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THE INTEGRITY OF THE CANON OF HOLY SCRIPTURE MAINTAINED AGAINST UNITARIAN OBJECTIONS.
BY THE REV. THOMAS TATTERSHALL, D.D.
"AND IT CAME TO PASS THAT WHEN JEHUDI HAD READ THREE OR FOUR LEAVES, HE CUT IT WITH THE PENKNIFE, AND CAST IT INTO THE FIRE THAT WAS ON THE HEARTH, UNTIL ALL THE ROLL WAS CONSUMED IN THE FIRE THAT WAS ON THE HEARTH."-Jer. xxxvi. 23.
THE passage of Scripture History, of which the text is a part, may be thus summarily stated. Although the idolatries and sins of Judah had provoked the LORD Jehovah, to declare His purpose of removing "that kingdom out of His sight, as He had formerly removed the kingdom of Israel:"* yet it pleased Him, nevertheless, first, graciously to warn them of the judgment which impended over their heads; "if so be they might hearken, and turn every man from his evil way," that God also might himself "repent him of the evil which He purposed to do unto them, because of the evil of their doings."+
In the execution of this truly benevolent, but arduous and thankless office, the Prophet Jeremiah had been engaged, during the chief part of the reign of Josiah ; and also, after the decease of that pious monarch, during about three years of the reign of his son Jehoiakim, who, alas! though the successor of Josiah on his throne, was not the inheritor of his piety.
Unhappily, however, the people of Judah gave little heed to the warnings of the Prophet, though spoken in the name of the LORD, and the period was fast approaching, when JEHOVAH would pour contempt upon their stoutness of heart and unbelief, by bringing to pass the judgment which he had threatened against them.
Yet still, willing to afford them another, though it must now be a final warning and opportunity of escape, the LORD thus commands his servant the Prophet. "Take thee a roll of a book, and write therein all the words that I have spoken unto thee against Israel, and against Judah, and against all the nations, from the day I spake unto thee, from the days of Josiah, even unto this day. It may be that the house of Judah will hear all the evil which I purpose to do unto them; that they may return every man from his evil way; that I may forgive their iniquity and their sin."* And we learn that in obedience to this command "Jeremiah called Baruch the son of Neriah: and Baruch wrote from the mouth of Jeremiah all the words of the LORD, which he had spoken unto him upon a roll of a book."+
It was necessary, that the contents of the volume thus written, should now be published, with a solemnity suitable to the occasion, to the people. And that particular time was selected for the purpose, when it might have been hoped, that the endeavour to make an impression upon their minds, would prove most successful. Accordingly we find that Jeremiah commanded Baruch, saying:-" Go thou, and read in the roll which thou hast written from my mouth, the words of the LORD in the ears of the people, in the LORD's house, upon the fasting day and also thou shalt read them in the ears of all Judah that come out of their cities." And in obedience to this command of the Pro
phet, Baruch "read in the book the words of Jeremiah, in the house of the LORD, in the chamber of Gemariah the son of Shaphan the scribe, in the higher court, at the entry of the new gate of the LORD's house, in the ears of all the people."*
Intelligence of this solemn proceeding was speedily brought to the Princes, who were sitting in the scribe's chamber, in the King's house; and who immediately sent Jehudi the son of Nethaniah, to request Baruch to come and read a second time, in their own hearing, the words which he had before read to the people.
The Princes, who appear to have been deeply affected and alarmed, by the warning they had thus received, proceeded to inform the King of what had occurred; having first, however, knowing the resentment which was likely to be kindled in his mind, by such a communication, taken the precaution of advising both Baruch and Jeremiah, to retire into some place of concealment. The monarch, on hearing the account of the transactions which had taken place, immediately sent Jehudi to fetch the roll, which had been left in the scribe's chamber, and Jehudi then "read it in the ears of the King, and in the ears of all the Princes which stood beside the King."+
The conduct of the King, on this occasion of awful interest and terrible solemnity, when he was standing upon the brink of destruction, and hearing, for the last time, the voice of a compassionate God, who willed not the destruction which he had threatened, but had rather that both the King and his people should turn unto Him and be saved, is the next particular related in this remarkable history. "The King," it is said, "sat in the winter-house, and there was a fire on the hearth burning before him. And it came to pass that when Jehudi had read three or four
leaves, he cut it with the penknife, and cast it into the fire that was on the hearth, until all the roll was consumed in the fire that was on the hearth."*
On the spirit by which the king was actuated, and which exhibited itself, in conduct so awfully insulting to the majesty of the LORD JEHOVAH, I shall not enlarge, further than to observe, that it must have had its origin in Unbelief. The judgments threatened against him, were not only painful to his feelings and wounding to his pride, but they were opposed also, to his most cherished sentiments of confidence in his own power and wisdom. He thought himself secure, and able both to defy and to overcome any enemy which could come against him; and any declaration, with whatever pretensions advanced, which was at variance with this assured condidence, seems to have appeared to him to bear the impress of falsehood, and therefore not to admit of being regarded as a divine message, or possessing divine authority. Hence, therefore, he angrily refused to receive it, as having any claims upon his attention, and contemptuously cut out of the record, in which it was contained, first one portion and then another, and cast them into the fire till the whole was consumed.
Brethren, I have selected the portion of Scripture which you have heard, and made upon the passage itself, and upon its context, the preceding observations, intending them to serve as a preface to some further remarks, which I shall now proceed to offer, upon the subject which has been announced as purposed to be brought before you this evening, and which has been expressed in the following terms:-THE INTEGRITY OF THE CANON OF HOLY SCRIPTURE MAINTAINED AGAINST UNITARIAN OBJECAnd my reason for so doing is, that the conduct, with which we have to charge the parties, with whose
* v. 22, 23.