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however, they had sufficient Means of knowing were of no Avail, without inward Goodness. And the conducting of Religion in Purity, through such a State of Things, is no small Evidence, that the Hand which conducted it was God's. But were the Communication of these ritual Appointments to uś, no otherwise advantageous, it would thew us the happy Superiority of our own Condition, who worship God without them in Spirit and in Truthx. But lastly, the Pentateuch, which contains them, contains over and above many Things of unspeakable Importance, not only to the Proof, but the Understanding of Christianity. We must have both conveyed down to us in it, or neither. Which would we chuse? And where is the Injury, if in order to give all that is profitable, our Maker gives more than is neceffary?
Exceptions have been also taken to the Book of Psalms, as having in it frequent Imprecations against Enemies, which may tempt us to the like. But most of them, if not all, might full as agreeably to the Genius of the Hebrew Language, have been translated as Predictions only', which in the Case of Sinners being ge
* John iv. 23, 24. Gregory the Great, De Cură Paltoral. Part i. c, i. p. 5. faith, the Psalmit wrote Pf. lxvii. 23. non optantis animo, fed prophetantis minifterio.
nerally Herally conditional (to take Effect unless they repent) were in Reality nothing more than Warnings, and therefore Kindnesses indeed to the Offenders, against whom they were denounced. Or if the holy Penmen were sometimes commissioned by Inspiration to foretell absolutely, and even to call down the Judgements of God on wicked Persons, how can this be likely to mislead us, who know such Commissions to be ceased, and our standing Rule to be, Bless, and curse not a
It hath been objected too against the Book of Ecclefiaftes, that some Passages in it favour of Irreligion, some of Immorality. But these in Truth are either innocent, when rightly interpreted; or else express, not the wise King's Sentiments, but the false Opinions of others, whom he personates to confute them; or howa ever not his deliberate Sentiments, but such hasty wrong Notions, as during the Course of bis Inquiry after Happiness rose up
successively in his Mind, and were on mature Confideration rejected by him, to fix at last on the true Basis, the Conclusion of the whole Matter, to fear God and keep his Commandments, because he Mall bring every
Work into Judgement; with every
3. Rom. xii. Na, VOL. VI.
secret Thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evila.
The Song of Solomon hath likewise given Offence to Readers of more Delicacy than Judgement. But they would do well to recollect, that the intimate Relation between God, or Christ, and the Church, is figured by that between Husband and Wife in many Places, both of the Old and New Testament, particularly in the 45th Pfalm, which (though the Scene of it be laid in higher Life) seems to have given Occasion to this Song; that very indearing and improving Reflections naturally rise from so interesting a Comparison; that describing the Intercourse by Metaphors drawn from the pastoral State, is extremely agreeable to the Simplicity, the Humility, the Mildness of Religion ; that the devotional, as well as other Affections of the Eastern People, are extremely warm ; and that none of their Allegories (especially such a one as that in Question) are ever to be applied minutely: but we are to lay hold and dwell on the principal Points; of Love to God producing Felicity; Negligence, Desertion ; Penitence, Forgiveness : considering most of the rest as mere Ornament, adapted with much Conde· Eccl. xii. 13, 14.
scension to the Turn of the Nation and the Age.
But Difficulties have been raised in Relation to the prophetical Books, as well as these. Directions, it is said, are mentioned, as given in them to the Prophets, which appear improbable and unfit. But then we may justly think, as the ablest of the Jews themselves have thought, that several of these were executed in Vision only : a fupernatural Impression was made on their Minds, by which they seemed to do what in Fact they did not, that so they might be enabled to deliver their Message in a more affecting Manner. And who shall prescribe to God, how to communicate his Revelations ? Other strange Things really done by them, were done in Consequence of the universal Custom, then in Use, of instructing Persons by Actions, which are natural Signs, along with, or instead of, Words, which are but arbitrary ones. And if that Custom had not been fo proper
and convenient, as perhaps it is; yet God's Compliance with it, whilst it obtained, was undoubtedly gracious and fitted to produce good Effects.
Again some have complained, that the Language of the Prophets, above the rest of ScripE 2
ture, is often harsh and coarse, dark and liar; and on these Accounts ill adapted to common Benefit. But surely it is also, very often, extremely natural and easy, convincing and perfuafive, alarming and forcible, graceful and engaging. Wherever it seems exceptionable therefore, large Allowances must be made for the Boldness and consequent Obscurity of the original Tongue, especially in Poetry: which yet in all Tongues is more affecting, and more easily remembered, than Proses and on these Accounts prudently chosen in many parts of the prophetical Writings. But indeed the Stile of the Oriental People on every Subject, except in their Hiftory, is lofty and concise, abounding in strong and expressive Figures, carried often to strange Lengths, above regarding the little Niceties that we think so effential, full of quick Turns and abrupt Transitions. Without such Ornaments as these a Composition would appear languid and despicable to Them; who, being the Persons originally and immediately interested in the sacred Books, ought surely to be more considered than we, who come so long after. And yet even we, with due Attention, may discover, not only the utinoit Sublimity of Sense, in the hardest Paftages, but the most exquisite 6