; see also 1 Cor. 15.

         The same general cause produced two other effects which, though very opposite, yet were each derived from the system.  As matter was supposed to be the only source of evil, some who wished to gratify their sensual inclinations made their philosophy an excuse for their licentiousness; and pleading that the body was so distinct from the soul that it was not polluted by fleshly indulgences.  Others, looking on the body as the source of evil, subjected it, for this reason, to various mortifications.  The New Testament writers cautioned the primitive Christians against both these extremes.  Referring to the first, they said, these are spots in your feasts of charity (Jude 12; 2 Peter 2); and the latter they seem to have described as having a shew of wisdom in will-worship and humility, and neglecting of the body, etc.  Col. 2:23.

         Among the disciples to these perverted views of the Gospel, those who had been Jews appear to have mingled, to a certain extent, more correct sentiments with their system than those who had been Heathens.  Hence, CERINTHUS allowed that the Creator of the world was the sovereign of the Jewish people, though not the supreme God; and the EBIONITES even went farther, and asserted, agreeably to the Old Testament, that God was the Creator of the world.  But both maintained that Jesus was no more than a man, and that “The Christ” descended on Jesus at his baptism, and was from that time united to him.  Though each of these parties wandered into speculations respecting the person and doctrine of Christ, which now appear surprising by their singularity; yet they seem to have retained so much of the truth as to acknowledge the preexistence and, in part, the glorious character of the Lord.

         To these opinions, in their infant state, the Apostle John is supposed to direct our attention in the first chapter of his Gospel.  In this Gospel (ch. 1:8–9, etc.) there is a reference to the disciples of John the Baptist.  These, out of veneration for the harbinger of the Lord, seemed to have called him The Light, (verse 8) and we have reason to believe that some of them called him The Apostle of the Light; and his baptism, The Baptism of the Light.  The Evangelist wished to correct their errors; and accordingly he so framed his expressions, as to oppose the various misrepresentations which were then becoming popular. [See Mosheim’s Eccl. Hist. Cent. 4, Part 2, et Comment do Rebus Christianis – Irenaeus Contra Haereses et Epiphanius adversus Haereses.]

         Two reflections arise from this short statement; – First, that Christ was not considered, even by the ancient heretics, as a mere man, when he appeared in his public character: and hence, though their reasonings were mistaken, and their representations fanciful, yet they did not wander so far from the truth as many have done in modern times.  And, secondly, that those who in the early times deviated into these singular sentiments appear to have been led away from the truth by pride of heart, adhering to the philosophy of the day, and not receiving the declarations of Christ and his Apostles with simplicity of mind.  It is a great thing to be willing to receive the truth as it is in Jesus.

         The NICOLAITANS are expressly named in the New Testament.  Rev. 2:6, 15.  They might even in that early period be inclined to the Gnostic system, as we know a party which bore the same name was afterwards; but the reason of their being reprobated in the sacred volume was principally because they allowed themselves to partake of the sacrifices of the heathen, and indulged in the commission of vile impurities, to the scandal of the Gospel, and the destruction of their souls.

         The term NAZARENES, in succeeding ages, was applied to Jewish Christians, though learned men cannot settle what were their peculiar sentiments.  But in the New Testament (Acts 24:5) it is used as a term of reproach, and means no more than the followers of Jesus of Nazareth.

         In conclusion, we may observe the wisdom of God in permitting such a variety of opinions to arise before the canon of Scripture was closed; as by this means we have the testimony of his word on every difference of moment that can happen.  Thus in the Bible not only the truth is shewn to us; but also those errors to which the human mind is most prone are marked out and condemned.


Chapter 9 – An Explanation of Some Expressions Peculiar

to the Scriptures.

         Every science has its peculiar terms and expressions, which appear difficult to those who are ignorant of it, but convey clear ideas to such as have made that science their study.  In some measure this is true of religion, the first of all sciences, the most advantageous of all studies.  Here God himself is the teacher, and he takes this as his peculiar title, I am the Lord, thy God, which teacheth thee to profit.

         The terms and expressions used in the Bible are often taken from common occurrences in life, and admirably illustrate the truth which God has revealed.  The object of this chapter is to endeavour, briefly, to explain a few of those forms of speech which are peculiar to the Bible.  Fully to exhibit their spirit and meaning, would require many volumes: only a few hints can therefore be given on each.  Let the reader, however, endeavour to attend to such phrases when he meets with them, and not pass carelessly over them.

         The expressions intended to be explained relate to God the Father, to Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, the Gospel, faith in Christ, the state of man by nature, his state by grace, and to God’s justifying us, or accounting us righteous through the atonement of Christ.

         With respect to GOD the FATHER.  He is called a Father, because he is the creator and supporter of all men, and particularly because he is the author of the spiritual life of those who believe in his word, and love him as their preserver unto his heavenly kingdom.  He is called the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 1:3) to shew the intimate connection between the eternal and invisible God, and Jesus Christ our Lord, who is described as his only son, possessing a common nature with him; and in certain important respects one with him; so that God is his father, in a sense that applies to no one else.  Hence the term points out a relationship which, from the nature of the subject, we cannot explain.  The expression also shews the connection between the Father and Jesus Christ in his mediatorial capacity, which is so frequently and distinctly pointed out in the New Testament.  He is the God of the spirits of all flesh (Num. 16:22), as the spirits of all men are created by his power.  He is the father of lights (James 1:17), as the source of wisdom and knowledge, which he communicates to his creatures in such degrees as it pleases him.  When God lifts up the light of his countenance (Psa. 4:6) on his people, he manifests his presence, favour, and love to them, as a tender father does when he smiles upon a son with whom he is well pleased.  Again it is said, he hides his face (Psa. 30:7) from them; that is, they are sometimes deprived of communion with him, and have little or no sense or perception of his favour towards them.  They are said to enjoy his presence (Psa. 16:11) or the manifestation of God to their spirits, as he visibly manifested his presence by the Shekinah, or divine appearance to the people of Israel.  He is also their portion (Psa. 73:26); their souls are satisfied in him as an all-sufficient good.

         The grace of God (1 Cor. 15:10) is the undeserved favour and kindness of God to us, arising entirely from his own will.  It is the spring and source of all the benefits which we receive from him.

         With respect to JESUS CHRIST.  He is called the only begotten Son of God. 1 John 4:9.  The Scriptures do not explain the nature of the union of the Father and the Son; but this expression points out the intimate relationship which subsists between them, and may teach us the immense love of God to sinners, in that he spared not his own Son.  (See the observations on the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.)  He is called the word. John 1:1.  A word is the birth of the mind, the expression of the purposes and counsels of the heart, and thus Christ is called the word of God (Rev. 19:13), as he is the manifestation of the purposes and glory of God, and especially of his wisdom and love in our redemption.  He was with God, and was God (John 1:1), partaking of the same divine nature: united most intimately to him, and therefore entitled to the worship and honour which creatures owe to their Creator. [The ancient Jews frequently used the expression the word of God; and though it is not easy to say exactly what they intended by it, yet they appear always to have meant, either God, or some display of his power and glory.]  He is the heir of all things. Heb. 1:2.  From his character as Son of God, he inherits all the power and glory of his heavenly Father; even as the heir inherits the estate which, in due time, he is to possess.  The brightness of his Father’s glory. Heb. 1:3.  Jesus Christ is the manifestation of that glory in its most illustrious and beneficent displays; even as the rays which proceed from the sun convey to us all that we know, and all that we feel of its glory; and he is the express image of his Father’s person (Heb. 1:3); the very counterpart of it, even as the impression is the counterpart of the seal.  The firstborn of every creature. Col. 1:15.*  The head and ruler of all created beings.

         *[The Apostle shews his meaning by what follows.  After bringing forward Christ in his character, he adds, For by him were all things created, etc. which is the most complete reason possible why he should be the head and ruler of the whole; but if a lower station be assigned him, the reasoning fails.  But if the proof that Christ was the firstborn of every creature be this, that by him were all things created, it is manifest that the Apostle designed to hold him up as Lord over all in consequence of his being the creator of all; and thus his reasoning explains his meaning.

            It deserves attention also that this term is often applied by the Jews in the sense of head and chief.  Thus the firstborn of death shall devour his strength (Job 18:13), which means some incurable disease; death in its full power, which will certainly bring its victims to the grave.  So it is said of the heir of the house of David, I will make him my firstborn, higher than the kings of the earth (Psa. 89:27), i.e. I will distinguish him above the rest, and his throne shall be exalted above theirs.  Again, I will be a father unto Israel, and Ephraim shall be my firstborn. Jer. 31:9.  Or, the ruling tribe of Israel, which shall be eminent above the others; for we know that Ephraim was not literally the firstborn of Joseph, nor was Joseph his father the firstborn of Jacob.  “The Jews made the word firstborn to be synonymous with the word king, and explain it by – a great one and a prince”.  Gill in Col. 1:15.  They also speak of God as the firstborn of the world!  Westein in Loc.  A longer account than usual has been given of this expression, to take away the difficulties which some have felt respecting its application to our Lord Jesus Christ.]

First born in power and authority.  He took upon him the form of a servant (Phil. 2:7): though as “God over all” he possessed universal dominion, yet by taking our nature upon him, he submitted to appear as a creature subject and obedient to God.  He was put to death in the flesh (1 Peter 3:18): his human nature suffered death, but he was quickened by the Spirit (1 Peter 3:18): raised by the Holy Spirit from the dead.  He was made sin for us, (2 Cor. 5:21) he stood in our place, and though he was perfectly holy, the consequences of our transgressions were charged upon him: he was made an offering for sin on our account, and thus he redeemed us; purchasing his church with the price of his precious blood.  He is our life (Col. 3:4), he is the cause why we live: he, having died and risen again, communicates spiritual life to all that believe in him, and supports and maintains this life and thus prepares them for eternal life, the gift of God through Christ.  He gave himself a ransom for all. 1 Tim. 2:6.  The whole human race, being by nature the children of wrath, in bondage to sin, and the captives of Satan, Jesus freely gave himself as the price of their redemption, and thus obtained complete deliverance for all classes and ranks, all sorts and conditions of men.  He is the propitiation for the sins of the whole world. 1 John 2:2.  “Through his atoning sacrifice on the cross, and his subsequent intercession, he rendered a holy God propitious to sinners, so that he waits to be gracious on the true mercy seat or propitiatory, of which that above the ark of the covenant was a type; nor is this benefit confined to the Jews; sinners all over the whole earth are admitted to share in it, so that his obedience to death is an all-sufficient atonement for the sins of all men, in every land, and through successive ages.”  He is made of God unto its wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption. 1 Cor. 1:30.  Whilst we are ignorant, guilty, unholy, and condemned, God has appointed Christ to give us wisdom by his word, his Spirit, and example; righteousness, by his obedience to the law for us; sanctification through the power of his grace, that we may be renewed, and made holy and meet for heaven; and full redemption from the grave, hell, and endless ruin; and admittance at the last day, to eternal glory in heaven.  He is the resurrection. John 11:25.  His people are united to him by faith, and considered as members of that body of which he is the head; and, because he lives, they shall live also.

         The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 13:14) is the undeserved kindness and love of Christ, shewn not only in his voluntary undertaking to become obedient to the law for us, and to suffer in our stead, even unto death; but also in the help and strength which he affords us.

         True FAITH in general, as it respects the word of God, is such a cordial belief of God’s truth as produces corresponding affections and actions.

         FAITH IN CHRIST is a belief in Jesus Christ as the Son of God and the true Messiah, which produces a reliance upon him as the Saviour.  It has a special regard to the promises which are made through Christ, and those also which he gives for the salvation of such as trust in him for eternal life.  As this is the most important grace given to the Christian, and the source of every excellence in his character, it is described in Scripture in a vast variety of modes.  This faith is the gift of God; and where it dwells in the heart, a conviction of our guilty and dangerous state as sinners, of our total inability to help ourselves, and a renunciation of all hope in any other mode of deliverance is presupposed.  The sinner, hearing of this way of salvation, believes the testimony of God concerning Christ, and trusts in Christ alone for pardon, righteousness, life, and full salvation, as offered in the Gospel.  He views him as a prophet, who came to teach him the way to heaven; as a priest, who offered a full atonement for sin, and who intercedes with God in behalf of all who seek mercy in his name; and as a king who is exalted, that he might reign in his heart, regulate his conduct, subdue all his spiritual enemies, and in all things be acknowledged as his Lord.

         FAITH is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Heb. 11:1.  It apprehends as realities, things not yet possessed, but which are confidently expected by the believer on the ground of God’s promises.  And it is a conviction impressed on the mind, of the existence of things which are not visible to our bodily eyes.  [The faith of the Christian may be illustrated by the conduct of the patriarchs: they believed the promise of God, that he would give to their descendants the land of Canaan, and this faith guided all the great lines of their conduct.  Though they had not Canaan in their possession, yet from their firm  persuasion that God would fulfill his word, Jacob, and after him his son Joseph, directed their bones to be carried thither.  They considered what God had promised as a reality, though they only enjoyed it in hope, and they were strongly convinced that it would take place, because God had promised it, though all appearances seemed to oppose their expectations.]  The believer looks unto Jesus (Phil. 3:20, Heb. 12:2), he views him as his only Saviour.  As the Israelites, when bitten by fiery serpents, looked to the brazen serpent that they might be healed and delivered from death; so we are to look to Christ to be healed of our spiritual diseases, and delivered from eternal death (John 3:14); and we are also to view him as a pattern for our imitation.  The believer comes to Christ, (Matt. 11:28) he listens to his invitation, trusts in his promise, and waits on him in his appointed way for salvation.  As beggars go to a rich man for relief; as scholars come to their tutor for instruction; as rebels, when pardon is offered, submit themselves to their king; and as we, in distress, would go to a wise, powerful, and kind friend for comfort; so should we come to Christ.  The true Christian calls on his name, (1 Cor. 1:2) he worships him, and earnestly entreats his help.  He is in Christ, (2 Cor. 5:17) united to him, and considered one with him, as a member is in the body, or as a branch in the vine, and thus he partakes of life from him.  He abides in him, John 15:7.  As the branch, by abiding in the vine, receives its life and nourishment from the stock, and bears fruit; so the Christian continues to receive living influence from Christ: and thus manifests the fruit of faith in all those holy tempers and dispositions which adorn the Gospel.  He receives Christ (Col. 2:6), welcoming him into his heart, as his only Saviour, and he puts on Christ (Rom: 13:14), he endeavours to have the same character, the same purity, holiness, meekness, and love, so that all may know whose disciple he is, by his life and conduct.  He, therefore, follows Christ (Matt. 16:24), imitates his example, openly professes subjection to him, and obeys his commands.  He eats his flesh, and drinks his blood (John 6:54); believing on an incarnate Saviour, he makes his atoning sacrifice the food of his soul: resorting to that as the support of his hope, as he does to daily food for the support of his body.  Believers are thus one bread (1 Cor. 10:17), one with Christ, and one with each other, as the bread, though distributed, is part of one loaf: and the members, though many, are parts of one body.  A Christian is crucified with Christ, (Gal. 2:20) interested in his death, and daily dying to sin.  The righteousness of God is revealed in the Gospel, from faith to faith, (Rom. 1:17) the plan which God in his infinite wisdom devised for the salvation of sinners, through the death and atonement of Jesus Christ, is, taken altogether, God’s way of making men righteous; and hence the method by which he makes them righteous, that they may be justified in his sight, is called God’s righteousness.  Thus a distinction is preserved between God’s method of making men righteous, and man’s method of seeking righteousness; especially that which was popular among the Jews, by their ceremonial observances.  That righteousness, therefore, which comes from God, and is needful for the salvation of sinners, is manifested in the Gospel; and we see it and embrace it, by faith only, and eminently.  Salvation is received and applied by faith from first to last, and one degree of faith prepares the believer for another.

         With respect to the HOLY SPIRIT.  He seals us unto the day of redemption. Eph. 4:30.  The Spirit of God, by producing holiness of heart, impresses and stamps the divine image on the soul, as the seal stamps an impression upon wax.  Those who are partakers of this Spirit, walk after the Spirit, (Rom. 8:1) their minds are fixed on spiritual things, and the great object of their lives is to live under his influence.  To grieve the Spirit (Eph. 4:30) is to displease him by sin, as an undutiful son grieves a tender parent.  To resist the Spirit (Acts 7:51) is to oppose his influence on our minds, and to refuse to be led by him, because we love sin better than holiness.  To quench the Spirit (1 Thess. 5:19) is by the indulgence of sin, or by a careless and willful neglect of the means of grace, to resist his convictions and influence: as a cheering fire may be extinguished by having water thrown upon it.  Blasphemy against the Holy Ghost (Matt. 12:31) is that sin of which those Jews were guilty, who, although they were eyewitnesses of the power of the Holy Ghost, yet obstinately and maliciously ascribed it to Satan, and thus completely rejected the Gospel in its fullest evidence.  The communion of the Holy Ghost (2 Cor. 13:14) means living under his influence, and having fellowship with him.

         With respect to MAN IN HIS NATURAL STATE.  He is described as shapen in iniquity, and conceived in sin (Psa. 51:5), having a strong natural tendency and predisposition to evil, and aversion from good, inherited from his parents; by nature a child of wrath, (Eph. 2:3), being born with sinful inclinations, which, as he grows up lead him away from God, and thus incur his anger, and render him liable to condemnation.  He is dead in trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1), so completely under the dominion of sin, and in love with it, that though he is not dead to it, he is dead in it, dead with respect to spiritual things, since he has no delight in them, and no love to God.  Such are carnally minded (Rom. 8:6), their hearts are engaged in bodily gratification and earthly pursuits.  They walk after the flesh (Rom. 8:5); their minds are fixed on worldly objects, and the great aim of their lives is to gain nothing higher than earthly good.  They pursue the pleasures of sin in willing bondage, as a servant follows a master whom he loves.  They live to themselves (2 Cor. 5:15), their will is unbroken, unsubdued by divine grace.  They seek to gratify their own purposes, and do not submit themselves to God. They are conformed to the world (Rom. 12:2); like the men of the world, they approve their maxims, adopt their sentiments, and follow their example: living according to the lusts of the flesh (1 John 2:10), the desires of their sensual appetite; the lust of the eye, the gaiety and empty shew of the world; and the pride of life, the various objects which our ambition may prompt us to seek.  Thus they walk after the course of this world (Eph. 2:2), influenced by the opinions and example of those who look not above the things of time and sense.  They live to the lusts of men (1 Peter 4:2), obeying men rather than God, or living according to the lusts which usually reign over then.

         With respect to THE GOSPEL.  It is, as has been before described, good tidings of great joy.  St. Paul, assigning his reason for not being ashamed of the Gospel, says, it is the power of God unto salvation (Rom. 1:16); it is that doctrine with which God’s almighty power concurs, and renders efficacious to all the heirs of salvation, and thus it is the way in which God exerts his power in saving sinners.  God executes the whole plan of their deliverance; he is the author and finisher of it.  It is the wisdom of God (1 Cor. 1:24), as it is an eminent display of it in recovering sinful man, while it brings glory to God.  It is the savour of life unto life (2 Cor. 2:16) to the people of God.  As a powerful aromatic revives the fainting body, so the Gospel revives the dying soul, cheering it with the promise of life; spiritual life here, and eternal life hereafter.  It is the savour of death unto death to the wicked; it smells, as it were of death to them; it tells them their hopes are unfounded; it shews their condemned and dead state in this life, and their eternal death in the life to come.  The kingdom of God is that reign or government which God foretold he would set up and give to his Son (Dan. 2:44, 7:13–14); and hence it is applied to the dispensation of the Gospel.  It is likewise applied to those who believe the Gospel; to the church of God, composed of those who become in a peculiar measure Subject to God; to whom he gives laws and privileges; they obtain from him righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.  The kingdom of heaven frequently signifies the same as the kingdom of God: and is also often applied to that reign of God in the heart which makes a man fit for heaven; at other times, when an evident reference is made to the state of the blessed hereafter, it signifies the regions of eternal glory, the heavenly world, where God peculiarly manifests his presence and displays his glory.

