Imágenes de páginas

of equal insignificance. Thunder and lightning may be imitated by a character not less contemptible than a conjuror; but should any one infer that there is nothing more grand, more awful, or more worthy of God, in these displays of nature, than in the exhibitions of a country show, he would prove himself to be possessed of but a small portion of either wit or good sense.

I do not pretend to any great judgment in the beauties of composition but there are persons of far superior judgment to this writer who have expressed themselves in a very different language. The late Sir Wm. Jones, who for learning and taste, as well as character, has left but few equals, thus expresses himself: "I have regularly and attentively read these Holy Scriptures, and am of opinion that this volume, independent of its divine origin, contains more sublimity and beauty, more pure morality, more important history, and finer strains of poetry and eloquence, than can be collected from all other books, in whatever age or language they may have been composed."

The acknowledgments of Rousseau, likewise, whose taste for fine writing, and whose freedom from prejudice in favour of Christianity, none will call in question, will serve to confront the assertions of Mr. Paine. After declaring that as there were some proofs in favour of Revelation which he could not invalidate, so there were many objections against it which he could not resolve; that he neither admitted, nor rejected it; and that he rejected only the obligation of submitting to it; he goes on to acknowledge as follows: "I will confess to you farther, that the majesty of the scripture strikes me with admiration, as the purity of the gospel hath its influence on my heart. Peruse the works of our philosophers, with all their pomp of diction-how mean-how contemptible—are they, compared with the scripture! Is it possible, that a book at once so simple and sublime, should be merely the work of man? Is it possible that the sacred personage whose history it contains should be himself a mere man? Do we find that he assumed the air of an enthusiast or ambitious sectary? What sweetness, what purity in his manner! What an affecting gracefulness in his delivery! What sublimity in his maxims! What profound wisdom in his discourses! What presence of

mind! What subtilty! What truth in his replies! How great the command over his passions! Where is the man, where the philosopher, who could so live and die, without weakness, and without ostentation ?-Shall we suppose the Evangelic History a mere fiction? Indeed, my friend, it bears not the marks of fiction. On the contrary, the history of Socrates, which nobody presumes to doubt, is not so well attested as that of Jesus Christ. The Jewish authors were incapable of the diction, and strangers to the morality contained in the Gospels; the marks of whose truth are so striking and invincible, that the inventor would be a more astonishing character than the hero."*

Rousseau's praises of the scripture remind us of the high encomiums bestowed by Balaam on the tabernacles of Israel. It is no unusual thing for men to admire that which they do not love.

Let us examine a little more minutely the spirit in which the scriptures are written. It is this which constitutes their holy beauty, distinguishes them from all other writings, and affords the strongest evidence of their being written by inspiration of God.

In recording historical events, the sacred writers invariably eye the hand of God: in some instances they entirely overlook second causes ; and in others, where they are mentioned, it is only as instruments fulfilling the divine will. Events that came to pass according to the usual course of things, and in which an ordinary historian would have seen nothing divine, are recorded by them among the works of the Lord: The Lord was very angry with Israel, and romoved them out of his sight.-And the Lord sent against Jehoiakim bands of the Chaldees, and bands of the Syrians, and bands of the Moabites, and bands of the children of Ammon, and sent them against Judah to destroy it, according to the word of the Lord which he spake by his servants the prophets. Surely at the commandment of the Lord came this upon Judah, to remove them out of his sight for the sins of Manasseh according to all that he

* Works, Vol. V. pp. 215-218.

did; and also for the innocent blood that he shed, (for he filled Jerusalem with innocent blood,) which the Lord would not pardon.*

In their prophecies, while they foretold the heaviest calamities upon nations, their own and others, and viewing the hand of God in all, acquiesced in them; as men they felt tenderly for their fellow-creatures, even for their enemies: My bowels, my bowels! I am pained at my very heart; my heart maketh a noise in me; I cannot hold my peace, because thou hast heard, O my soul, the sound of the trumpet, the alarm of war.-0 thou sword of the Lord, how long will it be ere thou be quiet? Put thyself into thy scabbard, rest, and be still. When Israel was exposed to calamities, all the neighbouring nations, who hated them on account of their religion, exulted over them, the prophets who foretold itwere tender ly af fected by it: I will bewail with the weeping of Jazer the vine of Sibmah: I will water thee with my tears, O Heshbon, and Elealeh; for the shouting for thy summer-fruits, and for thy harvest, is falAnd gladness is taken away, and joy out of the plentiful field; and in the vineyards there shall be no singing, neither shall there be shouting the traders shall tread out no wine in their presses: I have made shouting to cease. Wherefore my bowels shall sound like an harp for Moab, and mine inward parts for Kirharesh.*


The miracles which they record are distinguished from the signs and lying wonders of following ages, in that there is always to be seen in them an end worthy of God. The far greater part of them were works of pure compassion to the parties, and the whole of them of benevolence to society.

