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of his friends, another of this Jewish king's witty sayings :, Seest thou a man wise in his own conceit? There is more bope of a fool than of him! Many other jests, uttered by this fagacious monarch, are equally funny with these two, and not less applicable to such characters as Mr. Paine, and our other vaunting Philofophifters; but these may fuffice as a specimen. The reader might be abundantly gratified with others of a similar kind, by having recourse to the jeft-book itself, to which I would, therefore, recommend him with all speed to apply. A serious application to a book of such admirable humour could not fail of yielding most exquisite entertainment! Let us, however, proceed to other considerations.
How different are the opinions of your Master THOMAS PAINE, and Sir WILLIAM Jones*, concerning the Sacred Writings? The former, who has betrayed the most palpa
* Before this illustrious scholar went to India, he was by no means free from a sceptical bias. But when he resided in Afia, he investigated, with minute and rigid attention, all those intricate theological points that had occafioned his doubts; and the result was, not only his own most complete conviction, but the convi&tion of several eminent scholars, who, till then, had but fightly attended to the proofs for the verity of the Mofaic writings. These gentlemen, from that time, renounced their doubts and errors, and became, like Sir WILLIAM himself, not only almost, but altogether Cbriftians.
See this subject considered more at large in the British Critic for Feb. 1798.
The above declaration of this excellent man is faid to have been written in one of the blank leaves of his common reading Bible. He has advanced the same sentiments more at large in the third volume of the Afatic Researches, p. 402." Theological inquiries," says he, “ are no part of my present subject; but I cannot refrain from adding, that the collection of tracts, which we call from their excellence The Scriptures, contain, independently of a divine origin, more true fub.imity, more exquisite beauty, purer morality, more important history, and finer Strains both of poetry and eloquence, than could be collected within the same compass from all other books that were ever composed in any age or in idiom. The two parts, of which the Scriptures corliit, are connected by a chain of compositions, which bear no resemblance in foran or style to any that can be produced from the stores of Grecien, Indian, Persian, or even Arabian, learning. The antiquity of thuid compofitionis no man doubts; and the unstrained application of them to evets long fubsequent to their publication is a folid ground of belief, that they were genuine predictions, and consequently inspired."
ble ignorance, says all manner of evil against them; while the latter, who was an all-accomplished scholar, seems at a loss how sufficiently to express the sense he had of their importance. "I have regularly and attentively read the “ Holy Scriptures, says this great Lawyer, and am of opi“ nion this volume, independent of its divine origin, « contains more sublimity and beauty, more pure mo
rality, more important history, and finer strains of poetry “ and eloquence, than can be collected from all other “ books, in whatever language or age they may have been
And is it not strange that these contemptible writers, as THOMAS Paine affects to consider them, should excell all mankind in every sort of composition? They must have been extremely dexterous impostors! CHRIST, the most pious and moral of men, the most ingenious of deceivers ! His Apostles, the most ignorant and illiterate of mortals, the wisest and most admirable of writers! What paradoxes a man must embrace before he can become a finihed Infidel!
If then, my COUNTRYMEN, such are the superior excel, lencies of the Bible; though you find yourselves incapable of receiving it as composed by divine aslistance for the instruction and falvation of mankind, you will do yourselves a very serious injury by exploding it in every other point of view. Read it, at least, if it is only as a collection of compositions more ancient, more curious, more excellent, more entertaining, and more important, chan any other extant. This is a merit you must allow it to poffefs, if your mind is ever so little improved in literary attainments. And if this is not your situation, you ure ill qualified to
Note, that the last hour of the life of this illustrious character (who was particularly eminent for his attainments in astronomy, cronology, antiquities, languages, music, botany, and the laws of England,) was marked by a folemn act of devotion. Finding his diffolutiom rapidly approaching, he desired his attendants to carry him into an inner apart ment, where, at his desire, they left him. Returning after a short interval, they found him in a kneeling posture, with his hands clasped, and his eyes fixed towards heaven. As they were removing him, hę expired. See Maurice's elegiac Poem on the death of this admirable man.
judge of the truth or falsehood of a book of such vast antiquity, and which claims derivation from heaven. We have known several good scholars who used to read the Sacred Code, as we efteem it, merely as a book of entertainment. We have known others, who have read it to raise and sublime their minds. Some read it for its history, some for its poetry, fome for its eloquence, fome for its morality, some for its maxims, some for its sublime views of the SUPREME Being, some for the inimitable examples it affords us of virtue and vice. Be it then true or falle, as a system of Divine Revelation, let it have its due praise, and hold the rank among books to which it is so justly entitled*. Give every author the honour due unto him, and fing with our Epic Bard:
« Yet not the more
That wash thy hallow'd feet, and warbling flow, “ Nightly I visit." This book, which you are unhappy enough to despise, abounds, we have already seen, with all the various beauties of the Greek and Roman classics, and in a much higher degree of perfection. It confifts, not merely of a collection of chapters, and verses, and distinct aphorisms on trivial subjects, as too many are apt to conceive; but is, as it were, one grand Epic composition, forming sixty-fix books, of unequal lengths, and various importance. As the sun, moon, planets, and comets, make one system, and are cach of them necessary to the harmony of the whole; fo the different books of the Sacred Code, though separately considered, and taken out of their connection, may appear unimportant; yet as parts of one large and
* The beauties of composition to be met with in the Sacred Writings are beyond all praife. It is a neglect unpardonable in claffical schools, that they are not read there, as the standard of good tatte, and of fine writing, as well as of sound morals and religion-If they abound with such numerous specimens of noble composition in the moft literal of all translations, let any man judge what they must be in the original!