         With respect to MAN IN A STATE OF GRACE.  He is described as born of God (John 1:13), a complete and entire change has been produced in him by the power and grace of God; he becomes possessed of new perceptions and dispositions, and makes a new use of all his faculties; he has new fears and hopes, joys and sorrows, love and hatred; new desires and new employments.  The change is so great that he is described as having passed from death unto life (1 John 3:14), being delivered from a state of condemnation and spiritual death, and brought to a state of spiritual life and holiness.  Quickened together with Christ. Eph. 2:5.  By nature the Christian was dead in sins, but he has received spiritual life through the resurrection of Christ, with whom he is said to be quickened or made alive; because Christ was raised from the dead as the living head of his people, and their life was therefore considered as treasured up in him, and as proceeding from him.  He has a new heart (Ezek. 36:26); his dispositions and affections are changed and purified; and he has a new spirit, new light in the understanding, new purity in the imagination, a conscience which is tender, and regulated by new principles.  Yet there are, in him, two principles, like a house that hath two inhabitants, or like two garments or characters, one of which is to be put off and laid aside, that the other, which is of a different nature, may be put on.  The old man (Eph. 4:22) is that corrupt principle which prevails in the heart before grace is given, submitted to, and inclines a man to evil; it is subtle, earthly minded, sensual, proud, and devilish; and the new man (Eph. 4:24) is that new principle, which is spiritual, pure, humble, and holy, and which inclines a man to love God, and Christ, and heavenly things.  Thus he becomes a new creature (2 Cor. 5:17), an entirely altered character, with a new judgment and new inclinations, words, and notions; with new hopes, connections, and enjoyments.  He also grows in grace (2 Peter 3:18), daily becomes more devoted to God; he obtains a larger portion of his Spirit, and increases in the exercise of Christian tempers and holy dispositions, and in the knowledge of Christ; experiencing more of his power and love, and perceiving more and more how completely He is the source of all true happiness.

         The Christian, having many enemies within and without, is provided with the whole armour of God (Eph. 6:13–17), those means of defense and warfare which God has provided and appointed.  His loins are girt about with truth.  Soldiers in that day were girded with a military belt; and so Christians must be girt with a conviction of the truth of the Gospel, and the reality and excellence of its various parts, and must act with simplicity and sincerity.  Having on the breastplate of righteousness.  The Captain of his salvation put on righteousness as a breastplate (Isa. 59:17), and the Christian lives in all righteousness and godliness.  Having your feet shod with the preparation of the Gospel of peace.  The legs of the soldiers were defended with greaves, and their feet with shoes; and thus they marched safely through various obstacles; and so the Christian, having obtained peace through the Gospel of Christ, can even glory in tribulation, and is prepared for all his duties and all his difficulties.  Above all, taking the shield of faith.  Faith in the word, power, and promises of your God and Saviour, to cover the whole spiritual man, as the shield does the body, and thus quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.  Small firebrands, and sometimes poisoned arrows, were formerly used and shot among enemies, and were received on the shield; thus the most grievous temptations will be resisted by faith in the word of God.  And take the helmet of salvation.  The helmet was for the defense of the head; and the hope of salvation through Christ preserves the mind free from unreasonable and distressing fears.  And the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.  The only offensive weapon.  It is to be used as our Saviour used it in his temptation.  Matt. 4.  It is called the sword, because of its fitness to assail our enemies: and the sword of the Spirit, because given by his inspiration.  Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints.  Continual, comprehensive, spiritual, and persevering prayer, will procure and give full efficacy to all the other parts of your armour; and as soldiers distinguish each other by Watchwords, let “Behold, he prayeth!” be the mark of distinction by which you may be known among your companions in the spiritual warfare, as the soldier of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Acts 9:11.

         The Scriptures enter into all the particulars of the life of the renewed man.  His faith, which has already been described, enables him to overcome the world (1 John 5:5); he has a battle to fight with deeply rooted worldly habits, principles, and connections, but he breaks through all these difficulties.  He comes out and is separate (2 Cor. 6:17) from the sinful customs and practices of the world.  He is transformed by the renewing of his mind (Rom. 12:2), delivered as it were into a new mold, made unlike the world, and like God.  He is crucified to the world, and the world to him. Gal. 6:14.  He thinks of the world as one that is crucified; to whom its prospects and honours are as nothing; and the world on the other hand, is crucified to him, and he looks with indifference and contempt on everything that distinguishes his profession and his hopes.  He is dead unto sin (Rom. 6:11), freed not only from the condemnation, but from the dominion and love of sin, through his union with Jesus Christ; but alive unto God, in an active state of mind, fervent in spirit, seeking to promote the interests and glory of God.  He walks with God (Gen. 5:24), lives in a course of practical and progressive obedience to God, boldly professing his love to him. God condescends to be his guide, his protector, his all in all.  He thirsts for God (Psa. 42:2), he desires to find his presence in his worship, and ordinances, and in all the means of grace, with the same earnestness with which a thirsty man desires water.  He hungers and thirsts after righteousness (Matt. 5:6), he earnestly desires the attainment of holiness as the great end and object of his life, and longs to be free from all sin; thus he becomes more and more conformed to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29), or like his Saviour in all his holy and heavenly tempers and dispositions.  Yet in his flesh dwelleth no good thing (Rom. 7:18), possessing a corrupt nature, the tendencies of which are to evil, he often finds reason to lament it in this language; and the only cure arises from the grace of Christ, who liveth in him (Gal. 2:20) by his Spirit, and his word, influencing and regulating all, just as the soul in the body directs its movements, and guides and governs its actions, or as a pilot steers a ship.  He works out his own salvation with fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12), diligently and laboriously; sensible of its vast importance, and fearful lest he should fail, he strives to escape that misery which he knows he individually deserves, and to obtain that happiness which God has promised.  In these exertions he is not striving in his own strength; for it is God which worketh in him both to will and to do of his good pleasure; because God, according to his own will and boundless goodness, through the operation of his Spirit, first inclines, and then enables him, thus earnestly and anxiously to seek the salvation of his soul, as the one thing needful.

         The characters which have been described are those whom God has chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world.  Eph. 1:4. [The reader is referred to the 17th Article of the Church of England, for a further explanation of this expression.]  He, to whom all his works were known from the beginning, appointed Christ Jesus as the head of all who should eventually be saved; and in him, he chose all those who should be by his grace brought to an acquaintance with himself.  Believers come to Christ in consequence of being given to him (John 6:37, 44); and he says of them, they shall never perish, (John 10:28) for he that has begun a good work in them will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.  He will preserve them from the power of their enemies, and enable them to persevere in his paths till they arrive at heavenly glory.

         While the Christian continues in this life, he has to go through many changes and difficulties.  Sometimes he walketh in darkness (Isa. 50:10), afflicted, tempted, and fearful; he goes on, but he is uncertain whether he is in the right way; he cannot discern his path as the end of his journey; but this is not always the case; for at other times he walks in the light (1 John 1:7); while the means of grace are continued, he improves them; the word of God gives him light and encouragement; he diligently walks in the ways of holiness, and finds that they are ways of pleasantness and peace.  He meets indeed with difficulties, but he takes up the cross (Luke 9:23); he does not go out of the right road to avoid it, nor does he neglect his duty because it is unpleasant; but however contrary it may be to his natural disposition, he quietly and steadily submits to the will of God, forsakes sin, and practices holiness, though it exposes him to pain and reproach from the world.  He denies himself, gives up his own inclinations, when contrary to the will of God, and even his lawful indulgences, for the good of others; he renounces the proud and self-sufficient notion of being his own master; he submits himself to the will of God, and to his plan of salvation as revealed in the Gospel: and casting off all self-dependence and self-will, he relies on the wisdom and goodness of the Lord, that he would command nothing that was not useful, and prohibit nothing that was not hurtful.

         The attainments of the believer, both in knowledge and practice, are in general progressive.  At first, he is a babe in Christ (1 Cor. 3:1), young, ignorant, and feeble; he is weak in the faith (Rom. 14:1), he knows but little of the doctrines of Christ, and of the benefits to be derived from him, and has had little experimental acquaintance with his power, grace, and love; it is in general by degrees that he becomes strong in faith (Rom. 4:20); the longer he lives, the more he experiences the truth of God’s promises, and his faith gradually increases; just as a child gradually grows up and becomes stronger, as it advances to manhood: thus his faith strengthens, and his practice keeps pace with it, till at length he walks implicitly under the direction of God, believing that nothing is impossible with him.  The believer is changed into the same image from glory to glory, as by the Spirit of the Lord (2 Cor. 3:18); beholding in the glass of the Gospel, the excellency of the divine glory as it is there manifested, he loves it, and imbibes more and more the holy principle which it displays: so that he increases in conformity to the will of God by the influence of the Holy Spirit, and longs to depart and be with Christ (Phil. 1:23); to die and enter into the immediate presence of his Saviour, and live with him forever in heaven.

         With respect to GOD’S JUSTIFYING US, OR ACCOUNTING US RIGHTEOUS THROUGH THE ATONEMENT OF CHRIST.  The Christian is said to be made the righteousness of God in Jesus Christ.  2 Cor. 5:21.  He partakes of the benefit of his atonement for sin; so that as Christ was made sin for us, though he knew no sin; by his suffering on our account; so the believer in Christ is accounted righteous through his obedience and death.  Whenever sin is charged on a sinner, and proved against him, it is said to be imputed to him.  Whenever a sufficient legal reason is given, why the sinner should not be condemned, righteousness is said to be imputed to him; he is then justified.*

         *[Many, who in some degree admit the doctrine of the atonement, hesitate about using these and similar expressions, though they frequently occur in the New Testament.  Yet, if we are at all benefited by an atonement, we thereby partake of advantages which we could not procure by our own virtues or exertions, but which are procured for us by another.  In this case, the results of such an atonement are ours, and the atonement itself is so far reckoned ours, or considered as made on our account, that we can plead it as a reason why we should enjoy the advantage arising from it.  Hence we must consider an atonement as a substitution, and the results arising from it as imputed to our account.  Some persons may feel an objection to the terms, but the idea of imputation will still remain.  We often see something of the kind in the daily occurrences of life.  The following instance may illustrate the idea of imputation.  A man in debt is summoned by his creditor to pay what he owes; but he has been negligent and profligate; his accounts are deranged, and he is unable to discharge his obligations.  A kind friend interposes; with anxious attention he labours hard, he reduces confusion to order, puts the man’s affairs in train again, and offers his own security to the creditor, who is satisfied with it, and the man goes forward under new obligations to attend to his business and duties for the future.  Here, the engagement of the debtor’s fiend is accounted to the debtor, as a reason why he should not be arrested.  And thus, in fact, the property of another, so far as this engagement is concerned, is imputed to him.

            If it be said this is merely a commercial transaction, and has little to do with the moral difficulty of an innocent person suffering for the guilty, it may be observed that cases often occur in which relief can be afforded to the undeserving and miserable, only by the worthy and virtuous partaking of the effects of the guilt committed, and thus instances are actually afforded of real substitution.  Suppose a depraved wretch, labouring under an infectious disease, has been cast into a dungeon; a man of benevolence obtains leave to visit and release him; he descends into the dungeon, and risks his life in effecting his purpose.  He then applies his talents, his time, and his property in endeavouring to reclaim this man, sunk not only in misfortune, but in vice.  In all this we see the deliverer has necessarily to bear some of the consequences of the poor man’s iniquity.  Much labour and exertion is indispensable for effecting his purpose.  The life of Mr. Howard afforded many examples of this nature, and in cases of an inferior kind we often see in various ways this principle strikingly illustrated.  In these instances the virtue and general weight of character of such benevolent persons may procure many advantages for the unfortunate and guilty sufferers, who by this means may meet with much kindness and attention, which they could not in justice claim.  Those who thus assist others are supposed to have ability to do so, without infringing on the duties which they individually owe to society; and had they not exerted themselves in such directions, they would still have claimed respect for the excellency of their characters in private stations.

            It is not pretended that these or any other analogies can explain completely the redemption which is by Jesus Christ.  That redemption is a grand fact, unlike any other with which we are acquainted, and infinitely superior to everything of an earthly nature.  The Lord and Saviour, by the peculiar constitution of his person, is able to perform what is beyond the power of any created being.  His work therefore is peculiar and perfect, having nothing comparable to it in creation.  But analogies, which do not fully explain the principles of a subject of such magnitude and importance as the justification of a sinner before God, may yet assist us in forming some conception of it.

            Those who would wish to see many peculiarities of Christianity admirably illustrated by common events in God’s providence would do well to consult Butler’s Analogy, a book which has been particularly serviceable to men of thinking minds.]

His justification is that which he can plead in the bar of condemnation.  Viewing the freeness of the mercy shewn to the believer in Jesus, he is said to be justified by grace. Titus 3:7.  Thus also the sinner, whose iniquities are forgiven, is represented as the man to whom God imputeth righteousness without works. Rom. 4:6–7.  Viewing the medium through which this mercy is displayed, viz. the atonement of Christ, he is said to be justified by his blood. Rom. 5:9.  Viewing the means by which he partakes of the benefits of Christ’s atonement, he is said to be justified by faith. Rom. 3:28, 5:1.  Faith also is said to be imputed for righteousness (Rom. 4:9, 22), as it is by faith that we partake of the benefits procured and promised through the death of Christ.  And the free grace of God, and faith in the propitiation of Jesus Christ, are represented as both combined in the justification of a believer in that striking view given of the subject, Rom. 3:24–26, where we see an admirable specimen of the Apostle’s mode of preaching JESUS, and free justification by faith in his atonement.  And lastly, viewing the tendency and evidences of faith, and the effects invariably connected with justification, we are said to be justified by works.  James 2:24.  [This expression, though apparently opposite to the above remarks, is yet in exact agreement with them, when properly understood.  Abraham’s faith was counted to him for righteousness, many years before Isaac was born. Gen. 15:6.  To this fact both Paul and James refer.  Rom. 4:23, James 2:23.  But the latter of these Apostles, speaking of the active power of faith in producing works, refers to its effects in the case of Abraham, and says, was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he offered his son Isaac upon the altar?  Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect; and the Scripture was justified which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness.  His works, which followed many years after the faith which justified him, could not therefore be the ground of his acceptance and justification before God, though they were the end to which his faith tended, the evidence of its reality and power, and proved that he was justified.  Thus the Scripture was fulfilled, the truth of the declaration was proved, which had stated, before those works could be performed, that he believed God, end it was counted to him for righteousness.]

         Anyone who attentively considers these various expressions will see that, while the religion of the Bible comprehends the purest morality, it is infinitely superior to a system of mere moral precepts.  Its grand peculiarities are that it describes man to be by nature in a state of alienation from God, sinful and under a curse; it proposes a remedy, and promises to sinners who feel their wretched state, and who earnestly desire deliverance, that divine assistance which will renew them more and more.  This religion has been briefly described as “the heart of a sinner returning to his God, under a divine influence, and through a mediator”; through him we both (Jew and Gentile) have access by one Spirit unto the Father.

         This chapter may also furnish some hints for self-examination.  It is evident that the Bible divides all mankind into two great classes – the righteous, and the wicked; and describes only two states in which men shall be placed hereafter.  Nothing therefore can be more important than to ascertain to which class we belong, to which place we are going.  In comparison of this, all enquiries of a worldly nature are trivial and vain.  Now here, the Bible, studied under the influence of the Holy Spirit, is the only source of genuine information by which we may discover our real characters, and be guided into the way of peace.  Oh! let us not be careless and indifferent in this great concern.  May we never rest satisfied till we have reason to hope we are turned from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that we may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith which is in Christ Jesus.


Chapter 10 – Chronological Table.

         The object in this Table is rather to give some of the great Periods and Dates of History, than a minute Detail of Events; and it must be understood that there are several differences about many of the Dates. – Those who wish for further information, may find it in Blair’s or Playfair’s Chronology.


First Period. – From the Creation to the Deluge.

B. C.

4004  The Creation – Adam formed upright, holy, and happy – his fall, Gen. 1–3.

3876  Cain murders Abel, Gen. 4.

3317  Methuselah is born, Gen. 5:21.

3074  Adam dies, aged 930, Gen. 5:4–5.

2948  Noah is born, Gen. 5:28–29.

2469  Noah is commanded to build an ark, Gen. 6.

2448  Shem, Ham, and Japhet, born about this time, Gen. 5:32.

2348  Methuselah dies, aged 969, Gen. 5:26–27.

         The deluge is sent upon the earth, Gen. 6–7.


Second Period – From the Flood to the calling of Abraham.

2347  Noah leaves the ark, Gen. 8:18.

2281  Heber is born, Gen. 11:14.

2126  Terah, Abraham’s father, is born, Gen. 11:24.

1998  Noah dies, aged 960 years, Gen. 9:28–29.

1921  Abram, at God’s command, leaves Haram and comes to Canaan, which is promised to his seed, Gen. 12.


Third Period – To the death of Moses.

1917  Lot leaves Abram to dwell near Sodom, Gen. 13.

1898  God covenants with Abram – changes his name, and promises Isaac, Gen. 17.

         Sodom and Gomorrah are destroyed by fire – Lot is saved, Gen. 18–19.

1897  Isaac is born, Gen. 21.

1872  God commands Abraham to offer up Isaac, Gen. 22.

1846  Shem, the Son of Noah, dies, Gen. 11:10–11.

1836  Esau and Jacob born, Gen. 25.

1822  Abraham dies, aged 175, Gen. 25.

1817  Heber dies, aged 464, Gen. 11.

1760  Jacob, having obtained the blessing, flees into Mesopotamia, Gen. 28:10.

1753 to 1732  The twelve sons of Jacob born – Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Dan, Napthali, Gad, Asser, Issachar, Zebulun, Joseph, and Benjamin, Gen. 29:31.

1739  Joseph is sold to the Midianites, Gen. 37.

1716  Isaac dies, Gen. 35.

1706  Jacob and all his family go down into Egypt, Gen. 42–46.

1688  Jacob dies in Egypt, aged 147, Gen. 49.

1634  Joseph dies, Gen. 50.

1577  The bondage of Israel in Egypt begins, Exod. 1.

1574  Aaron is born, Exod. 6:20.

1571  Moses is born, Exod. 2:1. – Job probably lived about this time.  He is supposed to have been of the family of Esau.

1491  God appears to Moses in a burning bush, and sends him to deliver Israel from Egypt – the plagues are sent – the Israelites pass through the Red Sea, Exod. 3–15.

1490  The law is given, and the tabernacle set up – the Israelites condemned to wander 40 years in the wilderness for their rebellions – manna, quails, and water are given, Lev. 1–27, Num. 1–14.

1450  Moses dies, Deut. 34.


Fourth Period – To the Building of the Temple.

1450  The Israelites, under Joshua, pass over Jordan, Josh. 1.

1446  The conquest of Canaan advances, and is completed by degrees, Josh. 11.

1426  Joshua dies, aged 110, Josh. 24.

1410  The tribes of Benjamin nearly destroyed, Judges 19, etc.

1394  Othniel delivers Israel, Judges 3.

1336  Ehud slays Eglon king of Moab, and delivers Israel, Judges 3.

1294  Deborah and Barak deliver Israel, Judges 4:5.

1247  Gideon delivers Israel, Judges 6–9.

1207  Gideon dies, and 69 of his descendants are murdered by Abimelech, who afterwards perishes miserably, Judges 9.

1203 to 1125  Tola, Jair, Sampson, Jeptha, and Izban, successively judge or deliver Israel, Judges 10–15.

1120.  Eli’s sons are slain, and Eli dies, 1 Sam. 4:11, 18.

1100  Samuel, having brought the people to repentance, judges Israel, 1 Sam. 7.

1085  David is born.

1075  Saul is made king, 1 Sam. 8–10.

1056  Saul perishes, 1 Sam. 31.

         David is acknowledged king by Judah, 2 Sam. 2.

1048  David is anointed king over all Israel, 2 Sam. 5.

1035  David’s great fall and deep repentance, 2 Sam. 11–12.

1021  Absalom’s rebellion and death, 2 Sam. 15–19.

1015  David’s death, Solomon succeeds him,  1 Kings, 1–2.

1012  Solomon lays the foundation of the temple, 1 Kings 6.

1005  The temple is finished, and dedicated with great solemnity and joy, 1 Kings 6–7.


Fifth Period – To the Captivity.

Most of the Dates of this Period will be found in the Table of the Kings of Israel and Judah (see above).

622  Nineveh is taken and desolated by the Medes and Chaldean, Nahum 1–3.

606  The 70 years’ captivity begins – Daniel taken to Babylon, Dan. 1.

588  Jerusalem taken by Nebuchadnezzar, and the Jews carried into captivity, 2 Kings 25; Jer. 39–42.


Sixth Period – To the coming of Christ.

584  Nebuzar-adan carries the remnant of the Jews into captivity, Jer. 52:30.

572  Tyre taken by Nebuchadnezzar after a siege of 13 years, and Egypt afterwards invaded by him, Ezek. 29.

538  Cyrus the Persian takes Babylon, slays Belshazzar, and transfers the kingdom to Cyaxares, called Darius the Mede.  The Assyrian and Babylonian, the first great or universal empire ends; and the Medo-Persian begins, Dan. 5–6.

536  Cyrus proclaims liberty to the captive Jews – a remnant of the Jews go to rebuild Jerusalem, Ezra 1, etc.; Isa. 45:1, etc.

