« ПредишнаНапред »
the memorable journal of the disciples going to Emmaus ; are finished models of the impaflioned and affecting. Here is nothing sludied ; here are no flights of fancy ; no embellishments of oratory. If we sometimes choose a plaintive Itrain, such as foftens the mind, and fooths an agreeable melancholy, are any of the classic writers fuperior, in the eloquence of mourning, to David's pathetic elegy on his beloved Jonathan ; to his most passionate and incon. solable moan over the lovely but unhappy Absalom ; or to that melodious wo, which warbles and bleeds in every line of Jeremiah's Lamentations?
Are we admirers of antiquity ? Here we are led back, beyond the universal deluge, and far beyond the date of any other annals. We are introduced to the earliest in. habitants of the earth. We take a view of mankind in their undisguised primitive plainness, when the days of their - life were but little short of a thousand years. We are brought acquainted with the origin of nations ; with the creation of the world ; and with the birth of time itself.
Are we delighted with vast achievements ? Where is any thing comparable to the miracles in Egypt, and the wonders in the field of Zoan ? to the memoirs of the Israelites passing through the depths of the sea ; sojourning amidst the inhospitable deserts, and conquering the kingdom of Canaan ? Here we behold the fundamental laws of the universe, sometimes suspended, sometimes reversed ; and not only the current of Jordan, but the course of nature controlled.
If we want maxims of wisdom, or have a taste for the la. conic style-how copiously may our wants be fupplied, and how delicately our taste gratified ! especially in the book of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and some of the minor prophets. Here are the most fage lessons of instruction, adapted to every circumstance of life ; formed upon the experience of all preceding ages ; and perfected by the unerring Spirit of inspiration. These are delivered with such remarkable conciseness, that one might venture to fay, every word is a sentence ; at least every sentence may be called an apophthegm, sparkling with brightness of thought, or weighty with folidity of sense. The whole, like a profufion of pearls, containing, in a very small compass, a value almost immenfe ; all heaped up (as an ingenious writer observes) with a confused magnificence, above the little niceties of order.
If we look for strength of reasoning, and warmth of ex. hortation, or the manly boldnets of impartial reproof ; let us have recourse to the acts of the apostles, and to the epistles of Paul. These are a specimen, or rather these are the Itandard, of them all.
Another recommendation of the Scriptures, is, that they afford the most awful and most amiable manifestations of the Deity. His glory shines, and his goodness smiles, in thofe divine pages, with unparelleled lustre. Here we have a satisfactory explanation of our own fate. The origif of evil is traced ; the cause of all our misery discovered ; and the remedy, the infallible remedy, both clearly shown, and freely offered. The atonement and intercession of Christ lay a firm foundation for all our hopes ; while gratitude for his dying love suggests the most winning incitements to every duty. Morality, Theron, your (and, let me add, my) admired inorality, is here delineated in all its branches, is placed upon its proper basis, and raised to its highest elevation. The Holy Spirit is promised to enlighten the darkness of our understandings, and strengthen the imbecility of our wills. What an ample--Can you indulge me in this favourite topic ?
It is, I assure you, equally pleasing to myself. Your enlargements, therefore need no apology.
What ample provision is made, or referred to, by these excellent books, for all our spiritual wants ! and, in this respect, how indisputable is their fuperiority to all other compositions ! Is any one convinced of guilt, as provoking Heaven, and ruining the foul? Let him aík reason to point out a means of reconciliation, and a refuge of fafety. Reason hefitates, as the replies ; "the Deity may; perhaps, accept our fupplications, and grant forgiveness. But the Scriptures leave us not to the fad uncertainty of conjecture. They speak the language of clear aflurance. God hath set forth a propitiation : he does forgive our iniquities : he will remember our fins no more.
Are we assaulted by temptation, or averse to duty ? Philosophy may attempt to parry the thrust, or to ftir up the reluctant mind, by disclosing the deformity of vice, and urging the fitness of things. Feeble expedients, just as well calculated to accomplish the ends proposed, as the flimsy fortification of a cobweb to defend us from the ball of a
cannon, The Bible recommends no such incompetent fuccours. “My grace," says its almighty Author, “ is fufficient for thee." 66 Sin shall not have dominion over you.” The great Jehovah, in whom is everlasting strength “ worketh in us both to will, and to do of his good pleasure.
Should we be visited with sickness, or overtaken by any calamity, the consolation which Plato offers, is, that such dispensations coincide with the universal plan of divine gov.
Virgil will tell us, for our relief, that affličtive visitations are, more or less, the unavoidable lot of all men. Another moralist whispers in the dejected sufferer's ear, · Impatience adds to the load : whereas a calm submission renders it more supportable.” Does the word of revelation difpenfe fuch spiritless and fugitive cordials ? No : those sacred pages inform us, that tribulations are fatherly chaftisements, tokens of our Maker's love, and fruits of his care ; that they are intended to work in us the peaceable fruits of righteousness ; and to work out for us an eternal weight of glory.
