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various instrumentalities; but, when God elects and sets up a special agency, it is not Egyptian art, but patriarchal piety — the simple manners of home and of rural life—nourished, strengthened, and refined by a warm and operative faith. This fact seems to teach us, that religion must be at the basis of all true social advancement. It is not to Greece nor Italy, but to Mesopotamia and Judea, that we owe our religion, and what is best and most durable in our civilisation. Man may spare the pleasures of taste; but he cannot live and be happy without the sentiments of piety, and the principle of obedience.
The nature of true and acceptable faith is exemplified in Abraham, —' the friend of God.' If compared with the views which are entertained by enlightened Christians, Abraham's idea of God was very limited and mdimental; for though he may have had some shadowy notion of God's spirituality and omnipresence, yet it was mostly as hit God, — the God of his family, — that the patriarch regarded the Creator. Yet his imperfect and defective knowledge falling as good seed into good ground, brought forth that trust, that confidence, that love towards God, which prompted to obedience, and made its possessorwilling to sacrifice even his fondest affections and his dearest hopes, in compliance with what appeared to him the divine will. Such is the character of all genuine faith, which is very dissimilar to mere opinion, with which it is often confounded; and thus we see, that true religion is as old as at least the patriarch Abraham. As he pleased God, so may we.
Most important for mankind was the call of Abraham. It was one of those events on which human destiny is found from time to time to hinge. Idolatry was all but universal. The knowledge of the Creator had nearly vanished from the earth. Egypt, the centre of the arts and refinements of life, worshipped even the lowest animals. There it was fully proved how little man can do for himself in regard to the solemn obligations of duty, and the high hopes and destiny of the religious life. But God chose Abraham, and a new era began which will never come to an end; for Jesus finished what Abraham commenced. It is a gratifying fact, that the series of biographical pictures begins with one which is so pleasing and so ennobling as that of Abraham. Had the dispositions which actuated him been shared by all who came afterwards, we should not have found the great life-roll of humanity blotted, blurred, and disgraced by such names as Alexander, Nero, and Napoleon.
Already, at the times of Abraham, had the world made some decided progress in civilisation; a knowledge of which, so far as it is definite and satisfactory, we owe to the di
vinely illuminated pages of the Bible. The most useful arts of life had long been invented, and were in general use. Those large societies of men which are called nations were gradually forming themselves on spots which were determined by a regard to the natural limits and advantages afforded by seas, rivers, and mountain-ranges. And, as men fixed themselves in different places up and down the earth, so did they become more and more divided from each other by the continually increasing diversity of languages, which led to other alienating diversities in social usages, and in religious opinions and observances. The first empires were thus founded, and the great question of human education began to be seriously worked out . War had begun its desolations; slavery was quietly but effectually wasting human energies away, perverting the natural relations of life. The union of the sexes, which is the great hinge of man's highest good, was uncertain and ill-regulated. Hospitality had assumed a distinguished position, and sheds a mild lustre over these early days; but if, from such a tent as that of Abraham, we turn to the world at large, we behold scarcely any other virtue in a high condition, and such vices abounding as easy abundance and extreme leisure may produce, under the aid of burning skies, vivid imaginations, and uncontrollable passions.
