DAILY SCRIPTURE READINGS
Volume One - Section two
Genesis vi. 1-8. The third verse admits of various
interpretations ; but I am not aware of any valid reason for abandoning that
sense of it which seems the most obvious. My spirit will not always strive with
human perversity and wilfulness - a most important lesson, and in harmony with
many other declarations in Scripture. I should have mentioned that the
alliances spoken of in the second verse were probably intermarriages between
the two great classes of opposite character in the human family, and whereof we
have two specimens among the descendants of Cain and Seth. The declaration of
the third verse may have been long anterior to that of the seventh. The
increasing wickedness of the earth, as stated in the fifth verse, may have been
the effect of the withdrawal of God's Spirit. I take the statement of the sixth
verse as given. I am not fond of explaining away, more than is clearly
required, all that is said of God when such attributes are ascribed to Him as
belong to man. The literality of human eyes and human hands may well be
dispensed with, but I will not be positive in denying Him those affections
which are ascribed to Him in the sixth verse, though these be denominated human
also. Let me at least see in this passage God's utter and irreconcilable
antipathy to moral evil.
9-22. "Enoch walked with God," and God translated him to heaven. "Noah walked with God," and God saved him from the destruction that came upon all flesh. The Flood was miraculous ; but it is remarkable that God is sparing of miracles, and seems to prefer the ordinary processes of nature, if equally effectual, for the accomplishment of His purposes. He might have saved Noah and his family by miracles; but he is not prodigal of these, and so He appointed that an ark should be made to bear up the living cargo, which was to be kept alive, on the surface of the waters ; and not only so, but He respects the laws of the animal physiology, as He did those of hydrostatics, in that He put them by pairs into the ark, male and female, to secure their transmission to after ages, and food was stored up to sustain them during their long confinement. In short, He dispenses with miracles when these are not requisite for the fulfilment of His ends ; and He never dispenses with the ordinary means, when these are fitted and at the same time sufficient for the occasion.
GENESIS 7: 1-10. Mark here, as in many places of the
Bible, the free and fearless ascription of a righteousness to Noah of which we
should most naturally and readily conceive that it was a personal
righteousness, and in consideration of which God saved him from the flood that
came upon the world of the ungodly. This should not be explained away, as it
often is by an ultra and over-anxious orthodoxy. It looks to us a mystery that
God should have created animals for which there is such a loathing on our part
- doleful creatures and unclean - the very sight of which fills us with
aversion and disgust - the rat - the toad - the millepede insects, etc. It
enhances this feeling when we read the direction given to Noah for the
perpetuation of all these generations. The unclean as well as the clean were
preserved for transmission to the world as it now is. There must be a purpose
in all this, though as hidden from our comprehension as the origin of evil.
Enough that we are wise up to the lights of experience and Scripture. Let us
not at present aspire beyond these.
11-24. Geologists are now converging to the opinion that there are no sensible vestiges of the Deluge upon the earth; and Dr. Fleming, who is of this opinion, contends also for its consistency with the truth of the Scriptural deluge, in that it may have been brought upon the world without the alteration of any of its sensible features. And certain it is, that if the water from beneath came by openings in the bottom of the sea, or by the fountains of the great deep being broken up, one can imagine an elevation of level from this cause without any such disturbance on the surface of the earth, as might affect aught that is visible either in its islands or continents. Wilkie the painter told me that the experiment was tried with a dove from a balloon, and that it returned after it had been let out, and that an experiment was intended with a raven. I have not heard if the latter trial has actually been made - but this belongs properly to the next section.
