No discoveries, then, which geologists may make of pre-Adamite races of men, can at all affect the credit of Moses' account of the creation of Adam, and of the history of his family. They may fill museums, if they please, with their flint arrow-heads and axes, they may pile up pyramids of stone mortars, they may perhaps some day discover an old-world bronze railroad, and bronze-clad or copper-bottomed steamboats, they may produce pre-Adamic electric, aeronautic engines, and magnetic sewing machines, or bone needles, we care not which; and we will admire them, and confess that they are very curious, and perhaps very old; but unless they can show that Adam was descended from these old-world folks, we have no biblical quarrel with them. Like Moses, we will let them rest in peace.
But we would remark, thirdly, that no such discoveries have yet been made. No human bone, implement, or monument, has yet been discovered which can be proved to be more ancient than Adam, or nearly so ancient. There is not a single indisputable fact to show, that any of the tools, bones, or monuments; alleged in this discussion, is of any specific date whatever, save that the Danish bogs came down to the date of the Danish invasion of Ireland in the eleventh century; the burnt corn of the Swiss lake dwellings was probably that which Julius Caesar describes the Helvetians as burning preparatory to their invasion of Gaul; and the monuments of Egypt, for which Bunsen claimed twenty thousand years, are now acknowledged by the best Egyptologists to reach not quite to 3000 B. C. As to the bone found at the base of the bluff at Memphis, it was not found in situ, and probably was washed out of some Indian grave at the top, and buried in the debris. The Abbeville skull had a fresh tooth in it, for which thirty-five thousand years was claimed, until examination by a competent committee exposed the deception. Where there is a good paying demand for pre-Adamite skulls, there will always be a good supply. Dr. Dowler calculates the age of a skeleton of an Indian, found at the depth of sixteen feet in digging the gas works at New Orleans, at fifty thousand years; while the U. S. Coast Surveying Department show that the whole Delta is not more than four thousand four hundred years old.
These gross errors, which affront our common sense, wherever we are able to test geological calculations, fill us with mistrust of their allegations of evidence, which, from the nature of the case, we can not test.
Of this class is the discovery of human bones in caves containing the bones of cave bears, rhinocerii, mammoths, and other extinct animals. The argument is that man and these animals lived at the same time. Very well, what time was that? There is no evidence to show that it was a hundred thousand years ago. The Siberian hunters fed their dogs on the flesh of a mammoth they found frozen in mud bluffs at the mouth of the Lena, and its hair and wool are now in the museum of St. Petersburg. Dr. Warren's mastodon giganteus had some bushels of pine and maple twigs, in excellent preservation, in its stomach, when exhumed in Orange County, New York; and you may see for yourself the vegetable fiber found in its teeth in his museum in Boston. Does any one believe that the vegetable fiber and maple twigs have kept their shape one hundred thousand years? The mammoth found in the ditch of the Tezcucoco road must have fallen in after the Incas had dug that ditch. The Indians have a tradition that their fathers hunted a huge deer with a hand on his face, which slept leaning against the trees. And there is good geological reason for believing that the final extinction of the mammoth, the European rhinoceros, and their contemporaries, was caused by the change of climate in Northern Europe, Asia, and America, caused by the elevation of these northern lands, which has been going on since the tenth century, and which, about three centuries ago, closed the Polar Sea, rendering Greenland uninhabitable. The juxtaposition, then, of the bones of man and extinct animals is no proof of the remote antiquity of either. And no proof has been made from the nature or depth of the overlying deposits.
The shape, size, and general character of the skulls alleged to be of such remote antiquity give no countenance to the theory of man's brutal origin; which is the great thing to be gained by giving him a remote antiquity. The Enghis skull is in no way inferior to many good modern Indian skulls; and the man of Mentone stood six feet one in his stocking soles (if he wore stockings), having a good John Bull head between his shoulders, with a facial angle equal to that of Generals Grant or Von Moltke; and in fact being a fine old Gallic gentleman, all of the good old times.
Geologists, however, lay stress on the cumulative character of the evidence they produce; owning that no single fact is conclusive, but claiming that credence should be given to the accumulation of facts. But no accumulation of ciphers will amount to anything. All the alleged facts are found to be fatally defective either in authenticity or definiteness. No multitude of doubts can assure us of the certainty of a fact or assertion. The evidence for the pre-Adamite antiquity of man is only a gathering of facts doubtful, and wholly indeterminate, without any element of proof of remote antiquity.
But there is a source of evidence of the most undeniable character, to which we may appeal for a decision of the subject. The law of population is as certain as any other law of nature; and it tends to the regular increase of mankind. Population tends to double itself every twenty-five years, as we see in the United States. In less favored countries the rate is not so rapid. In Europe it doubles every fifty years; and nowhere in less than two centuries. And the result is, that if the human race had existed on this earth under existing laws of nature, as the evolutionists allege, for one hundred thousand years, not only must they have multiplied until their bones would have covered the earth, and filled the sea, but, as Sir John Herschel shows, they would have formed a vertical column, having for its base the whole surface of the earth, and for its height three thousand six hundred and seventy-four times the sun's distance from the earth!
The existing population of the globe corresponds pretty well to the natural increase of three pairs in forty centuries, which is something near to the Bible chronology. The laws of population, then, inexorably refuse the indefinite, or even the remote antiquity of mankind, and vindicate Moses as a writer of truthful history.
The alleged anachronisms of the Pentateuch have been adduced as testimony that it could not have been written till long after the time of Moses. These alleged anachronisms are generally the insertion of a modern name of a city instead of the ancient name, or an explanatory addition which would not have been necessary in the days of Moses. Now if all these cases could be proved, they would at most only show that the scribes who copied the manuscripts in later ages had inserted these explanatory changes or additions, under proper authority. Everybody's common sense will tell him, that Moses did not narrate his own death in the last chapter of Deuteronomy; but it is none the less true though Joshua, or some other prophet, added that postscript.
But Hengstenberg has examined these alleged anachronisms in detail, and shown that the objectors allow themselves to interpolate into the text a meaning of their own in order to show the inaccuracy of the Bible. For instance, Genesis xii. 6, "The Canaanite was then in the land," they maintain could only be written after the Canaanites had been driven out. They interpolate still, which is not in the text. But they entirely mistake the meaning of the passage, which refers to an earlier statement of the same fact, chapter x. 15, to show that Abraham, the heir of the promise, came as a stranger and a pilgrim to a land preoccupied by a powerful people, who are again mentioned, chapter xiii. 7, for the purpose of showing how Lot and Abraham came to be so crowded as to separate.
Another of the prominent instances is the name of the ancient city of Hebron, which, in the book of Joshua, is said to have been anciently called Kirjath-arba. But Numbers xiii. 22, which states that Hebron was built seven years before Zoan in Egypt, and was the residence of Ahiman, Sheshai, and Talmai, the sons of Anak, shows that the writer was well acquainted with the history of the place, and Genesis xxxv. 27 shows that Hebron was the first name, and that it had two other names added to it, both after the time of Abraham, since Mamre was his contemporary, and the Anakim lived centuries later. This may stand for a specimen of the alleged anachronisms of the Pentateuch.
But now comes Bishop Colenso with his slate and pencil to demonstrate to us that, no matter who wrote it, or by what external authority it is commended, the Pentateuch is so full of arithmetical errors, and of impossible narratives, in its accounts of common affairs, as well as in its miraculous stories, that not only is it not the Word of God, but that it is not even a truthful history, and stands self-convicted of being a collection of fables. Of course, if that can be proved, there is an end of the matter, though it would still seem strange that it should have been left for the bishop to discover Moses' ignorance of arithmetic, and of camp-life among the Arabs. Nevertheless the very novelty of a bishop assaulting the Bible in such a style has secured for him a large number of readers, many of them ignorant enough to believe his assertions, though too indolent to test his calculations, or even to read the passages he criticises. This renders some notice of his criticisms necessary according to our plan of considering objections according to their popularity, rather than according to their merit. For, on examining the bishop's objections to the Bible, they are all found to arise from want of science, want of sense, or ignorance of Scripture—an inability to read the Scriptures in their original Hebrew, or even to cite them correctly in English. In some criticisms he contrives to compile these three kind of blunders into a single chapter, making a mosaic of very amusing reading indeed.
Of course we can only give specimens of his peculiar style of attack on the Bible; for to expose all his blunders would require some volumes as large as his own. But we shall select illustrative instances of the bishop's blunders from each of the departments indicated above.