The sacrifice of his son, demanded of Abraham, has given occasion to many objections, most of which have arisen from falsely viewing the subject through the atmosphere of modem times. As a means of putting Abraham's reliance on God to the test, it was peculiarly efficacious and appropriate, seeing that the child was demanded, which God had openly and extraordinarily given. The Power that had bestowed Isaac on parents advanced in years was, Abraham may well have felt, both willing and able to do 'all things well,' and make 'all things work together for good.' To have faltered would have betrayed a weakness of moral character, ill befitting one who had been so signally favoured of God. Unquestioning, undoubting reliance on God was Abraham's duty, and it proved his 'crown of rejoicing.' He was tried, and was found faithful. In his fidelity, he remains a model to all generations, though the specific sacrifice required of him is required no more. Yet the principle remains the same. Our Lord gave expression to it when he said, —' He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me' (Matt . x. 87). Without sacrifices there is no true religion. Without trial there is no conscious strength. We have no proof that we love Christ, till we have surrendered some cherished thing on his behalf. It is a baneful delusion to regard religion as an easy thing. Hence the superficiality that prevails, the
Abraham's bosom (Luke xvi. 23) denotes the place where happy and immortal spirits dwell. The idea seems to be taken from the manner in which, in the time of our Lord, the Jews, imitating the customs of their Western masters, used to recline, while at feasts; namely, leaning on the elbow and the haunch, each guest below his neighbour, so that the head of one lay towards and near the bosom of another. The place of honour was next to the master of the feast—that is, in his bosom. The term bosom was used in a larger sense than is customary with us; embracing the whole of the body covered by a fold of fiie long flowing robe, which, being taken up by the extremity, was thrown over the left arm, so as to form a large fold or bosom, in which articles of nse and value were carried. Abraham, as the 'friend of God,' is represented in the parable (Luke xvi. 22) as presiding at the 'feast of fat things,' having near him the special favourite of God. This was in agreement with current ideas, which set forth heaven as a place of social enjoyment, in which were gathered together the patriarchs, prophets, and an innumerable company of just men made perfect (Matt. viii. 11. John xiii. 23; xxi. 20). From the phrase now explained, the reader may form some conception of what is meant when the Son of God is said to be in the bosom of the Father (John i. 18); for, as the 'bosom-friend' was ad
mitted to the utmost intimacy and confidence, so was Jesus put into possession of the divine will in all its secrets, as well as in all its grandeur and comprehension.
ABSALOM (H. father of peace. A. M. 4628; AC. 1020; V. 1082), David's third son, whose mother was Maacah, the daughter of Tahnai king of Geshur—a district lying on the east of Jordan, and reckoned as a part of Syria, which formed still in the days of Solomon a petty kingdom (2 Sam. iii. 3;
xiii. 37; xiv. 23). Absalom possessed extraordinary beauty, and was distinguished for a fine and copious head of hair (2 Sam.
xiv. 26, 26). Euraged at his brother Amnon, in consequence of his having ravished Tamar his sister, Absalom, not improbably remembering that Amnon was by birth his father's successor, took occasion, after having long concealed his animosity, of a sheepshearing, which he observed with festivity in Baal-hazor, in Ephraim, on an estate of his own, to slay, by means of his servants, the guilty man. After this, he fled for shelter to the court of his father-in law, at Geshur, where he remained three years. Near the end of this time, David desired to see Absalom; a feeling which was enhanced by the earnest pleadings of the 'wise woman of Tekoah,' whom Joab employed to further his views with the king; so that that minister was himself commissioned to visit Geshur, in order to bring back Absalom, who was not, however, admitted into the royal presence for the space of two years. Absalom, weary of this disgrace, endeavoured to prevail with Joab to nse his influence again with David; and, failing in his requests, he iniquitously and revengefully caused his servants to set on fire a field of barley belonging to Joab. The minister, however, yielded to fear what he had refused to entreaty—saw the king, and interceded with him for his son, who was accordingly restored to favour.
The high and ambitious spirit of Absalom, which had been imperfectly repressed under difficulty, now, when he was in the full sunshine of his father's court, broke forth with ardour. He procured a splendid equipage — chariots and horses, with fifty men to run before him; who, as needs might be, would serve for use or show. Thus prepared, he began to court the people, hearing their legal complaints, listening to their social grievances, and even saluting with a kiss each person who came to do him homage; intimating, at the same time, that David was blameworthy in having appointed no one to hear and redress wrongs, and that, if he were judge in the land, justice should be fully and impartially administered. 