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The value of the Holy Scriptures, as containing a revelation of divine mercy to man, cannot be too highly estimated. They claim for themselves the peculiar ability to lay open to sinful man the way of reconciliation to God, and under the influence of the Holy Spirit, to restore him to a knowledge and enjoyment of the divine favour. This claim is asserted in a manner so exclusive as almost to amount to arrogance in the mind of an unbeliever. It is declared that there is but one name under heaven by which salvation can be obtained, and that name is made known only here. It is asserted, as a matter of knowledge, that believers in this name are “of God," and that “the whole world” beside “ lieth in wickedness.” Such assertions as these, allowing no compromise with any other system of religion, establishing the revelations of the Bible upon the actual ruin of all other systems, are certainly repulsive to the mind which receives not the truth of God; but if they are true, are in the highest degree important, and worthy of consideration. The Bible assumes to itself the sole power of declaring the will of Almighty God to man. If this assumption be founded in truth, how immensely valuable to man does this sacred book become. But is it true? Is there no real knowledge of God among men, save that which is derived from hence? Are all who are ignorant of the Bible in darkness in regard to the character and government of their Creator ?
To substantiate this affirmation, I need not be led through the whole course of evidences which are furnished us for the inspiration of the Scriptures. This would be a more extensive undertaking than is here either necessary or desirable. In some of the first chapters of this little work, a sufficient reference to these evidences will be found. One aspect of proof will here only be noticed, to establish the important claims to exclusive authority which the Bible makes. It is the proof derived from known facts in the history of man. What has been, and what is still the condition of those nations who are strangers to the holy instructions of the Bible ? I answer, in regard to all knowledge of God, childishly ignorant; in regard to all obedience, to moral precepts, brutishly depraved. In former ages the human mind exhibited its power in all other trains of investigation, but “the world by wisdom knew not God.” In the various sciences and arts of human attainment, many who had never seen the revelations of the Bible became, and are to this day, monuments of the power of the mind of man.
But these very men, so mighty in inferior things, in the truths of religion were ignorant almost beyond belief. They were idolators, sometimes in the most debased shape. And it may be said, with perfect truth, that a child under the instruction of the Bible, has higher and more accurate conceptions of the character and will of God his Maker, than the most learned and the purest philosopher of ancient times. The two first chapters of the epistle to the Romans exhibit facts in reference to the condition of those who had not received the revelation of the Scriptures which their own histories entirely confirm. The wisest of mankind were literally without God in the world. There was no knowledge among them of any method of recon
ciliation to him, of what he required of them, or of what he was ready to do for them in a world to come.
While this was the ignorance of former ages, the darkness of modern nations who are destitute of the Bible is not less remarkable. Every traveller returns from heathen and Mahometan lands with a similar and sad detail of their ignorance and their vices. Darkness literally covers the earth, and gross darkness the people. These facts are notorious, and they should never be forgotten, when we estimate the value and importance of the Bible. The utmost investigation of the past and present condition of mankind brings back only increasing proof, that the assertion of the Scripture is true, that all have gone out of the right way; and it alone can furnish the light which shall guide them back to the way of peace. If there be another revelation from God, it is to this day concealed from the world, for whose benefit it was given. The whole state of mankind demonstrates, that they only know Him who have acquired that knowledge from this, his own word. And while the Bible makes this assertion, the world, in every aspect of its circumstances, acquiesces in its truth.
Such is the importance of this sacred book. He that hath it, hath the means of eternal life; he that hath it not, hath not life. No man can be wise unto salvation who has not derived his wisdom by the Holy Spirit from this
With these views of the importance of the Bible, it is highly gratifying to the Christian to witness the increased and increasing attention to its worth which marks the present age. The number of languages in which it has been distributed abroad, and the multitude of copies which have been circulated through the world within the few past years,
are truly astonishing. Bible societies are still going forward in this important work, and the circulation of the word of God is still enlarging. And we may look with more and more encouragement for the time when the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of God, as the waters cover the sea.
Personal attention to the instructions of the Bible has also much increased among the professed believers in its truth. It is made more a subject for attention and study, both in families, and schools, and churches, than it used to be in former years. Books designed to assist the young in its study have been multiplied. And maps and charts, prepared for the purpose, have increased the facility with which a knowledge of its contents is attained. A few years since, and the plan of a class of persons associated for the simple purpose of studying the Scripture had never been designed. Now Bible-classes are almost as numerous as the various congregations of believers in Christian truth. This growing attention to the word of God, and disposition to understand its communications, is an important feature of the present day. And it is in some degree to supply and satisfy the demand which it creates for information, that this present work, in connexion with others, was designed, and is now republished.
This little work will be found a useful companion for the attentive reader of the Scriptures. It embodies a large amount of such information as is most desirable for his purpose, and he will find much collected for him in its several chapters, that it would cost him much time and labour to gather for himself. To the members of Bibleclasses I would particularly recommend the present publication. In such associations for the study of the Scrip