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ancient or modern writers can inform us. But, what is more to our purpose, the sacred Prophets themselves, though rapt in ecstasy of the divine impressions, when treating of the question here debated, namely, Whether and wherefore the Good are frequently unhappy and the Bad prosperous, a question that came sometimes in their way, while they were reproving their iinpious and impatient countrymen, who by their repeated apostasies had now provoked God to withdraw from them, by degrees, his extraordinary providence; when, I say, they touch upon this question, they treat the inatter with the utmost plainness and simplicity.
3. But the last and most convincing circumstance is the form of the composition. And here I shall not urge, as of much weight, what hath been observed by some who take this side of the question, the scenical image of Job and his friends sitting together on the ground seven days and seven nights without a word speaking* Because we reasonably suppose no more to be meant than that excess of mutual' grief making them unfit to give, and him to receive consolation, they were some days f before they entered on the subject of their visit.
This rather is the thing to be admired, (if we suppose it all historic truth) that three cordial friends should make a solemn appointment to go mourn with Job and to comfort him ; that they should be so greatly affected with his extreme distresses, as to be unable to utter a word for seven whole days together;
Chap ii. ver. 13. + ---Eo quod Hebræi soleant multiplicare per septem (h. e. sepe tenarium numerum pre inultitudine ponere). Maimon. More Nevochim. p. 267. Chap. ii. ver. 11.
and yet, after this, to be no sooner set in, than intirely to forget their errand, and (miserable comforters as they were) instcad of mourning with him in the bitterness of his soul, to wrangle, and contradict him in every word he spoke; and this without the least softening of friendship; but with all the fierceness and acrimony of angry Disputants contending for a victory. It was no trifle neither that they insisted on, in which ivdeed disputatious men are often the warmest, but a contradiction in the tenderest point. They would needs have it, against all Job's protestations to the contrary, that his misfortunes came upon him in punishment for his crimes. Suppose their Friend had been wrong in thie judgment he passed on things, Was this a time to animadvert in so pitiless a manner on his crrors? Would not a small share of affection, pity, or evěn common humanity, have disposed them to bear one seven days longer with their old distressed Acquaintance: Human nature is ever uniform; and the greater passions, such as those of friendship and natural affection, shew themselves to be the same at all times: But we have an instance in these very times, in that amiable domestic story of Joseph. This Patriarch had been cruelly injured by his brethren. Providence at length put them into his power; and, in just resentinent of their inhuman usage, he thought fit to mortify and humble them: but no sooner did he find them begin to be unhappy, than his anger subsided, violated affection returned, and he melted into their bosoms with all the tenderness of a fellow-sufferer. This was Nature: This was History. And shall we suppose the feelings of true Friendship to be inferior to those of Family-affection? David thought otherwise, where, speaking of Jonathan, he declares their mutual love was wonderful, surpassing
that of the strongest natural affection, the passion between the two sexes. The same have always been the Friendships of good men, when founded on virtue, and strengthened by a similitude of manners.
So that it appears, these three friends were of a singular complexion; and deservedly gave occasion to a proverb which sets them in no very honourable or advantageous light.
But suppose now the work to be dramatical, and we immediately see the reason of their behaviour. For had they not been indulged in their strange captious humour, the Author could never have produced a piece of that integrity of action, which a scenic representation demanded: and they might as well have held their tongues seven days longer, as not contradict, when they did begin to speak *
This, as to what the Drama in general required. But had this been all we could say for theix conduct, we should needs confess that the divine Writer had here done, what mère mortal Poets so frequently do; that is, had transgressed nature (in such a representation of friendship) for the sake of his Plot. shall shew, when we come to examine the MORAL of the poein, that nature is exactly followed : for that under these three miserable Comforters, how true friends socver in the Fable, certain false friends were intended to be shadowed out in the Noralt.
But now the dispute is begun and carried on with great vehemence on both sides. They affirm, they object, they answer, they reply; till, having exhausted their whole stock of arguments, and made the matter more doubtful than they found it, the Author, in this embarras, has recourse to the coinmon expedient of
* See note [E] at the end of thiş volume. † See note [F] at the end of this volume.
dramatic writers, to draw him from his straits,
-cos ano unxavñs. And if ever that precept of the masters of composition,
Nec Deus intersit, nisi dignus Vindice nodus, was well followed, it was here. For what can we conceive more worthy- the presence of a God, than to interfere with his Authority, to silence those frivolous or impious disputes amongst men concerning the MYSTERIOUS WAYS OF PROVIDENCE ? And that this interposition was nothing more, I think, is evident from hence: The subject, as we observe, was of the highest importance, namely, Whether, and why, good men are unhappy, and the evil prosperous ? The disputants had much perplexed the question by various answers and replies; in which each sidc had appealed to reason and experience ; so that there wanted a superior Wisdom to moderate and determine. But, to the surprise of all who consider this attentively, and consider it as a strict History, they find God introduced to do this in a speech which clears up no difficulties ; but makes all hopes of deciding the question desperate, by an appeal to his Almighty power * A plain proof that the Interposition was no more than a piece of poetical Machinery. And in that case we see the reason why the knot remains untied: for the sacred Writer was no wiser f when he spoke poetically in the Person of God, than when he spoke in the person of Job or bis friends.
On these accounts, and on many more, which will be touched upon in the course of this dissertation, but are here omitted to avoid repetition, I conclude, that those Critics who suppose the book of Job to be of the dramatic kind, do not judge amiss.
* See note [G] at the end of this volume.
Nor does such idea of this truly divine Composition at all detract from the proofs we have of the real existence of this holy Patriarch, or of the truth of his exemplary Story. On the contrary, it much confirms them : seeing it was the general practice of dramatic Writers, of the serious kind, to chuse an illustrious Character or celebrated Adventure for the subject of the Piece, in order to give their poem its due dignity and weight. And yet, which is very surprising, the Writers on both sides, as well those who suppose the Book of Job to be dramatical, as those who hold it to be historical, have fallen into this paralogism, That, if dramatical, then the Person and History of Job are fictitious. Which nothing but inattention, to the nature of a dramatic Work, and to the practice of dramatic Writers, could have occasioned. Lactantius had a much better idea of this species of composition: “ Totum autem, quod referas, fingere, id est, ineptum "esse, et Mendacem potius quam Poetam."
But this fallacy is not of late standing. Maimonides, where he speaks of those whose opinion he seems to incline to, that say the book of Job is parabolical, expresses himself in this manner*. You know there are certain men who say, that such a man as Job never existed. And that his history is nothing else but a parable. These certain men were (we know) the Talmudists. Now, as, by his History, he means this book of Job, it is evident he supposed the fabulosity of the book concluded against the existence of the Patriarch. Nay, so insensibly does this inveterate fallacy insinuate itself into our reasonings on this subject, that even Grotius himself appears not to be quite free from the entanglement. Who, al
* Nósti quosdam esse, qui dicunt Jobum nunquam fuisse, ncque creatum esse ; sed HISTORIA D illius nihil aliud esse quàm Parabolam. Vol. V.