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queathed to her sister a Greek Testament, on one of the blank leaves of which she wrote:-I have sent you, my dear sister, a book, which, although it be not outwardly trimmed with gold, yet inwardly it is more worth than all the precious mines, of which the vast world can boast. It is the book, my only best and best beloved sister, of the Law of the LORD. It is the testament and last will which he bequeathed unto us wretched sinners, which shall lead you to the path of eternal joy.--It will teach you how to live, and likewise how to die.- If you apply yourself diligently to this book, seeking to direct your life according to the rule of the same, it shall win you more, and endow you with greater felicity, than the possession of all your father's lands, and you shall be an inheritor of such riches, as neither the covetous shall withdraw from you, nor the thief shall steal, nor yet the moths corrupt.”
Queen ELIZABETH, speaking of her own conduct, saith, “ I walk many times in the pleasant fields of the Holy Scriptures, where I pluck up the goodlisome herbs of sentences by pruning; and lay them up at length in the high seat of memory by gathering them together; that so, having tasted their sweetness, I may the less perceive the bitterness of this miserable life.”
ALPHONSUS, King of Naples, who did not begin to study till he was fifty years of age, read over the Old and New Testament, with their glosses, fourteen times.
Grotius too made the Holy Scriptures his favourite study in every period of his life. They were his consolation in prison; he always devoted a part of the day to them; and they were his principal study during a great part of his embassy abroad.
The learned Father Pauí had read over the Greek Testament with so much exactness, that having used to mark every word, when he had fully weighed the importance of it, as he went through it; he bad, by going often over it, and observing what he had passed by in a former reading, growu up to that at last, that every word of the whole New Testament was marked; and when any new illustrations of passages were suggested to him, he received them with transports of joy.
Sir HENRY Wotton, after his customary public devotions, used to retire to his study, and there to spend some hours in
reading the Bible, and authors in divinity, closing up his meditations with private prayer.
The excellent Sir John HARTOPP in like mammer, amidst his other applications, made the Book of God bis chief study, and his divinest delight. : The Bible lay before him night and day.
James Bonnell, Esq. made the Holy Scriptures his constant and daily study. He read them, he meditated upon them, he prayed over them.
The celebrated WITSIUS was able to recite almost any passage of Scripture in its proper language, together with its context, and the criticisms of the best commentators.
Mr. WILLIAM GOUGE tied himself to read fifteen chapters in the Bible daily.
Lady FRANCES HOBART read the Psalms over twelve times every year, the New Testament thrice, and the other parts of the Old Testament once.
SUSANNAH, Countess of Suffolk, for the last seven years of her life, read the whole Bible over twice annually*.
* There have been many female characters highly eminent for their piety and knowledge of the Sacred Scriptures, as well as those above mentioned. I will instance a few: Queen CATHARINE PARR—Queen MARY-Lady C. COURTEN-- Lady M. Hough. TON- Lady CUTTS---Lady E. HASTINGS---Lady M. ARMYNE-Lady A. HALKET-Lady LANGHAM--Lady E. BROOKE~Lady M. VERE--Mrs. C. PHILLIPS-Mrs. J. RATCLIFFE-Mrs. C. BRETTERG-Mrs. A. BAYNARD-Mrs. A. M. SCHURMANMrs. E. BURY-Mrs. E. BURNET--Mrs. E. Rowe, and others.
See GIBBON'S Memoirs of Pious Ladies and Biographium Fæmi. neun.
in the reign of HENRY V, a law was passed against the perusal of the Scriptures in English. It enacted," that whatsoever they were who should read the Scriptures in the mother tongue, they should forfeit land, catel, lif, and godes, from theyr heyres for ever, and so be condempned for heretykes to God, enemies to the crowne, and most errant traitors to the lande.”
Vide NEAL's History of the Puritans, vol. i. p. 7.
The above is an honourable list of female characters. We may therefore place them in the higher class of Bishop AYLMER's account of the fair sex; for this good bishop, when preaching at court before Queen ELIZABETH, tells his audience, that“ are of two sorts, some of them are wiser, better learned, discreeter, and more constant than a number of men; but another and worse sort of them, and the most part, are fond, foolish, wanton fib
And that the knowledge of Holy Scripture was never intended to be confined to the Clergy, or to Kings, learned men, and persons of rank, is evident, not only from what we have observed from BINGHAM and others, but also from the words of ERASMUS, who contributed more perhaps than auy other man towards promoting the knowledge of scriptural learning.-“I would desire," says he, “ that all women should read the Gospel, and the Epistles of St. Paul. I would to God, the plowman would sing a text of Scripture at his plough; and that the weaver at his loom with this would drive away the tediousness of time. I would the wayfaring man, with this pastime, would expel the weariness of his journey. And, in short, I would that all the communication of the Christian should be of the Scripture."
If we come to our own time, it might be made appear, that abundance of the most serious and valuable people, ainong the different denominations of men, spend a good portion of their time in this sacred exercise. I observe only, still farther, however, that the late Rer. WILLIAM ROMAINE, before mentioned, studied nothing but the Bible for the last thirty or forty
years of his life.
