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to God and man in which they were composed? Then must the interpreter be imbued with the spirit of benevolence and piety, as well as conversant with Hebrew and Greek, to discharge his office.
It was the far-reaching observation of Robinson, the Puritan Pastor, at that eventful crisis in human affairs, when he dismissed, with religious solemnities, from the shores of the Old World, the pioneers of liberty and religion to the New, that "the Lord had more truth and light yet to break forth out of his holy Word," and he besought them to remember it as an article of their church covenant, that they should be ready "to receive whatsoever light or truth should be made known to them from the written Word of God." Since he bade farewell to that immortal company, freighted with the seeds of a new empire and a new world, and with noble forecast directed them to act worthily as the founders of a new church, it is believed that more light has broken forth from God's word as well as from his works. It is believed that the red rays of the morning, the early beams, shooting aslant a cloudy horizon, and betokening wrath and vengeance, and filling men's hearts with the chills of fear more than the fervors of love, have been succeeded by the white light of broad day, the warm and cheering radiance of an unclouded Gospel.
Every religion retains for a time the characteristics, and breathes the spirit, of that which preceded it. Thus Judaism slowly emerged from Idolatry, until the One God was at last worshipped without rival. Thus has Christianity risen out of the. bosom of Judaism, and has long retained the family likeness.
Even now, notions, essentially Jewish, or Heathen, predominate in the Christian body. To what source, but to Jerusalem or to Rome, shall we assign the doctrine of Sacrifice, as spiritually atoning for human sins; the overweening importance attached to forms, and meetings; the belief that men could sin before they were born (John ix. 2); the greater estimation given to inferred,
than to declared doctrines; and the exclusive spirit which says, "Stand by thyself, come not near to me; for I am holier than thou?"
But the gilded pomp of Pagan and of Papal worship, the superstitions and fears of brahmin and monk, are slowly vanishing.
"One spell upon the minds of men
The contracted Hebrew age of Christianity is also passing away. The sceptre is departing from Judah. But let the sheet-anchor of that elder dispensation, the inviolable Unity of God, in which the Jews were disciplined for fifteen hundred years to trust, still hold us from drifting away into mists and mysticism. With that central principle, the additional disclosures of the Gospel, the Fatherly character of the Almighty, mildly reflected in his Son, beaming with mercy towards the penitent sinner, inviting his children to glory and immortality, and the Brotherhood of man with man every where, beautifully harmonize. These truths are great, and they will prevail. Not more surely does the mighty sun mount the steep of heaven in his strength, burning up the vapors of night, blazing with his awful glories, and quickening all things into life, than will these everlasting principles rise above all sectarian enclosures, enlighten in due time the whole moral world, and vivify all souls with the spirit of the living God.
If the following pages should become instrumental, in the remotest degree, in hastening this consummation, the labor bestowed upon them will not have been in vain. If they should, by the favor of God, prove useful to the Sabbath-school teacher in his disinterested efforts; to his pupils in their faithful studies; to the parent in the religious education of his family; and to the inquirer after truth and duty, of whatever age or office; if, in the quaint, but expressive language of an old writer, they should be found to contain "the slip for use, and part of the root for growth," the most fervent desire of the author will be satisfied; but if it
should be otherwise, none will greet more cordially than he a better work to supersede his own.
To those friends who have cheered and aided him in his task, and favored him with the loan of necessary books, he would take this opportunity of rendering his most grateful acknowledgments.
If life and health are spared, a second volume, containing an exposition of Mark, Luke, and John, will be published early in the next spring.
Keene, N. H., May, 1841.
THE New Testament is the received collection of books written by the Apostles and Evangelists of Jesus Christ. The more appropriate title would be, the New Covenant, as it contains the covenant or compact made with mankind by God through his Son, and designed to supersede the preliminary and partial covenant with the Jews. These books are also called canonical, from canon, a rule, because they are believed to contain the authoritative rule of faith and practice. At what time, or by whose authority, they were first collected together, cannot now be determined. Probably no formal step was taken to effect it; but gradually those works that found most favor among the early Christians, because they were known to have been written by inspired apostles and disciples of Christ, were admitted into the Canon by common consent. Those that were rejected fell into a class called Apocryphal, which bears the same relation to the New Testament that the books of Esdras, Maccabees, and others, do to the Old.
The writings of the New Testament all date back to the first century, between A. D. 40 and 98, or even narrower limits. They were composed in the Greek language, which was then generally spoken in the East. One or two books, however, have been conjectured by many critics to have been written in a dialect of the Hebrew tongue; but if so, they were very early translated, and no copies in the original now remain. Catalogues of the Gospels, Acts, Epistles, and Revelation, with their present titles and authors mainly, are given by the Christian Fathers of the second and third centuries. Numerous quotations are also found in their writings, by which the text may often be corrected or verified. The Scriptures were generally read in the churches, diffused through different countries, and translated into foreign languages; by which
means their authority was more fully substantiated, and their uncorrupted preservation insured.
But for fifteen centuries, copies were only multiplied by the long and laborious process of writing. A very high degree of accuracy, however, as well as elegance, was in general attained by the ancient copyists, as is evinced by the manuscripts extant in our day. The monks of the first and middle ages were not without their use in preserving and extending, amid violence and darkness, the lights of classic antiquity, and the immortal records of the Gospel. But the people were so sunk in ignorance, and the price of manuscripts was so high, that comparatively few owned the Scriptures. In the fourteenth century, a copy of Wickliffe's New Testament cost about eighty dollars.
When the art of printing was invented in the fifteenth century, one of the first publications was the Bible. Its extensive diffusion by this means powerfully accelerated the Reformation of Luther, and placed in his hands an engine by which he was more than a match for all the wealth and terrors of Rome. The ignorance of the times was so gross, however, that he was accused, in his active exertions with his fellow-reformers to circulate the Scriptures, of being the author of a pernicious work, entitled the New Testament!
The Sacred Books were not originally divided into chapters and verses, and, agreeably to the ancient mode of writing, were destitute of any marks of punctuation. Cardinal Hugo, in the thirteenth century, arranged the Latin Vulgate in chapters, which have been essentially retained in our English Bibles. The division into verses was made by Robert Stephens of France, in an edition of the New Testament issued in 1551. He performed the operation as an amusement, while on a journey from Lyons to Paris, and therefore under circumstances precluding much reflection or accuracy. Yet his arrangement has been always adhered to, and the sense of Scripture has been not a little marred by its being printed, as if crumbled up into independent fragments, or consisting of unconnected propositions and maxims, instead of a continuous composition. In the present work, as in the Common Version conformed to the Standard Text of Griesbach by Dr. Palfrey, and as in the Bibles of Nurse and Coit, this evil has been shunned by throwing the verses into the side margin, and printing the page in a solid column, with paragraphs, divided according to the sense.
Early translations were made into the Saxon and English, as well as other languages. About A. D. 706, the Psalms were translated into Saxon,