'So Absalom stole the hearts of the children of Israel.' When he had advanced his preparations (' after forty years,' probably four years: see Kennicott), he asked his father's permission to proceed to Hebron, in order to pay a vow which he had promised while at Geshur. The permission was granted. Quitting Jerusalem with 200 confidential friends, who appear to have been ignorant of his intention, he sent secret despatches throughout all the tribes of Israel, to the effect, that, on a given signal, they should all declare, ' Absalom reigneth in Hebron.' He also succeeded in gaining to his side Ahithophel of Giloh, in Judah, whose counsels David tried to countervail, by inducing Hushai to get into the confidence of Absalom, in order to betray his secrets. David, however, aware that the conspiracy was most formidable, quitted Jerusalem, which his traitorous son occupied, and proceeded, under the advice of Ahithophel, to commence his royal functions, by taking possession of David's harem. A council being called, Ahithophel offered to take a force, and complete the war by destroying David, to which Absalom wickedly consented. Hushai, however, was called in, who advised a general muster of troops, so as to blot out, not David only, but all his partisans. This plan was finally adopted; intelligence of which determination was despatched to David by Hushai. A great battle was fought in the wood of Ephraim, near the Jordan, in which 20,000 men fell. While yet the result was in suspense, Absalom, hurrying along on a mule, in the ardour of battle, was caught 'in the thick boughs of a great oak' (a terebinth tree), and, his beast
going from under him, he was left suspended from the tree; on hearing which, Joab took three darts, and thrust them through the heart of Absalom, while he was yet alive in the midst of the oak; thus delivering his royal master from a treasonable son, and taking vengeance on one who had set his property on fire. After this, an act of wanton cruelty took place,—* ten young men that bare Joab's armour, compassed about and smote Absalom, and slew him.' The news of the young man's death was borne to the king (the narrative found in 2 Sam. xviii. 19—32, is beautifully graphic), who, on receiving it, was much moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate and wept: and as he went, thus he said, 'O my son Absalom! my son, my son Absalom! would God I had died for thee, O Absalom! my son, my son!' (2 Sam. xviii. 88).
A reckless ambition was the chief feature in Absalom's character. This ambition prompted him to erect a pillar in order to perpetuate his name (Joseph. Antiq. vii. 10, 8; comp. 2 Sam. xviii. 18), in the event of his children being killed. This pillar (of marble), which bore the name of Absalom's Hand (a figure of a hand, surmounting pillars of this kind, denoted power and skill), was in the king's dale, a short distance from Jerusalem. That which is now shown in the vale of Jehosaphat as Absalom's Pillar — a pyramidal stone structure — is proved to be of comparatively recent date, by its Ionic colonnade, though it may stand near the same place where Absalom erected the original structure, but cannot be the tomb of that prince; since, in 2 Sam. xviii. 17, we are informed that, immediately after the battle, his enemies ' took Absalom, and cast him into a great pit in the wood, and laid a very great heap of stones upon him.'
Absalom erected his own monument, and was buried ignominiously in a hole dug in haste. Ha tried to perpetuate his fame by a pillar—he really made his name infamous by his rebellion. The record in books tells its tale when stones and marble are no more. Personal beauty is a questionable good, may prove a snare, and, when disgraced by wicked acts, excites no higher feeling than commiseration. Absalom's passions were his master; and so imperious did they prove, that they made him raise his impious hand against even the author of his own existence.
ABSOLUTION (L. freeing from) is, as a word, not found in the Bible; but ecclesiasties have used it to describe a scriptural fact; namely, the absolving of men from sin, or from the penalty of sin. It is undoubted that the Saviour gave to bis apostles a power to remit sins. The nature and extent of that power can be learned in no other way than by diligently studying, and comparing together, the passages of Scripture in which it is mentioned. Without here entering into the details of the subject, we may adduce, as sufficient for our present purpose, the great scriptural principle, that no one can forgive sins but God (Mark ii. 7); whence it appears that the act of the apostles in remitting sins was merely ministerial and declaratory. As such was it limited to those to whom the office was delegated. Of this kind is the act of Nathan (2 Sam. xii. 13), when he said to the repentant David,— The Lord hath put away thy sin: thou shalt not die' (Matt. xvi. 19; xviii. 18. John xx. 23). If absolution consisted in actually forgiving sins, then no one but He, who knowing the heart knows also whether the mind has come into a suitable state, can forgive sins. If it consisted in remitting the penalty of sin, then only He who knows the bearings, tendencies, and effects of his own punitive and remedial measures, can forgive sins. If it lay in the announcement of pardon, then can that announcement be made by man only in those cases in which he may have received special delegation for the purpose. The remission of sins is obviously an individual favour, inasmuch as it has a relation to the state of an individual's soul: and consequently, apart from a formal divine commission, it can have no existence. Yet this, the most extraordinary of all earthly functions, have men, placed in ordinary circumstances, claimed to exercise. The claim should be proved before it is conceded, and it is not easy to see any very close connection between the two propositions —' The apostles forgave sins ;' 'therefore A. B., living in the nineteenth century, has the power to forgive sins.' There is here a great logical gulf which cannot be filled up by other assumptions — such as that A. B., whose whole manner of life is dissimilar to that which an apostle led, is a spiritual successor of the apostles. But if the inference should be allowed, what does the term 'successor' mean, and what does it prove? If a line of transmitted spiritual influence is intended, you must show the commencement of that line, and its unbroken continuance down to yourself; which can in no way be done, and which cannot even be attempted, without begging the very point which has to be proved. The priesthood proves its priestly character by assuming that priestly character itself. The modern doctrine touching the power to remit sins is one vast assumption.
