THE HISTORY OF THE BIBLE.*
MR. GLEIG might have selected a more intelligible title. We grant that he has precedents, but precedents will not justify a departure from the universally-received meaning of the English language. "The History of the Bible," can no more be held to signify "a Digest of the Historical Portions of the Bible," than "the • History of Bayle's Dictionary" could be held to signify a connected view of the historical notices scattered up and down that work. ' The Bible may be contemplated in two points of view,—as history of the rise and progress and decline of the Jewish nation ; or as the repository of the divine truths committed to their special • keeping. The great object of the inspired writers in noticing the history of the Jews at all, is to trace the genealogy of the Saviour, a genealogy which is intimately and essentially connected with the prophecies respecting him. They had a secondary object, doubtless, in describing the characters of the faithful .Abraham, of the meek Moses, and of the other persons that adorn or disgrace the • history of the Jews,—to enable future generations to frame their course aright, by emulating, the example of the righteous and eschewing the errors of the wicked. But farther than this—the estebliahment of the genealogy of Christ, and the honest exhibition of • virtue and vice, for the instruction of those who saw his day afar off, and those who beheld it near—the mere political changes in the state of the Jews no more concerned the writers of the -Bible, • than the political changes of Babylon or of Rome. The Chronicles of Judah, which remain, as well as the Chronicles of Israel, which have perished, are incidental to the great purpose of the holy men whose writings constitute the Old Testament. We have n o more reason to look for a full and complete and satisfactory narrative of his nation from the pen of Moses, than we have to look for a • full and complete and satisfactory system of natural philosophy. There is in the search of the Scriptures a twofold issue, as there is a twofold course. If we seek for religious instruction, we may rely on finding all that is necesssary for our instruction ; if we seek for historical information, we may equally rely on finding • many defects and many contradictions. How are we to act when puzzled by a doctrinal difficulty ?—We must seek for its explanalion in some other portion of that volume which alone contains all that is required for doctrine, for reproof, for instruction. How are we to act when met by an historical difficulty ?—We are to get over it by the same rules of logic that are applicable to any other -fact of which but imperfect documentary evidence remains. To • blame the compiler of a history of the Jews because he departs -from the text of Scripture, where the text is irreconcilable with known and acknowledged principles, is inconsiderate. He no more invalidates the rehgious sanctions of the Bible who applies to its historical notices the rules of sound criticism, than he who • applies the same rules to the chronicles of English history invalidates the claims of the English church. An author who, in framing what is called "a History of the Bible," mixes up the religion of the Jews, unless as an historical feature, with the history of the acts of the Jews, hampers himself, by joining to a subject respecting which a wise man will and may doubt, another on which all doubt is not only injurious but forbidden.
• National Library, No. U. The History of the Bible. By the Be,, CI. 11, Gleig. In two volumes, Vol. L London, 1830. This plan has been adopted by Mr. GLEIG, and it has marred the simplicity of his work. He has not produced so rational a history of the Jews, as if he had left their religion for a separate treatise ; he has not produced so satisfactory a system of divinity, as if he had considered it apart from the people with whose adven tures it is incidentally connected. Mr. GLEIG gives, rather more diffusely at times than the scantiness of the materials altogether warrants, a narrative of facts ; and he follows this up by a statement of objections and answers, in many instances more orthodox than logi cal, which the doctrines drawn from the facts have given rise to. Thus the first part of each chapter is a history, the second a ser mon; the history not very new in arrangement or in language, the sermon fully maintaining the character which a celebrated preacher has declared to be inseparable from its titleeP The con sequence has been, that Mr. GLEIG, whose talents as a compiler are unquestioned, and whose merits as an original writer are great, has produced a book which the pious will hardly prefer to that of Mrs. TRIMMER on the same subject, and by which the doubting will be wearied rather than convinced. Mr. GLEIG is orthodox in the ordinary sense of the word—what is written he accepts and de fends. This is a sound rule, as we have already said, where the truth to be defended is a religious truth ; but in matters of fact, whose acknowledgment or denial does not involve any point of doctrine, it is apt to land those who stickle for it in irreconcilable contradictions.
Moses mentions" that the world was created in six days. It is obvious to the meanest capacity, that the word "clay," in this part of the Pentateuch, cannot mean what it now does, for the plain rea son, that the sun was not then created. Geological investigations have demonstrated, as clearly perhaps as any tact can be demon strated, that the changes which have taken place on the surface of the globe must have required a much longer time than, according to the Mosaic history as ordinarily interpreted, the earth has existed. Had Moses in the most express terms settled the age of the world—had he stated that the fossils which occur in the secondary rocks were the result of the Noetic flood, and not of a series of changes antecedent to the creation of the snore perfect animals—what would a reasonable man have answered ? Would he have preferred the evidence of testimony to the evidence of sense ? Would he not have said, that .Moses spoke of the sub jects of natural knowledge according to the measure of his information ?—that the error of the cosmogonist or geologist in no respect invalidated the claims of the prophet and the lawgiver? We need not say that Moses' history is perfectly reconcilable with the observations of modern science ;—but let us hear Mr. spear°. on this subject, or rather Bishop Geeio, whom he quotes as one "whose intimate acquaintance with the arcane of natural science, no less than his universal learn ing, entitle his opinions to the highest respect." The Bishop is contending against the .conclusions drawn from the discoveries of modern geologists ; and in the course of his argument, is naturally led to the remarkable, fact noticed by Baron Cu VIER, of the non-existence of fossil human remains unless in formations so recent that their history canfor the most part be traced. " Ctivier," says Bishop, GLEIG, "informs us, that most of the labourers in the gypsum quarries about Paris are firmly persuaded that the bones which they contain are in a great part human ; but after having seen and examined many thousands of these bones, I may safely affirm,' continues he, that not a single fragment of them has ever belonged to our species.' On this occasion," adds the Bishop, "whom shall we believe ? a single philosopher, who has some novel theory to sup port ; or a succession of many illiterate workmen, whose judg. ment we cannot suppose to be warped by any favourite hypothe sis ?" Of course we are to believe the illiterate workmen, ra ther than the theorizing philosopher ! We must do Mr. GLEIG the justice to say, that this argument is too strong for him, though coming from one intimately acquainted with the arcane of natural science and endowed with universal learning. But though he differs from the Bishop's reasoning, he assents to his conclusion; he is equally orthodox in his opinions, though not in his logic. Arguments in favour of revealed religion, in a History of the Bible, would seem not altogether necessary. The book addresse itself to Christians. But if the compiler will give a reason for his belief, it ought to be such as will stand investigation. The following is a specimen of the arguments by which Mr. Gii seeks to convert the sceptical.