complicated system, they are all necessary, useful, or convenient to the perfection of the whole. And though the time is longer than is usually admitted in compositions of the Epic kind, its beginning being with the birth, and its end with the close of Nature itself; yet it should be remembered, that even this circumstance is perfectly confistent with the rest of the adorable plan; a thousand years being with the Lord as one day, and one day as a thousand years. The Action of it too is one, entire, and the greatest that can be conceived. All the Beings in the universe, of which we have any knowledge, are concerned in the Drama. The design of it is to display the perfections of the adorable Creator ; to rescue the human race from total misery and ruin; and to form us, by example, to glory, honour, and immortality. The Efic opens in a mild and calm sublimity, with the creation of the world itself. It is carried on with an astonishing variety of incidents, and unparalleled simplicity and majesty of language*. The least and most trivial episodes, or under-actions, which are interwoven in it, are parts either neceffary, or convenient, to forward the main design; either so neceffary, that without them the work must be imperfect, or so convenient, that no others can be imagined more suitable to the place in which they are.
And it closes with a book, or, to keep up the figure, with a scene, the most solemn, majestic, and fublime, that ever was composed by any author, sacred or profanet.
« The human mind,” saith one of the best of judges,
can conceive nothing more elevared, more grand, more glowing, more beautiful, and more elegant, than what we meet with in the Sacred Wriiings of the Hebrew bards,
* One of the beit judges of the age observes, that “ the graceful negligence of nature pleales beyond the trueft ornaments that art can devise. lideed, they are then truert, when they approach the nearest to this negiigence. To attain it, is the very triumph of art. The wise artist, therefore, always completes his studies in the great school of creation, where the forms of elegance lie scattered in an endless variety; and the writer, who wilhes to poffets sone portion of that sovereign excellence, anl fimplicity, even though he were an Infidel, would have re. courle to the Scriptures, and make them his model.” + See DRYDENS Ejays on the Belles Lettres,
The almost ineffable sublimity of the subjects they treat upon is fully equalled by the energy of the language, and the dignity of the style. Some of these writings too, exceed in antiquity the fabulous ages of Greece, as much as in fublimity they are superior to the most finished produccions of that celebrated people*.” Moses, for instance, stands unrivalled by the best of them both as a Poet, Orator, and Historiant: David as a Poets and Musician: SoloMon as a Moraliji, Naturalist, and Pastoral writer: JereNILAH, EZEKIEL, NAHUM, Joel, and some other of the Minor Prophets, as Orators, or Poets, or both: Homer and Virgil mult yield the palm to JOBS for true sublime: Isaiah excels all the world in almost every kind of compositionis: the four Evangeli ts are eminent as Orators and Historians : St. Peter and ST. JAMES, St. Luke and St. John, as authors of no ordinary rank: and St. Paul as the most fublime of Writers and eloquent of Orators**. All these culogiums upon the sacred penman are spoken of them merely as Authors, without the smallest view to their higher order as inspired writers, and messengers of the Lord of Hoftstt. If this last consideration be taken into the ac
* Lowth's Præleétiones.
+ LONGINUS, the best critic of the Heathen world, speaks of Moses as no ordinary writer, and cites his account of the creation as an instance of the true sublime.
| Mr. ADDISON says, "After perusing the book of Psalms, let a judge of the beauties of poetry read a literal translation of Horace or PINDAR, and he will find in these two last such an absurdity and confufiun of stile, with such a comparative poverty of imagination, as will make him fenfible of the vast superiority of Scripture ftile."
§ The Rev. George CostaRD, famous for oriental learning, considers Job as an exalted and regular piece of eastern poetry, of the dra. matic kind, consisting of five acts. The three first end at the 32d chapt. from the 32d to the 38th is the fourth act; from thence to the end is the fifth aci.
| Let the reader consult Bishop Lowth's Præleftiones for the character of the several prophets of the Old Testament, where he will find much useful information.
The above LONGINU$ ranks Paul of Tarsus among the most famous orators.
ft Madan Dacier, the celebrared French Critic, in the Preface to her translation of Homer, affyres us, that “the books of the Prophets " and the Psalms, even in the Vulgate, are full of such passages, as the “ greatest poet in the world could not put into verfe, without losing "! much of their majesty and pathos.".