534  They lay the foundation of the temple, and are hindered by the Samaritans, Ezra 3:8.

538  Cyrus dies, and is succeeded by his son Cambyses, or Ahasuerus, Ezra 4:6.

522  Cambyses, after subjecting Egypt, dies; and Smerdis, (called, Ezra 4:7, etc.  Artaxerxes) usurps the throne.  [Artaxerxes seems to have been a name common to several kings of Persia; and Chronologists differ respecting the identity of the names in the Scriptures, and in heathen historians.  Some consider Ahasuerus and Artaxerxes (Ezra 4:6–7) as the same person.  Those who wish for further information may consult Lightfoot, Usher, Prideaux, Shuckford, etc.]

521  The Samaritans write to him against the rebuilding of the temple, Ezra 4:7–24.

         Smerdis or Artaxerxes is slain, and Darius Hystaspis succeeds.

520  Haggai and Zechariah excite Zerubbabel and Joshua to set forward the building of the temple, Hag. 1–2, Zech. 3.

518  Darius gives a decree in favour of rebuilding the temple, Ezra 5:2–17.

515  The 2d temple is finished and dedicated, Ezra 6.

486  Darius Hystaspis dies, and is succeeded by his son Xerxes.

465  Xerxes is slain.

464  Artaxerxes, the youngest son of Xerxes, ascends the throne – He is supposed to be the Ahasuerus mentioned Esther 1:1, and the Artaxerxes mentioned Nehemiah 2:1.

458  Ahasuerus, called also Artaxerxes, divorces Vashti, and makes Esther queen, Esther 2.

457  Ezra obtains a commission to restore and settle the state of the Jews, Ezra 7:7.  Just 70 weeks of years before the death of Christ.  Dan. 9:24.

452  Haman’s attempt against the Jews defeated.  Esther.

445  Nehemiah is sent governor to Jerusalem, and goes back to Persia, Neh. 1–4.

432  He returns again, and proceeds in the work of reformation, Neh. 12.

432  The Samaritans build a temple on Mount Gerezim.

423  Artaxerxes dies.

420  Malachi prophecies, Mal. 1–4.

332  Alexander the Great takes Tyre and Gaza, and visits Jerusalem peaceably.  He over ruts the Persian Empire after great victories.

330  Darius is slain; the Medo-Persian, the second universal empire, ends, and is succeeded by the Grecian or Macedonian, the third universal empire, Dan. 7:6, 8:5.

323  Alexander dies at Babylon, and his dominions are divided into four kingdoms, Dan. 7:6, 8:8.

202  The Roman, or the fourth universal empire, succeeds the Grecian, Dan. 2:42, 12:7.

168  Antiochus Epiphanes persecutes the Jews very severely – he puts, a stop to the daily sacrifice, and builds a fortress to curb the Jews.  Seven brethren and their mother are martyred.

165  The Maccabees oppose him with success, and the daily. sacrifice is restored.

129  Hyrcanus conquers the Edomites, and compels them to be circumcised.

65  Pompey, a Roman commander, reduces Syria, thus ending the Grecian, and establishing the Roman empire.

63  He takes Jerusalem, and the Jews become dependent on the Romans.

42  Antigonus and Herod oppose each other.

37  Herod takes Jerusalem, and is established in the royal authority.

17  He begins to rebuild or thoroughly to repair and beautify the temple.

6  He puts his two sons to death on a frivolous accusation of treason – he had before put his wife and mother to death.

         Gabriel appears to Zacharias, and afterwards to the Virgin Mary, Luke 1.

4  JESUS CHRIST, the Saviour of the world is born at Bethlehem.  He was born four years before the Christian era commences.  Herod murders the children at Bethlehem.  Matt. 2.


Seventh Period – To the Destruction of Jerusalem.

A.D. 8  Judah is made a province of the Roman empire by Cyrenius, governor of Syria – he first levied the taxes according to the register before made.  The Scepter was departed from Judah, for Shiloh was come, Luke 2, Gen. 49:10.

         Jesus goes up to Jerusalem, and is found among the teachers of the law, Luke 2.

27  Pontius Pilate made Procurator of Judea. John the Baptist begins his ministry. Jesus is baptized, Matt. iii. The public ministry of Christ extends three or four years.

33  JESUS CHRIST is crucified, Matt. 27.

35  Paul is converted at this time, or, according to some, five years afterwards, Acts 9.

38  The Gospel of Matthew written in Judea.

44  Herod puts James the brother of John to death.

52  1 and 2 Thessalonians written from Corinth.  Galatians written from Corinth or Macedonia.

55  Felix appointed governor of Judea.  Festus succeeds him two years afterwards, Acts 24:27.

56  1 Corinthians written from Ephesus.

57  2 Corinthians written from Macedonia.

58  Romans written from Corinth.

61  Ephesians written from Rome.  James written at Jerusalem.

62  Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon, written from Rome.

63  The Gospel of Luke written in Greece.  The Epistle to the Hebrews written from Rome.

64  The Acts of the Apostles written in Greece.

         1 Timothy, and Titus, written in Greece, or Macedonia.

         1 Peter written from Rome.

64  A general persecution of the Christians under Nero.

65  The Gospel of Mark written at Rome.

         2 Timothy written from Rome.

65  2 Peter written from Rome.

68  About this time Paul and Peter are martyred.

70  Jude written.  Jerusalem is taken by the Romans under Titus, and all the predictions respecting it are exactly fulfilled.  The temple is burnt, and not one stone left upon another; 1,337,490 Jews perish miserably in the siege.  The remainder of the Jews are scattered among all nations.  The Jewish state ends.  Christianity was diffused over a great part of the known world towards the end of this century, Matt. 24:14.


Eighth Period – To the Public and National

Establishment of Christianity by Constantine.

90  1 John, written in Judea; and 2 and 3 John from Ephesus.  Some think that they were written 20 years earlier.

95  A general persecution under Domitian.  John banished to the Isle of Patmos, writes the book of Revelations, Rev. 1:9.

97  John returns to Ephesus, and writes his Gospel in Asia Minor.  [There is considerable uncertainty respecting the periods when, and the places from whence, many of the Gospels and Epistles were written.]

100  The Christians are persecuted.  John dies at Ephesus, in the 102d year of his age.

107  Ignatius, an eminent Christian, martyred at Rome.  Christianity spreads rapidly and extensively among the Gentiles, Rev. 6:4.

115  The Jews rebelling are severely chastised.  Immense numbers of Jews, Romans, and Greeks are slaughtered, Rev. 6:4.

138 to 193   The Britons supposed to have received Christianity in this century, if not before.  Long continued scarcities prevail through the Roman Empire, Rev. 6:5–6.

193 to 274  Many wars take place, and an extensive and destructive pestilence rages through the Roman Empire for 15 years together. – There were about 20 Emperors and 30 Usurpers in this period, and many persecutions, Rev. 6:7–8.

303  A severe persecution begins and continues 10 years; horrid cruelties prevail, and innumerable martyrs suffer; but Christianity ultimately triumphs, Rev. 6:9–10, 12:7, etc.

306  Constantine favours Christianity.  The great lights of the heathen world, the powers civil and ecclesiastical were eclipsed and obscured; the heathen emperors and Caesars changed; the priests and officers removed; their temples abolished, and their revenues appropriated to better purposes, Rev. 6:12, 17; 12:5.

313  He publishes an edict in favour of Christianity, the Gospel is very extensively preached, and immense multitudes embrace Christianity.  Rev. 7:1, etc.

325  The first general council is held at Nice.


Ninth Period – To the Rise of Popery and Mahometanism.

337  Constantine dies, and the Arians persecute the Orthodox.

361  Julian, the apostate, reestablishes Paganism, and is afterwards cut off in battle.

395  Theodosius, after doing all in his power to promote Christianity, and reigning 16 years, dies.  The Huns and Goths break in upon the Roman Empire.  The fertile plains of Phocis and Boeotia were covered with a deluge of Barbarians, who burnt the villages, massacred the males, and drove away the females with the cattle and spoil, Rev. 8:7, 12:15.

412  Attila, at the head of a vast army of Huns, ravaged the empire for 14 years, shedding the blood of immense multitudes, and desolating the country with fire and sword, Rev. 8:8–9.

450  Genseric, a bigoted Arian, and king of the Vandals, unexpectedly invades the empire with 300,000 Vandals and Moors from Africa, takes Rome, and abandons that city to his troops, Rev. 8:10–11.

476  The Roman Empire is subverted, Rev. 8:12–13; and is soon afterwards divided into ten kingdoms, Rev. 12:1, Dan. 7:24.

496  Christianity publicly professed in France,

533  The Digests or Pandects of Justinian published.

597  Augustine, the monk, arrives in England with 40 Benedictine monks.

606  Boniface III, Bishop of Rome, procures the title of universal Bishop from the Emperor Phocas.  The Popes afterwards have three kingdoms, Rome, Ravenna, and the Lombards, Dan. 7:8.  About the same time Mahomet commences his imposture in the East, Rev. 9:1–2.

622  Mahomet expelled from Mecca.  The Mahometan Era, called the Hegira, or flight, begins.


Tenth Period – To the Reformation.

632  The Saracens (followers of Mahomet) conquer various countries in the East.  Their armies were expressly charged, before they entered Syria, to destroy no palm trees, fields of corn, fruit trees, or cattle; but only to kill for their own eating, Rev. 9:4.

666  Public prayers are ordered to be read in Latin by the Pope, contrary to the practice of the primitive Church, in which, as Origen says, “every one, according to his dialect, does pray unto God.”  (Origen contra Celsum, lib. 8.)

756  The Pope is fully established as a temporal prince, the Exarchate of Ravenna being given to him and his successors.

787  The worship of images is authorized by the second council of Nice.

820  Claude, Bishop of Turin, opposes Popery.

1050 to 1090  The Turks erect four Sultanies, or Kingdoms, near the Euphrates, Rev. 9:14, etc.  The Crusades carried on with blind extravagant zeal.

1160  The Waldenses zealously oppose Popery, and preach the true and everlasting Gospel; immense numbers of them are slaughtered, and the rest are dispersed into other countries, Rev. 14:6–7.

1281  The Turks make the first conquest over the Christians.  The last extension of their dominion was 391 years afterwards, in 1672, Rev. 9:15.

1370  Wickliffe and his followers propagate the truth in England.

1414  The Bohemians oppose Popery, and declare Rome to be Mystical Babylon, and the Pope to be Antichrist.  John Huss and Jerome of Prague are burnt, Rev. 14:8.

1453  The Turks take Constantinople, using artillery and gunpowder, which were first invented about this lime, Rev. 9:17.

1517  The great reformation begun by Luther, and others in Germany, and by Zwingli in Switzerland.  They loudly protest against the idolatries of Rome, and strongly oppose Purgatory, asserting the eternity of punishment, and the immediate happiness of the righteous, Rev. 14:9–13.

1529  The name of Protestants given to the reformers at the Diet of Spires.  The Reformation introduced into France by Calvin.

1524  Reformation begun in England under Henry VIII.  During all this period the real servants of Christ are greatly persecuted throughout that which had been the Roman Empire.  Rev. 13:7.


         The parts of prophecy assigned to the above events cannot all be considered as certain.  Though good men agree in the great outline, yet there are many differences as to particular parts.  The Rev. T. Scott’s Interpretation has been chiefly followed.


Chapter 11 – Remarks on the History of Mankind,

and the Church of God, Chiefly with Respect to the Necessity,

Progress, and Ultimate Triumph of Divine Revelation.

         Many reflections will naturally arise upon a review of the events detailed in the preceding Chronological Table.  It may be useful to endeavour to direct the Christian reader’s attention more particularly to the necessity and effect of revelation.  The object, then, of the present chapter is to suggest a few observations.

         First, – On the Providence of God in the general History of the Word.

         Secondly, – On the History of the Church of God.

         And, Thirdly – On the prospect which the Bible presents to us, of the ultimate Triumph of Divine Truth, and the happy consequences which follow.



         The history of mankind exhibits many displays of the providence of God which are truly wonderful; and which, while we are in this imperfect state, and only know in part, we cannot expect fully to comprehend.

         But the longer the world continues, the more we may hope to discover the general principle of the  divine government, and to trace the great features of God’s dispensations.  Nor is this by any means a matter of merely curious speculation.  It is a subject, the contemplation of which is calculated to confirm our faith, to animate our hope, to encourage us to do the whole will of God, to justify his government, and to excite exertions in his cause.

         If we look attentively at the dealings of God with mankind, as displayed in the history of the world, we, shall find one great principle running through them all: GOD SHEWS, ON A LARGE SCALE, AND DURING A LONG COURSE OF TIME, THE EFFECT OF A VARIETY OF PLANS, VERY DIFFERENT FROM EACH OTHER; AND PROVES IN THE RESULT OF THE WHOLE, THE NECESSITY AND VALUE OF REVEALED TRUTH.  He thus overrules all things to promote his glory, and the good of those who obey him; – in so doing he establishes his own word, and by every dispensation adds something to its evidence, as the truth of the living God.

         In order to shew the existence of the principle which has been laid down, the history of the world may be divided into different periods.


I.  From the Fall of Man to the Deluge.

         It is observable that, though man became liable to death immediately after his fall, and his state with respect to God was so materially changed that he may well be considered to have been spiritually dead as soon as he had sinned; yet the sentence, as it respects the death of his body, was not speedily executed.  Many lived upwards of 900 years.  Thus while the earth was thinly peopled, a large number of contemporary inhabitants were preserved, and men had an opportunity of imparting to one another all the important information which they had acquired, at a time when memory was its only depository.  But, besides these advantages, the protracted life of man had also the striking effect of shewing the real state of human nature, and of proving that length of days was not in itself a mean of leading men back to God, nor of inducing them in any way to seek for the recovery of what their first father had lost by his sin.  Instead of improving their extended age by returning to him and imploring his favour, it is evident that every imagination of the thoughts of man’s heart was only evil continually; and because sentence against an evil work was not executed speedily, therefore the hearts of the sons of men were fully set in them to do evil.  The length of life put fear afar off, and their passions rioted in wickedness almost without restraint.  The effect of their example extended the evil which they committed.  A broad and obvious proof was thus given of the obliquity of the human will; and it plainly appeared that having lost his innocence and his integrity, man was not to be trusted with so long a term of years.  We see it was right that God should interpose some awful and decisive check on impiety.  Accordingly he sent the Deluge, by which the whole race, with the exception of one family, the head of which had been singular by his righteousness and obedience to the divine will, was exterminated.  It pleased God also to reduce the period of human life, so that in succeeding ages the wickedness of man might be confined within a narrower range.  Thus a new lesson was given of the need of cultivating the fear of the Lord.


II.  From the Deluge to the Commencement of the Babylonish Monarchy.

         Here we are led, first, to notice the rise of a new population from one family, and then their spreading abroad over the face of the earth.

         The reflections suggested by a review of this new state of society might be carried to a great length.  The singular event of the confusion of languages was wisely designed by Him, who wonderfully brings good out of evil, to scatter men abroad, and separate them from one another.  A number of states were thus raised up in different places.  And as by dividing a plant into several parts the produce of the whole is increased, and each part rendered more independent and flourishing; so God, by thus confounding their language, dispersed the people who had hitherto been one, over the face of the whole earth.

         The flood must have taught the family of Noah a very instructive lesson.  When the inhabitants of the world were a second time but one family under such a teacher as Noah, and when so awful a dispensation as an universal deluge was fresh in their memory, giving force to his instructions, the knowledge of the true God must have made some impression at least on their understandings.  They could not be ignorant of his Being, and of his government.  But we see that in a very short time, a new feature of human weakness and depravity was exhibited.  Before Abraham left Ur of the Chaldees, idolatry was there prevalent; and before his posterity left Egypt, false objects of worship were in that country very numerous.  With the exception of the family of Abraham, idolatry appears soon to have overspread the earth.  The practices of the nations which knew not God strongly marked the corrupt tendency of our nature: men became vain in their imaginationsand changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and to four footed beasts, and creeping things; they changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator: and even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them up to a reprobate mind.

         The history of idolatry presents a great variety of appearances on its surface, but its internal principles and practical effects are very much of one kind.  Cruelty and sensuality are to be traced in all its operations.  It seems as if it had pleased God to let us see, in the progress of idolatrous nations, that although idolatry might grow old, it could never become wise: its whole tendency was to envelope men in the grossest ignorance, to enslave their minds, to lead them from God, and consequently from true happiness.  It was tried through a long succession of ages, and in various circumstances in Chaldea, and in Egypt.  It was tried in Palestine, before the Canaanites were expelled by the Israelites; and afterwards when Jeroboam introduced it, and his successors kept up the abomination, it was tried in all the countries round about, in the first rude stages of their existence: – it was continued till they became powerful, refined, and, in some instances, learned: but in all these stages, it still shewed its genuine nature: it was a departure from the living God.

         In the early part of the history of the Bible, there are evident traces of the infancy of society.  It is very visible that kingdoms were small, and kings were rather heads of families or tribes, than rulers of a large population.  Abraham, with only 318 trained servants overcame four kings, those four having previously conquered five others, who had resisted their usurpation. Gen. 14.  This agrees with all that could be expected at that time.  Chaldea had not then risen to be a great empire; and Egypt was only in the beginning of its power.  These two state, however, quickly acquired dominion, and displayed talent in the cultivation of such arts as were at that time held in esteem.


III.  The Period during the Four Universal Monarchies.

         The operation of various causes, which have been briefly noticed, scattered men into different states, independent of one another; and separated them by the diversity of their languages, by their local distance, and by the natural barriers of mountains and oceans.  This dispersion doubtless had its use at the time: and when the world was peopled, and the effects resulting from the division of the world into the small independent states of which it was composed had been sufficiently manifested, it pleased God to unite them altogether in large Monarchies.  First, the Babylonian and Assyrian conquered all the parts of the world which could then be much inhabited, or were at all distinguished.  Next succeeded the Persian Monarchy, when Darius took possession of all that the Babylonian had subdued.  After this the Grecian Monarchy subdued till the surrounding nations in the time of Alexander the Great; who extended his empire to a limit over which no man ever reigned before.  And lastly, after some time, the Roman empire rose and subdued all that the preceding had ever claimed; to which it added new and extensive regions of which they had no previous knowledge.  All these great changes took place in the short space of about 400 years.

         It is difficult for us, at this distance of time, to state with exactness what effects were produced by the overthrow of these empires in such quick succession; but it is obvious that such an intercourse between men would be established as had never before taken place.  Their acquisitions in knowledge, the result of the various objects of their pursuits in smaller societies, would be generally diffused: and a kind of community of talent would arise from their being all united in one political body.  A new object of attention would present itself, that of acquiring foreign languages; and it is worthy of remark that the Old Testament was translated into Greek at the time when that language began to be universally known.  An important step was thus taken which would ultimately facilitate the spread of the knowledge of God’s Holy Will among people who in climate, manners, and sentiments, were at the greatest distance from each other.

         By these political revolutions the Divine Being shewed, on a very extensive scale, that whether men were formed into small and insignificant kingdoms, or more united in huge and mighty empires; whether they lived in a contracted sphere, or had their views and designs enlarged by all the information then possessed, still their moral wants were not supplied, nor were they restored to the knowledge of God.  But the progress of his providence, even by means of these systems of mighty oppression (such, it is to be feared, the universal monarchies were in too great a degree), opened a way for what the conquerors of antiquity never thought of: for by the extensive spread of the Jewish people (who were then scattered among all the nations of the earth), and by the circulation of their sacred books, the minds of men in different parts of the earth were excited to some enquiry after the living and the true God; they were taught to look far a great Deliverer, who was to arise and bless the world with the most important benefits.  They were thus, in a degree, prepared to expect HIM, who was to appear as a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of his people Israel.

         During this period, and before the coming of Christ, we see a remarkable display of talent in the advancement of the arts and sciences.  The cultivation of human intellect has, in a variety of ways, done great service to men; while God in his wisdom has often made it the means of promoting his own glory.  The heathen nations, till a few centuries prior to the coming of Christ, were in a state of great barbarity.  They possessed a few of the useful arts, but scarcely any of the ornamental or elegant; and of science, in its various branches, they were almost totally ignorant.  Greece, during the latter period of its history, and afterwards Rome, made great and rapid advances, not only in the cultivation of the powers of the human mind, but also in improving the arts by which life is adorned, and which, by adding to the comforts of society, render men more capable of exerting their faculties.  Individuals possessing the finest talents then appeared, and their works still remain as monuments of their genius.  Had it been possible for fallen man of himself to find the way to God; had it been possible for unassisted human intellect to discover the foolishness of idolatry, and the right method of drawing near to the Father of mercies, so clearly as to have rendered Revelation needless; never was there such an opportunity of doing so, as then was presented.  Idolatry had been tried in all its possible varieties.  Men knew what it had been in ruder ages.  They saw what it was in more polished times.  They could not be strangers to the tendency and effect of its operations.  If ever the energies of reason could have been aroused to reject the vanities of the heathen, and to explore the path that leads to happiness and to God – this was the time.  But the world by wisdom knew not God.  Its wise men scarcely saw the folly of that pageantry in which they were led by various motives to be occasionally actors; and when they did see it, and by the absurdity of error were obliged to confess that idolatry was useless, and even worse than useless, it is evident that the tendency of their minds was in an awful degree towards atheism.  Like men in the dark, they were seeking God, if haply they might feel after and find him: when they found him not, they denied his being: and this was the utmost extent of the wisdom of the wise!

