« הקודםהמשך »
will employ part of the time in writing a few thoughts, as you desired, upon the truth of the Scriptures.
Notwithstanding the Old and New Testaments were written by so many persons, and at such distant periods, the writers appear to have been all influenced by the same spirit. They represent God as a holy and righteous Being infinitely opposite to sin and sinners. The servants of God too in every age and nation, under the Old Testament dispensation and the New, have drunk into the same spirit. In the writings and lives of none of the heathens is piety discoverable like that which appeared in the patriarchs, in Moses, Aaron, Joshua, Ruth and Boaz, and even in Eli, notwithstanding all his imperfections. Hannah, also, and Samuel, David, and the other writers of the Psalms, and likewise the prophets, were filled with love to the true God; a God so excellent, that whenever the inspired writers speak of his character or of his works, their language is ennobled; and by the conveyance of grand ideas in simple and plain words, a perfection of sublimity is produced, which causes their writings as much to exceed all others as the glimmering light of a glow-worm is outshone by the lustre of the sun. The gods of the nations are indeed idols; and the writers and writings that treat of them are like unto them, when compared with those that describe the Creator of the heavens and of the earth,
In the writers of the New Testament we find a continuation of the same spirit which dwelt in the writers of the Old. We find the same elevated views of the Deity, the saine love to him and the same fear to offend him : and a divine morality, whereof the love of God is the foundation, pervades both the sacred volumes. The writers of the New Testament, it is true, like those of the Old, had their different natural excellences, which are visible in their writings: but in their love to God and to the souls of men, in their fortitude, self-denial, charity, humility and heavenly-mindedness, it is difficult to say which of them excelled the rest. Paul is conspicuous for strength of reasoning diligence, and resolution. Luke shines as a faithful narra
tor, and as a man of unaffected modesty ; for the last of which excellences no other proof is necessary than his never mentioning himself in the Acts of the Apostles, though it is evident he was the companion of Paul, and had a principal hand in the things he related. Peter has written but little ; but that little is like apples of gold in pictures of silver. The gospel, the epistles, and the Revelation of John, as they are manifestly the works of the same writer, so they breathe the same spirit of love to God, and of good will to men. The writings of each of the sacred penmen bear internal and inimitable marks of their genuineness, which the spurious writings pretending to be the works of the apostles evidently want.
Frequently, through the divine influence, the excel. lence of the sacred writings, and the holiness of their authors, produce a belief of the truth of our most holy religion in unlearned men, who are unable to comprehend acute reasoning and elaborate investigation. Ask a poor illiterate Christian upon what evidence he believes his Bible, and he will probably tell you that he feels it to be true. In this answer there is no enthusiasm. His meaning is, that the divine truths are worthy of the God who revealed them; that they do his heart good like a cordial; and that he is filled with love and gratitude for the mercies therein revealed, and with a longing desire to be conformed to the divine precepts, which he knows to be just and good.
The moral excellence of the sacred writings, however, can impress very forcibly none but those who are born of God, and who have received the same spirit with the writers of them. But there is another proof of their divine. orginal which is calculated for general use, namely, the fulfilment of prophecy.
Prophecy delineates the dispensations of God towards the Jews in all ages; the Babylonish captivity; the calamities suffered by the nations which surrounded the land. of Canaan; the deliverance by Cyrus; the persecutions under Antiochus Epiphanes ; the history of the Assyrian, Persian, Macedonian, and Roman monarchies; a minute
history of Alexander's successors; the rise, reign, and fall of antichrist; and a very great variety of other events, relating both to nations and to individuals.
