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discover that it is not absolutely without defect, that it is a composite work, of very various, and unequal materials. But let an intelligent working man sit down to the reading of the Bible, with the prevailing vague notions of its perfectness and authority, and he will meet difficulties in the letter of every page; he cannot ignore if he has heard them, the difficulties which are owned equally by antiquarians, commentators, controversialists, and the hostile criticism of unbelief. Every science, and almost every department of knowledge, furnish matter of perplexity, and matter of proof, that the Bible is not the sort of book which the Church has supposed, and attempted to make it. If the important distinction between the Record and the Religion, the history of Religion and the substance of it, is not made, what is likely to happen, and what has probably happened in thousands of instances, but that any defect, and any plausible objection that tells against the book so thought of and read, is supposed to tell against Religion itself? This comes of idolizing the Bible, resting Religion solely on testimony, placing itin parchment, paper, Greek or Hebrew criticism, on the mere written outward word, instead of that inward, unwritten spirit of God, which is ever nigh to the human spirit, has never withdrawn its inspiration, and is upon us in the measure of our purity and fidelity.
It is not for me to suggest the correctives to this condition of society, supposing it really to exist. I have ventured, with submission, and as succinctly as I could, to enumerate heads of thought, and probable causes. It is possible I may have omitted considerations, which some will deem more prominent than those now specified. Some may even question whether there is abroad among our population, any
widespread irreligiousness, beyond what has always existed. I have been informed by more than one intelligent working man, that there is among his class, a profound spirit of reverence, combined with a spirit of inquiry; that the working men are libelled when they are represented as generally unbelievers, or favourable to infidelity; and that, if alienated from the Religion of the Churches and Sects, it is because they are seeking for something more satisfying and more simple. This I have been told, but my own individual observation inclines me to the unfavourable estimate. I imagine there is a great falling away. We are in a period of transition, and exposed to the dangers of such a period, its activity, its crudeness, its appetite for destruction, its aspirations after better things to come.
I imagine that all churches and denominations (not, certainly, excluding our own,) need improvement and revival. The masses are every day drifting away, more and more, from the old land marks; old things are passing away ; but we may not venture to say, “ behold all things are becoming new.”
ILLUSTRATIONS OF PASSAGES IN THE NEW
TESTAMENT, WHICH REFER TO CLIMATE, PLACES, OFFICES, SENTIMENTS, MANNERS,
AND CUSTOMS AMONG THE JEWS IN THE TIME OF OUR SAVIOUR.
LUKE ii. 25, “ There was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel."
Waiting for the consolation of Israel. That is, expecting the Messiah. The expression is derived from a custom among the Jews, of reading the 40th chapter of Isaiah on the Sabbath after the fast in which they commemorated the burning of the Temple by Nebuchadnezzar. The chapter begins with the words, Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. Hence the predicted Messiah was called the consolation of Israel; and hence the custom among them, at that time, of swearing by their desire of seeing the consolation of Israel. So eager indeed, at that time, were their expectations, that every impostor who promised to accomplish their hopes, was immediately surrounded with followers, who hazarded all which they had to support him. Of this expectation among the Jews, there are several intimations in the gospels. See John i. 19—24. Luke iïi. 15. John xxiii. 50, 51. But of its extent and its influence we shall form more correct conceptions by recurring to the testimonies of profane historians.
“That which principally encouraged them to the war,” says Josephus," was an ambiguous oracle, found likewise in the sacred writings, that, about that time some one from their country should obtain the empire of the world.” Antiq. B. ix., chap. 2, sec. 2, and B. vi., chap. 31.
Two heathen historians have likewise mentioned the same thing. Suetonius, in his life of Vespasian, says, “there had been for a long time, all over the East, an opinion firmly believed, that it was in the fates, (in the decrees, or books of the fates,] that at that time, some from Judea would obtain the empire of the world.” Lib. viii , sec. 4.
After relating many calamities of the Jews, and prodigies, which preceded the destruction of Jerusalem, Tacitus says, “the greatest number of thein had a strong persuasion, that it was recorded in the ancient writings of the priests, that the East should prevail, and that some coming from Judea, should possess universal dominion, which ambiguities foretold Vespasian and Titus. But the common people, according to the accustomed course of human passions, having interpreted in their own favour this grand prediction of the fates, could not be reclaimed to the truth, even by all their adversities." Hist., vol i. chap. 13. Celsus, also, au enemy of Christianity, who fourished not long after the middle of the second century, arguing in the character of a
says, “ how could we, who had told all men there would come one from God, who should punish the wicked, despise him if he came ? ” Without, at present, referring to the pre-conceived sentiments of the Jews concerning the Messiah, we have endeavoured only to show the prevalence of the expectation of his coming. See Beausobre, and L'Enfant's Introduction to the New Testament, in Watson's Tracts, p. 222; and Lardner's works, vol. i., pp. 132-133.
Matt. ii. 23, “He came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth; that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, he shall be called a Nazarene.
Nazareth was a small town in Galilee, about twenty-seven leagues from Jerusalem. It was built upon a rock, on one side of which was a precipice, from which, we are told, its inhabitants would have thrown our Lord, because he upbraided them for their unbelief. How contemptible the place was in the opinion of the Jews, appears from the inquiry of Nathaniel, Can any good thing come out of Nazareth ? and scarcely less, from the more general expression of the Sanhedrim, or great council of the nation, Ārt thou also of Galilee? search and look; for out of Galilee ariseth no prophet. In this national sentiment of the Jews, we find the most satisfactory illustration of the text. the Jewish enemies of Christianity, the title Nazaræan, or Nazarene, was applied as an expression of contempt to our Lord, because he had resided in, and therefore came from that city; and the circumstance of his having lived there, was one reason why they rejected him. Now the Evangelist says, that the reason why he dwelt in Nazareth was, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, he shall be called a Nazarene. But where is this prophecy ?
By all Chrysostom thought that the passage was lost. But Jerome and others remark, as it is indeed most probable, that Matthew does not refer to a particular passage, but to what several prophets had said in effect; and from the reference to the prophets, says that Father, it is evident, that he did not take the words from Scripture, but the sense only. The prophets may therefore be said to have predicted, that he should be a Nazarene, when they said that he should be despised, and reproached, and rejected; (See Psalm xxii. 6, and lxix. 9; Isaiah liii. 3—5; Zechariah xi. 12, 13). And he certainly was, among other reasons, because he had resided in Nazareth.
Some have thought that the word Nazarene was derived from a Hebrew word which signifies a branch; and that the name, in its application to our Lord, implied that he was that true branch, of which Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Zechariah have spoken. Others refer the name to the Hebrew word, which the Jews applied to those who were separated to God as Nazarites. But though he was separated to God, in the highest possible sense, our Saviour certainly was not such a Nazarite as either Samuel, Sampson, or John. But that the followers of Jesus, in the days of the Apostles, were in contempt and reproach, called the sect of the Nazarenes, we have the best testimony, (Acts xxiv. 5,) After they had taken the name of Christians, the opprobrious appellation was given to those, who, retaining the doctrines and ceremonies of the Old Testament, differed from other Jews in this only, that they professed to believe that Jesus was the Messiah. See Hammond and Wbitby on the text; Beausobre and L'Enfant's Introduction, p. 270; Jennings' Jew. Antiq., vol. i. pp. 425-427.
Luke ii. 42, “When he was twelve years old, He went up to Jerusalem, after the custom of the feast.”
We do not find that the age is prescribed in the Mosaic law, at which parents were required to bring their children to the passover. When they were twelve years of age, however, the Jews thought themselves bound to carry them to the feast; and it was in compliance with this custom that our Lord, at that age, accompanied his parents to Jerusalem. The law provided for the instruction of children, concerning the institution and purpose of the ordinance; (Exod. xii
. 25, 26, 27,) and when they were brought to it, the oldest person at the table addressed them upon the subject, always reciting carefully the expressions, it is the sacrifice of the
Lord's passover, who passed over the children of Israel in Egypt, when he smote the Egyptians, and delivered our houses.
The Jews had three great anniversary feasts :-1, The Passover.—2. The feast of Pentecost.–3. The feast of Tabernacles. At each of these, all the males were to appear before the Lord, at the national altar; and the object of this union, was partly to strengthen their attachment to one another; partly that as one Church, they might worship together; and likewise to secure them against the influence of the customs of their idolatrous neighbours. Of the institution of the Passover, we have an account in the twelfth chapter of Exodus. The name is derived from the fact, that the destroying angel passed over the houses of the Israelites, when he slew the first-born of all the Egyptians.
A reference to a few of the customs, against which it was necessary to guard this people, so prone to adopt the manners and the worship of the nations around them, will be sufficient to show us the propriety, and the importance of this institution. But concerning this and other peculiarities of the Old Testament, much, without doubt, was known at the time of their appointment, which is irrecoverably lost; but which is known, would enlarge our views, and confirm our convictions of their great utility.
But it is proper to premise, that the passover was celebrated “at evening, on the fourteenth day of the first month.” (Lev. xxiii. 5.) The Jews had a civil, and an ecclesiastical year.
The civil year began in the month Tisri, which answers to our September and October; the ecclesiastical in the month of Nisan, which agrees to our March and April. The passover was kept in March, and it was expressly enjoined, that the whole of the lamb, except the blood which was found at the foot of the altar, should be either eaten or destroyed. The feast continued seven days, on each of which, sacrifices peculiar to this festival were offered. The days which succeeded the first evening, were called the feast of unleavened bread; no other bread being allowed, during the seven days, to be found in their houses. Upon the morning of the first day of the passover, the master of the family threw a piece of bread into the fire, to give notice that the days of unleavened bread had begun. The paschal lamb was required to be a male
, probably in opposition to the customs of idolatrous Gentiles, who considered sacrifices of the female kind, as the most