There is nothing in the scriptures adapted to gratify presumptuous speculation or idle curiosity. Such a spirit, on the contrary, is frequently checked, and every thing is directed to the renova tion or improvement of the heart. The account given of the creation of the sun, moon, and stars, is not intended, as Mr. Henry observes, to describe things "as they are in themselves, and in their own nature, to satisfy the curious; but as they are in rela tion to this earth, to which they serve as lights; and this is enough

*2 Kings xvii. 18. xxiv. 2-4.

↑ Jer. iv. 19. xlvii. 6.

Isa. xvi. 9-11.

to furnish us with matter for praise and thanksgiving." The miracles of Jesus were never performed to gratify curiosity. If the afflicted, or any on their behalf, present their petition, it is invariably heard and answered; but if the Pharisees come and say, Master, we would see a sign from thee; or if Herod hope to see a miracle done by him, it is refused.* When one said to him, Lord are there few that be saved? he answered, Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able.t

There is nothing in the scriptures tending, in its own nature, to excite levity or folly. They sometimes deal in the most cutting irony; but it is never for the sake of displaying wit, or raising a laugh, but invariably for the accomplishment of a serious and important end. A serious mind finds every thing to gratify it, and nothing to offend it: and even the most profligate character, unless he read them in search of something which he may convert into ridicule, is impressed with awe by the pointed and solemn manner in which they address him.

It may be said of the scriptures, and of them only, that they are free from affectation and vanity. You may sometimes find things of this sort described by the sacred writers; but you will never discern any such spirit in the descriptions themselves. Yet, as men, they were subject to human imperfections: if, therefore, they had not been influenced by divine inspiration, blemishes of this kind must have appeared in their writings, as well in those of other men. But in what instance have they assumed a character which does not belong to them; or discovered a wish to be thought more religious, more learned, or more accomplished in any way than they were? Nor were they less free from vanity than from affectation. They were as far from making the most of what they were, as from aiming to appear what they were not. Instead of trumpeting their own praise, or aiming to transmit their fame to posterity, several of them have not so much as put their names to their writings; and those who have, are generally out of sight. As you read their history, they seldom occur to your thoughts.

* Matt. xii. 38. Luke xxiii. 8, 9. † Luke xiii. 24. See also xxi. 5-19.

Who thinks of the Evangelists when reading the four Gospels; or of Luke while reading the Acts of the Apostles? Mr. Paine weaves the laurel on his own brows, vainly boasting that he has "written a book under the greatest disadvantages, which no Bible believer can answer;" and that, with his axe upon his shoulder, like another Sennacherib, he has passed through, and cut down the tall cedars of our Lebanon.* But thus did not the sacred writers, even with regard to heathenism, because of the fear of God. Paul in one instance, for the sake of answering an important end, was compelled to speak the truth of himself, and to appear to boast; yet it is easy to perceive how much it was against his inclination. A boaster and a fool were, in his account, synony. mous terms.t

The sacred writers, while they respect magistracy, and frown upon faction, tumult, and sedition, are never known to flatter the great. Compare the fustian eloquence of Tertullus with the manly speeches of Paul. Did he flatter Felix? No; he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come; and Felix trembled. Did he flatter Festus or even Agrippa? No; the highest compliment which proceeded from him was, that he knew the lattter to be expert in all customs and questions among the Jews, and to maintain the divine inspiration of the prophets; which declaration, with the whole of this admirable apology, contained only the words of truth and soberness.

They discover no anxiety to guard against seeming inconsistencies, either with themselves or one another. In works of impos ture, especially where a number of persons are concerned, there is need of great care and caution, lest one part should contradict another; and such caution is easily perceived. But the sacred writers appear to have had no such concern about them. Conscious that all they wrote was true, they left it to prove its own consistency. Their productions possess consistency; but it is not a studied one, nor always apparent at first sight: it is that consistency which is certain to accompany truth.‡

* Age of Reason, Part II. Preface, p. vi. and p. 64. “There is one argument," says Mr. Wilberforce, in Treatise," which impresses my mind with particular force. VOL III.


† 2 Cor. xii.

his late excellent This is the great

« AnteriorContinuar »