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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 thoufand 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 difplay 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 sublimity, with the creation of the world itself. It is carried on with an astonishing variety of incidents, and unparalleled fimplicity and majesty 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 clofes 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 devife. 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 recourfe to the Scriptures, and make them his model."
+ See DRYDEN's Effeys on the Belles Lettres.
The almost ineffable fublimity of the subjects they treat upon is fully equalled by the energy of the language, and the dignity of the ftyle. Some of thefe 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 instance, 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 Joв§ for true fublime: ISAIAH excels all the world in almoft 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 most fublime of Writers and eloquent of Orators**. All these culogiums upon the facred penman are spoken of them merely as Authors, without the fmalleft view to their higher order as infpired writers, and meffengers of the LORD of Hofstt. If this last 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 inftance 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 Jos as an exalted and regular piece of eaftern poetry, of the dramatic kind, confifting of five acts. The three firft end at the 3 2d chapt. from the 3 2d 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."
count, and added to the former, what an all-important book muft the Bible be? what a blessing to mankind! Language cannot exprefs the value of it. If the exhortation of a late noble author, as improperly applied to the Grecian bard, were applied to this ineftimable volume, it would be used with the ftricteft propriety and decorum!
"Read God's Word once, and you can read no more;
In fhort, MY COUNTRYMEN, the Bible abounds with a vaft variety of matter, a confused magnificence above all order; and is the fittest book in the world to be the ftandard of doctrines, and the model of good writing. We defy all the Sons of Infidelity to fhew us any thing like it, or fecond to it. Where will you meet with such a number of inftructive Proverbs-fervent Prayers-fublime Songs-beneficent Miracles-appofite Parables-infallible Prophecies-affectionate Epiftles-eloquent Orations-in
'A valuable Correfpondent, fpeaking of the prophetic fcriptures, expreffes himself in the following manner:-" Next to Aftronomy, few fubjects expand the human mind more, than the view which prophecy opens to us of the government of the GREAT KING. To fee the valt nafs of materials, kingdoms, and centuries, in motion, only to the accomplishment of his purposes: to fee refractory man employed to preferve the harmony of his defigns; and the diforderly paflions, while apparently working folely in their own narrow circle, ignorantly advanc ing the fulfilment of his determination! This is a ftudy delightfully interefting, and which, in common with the contemplation of all the GREAT CREATOR's doings, elevates the mind above the oppreffion of human cares and forrows, and feems to leave her in that ferenity of admiration, which one may imagine an imperfect foretaste of part of the employment and happiness of angels."
ABRAHAM COWLEY tells us, that all the books of the Bible are "either already moft admirable and exalted pieces of poefy, or are the "best materials in the world for it."
Sir RICHARD BLACK MORE fays, that" for sense, and for noble "and fublime thoughts, the poetical parts of Scripture have an infinite advantage above all others put together."
MATTHEW PRIOR, Esq. is of opinion, that" the writings of Solomon "afford fubjects for finer poems in every kind, than have yet appeared in the Greek, Latin, or any modern language."
ftructive Hiftories-pure Laws-rich Promises-awful Denunciations-useful Enfamples, as are fet before us in this richly fraught magazine of all true excellence in matter
ALEXANDER POPE, Esq. affures us, that "the pure and noble, the graceful and dignified fimplicity of language is no where in fuch perfection as in the Scripture and HOMER; and that the whole book of JOB, with regard both to fublimity of thought and morality, exceeds beyond all comparison the most noble parts of HOMER.'
Mr. NICHOLAS Rows too, the Poet, after having read most of the Greek and Roman hiftories in their original languages, and moft that are wrote in English, French, Italian, and Spanish, was fully perfuaded of the truth of Revealed Religion, expreffed it upon all occafions, took great delight in divinity and ecclefiaftical hiftory, and died at laft like a Christian and Philofopher, with an abfolute refignation to the will of GOD.