GENESIS 8: 1-14. - The stopping of the fountains of the
deep, through which there was an efflux of water from beneath, would restrain
the further increase of the Flood from that quarter, but unless there were
other openings made by which a reflux could be effected, one does not see how
the decrease of the Flood can be accounted for. The wind might take up all that
had been deposited from above, but this alone would not effect a subsidency of
the waters to their former level. The sending forth of the dove, her finding no
rest for the sole of her foot, her return to the ark, the projection of the
hand through the window to pull her in, her second mission and return with the
olive leaf, altogether make up a very graphical representation. I may here
record the strong interest I feel in these Scripture histories, enhanced I have
no doubt by the recollections of my boyhood, convincing me that it is a most
useful education for the juvenile mind to be seasoned and made familiar
15-22. There is an insight, it seems to me, afforded by the twenty-first verse into the mind of God. I cannot say that He relents for what He has done; but I feel to be most interesting His announcement of the principle on which He determines not to do it over again: "For the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth." As if He looked all the more indulgently to man, because sin was the fatality of his birth. I will not make this consideration the ground either of a charge upon God, or of a palliation to man. But surely it may well be made the ground of an enhanced confidence in the imputed righteousness of Christ. If I suffer because of Adam's transgression, though I partook not therein personally or by any act of my own, let me hesitate no longer to draw on the obedience of Christ - when so fully bidden and warranted to do so - though I had no hand whatever in that obedience. As by the disobedience of one came condemnation, so by the righteousness of one comes justification. The promise that there shall not be another flood, lasts " while the earth remaineth." That the earth did remain after as before the Flood, we have reason to believe; but it will not remain should a geological catastrophe by fire upheave a new surface for the dry land of the next era. . The consummation of the present system, as intimated in 2 Peter iii. 7, does not frustrate a promise which holds good only during the continuance of that system. There will be no flood between this and that day when the earth and the works therein shall be burnt up.
GENESIS ix. 1-17. The extension of the grant as to food
from the fruits of the earth (Gen. i. 29, 30) to the bodies of animals, is
evidence that the use of animal food would have been unlawful before the Flood
; and the restriction here given as to the blood, without any formal extension
of the grant to it afterwards, proves that in the eating of blood we but follow
the unexpressed tradition of the Church, in like manner as we observe the first
day of the week for our Sabbath. For this restriction of the blood, so far from
being cancelled, was repeated in the decree of the Council at Jerusalem. Yet
the general declaration of Paul upon meats, as well as the general spirit of
Christianity, favours the abolition of this prohibitory enactment.
The rainbow, as a memorial of the Covenant, might not necessarily imply the establishment of any new optical law. The appearance of the rainbow indicates generally a departing rain; and at all events is only seen when the sky is partially overclouded. This phenomenon betokens at the time a rain not universal, and most frequently in the act of departure or towards its approaching termination.
18-29. Those general prophecies which present a sketch or outline of their subject without its details, and which were of the kind delivered first and earliest, or in the most ancient times - are in keeping with their greater distance of view, or greater remoteness from the observer of the field of contemplation. We have here the future family of mankind regarded in three great divisions - the descendants of the three sons of whom the whole earth was to be overspread; and the prescience which foretold these, though it wants that evidence of being supernatural which lies in the particularity of its intimations, has more of that evidence which lies in the wider interval of time between the delivery and its fulfilment. The curse laid on Canaan, the blessing associated with Shem, the power and the enlargement assigned to Japheth - these have all their antitypes or corresponding realities in the present day. The posterity of Ham suffered extirpation or dreadful slaughter under the hands of the children of Israel; and still exhibit all the features of a wretched and degraded race in enslaved Africa. The posterity of Shem were signalized by the special revelations of heaven ; and out of them was selected the nation in whom all the families of the earth are to be blest, the highly ennobled Jews - now under a long and dreary reverse of fortune, but still the destined instruments of a great and glorious regeneration that is coming. The posterity of Japheth - who fill Europe and have overspread America, and in the regions of Eastern Asia are now dwelling in the tents of Shem - present the third and last attestation to the truth of the utterance recorded at the close of this chapter, and so to the prophetic inspiration which gave it forth.
