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reotly and miraculously by God, to certain men whom he inspired with the doctrine it contains. Now, God must know himself, and that perfectly, and if he make a revelation thereof, he must portray himself exactly as he is. So it is maintained in all Christendom, that to learn the character of God, you are not to go to the World of Matter, or to the World of Man, but only to Revelation, which mirrors back to yon his exact image and likeness; giving you God, the whole of God, and nothing but God. Accordingly, it is said that the conception of God is the same in all parts of the Bible, howsoever old or new, without variableness or shadow of turning.
But when you come to look at the Bible itself, and study it part by part, and then put the results of your study into a whole, you find a remarkable difference in regard to the character of God himself, that depends on the general civilization and enlightenment of the times and the writers; the further you go back, the ruder all things become. Take the whole of Greek Literature, from Homer, eleven hundred years before Christ, to Anna Comnena, eleven hundred years after him, and there is a great change in the poetic representations of God. The same thing happens in the books of the Bible. They extend over twelve or thirteen hundred years; it may be, perhaps, fourteen hundred. Perhaps Genesis is the oldest book, and the Fourth Gospel the netvest. What a difference between the God in Genesis and that in the Fourth Gospel! Can any thoughtful man conceive that these two conflicting and various notions of God, could ever have come from the same source? Let any one of you read through the book of Genesis, and then the Fourth Gospel, and you will be astonished at the diversity, nay, the hostility even, between the God in the old book and the new one. Then, and at some subsequent time, look at the various books between the two, and you see what different notions of the Divine Being there are in this "infallible miraculous revelation of God."
Let us look at this great matter in some details, and to see just what the facts are, and make the whole matter as clear as noonday light, divide the Bible into its three great parts, the Old Testament, the Apocrypha, and the New Testament. In the Old Testament, Genesis may perhaps have been written in its present form, about a thousand years before Christ, though some scholars put it a few hundreds of years nearer our own time; at any rate it seems to have been compiled from ancient documents, some of them, perhaps, existing thirteen or fourteen hundred years before the birth of Christ, though others are clearly later. The book of Daniel, a spurious work, was evidently written between 170 and 160 years before Christ. In the Apocrypha, the book of Ecclesiasticus is, perhaps, the oldest work, and seems to have been written about 180 years before the birth of Jesus. The latest book is the Wisdom of Solomon, of uncertain date. In the New Testament, Paul's Epistle to the Galatians is the oldest, and was perhaps written 58 or 60 years after Christ; the Fourth Gospel, I think, is the last, and was written, perhaps, 120 or 140 years after Christ. There are seventy hooks in the canonical and apocryphal Bible. With the exception of fourteen prophets, Ezra, Nehemiah, David and Asaph—the two authors of some thirty or forty, perhaps fifty of the Psalms,—we know the name of no writer of the nine-and-thirty books of the Old Testament. Of the Apocrypha we know the name of the writer of the book of Ecclesiasticus, of him no more; of others not even that. In the New Testament it seems clear that Paul wrote the Epistle to the Galatians, that to the Eomans, the two to the Corinthians; but I doubt if we are certaiu who wrote any other of its twenty-seven books! Here, then, out of seventy biblical books, containing the writings of more than one hundred authors, we know the names of fourteen Hebrew Prophets, two Psalmists, two other writers in the Old Testament, one in the Apocrypha, one in the New Testament— twenty men! This fact that we know so little of the authorship of the biblical books is fatal to their authority as a standard of faith, but it does not in the smallest degree affect their value as religious documents, or as signs of the times when they were written. I don't care who made the vane on the steeple, if it tell which way the wind blows—that is all I want: I don't know who reared these handsome flowers; it matters not; their beauty and fragrance tell their own story. We know the time the documents came from, and they are monuments of the various ages, though we know not who made or put them together.
Now look at the conception of God in the first and last of these three divisions. Of course, in the brevity of a morning's sermon I can only select the most remarkable and characteristic things. I shall begin with the oldest part of the Old Testament, and end with the latest part of the New.
