Page images
PDF
EPUB

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 prophane 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 tempeft;-his relation of Neptune's shaking the earth, and opening it to it's center;-his description of Pallas's horses; with numbers of other longsince-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 original.—The natural conclusion from hence is, that in the classical authors, the expression, the sweetness of the numbers, occafioned by a mufical placing of words, constitute a great part of their beauties;

[ocr errors]

--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 neceffarily appear magnificent in the most artless dress. Look but into the Bible, and we see them shine through the most simple and literal tranflations. 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 intrinfic worth; and though it hath undergone so many translations, yet triumphs over all, and breaks forth with as much force and vehemence as in the original.-Of this stamp are numbers of passages throughout the Scriptures;-instance, that celebrated description of a tempeft in the hundred and seventh psalm; those beautiful reflections of holy Job, upon the shortnefs of life, and instability of human affairs, fo 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 the 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 expoftulations with 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 ?-wherefore, when I expected that 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 yours unequal?-have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should 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

knows his owner, and the ass his master's crib ;-but Ifrael doth not know, my people doth not consider,

ох

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 affeding, 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 pen-men to heathen ones, in that which regards the composition more conspicuously, hold good when they are confidered upon the foot of historians.-Not to mention that prophane histories give an account only of human atchievements 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 facred history of God himself, the history of his omnipotence and infinite wisdom, his universal providence, his 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 facred history,--there is yet another undoubted excellence the prophane 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 Jofeph, (which certainly is told with the greatest variety of beautiful and affecting circumstances) when Jofeph 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 any thing, either to express their present joy, or palliate their former injuries to him.-On all sides, there immediately ensues a deep and folemn silence;—a filence infinitely more eloquent and expreflive, than any could have been subtituted in its place.-Had Thucydides, Herodotus, Livy, or any of the celebrated claflical historians, been employed in writing this history, when they came to this point, they would, doubtless, have exhausted all their

« PreviousContinue »