GENESIS 10: 1-5. I understand the isles of the Old
Testament to be the countries on the other side of their sea; or looking
northwestward, to be Europe both insular and continental. This quarter of the
world then is ascribed to the descendants of Japheth ; and attempts have been
made to find out a connexion between the names of its various countries and the
names of his sons. The only conjectures of the sort which I at present
recollect are those by which Kittim is associated with Chittim; and that again
with the Cetae ; and by a wide enough transition, though perhaps by some
intermediate steps, with Macedonia. Elishah has also been associated with the
Ellenes or Greeks. There may be other and better derivations - some of them, no
doubt, very fanciful; yet not wholly without evidence or probability either.
And here it occurs to me to say, that whereas we are apt to look on these dry
catalogues of names as exceptions to the worth, perhaps even as objections
against the divinity of the Bible - for aught we know there may be embosomed in
such hieroglyphics, if they may be so termed, a precious mine for the
exploration both of historians and travellers. See an example of this in the
Preface to Forster on Mahometanism, where, from the Scriptural nomenclature
alone, both of men and countries, he seems conclusively to have made out the
demonstration of an identity between the present Arabians and the descendants
6-20. The children of Ham were far from restricted to Africa. The aboriginal inhabitants of the land of Canaan were his descendants; and if they were the Nineveh and Babel of the Euphrates, which stand associated here with this account of them, they must have spread themselves a good way east in Asia. One can understand how the chief of hunters might become chief in communities and nations at that period - the extirpation of wild beasts being a great public service - besides its being a vocation eminence in which was founded on the same qualifications which fitted for the prowess and the stratagems of war. But Nimrod is said to have been a mighty hunter before the Lord. It is uncertain whether this is to be understood in a good or bad sense. In Genesis xxvii. 7, Isaac proposed to bless his son "before the Lord;" and in Gen. vi. 11, it is said that the earth also was corrupt "before God." The Bible tells us nothing which can throw light on this question; and it is possible that neither of these alternatives may be meant. The expression may simply mark the great historical importance of Nimrod and his exploits - as being in the special eye of Providence with a view to the further evolutions of that administration which has respect unto the world, as, in the language of Bishop Butler, God's world.
21-32. I believe that a greater number of connexions can be traced, and these more satisfactorily, between the names of persons and countries among the children both of Ham and Shem than those of Japheth. Of Ham we have Mizraim and Canaan and Sidon and Heth - of Shem we have Elam and Asshur, and Aram and Uz, and Eber and Sheba. It is remarkable that Shem, at the outset of his genealogy, is signalized as the father of all the children of Eber, whose name I understand gave rise to the appellation of the Hebrews. Did the confusion of tongues take place in the days of Peleg, when the earth was divided ? It does not follow that it was divided by the formal consent of mankind, or by a governing power which presided in equity over the allotments. It may have been divided by the mere dispersion which took place while Babel was a building, and God scattered them abroad - leaving each party to fix on their own territory, to which they would by simple possession soon acquire a possessory right; and this would confer on each, and that right speedily, as firm and just a claim to their respective settlements as if these had been legislatively assigned to them.