As a specimen of the bishop's blunders in science, let us take the first which he offers—his attempt to convict Moses of a contradiction to geology in his account of the deluge.
Bishop Colenso declares that the Bible teaches that the deluge was universal, and that this is contradicted, among other things, by certain geological discoveries, in Auvergne, of volcanic cones of light cinders, which would have been swept away by any such flood.
Aye, if they had only been there at that time! But Eli de Beaumont, a learned geologist, not convicted of so many blunders as the bishop, alleges that the whole of the system of Teanarus, including the elevation of Stromboli, and AEtna, has been formed since the catastrophe of the principal Alps; and that the volcanoes of Auvergne and the Vivarrus are of post-Adamic origin. So the bishop's geology does not contradict what he thinks the Bible says after all. On the contrary, so far from geology contradicting a universal deluge, the best geologists speak of every part of the earth having been repeatedly under the sea, and they collect its fossils on the tops of the mountains.
But the bishop ought to know that hundreds of years ago, before geology was born, some of the most learned bishops and theologians of his own Church, as well as some of the chief scholars of the dissenters, following the most learned of the Hebrew rabbis, did not believe that the Bible taught that the deluge was universal. For instance, Bishop Stillingfleet, in his great work, Origines Sacra, says: "I can not see any urgent necessity from the Scriptures to assert that the flood did spread over all the surface of the earth. That all mankind, those in the ark excepted, were destroyed by it, is most certain, according to the Scriptures. The flood was universal as to mankind, but from thence follows no necessity at all of asserting the universality of it as to the globe of the earth, unless it be sufficiently proved that the whole earth was peopled before the flood; which I despair of ever seeing proved." Matthew Poole says: "Where was the need of overwhelming those regions of the earth in which there were no human beings? It would be highly unreasonable to suppose that mankind had so increased before the deluge as to have penetrated to all the corners of the earth. It is indeed not probable that they had extended themselves beyond the limits of Syria and Mesopotamia. Absurd it would be to affirm that the effects of the punishment, inflicted upon men alone, applied to those places in which there were no men. If, then, we should entertain the belief that not so much as the hundredth part of the globe was overspread with water, still the deluge would be universal; because the extirpation took effect upon all the part of the globe then inhabited."
Nor does the language of the Bible necessarily convey the idea that the whole surface of the globe was covered with water. Dathe, professor of Hebrew (in his Opuscala ad Crisin, edited by Rosenmuller, 1795), says: "Interpreters do not agree whether the deluge inundated the whole earth or only the regions then inhabited. I adopt the latter opinion. The phrase all does not prove the inundation to have been universal. It appears that in many places kol is to be understood as limited to the thing or place spoken of. Hence all the animals introduced into the ark were only those of the region inundated."
But the most literal rendering of the language of Moses does not necessitate our belief that when he says that the waters covered the whole earth, arets, he meant the whole globe. The common Bible meaning of this word is land, country, or region, as the perpetually recurring phrases, the land, arets, of Havilah, the land of Nod, the land of Ethiopia, the land of Goshen, the land of Egypt, the land of Canaan, which occurs three hundred and ninety times, may convince every reader beyond the possibility of mistake. How now, from this word being used by Moses, could this learned bishop conclude that he necessarily meant to describe the globe? Moses says, "The waters prevailed upon and covered the whole country." The bishop translates, "covered the whole globe;" evidently in order to make Moses commit a blunder.
But reference is made to the expression, "All the high hills under the whole heavens were covered;" which the bishop will have it meant all the mountains under the moon.
But the popular use of the word "heavens," in Moses' day, had as little reference to universal space, as the word earth, or land, had to the whole globe. It meant simply the visible heavens over any place; and its extent was defined by the extent of the earth those visible heavens covered. Thus Moses himself defines it, Deuteronomy iv. 32: "Ask from the one side of heaven unto the other." Deuteronomy xxviii. 8: "Thy heaven over thee shall be as brass." Deuteronomy ii. 25: "This day I will begin to put the fear of thee upon the nations that are under the whole heaven." And so commonly throughout the Bible, "the clouds of heaven," "the fowls of heaven," refer to the optical heavens. Such is the meaning in Genesis. Noah describes the deluge as it appeared to him, as covering all the hills within the horizon of observation, and Moses copies Noah's log-book.
The geologist adds his testimony to the existing evidences of the recent submergence of a large region of Persia and Turkey around the Caspian Sea, and its subsequent elevation. But it is no part of our business to show in what way God produced the deluge. Geology shows us, however, that the submergence of parts of the earth beneath the sea, and their subsequent elevation, is the most common of all geological phenomena; almost all existing continents and islands having been submerged.
The bishop is as far behind the age in his astronomy as in his geology. He blindly follows the Infidels of the last century in their attack on Joshua's miracle, arresting the sun and moon, as inconsistent with their science; which taught the immobility of the sun and moon, it seems, and was entirely ignorant of the modern discovery of the grand motions of the fixed stars, including our sun, and of the dependence of all the planets, including our earth and moon, upon that grand motion for the motive power of their revolutions.
One wonders from what college the bishop came out ignorant of facts known to the boys of American common schools.
A great many of the bishop's blunders are occasioned by want of sense. The process is very simple. The sacred history is very brief. Only the headings of things are recorded. Much must be supplied by the common sense of the reader. The manners of the East are very different from ours. Three thousand years have greatly changed the face of the country. Ignore all this, and interpret the Pentateuch as though it consisted of the letters of Our Own Correspondent, and you will find difficulties on every page. Such is the style of Colenso's criticism. Assume that Moses gives a full and complete chronicle of all events which have happened since the creation, and then dispute the recorded facts because it can easily be shown he omitted many.
But the bishop has not the honor of discovering this method, or of founding this school of criticism. We have heard village critics of the loom and the forge discuss such questions as are handled by Colenso, and the Essays and Reviews, and often with much more acuteness and penetration. With what eclat has our village critic unhorsed the itinerant preacher with the inquiry, What became of the forks belonging to the nine and twenty knives which Ezra brought back from Babylon? but was, alas! himself routed in the moment of triumph by the inquiry as to the sex of the odd clean beasts of Noah's sevens. How often has our village blacksmith critic requested a sermon upon the genealogy of Melchizedek, which the minister agreed to furnish when our blacksmith could tell him the foundry which manufactured Tubal Cain's hammer and anvil. Lot's wife, the witch of Endor, Jonah's whale, the sundial of Ahaz, and the population of Nineveh, were all duly discussed, together with the bodies in which the angels dined with Abraham. Did the loaves and fishes miraculously multiply in numbers, or increase in size? Where did the angel get the flour to bake the cake for Elijah? Did our Lord catch the fish by net, or by miracle, which he used in the Lord's Dinner on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. But the question—which we marvel beyond measure that the bishop overlooks—always was, Where did Cain get his wife? This is the fundamental question for such critics. The difficulty, it will be perceived, lies across the very threshold of the history. How did he stumble over it without record of his misadventure? It recurs, however, on every page. If the bishop will only answer that question, and introduce us politely to Cain's wife, I will engage that she will answer most of these other difficult questions. Had Seth a wife? How could Noah and his three sons build a ship larger than the Great Eastern? We can imagine the roars of laughter with which the bigger school-boys will greet the serious exhibition of their old tests of dullness, in a printed book, and by a learned bishop, as objections to the inspiration of the Bible. But the bishop does actually devote Chapter V. to the impossibility of Moses addressing all Israel; Chapter VI. to the extent of the camp compared with the priest's duties; Chapter XX. to the grave difficulty of the three priestly families consuming the offerings of some millions of people; which surely to a bishop of the Church of England should not be an unparalleled feat. Such chapters enable us to appreciate the mental caliber of our critic, and excuse us from argument with a man incapable of interpreting popular phrases. He would prove the associated press dispatches all a myth, because it is impossible for the House of Commons to appear at the bar of the House of Lords—six hundred men to stand on four square yards of floor; for McClellan to address the Army of the Potomac, which extended along a line of thirty miles; for Grant and Sherman—two men—to capture Vicksburg and thirty thousand prisoners! Manifestly impossible.