ABSTINENCE (L. keeping from), the practice of self-denial, either occasional or continued. Abstinence took its rise partly in those notions of religion which represent the Deity as being conciliated by the pain and privation which his creatures undergo; partly also in considerations connected with health; for abstaining from gratifications in certain conditions of the body serves to restore it to its ordinary soundness and vigour, especially when it has been impaired by
excess. So far, too, as the foregoing of ordinary pleasures may act beneficially on the moral feelings, the practice of occasional abstinence may have been enforced by considerations drawn from practical religion. But abstinence can be looked on in no higher light than as a negative good, a needful remedy, a means of reparation; and must disappear in proportion as that sanctity of character in thought, word, and deed, is produced, which is not least among the aims and the achievements of the gospel.
Various kinds of abstinence may be found in the Sacred Scriptures. In Gen. ix. 4, blood is forbidden to be eaten, as containing the life; an inhibition which is repeated in Lev. iii. 17, fat being also forbidden — (' All the fat is the Lord's'), which was to be burnt. That which died of itself, or was torn by wild beasts, was not to be eaten (Lev. xxii. 8). The hollow of the thigh was forbidden food, because it was the part by touching which, the angel prevailed in wrestling with Jacob (Gen. xxxii. 32). Indeed whole classes of animals were prohibited (clean). (Lev. xi.) The Hebrews were to abstain from food partaken on occasion of idolatrous sacrifices; since to partake thereof would have been to give an indirect sanction to the pollutions of Heathenism (Numb. xxv. 2, teq. Exod. xxxiv. 15. Ps. cvi. 28). Owing to the misconduct of Nadab and Abihu, Aaron's sons, probably in indulging to excess, wine was forbidden to the priests when they were about to go into the tabernacle (Lev. x. 9), When any man took the vow of a Nazarite. —' He shall separate himself from wine and strong drink, and shall drink no vinegar of wine, or vinegar of strong drink; neither shall he drink any liquor of grapes, nor eat moist grapes or dried: all the days of his separation shall he eat nothing that is made of the vine-tree from the kernels even to the husk.' The Nazarite was also to abstain from shaving (Numb. vi. 2—12). The Rechahites abstained from wine and strong drink at the command of their ancestor Jonadab, a man of fervent piety and strong zeal (Jer. xxxv. 6—10. 2 Kings x. 15).
The abstinence from certain kinds of food which they had practised while Jews, the primitive converts from the Jewish Church to Christianity thought that they themselves, as well as converts from Heathenism, were still bound rigidly to observe. This question troubled the early church, and occasioned the first Christian synod which assembled at Jerusalem, and relaxed the ceremonial bond — laying ' no greater burden than these necessary things; that ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication' (Acts xv. 29). The decree did not suffice to bring the dispute to a termination, and much bad feeling and illiberality arose in consequence; which, however, under the good providence of God, was made to contribute to the welfare of the church at large; as may appear, if we consider, as one of its effects, the noble and comprehensive defence of religions liberty which it drew from the apostle Paul (Rom. xiv.: see also 1 Cor.viii.). From another quarter, probably from asceties connected with Heathenism, came a requirement of abstinence even from marriage, which Paul reprobates in 1 Tim. iv. 3—5; where he lays down the general principle, that 'every creaturs of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving.' Asceticism, however, seems to be a disease which is incidental to man in all stages of civilisation, and under all systems of religion; and so abstinence of various kinds has been, from the earliest time till now, practised and enjoined even in the visible church of Christ, as of peculiar efficacy and value in the sight of God; notwithstanding the clear, full, and unmistakeable opposition of the great apostle of the Gentiles.
