« PreviousContinue »
quence s noble and persuasive; no Proverbs so laconic, 90 divine, so useful; no Morality so pure and perfective of human nature; no Sistem of the intellectual world so rational. We challenge you, MY COUNTRYMEN, we dare you to come forward, and shew us any thing of equal excellence in all the authors of antiquity, or amoy all the stores of modern refinement *. You ought then to be ashamed of your conduct, in treating with such indignity and sovereign contempt, writings which
never excelled, equalled; and which it is probable, you have never given yourselves time thoroughly to understand. Your conduct herein is extremely culpable, and what cannot be justified, eit' er on the principles of religion or philosophy. Any man possessed of one grain of modesty, and gratitude to heaven, could not help seeing the impropriety of it. A timely attention to one of Solomon's jests 4 might do all such pers sons everlasting good :- Judgments are prepared for scorners, and stripes for the back of fools ! “I can write,” says Mr.
of the matter; the sweetness of compiling; and the strange variety of memorable occurrences.”
“ I am very confident," saith Sir RICHARD STEEL, “ whoever reads the Gospels, with a heart as much prepared in favour of them, as when he sits down to VIRGIL or HOMER, will find po passage there which is not told with more natural force, than any Episode in either of those wits, who were the chief of mere mankind.”
Mr. LOCKB somewhere observes, “ that morality becomes a gentleman, not barely as a man, but in order to his business as a gentleman; and the morality of the Gospel,” says be,“ doth so excel that of all other books, that to give a man full knowledge of true morality, I should send him to no other book but the New Testament."
* If any person, who takes up this book, wishes to be informed where he may find the literary beauties of Holy Scripture pointed out to him, let biin know, that Boyle on the Style of ScriptureBLACK WALL's Sacred Classics--and Bishop Lowth's Prælectiones, are all very valuable in this way.--HERVEY's Works contain many beautiful specimens of sacred criticism.-SMITH's LONGINUS
-BLAIR's Lectures--ROLLIN's Belles Lettrés-Weald's Christian Orator --and the second volume of the Adventurer--all contain several good illustrations.--Some instances of the same kind will be net with in the Spectator and Guardian.-Many of these illustra
ns of the beauties of Scripture collected into one view in the second vol. of SIMPSON's Sacred Literature.
+ THOMAS PAINE, by way of slewing his wit, calls SOLOMON'S Proverbs, a jest Book.
PAINE," a better book than the Bible myself.” We grant this gentleman every merit to which he is entitled; but I can- . not help recommending to his attention, and that of his friends, another of this Jewish king's witty sayings: Seest
thou a man wise in his own conceit? There is more hope of a fool than of him! Many other jests, uttered by this sagacious
monarch, are equally funny with these two, and not less applicable to such characters as Mr. PAINE, and our other vaunting Philosophisters; but these may suffice as a specimen. The reader might be abundantly gratified with others of a similar kind, by having recourse to the jest-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 consideratiops.
llow different are the opinions of your Master Thomas PAINE, angł Sir William Jones *, concerning the Sacred
* Before this illustrious scholar went to India, he was by no means free from a sceptical bias. Bnt when he resided in Asia, he investigated, with minute and rigid attention, all those intricate theological points which had occasioned bis doubts; and the result was, not only his own most complete conviction, but the conviction of several eminent scholars, wbo, till then, had but slightly attended to ihe proofs for the verity of the Mosaic writings. These geutlemer, from that time, renounced their doubts and errors, and became, like Sir William himself, not only alınost, but altogether Christians.
See this subject considered more at large in the British Critic for Feb. 1798.
The above declaration of this excellent man is said to have been written in one of the blank leaves of bis common reading Bible. He has advanced the same sentiments more at large in the third volume of the Asiatic Researches, p. 402. “Theological inquiries," says lie, “ are no part of my present subject; but I cannot iefrain from adding, that the collection of tracts, which we call from their excellence The Scriptures, contain, independently of a divine origin, more true sublimity, more exquisite beauty, purer inorality, nore 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 any idiom. The two parts of which the Scriptures consist, are connecled by a chain of compositions, which hear no resenblance in form or style to any that can be produced from the stores of Grecian, Indian, Persian, or even Arabian, learning. The antiquity of those compositions no
Writings? The former, who has betrayed the most palpable 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 opinion this volume, independent of its divine origin, contains more sublimity and beauty, more puré morality, 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 composed."
And is it not strange that these contemptible writers, as THOMAS PAINE afftcts to consider them, should excel 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 finished Infidel!
If then, MY COUNTRYMEX, such are the superior excellencies of the Bible; though you find yourselves incapable of receiving it as composed by divine assistance for the instruction and salva!ion of mankind, you will do yourselves 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, than any other extant. This is a merit you must allow it to possess, if your mind be ever so little je proved in literary attainments. And if this
man doubts; and the unstrained application of them to events long subsequent to their publication is a solid ground of belief, that they were genuine predictions, and consequently inspired."
Nute, that the last hour of the life of this illustrious character (who was particularly eininent for his attainments in astronomy, chronology, aistiquities, languages, music, botany, and the laws of Englund.) was inorked by a solemın act of devotion. Finding his dissoiutiru rapidly approaching, he desired his attendants to carry hiy into an imer apartment, where, at his desire, they left him. Returning after a short interval, they found him in a kneeling posture, with his baridis clasped, and his eyes fixed towards heaven. As they were r moving him, he expired.
See MAURICE's clegiac Poem on the death of this adınirable man.
be not your situation, you are ill qualified to judge of the
“ Yet not the more
Nightly I visit."
* The beauties of composition to be met with in the Sacred Writings are beyond all praise. It is a neglect unpardonable in classical schools, that they are not read there, as the standard of good taste, and of fine writing, as well as of sonnd morals and religion.- If they abound with such numerous specimens of noble composition in the most literal of all translations, let any man judge what they unust be in the original !
whole. And though the time be longer than is usually adinitted in compositions of the Epic hind, its beginning being with the birth, and its end with the close of Nature itsell; yet it should be remembered, that evou this circumstance is perfectly consistent with the rest of the adorable plan; a thousand years being with the Lord as one day, and one day us 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; 10 rescue the buman race from total misery and ruin; and to form is, by example, to glory, honour, and immortality. The Epic opens in a mild and calı 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 necessary or convenient, to forward the main design: either so necessary, 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 sublime, that ever was composed by any author, sacred or profane.
“ The human mind," saith one of the best of judges, conceive nothing more elevated, more grand, more glowing, more beautiful, and more elegant, than what we meet with in the Sacred Writings of the liebrew bards. The most inetfable sublinity 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 loo, exceed in antiquity the fabulous ages of Greece, as much as in sublimity they are superior to
* One of the best judges of the age observes, that “the graceful negligence of nature pleases beyond the truest ornaments that art can devise. Todeed, they are then truest, when they approach the neare est to this negligence. 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 torius of elegance lie scattered in an endless variety; and the writer who wishes to possess some portion of that sovereign excellence, and simplicity, even though he were an Infidel, svould have recourse to the Scriptures, and make then his model.”
+ See DRYDEN's Essays on tlie Belles Lettres.