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Nor is there, in our liberal times, any hostility to a female pen to be deprecated. The moral and intellectual sphere of women has been gradually enlarging with the progress of the benignant star of Christianity; but it was reserved for the nineteenth century to honour them beyond the circle of domestic life-to form them into societies, organized, active, and useful, in the most excellent pursuits. Still, let them ever remember, that whilst here they may be permitted to emit one invigorating ray,—there it is their duty and their privilege to shine.
CONVERSATIONS ON THE BIBLE.
CATHERINE. Have we not your promise, mother, that you would converse with us on the history of the Bible?
FANNY. I join you, Catherine, for conversation. It is to me more impressive than reading; and in this instance especially, it will diminish the trouble of travelling through so large a book.
MRS. M. Trouble, my dear daughter! It should be the greatest pleasure, as it is your unspeakable privilege, to possess, and be able to read that book. Your curiosity should be awakened to desire a more intimate knowledge of a record, which speaks truth without error, and opens to man his origin and destiny. You will find it not less entertaining than instructive.
FANNY. That is all very true, I confess. I never fail to find entertainment in the Bible as well as instruction. Yet whenever I undertake to read it regularly through, I am interrupted by many things which seem, at least to me, to be irrelevant. What I want, then, is a
synoptical elucidation of the story, with its general relation to the several parts of the Bible.
MRS. M. I will endeavour to give you such a view, though I may not accomplish it so well as 1 could desire. The subject is exceedingly interesting, for the Bible is not only the oldest book in existence, but it contains an account of the creation of all things, and a history of mankind from the beginning. To read it regularly through, however, is not the most advantageous manner of collecting the substance or design, for the books are not all placed in the order or time in which they were written, and in some instances they are so arranged as to interrupt the narrative; yet no part is irrelevant, as you have suspected, but every thing contributes to one ultimate end. You have been habituated to the reading of this invaluable work, so that in a very brief narrative of its contents, I must necessarily repeat a great deal that you already know.
CATHERINE. I often think I am acquainted with the whole; but when we are examined, we all discover our ignorance. A general view of the story and system, I think, would impress our memory and enable us better to understand the several parts; for you will admit that the Bible is a difficult book-even the import of the name is not obvious.
MRS. M. All that we are required to understand as a rule either of faith or of practice, is abundantly clear. Some doctrines are indeed mysterious, but as we can prove them to have proceeded from infinite wisdom, we may well yield our assent, although we are unable to reduce them to the level of our finite minds. They may be mysterious, because they are in their prehensible to us. There is, nevertheless, this advan
tage in the communication, that the curiosity which they excite, impels every faculty of the mind to the study of the Scriptures, and our faith in the divine veracity, moreover, is exercised. Were we more fully acquainted than we are, with the ancient manners of the people to whom they were originally addressed, many apparent difficulties would vanish. Many have already been dissipated by the arduous labours and indefatigable diligence of a succession of learned travellers and philosophers, who have explored the theatre of action, and examined the languages and customs. The permanency of these in that country, contributes effectually to the explanation of difficult passages of the sacred writings, which are found in reality to be obscured only by our ignorance. Places are at this moment identified, in many instances, by the same names, or by names very similar to those by which they were known in the earliest times, and relative narrations are elucidated by the manners and traditions of the inhabitants. As to the word Bible, your brother, though so many years younger than you are, has the advantage of you. I dare say he can tell you the meaning of the word.
CHARLES. The name is taken from a Greek word, which signifies a book.
MRS. M. Yes. The Bible is the Book; by way of eminence, indicating its superior excellence and authority. It consists of two parts, the OLD and the NEW TESTAMENTS, which are connected by a chain of predictions, many of them unquestionably fulfilled; the event and the prophecy thus mutually explaining each other.
The OLD TESTAMENT was chiefly written in the old Hebrew, or Samaritan language-and the NEW, with the
exception, perhaps, of the Gospel by Matthew, in Greek. They are subdivided into books, composed by different hands, and in different ages and countries; yet forming a whole, harmonious in all parts; because the writers were divinely taught, and their labours were all directed to one end, namely, to show the defection of man from the righteousness in which he was created, and the consequent forfeiture of eternal life: the total and uniform depravity of his heart from that moment, and the mode of his restoration by the unmerited favour of the Sovereign Creator and Disposer of all things-through a Redeemer.
Connected with, and illustrating this one grand design, the Bible gives us a history of the creation of the world, and the rise and fall of nations, the origin of languages and arts, and a variety of particulars, of which we have no other account which bears the credible marks of authenticity. The Bible consists of narrative and doctrines, precept and prophecy. The importance and sublimity of each would alone demonstrate their divine origin, if external evidence were deficient. But of this too there is enough; for the sacred book has undergone the scrutiny of enemies, and yet stands, and will ever stand, the triumphant monument of truth.
Prophecy is unquestionably the most obscure portion of the Scriptures; yet is it sufficiently plain to form the great palladium of their origin, the chief argument of their divinity. Its predictions are so far beyond the penetration of human intellect, and the accomplishment of these predictions are so multiplied and exact, as no art of man or combinations of men could achieve. The most hardened infidelity is compelled to refer both the prescience and the power, to something more than human,