ACACIA (the Egyptian thorn), the proper name of the wood, termed in Scripture Shittim,—a word which is a mere transference of the sounds of the original Hebrew. The tree, Mimosa Nilotica, was called Shittah in Hebrew. It is frequently mentioned in the Bible as supplying the materials out of which articles required in the Mosaic worship wera made (Exod. xrv. 5; xxvi. 15; xxvii. 1; xxx. 1; xxxv. 7, 24; xxxvii. 1. Deut . x. 3). Naturalists distinguish two kinds of acacia, I. the Acacia vera; and, II. the Acacia Arabica. The Septuagiut has translated the Hebrew word very appropriately, as ' incorruptible wood;' the fact being that it is very durable, and therefore eminently suited to the purposes to which it is applied in the Bible. It is indigenous in Egypt and Arabia. Thevenot found it growing wild near Mount Sinai. The Acacia vera, which yields the well-known gum Arabic, has spines growing in pairs. It forms a tree thirteen or fourteen feet high, of inelegant appearance. The Acacia Arabica is not unlike the former. The wood of the acacia is exceedingly hard, yet light . When it is old, it is nearly as black as ebony. It was therefore much esteemed in antiquity, and used in ship-building. Botanists are acquainted with nearly three hundred species of the acacia, which inhabit the warmer parts of the world.
ACCHO (H. an enclosure), the modem St . Jean d'Acre, is mentioned in Scripture only in Judg. i. 31, under this the early name of the town; but in and after the time of the Maccabees (i. 5, 15) it was called Ptolemais (Acts xxi. 7). From the passage in Judges, it appears that it originally formed a part of the territory of Asher, which stretched north and eastward from Mount Carmel, at the foot of which Accho lies; and, doubtless, the natural strength of the place, which has
since been more than once proved, was the cause why that tribe did not expel the original inhabitants. It was anciently a large city, with a fine harbour, protected on three sides by lofty hills, of which Mount Carmel lies to the south, running far out into the sea. The place was not far from the mouth of the little river Belus. It still forms the best haven on the Syrian coast; is the key of Galilee, and the termination of the caravan line which extended from Damascus to the Mediterranean. The Emperor Claudius presented its inhabitants with the rights of Bom an citizenship, whence the place acquired the name of Colonia Claudii Ceesaris (Joseph. Antiq. xiii. 12, 2. 1 Maccab. x. 56; xi. 22). By the natives it is still called by its origins! name. In 1632 the town was severely injured during a siege of six months, carried on by Ibrahim Pasha. In 1840 Admiral Stopford bombarded the place for some hours, when it was laid in ruins by the explosion of the powder magazine.
ACELDAMA (C. field of blood)—a piece of ground which had before been, and was called, 'a potter's field,' from supplying materials for pottery — received this name from the fact, that the money which Judas had received for betraying Christ, and which he returned into the hands of the priests, was expended by them in the purchase of the ground, as a burial-place for Jews from distant lands,—on the allegation that the thirty pieces of silver, being the price of blood, ought not to be put into the temple treasury. Thus do baseness and a certain religious scrupulosity sometimes go together in the same breast. They who polluted their souls with the blood of Jesus, would not soil their hands with the returned bribe with which they had bought their victim's life. The piece of land was of small value, having been exhausted in making pottery ware. 11 lay southward of Jerusalem. There still remains on the spot a charnel-house. Superstition gave the notion, that the soil destroyed corpses in a day or two; for which purpose, ship-loads of it were, in the thirteenth century, transported to Pisa in Italy, in order to be spread over the famous cemetery there.
ACHAN (U.troubler) — called in 1 Chron, ii. 7, 'Achar, the troubler of Israel'—was the son of Carmi, of the tribe of Judah. He ventured, in spite of the divine prohibition (Josh. vi. 17), to appropriate to himself some of the booty ('the accursed thing') acquired at the fall of Jericho; and hence brought on the Israelites, who expected any thing but a reverse, a severe defeat before the town of Ai (Josh. vii.). On this, a kind of ordeal was appointed, in order to ascertain who the person was that had brought the divine anger on the Israelites. The result was that Achnn 'was taken,' who, thus found guilty of God, confessed his sin, declared what articles he