« ForrigeFortsett »
for the entertainment of
any other persons than enthusiasts and divines. That this is a gross mistake, let the following passages witness, which are but few in comparison of the numbers that might be produced ; and though perhaps, we have made an injudicious choice, we cannot, I think, have greatly erred ; fince every page, and almost every line of those sacred books, will afford a man of true taste and judgment inexpressible pleasure and delight.
For instance, where will you find the Deity described with such folemnity as in the writings of the inspired penmen ? Whenever they speak of the majesty of heaven, they do it in such terms, as sufficiently testify they were at that time more than men; and if so, what reason can be given; since in all ages of the world there have been men of surprising parts and abilities, why some of them have not equalled the inspired penmen in the elegànce and sublimity of their descriptions ?-But it is granted even by the adversaries of religion, that their writings, in that particular, are distinguishingly great and noble.—How sublime and energetic is the description which David gives in that psalm, which he composed in remembrance of his many wonderful deliverances from the hand of Saul !
“ The earth shook and trembled; the foundations also of the “ hills moved and were shaken, because he was wroth. There “ went up a smoke out of his nostrils, and fire out of his mouth “ devoured ; coals were kindled by it. He bowed the heavens also, “ and came down ; and darkness was under his feet. And he rode
upon a cherub, and did fly; yea, he did fly upon the wings of “ the wind. He made darkness his secret place ; his pavilion round « about him were dark waters, and thick clouds of the skies. At “ the brightness that was before him his thick clouds past; hail“ stones and coals of fire. The Lord also thundered in the heavens, " and the highest gave his voice ; hail-stones and coals of fire. “ Yea, he sent out his arrows, and scattered them ; and he shot " out lightnings, and discomfited them. Then the channels of
* waters were seen and the foundations of the world were dir“ covered ; at thy rebuke, O Lord, at the blast of the breath “ of thy nostrils.” What poetry can equal this ? -- What aweful ideas of the Supreme Being must we be filled with, when we consider the earth trembling, and the heavens humbled at his feet? What confusion and discord, what horror and despair must possess the souls of the enemies of that Being, whose very presence shook the earth to its very foundation! Whose voice is thunder ; and lightnings the breath of his nostrils! Whose majesty is veiled in thick darkness, and whose vehicles are the wings of the wind !
But sublimity of language is not the only beauty of the sacred writings ;—the narrative part will be found inexpressibly elegant, though delivered with all the air of freedom and simplicity imaginable. The creation of the world, for instance, was such a subject, as any uninspired writer would have dressed up, one would imagine, in all the pomp and grandeur that the art of elocution could devise ; yet, in the sacred page, we find only a plain description of that great and important event. No reflections, no fallies of admiration; but an even uniform relation, executed with the greatest conciseness, and, at the same time, in so satisfactory a manner, that infinitely more is left for the exercise of the imagination, than is expressed in words. Had the story of the creation been a subject for mere man to have exerted his talents upon, a whole volume had not been sufficient for the task; and yet we find in the book of Moses, but one short chapter set apart for that purpose ; and this brevity will be thought the more remarkable, since no uninspired person, had he been ever so learned, or ever so well acquainted with the various circumstances of that great work, could ever have told it with a better grace.—Longinus, one of the most justly admired ancient authors, could not help being charmed at the noble fimplicity of this description, and records it as a distinguishing instance of the sublime.-" The Jewish legirVoL, III.
" lator, says he, a man of uncommon parts, having possessed his “ mind with an aweful idea of the Deity, as nobly declares it. — “ In the beginning of his law, he has this expression, GOD SAID ;“ what?-LET THERE BE LIGHT,-AND THERE WAS LIGHT ;
LET THERE BE EARTH,—AND IT WAS so.”
The sacred writings are full of this majestic simplicity, and unaffected grandeur. -Such as
as that recorded by St. John.LAZARUS COME FORTH. And that by St. Matthew_"
Lord, “ if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.—I WILL, BE THOU
CLEAN.”—And that, again in St. Mark, where Christ hushes the tumultuous sea into a calm, with PEACE BE STILL. The waters heard that voice which commanded universal nature into being.They funk at his command, who has the sole privilege of saying to that unruly element, “ Hitherto shalt thou come, and no farther : “ here shall thy proud waves be stayed.”
