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  • GENERAL ACCOUNT OF THE SACRED WRITINGS
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    "Search the Scriptures, for in them ye think ye have eternal life; and they are they which testify of me," John v, 39.

    "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God; and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for instruction in righteousness; that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works," 2 Tim. iii, 16, 17.

    That collection of writings delivered by divine authority to the Jews by Moses and the prophets, and which the Jewish Church has always received as divinely inspired, includes thirty-nine books, the names of which are the following: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, I Samuel, II Samuel, I Kings, II Kings, I Chronicles, II Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi.

    These books collectively have had a variety of appellations, each of which serves to point out some excellence of those writings, as contradistinguished from all others.

    The Jews have divided them into three classes, which they have termed, 1. Torah; 2. Nebyim; 3. Ha-ke-thubim: or, as we sometimes express it, The Law, The Prophets, and The Hagiographa.

    The Law, included in the Pentateuch, or first five books, they considered as coming immediately from God himself to Moses.

    The Prophets, greater and smaller, (with which they connected Joshua, and Judges the two books of Samuel, and the two books of Kings,) they received as extraordinary messengers, deriving their authority from God without the intervention of man; and delivering predictions and arguments as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.

    The Hagiographa, containing the Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Chronicles, they acknowledged as divinely inspired also; but not to have been given on such extraordinary occasions as those on which the law, and the different oracles delivered to the prophets, had been communicated.

    1. The whole of these books collectively, they sometimes termed Ha- Mikra, The Reading; emphatically signifying that these records were alone worthy to be read and studied, because of their importance, antiquity, and divine inspiration. It was from this epithet of the sacred writings of the Jews, that Mohammed borrowed the word Al- Koran, which he prefixed to his pretended revelations; and which has the same meaning with the Hebrew Ha-Mikra, both signifying The Reading.

    2. In order to distinguish these sacred books from all others, they were termed by the Jews, in those places where the Greek language prevailed, Al-Graphai, The Scriptures, or Writings, as being alone worthy of being written and preserved; 1. Because of their high importance. 2. Because they contained the most ancient writings in the world; the Decalogue, or Ten Commandments, a part of the book of Exodus, being probably the first regular production in alphabetical characters ever seen by man, and the Pentateuch, or five books of Moses, being unquestionably the oldest record in existence.

    3. Testament, Berith, or Covenant, was another term used at a very early period to designate these divine oracles; as they contained the covenant, or agreement made between God and the people of Israel.

    St. Paul calls the sacred books before the time of Christ, he Palaia Diatheke, The Old Covenant, 2 Cor. iii, 14, which is a very proper and descriptive title of the grand subject of those books. This apostle evidently considers the Old and New Testaments as two Covenants, Gal. iv, 24, and, in comparing these two together, he calls one the "Old" Covenant; the other the "New;" one the "first;" the other that which is "recent." In opposition to the Old Covenant, which was to terminate in the New, he calls this "better, more excellent," Heb. vii, 22, viii, 6, and "everlasting," Heb. xiii, 20, because it is never to be changed, or terminate in any other; and is to endure endlessly itself.

    The word "covenant" we borrow from the Latin "convenio," from "con," together, and "venio," I come; signifying a contract or agreement made between two parties; to fulfill the conditions of which they are mutually bound. The Old Covenant, in its essential parts, was very simple; I WILL BE YOUR GOD, YE SHALL BE MY PEOPLE; -- the spirit of which was never changed. The people were to take Jehovah as the sole object of their religious worship; put their whole trust and confidence in him; and serve him in his own way, according to the prescribed forms which he should lay before them. This was their part. On his side, God was to accept them as his people; give them his Spirit to guide them, his mercy to pardon them, his providence to support them, and his grace to preserve them unto eternal life. But all this was connected with the strict observance of a great variety of rites and ceremonies, at once expressive of the holiness of God, the purity of divine justice, and the exceeding sinfulness and utter helpless state of man. A great part of the four latter books of Moses is employed in prescribing and illustrating these rites and ceremonies; and what is called the New Covenant is the complement, or fulfillment and perfection of the whole.

    4. When the writings of the evangelists and apostles were added, to distinguish them from the others they were termed He Kaine Diatheke, The New Covenant, or Testament, signifying the New agreement made between God and ALL mankind, the Gentiles as well as the Jews, the first or Old Covenant being made principally in favor of the latter; which new covenant was ratified by the incarnation, sufferings, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, as the succeeding collection of PRINCIPLES point out.

    The books containing this New Covenant or Testament are twenty- seven in number; and have been divided into four classes -- I. The GOSPELS. II. The ACTS of the Apostles. III. The EPISTLES. IV. The APOCALYPSE, or Revelation.

    The names of these books are the following: The Gospel of St. Matthew, of Mark, of Luke, and of John: The Acts of the Apostles, probably written by St. Luke. The Epistles of St. Paul: -- To the Romans -- First and Second to the Corinthians -- To the Galatians -- To the Ephesians -- To the Philippians -- To the Colossians -- First and Second to the Thessalonians -- First and Second to Timothy -- To Titus -- To Philemon -- and to the Hebrews. -- The Epistle of St. James. -- The First and Second Epistles of St. Peter. -- The First, Second, and Third of St. John. -- The Epistle of St. Jude. -- And the book of the Apocalypse, or Revelation; probably written by St. John, the author of the gospel and the three epistles mentioned above.

    Having given a general view of the Bible, as a collection of sacred writings, it may be necessary for the benefit of the young and inexperienced to give a more particular account of the contents or subject of each book, included in this collection.

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