The prophecies which relate to the Messiah, I cannot in a short letter enumerate. I may, however, say, that he was spoken of as a potent prince, as a mighty deliverer, and yet as a great sufferer. The two first parts of this character, according to the literal sense, were quite agreeable to the inclination of the Jews in general : and even the apostles were not free from this prejudice till some time after the resurrection of our Lord. An impostor would have taken advantage of this prejudice, as all impostors pretending to be the Messiah have done. But the general tendency of our Lord's discourses on this subject was to show his followers, that he came for nobler purposes than to make his countrymen a great and tourishing nation ; that his mission was intended to deliver them from the dominion of Satan, and to make them possessors of an everlasting kingdom ; and that, instead of making them greater than they were in this world, it was intended to expose them to reproach, and sufferings of every kind. When many of his followers came to understand that their condition was not to be bettered in the present life, they walked no more with him, The Jews to this day expect a Messiah exactly similar to what their ancestors expected. But their expectation is vain; for a Messiah is already come, whose character is perfectly correspondent with tbe prophecies on which they found their hopes.
Jesus, in his life, his sufferings, and his death, is minutely described by the Jewish Scriptures. An artful person might have contrived to fulfil these prophecies in what related to his own conduct; but to contrive what was to be done to him by others, even to the manner of their putting him to death, must be acknowledged to be an art which few are equal to, or, if they were, would choose to practise, all impostors being disposed to make the most of their deceptions in the present world.
I have filled my paper, and must therefore bid you and all my friends adieu.
from Mr. Charles Clifford to Mrs. Worthington.
DEAR MADAM, WHAT
HAT a treasure did your letter contain ! I little thought I should any more see the writing of that dear young lady. It is impossible to describe the surprise and joy which were manifested, and even the tears which were shed on this occasion, especially by the good Mr. Neville. Indeed the joy was more than we could well bear.
When your letter was brought, we were all at tea. I looked at the direction, and perceived that it came from London, and was directed for me at Mr. Neville's. I was astonished, not being able to conceive who in London could know that I was there ; and my astonishment was increased by my not knowing the hand. Finding in it a letter dil'ected to you, I opened it, and, looking at the signature, beheld Eusebia Neville. I had so much command over myself as immediately to rise and go out. I was reading in another room both the letters, to my great astonishment and joy, when a servant was sent by the company to remind me that they waited for me.
I was at a loss how to break the affair to Mr. Neville, since a sudden excess of joy has often proved as fatal as immoderate sorrow. I endeavoured, therefore, when I went in, to compose myself as much as possible. My father, however, having perceived when I went out, that I was greatly agitated, cried out upon my entering the room, Charles, what is the matter? I am certain this letter has greatly discomposed your mind.
Sir, said I, this letter contains, some very good, and some very bad news.
Who, said hè, could know that you were to be here today? This is a very mysterious affair.
I replied, that by some means or other it had been known, or I should not have received a letter here.
Mr. Neville and all the company were silent, expecting I suppose to hear something very interesting. Not daring to gratify their curiosity, I introduced a new subject of conversation, in which while the company were engaged, I privately beckoned Mr. William Neville to follow me out,
My friend, said I, this letter contains something very important respecting your family. This introduction (as he afterwards told me) alarmed him very much, and he knew not whạt to think. Showing him the back of the letter directed to you, I asked him whether he knew the writing. My sister! cried he; it is my dear sisters. I did not give him the letter immediately, but desired him to be calm. I then informed him that I had some hopes that his Eusebia was alive, but that I knew not eyen in what country she was.
I had not been so secret as to elude Mrs. Neville's ob. servation. She was alarmed, and came to us. Pray, Mr. Clifford, said she, what is the matter? I know your letter contains some intelligence in which we are greatly interested. Mr. Neville replied, My sister, we have reason to believe is alive; but we know not where she is : all we know is, that she is neither in England nor in France.
Returning to our friends, we found them about to take a walk in the wilderness, whither we accompanied them. kept near Mr. Neville, and asked him whether he should not have put off his mourning at his son's wedding. I said I wore mine, because I had not entertained the most dis-, tant apprehension of that happy event.
My dear Mr. Clifford, answered he, I must say as Jacob did concerning his son, I will go down into the grave unto her mourning.
It was undoubtedly, Sir, replied I, the intention of Jacob to do so; but I cannot applaud him for it, since it becomes every creature to submit to the divine will. Yet he did not go to the grave mourning, as he said he would. And so with regard to your child, it is possible she may yet be