The most specious of all the sophistry spread over the volume is that contained in the Seventeenth Chapter, regarding the increase of Jacob's family, of seventy persons, to a nation of two or three millions, in Egypt, during the two hundred and fifteen years to which he confines the bondage. But it is only another case of Cain's wife. The Pentateuch gives us the list of Jacob's children and their wives, but makes no formal mention in that place of their servants and retainers. These, in Abraham's times, amounted to three hundred fencible men, or a population of fifteen hundred; who would have increased in Jacob's time to several thousands, capable of defending the border land of Goshen against the marauding Bedouin. And this population could easily increase to the three millions of the Exodus, at the same ratio in which the population of the United States is now increasing; so that it is a mere superfluity of naughtiness for the bishop to deny what the sacred historian so emphatically asserts: "That the people were fruitful, and increased abundantly, and multiplied, and the land was filled with them." But the bishop utterly ignores the people of the clan, and taking his slate and pencil ciphers out the impossibility of Jacob's family amounting to so many. And yet it is not impossible that in the four hundred and thirty years which the sacred historian so precisely asserts as the period of their sojourn in Egypt, Exodus xii. 40, the family alone might have multiplied as fast as the family of the famous Jonathan Edwards, which, in a hundred years after his death, numbered two thousand souls.
Peter Cartwright, the venerable Methodist minister, celebrated his eighty-seventh birthday on the first of September, 1871, at Pleasant Plains, Sangamon County, Illinois, surrounded by one hundred and twenty children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Now, if this family of two persons could so increase in eighty-seven years, why could not Jacob's family, of seventy persons, increase in equal ratio? In that case, even in the two hundred and fifteen years to which the bishop limits the sojourn in Egypt, the Israelites would have amounted to over eight millions. If it be objected that this was a case of special blessing, we answer that the Israelites are expressly asserted to have been specially and wonderfully multiplied. There is, therefore, no improbability in Moses' numbers.
The bishop ascribes to Moses another of his own blunders; this time, however, in reading his Bible in plain English, which correctly translates the Hebrew—Exodus xiii. 2. The Lord commands Moses and Israel to "Sanctify to him every male that openeth the womb, both of man and beast," from the time of the death of the first-born of the Egyptians. The impropriety of ex post facto legislation, the reason assigned for this law, and the grammatical meaning of the language in the present tense, all combine to show that the law is prospective; and the number of the first-born, twenty-two thousand two hundred and seventy-five, afterward given in Numbers, shows plainly that this is the meaning, being about the proper increase of thirteen months. But the bishop strangely blunders into the notion that this is the number of all the first-born of Israel; only about one in forty-five or fifty, and therefore argues against the historical veracity of the Pentateuch. A good many of the bishop's blunders arise in this way from misreading his Bible.
He makes another blunder of this kind, and as usual charges it on Moses, in his misreading of Leviticus xxiii. 40, as if directing Israel to make booths of palm branches and willows at the feast of tabernacles, instead of bearing the palms of victory in triumph into the temple of God. The son of the chief rabbi of London ridicules the bishop's Hebrew scholarship here, saying that any Jewish child could have set him right; but had he read even his English translation carefully he need not have blundered here.
In connection with the subject of the numbers of the people we notice his tacit assumption—that Moses records everything necessary for a statistical table—in his criticisms on the numbers of the Danites and Levites, Chapters XVIII. and XVI.; and on Judah's family, Chapter II. He takes it for granted that because the Exodus took place in the lifetime of the fourth generation of some of the sons of Jacob, therefore there were none but four generations born in the two hundred and fifteen years to which he confines the bondage, and none but those whose names are recorded. This is a blunder of the same sort as if he should mistake the list of the British peerage for a census of all the families of Great Britain, and calculate the average duration of human life by the ages of the Duke of Wellington and Lord Palmerston. But here we have a wonderful instance of the providence which often makes objectors refute themselves. The chapter on Judah's family (II.) shows that in forty-two years Judah had grandchildren ten or twelve years old; as many Syrians, Persians, and Hindoos have at this day. But if six generations could thus be born in Syria, or India, in a century, why not in Egypt? And 1 Chronicles vii. 20, 21 enumerates ten generations of the sons of Ephraim; giving ample opportunity for the biblical increase.
Another set of the bishop's blunders is occasioned by his utter ignorance of camp-life, especially among the Arabs. In Chapter VIII. he assumes that all the people had tents, and the bishop orders them made of leather. But he concludes they could not possibly get them, nor if they had them could they carry them. By and by he provides them with two millions of cattle, however; and it is likely each of them had a skin, and was able to carry it for a while, while the Hebrews dwelt in the booths of the encampments they still commemorate in the feast of tabernacles. But the word "tents" is the common phrase for any kind of shelter in Scripture, including even houses in the expression, "To your tents, O Israel," used in the days of David.
In Chapter IX. he discusses the probability of their obtaining arms in Egypt. A week with one of the Union armies would show him how speedily freedmen can provide themselves with arms and learn tactics; and a short residence in Ireland would teach him the utter impossibility of preventing a discontented people from arming themselves even with firearms; much more when every grove furnished artillery. He protests that all Egypt could not furnish lambs enough for the passover; because in Natal an acre will only graze one sheep, forgetting that Moses was not raising sheep in Natal, but in the best of the land of Goshen, which, if as fertile as the county of Dorset in England, would easily keep five millions of sheep.
In Chapter X. he insists on the impossibility of giving warning of the passover, and subsequent march, in one day, to a population as large as London, scattered over two or three counties. Has he forgotten the straws carried over all Ireland in one night, and the Chupatties of the Indian Mutiny? The negro insurrection of Charleston was known by the negroes of Louisiana two days before their masters received the intelligence by mail. Critics know little of the power of the love of freedom. But there is no reason for the bishop's supposition that all the preparations for leaving were made in one day, save his own mistake of the Hebrew of Exodus xii. 12, as referring to the night of the day on which God spake to Moses, instead of the night of the day of which he was speaking, as the slightest reflection on the context shows.
In Chapter XI. the bishop assumes the functions of Major-General, and masses his army—rank, and file, wagon train, hospital, commissariat, contrabands, droves of cattle, and camp followers—into a mass of fifty front and twenty-two miles long. Very naturally he gets into a tremendous jam, out of which we have no intention of extricating him; merely remarking that bishops do not make good generals, and that Arab Sheikhs do not march in that way. They scatter themselves and their cattle over the whole country for forty or fifty miles, and have no confusion; and attend moreover to Moses' sanitary camp regulations, in their several encampments.
In Chapter XII. he exerts himself to starve the cattle for want of pasture and water; garbling Moses' account of the wilderness for that purpose, Deuteronomy viii. 15, "Beware that thou forget not Jehovah, thy God, who led thee through the great and terrible wilderness, wherein were fiery serpents, and scorpions, where there was no water." Here he stops, as if this was all that referred to the subject. But when we turn to the passage, we find that he omits the most material part of the speech. For Moses goes on to say, in the hearing of all Israel, who could certainly have contradicted him had the fact not been well known to them, "Who brought thee forth water out of the rock of flint." Moses' account is quite self-consistent, and the bishop's garbling of it is dishonest. There were districts of Arabia so dry and sterile that but for this miraculous supply both men and beasts had perished; but the greater part of the country was simply uninhabited pasture land, sufficiently productive even now to support several Arab tribes; and much better wooded and watered then. The monuments of Egypt abundantly testify the number and power of its shepherd kings, who pastured their flocks upon it in their successive invasions of Egypt.
The bishop says, Chapter XIII., that the climax of inconsistencies between facts and figures is reached when we come to the notice by the Lord to Israel, contained in Exodus xxiii. 29, "I will not drive them, the Canaanites, out from before thee in one year, lest the land become desolate, and the beasts of the field multiply against thee." The argument is that a population of two millions was assigned to a territory of only eleven thousand square miles; and consequently would be more dense than the population of the agricultural region of England, where there is no danger of wild beasts multiplying.
But the objection is again based on a blunder, and a garbling of the text of Scripture. Had the bishop done himself and his readers the justice to complete the passage which he has half cited, by inserting the next two verses, he could have read verse thirty-one: "And I will set thy bounds from the Red Sea even to the Sea of the Philistines, and from the desert unto the river," i. e., the Euphrates, as other passages show, Genesis xv. 18. That is to say, a territory five hundred miles long by one hundred miles broad, or fifty thousand square miles, was to be occupied by two millions of people. That is about the present population, and all travelers testify that three-fourths of it lies desolate. Prof. Porter saw seventy deserted towns and villages in Bashan alone. But for the rifle and gunpowder the wild beasts would now overpower the inhabitants.
By a wonderful providence, contemporaneously with these attacks, the Lord has raised up an army of scholars, travelers, and archaeologists, whose explorations illustrate the Bible in a remarkable manner, throwing new light upon its history, poetry, and prophecy. It is refreshing to turn from the cavils of ignorant criticism to the clear light of discovered facts and imperishable monuments.