         One farther result, however, was very plain; the Gospel did not appear, till men, by the cultivation of their faculties, were become capable of attending to its evidence; and of detecting falsehood had there been any in its statements.  It did not appear, till what idolatry could do to corrupt mankind, and the inefficiency of philosophy to restore them had been fully evinced.  Then came forward that glorious system, which taught men to turn to God from idols, and serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus which delivered us from the wrath to come.

         Had Christianity appeared sooner, the evidence of its truth would have been less striking to succeeding ages; both because its necessity and utility would have been less obvious, and also because men in general, especially those to whom it was first addressed, would have been less able to investigate its claims.  Thus we see that after God had permitted the wisdom of men to be tried on a large scale, that his wisdom might more particularly appeal both to their understandings and consciences, then, when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son (Gal. 4:4); and shewed that what men esteemed to be wisdom was mere folly; and what they condemned as folly was the power of God, and the wisdom of God.


IV.  The Divine Dispensations during the period of the Jewish Economy at large.

         This includes a length of time which runs through a considerable part of the two preceding periods, from the call of Abraham to the coming of Christ; but which, for the sake of the unity of the subject, is thus viewed altogether.

         Abraham was called from Ur of the Chaldees, where the other branches of his family continued, as it appears, in idolatry.  To him, and to his posterity, was given the land of Canaan.  His seed was designed to preserve the knowledge of the only true God; while the rest of the world was suffered to sink into idolatry and all its attendant evils.  To them was given the Law; with which was combined much that was both prophetic and figurative.  The moral precepts of the law were the rule of life.  The promises and sacrifices were designed to direct the faith, and support the hope of the penitent, while he was seeking the mercy of God.  The ceremonial observances were calculated for the peculiar use of the Jews, and tended in part to keep up a sense of the religious and moral declarations of God’s revealed will: in part were designed to unite them together as a nation distinct from the rest of the world: and lastly, as it has been already often stated above, one main intention of this ceremonial system was, by figures, types, and shadows, to keep alive and constantly in view the expectation of that PROPHET, whom Moses so expressly foretold, and who was afterwards given for a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the salvation of God unto the ends of the earth.

         By various wonderful displays of the providence and favour of God, the Jews were preserved through all the revolutions, and amidst the destruction of surrounding nations: and whether we view them in their own land – in captivity – or in their return back again, we see the kindness and faithfulness of God to his chosen people.  Their very chastisements mark that he was not forgetful, either of his character or his promises.

         Thus it was seen what a ceremonial institution, like that of Judaism, could effect.  We may observe the immense value of a few of the plain truths of revealed religion, when truly received and seriously obeyed.  How eminently the characters and ideas of the prophets were raised above those of all other men who ever lived before the coming of Christ.  We see how the weakness, as well as the strength, of that dispensation was manifested.  Its main influence was confined to one nation; and its appointments were so ceremonial that many were led to rest in external services; but it assisted others to look forward to the clearer light and glory which was to be revealed and when no farther good end was to be answered from the repetition of Jewish rites; when it was seen what was the most that had been effected by them under all the varied condition of the people; – in the fullness of time, as it respected the Jews as well as the Gentiles, God sent forth his Son! Gal. 4:4.  A better hope was exhibited; a new dispensation, less splendid, but infinitely more rich in mercy and in knowledge; more fitted to the wants of men, more universal in its character, and calculated for every nation under heaven, was brought forward.  That which was glorious, had now no glory by reason of the glory that excelled it; and when God spake to man by his Son, the former dispensation, which was now decayed and waxen old, vanished away.


V.  From the Time of Jesus Christ to the Reformation.

         Since the coming of Jesus Christ, a variety of changes have taken place in the world, and the Christian system has been exhibited in very different circumstances: but we still see the same great principle of God’s government exemplified.

         Christianity was first displayed in its purity; its doctrines and precepts were taught by the lips of inspiration; its ordinances were uncorrupted by the additions of men.  The Christian Church appeared beautiful in simplicity.  Its adorning consisted in the holy principles and exemplary lives of its primitive members.  In the striking language of one of the homilies, “In those times the world was won to Christendom, not by gorgeous, gilded, and painted temples of Christians, which had scarcely houses to dwell in: but by the godly, and as it were, golden minds, and firm faith of such as in all adversity and persecution professed the truth of religion.”  Some men beheld them and wondered; others hated the image of God, and persecuted his people: but, the power of his grace attending the plain preaching of his word, multitudes were turned from the vanity of the heathen to the knowledge and love of God.  The youthful energy of the church appeared in its progress even in the midst of persecution; hence it became proverbial that “the blood of the martyrs was the seed of the Church.”

         It pleased God, however, to suffer even his Gospel (as he had before suffered his law) to be corrupted by the wisdom of those who thought that they could improve and adorn it.  Often has it been seen that the first period of the history of any particular church (or the time which was nearest to its reformation, whenever it has pleased God to give it a revival) has been the time in which it was purest both in principle and practice.  Corruption steals in by slow degrees.  So it was in the primitive church.  Its first days were peculiarly bright; then it began to wear a clouded appearance; and though it still spread abroad a light which dispelled the night of idolatry; yet it became manifest that neither the profession of Christianity, nor an assent to the truth of the system, would save men’s souls.  Whilst the form remained, the power of godliness was greatly decayed; multitudes had a name to live, who were in truth dead in trespasses and sins.  At length corruption grew to such an enormous extent, as nearly to overwhelm everything that had the appearance of vital Christianity.  The Roman Church in the west, and the Greek Church in the east, shewed that though they retained many of the invaluable truths of the Gospel; yet these were either so mutilated and deformed by the inventions of men, or so covered over with the superstitions of the times, that their real nature and influence was scarcely either seen of felt.  It was manifest on a large scale, how little the external forms of the debased system, which was then professed, were able to support the real kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Some indeed received and loved the truth, and sighed over what they could not remedy: but in general men spent their days in the slavery of superstitious ignorance, and there was reason to say, darkness covered the earth, and gross darkness the people!

         At this time appeared the imposter Mahomet, a just scourge upon the Christian world, for its corruptions and dissensions.  For above a century his followers made most rapid and extensive conquests; and his false religion is still extended over a large part of the world.  It seems possible, however, that in its inroads on Pagan countries, it has, by destroying idolatry, in some measure paved the way for the introduction and spread of the Gospel.

         By the irruption of the northern swarms of Goths and Vandals into the Roman, and of the Saracens into the Grecian Empire, the power and enormities of the former governors of the civilized world were restrained; the people almost destroyed; and the habits of those who remained materially altered.  These events were nearly like a second flood, and are described as such, Rev. 12:15–16.  Society had again to emerge, and appear in a form not seen before.  Sometime the great Judge of the earth almost exterminates those nations which have sunk into corruption, and whose improvement is become morally impossible by inveterate habits of sin.  Thus he teaches the world an awful lesson: by his chastisement he leaves a deep impression on the minds of men; and then begins anew.

         So it was here; society seemed to undergo another state of infancy; in time it grew and began to feel its strength; then arose the reformation.  The church of Rome had, on a large scale, displayed such enormities, that the necessity of an alteration was generally felt, and a new and important era appeared.


VI.  The Period since the Reformation.

         The reformation gradually extended itself over a considerable part of Europe; the struggles of the dying power of Rome in bloody persecutions hastened the downfall of the antichristian apostasy; and from that time learning, arts, liberty, and (with some variations) the knowledge of the Gospel of God, have been by degrees advancing and extending.

         Yet we cannot survey the present state of the world without many painful reflections.  It has been calculated that supposing its inhabitants to consist of 1000 millions, only 175 millions are even nominal Christians, 160 millions are Mahometans, 9 millions are Jews, and the large remainder of 656 millions are still IDOLATERS!  Some remarks have already been made on idolatry as it existed in ancient times, and its characters are, on the whole, still the same.  Late travels, and the enquiries and observations made by intelligent men, shew us that both in savage and civilized nations idolatry debases the mind and corrupts the heart.  It is always attended either by superstition, or by speculative atheism; while in its practical effects, it fosters the worst passions of fallen man, and hardens the heart against the reception of the truths of God.  Mahometanism, it is true, holds one grand and important sentiment, that of the belief of one living and true God: yet with this exception, it is still allied too much to idolatry in its main influence; and both unite in opposition to him who is the way, the truth, and the life.

         Thus, nearly the whole world lieth in wickedness, and in a great degree, we may apply the language of the Apostle as descriptive of its condition: – without Christ – having no hope – and without God!

         In the midst of this gloomy scene, the situation of England is elevated and distinguished.  Here the sacred volume is eminently diffused.  Here it is more openly and generally recognized as a standard of divine truth than perhaps in any other country.  Here, through divine mercy, vital religion has especially spread, and this happy land has such opportunities of diffusing its light, as nowhere else exist.  England has possessions in every quarter of the world.  In Europe, Asia, Africa, America, and in most of the great islands of the globe.  Its ships traverse the ocean in every direction.  Thus from England, the Gospel of God may, and we hope will, be spread through all the earth, and its glory be extended to the ends of the world.  These things demand the thanksgivings, and mark the duty of England.

         So far we may remark, as to the providence of God in the present state of the world: other favourable symptoms will be afterwards noticed.

         It will have been seen how awfully God has often executed punishment upon those nations which have either corrupted or forsaken his truth. His design it expressed in the words of Isaiah – when thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness.

         Here it may be objected – How singular is this!  In every great alteration thousands are sacrificed, and centuries move away in bringing forward the change; – why does he who knows all things, make his own works the theater on which he shews in his judgments, what infinite wisdom could teach at once, and infinite power immediately produce.  We ought, however, to recollect, that the grandeur of our God is one reason for all this.  One day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.  He knows the end from the beginning, and gains no information by whatever takes place.  But men are prone to distrust his wisdom, and to form a high idea of the excellency of their own.  By shewing forth to his creatures the full result of all the varieties of their wisdom and their weakness, he the more completely displays the purity and efficiency of whatever proceeds from himself.  And in the end he will shew that he is not slack concerning his promise; he is continually fulfilling his own word, and is hastening the time, when his way shall be known upon earth, and his saving health among all nations.

         If it be further objected, How is the existence of so much evil consistent with divine goodness?  Without replying that this is a necessary consequence of the freedom of action given to our first parents, and shewing that this objection affects natural as well as revealed religion – our ignorance furnishes a sufficient answer: the whole plan is not before us, and therefore not subject to our observation, nor within our comprehension.  Perhaps our faculties are too limited to comprehend all the bearings of this subject.  We can only resolve it into the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God, whose judgments are unsearchable, and his ways past finding out.



         Having taken a very general view of the History of Mankind, we now come to make some observation on the HISTORY OF THE CHURCH OF GOD, which it will be seen has ever existed in the world, and generally in the neighbourhood of the most flourishing nations.

         The members of this church are those who, amidst the apostasy from God, and that wickedness in which the world everywhere lies (1 John 5:19), through the influence of the Holy Spirit, receive the instructions which God has made known; look for salvation through the appointed Redeemer; rely on God’s promises; and spend their lives in obedience to his will.  In the observations made on the history of the church, we shall chiefly confine our attention to the effects which have been produced by the knowledge of the truth, and by means of the Scriptures.

         The main and only efficient cause of every revival of religion is the effusion of the Spirit of God.  The promise must be first fulfilled, I will pour my Spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring, before one shall say, I am the Lord’s, and another shall call himself by the name of Jacob, and another shall subscribe with his hands unto the Lord, and surname himself by the name of Israel.  Yet while this is fully admitted and asserted, it may be useful to consider the means by which that Spirit usually works on the hearts of men.

         Let the reader then bear in mind what has been said respecting the value of the Bible (chapters 1 and 2 above), and it will be obvious that such a means, when brought into full exercise, is calculated to produce the greatest moral effects.

         We think, therefore, it may be safely asserted that DIVINE REVELATION HAS, through the influence of the Holy Spirit, ever been THE GREAT MEANS OF PRODUCING AND KEEPING ALIVE TRUE RELIGION IN THE WORLD: by revelation here meaning, not merely a written or printed Bible (since for upwards of 4000 years the complete Bible was neither written nor printed), but the truth which is revealed in the Bible.

         The observations on this part of our subject naturally divide themselves into the Period before Christ came into the world, and the Period since his coming.


1.  The Period before Christ came.

         Adam had no sooner fallen, than the compassion of God was manifest in giving the promise of a mighty DELIVERER, who should destroy the power of Satan; and Sacrifices seem to have been immediately appointed as emblems of the great sacrifice of Christ.  Gen. 3:21, 4:4.  It pleased God to manifest himself sensibly to the patriarchs from time to time; and Adam, Seth, Enoch, etc., conveyed down from age to age the great truths of God.

         The obedience of Noah to the Divine will is very observable.  Commanded to build an ark for the saving of his family, he in faith begins, and steadily proceeds to carry on this work till it is completed.  Thus men in general were long warned beforehand of the danger of disobedience; their attention was powerfully called to this servant of God; and though doubtless he was much ridiculed and oppressed, he was an eminent preacher of righteousness, and the light of his example must have shone far and wide.  His faith and obedience were abundantly rewarded.

         The Church of God was preserved in the posterity of Shem, the Son of Noah, among whom, till the word of God was committed to writing, men had full opportunity of ascertaining all truths that were needful for them to know. [Oral tradition had great advantages in the early ages of the world.  Methuselah lived about 300 years whilst Adam was alive, and Shem lived almost 100 years with Methuselah, and above 100 years with Abraham.  Yet the simplicity of religion became then so corrupted, that all knowledge of the one true God would have been utterly extinguished, and idolatry would have prevailed universally, if it had not pleased the Almighty to reveal himself in an especial manner to Abraham and his posterity.]  We have another striking example of faith and obedience in Abraham, to whom God revealed himself, and who, at the command of God, left his country and his father’s house.  His character was proved by many trials, and he became the father of the faithful, and in his seed all the nations of the earth were to be blessed.  In his posterity, the truths of God were known; and we see, from time to time in their history, that they trusted in the God of their fathers, and believed the promises made to Abraham.  Hence Jacob and Joseph gave commandment that their bones should be carried up to Canaan, believing that God would bring their posterity thither from Egypt.  The situation, character, and life of Joseph, again brought the truths of God before the kingdom of Egypt, and other nations.

         To the Jews were committed the oracles of God, and among them we have an opportunity of discovering the effect of these divine records from time to time.  The books of Moses were completed just before his death. Deut. 31:24.  Many exhortations were interspersed, requiring the Jews to keep the word of God in their hearts.  Their kings also were directed to write copies of it when they came to the throne.  The Pentateuch was committed to Joshua with that solemn direction, This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth, but thou shalt meditate therein day and night. Joshua 1:8.  We may easily conclude that Joshua attended to the direction given to him, and encouraged others to do the same.  Few generations of Israel were more obedient to God than that immediately succeeding the death of Moses.  They served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived him; – and though much of this may be attributed to the miracles which they had seen, yet many of those miracles were wrought to confirm the law of God, and all of them tended to do so.

         In the times of David and Solomon there was another great revival of religion, and the canon of Scripture was much enlarged.  When we see from the Psalms, how continually David meditated in the law of his God, and exhorted others to do so too, we may justly attribute much of this revival to its powerful influence.

         The inspired volume gradually increased by the writings of the prophets, by whose ministry religion was kept from utterly perishing.  In the time of Hezekiah an extensive reformation took place.  He exhorted his subjects to keep the law of God, and the Levites taught the good knowledge of the Lord.  2 Chron. 30:22.  Again, in the time of Josiah, the book of the law, which had been lost, was found and read before him.  2 Kings 22.  He was much affected by it, and caused it to be read before all the people in the house of the Lord, by which means they were induced to enter into a covenant with God and forsake idolatry.  2 Kings 23:2–5.

         We may observe similar effects from the same cause in the time of Nehemiah.  Ezra and his companions read the book of the law to the people (Neh. 8:8–9), and what contrition, what penitence, and what prayer it excited!  The princes, the priests, and the Levites, again made a covenant with God and sealed it.

         We have briefly noticed the effects of the truth among the Jews themselves; let us now point out some of the effects of their being set apart for God, as it respected other countries.

         The Jews were a nation professing to acknowledge and worship the true God, and thus they held forth the word of life to mankind in general.  Judea seems to have been peculiarly adapted (from its central situation, and from being placed between the two great kingdoms of Assyria and Egypt) to be the country of a people who, possessing the true religion, were to be the light of the world.  The various events of the Jewish history were also calculated to call the attention of surrounding nations to them.  The plagues inflicted on Egypt; the destruction of the Egyptians in the Red Sea; the conquest of Canaan; the glory of Solomon’s reign; the destruction of the Assyrian army; the dispersion of the Jews in their captivity; the exalted situation of Nehemiah, Daniel, and other characters eminent both for talents and piety; with many circumstances equally marking the hand of a divine providence, would all naturally excite the attention of the world to a people so distinguished.  It must sometimes have been said, This great nation is a wise and understanding people; for what nation is there so great, who hath God so nigh them?  Deut. 4:6–7.  We may indeed observe the effect of their situation and character incidentally shewn at different times and in various ways.  A mixed multitude went up with them out of Egypt.  The queen of Sheba came to hear the wisdom of Solomon.  We occasionally hear of proselytes.  About 150,000 strangers were found in the land of Israel in the reign of Solomon.  2 Chron. 2:17.  The king of Syria sent to Israel to have Naaman healed of the leprosy.  The king of Babylon, hearing of Hezekiah’s miraculous recovery, sent letters to him on that subject. How remarkable in the view we are considering, is Nebuchadnezzar’s decree! Dan. 4.  Wise men came from the east to the birth of Christ.  An eunuch, who was the treasurer of queen Candace, came from Ethiopia to worship at Jerusalem.  All which things shew that the light of truth was not altogether confined to the Jews.

         At length, JESUS CHRIST, the promised Deliverer, the great light of the world, the revealer of the will of God in its most eminent sense, he of whom to Scriptures of God chiefly testify, and by the inspiration of whose Spirit they were written, appeared at the time foretold, and at a period when the state of the world afforded many advantages for the promulgation of his Gospel.


II.  The Period since the Birth of Christ.

         Few things are more calculated to shew the value of the Scriptures than Christ’s attention to them during his ministry on earth.  He resisted temptation by quoting them.  In his discourses he constantly appealed to them, and expressly commanded his disciples to search them.  He asserted that every jot and tittle was to be fulfilled; and though heaven and earth shall pass away, yet his words should all receive their full accomplishment.

         His apostles followed his steps.  At the opening of their ministry on that memorable day of Pentecost, when about 3000 souls were added to the church (see Acts 2), they brought before the Jews their own Scriptures, by which the people, being convinced of their sins, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, gladly received the word and embraced the Gospel.  The apostles, by their own writings, completed the sacred volume, and warmly commended those who searched the Scriptures to ascertain the truth of what they themselves preached.  Thus the word of the Lord went forth from Jerusalem, and the nations of the earth were converted to Christianity.

         Soon, however, in consequence of the neglect of the Bible, the doctrines of the Gospel became gradually corrupted and adulterated by the additions of men.  It might easily be shewn that the occasional revivals which took place, were either caused by an attention to the Bible, or accompanied with a regard to it.  At length Popery and Mahomedanism almost universally prevailed over those countries where Christianity had flourished.  It was a feature of the corruption of those times which deserves our notice that the Bible, and especially the original Scriptures, were almost lost.  The fountain of light being taken away, and entirely kept from the people, no wonder that darkness followed.  God, however, who by his Son declared that the gates of hell should never prevail against his church, by his providence fulfilled this declaration, and raised up those who maintained this truth even in the midst of the darkest ages.  He always had some witnesses, though often they prophesied in sackcloth.  In our own country, Wickliffe shone as a bright light; his mind had been illuminated by the Bible: for the sake of it he suffered much; he translated it for the benefit of his own countrymen, and many thereby received the knowledge of the truth.

         That which, however, is preeminently and justly called THE REFORMATION, strikingly shews the efficacy of the Scriptures as the best means of bringing men to the knowledge of the truth, and of producing a general revival of religion, when held up to their view with due perseverance.

         It was not by human power or influence that Luther prevailed, but simply through the mighty energy of the Divine Spirit ever accompanying the diffusion of the pure truths of God.  The great truths of the Bible were gradually diffused by him.  He says of himself, “I had the whole body of Papists to oppose.  I preached, I wrote, I pressed on men’s consciences, the positive declarations of the word of God; but I used not a particle of force.  It is not I, I repeat it, but THE DIVINE WORD WHICH HAS DONE EVERY THING.”