I. At first, it seems, the Hebrews believed in many gods, and no effort of the wisest and best men could keep the nation from falling back to idolatry for centuries. It was not until after the Babylonian Captivity, which began in 586 B. O, and ended about eighty years later, that the Israelites renounced their idolatry; then contact with monotheistic and civilized people corrected this vice.
At first, in the Bible, Jehovah appears as one God amongst others, and seems to have his council of gods about him. Next he is the special God of the descendants of Jacob, and called the God of Israel. By and by he is represented as stronger than any of the other gods; he can beat them in battle, though sometimes he gets worsted. Finally he is the only God, and has regard for all nations, though he still takes special care of the Hebrews, who are his chosen people. The book of Job, I think, is the only one in the Old Testament which makes it appear that God cares for all men alike, and this seems to be the only book in the Old Testament which was not written by a Jew. I think it is one of the latest books in that collection.
Now see what character is ascribed to God in the earliest documents of the Bible. The first five books of Moses are the oldest; they contain the most rude and unspiritual ideas of God. He is represented as a very limited and imperfect being. He makes the world in six days, part by part, one thing at a time, as a mechanic does his work. He makes man out of dust, in 11 his own image and likeness," breathes into him, and he becomes a living soul. God looks on the world, when he has finished it, and is pleased with his work, "and behold it was very good." But he is tired with his week's work, rests on the seventh day, and "was refreshed." The next week he looks at his work, to see how it goes on, and he finds that he must mend it a little. All animals rejoice in their mates, but thoughtful Adam wanders lone; he must have his Eve. So God puts him into a deep sleep, takes one of his ribs, makes a woman of it, and the next morning there is a help meet for him. But the new man and woman behave rather badly. God comes down and walks in the garden in the cool of the day, calls Adam and Eve, inquires into their behavior, chides them for their misconduct, and, in consequence of their wrong deed, he is very angry with all things, and curses the serpent, curses Eve, curses Adam, and even the ground. The man and woman have tasted of the Tree of Knowledge, and he turns them out of the garden of Eden lest they should also eat of the Tree of Life, and thereby live forever. By and by God repents that he made man, and "it grieved him at his heart," they behave so badly; so in his wrath he sweeps off all mankind, except eight persons; but after the flood is over, Noah offers a burnt offering, and God smells the sweet savor and is pacified, and says he will not again curse the ground; and he will never destroy the human race a second time.
To know what happens, he must go from place to place: thus he understands that the people are building a tower, and comes near enough to look at it, and, not liking the undertaking, he says, "Go to,now, let us go down and confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech;" he scatters them abroad, and they cannot build the tower, which was to reach up to heaven. Afterwards he hears bad news from Sodom and Gomorrah, that " their sin is grievous." He does not quite credit the tidings, and says, "I will go down now, and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come unto me, and if not, I will know." He talks with Abraham, who pleads for sparing the wicked city, beats Abraham in argument, and, "as soon as he had left communing with Abraham," "the Lord went his way."
God appears to men visibly—to Adam, Noah, Abraham, Jacob, and to Moses. He talks with all those persons in the most familiar way, in the Hebrew tongue: "The Lord talked to Moses face to face, as a man speaketh with his brother." He makes a bargain with Abraham, then with Jacob and his children. It is solemnly ratified, for good and sufficient consideration on both sides. It is for value received: God conveys a great quantity of land to Abraham and his posterity, and guarantees the title; they are to circumcise all their male children eight days after birth; that is the jocular tenure by which they hold Palestine. God swears that he will keep his covenant, and though sometimes sorely tempted to break it, he yet adheres to the oath:
"And though he promise to hia loss,
He dines with Abraham, coming in unexpected one day. Abraham kills a calf, "tender and good." Sarah makes cakes of fine meal, extemporaneously baked on the hearth. Butter and milk are set forth, and God, with two attendants, makes his dinner!
While Moses was travelling from Midian to Egypt, the Lord met him at a tavern, and "sought to kill him," but Moses's wife circumcised her son before God's eyes—so God let the "bloody husband" go.