GENESIS 11: 1-9. The long period of human life would secure
the stability of the first language - so that we are not to wonder at there
being still but one language at the end of two thousand years. Etymologists
have tried to discredit the confusion which took place at Babel, by pointing
out common words in the various languages of the world. But it needed not that
there should be a total diversity in order to stop the channels of a mutual
understanding among men. A change in a small proportion of the principal words
that were most necessary for the purposes of society, and therefore the most
frequently used, would suffice for putting an end to all useful converse, by
the constant blunders and cross-purposes that would ensue. That was certainly a
most stupendous miracle which led to the dispersion of mankind over all the
countries of the world ; and whereby, as they receded from the family which God
signalized by his special revelations, they were all the more apt to fall away
from the true religion. But there was another miracle equally stupendous, and a
miracle of tongues too, by which the people of all various languages were
recalled to the Faith from which they had departed. By the one miracle, each
tribe, understanding only their own speech, were secluded from the rest of
mankind, because saving the words used by themselves, they understood no
languages. By the other miracle, the Apostles and first teachers of
Christianity were made to understand all languages. By the first, God raised up
barriers for the segregation of the species into distinct communities. By the
second, He threw down these barriers, that the bearers of the heavenly message
might range freely over the world, and gather out of all nations the family of
10-26. According to the Hebrew chronology, Shem must have lived down to the days of Jacob. I may here state a singular error of Mr. Cunningham in his scientific chronology, who founds on the number of intervals between one event and another which are divisible by 7 or its powers. He does not consider the immense number of intervals furnished by a given number of chronological events. Eight hundred such would furnish =319600 intervals - whereof by the doctrine of probabilities there is the chance of 45657 being divisible by 7, and 6522 being divisible by 49 or 72 and 932 by 343 or 7s. And yet still he tells us of a recondite wisdom in the whole scheme of Providence and Prophecy, because of so many of the numbers of years between one event and another being divisible by 7 or the powers of 7. It were of importance, ere we gave in to his conclusion, first to ascertain how many should be so divisible by the doctrine of chances, and to see whether there is any marvellous excess over that number. There is something grotesque in his fixing on some such interval as that between the death of Arphaxad and the league of Smalcalde, and then telling us that because of its being divisible by 7 or 72, there must be some deep-laid scheme of Providence in all this, when so very many of these chronological intervals must have this property. The same may be said of his Timal Fractions.
27-32. Notwithstanding that Shem still lived in the world, and might have upheld in it, we might imagine, the knowledge and worship of the true God - there must have been a lapse by this time, if not into idolatry, at least into polytheism. For it is said by Joshua, xxiv. 2, that the fathers, among whom was Terah, "served other gods."
GENESIS. XII. I feel now as if entering on the daylight of
history, and emerging from the obscurity of its earliest dawn. And I may here
record the effect of old associations with the Bible narratives which are now
before me. I feel quite sure that the use of the Sacred Dialogues as a
sohool-book, and the pictures of Scripture scenes which interested my boyhood,
still cleave to me and impart a peculiar tinge and charm to the same
representations when brought within my notice. Perhaps, when I am mouldering in
my coffin, the eye of my dear Tommy* may light upon this page, and it is
possible that his recollections may accord with my present anticipations of the
effect that his delight in the Pictorial Bible may have in endearing still more
to him the - holy word of God. May it tell with saving effect on his
conscience, in whatever way it may affect his imagination ; and let him so
profit by its sacred lessons of faith and piety, that after a life of Christian
usefulness on earth we may meet in Heaven, and rejoice for ever in the presence
of our common Father.
* His grandson, Thomas C. Hanna, then in his sixth year.
November 1. GENESIS 12: 1-9. The Gospel promises in the Old
Testament become more distinct when they converge and concentrate on the
families of those who live in later ages of the world, and through whom the
Messiah was to come - thereby defining and limiting His appearance within a
more limited section of mankind than before - as from Adam to Abraham, from
Abraham to Judah, from Judah to David. What a movement in advance, for example,
from the obscure generality of the promise made to our first parents, to the
announcement that in Abram should all the families of the earth be blessed -
the announcement, of that day which Abram saw afar off, and was glad. The first
call of Abram comprehends two promises by God; first, that he would show him
the land of his future posterity - second, that in that posterity all the earth
was to be blessed. Abram obeyed in the confidence, that as God said so it would
be done; and this he did in the exercise of a simple faith. God did appear to
Abram. He did make good the first or nearest promise, and this would confirm
his hope of the second fulfilment - superadding the assurance of experience to
the assurance of faith.