The Bible history has recently received a wonderful amount of illustration and confirmation from the researches of scholars and discoverers amid the ruins of Egypt, Persia, and Assyria; completely exploding the theory that this history was a comparatively recent composition, written long after the events which it records, and betraying its want of genuineness by the anachronisms and errors of description of historical and natural events with which it abounds. Wherever it differed from the statements of any Greek, or other heathen historian, it was forthwith alleged that Moses was wrong, and the profane author was right; and for a long time nobody could bring any evidence on the other side, because there were no contemporary records; the oldest heathen historian being a thousand years later than Moses. But by some strange inspiration, the Lord set a multitude of explorers to work upon the monuments of Egypt, deciphering the hieroglyphics which had so long puzzled the world, digging into the mounds which had for centuries covered the ruined palaces and cities of Persia and Assyria, and bringing to Europe ship-loads of recovered statues, marbles, cylinders, mummies, obelisks, papyrii, covered with all manner of pictures and inscriptions, civil, religious, and political, contemporary with the Bible history, and setting the best scholars of Europe to decipher and translate them. They are only, as yet, in the middle of their labors, but already so much has been discovered as to warrant the assertion that before they have finished they will furnish full corroboration of all the great outlines of Old Testament history.
Egypt was the first to come forward in furnishing her quota of commentary to the corroboration of the Books of Moses. Hengstenberg's Egypt and the Books of Moses, Wilkinson's Ancient Egyptians, and Osburn's Monumental History of Egypt, furnish almost a commentary upon Moses' account of Egyptian affairs, confirming every biblical allusion to Egypt as historically correct, and revealing to us even the natural causes of the seven years high Nile and plenteous harvests; in the overflow of the great central lake in Nubia wearing away the embankment; and of the seven years subsequent low Nile and famine, by the drought consequent on this immense drainage. The very titles of Joseph as, "Director of the Full and Empty Irrigating Canals," "Steward of the Granaries," etc. etc., are still to be read on his tomb at Sakkarah, and much more of the same sort.
F. Newman ridicules the Bible narrative of Shishak's expedition against Rehoboam as a mere fictitious embellishment of an otherwise tame narrative; but Egyptologists, like Stuart, Poole, and Brugsch, have examined the inscription of Shishak, at Karnak, and allege that it fully corroborates the Scripture history.
Some of the most obscure portions of the Bible, which have long been stumbling-blocks to commentators and historians, are now thus illuminated by the light of modern discoveries of monuments and inscriptions found in the ruins of the ancient cities of Persia and Assyria, upon which they in turn cast such light as to enable the discoveries of Layard and Rawlinson to assume an intelligible coherency. The tenth and eleventh chapters of Genesis, written a thousand years before Herodotus or Manetho, and which Rationalistic commentators were so long "unable to verify by their own consciousness," and which were therefore consigned to the realm of mythology, are now acknowledged by the first scholars and discoverers to stand at the head of the page of reliable history, and to form the basis of all scientific ethnography.
The diversity of languages among mankind seems not to have attracted the attention of the Greek philosophers. When modern inquirers began to investigate the matter, they were well-nigh confounded by the multitude of dialects and languages. The labor of three generations of scholars has been expended upon philology, the most ancient monument of mankind. And the result is that all the various languages of earth have at length been classified under three tongues—the Shemitic, the Aryan, and the Turanian. But this most recent discovery of comparative philology was narrated by Moses thirty centuries ago, with the historical account of the origin of the division of the primeval family into three separate colonies, colonizing the earth after their families and after their tongues.—Genesis x. 32. The discovery of this coincidence fills Bunsen with astonishment. "Comparative philology," he says, "would have been compelled to set forth as a postulate the supposition of some such division of languages in Asia, especially on the ground of the relation of the Egyptian language to the Shemitic, even if the Bible had not assured us of the truth of this great historical event. It is truly wonderful; it is a matter of astonishment; it is more than a mere astounding fact that something so purely historical, and yet divinely fixed—something so conformable to reason, and yet not to be conceived of as a mere natural development—is here related to us out of the oldest primeval period, and which now for the first time, through the new science of philology, has become capable of being historically and philosophically explained."
The brief, yet definite, assertions of the Hamitic origin of the old empire of Babylon, and of an Asiatic Cush or Ethiopia, which have been so repeatedly charged against the Bible as blunders, even by some profound scholars, have been vindicated by the recent discoveries in the mounds of Chaldea Proper of multitudes of inscriptions in a language which Sir H. Rawlinson affirms "is decidedly Cushite or Ethiopian," and the modern languages to which it makes the nearest approaches are those of Southern Arabia and Abyssinia. The old traditions have then been confirmed by comparative philology, and both are side lights to Scripture. * * * "The primitive race which bore sway in Chaldea Proper is demonstrated to have belonged to this Ethnic type."
"The conquest of Palestine is recorded on the annals of Sennacherib, and the cylinder of Tiglath-Pileser describes his invasion of Palestine. The names of Jehu, of Amaziah, of Hezekiah, of Omri, Ahaz, and Uzziah have been made out. The very clay which sealed the treaty between the kings of Judah and Assyria, with the impresses of their joint seals upon it, is preserved in the Nineveh gallery. The library of Assurbanipal, in twenty thousand fragments, contains among other scientific treatises, such as astronomical notices, grammatical essays, tables of verbs, genealogies, etc., an historico-geographical account of Babylonia and the surrounding countries. As far as these fragments have been translated, the district and tribal names given in the Bible correspond very closely with them."
But this is not the only illustration and confirmation which these old Assyrian monuments offer to the Sacred Writings. From the first invasion of the Assyrians, under Tiglath-Pileser, to the restoration of Israel from Babylon, and the rebuilding of the temple, under Darius, the Bible history is full of references to the Assyrian, Babylonian, and Persian monarchies, and their affairs with Israel and Judah. And the inscribed tablets, cylinders, and temple tablets, and statues, are full of references which directly or indirectly elucidate and corroborate the Bible history, attesting to skeptics the truthfulness of its wonderful narrative; the very stones of Nineveh, and the ruined palaces of Babylon and Assyria, crying out in vindication of the veracity of the Bible. Already so much has been discovered as to fill several volumes, to which we must refer the reader for details.
One of the alleged historical errors greatly insisted on by Rationalistic commentators was the statement by Daniel, that Belshazzar was King of Babylon when it was taken by the Medo-Persians, and that he was slain at the storming of the city. Herodotus and Berosus had stated that Nabonnidus was king, and that he was not in the city then, but was afterward taken prisoner and treated generously by Cyrus. These accounts seemed contradictory; and as Herodotus and Berosus were generally esteemed respectable historians, the Rationalists ridicule Daniel as an erroneous writer of history. But one of Sir H. Rawlinson's discoveries has vindicated the prophet, and also explained how the historians were truthful too. W. Taylor, one of Rawlinson's assistants, discovered an inscribed cylinder in Ur of the Chaldees containing an account of the reign of this very Nabonnidus, which Sir Henry describes in a letter to the Athenaeum, (1854, page 341): "The most important facts, however, which they disclose are that the eldest son of Nabonnidus was named Bel-shar-ezar, and that he was admitted by his father to a share in the government." This name is undoubtedly the Belshazzar of Daniel, and thus furnishes a key to the explanation of that great historical problem which has hitherto defied solution. We can now understand how Belshazzar, as joint-king with his father, may have been Governor of Babylon when the city was attacked by the combined forces of the Medes and Persians, and may have perished in the assault which followed; while Nabonnidus, leading a force to the relief of the place, was defeated, and was obliged to take refuge in Borsippa, capitulating after a short resistance, and being subsequently assigned, according to Berosus, to an honorable retirement in Carmania. A minute coincidence also is thus brought to light, showing the accuracy of the inspired historian in one of the details of his narrative. Belshazzar elevates him to the position of Grand Vizier, or Prime Minister, which, under ordinary circumstances, would be the second place of dignity in the empire. But Daniel represents the king as raising him to the third place, which we now see to be strictly correct, since Belshazzar himself was the second in rank. Thus the weapons discharged against the Bible ever recoil upon the heads of its assailants.
