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of his friends, another of this Jewish king's witty sayings:, Seeft thou a man wife in his own conceit? There is more hope of a fool than of him! Many other jefts, uttered by this fagacious monarch, are equally funny with these two, and not lefs applicable to fuch characters as Mr. PAINE, and our other vaunting Philofophifters; but thefe may fuffice as a fpecimen. The reader might be abundantly gratified with others of a fimilar kind, by having recourse to the jeft-book itself, to which I would, therefore, recommend him with all fpeed to apply. A ferious application to a book of fuch admirable humour could not fail of yielding moft exquifite entertainment! Let us, however, proceed to other confiderations.
How different are the opinions of your Mafter THOMAS PAINE, and Sir WILLIAM JONES, concerning the Sacred Writings? The former, who has betrayed the most palpa
* Before this illuftrious fcholar went to India, he was by no means free from a fceptical bias. But when he refided in Afia, he investigated, with minute and rigid attention, all thofe intricate theological points that had occafioned his doubts; and the refult was, not only his own most complete conviction, but the conviction of feveral eminent scholars, who, till then, had but flightly attended to the proofs for the verity of the Mofaic writings. Thefe gentlemen, from that time, renounced their doubts and errors, and became, like Sir WILLIAM himself, not only almost, but altogether Chriftians.
See this fubject confidered 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 fame fentiments more at large in the third volume of the Afiatic Researches, p. 402. "Theological inquiries," fays he, " are no part of my prefent fubject; 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 fublimity, more exquifite beauty, purer morality, more important history, and finer ftrains both of poetry and eloquence, than could be collected within the fame compafs from all other books that were ever compofed in any age or in any idiom. The two parts, of which the Scriptures confist, are connected by a chain of compofitions, which bear no resemblance in form or ftyle to any that can be produced from the ftores of Grecian, Indian, Perfian, or even Arabian, learning. The antiquity of thofe compofitions no man doubts; and the untrained application of them to events long fubfequent to their publication is a folid ground of belief, that they were genuine predictions, and confequently inspired."
ble ignorance, fays all manner of evil against them; while the latter, who was an all-accomplished fcholar, seems at a lofs how fufficiently to exprefs the fenfe he had of their importance. "I have regularly and attentively read the "Holy Scriptures, fays this great Lawyer, and am of opi"nion this volume, independent of its divine origin, " contains more fublimity 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 confider them, fhould excell all mankind in every fort of compofition? They must have been extremely dexterous impoftors! CHRIST, the most pious and moral of men, the most ingenious of deceivers! His Apostles, the most ignorant and illiterate of mortals, the wifest and most admirable of writers! What paradoxes a man must embrace before he can become a finished Infidel!
If then, MY COUNTRYMEN, fuch are the fuperior excellencies of the Bible; though you find yourselves incapableof receiving it as compofed by divine affiftance for the inftruction and falvation of mankind, you will do yourfelves 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 compofitions more ancient, more curious, more excellent, more entertaining, and more important, than any other extant. This is a merit you must allow it to poffefs, if your mind is ever fo little improved in literary attainments. And if this is not your fituation, you ure ill qualified to
Note, that the laft hour of the life of this illuftrious character (who was particularly eminent for his attainments in aftronomy, cronology, antiquities, languages, mufic, botany, and the laws of England,) was marked by a folemn act of devotion. Finding his diffolutiom rapidly approaching, he defired his attendants to carry him into an inner ment, where, at his defire, they left him. Returning after a fhort interval, they found him in a kneeling pofture, with his hands clafped, and his eyes fixed towards heaven. As they were removing him, hẹ expired.
See MAURICE's elegiac Poem on the death of this admirable man.
judge of the truth or falfehood of a book of fuch vaft antiquity, and which claims derivation from heaven. We have known several good scholars who used to read the Sacred Code, as we esteem it, merely as a book of entertainment. We have known others, who have read it to raise and fublime their minds. Some read it for its history, fome for its poetry, fome for its eloquence, fome for its morality, fome for its maxims, fome for its fublime views of the SUPREME BEING, fome for the inimitable examples it affords us of virtue and vice. Be it then true or false, as a fyftem 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,
This book, which you are unhappy enough to defpife, abounds, we have already feen, with all the various beauties of the Greek and Roman claffics, and in a much higher degree of perfection. It confifts, not merely of a collection of chapters, and verses, and diftinct aphorifms on trivial fubjects, as too many are apt to conceive; but is, as it were, one grand EPIC compofition, forming fixty-fix books, of unequal lengths, and various importance. As the fun, moon, planets, and comets, make one fyftem, and are each of them neceffary to the harmony of the whole; fo the different books of the Sacred Code, though feparately confidered, and taken out of their connection, may appear unimportant; yet as parts of one large and
*The beauties of compofition 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 tafte, and of fine writing, as well as of found morals and religion-If they abound with fuch numerous fpecimens of noble compofition in the most literal of all translations, let any man judge what they must be in the original!
