« PredošláPokračovať »
natural religion, the creation of the universe by one holy and good and wise Being : relating distinctly how all those parts of it to which the heathens paid Divine worship, were in truth the work of God's hands. It proceeds to the origin of the patriarchal, Jewish, and Christian religion; the introduction of sin by the fall of our first parents, of which we experience the wretched effects. It recites the second peopling of the world, the relapse of mankind into wickedness, the choice of one family and people to preserve the knowledge of God, and to be as a light shining in a dark place, for the benefit of all about them that would turn their eyes and feet to the way of lays before us the laws given to this people; it recounts their history chiefly with regard to their moral and religious behaviour, and dwells on the character and actions of their most remarkable persons. It supplies us with admirable patterns of genuine piety in the Psalms, most virtuous instruction for the prudent conduct of life in the Book of Proverbs, for bearing afflictions in that of Job, for thinking justly of wealth, honour, pleasure, science, in Ecclesiastes. Then in the prophetical books, it gives us, together with the sublimest and worthiest ideas of God, and our duties towards Him, the most affecting denunciations of that private and public misery and ruin which will ever attend sin, whether cloaked by superstition or displayed in profaneness. And, along with all these things, it unfolds a series of predictions, reaching from the beginning of the Old Testament to the end, and growing from obscure and general, continually clearer and more determinate, concerning the appearance of a Divine person on earth, for the recovery of fallen man, and for the revival and propagation of true religion throughout the world. The books of the New Testament open to us the execution of this great design. The Gospels record his supernatural birth, his unspotted and exemplary life, his astonishing and gracious miracles, his pure and benevolent doctrine, his dying for our offences, and rising again for our justification, his mission of fit persons endued with the gifts of the Holy Spirit to teach all nations; his own ascension into Heaven, and sitting at the right hand of God, till He shall come to judge the quick and the dead. The Acts of the Apostles represent the wonderful success of their preaching, and the original foundation of the Catholic Church. The Epistles contain their admirable directions to clergy and laity; and the Revelation concludes with foretelling the state of Christianity, primitive, degenerate, and reformed, to the last ages. A grander, a more comprehensive, and more useful scheme of instruction than this cannot possibly be conceived.”
The illustration of the Holy Scriptures must, therefore, be considered an object of paramount importance to every devout Christian. The varied stores of information which have been accuinulating for ages in the numerous works relating to the civil and ecclesiastical history of ancient empires, the interesting and valuable researches of modern travellers, particularly those relating to Egypt, have for this purpose been carefully examined, and the results placed before the inquirer, combining and condensing at the same time the works of numerous writers on all subjects within the range of Biblical investigation.
In duly estimating the importance of critical and philological research, in clearing away some of the obscurities of the Scriptures, the Editor considers the Bible, in its structure, spirit, and character, to be essentially an Eastern book; and, therefore, the natural phenomena and moral condition of the East should be made largely tributary to its elucidation. In order to appreciate fully the truth of its descriptions, and the
accuracy, force, and beauty of its various allusions, it is indispensable that the reader, as far as possible, separate himself from his ordinary associations, and place himself by a kind of mental transmigration in the very circumstances of the writers. He must sit down in the midst of Oriental scenery,-gaze upon the sun, sky, mountains, and rivers of Asia,-go forth with the nomade tribes of the desert,-follow their flocks,—travel with their caravans,—rest in their tents,-lodge in their khans,-load and unloose their camels,—drink at their wells,-repose during the heat of noon under the shade of their palms,-cultivate the fields with their own rude implements, -gather in or glean after their harvests,-beat out and ventilate the grain in their open threshing-floors,—dress in their costume,-note their proverbial or idiomatic forms of speech, and listen to the strains of song or story, with which they beguile the vacant hours. In a word, he must surround himself with, and transpose himself into, all the forms, habits, and usages of Oriental life. In this way only can be catch the sources of their imagery, or enter into full communion with the genius of the sacred penmen.
True to the traditions of their ancestors, and impenetrable thus far to the spirit of innovation, their manners and customs, opinions and institutions, retain all the fixedness of their mountains, and flow on as unvarying as their streams.
Sir John Chardin states, “ In the East they are constant in all things; the habits are at this day in the same manner as in the preceding ages; so that we may reasonably believe, that in that part of the world the exterior form of all things (as their manners and customs) are the same now as they were two thousand years since, except in such changes as have been introduced by religion, which are nevertheless very inconsiderable.