         The Reformation in England proceeded in the same way.  The reformers were anxious on one hand to translate, recommend, and circulate the Scriptures; and on the other hand, the people in general eagerly received the invaluable record in their own tongue.  A copy of the newly translated Bible was directed to be fixed to a desk, and placed in all their churches for their use, and they assembled in crowds either to read it, or hear it read.  It would too much encroach upon our limits to take a survey of the present state of the world.  But it may, I think, be safely asserted that, just in proportion as the Bible is circulated, received, and devoutly read, just so much the fruits of righteousness are yielded to the glory of God and the good of man.  In those lands where the Bible is little known, there Papal darkness remains; and where the Bible is unknown, there Idolatry and Mahomedanism, with their constant attendants, cruelty and lust, universally prevail.  We may also remark that whatever true knowledge of God is found, in those places where false religion is generally received, or true religion is corrupted, it may justly be attributed to the Bible.  This is particularly evident both in Popish and Mahometan countries.

         The signs of the present times are in many respects peculiar and favourable.  There is a growing regard to the sacred volume as the only standard of doctrine and practice.  The Bible is translated into various languages, dispersing among all people, and foreigners unite with us in promoting this great object.  We see marks of the fall of Popery and Mahomedanism – of the calling of the Jews – and of the word of the Lord going forth from Jerusalem.  We see a spirit of union in the Christian Church, unknown for centuries before; and we know that when the disciples of Christ are all one, the world will believe his divine mission.  John 17:21.  The attention of Christians is peculiarly directed to promote the spreading of the Gospel, and a general spirit of prayer is excited among them. – All denominations of Christians are sending out missionaries – God hath given this country extensive maritime power, apparently for the very purpose of sending Christian ambassadors to all the inhabitants of the world.  Isa. 18:1–3.  Nor have these exertions been wholly in vain.  Both Jews and Gentiles have been brought to the knowledge of Christ as the firstfruits of the harvest which is to follow.

         Thus we see preparations going forward and extending for some great work: the success indeed has been small at present, and may yet continue to be so.  It may please God to shew the inefficiency of means, and then peculiarly to manifest his own power in giving an unexpected blessing to the exertions of his people.  He may allow us to prepare the various channels, and may send down a few drops to keep up our hopes; but it will be evidently his own doing, when the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. Heb. 2:14.  He will make bare his holy arm in the eyes of all nations, before all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God. Isa. 52:10. – We behold enough in the prophecies and promises of the Bible, and in present success also, to teach us to renounce all dependence upon ourselves, to animate us to the most persevering prayers, and to excite our most active exertions in the great cause of the universal diffusion of the truth.

         It will have been seen, from the passages of Scripture which have been quoted, that we are not left to mere conjecture as to future times.  The historical relation of events, indeed, in the Scriptures, has long ceased; but, as Edwards has remarked, [See Edwards’s History of Redemption.  See also Brown’s Chronology of Redemption.]* “there are two ways wherein the Scriptures give account of the events by which the work of redemption is carried on; one is by history, and another by prophecy: and in one or the other of these ways we have contained in the Scriptures an account of this work from the beginning to the end, an account of the whole chain of great events by which it hath been carried on from the foundation, soon after the fall of man to the finishing of it at the end of the world.  And it is to be observed, where the Scripture is wanting in one of these ways, it is made up in the other.  Where Scripture history fails, there prophecy takes place; so that the account is still carried on, and the chain is not broken till we come to the very last link of it, in the consummation of all things.”

         Let us then consider,


         We pretend not to prophecy, nor can we interpret beforehand those prophecies which are at present unfulfilled.  But, in general, we are warranted to expect the happy conquest of the truth of God over anti-Christian oppression and error of every kind.  There is a promised period when the kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdoms of our God and of his Christ.  The spiritual house of God, an edifice more glorious than the splendid temple of Solomon, is now erecting.  We doubt not when the building shall be completed, the necessity of all the preparation of materials, the removal of rubbish, the hewing of wood, the squaring of stones, and the erection of the scaffolding (however unsightly it may now appear) will be fully perceived.  It will be manifested that an end, now not altogether understood, was promoted by the inexplicable scenery of past ages, and the awful dispensations of present times.  It will be seen that the whole had a tendency to promote the glory of God, and the welfare of those who obey him.

         In this view there is a splendid object of hope set before us; the Lord will hasten it in his time.  What may precede it we know not.  Perhaps, while there is much for us to expect, our fears may sometimes be excited as to the means by which our hopes will be realized.  Seldom does any great event take place, but it follows some awful judgment.  It seems necessary that the fire of the Lord should devour his adversaries, before he comes to display his glory.

         Two things at least are clear: – our duty to serve God, and – the happiness of his servants.  We are also cheered by the prospect of the growing increase of their number, till all the ends of the earth shall remember and turn unto the Lord, and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before him.

         In every event also, whatever commotion takes place in the world, the servants of God are safe.  Though the earth be removed, though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea, they may say, The Lord of Hosts is with us, the God of Jacob is our refuge.  It is their great desire that the kingdom of God should come, and his will be done on earth as it is in heaven.  That kingdom they know will come; that will in everything shall be done; and their happiness thus secured, shall be rendered complete.

         If it be said that there is now but little prospect that all nations whom God has made shall come and worship before him, while so great a proportion of mankind is given to idolatry and sin; the objection will have no weight, when we consider the power of the Almighty, and the first promulgation of Christianity.  We do not at all pretend to fix the precise time when the universal reception of the Gospel will take place, but the word of God seems to lead us to look for rapid and unexpected success. – As soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth her children. Isa. 66:8.  A little one shall become a thousand, and a small one a strong nation. Isa. 60:22.

         We have seen the angel fly in the midst of heaven, having THE EVERLASTING GOSPEL to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people. Rev. 14:6.  Now God has declared of his word, It shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and shall prosper in the thing whereto I send it.  It will be found, as it ever has been, mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds.

         We may, then, in the confidence of faith, look forward and refresh our minds by contemplating the scene of happiness which even this lower world will exhibit, when all, or the greater part, of mankind shall become true disciples of JESUS CHRIST.  Nor will the Christian reader be disposed to treat this as a visionary idea.  We have prophecies which teach us, promises which encourage us, and precepts which direct us, to hope, and pray, and labour, till this blissful period shall arrive.  And though it is a subject in the consideration of which we may have need of caution; yet, as Dr. Buchanan remarks, “it is evident from the sure word of prophecy that there will be a long time of general holiness and peace, which will succeed to the present time of vice and misery (probably 1000 years), during which righteousness will be as common as wickedness is now: and further, that this period is at hand, even at the door.”

         We may believe that apparently insurmountable obstacles will then be wonderfully removed: every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be bought low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain.  The heathen, forsaking dumb idols, shall worship the Lord their God, and receive Jesus Christ as his son from heaven.  The Jews (perhaps restored to their own land) shall submit to their true though long-rejected Messiah.  Becoming as eminent for holiness as they are now for worldliness, they shall be patterns of piety to all around them, so that many people and strong nations shall come to seek the Lord of Hosts in Jerusalem – and in those days it shall come to pass, that ten men shall take hold, out of all languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.  Thus the fullness of the Gentiles shall come in, and so all Israel shall be saved.

         Let us endeavour to consider the consequences that will result from the great mass of mankind embracing the true religion, and being influenced by that love of God and of their fellow creatures, which comprehends and fulfills the whole law.

         Our Lord’s prayer for his disciples will be completely answered, they shall all be one, even as he and his Father are one.  The increase of the communion of saints will be a delightful effect of this state.  The identity of interest, the oneness of mind, the sympathy of feeling, and the interchange of kindness, which so peculiarly mark the character and conduct of real Christians one towards another, extended and amplified as they will then be, must produce a vast accession to human happiness.

         Kings will indeed be fathers; and subjects, children and brethren, living together in unity.  It is promised – I will make also thine officers peace, and thine exactors righteousness – Ephraim shall not envy Judah, and Judah shall not vex Ephraim.  Those will be called to places of authority who are distinguished by their wisdom and piety, and they will hold their situations without envy on one side, or pride or tyranny on the other.

         How many things which now distress us would, in such a case, be banished.  Then it will be true, they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more: but they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid. Micah 4:3–4.  What a blessing to a place is any one man whose heart is filled with Christian love; and when many, if not all, are thus influenced, how will evil of every kind be diminished!  Supposing that natural evil, such as sickness, disease, poverty, and unfruitful seasons, should still continue, how much of that which is afflicting about them would be removed by general and mutual aid, compassion and sympathy!

         Each individual applying himself with industry and diligence to the peculiar duties of his station, how prosperous, how peaceable, how happy would every nation be!  Population would be amazingly increased! thy waste and thy desolate places shall even now be too narrow by reason of the inhabitants.

         Instead of backbiting and malice, wrath and revenge, that Christian charity which thinketh no evil, ever active, yet ever humble, ever meek, yet ever firm, would universally prevail.  We should have no reason to distrust these with whom we are unacquainted; but every soul would be a kindred brother, and all help one another forward in the way to eternal life.

         We may easily suppose that in such a state God will bless the earth and the labours of man with abundant fruitfulness.  We see the effect of Christianity on Europe even now.  “The prodigious superiority,” says one, “which Europe possesses over Africa and Asia, is chiefly to be attributed to this cause.  It is the possession of a religion which comprehends the seeds of endless improvement, which maintains an incessant struggle with whatever is barbarous, selfish, and inhuman; which, by unveiling futurity, clothes morality with the unction of a divine law, and harmonizes utility and virtue in every combination of events, and in every stage of existence; a religion which, by affording the most just and sublime conceptions of the Deity, and of the moral relations of man, has given birth at once to the loftiest speculation, and the most childlike humility, uniting the inhabitants of the globe into one family, and in the bonds of a common salvation.  It is this religion which, rising upon us like a finer sun, has quickened moral vegetation, and replenished Europe with talents, virtues, and exploits, which, in spite of its physical disadvantages, have rendered it a paradise, the delight and wonder of the world.”  When Christianity becomes the universal religion, we may well expect an universal paradise over the whole earth, the antipast of an eternal paradise in heaven.

         At such a glorious time, how vast will be the sum of human happiness.  Christian joy will manifest itself in gratitude.  One continual song of human praise and thanksgiving rising from every heart, will daily ascend as most acceptable incense unto God.  Then will be heard, even upon earth, the voice of a great multitude, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Allelujah! for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.

         Who then, will not fervently pray, Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

         The Scriptures, however, shew us (Rev. 20:7, etc.) that this happy period will at length expire, and that Satan will be loosed again, though only for a little season: and then will come the day of general judgment.

         On that day we shall be better able to estimate the amazing worth and importance of the Bible.  Against the WICKED it will be an unexpected witness, whose testimony will forever decide their condition.  Its precepts will shew their transgressions, its invitations, their utter inexcusableness; its threatenings, their eternal ruin.  Who can tell what it will be to have the whole sacred volume testifying against us?  But, on the other hand, to the RIGHTEOUS the Bible will speak nothing but consolation.  It will shew that their guilt is done away in the Saviour.  Its threatenings will not reach them, its declarations will acquit them, its promises will secure their eternal bliss.

         Let us farther consider the particulars of that day, as they are sublimely described in the Scripture.

         In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump, the dead are raised – The Son of Man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory, and before him shall be gathered all nations.  Everyone must give account of himself to God.  O how can we now know what will then be the mind of our Judge?  The Bible declares it to us!  The Judge begins to divide all mankind into two classes; the wicked to go away into everlasting punishment, and the righteous into life eternal.  How, then, while we have time before us, can we ascertain the rule of his judgment?  The Bible discovers it to us!  But, behold! the heavens pass away with a great noise, and the elements melt with fervent heat; the earth also, and the works that are therein, are burned up – when all is giving way, when the world is passing from under our feet, on what that is permanent and abiding can we fix our hopes?  Heaven and earth shall pass away, says Christ, but my words shall not pass away.  He that doeth the will of God abideth forever.  Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.

         We will conclude with two observations.

         1.  It has been shewn that in every age there have been those who knew, loved, and served their Creator; and we have seen that they alone will be eternally blessed.  There are such characters now living.  How important, then, is the enquiry, Do I belong to the number?  No question is of greater consequence to us.  O let us not shrink from it – let us not throw it aside, or put it off, but rather sift it to the bottom; for if we are wrong, it is not yet too late to amend.  In pursuing this enquiry, no book can give us such genuine information as the Bible.

         2.  What a wonderful book is the Bible, which, through the divine blessing, has effected so much good in the world, which declares such awfully important truths, and which opens such prospects before us!  Let us be thankful that the inestimable treasure, preserved safe through so many ages and so many dangers, is still in our hands: let us see that it has its full effect upon our own hearts, and do everything we can to disperse it unto all people, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth.


Chapter 12 – On Scripture Difficulties.

         The Scriptures are like the material heavens – they are, if such an expression may be used, the tabernacle in which the Sun of Righteousness dwells.  When this glorious light appears in the sacred pages, it shines with pre-eminent brightness, eclipsing every other.  There are, however, other lights borrowed from it, and revolving around it – the lights of prophets, apostles, martyrs, and the Church of God in all ages; and these, in subservience to the great luminary, assist in guiding our paths.  The lights of heaven are always shining, though often hid from us.  Our ignorance, our pride, and our prejudices do what God threatened to do to Egypt (Ezek. 32:7–8.), they cover the heavens, and make the stars thereof dark; they cover the sun with a cloud, and the moon does not give her light; they make dark over us all the bright lights of heaven – and set darkness upon the land; and we love this darkness rather than light, because our deeds are evil.

         This is one great reason why we so little understand the Bible, and hence arises the necessity of looking continually for the help of the Holy Spirit, which though it bloweth where it listeth, yet is given to those who ask it, and then it dispels every mist and cloud.  This Holy Spirit removes those prejudices with which sin, self, the world, and Satan, have infected us.  It enlightens our dark minds, humbles our proud hearts, discovers to us the beauty and perfection of Scripture, and makes us willing, when our reason is satisfied that the Bible is true, to believe even what we cannot fully understand.

         An astronomer and an ignorant person looking at the heavens, survey the same glorious objects with very different views.  They both may admire the outward splendour; but he who has long and patiently studied the heavenly bodies, and often beheld them through a powerful telescope, discovers a grandeur and magnificence, an harmony and utility, a beautiful and regular motion, unobserved by a common eye, and which gives him exalted ideas of his Creator’s power and glory; nor does his knowledge rest in mere speculation, for he can apply it to many valuable practical purposes.

         There is a similar difference between the real and nominal Christian when they read the Bible.  They both may see the beauty of language and be equally struck with the mere outward attraction; but the real Christian, who daily studies his Bible, and brings its distant objects nearby faith, finds in it such displays of the glory of God, such harmony, consistency, and beauty, and such plain and practical rules for his daily conduct, as fill him with wonder and delight.  He may not be able to account for everything that he sees; but he discovers enough to shew him the wisdom of God and the way to heaven.

         Some say, “After all, I find many things hard to be understood and believed”; and is this wonderful?  Do you not meet with many things in your daily life, which you cannot account for?  Whence come pain, sin, and death?  Why are plagues and earthquakes sent to sweep thousands from the earth?  You believe many natural things which you cannot account for; why then should you not believe spiritual things, though you may not be able to account for them?  Consider how glorious a being God is, and what a poor ignorant worm you are in comparison of him; and is it wonderful that you cannot comprehend the glory of God?  Would it not be rather wonderful if you could?

         Faith and reason are different faculties, but each should be exercised in the study of the Bible.  If we could at once perfectly understand it, FAITH would not be exercised in receiving that which is above our reason, and in humbly acquiescing in, and submitting to the declarations of God’s will. – REASON has also an important office to perform, not only in examining the evidences of the truth of the Bible, and ascertaining their weight; but also in investigating its statements, so that we may know their meaning, and be able to tell what is, and what is not, asserted in the Holy Scriptures.  But our reason should not attempt to go beyond its province.  If God has given a revelation of his own designs and of his holy will to man, it is to be supposed that he has therein told us what we could not have known by common means; and it is not unreasonable to expect that some of his declarations should relate to subjects which we cannot now comprehend.  Revelation declares truths which concern eternity, and the evidence and glory of which will only be fully known in another state.  Is it, then, surprising, that we, who are but the creatures of a day, should not yet fully understand them?  A well-educated man can inform a child when there will be an eclipse, and what will be the appearance of the heavenly body at the time, before the child has powers to comprehend how such a calculation can possibly be made.  Yet he may fully believe that what is told him is true: and in time he may perfectly understand how it is done.  So, respecting the grand truths of revelation, what we know not now, we shall know hereafter.  There is nothing either unreasonable or unfit in our submitting to be instructed by the only wise God.

         Perhaps, however, the following observations may shew that the difficulties which embarrass you while you are reading your Bible, are neither so many nor so insurmountable as you may at first suppose; and that those which you cannot remove, relate to subjects which, from their nature, we cannot comprehend till our capacity is enlarged, and our knowledge is increased in a future state of being.

         The manners and mental acquirements of mankind in remote antiquity, in the very birth and infancy of our species, were widely different from those of the present age.  Bishop Watson has well illustrated this; he says, “The history of man is the history of the providence of God; who has adapted his government to the capacity of those who in different ages were the subjects of it.  The history of any one nation through all ages, and that of all nations in the same age, are but separate parts of one great plan.  But who can comprehend the whole of this immense design?  The shortness of life, the weakness of our faculties, the inadequacy of our means of information, conspire to make it impossible for us, worms of the earth! insects of an hour! completely to understand any one of its parts.  No man, who well weighs this subject, ought to be surprised that in the histories of ancient times many things should occur foreign to our manners, the propriety and necessity of which we cannot clearly apprehend.

         “It appears incredible to many that God Almighty should have had colloquial intercourse with our first parents; that he should have contracted a kind of friendship for the patriarchs, and entered into covenants with them; that he should have suspended the laws of nature in Egypt; should have been so apparently partial as to become the God and Governor of one particular nation: and should have so far demeaned himself as to give to that people a burdensome ritual of worship, statutes, and ordinances, many of which seem to be beneath the dignity of his attention, unimportant and impolitic.  I have conversed with many deists, and have always found that the strangeness of these things was the only reason for their disbelief of them; nothing similar has happened in their time; they will not, therefore, admit that these events have really taken place at any time.  As well might a child, when arrived at a state of manhood, contend that he had never either stood in need, or experienced the fostering care, of a mother’s kindness, the wearisome attention of his nurse, or the instruction and discipline of his schoolmaster.  The Supreme Being selected one family from an idolatrous world; nursed it up by various acts of his providence into a great nation; communicated to that nation a knowledge of his holiness, justice, mercy, power, and wisdom; disseminating them at various times, through every part of the earth, that they might be a leaven to leaven the whole lump, that they might assure all other nations of the existence of one supreme God, the creator and preserver of the world, the only proper object of adoration.  With what reason can we expect that what was done to one nation, not out of any partiality to them, but for the general good, should be done to all? that the mode of instruction, which was suited to the infancy of the world, should be extended to the maturity of its manhood, or to the imbecility of its old age?  I own that when I consider how nearly man, in a savage state, approaches to the brute creation, as to intellectual excellence; and when I contemplate his miserable attainments as to the knowledge of God, in a civilized state, when he has had no divine instruction on the subject, or when that instruction has been forgotten (for all men have known something of God from tradition), I cannot but admire the wisdom and goodness of the Supreme Being in having let himself down to our apprehensions; in having given to mankind in the earliest ages, sensible and extraordinary proofs of his existence and attributes; in having made the Jewish and Christian Dispensations mediums to convey to all men through all ages that knowledge concerning himself, which he had vouchsafed to give immediately to the first.  I own it is strange, very strange, that he should have made an immediate manifestation of himself in the first ages of the world; but what is there that is not strange?  It is strange that you and I are here – that there is water, and earth, and air, and fire – that there is a sun, and moon, and stars – that there is generation, corruption, reproduction.  I can account ultimately for none of these things without recurring to Him who made everything.  I also am his workmanship, and look up to him with hope of preservation, through all eternity.  I adore him for his word as well as for his work! his work I cannot comprehend, but his word bath assured me all that I am concerned to know – that he hath prepared everlasting happiness for those who love and obey him.” [See Bishop Watson’s Apology for the Bible.]

         The sixty-six separate books of the Bible perfectly agree in every point of importance.  The few trifling differences which have been brought forward have been satisfactorily accounted for in the comments of wise and good men.  Consider – when several writers mention the same facts, each only relates the circumstance he was acquainted with. – Printing has only been invented between 300 and 400 years; and before that time, books could only be multiplied by writing.  The Hebrews and Greeks often expressed their numbers by letters, several of which are so much alike, that a hasty copier might easily mistake – yet not one doctrine or duty is rendered obscure by any of these differences.  How absurdly do they act who are continually stumbling at the difficulties of the Bible, while they pass by and disregard those plain truths which would make them wise unto salvation.  The way of eternal salvation is plain and clear.