Not only among the monuments of the great historic nations do we now discover corroborations of Scripture, the records and monuments of even obscure nations are most strangely turning up and being discovered, after lying unnoticed for centuries, as if God had reserved their testimony for the time when it would be needed and valued. The Bible does not refer to the history of the surrounding nations, save in connection with their relations to Israel; but it is surprising to see how many of these references are corroborated by recent discoveries. The Bible, for instance, describes Omri as establishing a kingdom with his capital at Samaria, and he and his son, Ahab, making war on Mesha, King of Moab, conquering him and making him pay an annual tribute of one hundred thousand lambs and one hundred thousand rams, with the wool. But it came to pass that when Ahab was dead that the King of Moab rebelled against the King of Israel.
Now amid the perpetual wars of the petty kingdoms of Asia, and after the utter extirpation of the Moabitish nation, the chances were millions to one against our recovering any historical monuments whatever of that people; and almost infinite against recovering any which should coincide with the half dozen allusions to them in the Bible. But Mr. Klein discovered in the ruins of Dibon, one of the ancient cities of Moab, and Capt. Warren recovered, the fragments of the now famous Moabite Stone, on which, in the old Samaritan characters, we read: "I, Mesha, son of Jobin, King of Moab. My father reigned over Moab thirty years, and I reigned after my father. I erected this altar unto Chemosh, who granted me victory over mine enemies, the people of Omri, King of Israel, who, together with his son, Ahab, oppressed Moab a long time—even forty years," etc.
But space forbids even the enumeration of the corroborations of Bible history from the days of Abraham to the time of the first census of the Roman Empire, when Cyrenius was Governor of Syria the second time. In every instance where its monuments have spoken of biblical affairs they have confirmed the accuracy of the Bible history. The history of Great Britain, or of the United States, is not more authentic than, and not so accurate as, the long line of history recorded in the Bible. No important error has been proven in any of its historical statements of the world's history for forty centuries. This accuracy contrasted with the acknowledged errors of the best historians, is proof to every candid mind of divine direction and help to the sacred writers.
Sweeping away, then, these cobwebs, we open the volume and form our opinion of its genuineness and authenticity from its own internal evidences—its nature and contents—and from the way in which it was used by the Hebrew nation.
It is important at the outset to know how long these documents have undoubtedly existed. No one denies that they were in existence eighteen hundred years ago. Indeed, the first literary attack on them which has been recorded was made about that time; and Josephus' defense of the Scriptures against Apion still exists. The very same writings which the Protestant churches now acknowledge as canonical, and none other, were then acknowledged to be of divine authority by the Jews. It is true they bound their Bibles differently from ours, but the contents were the very same. They made up their parchments of the thirty-nine books in twenty-two rolls or volumes, one for every letter of their alphabet; putting Judges and Ruth, the two books of Samuel, the two books of Kings, the two books of Chronicles, Ezra and Nehemiah, Jeremiah's Prophecy and Lamentations, and the twelve minor prophets, in one volume respectively. They also distinguished the five books of Moses as, The Law; the Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon as, The Psalms; and all the remainder as, The Prophets. Moreover, it is well known that two hundred and eighty-two years before the Christian era, these writings were translated into Greek and widely circulated in all parts of the world. They were, in fact, not only popular, but received as of divine authority by the Jews at that time, read in their synagogues in public worship, and regarded with sacred reverence. How did they come to receive them in this manner?
These writings were not only acknowledged by the Jews; their bitterest enemies—the Samaritans—owned the divine authority of the five books of Moses, and preserve an ancient copy of them, differing in no essential particular from the Hebrew version, to this day. The Samaritans always bore to the Hebrews such a relation as Mohammedans do to Christians, and the Hebrews returned the grudge with interest: "For the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans." These heathen Babylonians, four centuries or more before the Christian era, were somehow induced to receive the Pentateuch as of divine authority, and to frame some sort of religion upon it. Their enmity to the Jews is conclusive proof that, since that time, neither Jews nor Samaritans have altered the text; else the manuscripts would show the discrepancy.
These books are not such as any person would forge to gain popularity, or to make money by. There is nothing in them to bribe the good opinion of influential people, or catch the favor of the multitude. On the contrary, their stern severity, and unsparing denunciation of popular vice and profitable sin must have secured their rejection by the Jewish people, had they not been constrained by undeniable evidence to acknowledge their divine authority. They set out with the assertion of the divine authority of the law of Moses, and everywhere sharply reprove princes, priests, and people for breaking it. The prophets, so far from seeking popularity, are foolhardy enough to denounce the bonnets, hoops, and flounces of the ladies, and to cry, Woe! against the regular business of the most respectable note-shavers, to croak against the march of intellect, and shake public confidence in the prosperity of their great country, to ally themselves with fanatic abolitionists, and introduce agitating political questions into the pulpit; crying, Woe to him that useth his neighbor's service without wages, and giveth him not for his work. To crown all, they organized abolition clubs to procure immediate emancipation, and published incendiary proclamations in the cities of the slaveholders, and, strange to say, they were allowed to escape with their lives; and their writings were held sacred by the children of those very men and women they so unsparingly denounced; a conclusive proof that the calamities they predicted had compelled them to acknowledge these prophets as the heralds of God. The proof must have been conclusive, indeed, which compelled the Jews to acknowledge the writings of the prophets as sacred.
Another very striking feature of these writings is, their mutual connection with each other. They were written at various intervals, during a period of a thousand years' duration, by shepherds and kings, by prophets and priests, by governors of States and gatherers of sycamore fruit; in deserts and in palaces, in camps and in cities, in Egypt and Syria, in Arabia and Babylon; under the iron heel of despotic oppression, and amid the liberty of the most democratic republic the world ever saw; yet, circumstances, and lapse of time, they ever hold to one great theme, always assert the same great principles, and perpetually claim connection with the writers who have preceded them. There is nothing like this in the histories of other nations. Two centuries will work such changes of opinion, that you can not find nowadays any historian who approves the sentiments of Pepys or Clarendon, whatever use he may make of their facts. But the historians of the Bible not only refer to their predecessors' writings, but refer to them as of acknowledged divine authority. Thus the very latest of these books gives the weight of its testimony to the first—"And they set the priests in their divisions, and the Levites in their courses for the service of God, which is at Jerusalem, as it is written in the book of Moses." And Daniel spake of the books of Moses as well known when he says, "Therefore the curse is poured upon us, and the oath that is written in the law of Moses the servant of God." The shortest book in the Old Testament—the prophecy of Obadiah, consisting only of twenty sentences—contains twenty-five allusions to the preceding histories and laws. The last of the prophets shuts up the volume with a command to "Remember the law of Moses." In fact, just as the epistles prove the existence and acknowledged authority of the gospels; so do the prophets prove the existence and acknowledged authority of the law of Moses. They were acknowledged not merely by one generation of the Jewish people, but by the nation during the whole period of its national existence; and they are of such a character, that they must then, and now, be taken as one whole—all accepted, or all rejected together.
The reader of the Old Testament will speedily find that these writings are not merely a connected history of the nation, of great general interest, like Bancroft's or Macaulay's, but of no such special interest to any individual as to force him, by a sense of self-interest, or the danger of loss of liberty or property, to correct their errors. On the contrary, every farmer in Palestine was deeply concerned in the truth and accuracy of the Bible; for it contained not only the general boundaries of the country, and of the particular tribes, like the survey of the Maine boundary, or of Mason and Dixon's line, but it delineated particular estates, also, and was, in fact, the report of the Surveyor-General, deposited in the county court for reference, in case of any litigation about sale or inheritance of property. The genealogies of the tribes and families were also preserved in these writings; and on the authenticity and correctness of these records, the inheritance of every farm in the land depended; for as no lease ran more than fifty years, every farm returned to the heirs of the original settler at the year of jubilee. Thus every Jewish farmer had a direct interest in these sacred records; and it would be just as hard to forge records for the county courts of Ohio, and pass them off upon the citizens as genuine, and plead them in the courts as valid, as to impose at first, or falsify afterward, the records of the commonwealth of Israel.
This will appear more clearly when we consider that they contained also the laws of the land—the Constitution of the United States of Israel, with the statutes at large—according to which every house, and farm, and garden in the whole country was possessed, every court of justice was guided, every election was held, from the election of a petty constable, to that of Governor of the State, and the militia enrolled, mustered, officered, and called out to the field of battle. These laws prescribed the way in which every house must be built, regulated the weaver in weaving his cloth, and the tailor in making it, and the cooking of every breakfast, dinner and supper eaten by an Israelite over the world, from that day to this. Now, let any one who thinks it would be an easy matter to forge such a series of documents, and get people to receive and obey them, try his hand in making a volume of Acts of Assembly, and passing it off upon the people of Ohio for genuine. Let him bring an action into one of the courts, and persuade the judges to give a decision in his favor, upon the strength of his forged or falsified statutes, and then he may hope to convince us that the laws of Moses are simply a collection of religious tracts, which came to be held sacred through lapse of time, nobody knows how or why.