Mr. Morier also says, “The manners of the East, amid all the changes of government and religion, are still the same; they are living impressions from an original mould, and at every step, some object, some idiom, some dress, or some custom of common life, reminds the traveller of ancient times, and confirms above all the beauty, the accuracy, and the propriety of the language and the history of the Bible.”
This testimony to the conformity, or rather identity, of the modern with the ancient usages of the East, is fully confirmed from other sources, as scarcely a traveller has set foot upon Oriental soil without professing himself to be at once struck with the remarkable coincidence between the picture of ancient manners, as drawn in the Sacred Writings, and the state of things which actually meets his eye. This stedfast resistance to the spirit of innovation and change, wbich thus remarkably distinguishes the nations of the East, will probably, in the Providence of God, remain unsubdued till it shall have answered all the important purposes of Biblical elucidation; when it will give way to the all-pervading, all-regenerating influence of the Bible itself, borne upon the bosom of a new tide of civilization and improvement, which shall, ere long, set in upon the East from the nations of Europe and the great continent of the West. “By a wonderful provision of Providence,” says M. Lamartine, “ who never creates wants without at the same time creating the means of satisfying them, it happens, that at the moment when the great crisis of civilization takes place in Europe, and when the new necessities resulting from it are revealing themselves, both to governments and people, a great crisis of an inverse order takes
place in the East, and a vast void is there offered for the redundancy of European population and faculties. The excess of life which is overflowing here, may and must find an outlet in that part of the world; the excess of force which overstrains us, may and must find employment in those countries, where the human powers are in a state of exhaustion and torpidity, where the stream of population is stagnant or drying up, where the vitality of the human race is expiring."
In the mean time, while the inevitable moral change and transformation that awaits the East lingers, it behoves us to make the most for all useful purposes of that state of society which still exists, but which ere long will have passed away. The Editor, therefore, has drawn largely from those rich and abundant stores which the spirit of modern enterprise has recently unfolded for the important purposes of Biblical illustration.
The tide of travel within a few years has turned remarkably to the East; men of intelligence and observation have made their way into every region on which the light of revelation originally shone; exploring its antiquities, mingling with its inhabitants, detailing its manners and customs, and displaying its physical, moral, and political circumstances. From these expeditions they have returned richly laden with the results of their industry and the fruits of their patient research.
Nor has the progress of our knowledge during the present century, with respect to the institutions, manners, and customs of the ancient Egyptians, been less remarkable. In this department, the labours of Young, Denon, Champollion, Cailliaud, Belzoni, and Wilkinson, have opened a new and interesting path to the Biblical student, developing a rich mine of information in reference to that extraordinary people, and illustrative of the Mosaic records.
In some respects, the plan upon which this work has been constructed differs, it is hoped advantageously, from that of preceding publications of its class. Thus Scripture biography, which usually occupies a large space in Bible Dictionaries, is here treated of in a brief and concise manner, giving only the characteristic outlines, except when difficulties occur which require to be cleared up. The ancient history of the places or nations mentioned has also been given but briefly, as the best, and frequently the only, source of information is open to all, and a series of chronological tables, with which the work concludes, supersedes the necessity of a variety of details; but in those cases where it appeared necessary to bring down the narrative to modern times, due diligence has been used in procuring the materials for as ample statements as the limits of the work would allow. The space gained has been devoted mainly to the topography of the Bible, a subject hitherto little cultivated, and beset by difficulties, which, however, are daily lessening. In some cases it has been found impossible, at present, to arrive at perfectly satisfactory conclusions, yet the Editor may truly affirm that no diligence, no research, no comparison of statements, no sisting of authorities, has been spared in the pursuit of truth. For the purpose of illustration, numerous wood-cuts have been given, carefully selected from trustworthy sources. Some will be found to exhibit the costume of the modern Orientals, by which many passages of Scripture will be explained at a glance; others are copied from the paintings in the Egyptian monuments, and, beside serving the same purpose as the former, present to our view a variety of highly-interesting particulars concerning the political and social state of the land of the Pharaohs; others offer correct
representations of the present aspect of some of the most renowned cities of ancient days, or of less celebrated places connected with Scripture history; some preserve memorials of those that have perished, in coins, medals, and gems; and lastly, there will be found a variety of specimens of the botany and zoology of Southern Europe, Egypt, Syria, and Asia Minor, in cases where the objects mentioned in the Sacred Writings can be satisfactorily identified.