         The Bible was not designed to clear up every difficulty.  Luther justly observes, “There are three lights – the light of nature, the light of grace, and of glory.  The light of nature cannot explain why a good man should suffer, and a bad man should flourish; but the light of grace solves the difficulty by teaching us that there is a future life in which the wicked shall be punished and the righteous rewarded.  Then, the light of grace doth not inform us, why God should punish an ungodly man, who cannot by any powers of his own amend his disposition.  Nay, I will own that both the light of nature and of grace incline us to excuse that poor wretched man, and to think hardly of God, as unjust in his judgments, especially as he gives a crown to another who by nature is quite as ungodly, and perhaps more so.  But, remember, that the light of glory teaches us a different thing; namely, that the ways of God, which are incomprehensible at present, will, at the last day, appear most manifestly to be strictly just and holy in the very highest degree.”

         Many passages, which may be difficult to you, are not at all difficult to those who may have more knowledge of their Bibles, and of their own hearts, of history, and of the world.  Be ever ready to allow that your difficulties may proceed from your ignorance. [See Butler’s Analogy of Revealed Religion, and Paschal’s Thoughts.]  When you are learning a trade or business, and meet with anything you cannot understand, you apply to those who are better acquainted with it, and are able to remove your difficulties; you should do the same here – ask some judicious and pious minister or friend to explain what you do not comprehend.

         The particular customs of Eastern countries, at the time when the events recorded took place, clear up many things which seem strange to us now.  Thus, when our Lord says, men do not put new wine into old bottles (Matt. 9:17), we cannot understand it till we are informed that their bottles were made of skins or leather, and not of glass as ours are. [See Burder’s Oriental Customs, 4 vol. – Harmer’s Observations on Scripture, 4 vol. – Fleury’s Manners of the Israelites.]  This also explains Psalm 119:83.  When it is promised to him that overcometh that the Lord will give him a white stone (Rev. 2:17), it cannot be thoroughly understood till we know that in those times, when any person was accused of crimes against the state was tried by the suffrage of the citizens, they voted for his acquittal by a white stone, and for his condemnation by a black one.  Hence we learn that Christ here promises that he will fully justify his people.  Our Lord says, The Son of Man shall be three days and three nights in the earth (Matt. 12:40.); whereas he rose on the third day; but it was common with the Jews to reckon a part of a period of time for the whole; and the fact exactly accorded with the prediction, according to their usual mode of expression.

         Difficulties have also their use.  God thus tries our hearts; giving light enough to guide the meek in his ways, and to leave the ungodly inexcusable; and yet letting darkness enough remain to prove the faith of the upright in heart, and to be a stumbling block to the wicked.  “Those passages,” says Boyle, “that are so obscure to us as to teach us nothing else, may at least teach us humility.”  And farther, in consequence of these difficulties, the Bible has been more studied, and is on the whole better understood, than it otherwise would have been.

         Let not the difficulties in Scripture induce you to prefer reading other books, which may appear more plain and instructive.  They are not really so.  It is well observed by Boyle, “as the moon for all those darker parts we call spots, gives us a much greater light than the stars that seem all bright and luminous; so will the Scriptures, for all its obscure passages, afford the Christian and the Divine more light than the brightest human writings.”  Remember, too, that whilst some of the disciples were offended by what they called a hard saying, who can hear it, and forsook Christ on that account, the apostles silenced every objection by saying – Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life, and we believe, and are sure, that thou art that Christ, the son of the living God.  Let this great truth silence your objections, and lead you to imitate their example.

         But, depend upon it, the great reason why men do not understand their Bible is because their hearts are unrenewed by divine grace.  How can an earthly, sensual, worldly-minded man enter into the meaning of the pure, holy, and heavenly truths of the Gospel?  Alas! to him they are not a savour of life unto life, but a savour of death unto death.  While there was darkness in Egypt, there was light in the dwellings of Israel; and the same cloud which conveyed light to the Israelites was dark to the Egyptians.  If our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost. 2 Cor. 4:2.  I must repeat again, then, – never think of understanding the Bible without the help of the Holy Spirit; and will not God give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?  Luke 11:13.

         Take heed, also, that you be not amongst those unlearned and unstable who wrest the things hard to be understood unto their own destruction.  2 Peter 3:16.


Chapter 13 – Summary of Divine Truth.

         Some say, In the midst of so much matter we are at a loss to know what is most important to be attended to; we can never remember all that is said.  I answer, It is one peculiar excellence of the Bible, and shews how exactly adapted it is to the wants of mankind in general, that it perpetually conveys, I had almost said, the whole system of divine truth necessary to be known for our salvation, in one or two short sentences.  I have selected the following as specimens.

         Our Lord’s summary of DOCTRINE, when Nicodemus came to consult him about the nature of his religion, is equally striking and important – Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God; – except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. – God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.  John 3:3, 5, 16.

         And again, observe his summary of DUTIES.  Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.  This is the first and great commandment; and the second is like unto it – Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.  Matt. 22:37–39.  All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them; for this is the law and the prophets.  Matt. 7:12.

         I will add two other summaries from St. Paul’s Epistles.

         The grace of God which bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world, looking for that blessed hope and the glorious appearing of the great God, and our Saviour Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.  Titus 2:11–14.

         Again – God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ; by grace ye are saved; and hath raised us up together; and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus; that in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace, in his kindness towards us through Christ Jesus.  For by grace are ye saved, through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast.  For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.  Eph. 2:4–10.

         On a larger scale we have a complete and full statement of divine truth regularly arranged in St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans.  Beware, however, of trying to make the Bible bend to the systems of men, or to any preconceived notions in your own mind.  Take it as you find it.  Whatever may be fairly inferred from Scripture, receive with readiness.  A great outline of divine truth is there distinctly marked out.  Avoid all attempts to alter it.  “I find in the Bible,” says Cecil, “a grand peculiarity that seems to say to all who attempt to systematize it, I am not of your kind – I am intractable in your hands – I stand alone.  The great and wise shall never exhaust my treasures: by figures and parables I will come down to the feelings and understandings of the ignorant.  Leave me as I am, but study me incessantly.” [See Cecil’s Remains, a book full of the most striking and useful observations on men and religion.]


Chapter 14 – Reasons Why the Reading of the Scriptures

Is Frequently Attended with Little Advantage.

         The practice of reading the Bible habitually is truly excellent and of vast importance, and usually it is highly advantageous, as has already been shewn.  But if the benefit arising from the study of the Scriptures be so great, whence is it that many read them from year to year without seeming to derive any profit from them?  They are probably outwardly moral, but they manifest little or no real improvement of character.  The same unholy tempers, the same worldly dispositions, prevail in a great measure in them, as in those who entirely neglect this study.  They make no progress in religion, they do not grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.  There must be some reasons why so little advantage is derived from so important a practice as reading the Bible.  Among these, we may mention the various ways in which the Bible may be read unprofitably, from not discerning, or not feeling, the proper manner and end for which we ought to read it. – For instance:

         Some set themselves a certain quantity to read every day, perhaps three or four chapters, or more, and they read these regularly, whether what they read be history, doctrine, or practice.  But they do not consider with attention the nature and design of the portions which they read.  The exercise is altogether a matter of form.  They do it from mere habit, or from a self-righteous spirit.  They do not meditate upon what they read; they do not pray that they may understand and feel its true force, and that they may receive the love of the truth, that is, receive the truth in the exercise of proper dispositions of heart.  Hence they are but little influenced by the Bible, and neither find happiness nor profit in studying it.  They seek not the aid of God’s Holy Spirit, they feel not the consequences of the truths which they read to the health of their souls.  They are not sensible that these truths are urged on them by the powerful sanctions of ETERNITY; nor do they see their intimate connection with their salvation; and how then can they expect that what they read will be brought home to their hearts?

         Some, on the other hand, read the Bible quite irregularly: now and then, for a few days, they seem to attend to it in good earnest; but finding, perhaps, some difficulties, and not at once experiencing all the advantages which they expected, they give it up, and neglect it entirely for weeks together; and thus, if any useful impressions have been made, they are soon worn off and lost.

         Some read the Bible, not as a serious and important duty, but carelessly, perhaps from mere curiosity, or from the shame of being ignorant, etc.  They take the book up, read it, lay it down, and think no more about it.  The word does not abide in their heart, and therefore it produces no fruit.

         Others read it with a strong bias and prejudice upon their minds.  They love the world; they love the praise of men.  They have joined a particular party, from which they take their sentiments, and they will not separate themselves from it.  They think that if they embraced certain doctrines or precepts they might be exposed to much reproach and opposition, and their temporal interest or reputation might suffer.  They are unwilling to give up sentiments which they have once professed, and are not endued with sufficient humility to discover, or probably to suspect the reason.  The Pharisees seem to have read the Scriptures with this strong bias upon their minds.  They regarded traditions more than the word of God; they were covetous, vain, and prejudiced.  Hence, though they pretended to pay such extraordinary attention to the minutest parts of the law, and to be very strict respecting its letter, they were so ignorant of its general nature, and had seen so little of its true excellence, that they did not know the Lord of glory, and despised and rejected the Saviour of the world.

         Some confine their reading to particular books; they will read over and over again the Psalms and Proverbs, the Gospels, and some historical books, and will entirely disregard all the rest; or, on the other hand, they will study the doctrinal parts, to the exclusion of those which are more practical.  By this means their minds get a peculiar bent; they acquire partial ideas of divine truth, and never attain enlarged and comprehensive views of God’s dispensations.

         Others give almost the whole of their attention to mere critical niceties, to the outside and the letter of Scripture, to difficult texts, to expositions, and to various translations and versions, etc.  They will search through one commentary or lexicon after another, to find the opinions of various writers on abstruse and obscure points.  They can tell you all that different authors say upon such texts, and there they stop.  Far would the writer be from finding fault with the labours of the learned, to whom we are so much indebted, or from condemning those who, having leisure, thus enter minutely into the critical meaning, whilst they do not neglect the practical application of the truth.  But is not such a mode of study “frequently attended with pride, ostentation, and self-love, lurking under the plausible pretense of searching the Scriptures?  Such a man will search out all manner of intricacies in reading the Scripture, rather than nourish his heart with those plain and practical doctrines which are apparent to everyone’s view.” [See “Plain Directions for Reading the Scriptures.”]  Is there not also danger lest we should imagine such studies are the whole of religion!  It is so easy to deceive ourselves, and to think that we must be religious, when our whole mind is engaged upon religious subjects.  But in this case we need peculiar caution.  The study of the Bible is mainly advantageous when we apply the truth to ourselves, when it influences our hearts, and when that influence is so manifested in our lives that we ourselves become living epistles, known; and read of all men.  How absurd would that person’s conduct be, who spent all his time in considering the appearance of his food, or the utensils which contained it, whilst he was actually starving for want of nourishment!

         If there be so many unprofitable modes of study, how important it is to attend to those directions which God himself has given us respecting this duty.  To point them out is the object of the following chapter.


Chapter 15 – Practical Rules for Daily Study.

         The study of the Scriptures being a great and important duty, how shall we perform it to most advantage?  What is necessary in order to obtain a right knowledge of divine truth?  The Bible itself answers these enquiries, and furnishes us with the best rules for understanding and being edified by its contents.

         The most needful thing is to gain the assistance of the Holy Spirit.  Without the help of this divine Teacher, all means will be ineffectual, for the Spirit alone can guide us into all truth.  Hence the necessity of that prayer, Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law.  “There is,” says Owen, “a sacred light in the word; but there is a covering, a veil on the eyes of men, so that they cannot behold it aright.  Now the removal of this veil is the peculiar work of the Holy Spirit.”

         With earnest prayer for the teaching of the Spirit, and in entire dependence upon His help, there are two things chiefly necessary to be attended to in the study of the Bible.  One is, TO GET A RIGHT UNDERSTANDING OF DIVINE TRUTH.  For this purpose, a regular plan of study, diligent perseverance in that plan, and using the best human helps we can obtain, are things of much importance.  And farther, an acquaintance with the original languages, and with the history of all countries, and of the world in general, will also be found highly advantageous.  It must not, however, be concealed that great knowledge of the Bible may be gained by those who make no progress in the religion of the heart.  St. Paul supposes a case where a man may understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and yet be nothing, not having charity or love.  Another, then, and very important point is TO MAKE THE TRUTH WHICH WE KNOW THE RULE BY WHICH OUR DAILY CONDUCT IS GOVERNED.  Our Lord says, If any man will do his will, he shall know, of the doctrine whether it be of God.  And Solomon tells us, The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.  It is evident, therefore, that the gaining of that religious knowledge, which will make us wise unto salvation, very much depends on the disposition with which we are engaged in this study.  “The state of the heart has the chief influence in the search after truth; humility, contrition, simplicity, sanctity – these are the handmaids of the understanding in the investigation of religion?”  If the Bible is taken up with a careless irreverent spirit, in the same way that you would take up any common book, little profit can reasonably be expected.  That the dispositions of the heart are of vast importance is very evident from the parable of the sower.  The seed sown was all of equal goodness, all scattered by the same hand, and at the same time; the great difference was in the state of the ground on which it was sown.  It is only the honest and good heart that brings fruit to perfection.

         Divine truth is intended to do far more than furnish our minds with right views.  It is, through the grace of God, the means of sanctifying our hearts; and when brought home to the conscience by the Spirit, and apprehended by faith, it never fails to produce this effect.  Yet it must be admitted that, valuable as good dispositions really are, a man who neglects to acquire the information needful for enabling him to direct and apply them may make strange and dangerous mistakes.  Many have had a zeal without knowledge, which has done much harm both to themselves and others.  Both knowledge and obedience, then, are needful, as they mutually assist and forward each other.  It is said, If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.  I purpose now to give you some practical rules which, I am persuaded, if attended to, you will find advantageous in helping you rightly to study your Bible.  The first six relate to the STATE OF MIND with which the reader should engage in this duty, and the dispositions and Christian graces which he will find it advantageous to exercise in the performance of it.  The next eight relate more immediately to the MODE OF STUDY, and to particulars to be attended to in the book itself. [It will be a satisfaction to some of my readers, perhaps, to see most of these rules in the following extract from Archbishop Parker, one of the Reformers.  “Only search with an humble spirit, ask in continual prayer, seek with purity of life, knock with perpetual perseverance, and cry to the good Spirit of Christ, the Comforter, and surely to every such asker it shall be given, such searchers must needs find, to them it will be opened.  Christ himself will open the sense of Scripture, not to the proud or the wise of the world, but to the lowly and contrite in heart, for he hath the key of David, he opens and no man shuts, he shuts and no man opens.”]


I – Rules Relating to the State of the Reader’s Mind.

         1.  READ THE BIBLE IN THE SPIRIT OF CONTINUAL PRAYER: – prayer before your begin, prayer mixed with your reading, and prayer when you have done.  Say, “Lord, help me to remember this; to forsake this or that sin; to practice this or that duty.”  The disciples, when our Lord tells them how often they ought to forgive an offending brother, instantly begin to pray, Lord, increase our faith.  This is one of the most important rules, and is indispensably necessary.  All the rest will naturally follow, if you do but constantly attend to this; nor do I believe anyone, who thus prays, will be left under the final prevalence of any ruinous error, or in ignorance of any fundamental truth.  Be thoroughly persuaded that you cannot savingly understand the Bible, or experience the Gospel to be the power of God, without divine teaching.  See 1 Cor. 2:10, 14.  This is one reason why so many great and learned men utterly mistake the true meaning of the Bible.  David prayed for help in reading the Scriptures (see Psa. 119:18), and if you earnestly pray for the Holy Spirit to guide you into all truth, you may depend upon receiving it; for God has promised to give his Holy Spirit to them that ask him, and this Spirit alone can give us an experimental knowledge of spiritual things.  Farther, turn passages of Scripture into prayer; thus, when St. James says, humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, pray in this way, “God grant that I may be humbled for my many and great sins.”  Look up to God, who alone can give you this spirit of prayer, and you will make the Bible itself a means of exciting devotional feelings.  “Who is there, who almost at any time, reading the Scriptures with reverence to God, and subjection of conscience to him, has not had some particular matter of prayer or praise effectually suggested to him.  And Christians would find no small advantage by constantly turning what they read into prayer or praise; for hereby the instruction of the Bible would be more confirmed in their minds, and their hearts would be more engaged in the practice of them.”

         2.  MIX FAITH WITH ALL YOU READ. – The Gospel is like food; faith receives, eats, and digests it, and thus it becomes nourishing.  One who mixes faith with what he reads, accepts the mercy offered in the Scriptures, and applies it to himself with suitable affections: the truth produces in him affections and actions corresponding to its nature.  That faith which is the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen, brings the great truth of Scripture as perceptibly to the faculties of our souls, as that which we see with our eyes, and touch with our hands, is made palpable and obvious to the senses of our bodies.  Remember, the word preached by Moses did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it. Heb. 4:2.  Let your faith be a lively active faith, inducing you not only to believe that all you read is true, but earnestly to seek an interest in the promises, to escape the threatenings, and to obey the commands, however difficult they may seem.  In reading the Bible, you should not only desire, but expect great spiritual benefit – you should not only pray for, but depend upon the teaching of the Holy Spirit.  You may confidently expect what God has promised, as far as is needful for your salvation.


         The Thessalonians received the Gospel, not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God; and they derived benefit accordingly; for it is added, which effectually worketh also in you that believe. 1 Thess. 2:13.  O! if we had but right views of God’s glorious majesty, and his amazing condescension in revealing himself to us in the Bible, with what reverence of spirit, and with what self-abasement, should we study this book!  It would never be taken up in a light trifling spirit, as a matter of indifference; but we should read it, as the most serious duty in which we could be engaged; submitting ourselves entirely to divine instruction. [It has been well remarked, “The veneration we shall feel for the Bible, as the Depository of saving knowledge, will be totally distinct not only from what we attach to any other book, but from the admiration its other properties inspire; and the variety, and antiquity of its history, the light it affords in various researches, its inimitable touches of nature, together with the sublimity and beauty so copiously poured over its pages, will be deemed subsidiary ornaments, the embellishments of the casket which contains the pearl of great price.”]  The Psalmist says, My heart standeth in awe of thy word. Psa. 119:161.  The meek will he guide in judgment, and the meek will he teach his way. Psalm. 25:9.  We are to receive with meekness the ingrafted word. James 1:21.  If you come to your Bible with a disposition to cavil and find fault, or with notions of your own formed beforehand, you are not likely to get much advantage by reading it: but if you come sensible of your ignorance, with a readiness to receive the impressions of divine truth, and with a childlike dependence upon God, you shall not come in vain.  Remember, Christ says, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein.  Again, a tender and broken spirit is an admirable preparatory for this study, and therefore it is said, To this man will I look, even to him that is poor, and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word. Isa. 66:2.  Today, if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts as in the provocation, and as in the day of temptation in the wilderness.  The religion of the Scriptures is of a humble, meek, forbearing character.

         4.  READ THE BIBLE WITH PATIENT MEDITATION, AND WITH SELF-APPLICATION AND SELF-EXAMINATION.  We ought to dwell upon the passage we read, and patiently to turn it over in our minds, especially if it immediately relates to the doctrine and practice of the Gospel, or to the experience of believers.  We should thus endeavour to enter into its spirit, to find out what practical good, we can get by it, and to impress it deeply upon our consciences, remembering the Apostle’s admonition, that we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip. Heb. 2:1.  You may say, perhaps, you have not time for this: but remember what David, who had a far busier life than most of us, says, O how I love thy law! it is my meditation all the day. Psa. 119:97.  Mine eyes prevent the night watches, that I might meditate on thy word. Psa. 119:148.  Thus you might redeem time from sleep, or even in your business might be meditating on the truths of the Bible.  Endeavour to enter into the full meaning of that expression, Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom. Col. 3:16.  We are to be MINDFUL of the word spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandments of the apostles of the Lord. 2 Peter 3:2.  Let us dwell on particular passages till they have in some measure done their office; that is, till some act of piety be excited; till we either get some new arguments against sin, some new encouragements to duty, some spiritual strength and advantage, some increase of knowledge, or are excited to some act of prayer or praise.  “Every one,” says an excellent, practical writer, “should apply Scripture to himself, as if it was written for him only.” [Respecting the application of Scripture to us in modern days, it has been observed that, “Wherever a duty is required in Scripture of any class of Christians, that duty, unless some particular restriction can be proved, is to be required of all Christians; and wherever a leading characteristic is pointed out in a body of true Christians, involving certain dispositions of mind and habits of life, the same characteristic is to be sought for in all Christians.  On this the whole MODERN authority of Scripture must depend – on this the GENERAL application of any single passage.  By this it gains its title to become the statute book of the whole world.  By this it is raised from the humble office of lighting up, like a petty lamp, some little corner of the temple of God, to become the grand pillar of fire which precedes the march, and attracts the eye, and guides the steps, and cheers the hopes, and animates the faith of all who call upon his name.”]  Again, turn passages of Scripture into questions of self-examination.  Thus, when St. Peter says, Grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord, ask yourself, Do I grow in grace and in this knowledge of Christ?  Your Bible will furnish you with the best hints for going through this very important duty.  Your progress in this mode of study may seem slow, but you will thereby gain far more real information and knowledge, than by a hasty perusal; and you will not then read it as a matter of form, or merely to be able to say you have read so much.  Many persons have found it useful to choose a verse or more out of the chapter they read in the morning, for meditation through the day.

