Page images


BIOGRAPHY OF THE BIBLE. In Africa, in the South Seas, in Central America, and among the various Indian tribes of North America, the first books ever written consisted of portions of Scripture, and it may be safely affirmed that, but for the deep sense missionaries have entertained of the value of the Bible, the languages spoken by many of these tribes would never have been reduced to writing at all.

Nor is the influence of the study of the Bible seen in the progress of learning only; it is seen also in the advancement of general intelligence and civilization. More than half of the population of Germany are Roman Catholics, three-fourths of the universities are Protestant, and nearly every man who has gained influence in that country as a thinker was born and bred a Protestant: Leibnitz, and Lessing, and Klopstock, and Herder, and Wieland, Goëthe, and Schiller, and Kant, and Schelling, and Schleiermacher, and Eichhorn, and Müller, and Richter, and the Schlegels, the Humboldts, and Novalis, and Tieck, and Wolf, and Niebuhr. That all these men have submitted to the authority of evangelical truth cannot, alas! be affirmed, but they were all free from the bondage of dead traditions. They had all learned the first lesson of knowledge-to read and investigate for themselves.

Nor can any justly doubt that civilization and general improvement have followed in the track of the Bible. Scotland and Prussia have few advantages of climate or of soil, and yet


23 they are among the most flourishing countries in the world ; while the states of Italy are infested with banditti. At the commencement of the Reformation, Portugal was unquestionably superior to Denmark ; now the superiority is as unquestionably on the side of the Danes. Compare England and Spain. In all the elements of temporal and intellectual greatness, the contrast is most striking ; in science, in arts, in letters, in commerce, in social institutions. Nor is the contrast peculiar to the parent states ; it may be traced on the other side of the Atlantic. The very El Dorado of Columbus is in the possession of the Saxon, while the colonies which Spain still retains are sources of weakness and not of strength. Go where we may, it is impossible to avoid the conviction, that the mental depression of one member of the European family and the elevation of another, where these are not owing to physical causes, are to be ascribed to some moral power at work among some of the northern nations of Europe, and wanting in the southern ; to the moral power, in fact, of the most suggestive and instructive of books, the Bible.

To the interests of true freedom the Bible is equally favourable. It impresses upon all the duty, and therefore claims for all the right, of inquiry, thought, and the diffusion of our thoughts. It teaches men

to check every selfish passion, to respect each other's rights, to consider themselves as part of one community,


BIOGRAPHY OF THE BIBLE. and to promote everywhere the collective hap'piness of the race. Let the Bible be duly honoured, and all men will receive their rights, and be prepared to exercise them without injury or risk to the general good.

These last, it may be said, are subordinate blessings of the study of the Bible. They are subordinate blessings ; but only when compared with the holier spiritual ones it seeks to bestow; and no one who has marked the history of our times, or has examined the solemn questions which seem waiting for decision among us, or knows how essential to high-toned virtue manly independence is, and how conducive to true independence is moral culture, will regard them as insignificant. Taking the lowest ground, the Bible makes men sober and honest. It qualifies for privilege, and secures it. Like the godliness which is its theme and end, it brings the promise of the life that now is, and the certain hope of that which is to come.

The history of the Bible, therefore, is the history of religion, of learning, of civilization, of freedom ; or at least of the light and teaching which are essential to the existence and permanence of them all.

One caution must be added to these remarks. The chief value of the Bible consists in the truths it reveals; and the most important of the influences of the Bible depends on the application of those truths to men's hearts by means of reflection and prayer. The Protestant



or save.

principle, “the Bible only the religion of Protestants," cannot of itself spiritually enlighten

The study of the words of Scripture, of its history and customs, is often without sanctifying power. It is the truth of Scripture, as applied by the Holy Spirit, that saves us, and it is the belief of the truth, and the consequent meditation upon it, that makes it influential. To expect anything else—to suppose that God saves us because we acknowledge that his word is our guide, even if that word be neglected that we may feel it and be sanctified by it without the exercise upon our part of comparison and thought-is to conclude that God will act inconsistently with our state as intelligent creatures, and that the gifts of his natural government are useless under the government of his grace. For some purposes the submission of the intellect to the Bible, and the study by the intellect of the Bible, are themselves a blessing ; but if the Bible is to accomplish its great purpose, we must bring to the study of it the devout and believing submission of the heart.





Our narrative begins with the captivities of Israel and Judah. Greece had just commenced her Olympiads, and some savage wanderers had laid the foundation of a mud-built city on the banks of the Tiber, when the people of Galilee and Samaria were carried into exile by the kings of Assyria. The oldest European monarchies, therefore, were only rising in the west when the Jewish Theocracy was sinking into decay. Within the period of two hundred years following this event many important facts of history are crowded. The ancient empires of Nineveh and Babylon were overthrown; Confucius flourished and philosophized in China ; consular government was established at Rome. The dynasty of the Pharaohs was finally driven from Egypt, and that country made a Persian province. At Marathon and Salamis the tide of Persian conquest was turned, and the freedom of Greece and Europe so far secured. One Jew had risen to be minister, another was the cupbearer, and a Jewess had become the consort of a Persian monarch.

« PreviousContinue »