10-20. The mystery of this passage lies in the deceit of Abram being recorded without any animadversion on the evil of it. He is called the father of the faithful; and all true disciples walk in the footsteps at least of his faith. But the trait that is given of him here is surely not for our imitation. There are other examples of the same thing held forth in Scripture, and without the reprobation that we might have expected - as with Jacob, and David, and several others; examples that are fitted to stagger those who reflect not sufficiently on the incapacity of our narrow faculties with their limited range to pronounce on all the objects and history of the divine administration. Though morality in the abstract is unchangeable, it looks as if in the concrete there was a progressive morality from one era to another - an accommodation to the ruder and earlier periods of humanity, distinctly intimated by our Saviour when He tells of polygamy being allowed before the times of the Gospel, because of the hardness of their hearts. It is worthy of remark, that there is no example, as far as I can recollect, of any deception or imperfect morality of any sort being recorded of Christian disciples in the New Testament without a prompt and decided condemnation - as in the case of Paul rebuking Peter for his ambidextrous policy between Jews and Gentiles. In those cases given in the Old Testament, where God is represented as giving a specific order to that which without this express sanction would have been questionable or wrong, we feel no difficulty, and think that Butler's explanation thereof might well be accepted as altogether satisfactory.
GENESIS 13 - I have never entered much on the study of Scripture characters - though I doubt not much might be gathered this way both for the purpose of a moral influence on one's own mind, and also so as to make out a dramatic consistency in the statements given and the traits exhibited of certain individuals, which would furnish an internal evidence for the Bible. We may here remark Abram's moderation and love of peace - a grace of temper that is of habitual residence, and is distinguished in this respect from the dereliction into which he is recorded to have fallen in the last chapter, and to which he may have been precipitated by the violence of his fears. It is well to make a study of the virtue which ennobled the saints of other days ; and it is also well that we know of their infirmities, both to save us from despair, and to teach us humility and watchfulness. I have a strong apprehension that the promise given to Abram is yet to have a more complete fulfilment than it has ever yet obtained. The fortunes of the Jews make up a leading-line in the chart of history; and there is something sublime when one looks back to the antiquity of their origin, and forward, in the expectations which Prophecy inspires, to their ulterior destination.
GENESIS 14: 1-16. - At this rudimental stage in the history
of the world, the kingdoms were small; and those who governed them, though
dignified by the name of kings, were very petty chiefs. We recollect an infidel
jest of Voltaire's on the insignificance of the district of Judea - from whence
he would insinuate how unlikely it is that a place so limited should have been
the real theatre of transactions and events which, if authentic, are far the
most important that ever took place for the destinies of our species. There is
something in our view highly un-philosophical in such an observation - as if
the same play of essential interests and feelings, and the same manifestation
of highest principle, the same lessons, the same moral, could not be as
effectually exhibited within the limits of a narrow as within those of the
widest materialism. There is no country which, apart from revelation, has
bequeathed greater examples or done more for the civilization of our race than
ancient Greece - yet look to the smallness of its territory, and see how all
that is greatest and most imposing in secular history, was condensed there
within a space far more contracted than was the land of Judea or the kingdom of
Scotland, which last may, in her Church contests and by the doings of her
Church, give forth lessons which may influentially and most importantly tell
through the whole of Christendom.
17-24. Of all the opinions which I know on the subject of Melchizedek, I prefer that which describes him as simply being without a genealogy - that record of such estimation among the Jews as deciding the tribeship of each individual in their nation, and more especially their right if they possessed it to the peculiar privileges and immunities of the tribe of Levi. Here was a priest who had no such document in his favour, no recorded ancestry ; and as such a priesthood as he exercised did not originate with the temporary appointment of the Mosaic dispensation - so neither would it expire with the termination of it. It seems an evidence that the light of a substantial Christianity shone upon our earth in the patriarchal ages ; and we might also gather from this passage a warrant for the typification of much that we read of in the Old Testament. Nor can we doubt from the name of Melchizedek as a King of Righteousness, and the name of his kingdom which makes him also to be the King of Peace - that he prefigured a higher Priest made after his own order, not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life - a Priest upon His throne who harmonized peace of earth with the glory of that law which He magnified and made honourable, and so with glory to God in the highest - through whom Mercy met with Truth, and Peace and Righteousness have kissed each other. Abram's honourable conduct in reference to the spoil is a noble subject for a moral lesson from the pulpit - the lesson of fidelity in littles.
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