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most part,much affected and admired by people of weak judgment and vicious taste, but is a piece of affectation and formality the sacred writers are utter strangers to. It is a vain and boyish eloquence; and as it has always been esteemed below the great geniuses of all ages, so, much more so, with respect to those writers who were actuated by the spirit of infinite wisdom, and therefore wrote with that force and majesty with which never man writ.The other sort of eloquence is quite the reverse of this, and which may be said to be the true characteristic of the holy scriptures ; where the excellence does not arise from a labored and far-fetched elocution, but from a surprising mixture of simplicity and majesty,-which is a double character, so difficult to be united, that it is seldom to be met with in compositions merely human.-We see nothing in holy writ, of affectation and superfluous ornament.-As the infinite wise Being has condescended to stoop to our language, thereby to convey to us the light of revelation, so has he been pleased graciously to accommodate it to us with the most natural and graceful plainness it would admit of.-Now, it is observable, that the most excellent profane authors, whether Greek or Latin, lose most of their graces, whenever we find them literally translated. -Homer's famed representation of Jupiter, in his first book; his cried up description of a tempest his relation of Neptune's shaking the earth, and opening it to its centre ;-his description of Pallas's horses; with numbers of other long-since admired passages,-flag, and almost vanish away, in the vulgar Latin translation.
Let any one but take the pains to read the common Latin interpretation of Virgil,-Theocritus or even of Pindar, and one may venture to affirm, he will be able to trace out but few remains of the graces which charmed him so much in the origi
The natural conclusion from hence,is,that in the classical authors, the expression, the sweetness of the numbers, occasioned by a musical placing of words, constitute a great part of their beauties ;-whereas, in the sacred writings, they consist more in the greatness of the things themselves, than in the words and expressions. The ideas and conceptions are so great and lofty in their own nature,that they necessarily appear magnificent in the most artless dress.-Look but into the bible, and we see them shine thro' the most simple and literal translations.-That glorious description which Moses gives of the creation of the heavens and the earth, which Longinus, the best critic the eastern world ever produced, was so justly taken with, has not lost the least whit of its intrinsic worth; and tho' it has undergone so many translations, yet triumphs over all, and breaks forth with as much force and vehemence as in the ariginal-Of this stamp are numbers of passages throughout the scriptures ;- -instance that celebrated description of a tempest, in the hundred and seventh psalm ;-those beautiful reflections of holy Job, upon the shortness of life, and instability of human affairs, so judiciously appointed by our church,in her office for the burial of the dead; that lively description of a horse of war, in the thirty-ninth chapter of Job, in which, from the 19th to 26th verse, there is scarce a word which does not merit a particular explication, to display the beauties of.-I might add to these,those tender and pathetic expostulations which the children of Israel, which run throughout all the prophets, which the most uncritical reader can scarce help being affected with.
And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem, and men of Judah, judge, I pray you, betwixt me and my vineyard.What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done? -where
fore when I expected it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes ?-and yet, ye say, the way of the LORD is unequal. Hear now, O house of Israel,-is not my way equal?-are not your ways unequal ;—have I any pleasure at all that the wicked shouid die, and not that he should return from his ways and live?—I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me.-The ox knows his owner, and the ass his master's crib,—but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider.-There is nothing in all the eloquence of the heathen world, comparable to the vivacity and tenderness of these reproaches; there is something in them so thoroughly affecting, and so noble and sublime withal, that one might challenge the writings of the most celebrated orators of antiquity, to produce any thing like them. These observations upon the superiority of the inspired penmen to heathen ones, in that which regards the composition, more conspicuously hold good when they are considered upon the foot of historians.Not to mention that profane histories give an account only of human achievements and temporal events, which, for the most part, are so full of uncertainty and contradictions, that we are at a loss where to seek for truth;but that the sacred history is the history of GOD himself,-the history of his omnipotence and infinite wisdom, his universal providence, justice and mercy, and all his other attributes displayed under a thousand different forms, by a series of the most various and wonderful events that ever happened to any nation, or language.. -Not to insist upon this visible superiority in sacred history, there is yet another undoubted excellence the profane historians seldom arrive at, which is almost the distinguishing character of the sacred ones; namely, that unaffected, artless manner of relating historical facts,
-which is so entirely of a piece with every other part of the holy writings. What I mean will be best made out by a few instances.In the history of Joseph, (which certainly is told with the greatest variety of beautiful and affecting circumstances) when Joseph makes himself known, and weeps aloud upon the neck of his dear brother Benjamin, that all the house of Pharaoh heard him ; at that instant, none of his brethren are introduced as uttering aught, either to express their present joy, or paliate their former injuries to him. On all sides, there immediately ensues a deep and solemn silence ;-a silence infinitely more eloquent and expressive, than any thing else that could have been substituted in its place. Had Thucydides, Herodotus, Livy, or any of the celebrated classical historians, been employed in writing this history,-when they came to this point, they would, doubtless, have exhausted all their fund of eloquence in furnishing Joseph's brethren with labored and studied harangues ; which, however fine they might have been in themselves,would nevertheless have been unnatural,and altogether improper on the occasion. For, when such a variety of contrary passions broke in upon them,what tongue was able to utter their hurried and distracted thoughts? -When remorse, surprize, shame, joy, and gratitude, struggled together in their bosoms, how uneloquently would their lips have performed their duty ?--how unfaithfully their tongues have spoken the language of their hearts ?in this case, silence was truly eloquent and natural, and tears expressed what oratory was incapable of.
If ever these persons I have been addressing myself to, can be persuaded to follow the advice in the text, of searching the scriptures,the work of their salvation will be begun upon its true foundation. For, first, they will insensibly be
led to admire the beautiful propriety of their language:When a favorable opinion is conceive ed of this,-next, they will more closely attend to the goodness of the moral, and the purity and soundness of the doctrines.The pleasure of reading will still be increased, by that near concern which they will find themselves to have in those many important truths, which they will see so clearly demonstrated in the bible, that grand charter of our eternal happiness. It is the fate of mankind, too often, to seem insensible of what they may enjoy at the easiest rate.—What might not our neighboring Romish countries, who groan under the yoke of popish impositions and priestcraft, what might not these poor misguided creatures give, for the happiness which we knew not how to value,-of being born in a country where a church is established by our laws, and encouraged by our princes,-which not only allows the free study of the scriptures, but even exhorts and invites us to it ;-a church that is a stranger to the tricks and artifice of having the bible in an unknown tongue, to give the greater latitude to the designs of the clergy, in imposing their own trumpery, and foisting in whatever may best serve to aggrandize themselves, or enslave the wretches committed to their trust.-In short, our religion was not given us to raise our imaginations with ornaments of words, or strokes of eloquence; but to purify our hearts, and lead us into the paths of righteousness.However, not to defend ourselves,-when the attack is principally levelled at this point,-might give occasion to our adversaries to triumph, and charge us either with negligence or inability.It is well known how willing the enemies of our religion are to seek occasions against us ;-how ready to magnify every mote in our eyes to the bigness of a beam ;-how eager, upon the least default,