complicated fyftem, they are all neceffary, ufeful, or convenient to the perfection of the whole. And though the time is longer than is ufually admitted in compofitions of the Epic kind, its beginning being with the birth, and its end with the clofe of Nature itfelf; yet it fhould be remembered, that even this circumftance is perfectly confiftent with the reft 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 defign of it is to display the perfections of the adorable Creator; to refcue the human race from total mifery and ruin; and to form us, by example, to glory, honour, and immortality. The Epic opens in a mild and calm fublimity, with the creation of the world itfelf. It is carried on with an astonishing variety of incidents, and unparalleled fimplicity and majefty of language*. The least and moft trivial episodes, or under-actions, which are interwoven in it, are parts either neceffary, or convenient, to forward the main defign; either fo neceffary, that without them the work must be imperfect, or fo convenient, that no others can be imagined more fuitable to the place in which they are. And it closes with a book, or, to keep up the figure, with a scene, the most folemn, majeftic, and fublime, that ever was compofed by any author, facred or profanet.
"The human mind," faith one of the best of judges, " can conceive nothing more elevated, more grand, more glowing, more beautiful, and more elegant, than what we meet with in the Sacred Writings of the Hebrew bards,
*One of the best judges of the age obferves, that "the graceful negligence of nature pleafes beyond the trueft ornaments that art can dewife. Indeed, they are then trueft, when they approach the nearest to this negligence. To attain it, is the very triumph of art. The wife artift, therefore, always completes his ftudies in the great fchool of creation, where the forms of elegance lie fcattered in an endless variety; and the writer, who wishes to poffefs fome portion of that fovereign excellence, and fimplicity, even though he were an Infidel, would have re courfe to the Scriptures, and make them his model."
+ See DRYDEN's Effays on the Belles Lettres.
The almost ineffable fublimity of the fubjects they treat upon is fully equalled by the energy of the language, and the dignity of the ftyle. Some of these writings too, exceed in antiquity the fabulous ages of Greece, as much as in fublimity they are fuperior to the most finished productions of that celebrated people." MOSES, for inftance, ftands unrivalled by the best of them both as a Poet, Orator, and Hiftoriant: DAVID as a Poet‡ and Mufician: SOLOMON as a Moralift, Naturalift, and Paftoral writer: JEREMIAH, EZEKIEL, NAHUM, JOEL, and fome other of the Minor Prophets, as Orators, or Poets, or both: HOMER and VIRGIL muft yield the palm to JOB§ for true fublime: ISAIAH excels all the world in almost every kind of compofition||: the four Evangelifts are eminent as Orators and Hiftorians : ST. PETER and ST. JAMES, ST. LUKE and ST. JOHN, as authors of no ordinary rank: and ST. PAUL as the moft fublime of Writers and eloquent of Orators**. All these culogiums upon the facred penman are spoken of them merely as Authors, without the smallest view to their higher order as infpired writers, and meffengers of the LORD of Hoftstt. If this laft confideration be taken into the ac
+ LONGINUS, the best critic of the Heathen world, fpeaks of MOSES as no ordinary writer, and cites his account of the creation as an instance of the true fublime.
Mr. ADDISON fays, "After perufing the book of Pfalms, let a judge of the beauties of poetry read a literal tranflation of HORACE or PINDAR, and he will find in these two last such an abfurdity and confufion of ftile, with fuch a comparative poverty of imagination, as will make him fenfible of the vaft fuperiority of Scripture ftile.".
The Rev. GEORGE COSTARD, famous for oriental learning, confiders Jo as an exalted and regular piece of eastern poetry, of the dramatic kind, confifting of five acts. The three firft end at the 3 2d chapt. from the 32d to the 38th is the fourth act; from thence to the end is the fifth a&t.
Let the reader confult Bishop LowTH's Prælectiones for the character of the feveral prophets of the Old Teftament, where he will find much ufeful information.
**The above LONGINUS ranks PAUL of Tarfus among the most famous orators.
tt Madam DACIER, the celebrared French Critic, in the Preface to her tranflation of HOMER, affures us, that "the books of the Prophets "and the Pfalms, even in the Vulgate, are full of fuch paffages, as the greatest poet in the world could not put into verfe, without lofing "much of their majesty and pathos.”