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ny, injustice, and every sort of malevolence, as the Gospel.-It breathes nothing throughout but mercy, benevolence, and peace.- Beattie.
IN what other writings can we descry those excellencies which we find in the Bible? None of them can equal it in antiquity: for the first penman of the sacred Scripture hath the start of all philosophers, poets, and historians, and is absolutely the ancientest writer extant in the world. No writings are equal to those of the Bible, if we mention only the stock of human learning contained in them. Here linguists and philologists may find that which is to be found no where else. Here rhetoricians and orators may be entertained with a more lofty eloquence, with a choicer composure of words, and with a greater variety of style, than any other writers can afford them. Here is a book, where more is understood than expressed, where words are few, but the sense is full and redundant. No books equal this in authority, because it is the word of God himself, and dictated by an unerring Spirit. It excels all other writings in the excellency of its matter, which is the highest, noblest, and worthiest, and of the greatest concern to mankind. Lastly, the Scriptures transcend all other writings in their power and efficacy.
Wherefore, with great seriousness and importunity, I request the reader that he would entertain such thoughts and persuasions as these, that Bible-learning is the highest accomplishment, that
this book is the most valuable of any upon earth, that here is a library in one single volume, that this alone is sufficient for us, though all the libraries in the world were destroyed.
EXCELLENCE OF THE SCRIPTURES, AS POETICAL, ORATORICAL, HISTORICAL, AND DIDACTIC. If we examine the sacred records, we shall find they consist of four different kinds, the poetic, oratorical, historical, and didactic forms. The poetic lies chiefly in the book of Psalms, of Job, and several detached passages in the Prophets, particularly of Isaiah. They contain many noble efforts of unmixed poetry or pure imitation: yet, these being all centered in one intention, that of extolling the works, and celebrating the power, wisdom, and goodness of the Deity, do generally partake of the character of eloquence, being chiefly of the lyric kind. In all these, the great character of simplicity is so strongly predominant, that every attempt to embellish them, by adding the supernumerary decorations of style in translation, hath ever been found to weaken and debase them.
As to the oratorical or pathetic parts, innumerable might be produced, equal, if not superior to any recorded by profane antiquity. In these, the leading character of simplicity is no less remarkable. Our Saviour's parables and exhortations are generally admirable in this quality. Filled with
unfeigned compassion for the weakness and miseries of man, they breathe nothing but the purest benevolence. St. Paul's last conversation with his friends at Ephesus, on his departure for Jerusalem, his discourse on the resurrection, and on charity; his reproofs, his commendations, his apologies, especially that before Agrippa, are wrote in the noblest strain of simplicity. And as a perfect model of this kind, we may give the story of Joseph and his brethren, which for tenderness, true pathos, and unmixed simplicity, is, beyond compare, superior to any thing that appears in ancient story.
But as the most important part of Scripture lies in the historical and preceptive part; especially in the New Testament, whence chiefly our idea of duty must be drawn; so we find this uniform and simple manner eminently prevailing throughout, in every precept and narration. The history is conveyed in that artless strain, which alone could adapt it to the capacities of all mankind; the precepts delivered by our Saviour are drawn from the principles of common sense, improved by the most exalted love of God and man; and either expressed in clear and direct terms, or couched under such images and allusions, as are every where to be found in nature, such as are, and must ever be, universally known, and familiar, to all mankind; in which we may further observe, his manner of teaching was greatly superior to the justly applauded Socrates, who, for the most part, drew his images and allusions from the less known arts and manners of the city. Through all this variety of striking allusion and moral precept the
style ever continues the same, unadorned, simple, vehement, and majestic: yet never drawing the readers attention on itself, but on the divine sentiments it conveys.
To this we may further add, that these several kinds of composition are mixed and united with such propriety and force, as is scarcely to be equalled in any other writings. The poetical parts are heightened by the greatest strokes of eloquence and precept; the pathetic by the noblest imagery and strictest morals; and the preceptive is strengthened and enforced by all the aids of poetry, eloquence, and parable; calculated at once to engage the imagination, to touch the passions, and command the reason of mankind.
Rev. J. Brown.
INSTANCES OF THE ELOQUENCE OF THE SCRIPTURES.
If we consider the nature of eloquence in general, as it is defined by Aristotle to be a faculty of persuasion, which Cicero makes to consist in three things, instructing, delighting, and moving our readers' or hearers' mind, we shall find that the Holy Scriptures have a fair claim to these several properties.
For where can we meet with such a plain representation of things, in point of history, and such cogent arguments, in point of precept, as this one volume furnishes us with? Where is there an history written more simply and naturally, and at the same time more nobly and loftily, than that of the
creation of the world? Where are the great lessons of morality taught with such force and perspicuity (except in the sermons of Christ, and the writings of the apostles) as in the book of Deuteronomy? Where is the whole compass of devotion, in the several forms of confession, petition, supplication, thanksgivings, vows, and praises, so punctually taught us as in the book of Psalms? Where are the rules of wisdom and prudence so convincingly laid down as in the Proverbs of Solomon, and the choice sentences of Ecclesiastes? Where is vice and impiety of all kinds more justly displayed, and more fully confuted, than in the threats and admonitions of the prophets? And what do the little warmths, which may be raised in the fancy by an artificial composure and vehe. mence of style, signify, in comparison of those strong impulses and movements which the Holy Scriptures make upon good men's souls, when they represent the frightful justice of an angry God to stubborn offenders, and the bowels of his compassion, and unspeakable kindness, to all true peni. tents and faithful servants?
The Holy Scripture indeed has none of those flashy ornaments of speech, wherewith human compositions so plentifully abound; but then it has a sufficient stock of real and peculiar beauties to recommend it. To give one instance for all out of the history of Joseph and his family: the whole relation indeed is extremely natural: but the manner of his discovering himself to his brethren is inimitable. 'And Joseph could no longer refrain himself-but, lifting up his voice with tears, said-I am Joseph-doth my father yet live?