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indulged in the vilest impurities, to the scandal of their profession, and to the destruction of their souls.
The Antichrists mentioned by the apostle, 1 John ii. 18. were certain heretical teachers, whose principles contradicted the true doctrines of the gospel. They were called Ebionites, from one Ebion; Cerinthians from one Cerinthus; and Gnostics, from gnostis, a Greek word signifying knowledge. Simon Magus, Acts viii. 9–24. is said to have been the parent of these heresies. It is difficult to ascertain precisely what doctrines these heretics taught; some making a distinction between Jesus and the Christ; some denying the divine nature of our Lord, and others his humanity; some rejecting his vicarious atonement, and all disregarding his holy precepts. To refute and destroy these pernicious absurdities, the apostle John was inspired to write his gospel and epistles, testifying the proper Godhead, the real manhood, and the propitiatory sacrifice of our lord and Saviour. John i. 1–3. 14. 1 John i. 1,2.. ii. 18–24. iii. 1.3. 9. 10.
The Stoics, Acts xvii. 18. were pagan philosophers, the founder of whose sect was Zeno, who flourished about 350 years before the Christian era. They affected a perfect indifference both to pleasure and pain, professing to believe that all things are governed by an irresistible necessity, called fate, which was superior to the will of all their gods.
The Epicureans were another sect of philosophers, who were the disciples of Epicurus, an Athenian, who flourished about 300 years before the Christian era. They taught principles the very opposite to the Stoics; they ascribed all things to chance, and considered pleasure as the chief good.
“I have multiplied visions, and used similitudes by the ministry of the prophets,” Hosea xii. 10. This declaration of the Lord God Almighty must be practically regarded, fully to profit by studying the holy Scriptures. To adopt this mode of instruction was a merciful condescension to human weakness on the part of God, especially in the early ages of the world, when symbolical language originated from the necessary scarcity of words. Figures of speech, as all allow, were occasioned by the very poverty of language. The advancement of society in arts, sciences, and refinement, has produced the addition of a multitude of words. Still, in the highest state of improvement, all languages continue to be more or less figurative.
Probably there are no writings in existence whose style is not, in some degree, metaphorical ; which, indeed, really constitutes much of its essential beauty.
The language of the Bible is highly figurative, particularly the Old Testament; for which, besides its remote antiquity, two particular reasons have been assigned. First, the eastern nations, possessing warm imaginations, and living in climates rich and fertile, surrounded by objects equally grand and beautiful, naturally delighted in a figurative mode of expression, far beyond that of the more sober taste of Europeans in less luxuriant regions. The other is, that many of the books of the Old Testament consist of Hebrew poetry; in the style of which the author is allowed, by universal consent, the privilege of illustrating his productions by images and similitudes, drawn from every striking subject which may be present to his imagination. Moses, David, Solomon, Isaiah, and other sacred poets, abound with figures; on every occasion their compositions are adorned with the richest flowers and the most instructive metaphors, to impress the minds and affect the hearts of their readers. But their propriety, design, and beauty, can be appreciated fully only by possessing a tolerable idea of the country in which the inspired poets flourished, the peculiarities of its inhabitants, and the idioms of its language. The style of the New Testament also, especially the discourses of our Saviour, are remarkably metaphorical ; by mistaking which, the most extravagant notions have been published as divine doctrine; some professors of Christianity adopting a literal application of those expressions which are figuratively intended. A few examples will show the incorrectness of a literal interpretation of some of the words of our Lord. Speaking of Herod the king, Christ says, “Go ye, and tell that fox,” Luke xiii. 32. Here, as every reader perceives, the word fox is transferred from its literal signi fication, that of a beast of prey, proverbial for its profound cunning, to denote a cruel tyrant, and that use of the term conveys, as was designed, the idea of consummate hypocricy. Our Lord said to the Jews, “I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any man eat of this bread he shall live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world,” John vi. 51. The Jews understood his words literally; and said, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” ver. 52. not considering that he intended the sacrifice of his life, which he gave as an atonement for the sins of the world. In the institution of the Lord's Supper, our Saviour said of the bread, “This is my body; ” and of the wine, “This is my blood,” Matt. xxvi. 26–28. Upon these words, the Roman Catholics, since the twelfth century, have put a forced construction; and in opposition to other passages of the scriptures, as well every principle of nature and sound reason, they have attempted to establish their monstrous
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doctrine of transubstantiation; or, in the conversion of the bread and wine in the Lord's Supper into the real body and blood of Christ, when the priest pronounces the words of pretended consecration, though to all the senses it remains just the same bread and wine unchanged. The evident meaning of our Lord was, that the bread represented his body, and the wine signified his blood. This mode of expression may be seen used in the Old Testament, Gen. xli. 26, 27. Exod. xii. 11, Dan. vii. 24. and by our Saviour himself in his parables, Matt. xiii. 38, 39. John X. 7–9. Also, Christ calls himself the door, John x. 9. a vine, John xv. 1. a shepherd, John x. 11.
The most common and remarkable figures of speech in the Bible are the following:
I. A Metaphor is a figurative expression, founded on some similitude which one object bears to another, as, To bridle the tongue, Jas. i. 26. For the sword to devour flesh, Deut. xxxii. 42. To be born again, John iii. 3.
II. An Allegory is a continued metaphor, as the discourse of our Saviour concerning eating his flesh, John vi. 35–65.
III. A Parable is the representation of some moral or spiritual doctrine, under an ingenious similitude, as that of the Sower, Matt. xiii. 2–23. The Prodigal Son, Luke xvi. 11–32. and the Ten Virgins. Matt. xxv. 1–13.
IV. A Proverb is a concise, sententious saying, founded on a penetrating observation of men and Inanners. Brevity and elegance are essential to a proverb, Prov. x. 15. Luke iv. 23.
W. A Metonymy is a figure of speech in which one word is put for another; as, “They have Moses and the prophets,” Luke xvi. 29. meaning not their persons, but their writings.
VI. Prosepopoeia, or Personification, attributes the actions of persons to things, as in Ps. lxxxv. 19. it is said, “Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.” VII. Synecdoche puts a part for the whole of anything, or the whole for a part, as Luke ii. 1. “All the world; ” and Acts xxiv. 5. “Throughout the world,” by which is meant the Roman empire, or parts of it. In Acts xxvii. 37. the word “souls” is put for the whole persons.
VIII. Irony is a figure in which a different thing is intended from that which is spoken. Examples of this kind are not very frequent in the Bible; yet there are a few. Such is the address of Elijah to the priests of Baal, 1 Kings xviii. 27. and the remark of Job to his friends, Job xii. 2.
IX. Hyperbole is a representation of anything as being much greater or smaller than it is in reality. For examples of this figure, see Num. xiii.33. Deut. i. 28. ix. 1.
PLAN FOR THE ANNUAL READING THROUGH OF THE BIBLE.
It will be readily perceived that the reading of each day is divided into three parts, containing generally a chapter each of the historical, the prophetical, and the devotional scriptures. While it is readily admitted, that some parts of the oracles of God, are far more important for devotional and family reading than others, it must not be forgotten that the apostle Paul has declared, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the men of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works,” 2 Tim. iii. 16, 17.