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house; when I begin, I will also make an end. For I have told him, that I will judge his house for ever, for the iniquity which he knoweth; because his sons made themselves vile, and he restrained them not. And therefore I have sworn unto the house of Eli, that the iniquity of Eli's house shall not be purged with sacrifice nor offering for ever."* In short, we may notice throughout the Old Testament everywhere, the indications of that parental tuition in the knowledge of their national religion, which seems to have been quite a habit and a principle among the Jews. That "which we have heard and known, and our fathers have told us, we will not hide from their children, shewing to the generation to come the praises of the Lord, and his strength, and his wonderful works that he hath done. For he established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children; that the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born, who should arise and declare them to their children."f There was thus what might be termed a general family habit among the Jews, which made them all the more effectual keepers of the divine oracles—this being one great purpose of their selection by God as His peculiar people. It formed a great security, not for the diffusion alone through the innumerable and unseen privacies of domestic life, but along with this for the certain preservation of their sacred writings—no decree of extermination, by the fiercest persecutors, being able to reach all the copies of a work so spread and multiplied, both within Judea and beyond the confines of it. It is true, there were seasons of general defection; but, in many instances, the books would remain in families, while the families themselves had fallen away from the worship and observation of their forefathers. And besides, there never was a universal defection. There were no less than seven thousand true worshippers, at the time when Elijah thought that he stood alone in his adherence to the ancient faith; and to them their scriptures would be all the dearer, as the choicest relicts which remained to them of the religion they loved—treasures not the less precious in their eyes, if, as in the days of cruel Antiochus, they were hidden treasures, because it was death to be found in the possession of them. Even then, when the book had so far disappeared from the Jewish court as to be there unknown—insomuch that to have found a single copy of it in the days of Josiah was tantamount to a discovery*—even then, it must, though lurking in privacy, have existed in great numbers among the recesses of Jewish society: And this forms our first general argument for the Hebrew scriptures which were acknowledged as such in the days of our Saviour,
* I Samuel iii. 11—14.
f Psalm lxxviii. 3—6. See further in confirmation of this argument—Exod. xii. 2G, 27. Deut. iv. 10; v. 29; xii. 28; xxix. 29; xxx. 2; xxxi. 13. Josh. ir. 6; xxii. 24—28. 1 Kings ii. 4; viii. 25; ix. 6. Psalm lxxxix. 30; cxv. 14; cxxxii. 12. Prov. xxii. 6 ; xxix. 15. Joel i. 3.
being the identical scriptures that had been acknowledged all along, throughout the successive generations of the children of Israel.
7. But again, never was such an apparatus instituted in any nation for the maintenance of a religious polity, as among the Jews. A whole tribe was set apart for things sacred; and we may be assured, that a principal care, would be those sacred writings of which they were the special depositaries and guardians. Never did there exist such a number of professional men, whose appropriate business it was to watch over the books of their faith—such an agency for their transcription, so as to multiply their copies, whether for selling them out or for teaching them to the people. In like manner, as each father was the constituted instructor of his own family—so were their priests and Levites, everywhere, who acted the part of instructors to the population at large. And accordingly, we read of this as their peculiar employment, in those days of reform and restoration— when, after the suspension of these their ordinary engagements, they were again set to their accustomed work—marking what the established habit was, in good and peaceful and prosperous times. In the days of Jehoshaphat, we are told, that "he sent Levites and priests; and they taught in Judah, and had the book of the law of the Lord with them, and went about throughout all the cities of Judah, and taught the people."* We read of a similar great reform in the time of good king Hezekiah ;* and also of Josiah, who, after having made discovery in the temple of the book o; the law. took care that its contents should be made known to the people. "And the king went up into the house of the Lord, and all the men of Judah, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and the priests, and the Levites, and all the people, great and small: and he read in their ears all the words of the book of the covenant that was found in the house of the Lord."f And the like was done by Ezra on the return of the people from the Babylonish captivity, who, from a pulpit of wood, read the book of the law of Moses to a large assembly of men and women; and appointed priests and Levites who might cause the people to understand the law—and "so they read in the book, in the law of (»od, distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading."$ We uu^ht well imagine that with so large an ecclesiasWvid body, there must have existed an immense u umber of safe and authentic repositories for the vwted writings; and, though it is only of one x«\'h iepository that we are distinctly told in „ '.;>:iiu\ yet the intelligent reader will not fail to •\v\VWe\ by the history of that single instance, v-» poilVvt » security we have for the incorrupt
* 2 Chron. xrii. 8, 9.
,- - - > v f 2 Chron. xxxiv. 30.
\ K-» beeu well observed on this passage that
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Ve people requested Ezra to pro
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) j but that he would bring forth
A*cA Mtf Lord had commanded to
transmission of the Old Testament, from the time of its original composition to the days of our Saviour. We mean the deposition of the book of the law of Moses in or beside the ark of the testimony.* "And Moses wrote this law, and delivered it unto the priests the sons of Levi, which bare the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and unto all the elders of Israel. And Moses commanded them saying, At the end of every seven years, in the solemnity of the year of release, in the feast of tabernacles, when all Israel is come to appear before the Lord thy God in the place which he shall choose, thou shalt read this law before all Israel in their hearing. Gather thy people together, men, and women, and children, and the stranger that is within thy gates, that they may hear, and that they may learn and fear the Lord your God, and observe to do all the words of this law; and that their children, which have not known any thing, may hear, and learn to fear the Lord your God, as long as ye live in the land whither ye go over Jordan to possess it." "And it came to pass when Moses had made an end of writing the words of this law in a book, until they were finished, that Moses commanded the Levites, which bare the ark of the covenant of the Lord, saying, Take this book of the law, and put it in the side of the ark of the covenant of the Lord
* It has been much disputed, both among Jewish doctors and Christian fathers, whether the book was deposited inside or outside the ark—and whether in a chest close to the ark of the covenant, or in a little cell annexed to it. Our own inclination is for assigning it an exterior place, within the Holy of Holies, but without the ark of the covenant.