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And his brethren could not answer him: for they were troubled at his presence. And Joseph said to his brethren, come near me, I pray you: and they came near, and he said I am Joseph-your brother whom ye sold into Egypt.' Nothing certainly can be a more lively description of Joseph's tender respect for his father, and love for his brethren: and, in like manner, when his bre thren returned, and told their father in what splendour and glory his son Joseph lived, it is said, that 'Jacob's heart fainted, for he believed them not; but when he saw the waggons which Joseph had sent for him, the spirit of Jacob, their father, revived; and Israel said, it is enough-Joseph my son is yet alive-I will go-and see him-before I die.' Here is such a contrast of different pas. sions, of utter despondency, dawning hope, and confirmed faith, triumphant joy, and paternal affection, as no orator in the world could express more movingly, in a more easy manner, or shorter compass of words.
Nay more, had I leasure to gratify the curious, I might easily show, that those very figures and schemes of speech, which are so much admired in profane authors, as their great beauties and ornaments, are no where more conspicuous than in the sacred.
One figure, for instance, esteemed very florid among the masters of art, is, when all the members of a period begin with the same word. The figure is called anaphora; and yet (if I mistake not) the 15th Psalm affords us a very beautiful passage of this kind. Lord, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? Who shall dwell in thy holy hill?
He that walketh uprightly; he that back-biteth not with his tongue; he that maketh much of them that fear the Lord? he that sweareth to his hurt, and changeth not: he that putteth not out his money to usury, nor taketh reward against the innocent. He that does these things shall never be moved.'
The ancient orators took a great deal of pride in ranging finely their antitheta. Cicero is full of this, and uses it many times to a degree of affectation; and yet I cannot find any place wherein he has surpassed that passage of the prophet. 'He that killeth an ox, is as if he slew a man: he that sacrificeth a lamb, as if he cut off a dog's neck; he that offereth an oblation, as if he offered swine's blood.' But above all other figures, that whereon poets and orators love chiefly to dwell, is the hypotyposis, or lively description; and yet we shall hardly find in the best classic authors, any thing comparable, in this regard, to the Egyptians' destruction in the Red Sea, related in the song of Moses and Miriam; to the description of the leviathan in Job; to the descent of God, and a storm at sea, in the Psalmist; to the intrigues of an adulterous women in the Proverbs; to the pride of the Jewish ladies in Isaiah; and to the plague of locusts in Joel; which is represented like the ravaging of a country; and storming a city by an army; A fire devoureth before them, and behind them a desolate wilderness, and nothing shall escape them. Before their face people shall be pained; all faces shall gather blackness. They shall run like mighty men; they shall climb the wall like men of war; they shall march every one
in his way, and they shall not break their ranks. They shall run to and fro in the city, they shall run upon the wall; they shall climb up upon the houses; they shall enter into the windows as a thief.' The description is more remarkable, because the analogy is carried quite throughout without straining, and the whole processes of a conquering army in the manner of their march, their destroying the provision, and burning the country, in their scaling the walls, breaking into houses, and running about the vanquished city, are fully delineated and set before our eyes.
From these few examples (for it would be endless to proceed in instances of this kind) it appears, that the Holy Bible is far from being defective in point of eloquence, and (what is a peculiar commendation of it) its style is full of a graceful variety; sometimes majestic as becomes that 'high and holy one who inhabiteth eternity:' sometimes so low as to answer the other part of his character, who dwelleth with him that is of an hum ble spirit:' and at all times so proper, and adapted so well to the several subjects it treats of, that whoever considers it attentively will perceive, in the narrative parts of it, a strain so simple and unaffected; in the prophetic and devotional, something so animated and sublime; and in the doctrinal and preceptive, such an air of dignity and authority, as seems to speak its original divine.
We allow indeed, that method is an excellent art, highly conducive to the clearness and perspicuity of discourse; but then we affirm, that it is an art of modern invention in comparison to the times when the sacred penmen wrote, and incom
patible with the manner of writing, which was then in vogue. We indeed in Europe, who, in this matter, have taken our examples from Greece, can hardly read any thing with pleasure, that is not digested into order and sorted under proper heads; but the eastern nations, who were used to a free way of discourse, and never cramped their notions by methodical limitations, would have despised a composition of this kind, as much as we do a school-boy's theme, with all the formalities of its exordiums, ratios, and confirmations. And if this was no precedent for other nations, much less can we think, that God Almighty's method ought to be confined to human laws, which, being designed for the narrowness of our conceptions, might be improper and injurious to his, whose thoughts are as far above ours, as the heavens are higher than the earth.'
The truth is, inspiration is, in some measure, the language of another world, and carries in it the reasoning of spirits, which, without controversy, is vastly different from ours. We indeed, to make things lie plain before our understandings, are forced to sort them out into distinct partitions, and consider them by little and little, that so at last, by gradual advances, we may come to a tolerable conception of them; but this is no argument for us to think that pure spirits do reason after this manner. Their understandings are quick and intuitive: they see the whole compass of rational inferences at once; and have no need of those little methodical distinctions which oftentimes help the imperfections of our intellects. Now, though we do not assert, that the language of the
Holy Scriptures is an exact copy of the reasoning of the spiritual world; yet since they came by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, it is but reasonable to expect that they should preserve some small relish of it; as books translated into another tongue always retain some marks of their originals. And hence it comes to pass, that though the Holy Ghost does vouchsafe to speak in the language of men, yet iu his divine compositions, there are some traces to be found of that bold and unlimited ratiocination, which is peculiar to the heavenly inhabitants, whose noble and flaming thoughts are never clogged with the cold and jejune laws of human method. Stackhouse.
ON THE BEAUTIES OF THE PSALMS. POETRY is sublime, when it awakens in the mind any great and good affection, as piety, or patriotism. This is one of the noblest effects of the art. The Psalms are remarkable beyond all other writings, for their power of inspiring devout emotions. But it is not in this respect only that they are sublime. Of the Divine nature they contain the most magnificent descriptions that the soul of man can comprehend. The hundred and fourth Psalm, in particular, displays the power and goodness of Providence, in creating and preserving the world, and the various tribes of animals in it, with such majestic brevity and beauty, as it is vain to look for in any human composition.