There are few ancedotes of our celebrated English Poets which have given me more pleasure than that of poor COLLINS, who, in the latter part of his mortal career, "withdrew from ftudy, and travelled with no "other book than an English Teftament, fuch as children carry to school. "When a friend took it into his hand, out of curiofity to fee what companion a Man of Letters had chofen-I have only one book," faid COLLINS, "but that is the best."
See JOHNSON's Lives of the Poets, vol. 4.
I must own that fuch an ancedote as this knits my heart to COLLINS more than all the excellencies of his Poetry. Sick and infirm, in the fpirit of MARY, he fits at the divine REDEEMER's feet, listening to the words of eternal life. In fuch a state of body and mind, one fingle promife, from his gracious and infallible lips, is of more real value and importance, than all the pompous learning of the moft celebrated Philofophers. This, indeed, will never be properly felt and understood till we come to be in fimilar circumstances. When Dr. WATTS was almost worn out, and broken down by his infirmities, he observed in conversation with a friend," he remembered an aged minifter used to say, that the most learned and knowing Chriftians, when they come to die, have only the fame plain promises of the Gospel for their fupport, as the common and unlearned: and fo, faid he, I find it. It is the plain promifes of the Gospel that are my fupport; and I blefs GOD, they are plain promifes, that do not require much labour and pains to understand them, for I can do nothing now, but look into my Bible for fome promife to fupport me, and live upon that."
This was likewife the caf; with the pious and excellent Mr. HERVEY. He writes about two montns before his death:-" I now spend," fays he," almost my whole time, in reading and praying over the Bible."And again, near the fame time, to another friend:-"I am now re-, duced to a ftate of infant weakness, and given over by my phyfician.My grand confolation is to meditate on CHRIST; and I am hourly repeating thofe heart-reviving lines of Dr. YOUNG:
and compofition, the Holy Bible? We may fay with Prepertius, on another occafion,
Cedite, Romani feriptoros; cedite, Graii* :
And recommend to the Gentlemant, the Scholar, and the Philofopher, as well as to the illiterate Chriftian, the daily perufal of the Bible, with infinitely greater propriety, than ever HORACE did to the learned Romans the ftudy of the Grecian models:
Nocturnâ verfate manu, verfate diurnâ†.
There is another circumftance, MY COUNTRYMEN, I beg leave to fubmit to your confideration, which is, that
"This-only this fubdues the fear of death:
1. Pardon for infinite offence!-2. And pardon
Through means that speak its value infinite!
3. A pardon bought with blood!-4. With blood divine!
5. With blood divine of him I made my foe!—
6. Perfifted to provoke !-7. Though woo'd and aw'd, "Blefs'd and chaftis'd, a flagrant rebel till!
"8. A rebel "midft the thunders of his throne!
9. Nor I alone!-10. A rebel universe !—
11. My fpecies up in arms!-12. Not one exempt!-
14. Moft joy'd for the redeem'd from deepest guilt!-
"And GoDHEAD dearer, as more kind to man."
We have just read GODWIN's Memoirs of Mrs. GODWIN, otherwise, Mrs. MARY WOLLSTONECROFT. She was a woman of confiderable powers, but of a lewd character in life, living with a Mr. IMLAY, as a wife, and having a child by him; and then, when forfaken by him, living with, and being pregnant by Mr, GODWIN, who afterwards mar ried her. I mention thefe circumftances, because they were both profeffed Philofophers, and Unbelievers, and as a contraft to the above pious Chriftians. She attended no public worship, and during her last illness, no religious expreffions efcaped her philofophic lips.
Let both the Greek and Roman authors yield the palm to the Sacred Writings.
t Dr. SOUTH obferves, that " he who would not read the Scripturė for fear of fpoiling his ftile, fhewed himself as much a blockhead as an theift, and to have as fmall a guft of the elegancies of expreffion, as of the facredness of the matter." "" Sermons, vol. 4. p. 32.
Read therein by day, meditate by night.