         5.  READ THE BIBLE WITH SIMPLICITY OF MIND, desiring to be instructed in the truth of God, and with a single eye to the salvation of your soul; with that honest and good heart, which, hearing the word of God, keeps it and brings forth fruit in patience.  “As a friend declares his wishes by letter to a friend, who ascertains and executes those wishes without any laboured interpretations, so, and with just such plainness, does the Almighty declare his will to us in the Bible, and so the Apostles convey their injunctions to the primitive Christians, by which the latter regulated their conduct, contented with the simple and obvious meaning.” [See Frank’s Guide to the Reading and Study of the Holy Scripture, containing excellent rules for that purpose.]  The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. Psa. 19:7.  It giveth understanding unto the simple. Psa. 119:130.  We are directed, As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby.  The newborn babe will be satisfied with nothing but its mother’s milk; and this passage shews that we should thus earnestly desire the pure unadulterated truths of the Bible.  Lord Bacon beautifully says, “As those wines, which flow from the first treading of the grape, are sweeter and better than those forced out by the press, which gives the roughness of the husk and the stone; so are those doctrines best and most wholesome which flow from a gentle crush of the Scripture, and are not wrung into controversies, and commonplace.”  “Men come to the Scriptures,” says Walker, “with prejudice; and so, longing to find somewhat which may favour their way, they easily do so, catching at every word which may seem to suit their purpose.  The remedy for this is not a Popish infallible interpreter, but a simplicity and true honesty of heart.”

         6.  READ THE BIBLE WITH A HEART DEVOTED TO GOD.  Have a fixed determination to give up everything which the Bible condemns, and to do the whole will of God.  Read the Scriptures practically.  Remember what David said, Thy word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against thee.  Keep in mind our Lord’s direction, and depend upon his promise, If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine whether it be of God.  Renounce, then, your own will and affections, and devote yourself simply to the will and service of your Maker.  Determine not in your own strength, but in the strength of the Lord, that you will strive to obey all God’s commandments; and this will remove a thousand difficulties in understanding and embracing the truth.  The great doctrines of the Bible, the guilt and corruption of man, free justification by faith, and the need of the Holy Spirit, will be readily believed and embraced by one who has duly attended to this rule.  St. James says, Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. – “In studying the Bible, digest it under these two heads, either as removing obstructions which keep God and thee asunder, or as supplying some uniting power to bring God and thee together.”  Augustine says, “In the Scripture our eyes see with more or less clearness, accordingly as we die more or less to this present world; and on the contrary, in proportion as we live to this world, we do not discern spiritual things.” [“I use,” says Boyle, “the Scripture not as an arsenal to be resorted to only for arms and weapons to defeat its enemies, but as a matchless temple where I delight to be, to contemplate the beauty, the symmetry, and the magnificence of the structure, and increase my awe to the Being there preached and adored.”]  It is well said also, in the first of the Church Homilies – “In reading God’s word, he most profits, not always that is most ready in turning the book, but he that is most turned into it, most inspired with the Holy Ghost, most in his heart and life altered and changed into the thing which he reads.  He that is daily less and less proud, less wrathful, less covetous, and less desirous of worldly and vain pleasures.  He that daily forsaking his old and vicious life, increases in virtue more and more.”


II.  Rules Relating to the Mode of Study.

         7.  READ THE BIBLE HABITUALLY, AND, if possible, REGULARLY at stated periods.  Read it according to your opportunities, with diligence and perseverance.  The Bereans are commended for searching the Scriptures daily. Acts 17:11.  The direction given to Joshua was to meditate therein day and night. Josh. 1:8.  Then shall we know if we follow on to know the Lord. Hosea 6:3.  Let me intreat you, if you can, to make it a rule to read some portion, though it be only one verse, every day.  Most of you might read much more; a portion in the morning from the New Testament, and a portion in the evening from the Old.  Or you might reverse this order.  The Bible also always affords something new, something we had not seen before.  Do not think you have gained everything by once reading a book; you may read it again and again, with pleasure and advantage.  Self-denial will be required to accomplish this, and you will have many temptations to neglect it: but persevere, and you will be abundantly rewarded.  Remember, the welfare of your soul is at stake.  Much more knowledge and edification will be gained by this constant, conscientious, and regular method of reading the Bible, than by reading it occasionally in a hasty uncertain manner, or in detached parts, as your fancy may suggest at the moment.  Bernard says, “The reading accidentally, or as an occasion offers, cannot edify; it only serves to make the mind volatile and inconstant.  What we read transiently is easily forgotten.”

         8.  READ ONE BOOK THROUGH BEFORE YOU BEGIN ANOTHER, AND READ THE WHOLE BIBLE THROUGH.  Thus, if you are reading Matthew in the morning, finish that Gospel before you begin Mark; and if you are reading Genesis in the evening, go through with it before you begin Exodus.  You will thus see the connection between one part and another.  Though you will properly give those parts most of your time and attention which are most practical, such as the Psalms and the New Testament; yet read the whole of the Bible.  David says, Then shall I not be ashamed when I have respect unto all thy commandments.  Psa. 119:6.  One part throws light upon another, and you will thus obtain an enlarged view of divine truth.  There is in the Bible milk for babes, and strong meat for those of a full and mature age.  It is desirable to begin with the plainest and easiest books first; but I know not a better plan than regularly reading both Testaments through at the same time.  They both begin with historical books – then follow doctrinal and practical books – and both conclude with prophecies, which are evidently the most difficult parts.  Both Testaments not only throw light upon each other, but like two flames, when joined together, their united light shines with greater splendour and glory, than that of either does separately.  A proper distinction, however, may be made in the mode of reading, according to the different ends designed by your study.  For GENERAL reading, the mode just mentioned may be best; but for DEVOTIONAL reading, the following plan has been found profitable: – Not  to read a great deal, nor the whole Bible in its course, but some select lessons from its most useful parts, perhaps ten or twelve verses, considering them merely in a devotional and practical view – taking such instruction as readily presents itself, repeating it to the conscience, and charging the heart religiously to observe it, and act upon it – looking up for the teaching of the Spirit: and, lastly, praying over the substance with the Bible open before you.  You will see that I here mean that reading which forms a part of your devotions, at your stated times of retirement for secret worship.” [See Doddridge’s Rise and Progress of Religion, pocket edition – one of the best practical books I know.]

         9.  COMPARE ONE PART OF SCRIPTURE WITH ANOTHER.  It is useful to compare spiritual things with spiritual. 1 Cor. 2:13.  The larger Bibles with marginal references will help you herein.  God, in compassion to our ignorance and negligence, gives precept upon precept, and line upon line: here a little, and there a little.  What is obscure in one place is made plain and easy in another.  Hence, what some have complained of as being a repetition is a great advantage to the patient and diligent reader of the Bible.  Attention to this rule will lead you to see the harmony and consistency of Scripture.  You will often be equally surprised and delighted with the fullness of a text and with striking coincidences, not before noticed: you will also find this a great help for fixing the Scriptures in your memory.*

         *[The following text is given with the parallel passages as a specimen of the way in which Scripture may be thus opened – it might have been much extended.

            Gen. 3:15.  I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed: it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.

            The text may be divided into six parts:

            1st.  The seed of the woman.  Farther prophecies, Gen. 22:18, Psa. 132:11, Isa. 7:14, Jer. 31:22, Micah 5:3–4.  Described, Gal. 3:16.  The fulfillment, Matt. 1:18–23, Luke 1:31–35.  The reason and benefit, Gal. 4:4–5.  The servants of Christ are members of that body of which Christ is the head, and are therefore included in this seed.  Isa. 53:10, Gal. 3:29, Matt. 13:38, Rom. 9:8.

            2d.  The seed of the serpent are wicked men in all ages.  Matt. 3:7, 12:34, 13:38, 23:33; John 8:44; Acts 13:10; 1 John 3:10.  The serpent was merely an instrument of Satan.  John 8:44; 2 Cor. 11:3,14; 1 John 3:8, Rev. 12:9, 20:2.

            3d.  The enmity between the two, Prov. 29:27, Acts 13:10, Gal. 4:29, James 4:4; 1 Peter 5:8, Luke 16:13; 1 John 3:13; 1 Thess. 2:14–15, Heb. 10:33–34, Rev. 12:17.

            4th.  The bruising the head of Satan, Psa. 91:13, Rom. 16:20, Luke 10:18, 11:20; Col. 2:15, Heb. 2:14; 1 John 2:13, 3:8.  The complete accomplishment of the prophecy, Rev. 20:1–3, 10.

            5th.  The bruising the heel of Christ and his church, Isa. 53:5, 10, 12; Dan. 9:26, Matt. 4:1, 10; Luke 22:39–44, 53; John 14:30, Heb. 5:7, Rev. 2:10, 12:9–13; 20:7–8.  The reason why Christ thus suffered from Satan.  Heb. 2:17–18, 4:15.

            6th.  The sovereignty of God, “I will put,” etc.  Psa. 135:6; 1 Cor. 15:15, 24–25, Psa. 8:6, Heb. 2:8.

            Though a good knowledge of your Bible will afford you some help in comparing one part with another, yet, in order to obtain this advantage in any considerable degree, you must have a Concordance, that is, an index of words, and a Bible with marginal references.  The Rev. Tho. Scott has carried this mode of illustrating Scripture to the greatest extent in his Family Bible.  Cruden’s Concordance is the best, but Butterworth’s is more portable and very useful.  Brown’s is on a smaller scale, and is therefore much the cheapest, and will be of use to those to whom the others would be too expensive.  There is also a useful Index, of different sizes, to bind with different Bibles; and Bagster’s Scripture Harmony, or Crutwell’s Concordance of Parallels, will furnish valuable assistance.  It does not, however, appear to the writer that any work has yet carried this mode of interpreting Scripture to the full extent, or done it in that simple way in which it might be accomplished.  There is an outline or plan of divine truth in the Bible.  This may be ranged under different heads, as Gastrell has shewn in his Christian Institutes; and Warden, still more fully (though many important heads are omitted even by him) in his System of Revealed Religion.  Each head might be numbered, and all the texts relating to that head or subject ranged under it, merely mentioning the book, chapter, and verse; and in the margin of each of those texts in the Bible the number of the head should also be inserted.  Thus the reader might see on every text the whole of what related to that subject throughout the Bible, without the multiplication of texts in the margin, and without the omission of many materiel texts, as is unavoidably the case at present.  There would still be many historical passages, particularities of expression, and incidental beauties, which this mode alone would not embrace, and therefore in addition to what has been suggested, there should still be many of the references which are in our present Bibles.  The writer gives this hint (for which he is indebted to a valued friend in the hope that someone of sufficient leisure may carry it into effect.]

         Bishop Horsley says on this subject, “It should be a rule with everyone who would read the holy Scriptures with advantage and improvement, to compare every text which may seem either important for the doctrine it may contain, or remarkable for the turn of the expression, with the parallel passages in other parts of Holy Writ. – It is incredible to anyone who has not in some degree made the experiment, what a proficiency may be made in that knowledge which makes wise unto salvation, by studying the Scriptures in this manner, without any other commentary or exposition than what the different parts of the sacred volume mutually furnish each other.

         10.  HAVE RESPECT TO THE ANALOGY OF FAITH, or the general plan of revealed truth in interpreting Scripture.  It has been supposed St. Paul alludes to this in Rom. 12:6, when giving directions to him that prophesied, that is, preached and interpreted Scripture in the church, he says, If any man prophecy, let him prophecy according to the proportion of faith.  But however this may be, it is an important rule to have regard to the general tendency of Scripture, and not to interpret any obscure text, so as to make it contradict a plain one.  For instance, those texts which speak of God’s having bodily members, must only be understood as intended to help our conceptions of those powers and perfections which are a part of his spiritual excellencies: for it is elsewhere said, God is a spirit. [Fettiplace, an old writer, says, “When I find any bodily parts appropriated to the Divine nature, I then see God graciously condescends to the weakness of my frail and infirm nature, and bless his holy name that he vouchsafes to reveal himself not as he is, but as I am.  His eye is his wisdom – his right hand, his power – his sitting, his immutability – his standing, his fortitude – his anger, his justice in punishing – his repentance, his mercy in pardoning – his hatred of sin, his holiness – his grieving for sinners, his loving kindness – his long-suffering, his goodness.”]  Those texts which tell us that where sin abounded, grace did much more abound, and that we are justified freely by the grace of God, must not be understood as authorizing sin, which would contradict the whole tendency of Scripture, but as condemning self-righteousness, magnifying the love of God, and shewing the way of acceptance with him.  And those texts which say, Without holiness no man shall see the Lord – Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man; are not to be understood as authorizing the notion of salvation by works, but as shewing the character and happiness of the converted sinner, who is created in Christ Jesus, unto good works.  Holiness is a part of his salvation, and not the procuring cause of it.  The mirror of divine truth has, as it were, different sides.  One side is needful for one character, and another for another. – Is a man turning the grace of God into lasciviousness? to him the doctrine of the absolute need of sanctification by the Spirit of God must be exhibited; – is another man trusting in himself that he is righteous, and depending upon his own works for salvation? to him the spirituality and extent of God’s holy law, the universal sinfulness of man, and the doctrine of free justification by Christ alone, without the deeds of the law, must be held up, and he must be warned that Christ shall profit him nothing, while he seeks to be justified by the law.  We must not fancy because one text at first sight appears to contradict another, that therefore it does so.  “Let us not so much as suppose that the Scripture can differ from itself, but humbly wait upon God till we can better reconcile one text with another.  We shall find that in so doing, gospel truths will open themselves to our minds more and more, and we shall come by degrees to the unity of faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, spoken of, Eph. 4:13.”  This rule will also prevent you from supposing that the sentiments of the wicked are a part of God’s precepts.  Thus we meet with this maxim (1 Cor. 15:32), Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die, which is quoted from Isa. 22:13, and is intended to express the feeling of a carnal sensual man, and not the mind of the Holy Spirit.  Nor are all the actions of good men therefore good.  You will find that all have fallen into some sin or other, and several into great and grievous sins: these are recorded, not for our imitation, but to make us watchful, and careful to avoid them – and also to keep us from despairing of God’s mercy, should we be so unhappy as, at any time, to fall into sin.

         11.  USE SUCH HUMAN HELPS AS GOD HAS PLACED WITHIN YOUR REACH, when you meet with anything you do not understand.  The eunuch willingly received instruction from Philip, and thus was guided to the knowledge of what he did not before understand.  Acts 8.  In cases of difficulty you will occasionally find it advantageous to consult your minister, or a pious friend; the priest’s lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek the law at his mouth, for he is the messenger of the Lord of Hosts. Mal. 2:7.  In this way we shall, by degrees, obtain an extensive acquaintance with the truths of God.  All that we hear must, however, be brought to the test of Scripture. Acts 17:11.  It is useful also to refer to commentators, or expositors of Scripture, not with a servile dependence upon them, but as often furnishing valuable assistance.  It has pleased God in almost every age of the church to raise up not only those who preached the gospel, but also those who have given us their views of divine truth in writing.  The first account we have of human explanation of the Scriptures, seems to be that given of Ezra and his companions – They gave the sense, and caused the people to understand the reading. Nehemiah 8:8.  Many who have attempted to explain Scripture, have, indeed, egregiously failed, and darkened counsel by words without knowledge; yet the labours of others are of excellent use.  Dr. Owen justly observes upon them, “they are far from having discovered the depths of this vein of wisdom, nor will the best of our endeavours prescribe limits to our successors; yet they are singular helps to the right understanding of Scripture, and it is easy to discern, by the diversity of their gifts, that the Holy Spirit has divided to them as he pleased.*

         *[Persons who read Commentaries, have generally their favourite authors, and the writer is far from wishing to dictate to others.  Cecil says, “If we must have Commentators, as we certainly must, Poole is incomparable, and I had almost said, abundant of himself.”  The following are those from which the writer has derived most edification: – Scott’s Notes on the Bible, – Matthew Henry on the Bible, – Poole’s Annotations, 2 vol., – Burkitt, Guyse, Doddridge, and Quesnel, on the New Testament.  There are many other admirable Commentates which need not here be mentioned.  Those of Calvin he has found particularly full and practical.  Brown’s Bible, 2 vol., is also useful.  For those who are unable to purchase the above expensive works, he would recommend Jones’s Scripture Directory, and Watts’s Scripture History.

            While the writer recommends Commentaries, he would say, be not a slave to them.  He who despises them altogether, is both ignorant and enthusiastic: but he who gives himself up entirely to them, will often be misled.  Judge for yourself.  Take your religion simply from the Scriptures, and you will have the comfort of knowing that it comes pure from God.  The best Commentaries of all are meditation and fervent prayer – they produce a state of mind which enables us to see the force of Scripture declarations, and dispose us to receive them in their simplicity.  The writer is thus cautious in recommending commentaries, because he thinks the habit of reading the Bible, always under their guidance, is prejudicial, and that there are great advantages in reading the Bible by itself.  He cannot but in the main agree with the writer, who says, “The Scriptures are so darkened with expositions, and buried under such a heap of rubbish, that it is a kind of labour even for the Spirit of God to remove it.  The minds of the poor, not being sophisticated by the false glosses which obscure the plain sense of Scripture, are in a much better condition for understanding it, than the learned: “here meaning by the learned, those whose minds have been biased, either by false sentiments and prejudices; or those who by trusting too much to their discernment and information on other subjects, are not inclined with teachable and humble hearts to attend to the instruction of the Bible.]

The same Spirit renders them useful according to the counsel of his own will.  Some readers are prone, in the use of them, to lean to their own understandings, and wander after the imagination of their minds; and others, the Spirit leaves in the shell of the text, to exercise their skill about mere words, without leading them into the spiritual sense of the words, which is its life and power.  In some he blesses them to the full and proper end.” [Closely connected with this rule is the duty of conversing about the Scriptures.  It is a plain command often to be talking of the words of God.  Deut. 11:19.  Those who feared the Lord are described as speaking often to one another. Mal. 3:16.  “While the word of God,” says Walker, “is banished from our familiar discourses, our souls suffer abundantly from the idle, vain, trifling, insignificant matters with which we entertain one another in our friendly intercourses.”  When friends meet in the social circle, why should they not read a chapter and converse upon it when this is done in a right spirit, it must be advantageous, each one probably being able to communicate something that would not have occurred to the others.  When the disciple went to Emmaus, they talked together of all these things which had happened; and while they thus communed, Jesus himself drew near. Luke 24:14–15.  We cannot have him personally with us, but we have full reason to hope that he will be spiritually present when we meet in his name.]

         12.  ENDEAVOUR TO ASCERTAIN THE LITERAL or first SENSE of a passage, before you look for any other.  This, indeed, is the foundation on which every other sense should rest, and it will, when known, exceedingly assist you in obtaining a clear, full, and useful view of any spiritual meaning, or practical improvement, which the passage may afford or impart.  Anything may be made of the Bible, if this rule be neglected.  “I hold it,” says Hooker, “for a most infallible rule in expositions of sacred Scripture, that where a literal construction will stand, the farthest from the letter is commonly the worst.”  Search then first for the literal sense, as you would in the writings of any human author, and when it is plain and valuable, and another sense would be found unnatural, prefer it as the true meaning, instead of trying to interpret the passage spiritually or figuratively.  In order to discover the literal sense, consider, to what persons the inspired penman was writing; in what circumstances they were placed; the time when, and the place whence he wrote; the design, occasion, and scope of his instructions [The reader will find a full account of these things in “Horne’s Introduction to the Critical Study and Knowledge of the Holy Scriptures,” a comprehensive and valuable work.]; and the connection of the particular passage with what precedes and follows.  Let this consideration encourage you: all important truths are in some place or other made so literally plain, that a wayfaring man, though a fool, needs not err therein: and we can join the Apostles, in saying, Lo, now speakest thou plainly, and speakest no proverb.  Wisdom is described as saying, All the words of my mouth are plain to him that understandeth.  It has been observed, that “wherever the words of Christ seem capable of different senses, we may conclude that to be the true one which lay most level to the comprehension of his auditors: allowing for those figurative expressions which are so very frequent and familiar with them, and which therefore are no exceptions to this general rule.”  Martin Luther, in his strong language, gives this direction, which, with some allowance and limitation, may be usefully followed, “Let the Christian reader’s first object always be to find out the literal meaning of the word of God; for this, and this alone, is the whole foundation of faith and Christian theology.  It is the very substance of Christianity; the only thing which stands its ground in distress and temptation; it is what overcomes the gates of hell, together with sin and death, and triumphs to the praise and glory of God.”  Yet doubtless wisdom is requisite in the application of this rule.  The Roman Catholics, by their interpretation of the words, this is my body (Matt. 26:26), have occasioned much gross superstition.  They interpret the words with a false literalness, as may be proved from the idiom of the language in which our Lord spake.  Literal meaning is the meaning which would strike the hearers, to whom the words were addressed, from the use of the phrases to which they were accustomed.  The preceding rules 9 and 10 will serve as a guide to prevent mistakes in this respect.

