« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
from him, who is himself everlasting ?-If from a creature, he muft either be a good or a bad one. If an evil one, why forbiddeth he evil fo rigorously, and commandeth good fo exprefsly? Or, in other words, how cometh it to pass, that the only marks he aimeth at are God's glory, and man's welfare ?—Or, if good, why doth he challenge to himself that which belongeth to God only, and which cannot be imputed to any created being without the highest act of impiety and presumption ?—And if it be neither the one nor the other, what follows, but that it muft, of neceffity, be the Creator himself?
But as the strongeft confirmation of the truth of the facred wri tings; we find, that their greatest advocates refigned their lives, and incurred the hatred and difdain of the whole world, rather than they would tranfgrefs the laws therein prescribed, or treat them with the least token of disrefpect; being fully perfuaded they served fuch a law-giver, as not only had an abfolute power over the body, and this tranfitory life as other law-givers have; but had also power to confer on them everlasting life, or to confign them to everlasting mifery. Another confirmation of the truth of the question is, that the laws delivered in the facred fcriptures affect not the outward man only, but pierce even to the heart. They require facrifices indeed; but then they prefer obedience. They enjoin fasting, it is true; but then it is from fin. They require circumcifion ; but then it is the circumcifion of the heart; and who can be a judge of the fecrets of the heart, but he who made them?-Or, who can penetrate into the inmoft receffes of the foul, but its omniscient Creator? And who could therefore prefcribe a law to men's thoughts, but the almighty Difpofer of all things? All which, when duly weighed, will, I prefume, amount at least to a strong presumption, that he who speaketh fo evidently upon authority, and threatens that which exceeds man's ability, muft of neceffity be more powerful than man.
The holy fcriptures are likewife the only fource from whence we draw the discovery of fuch matters, as mere human reafon could never have arrived at; yet fuch as, when once difcovered, carry the greatest air of probability and truth along with them. The Supreme Being is of a nature incomprehenfible to the last degree, and indeed muft, in a great measure, always continue fo; yet, in this revelation of himself, we acquire fuch an infight into this, his incomprehenfibility, as, without it, we could never have attained. The light of nature would have taught us, indeed, that there is a Supreme Being; that he is all-powerful, juft, and wife; but that God himself fhould vouchfafe to vifit us in perfon, and fuffer for us, in order to make a plenary fatisfaction to the divine justice, is an act of indulgence beyond any human conception, and must have remained a fecret for ever, had not God himself thought fit to reveal it. There are likewise a great many particulars in regard to ourfelves; to which, without the divine aid and affiftance, we should have been as utter ftrangers as to the nature of God himself: but in the facred scriptures we find as plain, and as rational an account of those otherwise infuperable difficulties, as we are at present capable of conceiving. We fhould, doubtlefs, been at a lofs to know how this earthly tabernacle could have enjoyed so many, and such valuable faculties; how we came by these bodily organs, and much more, how we attained the use of them, had we not been informed, that they were framed by an all-powerful Being, who, when he had fashioned them, breathed into our noftrils the breath of life. What less could have told us; that when this ray of the divinity withdraws from the body, it returns to God that gave it? What lefs could have told us, how it is hereafter to be disposed of, and that they must one time or other be re-united, fummoned to give an account of their former joint behaviour, and be configned together to rewards or punishments, in proportion to their good or ill deportment? The first man, indeed, might know when he was created ; but
but how could he have found out when the world was created; and who could have ascertained the first hour or day thereof?
Divers ancient authors, it is true have given us chimerical narratives of the creation of the world; which, if duely confidered, will convince any attentive reader, that tradition had handed down to them fome confufed ideas of the truth; which they tranfmitted to posterity obscured with so many idle conceits of their own; with fuch a variety of inconsistent fictions, that their most partial admirers could not but reject fo improbable a rhapsody, and conclude it to be the refult of human invention: but whoever reads the account that Mofes gives will be feelingly convinced, that his book contains the most fatisfactory, the best concerted relation of that fact, that history ever produced. Moreover, if he will but give himself time to weigh well the manner in which it is delivered, he will affuredly find fo much of majesty and divinity in every line, as must convince him, that none but the fpirit, that could frame the world by the word of his power, could poffibly entertain fuch awful, majestic, and worthy notions of that ftupendous tranfaction.