Nor were these laws, and the usages thus established, common, and such as the people would be ready easily to adopt. On the contrary, Moses repeatedly asserts, and all ancient history shows, that they were quite peculiar to the Hebrew people then; and they are to this day confined to the republics which, like our own, have drawn their ideas from the Bible. It is enough to name the common law and trial by jury; the armed nation; the right of free public assembly, free speech, free passport, and free trade; the election of civil, judicial, and military officers by universal suffrage; the division of the land in fee-simple among the whole people; the rights of women to hold real estate in their own right, to speak in public assemblies, and to prophetic functions; and the support of religion by the voluntary offerings of the people.
Our own republic resembles Israel as a daughter her mother. The land of liberty was the Bible country. The first republic which the world ever saw was designed by Almighty God, and revealed to the world in the Bible, and by the example of the United States of Israel. From that pattern our forefathers copied all the grand features of our glorious republic—the equitable distribution of the land, in fee-simple, among the people; securing them, by the jubilee, against the introduction of feudal tenure, and landlordism; the abolition of a standing army, and the defense of the country by the militia; the election of all officers, civil and military, from the town constable, and the justice of the peace, up to the president of the republic, the Lord Jehovah himself, by universal suffrage—and the Federal Union of the twelve tribes into one nation, with township, county, and state governments, with a common law, common schools, and the equality of all citizens before the law; the right of naturalization; sanitary and social institutions, such as modern philanthropists are only beginning to dream of, for the elevation of the people; and all this avowedly held in trust for all mankind, as a fountain of blessings for all the families of the earth. No such ideas of liberty, equality, and fraternity, ever existed among the wisest heathen nations—the Egyptians, Persians, Greeks, or Romans. On the face of the whole earth there never was, and there is not to-day, a free republic outside of the light and liberty of the Bible. The so-called republics of Athens and Rome were hideous aristocracies, and tyrannies. From the Bible the men of the Continental Congress learned the grand truth, which they emblazoned on the forefront of their immortal Declaration of Independence, "That all men are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness;" thus planting the rights of man upon the only immovable basis—the throne of the eternal God.
But there were other features of the Mosaic legislation so far in advance of the ideas of our modern Materialism as not to have been even yet suggested in our social congresses, nor even dreamt of by our most advanced Christian philanthropists, in their endeavors after the elevation of the masses. Moses' idea was the prevention of pauperism, and of the conflict between labor and capital, and of the gambling speculating fever, and the formation of an independent, intelligent, joyous, religious, healthy, and thrifty people, well-bred, well-fed, well-lodged, able to fight their foes on the battle-field, to reap their ridge on the harvest-field, to enjoy the blessings of healthy families, and to rejoice before the Lord. A volume would be needed to develop the social bearings of the laws of the Hebrews. We can only suggest for consideration the laws regarding inalienability of the homestead, and the bankrupt law; the laws of marriage and inheritance; the laws of servitude and wages; the sanitary laws regarding building, clothing, bathing, eating, and contagion; the protection of the rights of animals; the dispersion of the educated class; and the three great national festivals, during which the whole people were released from the labors of the field, and of the kitchen, and enjoyed during the eight summer days of each picnic such an excitement of social enjoyment, religious fervor, and political patriotism, as modern Christendom anticipates in the millennium, but which neither Church nor State has, as yet, systematically attempted to nurture.
That the Hebrews did not obey the law, and so did not enjoy the happiness obedience would have secured, is only what God foresaw, and foretold repeatedly, with solemn warning of the disastrous degradation to which disobedience to God's laws must ever reduce man. Nevertheless, even their very imperfect conformity to these institutions gave them such superiority of blood and breeding to their ungodly neighbors, that they have survived the most powerful nations, and, in spite of dispersion, exile, disfranchisement, and persecution, they exist as a distinct people, superior intellectually, commercially, and morally to all the heathen nations at this day. How much higher had been their position had they fully obeyed the law.
Our argument is, that this law of liberty, equality, fraternity, and religion, was worthy of our Father in heaven, and a seed of blessing to all the families of the earth.
To a Jew living before the coming of Christ, the unanimous testimony of his nation, confirmed by all the commemorative observances of the sacrifices, the passover, the Sabbath, and the jubilee, by the reading of the law and the prophets, and the singing of the historical psalms in the temple and the synagogues, by the execution of the laws of Moses in the courts, and by the very existence of his nation as a distinct people, separate from all the other nations—could leave no doubt that laws so peculiar and beneficent must have been enacted by a wisdom superior to that of man, and their observance imposed by divine authority; nor that the miracles by which these laws were authenticated, and the national existence of the people of Israel was secured, were genuine, and divine. The chain of historical and internal evidence is too strong to be broken, while the Jewish nation exists.
But yet this historical and internal evidence of the authority of the Old Testament is but the smallest part of that which we possess, who have the testimony of Christ on this subject. For this testimony removes the question from the mists of antiquity, and even from the debatable ground of historic certainty, and resolves the whole process of searching for, and comparing and examining a host of second-hand witnesses, into the easy and certain one of hearing the Author himself say, whether he acknowledges this Book to be his or not. Christians receive the Old Testament as the Word of God, because Jesus says so.
Now, reader, it is of the utmost importance that you should stop just here, and give a plain, confident answer to these questions: Dost thou believe upon the Son of God? Is Jesus the Messiah of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write? Are you perfectly satisfied of the truth of the New Testament, and willing to venture your eternal salvation upon the words of Christ contained in it?
For, if not, of what use is it for you to trouble yourself about the Old Testament? You might as well waste your time in examining the genuineness of the bills of a broken bank; they may be genuine or they may be forgeries; but who cares? They will never be paid. If the first promises of the bank of heaven, to send the Messiah eighteen hundred years ago, have been fulfilled, its other paper may be also valuable; if not, it must be equally worthless. If the New Testament be not of divine authority, you may place the prophets on the same shelf with the Poems of Ossian; and then follows the serious consequence, that there is not a grain of hope left for you or for any man on earth. If Jesus be indeed an Almighty Savior, and if he has indeed risen from the dead, then, through the power of his mighty love, your filthy soul may be washed from its sins, and your mortal body may be raised from the rottenness of the grave. But if Christ be not risen, you are yet in your sins. You have no notion that any of the gods of the heathen, or the precepts of the Koran, can purify your heart. You know well that Infidelity never sanctified any of your comrades. Conscience tells you that you are not any better now than you were a year ago, but worse. You are yet in your sins; and in them you must live and die! Aye, while your immortal soul lives, while the laws of human nature continue, you must carry those brands of infamy on your character, and daily progress from bad to worse; sinking deeper and deeper in the contempt of all intelligent beings; and, were there no other avenger, in the remorse and despair of your own mind, you must experience the horrors of perdition. Jesus, able to save to the uttermost, all that come unto God by him, is your only hope. There is none other name given under heaven among men whereby we must be saved. If his gospel be true, you may be saved; if it is false, you must be damned.
If you have the shadow of a doubt of the truth of the New Testament, go over the subject again; re-read the former chapters of this book; pray to God for light and truth; above all, read the Book again and again; and if, in your case, as in that of one of the most famous teachers of German Neology—De Wette—the careful study of the New Testament impels you to rush through all the mists of doubt to the higher standpoint of a lofty faith, and the sunshine of real religion; and if with him you can now say, "Only this one thing I know, that in no other name is there salvation than in the name of Jesus Christ the crucified, and that for humanity there is nothing higher than the incarnation of Deity set before us in him, and the kingdom of God established by him," you may then go on with your inquiry into the divine authority of the Old Testament. With the Master himself before you, the Author, the Inspirer, by whom, and for whom, the prophets spake, and to whom all the Scriptures point, you will not think of wasting time in examining second-hand evidence; but go direct to Jesus himself. His testimony will not be merely so much additional testimony—another candle added to the chandelier by whose light you have perused the evidences of the Scriptures; it will shine out on your soul as the light of the Sun of Righteousness with healing on his wings. Every word from his lips will awaken in your heart the voice from heaven, "This is my beloved Son. Hear him." What saith Christ, then, respecting the Old Testament?
