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THE BIBLE ABOVE ALL PRICE.
PREACHED BEFORE THE BIBLE SOCIETY OF MAINE, MAY 5, 1814.
THERE are two objects, which a speaker who addresses his fellow-beings on an occasion like the present, ought ever to keep in view. Of these objects, the first, and, with respect to his hearers, the most important, is, to induce them to prize as it deserves, a volume, which, notwithstanding its unrivalled claims to attention, is too generally neglected. The second is, to procure their assistance, in gratuitously distributing this volume among their destitute fellow-creatures. These objects, though distinct, are intimately connected; for if we can be induced suitably to prize the Sacred Scriptures ourselves, there will be little difficulty in persuading us to aid, in communicating them to others ; and there is but too much reason for presuming, that he, who is not desirous to impart this treasure to all around him, knows nothing of its real value, nor of the temper which it is designed to produce.
With respect to a part, and we trust a very considerable part of the present assembly, the objects, which we have mentioned, may be considered as already attained. There are, we doubt not, many before us, who entertain a profound veneration for the Bible; and in whose breasts it has an advocate, who pleads its cause, and that of the destitute, far more powerfully and successfully than we can do. To such persons, nothing need be said in favor of a book, which not only affords them support and consolation under the troubles of life, but enables them to contemplate death with pleasure, and, to borrow its own language, makes them "wise unto salvation." If all present are of this description, our object is obtained; and farther remarks are needless. But it is presumable, that in every assembly, many are to be found, who, through inattention to the subject, or from some other cause, have formed very inadequate conceptions of the worth of this volume; and who, consequently, do not feel the infinite importance of putting it into the hands of others. It is also notorious, that even among such as profess to venerate the scriptures, there are not a few, who seem to regard them as deficient in those qualities, which excite interest and attention. It may not be improper, therefore, on an occasion like the present, to make a few remarks with a design to shew, that while the scriptures are incalculably valuable and important, viewed as a revelation from heaven; they are also in a very high degree interesting and deserv
ing of attention, considered merely as a human composition. As the whole volume of scripture will form the subject of these remarks, it was thought unnecessary to select any particular part of it as a text.
Were we permitted to adduce the testimony of the scriptures in their own favor, as a proof that their contents are highly interesting, our task would be short, and easily accomplished. But it is possible, that to this testimony some might think it a sufficient reply, to apostrophize the sacred volume in the language of the captious Jews to our Saviour;-"Thou bearest record of thyself; thy record is not true." No similar objection can be urged, however, against our availing ourselves of the testimony, which eminent uninspired men have borne in favor of the scriptures. From the almost innumerable testimonies of this nature, which might easily be adduced, we shall select only that of Sir William Jones, a Judge of the supreme court of judicature in Bengal-a man, says his learned biographer, who, by the exertion of rare intellectual talents, acquired a knowledge of arts, sciences, and languages, which has seldom been equalled, and scarcely, if ever, surpassed. "I have carefully and regularly perused the scriptures," says this truly great man, "and am of opinion, that this volume, independent of its divine origin, contains more sublimity, purer morality, more important history, and finer strains of eloquence, than can be collected from all other books, in whatever language they
may have been written." How well he was qualified to make this remark, and how much it implied in his lips, may be inferred from the fact, that he was acquainted with twenty-eight different languages, and with the best works, which had been published in most of them. That a volume, which, in the opinion of such a man, is thus superior to all other books united, cannot be so insipid and uninteresting a composition, as many seem to imagine, it must be needless to remark. That his praises, though great and unqualified, are in no respect unmerited, it would be easy, were it necessary, to prove, by appropriate quotations from the book which he so highly extols. But its morality will be more properly considered in a subsequent part of this discourse; and its unrivalled eloquence and sublimity are too obvious, and too generally acknowledged, to require illustration. If any imagine that he has estimated too highly, the historical information which this volume contains, we would only request them to peruse it with attention; and particularly to consider the assistance which it affords, in accounting for many otherwise inexplicable phenomena, in the natural, political, and moral world. A person who has never attended to the subject, will, on recollection, be surprised to find, for how large a proportion of his knowledge, he is indebted to this neglected book.* It is the only book which satisfactorily accounts, or even pro
*It will be recollected, that we here refer to such information only, as uninspired men might communicate.
fesses to account, for the introduction of natural and moral evil into the world, and for the consequent present situation of mankind. To this book we are also indebted, for all our knowledge of the progenitors of our race, and of the early ages of the world;-for our acquaintance with the manners and customs of those ages;-for the origin and explanation of many remarkable traditions, which have extensively prevailed, and for almost every thing which is known, of many once flourishing nations; especially of the Jews, the most singular and interesting people, perhaps, that ever existed. It is the Bible alone, which, by informing us of the deluge, enables us to account, satisfactorily, for many surprising appearances in the internal structure of the earth, as well as for the existence of marine exuviæ on the summits of mountains, and in other places far distant from the sea. By the same volume we are assisted in accounting for the multiplicity of languages, which exist in the world; for the degraded condition of the Africans; for the origin and universal prevalence of sacrifices; and many other facts, of an equally interesting nature. We shall only add, that while the scriptures throw light on the facts here alluded to, the existence of these facts powerfully tends, on the other hand, to establish the truth and authenticity of the scriptures.
In addition to these intrinsic excellencies of the Bible, which give it, considered merely as a human production, powerful claims to the attention of persons of taste and learning, there are various circum