IN confirmation of what we in the foregoing Section have af ferted, it may not be unacceptable to select fome beautiful paffages from holy writ, which though they should have no other good effect, will, I am perfuaded, contribute in fome measure towards the conviction of those, who, through inattention, have entertained an idle notion, that nothing is to be found in thofe facred oracles of truth proper
for the entertainment of any other perfons than enthusiasts and divines. That this is a gross mistake, let the following paffages witnefs, which are but few in comparison of the numbers that might be produced; and though perhaps, we have made an injudicious choice, we cannot, I think, have greatly erred; fince every page, and almost every line of thofe facred books, will afford a man of true taste and judgment inexpreffible pleasure and delight.
For instance, where will you find the Deity described with such folemnity as in the writings of the infpired penmen? Whenever they speak of the majesty of heaven, they do it in fuch terms, as fufficiently testify they were at that time more than men; and if so, what reason can be given; fince in all ages of the world there have been men of surprising parts and abilities, why fome of them have not equalled the inspired penmen in the elegànce and fublimity of their descriptions?—But it is granted even by the adversaries of religion, that their writings, in that particular, are distinguishingly great and noble.-How fublime and energetic is the description which David gives in that pfalm, which he composed in remembrance of his many wonderful deliverances from the hand of Saul!
"The earth fhook and trembled; the foundations alfo of the "hills moved and were fhaken, because he was wroth. There "went up a smoke out of his noftrils, and fire out of his mouth "devoured; coals were kindled by it. He bowed the heavens also, "and came down ; and darkness was under his feet. And he rode
upon a cherub, and did fly; yea, he did fly upon the wings of "the wind. He made darkness his fecret place; his pavilion round "about him were dark waters, and thick clouds of the fkies. At "the brightness that was before him his thick clouds paft; hail"ftones and coals of fire. The Lord also thundered in the heavens, "and the highest gave his voice; hail-ftones and coals of fire. "Yea, he fent out his arrows, and fcattered them; and he shot “out lightnings, and discomfited them. Then the channels of
"waters were feen and the foundations of the world were dif"covered; at thy rebuke, O Lord, at the blast of the breath "of thy noftrils." What poetry can equal this?What aweful. ideas of the Supreme Being muft we be filled with, when we confider the earth trembling, and the heavens humbled at his feet? What confufion and difcord, what horror and defpair must poffefs the fouls of the enemies of that Being, whofe very presence fhook the earth to its very foundation! Whofe voice is thunder; and lightnings the breath of his noftrils! Whose majesty is veiled in thick darkness, and whofe vehicles are the wings of the wind!
But fublimity of language is not the only beauty of the facred writings;—the narrative part will be found inexpreffibly elegant, though delivered with all the air of freedom and fimplicity imaginable. The creation of the world, for inftance, was such a subject, as any uninfpired writer would have dreffed up, one would imagine, in all the pomp and grandeur that the art of elocution could devise; yet, in the facred page, we find only a plain description of that great and important event. No reflections, no fallies of admiration; but an even uniform relation, executed with the greatest conciseness, and, at the fame time, in fo fatisfactory a manner, that infinitely more is left for the exercife of the imagination, than is expreffed in words. Had the ftory of the creation been a fubject for mere man to have exerted his talents upon, a whole volume had not been fufficient for the tafk; and yet we find in the book of Mofes, but one fhort chapter fet apart for that purpose; and this brevity will be thought the more remarkable, fince no uninspired perfon, had he been ever fo learned, or ever fo well acquainted with the various circumftances of that great work, could ever have told it with a better grace.-Longinus, one of the most justly admired ancient authors, could not help being charmed at the noble fimplicity of this defcription, and records it as a distinguishing inftance of the fublime." The Jewish legifVOL. III. S