The moment you open the New Testament to make this inquiry, you are met by a reference to the Old. "The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham," is its formal title; and the most cursory perusal tells you that you have taken up, not a separate and independent work, which you can profitably peruse and understand without much reference to some foregoing volumes—as one might read Abbott's Life of Napoleon without needing at the same time to study the History of the Crusades—but that you have taken up a continuation of some former work—the last volume in fact of the Old Testament—and that you can not understand even the first chapter without a careful reading of the foregoing volumes. Before you have finished the first chapter you meet with the most unequivocal assertion of the harmony of the gospels and the prophecies, and of the divine authority of both—"Now all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet," etc. The whole tenor of the New Testament corresponds to this beginning, teaching that the birth, doctrine, miracles, life, death, resurrection, ascension, and second coming of the Lord, are the fulfillments of the Old Testament promises and prophecies; of which no less than a hundred and thirty-nine are expressly quoted, beginning with Moses and ending with Malachi.
We can not explain this by saying, with the mythical school of interpreters, that this was merely the opinion of the writers of the gospels and of the Jews of their age; whose longings for the Messiah led them to imagine some curious coincidences between the events of Christ's life and the utterances of these ancient oracles to be ready fulfillments; and that Christ did not deem it needful in all cases to undeceive them. For to suppose that Christ—the Truth—would sanction or connive at any such sacrilegious deception, is at once to deprive him, not only of his divine character, but of all claim to common honesty. So far from the Jews longing for any such events as those which fulfilled the prophecies, they despised the Messiah in whom they were fulfilled, and refused to believe in him; and his disciples were as far from the gospel ideal of the Messiah, when Jesus needed to reproach them with, "O fools, and slow of heart, to believe all that the prophets have spoken." It was not the Jews, nor yet the disciples, but the Lord himself who perpetually insisted on the divine authority of the Old Testament as the Word of his Father, and the sufficient attestation of his own divine character, after this manner: "Ye have not his word abiding in you; for whom he hath sent, him ye believe not. Search the Scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. * * * Had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me. But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?"
His first recorded sermon contains a remarkable and solemn attestation to the divine authority of the Old Testament, and of his own relation to it as its substance and supporter, "Think not that I am come to destroy the law, and the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled." The whole of this discourse is an exposition of the true principles of the Old Testament, stripping off the rubbish by which tradition had made void the law of God, and enforcing its precepts by the sanction of his divine authority. And in one of his last discourses after his resurrection: "Beginning at Moses, and the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. * * * And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the Scriptures."
In this distinct enumeration of the whole of the Scriptures of the Old Testament; in the assertion that they all treated of him, and that their principal predictions were fulfilled in him; and in his bestowal of divine illumination to enable them to understand these divine oracles—we have such an indorsement of their character by the Truth himself, as must command the faith and obedience of every believer in him. Had no objections been raised against particular doctrines or features of the Old Testament, we should stop here; perfectly satisfied with the attestations to the truth of its history, given by the continual references, and to the authority of its precepts, by the solemn formal declarations of the Son of God. But some popular objections to its completeness and perfection demand a brief notice.
1. The general character of the Old Testament being then ascertained beyond doubt, our first inquiry must be as to the integrity and completeness of the collection. For it is manifest that their divine authority being admitted, any attempt to add to them any human writings, or to take away those which were from God, would be a crime so serious in its consequences, that it could not escape the notice of him who severely rebuked even the verbal traditions by which the Jews made void the law of God. Now we are told by some that a great many inspired books have been lost; and they enumerate the prophecy of Enoch; the book of the Wars of the Lord; the book of Joshua; the book of Iddo the seer; the book of Nathan the prophet; the acts of Rehoboam; the book of Jehu, the son of Hanani; and the five books of Solomon, on trees, beasts, fowls, serpents, and fishes; which are alluded to in the Bible.
If the case were so, it is difficult to see what objection could be raised against the divine authority of the books we have, because of the divine authority of those we have not; for it is not supposed that one divinely inspired book would contradict another. Nor yet can we see how the loss of these books should disprove their inspiration, much less the inspiration of those which remain, any more than the want of a record of the multitude of words and works of Jesus himself which were never committed to writing, should be an argument against the divine authority of the Sermon on the Mount. It will hardly be asserted that God is bound to reveal to us everything that the human race ever did, and to preserve such records through all time, or lose his right to demand our obedience to a plain revelation of his will; or that we do well to neglect the salvation of our own souls until we obtain an infallible knowledge of the acts of Rehoboam.
But there is not the shadow of a proof that any of these were inspired books, or that some of them were books at all. The Bible nowhere says that Enoch wrote his prophecy, or that Solomon read his discourses on natural history; nor of what religious interest they would have been to us any more than the hard questions of the Queen of Sheba, and his answers to them. Though the loss of these ancient chronicles may be regretted by the antiquarian, the Christian feels not at all concerned about it; knowing as he does, on the testimony of Christ, that the Holy Scriptures, as he and his apostles delivered them to us, contain all that we need to know in order to repent of our sins, lead holy lives, and go to heaven; and that we have the very same Bible of which Jesus said: "They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. * * * If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rose from the dead."
2. Another objection is, that the religion of the Old Testament was essentially different from that of the New. It is at once acknowledged, that the light which Christ shed on our relations to God, and to our brethren of mankind, is so much clearer than that of the Old Testament that we see our duties more plainly, and are more inexcusable for neglecting them, than those who had not the benefit of Christ's teaching. And no objection can be raised against God for not sending his Son sooner, or for not giving more light to the world before his coming, unless it can be shown that he is debtor to mankind, and that they were making a good use of the light he gave them. So that the question is not, Did God give as full and expanded instructions to the Church in her infancy as he has given in her maturity? but, Did he give instructions of a different character? It is not, Did Christ reveal more than Moses? but, Did Christ contradict Moses? And here, at the very outset, we are met by Christ's own solemn formal disclaimer of any such intention: "Think not that I am come to destroy the law and the prophets. I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill." And as to the actual working of the Christian religion, when Paul is asked, "Is the law then against the promises of God?" he indignantly replies, "God forbid!"
But it is urged, "Judaism is not Christianity. You have changed the Sabbath, abolished the sacrifices, trampled upon the rules of living, eating, and visiting only with the peculiar people, you neglect the passover, and drop circumcision, the seal of the covenant, all on the authority of Christ. Do you mean to say that these are not essential elements of the Old Testament religion?"
Undoubtedly. Outward ceremonies of any kind never were essential parts of religion. "I will have mercy and not sacrifice," is an Old Testament proverb, which clearly tells us that outward ceremonies are merely means toward the great end of all religion. "The law," says the Holy Ghost, by the pen of Paul, "was our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ." The bread of heavenly truth is served out to God's children now on ten thousand wooden tables, instead of one brazen altar; but it is made of the same corn of heaven, it is dispensed by the same hand of love, to a larger family, it is true, but received and eaten in the exercise of the very same religious feelings, by any hearer of the gospel in New York, as by Abraham on Moriah. By faith in Christ the sinner now is justified, "Even as Abraham believed God, and it was imputed to him for righteousness." So says one who knew both law and gospel well. "Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid! Yea, we establish the law!" The Epistles to the Romans and to the Hebrews are just demonstrations of this truth, that the law was the blossom, the gospel the fruit.
But it is alleged that the religion of the Old Testament could not but be defective, as it wanted the doctrines of immortality and the resurrection; of which, it is alleged, the Old Testament saints were ignorant.
It were easy to prove, from their own words and conduct, that Job, Abraham, David, and Daniel, were not ignorant of these great doctrines. But the manner in which our Lord proves the truth of the resurrection, by a reference to it as undeniably taught in the Old Testament, must ever silence this objection. "But as touching the resurrection of the dead, have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God, saying, I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living."
3. But it is objected the Hebrew Jehovah tolerated and approved polygamy, slavery, and divorce; and, in general, a low code of morals among the Hebrews.
But we demand to know what standard of morals our objectors adopt? That of the ancient oriental world in which Israel lived? Then the laws of Jehovah were very far in advance of that age. The slave had his blessed Sabbath rest secured to him; which is more than modern civilization can secure for her railway slaves; his master was forbidden to treat him cruelly; and the maid-servant's honor was protected by the best means then known; while the Sacred Writings held up for example the primitive example of marriage, interposed the formality of a legal document before divorce, and elevated the family far above the degraded state of the heathen around them.
But the objector falls back on the morals of Christendom, the civilization of the nineteenth century, and judges the laws of Moses by that standard. Very well. This is simply to say that our ideas have been raised to the standard of Christianity; and then the objection is that the laws of Moses are not so spiritual and elevated as the precepts of Christ. Our Lord himself asserts the same thing. He says Moses tolerated divorce because of the hardness of the people's hearts; but from the beginning it was not so. And Paul (Hebrews viii. 6, 7) alleges the imperfection of Moses' law as a good reason for the introduction of a better covenant. The Bible itself then recognizes an advance from good to better, the path of the just shining more and more unto the perfect day.