He is partial, hates the heathen, takes good care of the Jews, not because they deserve it, but because he will not break his covenant. He is jealous; he writes it with his own finger in the ten commandments: "I, the Lord thy God, am a jealous God;" and again, "Jehovah, his name is jealous." He is vain also, and longs for the admiration of the heathen, and is dissuaded by Moses from destroying the Israelites when they had provoked him, lest the Egyptians should hear of it, and his fame should suffer.
Look at this account of one of God's transactions in Numb. xiv. "And the Lord said unto Moses, How long will this people provoke me? And how long will it be ere they believe me, for all the signs which I have showed among them? I will smite them with the pestilence, and disinherit them, and will make of thee a greater nation, and mightier than they." And Moses replied: "Then the Egyptians shall hear it, and they will tell it to the inhabitants of the land;" they will say, "Because the Lord was not able to bring the people into the land which he sware unto them, therefore he hath slain them in the wilderness;" "Pardon, I beseech thee, the iniquity of this people!" So, lest the Gentiles should think him weak, Jehovah rets the Hebrews off for a time, and instead of destroying millions of men at once, he spreads their ruin over several years. "In this wilderness they shall be consumed, and there they shall die!"
He is capricious, revengeful, exceedingly ill-tempered; he has fierce wrath and cruelty; he is angry even with the Hebrews, and one day says to Moses, "Take all the heads of the people (that is the leading men, the citizens of eminent gravity), and hang them up before the Lord against the sun."
Once God is angry with the people who murmur against Moses, and says to him, "Get you up from among this congregation, that I may consume them as in a moment!" Moses is more merciful than his God; he must appease this Deity, who is "a consuming fire." So he tells Aaron, "Take a censer, and put fire therein from off the altar, and put on incense, and go quickly unto the congregation, and make an atonement for them: for there is wrath gone out from the Lord; the plague is hegun!" Aaron does so, and the plague was stayed, though not till the fury of the Lord had killed fourteen thousand and seven hundred men! (Numb. xvi. 41-50). God hates some of the nations with relentless wrath; Abraham interferes, pleading for Sodom and Gomorrah, Moses for the Israelites, but nobody cares for the rest of the people, or burns incense for them, and so God says, "I will utterly put out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven." All the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Hivites, the Perizzites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, and the Jebusites, are to be rooted out— seven nations, each of which was more numerous than the Hebrews: "Thou shalt smite them, and utterly destroy them; thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor show mercy unto them," saith the Lord. The Canaanites and Moabites were kindred of the Hebrews, of the'same ethnologic tribe, but they could not enter into the congregation of the Lord unto the tenth generation!
This God—powerful, terrible, partial, jealous, often ill-tempered, wrathful, cruel, bloody—is to be worshipped with sacrifice, the blood of bulls and goats, with costly spectacles by the priesthood, who sacrifice to him in a special place, at particular times; and God gives the most minute directions how all this shall be done, but he is not to be served in any other way, at any other place.
Such seems to have been the conception of God with the leading minds of the Hebrews at the beginning of their national existence, or at the later day when the early books wore deceitfully compiled. Now see how much they outgrew it at a later day.
The highest Old Testament idea of God you find in the Proverbs and the later Psalms, which were written only four or five hundred years after the promulgation of those extraordinary documents which I have just quoted. In these God is represented as all-wise, and always present everywhere. You all remember that exquisite Psalm, the cxxxixth, "Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence?" There God is unchangeable; his eyes are in every place, beholding the evil and the good; no thought can be withheld from him. What grand and beautiful conceptions of God are there in Psalms ciii., civ., cvii.! So in almost the whole of that admirable collection, which is the prayer-book of Christendom to-day, and will be till some man with greater poetic genius, united with the tenderest piety, such as poets seldom feel, shall come, and, in the language of earth, sing the songs of the Infinite God.
There is a great change also in the manner of worship. At first it was a mere external act—offering sacrifice, a bull, a goat, a lamb; nay, God