Should we, under the summons of death, have recourse to the most celebrated comforters in the heathen world ; they would increase our apprehensions, rather than mitigate our dread
Death is represented, by the great master of their schools, as the moit formidable of all evils. They were not able to determine, whether the soul survived the body. Whereas, this infpired volume strips the monster of his horrors, or turns him into a messenger of peace ; gives him an angel's face, and a deliverer's hand ; and ascertains to the fouls of the righteous, an immediate translation into the regions of bliss.
Another very difinguishing peculiarity of the sacred writings just occurs to my mind; the method of commu. nicating advice, or administering reproof, by parables : a method which levels itself to the lowest apprehension, without giving offence to the most supercilious temper. Our Lord was asked by a student of the Jewish law,“ Who is my neighbour ?" which implied another quetion," How is he to be loved ?" The inquirer was conceited of himself, yet ignorant of the truth, and deficient in his duty. Had the wise instructer of mankind abruptly declared, “ Thou neither knowelt the former, nor fulfilleit the latter,” probably the querist would have reddened with indignation, and departed in a rage. To teach, therefore, and not dis
guft; to convince the man of his error, and not exasperate his mind, he frames a reply, as amiable in the manner as it was well adapted to the purpose.
A certain perfon going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, fell among thieves. Not content to rob him of his treas. ure, they ftrip him of his garments ; wound him with great barbarity; and leave him half dead. Soon after this calamitous accident, a traveller happens to come along that very road : and what renders him more likely to afford relief, he is one of the ministers of religion ; one who taught others the lovely leffons of humanity and charity; and who was, therefore, under the strongest obligations to exemplify them in his own practice. He just glances an eye upon the deplorable object ; fees him stretched on the cold ground, and weltering in his blood; but takes no farther notice ; nay, to avoid the trouble of an inquiry, he passes by on the other side. Scarcely was he departed, when a Levite approaches. This man comes nearer, and looks on the miferable spectacle ; takes a leisurely and attentive survey of the case : and though every galh in the bleeding felh cried and pleaded for compaflion, this minister of the sanctuary neither speaks a word to comfort, nor moves a hand to help. Last of all comes a Samaritan; one of the abhorred nation, whom the Jews hated with the most implacable malignity. Though the Levite had neglected an expiring brother ; though the priest hud withheld his pity from one of the Lord's peculiar people; the very moment this Samaritan fees the unhappy füfferer, he melts into commiseration. He forgets the embittered foe, and confiders only the dif. tressed fellow creature. He springs from his horse, and refolves to intermit his journey. The oil and wine intended for his own refreshment, he freely converts into healing un. gents. He binds up the wounds ; fets the disabled ftrang. er upon his own bealt; and with all the affiduity of a ser. vant, with all the tenderness of a brother, conducts him to an inn.
There he deposits money for his present use; charges the host to omit nothing that might conduce to the recovery or comfort of his guest; and promises to defray the whole expense of his lodging, his maintenance, and his
What a lively picture of the most disinterested and active benevolence ! a benevolence which excludes no persons, not even strangers or enemies, from its tender regards; which dildains no condefcenfion, grudges no cost, in its labours of
love! Could any method of conviction have been more forcible, and at the same time more pleasing, than the interrogatory proposed by our Lord, and deduced from the narrative? " Which now of these three, thinkelt thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among thieves ?" Or can there be an advice more suitable to the occasion, more important in its nature, or expressed with a more fententious energy, than that which is contained in these words ; " Go thou, and dolikewise?” In this case, the learner instructs, the delinquent condemns himself. Bigotry bears away its prejudice ; and pride, (when the moral so sweetly, so imperceptibly infinuates,) even pride ittelf, lends a willing ear to admonition.
ASPASIO. It has been very justly remarked, that this eloquence of fimilitude is equally affecting to the wise, and intelligible to the ignorant. It shows, rather than relates, the point to be illustrated. It has been admired by the best judges in all ages ; but never was carried to its highest perfection, till our Lord spoke the parable of the prodigal ; which has a beauty that no paraphrase can heighten; a pérfpicuity that renders all interpretation needless; and a force which every reader, not totally insensible, must feel.
THERON. The condescension and goodness of God are every where confpicuous. In the productions of nature, he conveys to us the most valuable fruits, by the intervention of the lovelielt blossoms. Though the present is in itself extremely acceptable, he has given it an additional endearment, by the beauties which array it, or the perfumes which surround it. In the pages of revelation, likewise, he has communicated to us the most glorious truths, adorned with the excellencies of composition. They are, as one of their writers very elegantly speaks, " like apples of gold in pictures of
ASPASIO. Who then would not willingly obey that benign com
“ Thou shalt talk of them when thou sittelt in thine house, and when thou walkelt by the way ; when thou lielt down, and when thou risest up."
When I consider the language of the scriptures, and sometimes experience the holy energy which accompanies them, I am inclined to say, “Other writings, though polished with the nicest touches of art, only tinkle on the ear,