Though this noble simplicity may likewise be found through all the historical parts of the sacred writings; yet it is no where more conspicuous, than in the narrative of Joseph. When that great man, in order to probe his brethren to the very quick, had restrained his feelings for them so far, as to touch their hearts by many severe trials; when he had artfully brought them to the very brink of despair, he extorted a plain, but pathetic relation from Judah of his father's grief, upon parting with Benjamin, which he concluded with what cannot be fo well expressed in any words as his own.—“ Now, therefore, I pray thee let thy “ servant abide instead of the lad a bondman to my lord; and " let the lad go up with his brethren—for how shall I go up to
my father, and the lad be not with me ? Lest, peradventure, I “ see the evil that shall come on my father ?” The whole speech is delivered in such a plain, and seemingly inartful manner, and at the same time is so affecting, that it could not fail moving the pallions of any man of a tender difpofition, and we are told
it had the desired effe&t. For " Joseph could not refrain himself “ before all them that stood by him; and he cried, -cause every “ man to go out from me: and there stood no man with him " while Joseph made himself known to his brethren. And he
wept aloud ; and the Egyptians and the house of Pharaoh heard. “ And Joseph said unto his brethren-I AM JOSEPH-DOTH MY “FATHER YET LIVE?-And his brethren could not answer him, “ for they were troubled at his presence.” What an assemblage of ideas do these few words convey to the intelligent reader? What could so well paint Joseph's grief as his behaviour on that occasion ?-The news of such a transaction being spread through the court of Pharaoh, is there expressed in the most concise, and yet comprehensive manner, that can possibly be conceived.—AND THE HOUSE OF PHARAOH HEARD.-But what shall we say, when we find so important a discovery as that which Joseph was to make to his brethren, and the tender concern of a dutiful child delivered in two short sentences.—“I am Joseph :-Doth my " father
scope is here left for the imagination? We cannot but think, the reader must be in almost as great a surprise as Joseph's brethren were, and unable to make answer. Every word is important and interesting, and each deserves a pause of contemplation.
We cannot help offering another instance of this noble brevity which we imagine cannot be read but with the utmost pleasure. It is a circumstance which David relates to Saul. The occafion this. David offered himself to oppose the Philistine giant Goliah ;–Saul is surprised at the boldness of the attempt, upon the consideration both of the youth and stature of David. But to remove all objections of that sort, David gives the following account of his combat, with a lion and a bear. “ Thy servant, “ said he, kept his father's Theep, and there came a lion and a “ bear, and took a lamb out of the flock; and I went out after
“ him, and smote him, and delivered it out of his mouth ; and “ when he arose against me, I caught him by his beard, and smote
him, and flew him.” This is surely the shortest, and most lively description of such a dangerous enterprise as ever was made. “I caught him by his beard, and sinote him, and flew him." Whoever compares this with any passage of the like nature in a profane writer, must be charmed with the modesty and fimplicity of it. The history of David, as told in the facred books, is not only the most instructive, but the most entertaining piece that ever was wrote ; and his book of Psalms may easily be proved to excel, in every respect, the poems
of the inost celebrated ancients. But what shall we say, when we turn our eyes to the New Testament, where beauty and grandeur have taken their peculiar residence ?-Surely whoever reads there our Saviour's sermon on the mount; his various parables, so well adapted to the understanding of all mankind, and, at the same time, full of the profoundest truths; the solemn and pathetic relation of the death and passion of the great Redeemer of the world, will be apt to think all other writings of no value, when set in competition with these ; will be ready to declare, that this is the precious pearl, which, when a man hath found, should he sell all he is worth to procure it, he would be an infinite gainer. The travels and pilgrimages of the Apostles; their courageous behaviour, when called before kings and governors, as recorded in the Acts; the epistles to the first christian converts, especially those of St. Paul, are wrote in such a manner, as must, and have extorted the highest encomiums from infidelity itself.
To conclude:-The sacred scriptures are not only the most necessary, but the most engaging books that ever were composed : they greatly excel all the writings of the most admired Greeks and Romans: whatever is to be found remarkably beautiful in them, is here compleatly fo; for this is the fountain from whence