All these examples, from ancients and moderns, are produced in this place, to encourage the serious believer to abound in this divine employ, for the comfort and edification of his own mind. The more intimately we are acquainted with these writings, the more fully shall we be persuaded of their incomparable excellence. The very learned LE CLERC tells us, “ that while he was compiling his Harmony, he was so struck with admiration of the excellent discourses of JESUS, so inflamed with the love of his most holy doctrine, that he thought he but just then began to be acquainted with what he scarce ever laid out of his hands from his infancy.” Indeed, the scheme of redemption therein exhibited is most worthy of acceptation, ad"mirably calculated to make all mankind virtuoụs and bappy, could all mankind see its excellence, feel its necessity, and submit to its righteous requirements. Far are we from wishing you bergibs, tatlers, triflers, wavering, witless, without counsel, feeble, careless, rash, proud, dainty, nice, tale-bearers, eves-droppers, rumour-raisers, evil-tongued, worse-minded, and in every wise doltified with the dregs of the devil's dunghill."
Brit. Biog. vol. 3. p. 239.
to pay a blind submission to every thing that goes under the name of Religion. Very far are we from desiring you to believe as we believe, or to act in every respect as we think right to act. Prize the liberty wherewith God hath providentially made
you free. Use your own reason, but use it soberly. Beware of vain and spurious pretensions. Be upon your guard against a sophistical Philosophy, the fashionable folly of the present day. To sound Philosophy we have no objection; but when a spurious kind of wisdom, falsely called Philosophy, would rob us of our Bible, to which we are all more indebted than we are willing to confess*, we must say of it as Cicero said of the Twelve Tables:-" Though all should be offended
* Sir RICHARD STEEL says, “ the greatest pleasures with which the imagination can be entertained are to be found in Sacred Il'rit, and even the style of Scripture is more than human."
Tatler, No. 233. We have an account in the Gentleman's Mag. for June 1798, of a Mr. HENRY WILLIS, farmer, aged si, deceased, who had devoted almost every hour that could be spared from his labour, during the course of so long a life, to the devout and serious perusal of the Holy Scriptures. He bad read, with the most minute attention, all the books of the Old and New Testament eight times over; and had proceeded as far as the book of Job in his ninth reading, when his meditations were terminated by death.
A still more excellent account we bave in Miss HANNAH More's Shepherd of Salisbury-Plain, which is no feigned character, but a narrative of real facts, like the above. In a conversation with Mr. JOHNSON, he gives the following pleasing account of himself:
" Blessed be God! through his mercy I learned to read when I was a boy. I believe there is no day for the last thirty years, that I have not peeped at my Bible. If we can't find time to read a chapter, I defy any man to say he can't find time to read a verse; and a single text, well followed and put in practice every day, would make no bad figure at the year's end; 365 texts, without the loss of a moment's time, would make a pretty stock, a little golden treasury, as one may say, from new year's day to new year's day; and if children were brought up to it, they would come to look for their text, as naturally as they do for their breakfast.- I can say the greatest part of the Bible by heart. I have led but a lonely life, and have often had but little to eat; but my Bible has been meat, drink, and company to me and when want and trouble have come upon me, I don't know what I should have done indeed, if I had not had the promises of this book for my stay and support."
Let no man "hereafter pretend he cannot find time to read the Sacred Writings. Every person has abundant leisure for the purpose. Fipd but inclination, and you will soon find time.
I will speak what I think. Truly the little book of the Twelve Tables alone, whether we consider the several chapters, or regard it as the foundation of all our laws, exceeds the libraries of all the Philosophers, as well in the weight of its authority, as in the extent of its utility*."
The principles of natural religion are all solid, and founded in the reason and relation of things. The Gospel of Christ is equally solid and rational. It takes in, unites, and confirms every principle of nature, and adds a number of circumstances suited to the fallen condition of man. And it calls upon, it invites, it challenges, it commands us to examine its pretensions with all possible care, accuracy, and severity.
Wrong not the Christian; think not Reason yours;
If the Gospel had not been agreeable to the most refined principles of humau reason, we should never have found the soundest and most perfect reasoners, that ever appeared upon earth, enlist under its bannert. That it is not universally
*“ Fremant omnes licet, dicam quod sentio : bibliothecas mehercule omnium philosophorum unus mihi videtur XII. tabularum libellus, si quis legum fonteis, et capita viderit, et auctoritatis pondere, et utilitatis ubertate superare."
De Oratore, lib. 1. sect. 195. + We may add too, that the more active, useful, and benevolent characters in our own more enlightened day have been the firmest believers in the writings of the Old and New Testaments. The late JOHN WESLEY spent his whole life, tiine, strength, and fortune in spreading the knowledge of Christ and bis Word. The late John HOWARD, Esq. was equally active in advancing the same cause, in a way as unprecedented, as it was useful. He was a firm believer in the Scriptures, and a very serious and conscientious Christian, of the Baptist persuasion.
BOLINGBROKE, indeed, tells the world, that “the resurrection of letters was a fatal period: the Christian systein has been aitacked, and wounded too, very severely since that time.” Page 182. He tells us in another place, “ that Christianity has been in decay ever since the resurrection of letters.” Page 185. The late King of Prussia has the same sentiment: “ HOBBES, COLLINS, SHAFTESBURY, and BOLINGBROKE, in England, and their disci