Upon another matter, too, a difference will be remarked. Many infidel objections to the Scriptures have been raised, either through misapprehension or plausible misrepresentation of the sacred text, and though these objections have been repeatedly shown to be utterly futile, they still maintain their ground, because the eminent men who have answered them have but too frequently addressed themselves only to the learned, and have interpreted a difficult passage in Hebrew or Greek by another in Latin, forgetting that those with whom the objections in question are most likely to have weight, are ignorant of all languages but their own. To remedy this evil, the Editor has taken care, while giving the opinions of the most learned commentators upon
difficult passages, to render the matter intelligible to all, by presenting the result alone.
With a view to economy of space, a number of names occurring but seldom in the Scriptures, and also a variety of chronological tables and other documents, have been reserved for the Appendix, where they will be found given in the most compendious form; and with the like purpose of keeping the work within moderate limits, the custom of affixing the authorities to each article has been deviated from, the space which the constant and useless repetition of well-known names would occupy being very considerable. Instead of this, a brief Sketch of the Progress of Biblical Illustration and a Bibliographical Catalogue will be found in the Appendix; of which the first will indicate the gradual progress of Scriptural Illustration, and the second, while pointing out at a glance the principal authorities consulted, will also serve to indicate to the Biblical student a number of works of merit by which his inquiries may be assisted.
Whilst labouring to give to the Bible CYCLOPÆDIA a comprehensive character at least equalling any former work devoted to the illustration of the Holy Scriptures, the Editor's especial attention has been directed to the all-important subject of the fulfilment of Prophecy, on which the researches of modern tourists have poured a flood of light. It is perfectly astonishing to one who has never examined the subject, to find how literally and minutely the prophetic declarations of Scripture have been fulfilled. Indeed, it is impossible for the most determined infidel carefully to examine and weigh this subject, and not be forced to admit that the Bible is Divine; or, in the words of Bishop Newton, “he is reduced to the necessity, either to renounce his senses, deny what he reads in the Bible, and what he sees and observes in the world, or acknowledge the truth of prophecy, and, consequently, of Divine revelation.” A writer in the Quarterly Review justly observes, “We confess that we have felt more surprise, delight, and conviction, in examining the accounts which the travels of Burckhardt, Mangles, Irby, Legh, and Laborde, have so recently given of Judæa, Edom, &c., than we have ever derived from any similar inquiry. It seems like a miracle in our own times. Twenty years ago, we read certain portions of the prophetic Scriptures with a belief that they were true, because other similar passages had, in the course of ages, been proved to be so, and we had an indistinct notion that
all these (to us) obscure and indefinite denunciations had been, we know not very well when or how, accomplished; but to have graphic descriptions, ground plans, and elevations, showing the actual existence of all the heretofore vague and shadowy denunciations of God against Edom, does, we confess, excite our feelings, and exalt our confidence in prophecy to a height that no external evidence has hitherto done. Here we have bursting upon our age of incredulity, by the labours of accidental, impartial, and sometimes incredulous (infidel) witnesses, the certainty of existing facts, which fulfil what were considered the most vague and least intelligible of the prophecies. The value of even one such contemporaneous proof is immense."
In the execution of the task he has undertaken, it has been the aim of the Editor everywhere to exhibit the Bible as Scripture given by inspiration of God, not as mere human composition. He has, therefore, earnestly desired to avoid that spirit of error which has, unhappily, too much prevailed of late on the Continent, which, by arrogating to itself the claim of superior sagacity and learning, has sought to reduce everything in the Sacred Volume to the level of its own limited views and narrow conceptions, denying or explaining away the miracles, and seeking thereby to lower our reverence for the Word of God, and Divine things in general. Such views and principles, usually classed under the term Neology, will, it is trusted, be found to receive no countenance in the pages of this work.
Having thus briefly stated what has been intended and attempted in the construction of the Bible CYCLOPÆDIA, the Editor feels himself called upon to state what has not been either contemplated or professed, much less aimed at, in the discharge of his undertaking.
He has not usurped the duties of the divine, by presuming to enter into theological disquisitions, nor has he undertaken the advocacy of particular doctrines, or entered into the discussion of questions upon which differences of opinion exist in the Protestant community. These subjects are most properly in the hands of learned and able persons, well qualified, by their studies and their stations, to do far greater justice to such various and important matters than he could hope to achieve. His undertaking to the public was to produce a digest of the civil and natural history, geography, and general literary information connected with the Sacred Writings; to this end he has laboured diligently and incessantly-with what success it will be for the reader to decide.
With the views and intentions herein expressed, the BIBLE CYCLOPÆDIA is submitted to the Public, in the hope and belief that it will be found to contain much collateral information that will prove both useful and instructive in the study of the HOLY SCRIPTURES.