         13.  ENDEAVOUR TO OBTAIN A VIEW OF THE WHOLE TRUTH which was intended to be made known by the passage you are reading, and to discover its proper application.  Under these general terms, I would comprehend the ascertaining of every meaning or sense, by which we improve and apply the facts or truth of Scripture to our own edification, or the good of others.  While the Bible affords instruction, adapted to the most simple and ignorant, it contains a depth of wisdom sufficient to reward the most diligent enquirer.  Our Lord says, Search the Scriptures.  In this expression, he alludes to the practice of men who dig in a mine; and he that would find the precious ore must dig deep.  Thus seek, and ye will find.  You cannot thoroughly understand your Bible, without an experimental acquaintance with the nature and influence of the truth it reveals, and a knowledge of its spirit and intention.  With respect to the EXPERIENCE OF THE TRUTH, much of the Bible must be unintelligible to a worldly man; because he has never felt many of the blessings mentioned, and he can therefore have no right conception of them.  Thus, he must be unacquainted with what is meant by the spiritual mind, the peace of God, joy in the Holy Ghost, etc.: but he that is spiritual, judged all things; he knows what is meant by them.  An unlettered man can see the letters and words which form the page of a book, and may admire the paper and the printing; but he does not understand what he sees, because he has not been taught to read.  With respect to the SPIRIT AND INTENTION OF THE BIBLE, our Lord said to his disciples on one occasion, The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life. John 6:63.  There is often a deep and valuable meaning conveyed under simple expressions.  Thus, our Lord shews that the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead is contained in that expression which God used to Moses – I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob: (see Exod. 3:6, and Mark 12:26) it being spoken long after these patriarchs had died.  As this is an important part of our subject, I will endeavour to be more particular.  When anything is forbidden or commanded, the principle from which the evil or good flows is also comprehended.  The principle applies to the thoughts, as well as to the words and actions.  In many passages, therefore, the Bible is in this respect to be spiritually understood.  Thus, when it is said, Thou shalt not kill, it literally means that we should not deprive another of his life; but the spiritual meaning applies to the words and thoughts, and requires us to love others as ourselves.  See Matt. 5:21–22.  Again, the truth is often conveyed by figurative language, types, and parables, the spiritual meaning or interpretation of which it is important to ascertain.  (See the observations on figurative language, types, parables, and prophecies, chapter 5; and also on the Psalms.)  Farther, there is a practical improvement to be derived from all the events recorded.  These things happened unto them for examples, and they are written for our admonition.  (See History.)  A passage may likewise be accommodated with advantage to our own use, or the edification of others, where it would not be right to build any truth upon it, and where it would be idle to attempt to make it a main argument in convincing others.  Knowledge of the Bible, simplicity of mind, singleness of heart, and fervent prayer will, through the teaching of the Spirit, guide a man to those views of divine truth which will be most profitable to his soul, and the Holy Spirit will bring passages home to the heart with a life and power beyond all human instruction.  Do not, however, hastily imagine that persons who do not see things exactly as you do are, therefore, blind and ignorant, and not influenced by the Holy Spirit.  He teaches men, or influences their minds, not by opening particular passages in the same exact way, or so directing their reasonings and conclusions, that they have ground to suppose themselves to be infallibly right; but by leading them to read the Scriptures, and consider the subjects there presented to their view, with an unprejudiced, humble state of heart.  Hence it follows, that among those who are really partakers of holy influences from above, there may be great varieties both of knowledge and of sentiments on a number of subjects; since the impression which is made on them, though it directs them all to the same object, and with the same general state of mind, yet leaves them open to mistakes and prejudices from different causes.

         This rule may be, and has been abused; yet it is not on that account to be disregarded.  He who endeavours to apply any passage before he has obtained its literal meaning may say what is pious and true in itself, yet it may be quite foreign to the text from which he would deduce it; and thus he may bring an important rule into contempt.  [It seemed unnecessary to add further rules about the different senses of Scripture, which rather perplex common readers.  One says that five different senses may be distinguished in the Scriptures.  The grammatical, historical, or literal, allegorical, or figurative, analogical, and tropological, or moral, and that they may all be observed in the word Jerusalem.  In the grammatical sense, it signifies vision of peace; in the literal or historical, the capital city of Judea; in the allegorical, the church militant; in the analogical, the church triumphant; and according to the moral, a faithful soul, of which Jerusalem is a kind of figure.  Respecting these and other subtleties, I would say what Frank says of logical reading, “Let us guard against supposing that we are mighty in the Scriptures, if we be more solicitous to analyze a text, than concerned about understanding and applying it.”  In the exercise of refined subtleties, we may lose sight of holy Christian simplicity, and sacrifice the edification of ourselves and others.]

         14.  READ THE BIBLE, OBSERVING ITS TESTIMONY THROUGHOUT TO JESUS CHRIST.  This is what he himself directs; Search the Scriptures, for they testify of me. John 5:39.  All things must be fulfilled which were written in the law of Moses, and in the Prophets; and in the Psalms concerning me. Luke 24:44.  And again he says, Moses wrote of me. John 5:46–47.  To him, says Peter, give all the prophets witness, that through his name, whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins. Acts 10:43.   The testimony of (that is, concerning) Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. Rev. 19:10.  See also John 20:31.  Jesus Christ is the key that unlocks this sacred treasure, and opens to us what before were mysteries.  The grand secret in the study of the Scriptures is therein to discover Him who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  Then the light of the knowledge of the glory of God will shine in your heart, in the face of Jesus Christ.  Read the Bible with a view to guide you to this knowledge of him.  “Jesus Christ our Saviour,” says Platon, “is the whole strength and substance of the Holy Scriptures, who was appointed before the beginning of time for our glory; believed on from the foundation of the world; announced by the prophets, and prefigured by the sacrifices.”  “The knowledge of Christ,” says Cecil, “is a wonderful mystery.  To understand and enter into his various offices and characters, the glories of his person and work – his relation to us and ours to him, and to God the Father and the Spirit through him – this is the knowledge of Christ.  To know Jesus Christ for ourselves is to make him our consolation, delight, strength, righteousness, companion, and end.”

         The following extract from Leighton contains the substance of many of the above Rules – “Let this also commend the Scriptures much to our diligence and affection, that their great theme is our Redeemer, and salvation wrought by him – that they contain the displays of his excellencies, and are the lively picture of his matchless beauty.  Were we more engaged in reading them, we should daily see more of him in them, and so of necessity love him more.  But we must look into them carefully.  The letter is but the case; the spiritual sense is what we should desire to see.  We usually read the Scriptures in haste, and see no further than their outside, and therefore find so little sweetness in them: we read them, but we search them not as he requires.  Would we dig into these golden mines, we should find treasures of comfort that cannot be spent, but which would furnish us in the hardest times.” [It would have been easy to have added further rules, but those have been given which appeared most material.  Many rules relating particular subjects, will be found in the fifth and other preceding chapters.]

         Reader, are the chief of the preceding Rules plainly pointed out or implied in Scripture, as needful or profitable to be regarded, in order to attain the knowledge pf the truth?  Determine, then, in dependence on divine strength, to observe them.  Learn also a lesson of candour towards others.  Need you wonder at the different opinions which prevail among Christians?  Who is there that at all times, nay, may it not be said, at any time, reads his Bible with all the dispositions, and attending to all the rules which have been mentioned?  Who is altogether without partiality?  Do not the best sometimes bring to the Bible sentiments and opinions formed beforehand?  Be you, then, the more earnest, diligently to seek grace for yourself, that you may receive the love of the truth, that your souls may be saved.


Chapter 16 – Scripture Prayers.

         The Bible not only shews us that in searching it, we want Divine Help, and encourages us by its promises to expect we shall obtain it; but also gives us the prayers of those who attained the greatest knowledge of divine truth, such as David, Paul, etc.  Endeavour, then, to attain the spirit of such prayers: remembering that it is not the expression of the lips, but the desire of the heart which God regards, and that the spirit of prayer comes from God alone.



         Lord, open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law. Psa. 119:18.  Teach me thy statutes; make me to understand the way of thy precepts. Psa. 119:26–27.  Open, Lord, my understanding, that I may understand the Scriptures; open my heart to attend to the things spoken of in thy word.  Luke 24:45, Acts 16:14.

         May the Spirit of truth teach me all things, and guide me into all truth. John 14:26, 16:13.

         Lord God, whose word endureth forever, grant that laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings, I may, as a newborn babe, desire the sincere milk of the word, that I may grow thereby. 1 Peter 2:1–2.

         O thou who art the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of Glory, give unto me the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him, that the eyes of my understanding being enlightened, I may know what is the hope of thy calling, and what the riches of the glory of thy inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of thy power, to those who believe, according to the working of thy mighty power. Eph. 1:17, etc.

         Grant, Lord, that I may receive thy word with all readiness of mind (Acts 17:11); not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God. 1 Thess. 2:13.  Incline my heart to do thy will, that I may know of the doctrine whether it be of God (John 7:17); and give me the love of the truth that I may be saved. 2 Thess. 2:10.



         Shew me thy ways, O Lord, teach me thy paths, lead me in thy truth and teach me, for thou art the God of my salvation. Psa. 25:4–5.

         O that my ways were directed b keep thy statutes.  Then shall I not be ashamed when I have respect unto all thy commandments. Psa. 119:5–6.

         Lord, put thy Spirit within me, and cause me to walk in thy statutes, and keep thy judgments and do them; Ezek. 36:27.  Grant that I may be filled with the knowledge of thy will, in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; and that I may walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God.  Col. 1:9–10.

         Lord, grant that by the Holy Scriptures I may be made wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 2 Tim. 3:15.  O may I receive with meekness the ingrafted word, which is able to save my soul (James 1:21); and obey from my heart that form of doctrine which has been delivered to me. Rom. 6:17.

         O Lord, put thy laws into my mind, and write them in my heart, and let me not be a forgetful hearer, but a doer of thy word.  Heb. 8:10, James 1:22.

         Father of mercies, and God of all comfort, I bless thee for the sacred treasury of the Holy Scriptures; and I beseech thee to grant that Satan may never come and take away that which has been sown in my heart.  Grant, also, that receiving thy word now with gladness, I may never hereafter be offended by affliction or persecution, and so become barren and unfruitful: nor let thy word be choked by the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the lust of other things; but give me grace to receive it in an honest and good heart, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience, an hundred fold; for the sake of Jesus Christ.  Luke 8, Mark 4.


From the 119th Psalm.


            To thee I lift mine eyes.

Teach and instruct me by thy word,

            And make me truly wise.


Make me to know and understand

            Thy whole revealed will;

Fain would I learn to comprehend

            Thy love more clearly still.


O may thy word my thoughts engage,

            In each perplexing case;

Help me to feed on every page,

            And grow in every grace.


O let it purify my heart,

            And guide me all my days:

Thy wonders, Lord, to me impart,

            And thou shalt have the praise.


Chapter 17 – An Address to Persons in Different Stations of Life,

on the Duty of Studying the Bible.

         Reader, the sum of what has been said is, Search the Scriptures, habitually and daily, with fervent prayer for the help of God’s Holy Spirit.  The command is express, the obligation universal, and the benefit immense.  Whatever situation of life you may fill, there is something in the Scriptures which concerns you – something that it is infinitely important you should know and remember.

         PARENTS, HEADS OF FAMILIES – read the Bible for your own sakes, and for the sake of your children and servants.  God expects that you will not only read it in private, but requires you to keep the words which he hath commanded in your heart.  He says, Teach them diligently unto thy children – talk of them when thou sittest in thy house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. Deut. 2:6–7.  How, then, can you live in the neglect of family instruction and prayer? or how can you instruct your family, if you yourselves are willfully ignorant of this book?  If you have hitherto neglected this great duty, neglect it now no longer.  Remember what the Lord says concerning Abraham – I know him that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord to do justice and judgment; that the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him. Gen. 18:19.  Remember also the determination of Joshua – As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.  Follow these bright examples.

         FEMALES OF EVERY CLASS AND STATION – there is much in the Bible to direct, edify, and comfort you.  How greatly the religion of your whole family, under God, depends on your exertions.  While the father is from home, it is yours to guide the house; to train up a child in the way in which he should go; to watch over immortal plants, and cultivate them for the paradise above.  It is yours also, to attend to the religion of your female servants: while they daily labour for your temporal ease and comfort, O neglect not their eternal welfare.  Who is sufficient for these things?  In the Bible you will find directions to guide you, and examples for you to follow.  It is remarkable how many characters of holy women are set before you.  Observe Sarah’s reverence for her husband, and faith in her God.  Seek for Hannah’s spirit of prayer, Ruth’s devotedness of heart, and Abigail’s wisdom.  Copy Elizabeth’s blameless deportment, Anna’s holy expectation, Mary’s affection to her Redeemer, and Dorcas’s labours of love.  Follow the steps of Lois and Eunice, through whose pious care Timothy was brought up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, even from a child.*  It is evident, if you wish to fulfill aright the duties of your station, you ought to study this book.  See Titus 2:3–4, 1 Tim. 2:9, 5:14; 1 Peter 3:3, Prov. 31:10–31.

         *[Many parents have found Scripture Pictures an advantageous mode of conveying Scriptural knowledge to their children.  Dr. Doddridge’s mother taught him the history of the Old and New Testament before he could read, by the assistance of some Dutch tiles in the chimney of the room where they commonly sat: and her wise and pious reflections on the stories there represented were the means of making some good impressions on his heart which were never effaced.  See his Life.]

         CHILDREN – you also should read the Bible, not merely as a task book, but to become wise unto salvation.  I know even young children, who love to retire by themselves, that they may read this blessed book, and pray to God in secret.  Jesus says, suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not.  And again, they that seek me early shall find me.  When Edward VI, one of our kings, who died young, one day wanted to take down something, and found it above his reach, a person brought him a large Bible to stand upon; but the king refused to do so, considering it unfit to trample that book under his feet which he thought it his duty to treasure in his heart.  The child Samuel early sought the Lord Josiah was but eight years old when he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord – Jesus, at twelve years old, was found in the temple – Timothy knew the Scriptures from a child.  In them you will read about Jesus Christ – how he became a child for you, and how kind he was to children: there you will learn also that it is your duty to love one another, and to love and obey your parents and teachers.  See Eph. 6:1–3, Col. 3:20; 1 John 4.  You therefore should read your Bibles.

         YOUNG MEN – you must read the Bible. – You are about to enter the world – you will there be exposed to innumerable dangers and temptations, and wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way, but by taking heed thereto, according to God’s word. Psa. 119:9.  It is related of Beza, that, when he was old and could neither recollect the names of persons, nor the things which he had heard only a quarter of an hour before, he could remember and repeat the Epistles of St. Paul, which he had learned by heart when he was young.  David was wiser than his enemies, and had more understanding than his teachers or his elders, because he meditated on God’s testimonies, and kept his precepts.  Psa. 119:98–100.  O that I could prevail upon you to imitate David’s example.  It would keep you sober minded, and give a right direction to all that ardour and zeal by which youth is distinguished.  It would preserve you from innumerable sins, give you peace of mind, and lead you to eternal glory.  Whatever your companions say, let me intreat you – read your Bible.

         SERVANTS – you also should read your Bibles.  Perhaps some of you are in hard service, under severe masters.  The Scripture will comfort you in the worst service.  Thy statutes, says David, have been my song in the house of my pilgrimage. Psa. 119:54.  Others may be in the houses of pious persons, where the Bible is daily read in the family.  How great are your privileges! be thankful for them, and do not think it enough merely to hear the Bible with your outward ears, but meditate upon its truths, and shew that you really value it by reading it in private, when your other duties will allow you to do so.  There you will find an account of pious servants – you will see how faithfully Abraham’s servant obeyed his master (Gen. 24); – how a servant maid was useful to Naaman, the captain of the king of Assyria’s army – you will see the punishment of a lying servant in Gehazi.  2 Kings 5.  There you will find your duty fully pointed out and explained.  Col. 3:22–25, Eph. 6:5–8, Titus 2:9–10.  You see, therefore, that you must read the Bible.

         In short, all classes of men and women, in every age, in every situation, kings and subjects, ministers and people, husbands and wives, parents and children, masters and servants, rich and poor, righteous and wicked, prosperous and unfortunate, learned and unlearned, and all kinds of persons, may, as Bishop Cranmer says, “learn in this book all things which they ought to do, and what they should not do, as well concerning Almighty God, as also concerning themselves and all others.  And briefly, to the reading of the Scriptures none can be enemy, but that either be so sick that they love not to hear of any medicine, or else that be so ignorant that they know not Scripture to be most healthful medicine.”

         Consider farther, your peculiar privileges in having the Bible.  It was the great advantage of the Jews over all other nations of the world, that unto them were committed the oracles of God. Rom. 3:2.  Now this advantage is imparted to you; it is not given to all nations or persons; many are longing for Bibles, who have not the means to procure them.  Let the following fact speak for itself.  “A farmer in one of the northern provinces of Norway, who had often endeavoured to procure a Bible, but was never so happy as to get that precious volume into his possession, brought at last a cow to the next market town, and offered her in exchange for one, but in vain; there were no copies for sale; and those who enjoyed the blessing would not deprive themselves of it, for the sake of the temporal advantage that was offered.”  Now, if others be thus longing for the Bible, and you who have it are regardless and careless about it, have you not reason to fear that God will take that which you thus lightly esteem from you, and give it to those who will make a better use of it?  May you not reasonably expect that be will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, not a thirst for water, but (what is far worse) a famine of hearing the words of the Lord: so that you may run to and fro to seek the word of the Lord, and shall not find it!  Amos 8:11–12.  “When God of his goodness hath vouchsafed to grant us such abundant means of instruction in that which we are most concerned to know, how great must be the guilt, and how awful the punishment of voluntary ignorance!  [See Wilberforce’s Practical View of Christianity, a book particularly calculated to awaken professed Christians to a due sense of their duties and obligations.]

         I will conclude by addressing two different classes of characters:–

         1.  Those who have hitherto read their Bible merely AS A MATTER OF FORM OR CUSTOM, or in order to be able to say that they had done so; or to satisfy the clamours of their conscience.  To you this must have often been a task.  The Bible must very frequently have appeared a dull book.  You may have some general knowledge of its contents, but you must be ignorant of its spirit.  O attend then to the rules which I have endeavoured to give you, drawn from the Bible itself.  Let not God have to complain of you, I have written to him the great things of my law, but they were counted as a strange thing.  Look for the teaching of the Holy Spirit, and then what has been your task will become your highest enjoyment; and what was dull and tedious, will become full of interest; what was a blunted and useless weapon against the enemies of your soul will become the sword of the Spirit, which none of them can resist.  You will then with David, rejoice at God’s word, as one that findeth great spoil, and it will be sweeter than honey and the honeycomb.

         2.  Those who have NEVER READ THEIR BIBLES BEFORE.  How dangerous is your state!  While you neglect this book, it is an evident sign that you are not real Christians.  My sheep, says Christ, hear my voice, and they follow me.  They can say, what you cannot – O how I love thy law!  He that is of God, heareth God’s words; ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God. John 8:47.  Let me apply to you the striking language of the first Homily – “What excuse will you make at the last day before Christ, that delight to hear or read men’s fancies and inventions more than his most holy gospel, and will find no time to do that which chiefly above all things you should do, and will rather read other things than that, for which you ought to leave reading all other things.”  And must I leave you content to remain in this sad condition?  Why will you sit in darkness when you may have light?  Let me entreat you, let me prevail upon you, to begin from this time to read a portion of this blessed book every day.  You know not what advantages you have been losing, what privileges you have been neglecting, and from what a rich feast you have been turning away; now, then, delay no longer, but embrace the present opportunity.  The Bible will illuminate your mind; its precepts will guide you through every difficulty, its doctrines will support you under every trial, its promises will console you in many sorrows, and will enable you even to pass through the valley of the shadow of death, and fear no evil.

         My parting advice, then, to every reader is SEARCH THE SCRIPTURES!