But then it is asked, Is God the Author of an imperfect law? Could God give a defective code of morals? The question entirely misses the design of God's revelation as a process of educating his children. Suppose we ask, Could God speak Hebrew—a language so defective in philosophical terms? God must condescend to the mental, and even, in some degree, to the moral level of mankind if he is to reach us at all. All education must begin low, and rise from step to step. The A, B, C of morals must be first learned. The whole analogy of providence shows this to be God's method of procedure. The kingdom of God is like the growing seed; first the blade, then the ear, then the full corn in the ear. Gradual, and even slow, progress is the law of nature.
Our modern civilization, which is so proudly invoked, is very far indeed from any such perfection as might enable us to look down upon Moses' legislation with contempt. We have only to name our standing armies and conscriptions; our national promises to pay debts, which no one ever expects to pay; our laws regarding drunkenness, and our revenues derived from the licenses for the sale of liquors; the utter failure of our attempts to put down betting, gambling, and stock and gold speculations, prostitution, bribery, frauds, and plundering of the public funds; to convince ourselves that there are many things law can not do, even in this nineteenth century of civilization.
Our little progress, such as it is, has not been made all at once, or by one great advance. God gives mankind blessings by degrees. He gave the mariner's compass to the fourteenth century, the printing press and America to the fifteenth, the Bible in the vulgar tongue to the sixteenth, parliamentary government to the seventeenth, the steam engine to the eighteenth, railroads and the telegraph to the nineteenth. One might as well cavil at his providence for not giving the Hebrews sewing machines, Hoe's printing presses, and daily newspapers, when they entered into Canaan, as for delaying to give them the elements of Christian civil law, and social life, before they were able to value and to use them.
As it was, Moses' law was so far in advance of their own ideas of propriety, and so far in advance of those of all the people around them, that they were continually falling back from it, and rebelling against it, and subjecting themselves to the discipline which God had threatened for disobedience. Thus they were kept ever looking upward to a higher model. Their transgressions must be confessed as sins, and atoned for by bloody sacrifices, declaring the transgressor worthy of death. Their consciences were educated to the idea of holiness, an idea utterly wanting among the heathen; and the law became a powerful motive power, urging them to higher and holier lives, and preparing them to receive the higher and holier example and precepts of Christ.
The imperfection, then, of the law of Moses, so far from being an evidence of the human origin of the Bible, is a mark of the infinite wisdom of the great Lawgiver in adapting his legislation to the condition of his people; and while tolerating for the time then present an imperfect state of society, just as at this time he tolerates a Christendom far below the gospel standard, yet implanting in the minds of his people principles of righteousness and love which were certain eventually to raise them to the high level of the kingdom of God. This, then, is simply an instance of the general law of divine development.
4. Again, however, it is contended, "that the morality of the Old Testament was narrow and bigoted; requiring, indeed, the observance of charity to the covenant people, but allowing Israel to hate all others as enemies, and as well expressed in the text, Thou shalt love thy neighbor and hate thine enemy."
But let it be noticed, that this is no text of Scripture, nor does our Lord so quote it. He does not say it is so written, but, ye have heard it said by them of old time. The first part is God's truth; the second is the devil's addition to it, which Christ clears away and denounces. It were easy to quote multitudes of passages from the Old Testament, commanding Israel to show kindness to the stranger, and a whole host of promises, that in them all the families of the earth should be blessed; any one of which would sufficiently refute the foolish notion, that the morality of the Old Testament was geographical, and its charity merely national. But the simple fact, that the most sublime sanction of world-wide benevolence which ever fell even from the lips of Christ himself, was uttered by him as the sum and substance of the teachings of the Old Testament, conclusively confutes this dogma. The Golden Rule was no new discovery, unless its Author was mistaken, for he says: "Therefore 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." He declares the very basis and foundation of the whole Old Testament religion to be those eternal principles of godliness and charity, which he quotes in the very words of the law: "Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and 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 neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets." The law and the prophets, then, taught genuine world-wide benevolence, Christ being witness; and the moral law of the Old Testament is the moral law of the New Testament, if we may believe the Lawgiver.
5. Still, it is alleged, "it can not be denied that the writers of the Old Testament breathed a spirit of vindictiveness, and imprecated curses on their enemies, utterly at variance with the precepts of the gospel, which command us to bless and curse not; and even in their solemn devotions uttered sentiments unfit for the mouth of any Christian; nor that their views of the character of God were stern and gloomy, and that they represented the Hebrew Jehovah as an unforgiving and vengeful being, utterly different from the kind and loving Father whom Christ delighted to reveal."
This, if the truth were told, is the grand objection to the Old Testament. The holy and righteous sin-hating God, presented in its history, is the object of dislike. The God who drowned the old world, destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah by fire from heaven, commanded the extermination of the lewd and bloody Canaanites, thundered his curses against sinners of every land and every age, saying, "Cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of this law to do them," requiring all the people to say Amen, is not the God whom Universalists can find in their hearts to adore. A mild, easy, good-natured being, who would allow men to live and die in sin without any punishment, would suit them better. They try to think that he is altogether such an one as themselves, and an approver of their sin.
But it is worth while to inquire whether the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ be in this respect anything different from the Hebrew Jehovah, or whether the gospel has in the least degree lessened his displeasure against iniquity. Paul thought not that he was a different person, when he said:
"We know him who hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord." Jesus thought not that he was more lenient to sinners when he cried, "Woe unto thee, Chorazin! Woe unto thee, Bethsaida! * * * Thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell * * * It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee." It is not in the Old Testament, but in the New, that we are told that Jesus himself shall come "In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ; who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power." It is not an old, bigoted Hebrew prophet giving a vision of the Hebrew Jehovah, but the beloved disciple who leaned on Jesus' breast, picturing the Savior himself, who says: "He was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood; and his name is called the Word of God. And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations; and he shall rule them with a rod of iron; and he treadeth the wine-press of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God."
Let no man imagine that the New Testament offers impunity to the wicked, or that the Old Testament denies mercy to the repenting sinner, or that Christ exhibited any other God than the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob—the same Hebrew Jehovah who commands the wicked to forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and to return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. It is exceedingly strange that those who dwell upon the paternal character of God, as a distinctive feature of Christ's personal teaching, should have forgotten that the hymns of the Old Testament church, a thousand years before his coming, were full of this endearing relation; that it was by the first Hebrew prophet that the Hebrew Jehovah declared, "Israel is my son, even my first-born; and I say unto thee, Let my son go, that he may serve me;" and that by the last of them he urges Israel to obedience by this tender appeal: "If I be a father, where is mine honor?" It was not Christ, but David—one of those gloomy, stern, Hebrew prophets—who penned that noble hymn to our Father in heaven, which Christ illustrated in his Sermon on the Mount:
"The Lord is merciful and gracious, Slow to anger and plenteous in mercy. He will not always chide, Neither will he keep his anger forever. He hath not dealt with us after our sins, Nor rewarded us according to our iniquities; For as the heaven is high above the earth, So great is his mercy to them that fear him; As far as the East is from the West, So far hath he removed our transgressions from us. Like as a father pitieth his children, So the Lord pitieth them that fear him."—Psalm ciii.
It is utter ignorance of the Old Testament which prompts any one to imagine that it presents any other character of God than "The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty." This is the name which God proclaimed to Moses, and this is the character which he proclaimed in Christ, when he cried on the cross: "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel." Justice and mercy are united in Christ dying for the ungodly.
It is untrue to say that the prophets of the Old Testament were actuated by a spirit of malice, or of revenge for personal injuries as such, in praying for, or prophesying destruction on the inveterate enemies of God and his cause. Of all Scripture characters, David has been most defamed for vindictiveness; but surely never was man more free from any such spirit, than the persecuted fugitive, who, with his enemy in his hand in the cave, and his confidential advisers urging him to take his life, cut off his skirt instead of his head; and on another occasion prevented the stroke which would have smitten the sleeping Saul to the earth, and sent back even the spear and the cruse of water, the trophies of his generosity. When cursed himself, and defamed as a vengeful shedder of blood by the Benjamite, he could restrain the fury of his followers, protect the life of the ruffianly traitor, and thus appeal to God as the witness of his innocence: