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nature; and these were made flesh, and dwelt among us”—they shone forth beautifully in the life and character of Him who was “the brightness of the Father's glory and the express image of his person.
Addressing the Deity in a prayer of anxious solicitude for his disciples, Jesus said, “Sanctify them through thy truth : thy word is truth.” He invoked for his followers the influence of God's spirit, his inspiring word of wisdom, truth, and goodness; which is unwritten, save in spiritual letters, on the heart's inner tablet; which descends unseen from his presence, like the nightly dews.
We cannot conceive of the production of articulate sounds in any other way than through the agency of vocal organs-lungs, bronchi, tongue and lips-acting in co-operation with the atmospheric air that surrounds us. And we have no idea of writing or imprinting, except by the common methods—the wielding of a pen or pencil, by the hand; or the arranging of types, and obtaining from them an impression of the letters. Consequently, for aught we know, there is no language, either written or spoken, that is not essentially of human origin. I, of course, except from this remark every thing that we call language when speaking figuratively-such as the voice of God in the thunder and the wind ; the instructive voice of the Seasons, as they pass, which David had in mind when he said, “Day unto day uttereth speech,” &c. These are not implied by the term language as I am at present using it. I mean by it
methodical articulation or inscription. As such, it is, to all intents and purposes, the work of man, acting, of course, in accordance with the laws of God in his own being. Every book, therefore, whatever the subjectmatter it may contain, is emphatically a human affair -i. e., observe, as far as the material of which its leaves and covers are composed, and the ink with which it is written or printed, may be concerned. Leaving out of the question the different languages in which books are written, what distinguishes one from another, with respect to the contents, is the general tenor of its teaching. A book is divine if it inculcates divine ideas divine truths; it is fiendish, if it teach falsehood and wicked
A book is sacred only so far as it is enwritten with sacred thoughts. Chaste, holy and benign sentiments may be inscribed in bad penmanship, on coarse, unsightly paper; whereas vulgarity, profaneness and hatred may be printed on vellum, and in the most beautiful type. Ideas only possess moral characteristics.
I have indulged in this strain of analytical remark to render more vividly apparent the absurdity of cherishing veneration for any book, aside from its principles. We estimate a book according to its purity and strength of thought; according to the amount of information it conveys, or the aid it affords us as a manual of reference. If a book is utterly mysterious, containing things which we cannot understand, and from which we can derive no definite idea, then it is of no more value to us, for intellectual purposes, than so many folds of blank wrapping.
paper. However valuable some portions of it may be, if any parts of it are inexplicable, those parts are to us worthless. And all veneration for any thing incomprehensible, which is of purely human origin, and with which we associate no other idea than that of mysteriousness, is (to speak most kindly of it) closely allied to Superstition.
Our thoughts, and the varied results of our mental effort, are expressed through words and sentences in books, for the sake of preservation, and as a convenient mode of enabling others to become acquainted with them. The principles of well-known and established sciences are laid down in certain books, which are explanatory treatises ; and which, unless we have the continual presence of a living teacher, with an infallibly retentive memory, are absolutely necessary to impart to us elementary instruction. But neither the creation, in the first place; the subsequent alteration, as knowledge is more fully developed; nor even the final destruction, of the book, can materially affect the great, living realities of which it treats. If all the books which the world contains, on the subject of Astronomy, for instance, were collected, laid together in one huge pile, and then burned to ashes, not one of the heavenly spheres would grow dim, or cease to revolve. They would still
“Glide and shine to the gazing eye,
As things «ntarnished, and bright, and high." And the same insight, skill, ingenuity and patient application which discovered the principles, arranged the
facts harmoniously, and issued the destroyed volumes, might retrieve the loss. So, also, with every other es tablished matter of fact, in like emergency,—Religion not excepted : for, as man might still exist, with neither his religious faculties nor any other part of his nature obliterated, and as there is no danger that God will cease to exist or ever become infirm, the fountains of knowledge, though all suddenly dried up, might be replenished. This consideration may serve to animate us with an increased confidence in the power and steadfastness of truth; and I wish that it may be borne continually in mind, by those who shall accompany me, in all the investigations upon which I shall enter in regard to the Book which lies open before us.
Whatever may be the result of fair criticism, touching certain portions of this volume, if we have confidence in the immutability of truth, of one thing we may feel assured; which is, that no fundamental principle of true religion or pure morals will be overthrown or altered, any more than solar light will be changed into midnight darkness, or the waters of the ocean turned to liquid fire, by the discovery of an error or incongruity in some generally received and (in part) authoritative treatise on Natural Philosophy.
As men embody into a system the elementary principles of theoretic and practical knowledge respecting the phenomena of the universe and the common affairs of life, and then write that system in a book, or in many books; so in like manner they consolidate the principles and preserve a record of their Religion and the code of morals by which they are nominally governed. Hence, in every country where the people are sufficiently civilized to have in vogue a uniform national language, and where the art of writing is cultivated to any extent, we find, among other works on subjects of general interest, books of Religion and Morality; (for every nation on the globe has a Religion, of some kind, and in part true ;) and these books are generally regarded by the people, as standard authorities; as much so as the laws enacted by a Parliament or Congress. And as the laws of a state or nation are altered or modified by the action of Legislative bodies, so Ecclesiastical Councils sometimes, by their decisions, change the complexion of the prevailing Theology.
The Hindoo bows to the authority of the sacred writings transmitted to him by his fathers—the Veda and the Shaster; the Mahometan venerates the Koran, which he considers such a wonderful production that he believes it could never have been composed without the aid of miraculous interposition; while throughout Christendom, as you well know, the collection of various writings, within these lids, called by the general name of The Bible, is recognized as an authoritative religious statute book: and an unquestioning reception of all its contents is by some regarded as essential, before one can rightly claim the title of “Christian,”—although it is not pretended by such that Christianity as a system was known until the coming of Christ, which took place some time after the Old Testament had all been written.