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In many places sublimity arises from the greatness of the thought.
* Let them praise the name of Jehovah ;
Ps. cxlviii. 5.
* He spake, and it was done :
Ps. xxxiii. 9.
* Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand;
* Thy mercy, O Jehovah, reacheth to the heavens,
Canst thou by searching find out God ?
Another source of the sublime is perturbation of mind, and impetuosity of passion.
Admiration expresses itself grandly and concisely:
* Who is like thee, O Jehovah, among the gods ?
Exod. xv. 11, 12.
Nothing can be more magnificent than the following representation of the divine anger in the song of Moses :
I † lift up mine hand to the heavens,
+ H, tierce.
# Or, I swear.
And mine hand taketh hold on judgment.
Deut. xxxii. 40-42.
In Isaiah these terrors are set in array against the enemies of the Jews :
Howl ye, for the day of Jehovah is near :
Isai. xiii. 6-13.
Struck by such passages as these, and by numberless others, for it is more difficult to choose examples than to find them, Mr. Addison says;
“ As the Jewish nation produced men of great genius, without considering them as inspired writers, they have transmitted to us many hymns, and divine odes, which excel those that are deli do to us by the ancient Greeks and Romans, in the poetry, as much as in
| Spectator, N. 453,
the subject to which it was consecrated. This, I think, might easily be shewn, if there were occasion for it." And a learned French writer gives this character of the Hebrew language : “ It is the true language of poetry, of prophecy, and of revelation : a celestial fire animates and transports it: what ardour in its odes ! what sublime images in the visions of Isaiah ! how pathetic and affecting are the tears of Jeremiah! One there finds beauties and models of every kind. Nothing is more capable than this language of elevating a poetic spirit; and we do not fear to assert that the Bible, superior to Homer and Virgil in a great number of places, can inspire still more than they that rare and singular genius which is the portion of those who dedicate themselves to poetry.” Encyclop. Yverdon. 4°. HeBRAIQUE lan ue.
From particular beauties in the Hebrew writers, I might naturally pass on to their general character; to the lively dramatic spirit and enchanting simplicity of their historians, and to the discriminating marks and peculiar excellencies of their poets. But this field has been almost entirely occupied by the eminent author of the Hebrew Prelections. I shall therefore only add, as a supplement to that immortal work, the opinion which he elsewhere gives on 66 the characters of some of the principal Hebrew writers, and on the difference of style and manner which may, upon just grounds, be observed in them; yet only so far as may be neces
cessary to throw some light on the question concerning the age of the book of Job.
“ Moses stands at the head of the Hebrew writers; not only in point of time, but in regard also of literary merit, as an historian, as an orator, and as a poet. Whatever defects may be noted in his history upon the whole, when compared with the more regular and more laboured productions of the polished historians of Greece and Rome; yet in many parts of it he has given evident marks of superior abilities in the character of an historian. The history of Joseph, for instance, is an example of simple, noble, elegant, interesting, pathetic narration ; of justness, neatness, and perspicuity of historic composition; to which nothing equal, or in any degree comparable, can be produced from Herodotus or Xenophon, Sallust or Livy. As an orator, his exhortations in the Book of Deuteronomy have a force, a spirit, and an elegance equal at least to any thing of the same kind in the prophets of a later age. As a poet, his prophetic ode is superior to every thing of its kind, except perhaps that of Isaiah, c. xiv: and
we have in this ode of Moses an excellent example of the poetical construction, or sententious style characteristic of the Hebrew poetry. It appears here in its just form, and full beauty; though properly tempered and chastised, nor carried to its utmost precision, and most laboured accuracy; which would not have been so suitable to the great sublimity of the subject. And a like instance of judgment may be observed in Isaiah's ode above-mentioned; for though that prophet is perhaps of all the Hebrew poets the most elegant composer in that style, yet in this ode he has not aimed at a studied exactness of the short sententious construction, but has chosen a more free and flowing' manner of composition. It may perhaps be said, that this perfect accuracy of the sententious style was not yet acquired, but was the late effect of progressive refinement: and that for this reason the author of Job, who is acknowledged to be very accurate in this manner of writing, was of a later age. That this is not so, will evidently appear from other examples of the earliest times, which are most perfect in the sententious manner. In short, Moses's writings, in various forms and characters of composition, are in no respect inferior to the productions of later ages of the Jewish republic: and the language of Moses is the very purity of the Hebrew tongue. However succeeding writers may differ from him in style and manner ; this difference is to be ascribed to the peculiar turn and genius of those writers, not to any improvements of science, or refinements of language in a more civilized and polished age.
“ But further: in the poetical style Moses has not only given some excellent examples of his own faculty, but has likewise preserved several specimens of poetry from other hands, and of a higher age. He has given us the prophecies of Jacob, which were in all probability delivered down to posterity in their genuine form, as taken from the mouth of the patriarch: these are in the same short sententious style ; which, as it is the most distinguishing character of the Hebrew poetry, so it appears by this, and the other examples, to have been the most ancient, the genuine and original mark of it. He has given us the prophecies of Balaam; which are in this style the most perfect, the most polished, the most exquisite examples, that can be produced. There are certain odes of Horace, which, for their exquisite taste, the delicacy of composition, purity of diction, and elegance of form, one might safely pronounce to be peculiar to the Augustan age, and that no succeeding age could possibly have produced them. The prophecies of Balaam seem to me to have something of this kind of peculiar cast;
a neatness, a purity, and precision in the sententious manner, which later ages seldom attained. I hardly know any thing in this kind, which can be set in competition with them : except the cxivth psalm, of a later age (not higher, I guess, than the time of David), and some parts of Job, of an age, as I suppose, somewhat earlier than that of Balaam. From these considerations I presume to mark the age of Moses as an age in which Hebrew
prose was arrived at its full form of maturity and perfection; and to conclude that the excellence of the composition of the poem of Job is no bar to its being ascribed to that age.--And upon the most strict examination of the style, manner, language, and poetical composition of that poem, I believe it will appear to all proper judges to be more suitable to that age, the age equal or somewhat prior to the time of Moses, than to any other whatever.”
But the grand topic in recommending the cultivation of the Hebrew language is the importance of the treasures which it unfolds. The venerable books written in Hebrew are indeed highly curious and instructive, apart from religious considerations. The historian, the geographer, the chronologer, the antiquarian, the naturalist, the poet, the orator, the legislator; the observer of human nature in its original simplicity, of the sources whence nations sprang, of society in its earliest stage, and of ancient eastern manners in their only genuine representation ; will here find their researches amply rewarded, no less than the divine who raises his eye to the adorable ways of Providence in the religious and civil history of mankind. Such a vein of Hebraism runs through the writings of the New Testament, that even these divine oracles cannot be accurately understood, nor the anomalies of their style explained, without some knowledge of Hebrew literature: and, as · Luther observes, “ those who read only versions of the Hebrew Scriptures see with the eyes of others; they stand with the people in the courts, and view the sacred rites at a distance : but whoever is acquainted with the original text itself, is admitted with the priests into the sanctuary, and is himself a witness and judge of all that is transacted in the recesses of the temple. Hence,” says
this learned Reformer, “though my knowledge of the Hebrew tongue is small, I would not barter it for all the treasures of the whole world.”
The learned author of Critical Observations on Books Ancient and Modern [London, 1776. White] advances this ingenious position, that the prophets “ never depart from the chronologic order of deli
i Quoted in the London Polyglot. Proleg. p. 20.