"If any credit be due to the general sense of mankind, we shall scarcelr find an individual in any age, who, believing in the existence of a God or gods, did not also believe that some direct commerce subsisted between God and man. Hence it is that all popular religions, the most abominable as well as the most pure, have been said by their votaries to have been derived from the Gods ; and hence also the care with which the most eminent legislators of antiquity sought to impress the minds of the people with a persuasion that-they held with their deities an intimate communication. Zoroaster, Minos, Pythagoras; Lycurgus; Numa, &c.Sec., all thought it necessary to lay claim to immediate inspiration ; and their claims were not disputed, because the persons to whom they addressed themselves felt-that they stood in need of supernatural illumination, and fondly believed that their Gods were willing to grant it. But it is not from a bare contemplation of the conduct of the illiterate among mankind that we arrive at the conclusion which has just been drawn. It seems perfectly inconsistent with the tenour of God's dealings with the inferior animals, that he should place them at once in the highest State to which they are capable of attaining, yet leave man without the means of acquiring. that knowledge in which his chief happiness centres ; for that man is incapable by any exertion of his reasoningfaculties to discover such a religious sp...
Mr. Irvingsaya dulness isAnsepatable from the very idea of a sermon.
tern as shall satisfy his wants, or reconcile him to his destiny, we have the testimony of all experience for asserting. Let any man turn to the writings of the wisest and best of the heathen philosophers, and he will find there proofs innumerable that the statement which we have hazarded has not been rashly advanced, whilst a consideration of those gross and debased fictions with which the vulgar were deluded and deceived, will not, we presume, have a tendency to shake our argument.
It is amusing to find one who reasons after this fashion, talking of " the horrible doctrines of particular election," and seeking to tear down with his feeble hands the adamantine structures of CALVIN and KNO7A.
Mr. GLEIG'S History comes down to the death of Absalom. In its future progress he will have more scope and more freedom ; and we may reasonably expect, from his acknowledged talent, a conclusion more instructive and interesting than the commencement.
We have been rather surprised to find a number of faulty expressions in this volume of the National Library,—of a different character, indeed, from those of its predecessor, but hardly less offensive. We give a few of the more glaring :—" Sarah, judging now that the seed was to come of some other stock besides hers" —" one more mighty than her companions (the angels who visited Abraham previous to the destruction of Sodom) lagged behind the rest"—" after some little demur, they all entered the house" —" demanding that the strangers might be handed over to them" —" Abraham, probably annoyed by the stench, removed his tent" —" the same event befell to Abraham which has befallen and shall befall to all"—" when that event befell"—" the wrestling_ match between Jacob and the angel"—" ready as envious men ever are to catch at straws"—" to prevent him in a disclosure"— " if their alarm was already great, it became a thousand times greater, when," &c.—" the ekre of the King of Egypt's favourite daughter"—" it very soon appeared, that in describing the obstinacyof that monarch's temper, God had committed no error" —" Moses and Aaron issued a proclamation for the establishment of the passover"—" the tabernacle was struck"— " it followed the rear of the leading column"—" all these things were abundantly vexatious to Moses"—" Moses obtained a bird's eye view over the future home of his people"— " inflamed to the highest pitch of fury"—" Lot's daughters devised a scheme which, in the instance of both, became successful, and they each produced a son in the natural course of events, of whom Lot was the father. These were Moab and Arrimon"—" The exact geographical situation [of ITz,] as it is nowhere accurately laid down, it appears both vain and unnecessary to determine"—"there is a tradition very prevalent in the East, that not only Terah, but Abraham, was in his youth a priest of the Sun. For the truth of this rumour [Mr. GLEIG speaks] we cannot pretend to vouch"— " To trace a resemblance between the degraded Esquimaux and the polished native of Vienna or Paris, is a task of no difficulty whatever, provided only we follow him through the Greenlander upwards." An unintelligible jumble okurs at page 142, 'by which Sarah is made the sister of Lot instead of Abraham. These, we admit, are not very serious faults ; but though vulgarisms, colloquial phrases, and false English, do not altogether destroy the utility of the work, they mar its value sensibly, and are the less excusable because a little attention would have prevented their occurrence.
The volume is illustrated by a map of Palestine, neatly executed. There are several typographical errors ; one of which, at page 161, line 29, happens unfortunately to convey a meaning rather different from that of the author.