« הקודםהמשך »
and learn you to die.--If you apply yourself diligently to this book, seeking to direct your life according to the rule of the fame, it fhall win you more, and endow you with greater felicity, than the poffeffion of all your
father's lands, and
you shall be an inheritor of such riches, as neither the covetous shall withdraw from you, neither the thief shall steal, neither yet the moths corrupt.”
Queen ELIZABETH, speaking of her own conduct, faith, « I walk many times in the pleasant fields of the Holy Scriptures, where I pluck up the goodlisome herbs of sentences by pruning; and lay them up at length in the high seat of
memory by gathering them together; that fo, having tasted the sweetness, I may the less perceive the bitterness of this miserable life.”
ALPHONSUS, King of Naples, who did not begin to study till he was fifty years of age, read over the Old and New Testament, with their glofies, fourteen times.
GROTIUS too made the Holy Scriptures his favourite study in every period of his life. They were his consolation in prison; he always devoted a part of the day co them; and they were his principal study during a great part of his embally abroad.
The learned Father Paul had read over the Greek Tefta. ment, with so much exactness, that having used to mark every word, when he had fully weighed the importance of it, as he went through it; he had, by going often over it, and observing what he had passed by in a former reading, grown up to that at lait, that every word was marked of the whole New Testament; and when any new illustrations of passages were suggested to him, he received them with transports of joy.
Sir Henry WOTTON, after his customary public devotions, used to retire to his study, and there to spend some hours in reading the Bible, and authors in divinity, closing up his meditations with private prayer,
The excellent Sir JOHN HARTOPP in like manner, amidst his other applications, made the Book of God his chief study, and his divinest delight. The Bible lay before him night and day.
JAMES BONNELL, Esq. made the Holy Scriptures his conItant and daily ftudy. He read them, he meditated upon them, he prayed over them.
The celebrated WITsius was able to recite almost any passage of Scripture in its proper language, together with its context, and its criticisins of the best commentators.
Mr. WILLIAM Gouge tied himself to read fifteen chapters in the Bible daily.
Lady Frances HOBART read the Psalms over twelve times every year, the New Testament thrice, and the other parts of the Old Testament once.
SUSANNAH, Countess of Suffolk, for the last seven years of her life, read the whole Bible over twice annually*.
And that the knowledge of Holy Scripture was never intended to be confined to the Clergy, or to Kings, learned men, and persons of rank, is evident, not only from what we have observed from BINGHAM and others, but also
* There have been many female characters highly eminent for their piety and knowledge of the Sacred Scriptures, as well as those above mentioned. I will instance a few: Queen CATHARINE PARR-Queen MARY-Lady C. Courten-Lody M. HOUGHTON—Lady CuttsLady E. HASTINGS—Lady M. ARMYN E-Lady A. Halket-Lady LANGHAM--Lady E. BROOKE-Lady M. VERE--Mrs. C. PHILLIPSMrs. J. RATCLIFFE-Mrs. C. BretterG-Mrs. A. BAYNARD--Mrs. A. M. SHURMAN--Mrs. E. BURY-Mrs. E. BURNET-Mrs. E. Rowe, and others.
See GIBBON's Memoirs of Pious Ladies, and Biographium Femineum.
In the reign of HENRY V. a law was passed against the perusal of the Scriptures in English. It enacted, “ that whatsoever they were that “ Thould read the Scriptures in the mother tongue, they should forfeit “ land, catel, lif, and godes froin theyr heyres for ever, and fo be con
dempned for heretykes to God, enemies to the crowne, and most errant traitors to the lande."
Vide Neal's History of the Puritans, vol. 1. p. 7. The above is an honourable list of female characters. We may therefore place them in the higher class of Bishop AYLMER's account of the fair sex; for this good bishop, when preaching at court before Queen ELIZABETH tells his audience, that " women are of two sorts, some of them are wiser, beiter learned, discreeter, and more conftant, than a number of men; but another and worse sort of them, and the most part, are fond, foolish, wanton fibbergibs, tatlers, triflers, wavering, witless, without counsel, feeble, careless, rash, proud, dainty, nice, tale bearers, eves-droppers, rumour-raisers, evil-tongued, worfe-minded, and in every wise dolcified with the dregs of the devil's dunghill."
Brit, Biog. vol. 3, p. 239.
from the words of ERASMUS, who contributed more perhaps than any other man towards promoting the knowledge of Scriptural learning. “I would desire," says he, ” that all women should read the Gospel, and the Epistles of St. Paul. I would to God, the plowman would fing a text of Scripture at his plough; and that the weaver at his loom with this would drive away the tediousness of time. I would the way-faring man, with this pastime, would expel the weariness of his journey. And, in short, I would that all the communication of the Christian should be of the Scripture.”
If we come to our own time, it might be made appear, that abundance of the most serious and valuable people, among
the different denominations of men, spend a good portion of their time in this facred exercise. I observe. only, still farther, however, that the late Rev. WILLIAM ROMAINe, before mentioned, studied nothing but the Bible for the last thirty or forty years of his life.
All these examples, from ancients and moderns, are produced in this place, to encourage the serious believer to abound in this divine employ, for the comfort and edification of his own mind. The more intimately we are acquainted with these writings, the more fully shall we be persuaded of their incomparable excellency. The very learned Le Clerc tells us, “ that while he was compiling his Harmony, he was so struck with adıniration of the excelkent discourses of JESUS, so inflamed with the love of his most holy doctrine, that he thought he but just then began to be acquainted with what he scarce ever laid out of his bands from his infancy.” Indeed, the scheme of redemption therein exhibited is moft worthy of acceptation, admirably calculated to make all mankind virtuous and happy, could all mankind see its excellence, feel its necessity, and submit to its righteous requirements. Far are we from wishing you to pay a blind submision to every thing that goes under the name of Religion. Very far are we from desiring you to believe as we believe, or to act in every respect as we think right to act. Prize the liberty wherewith God hath providentially made you free. Use your own reason, but use it foberly. Beware of vain and spurious pretenfions. Be upon your guard againft a
fophistical Philosophy, the fashionable folly of the prefent day. To sound Philosophy we have no objection; but when a spurious kind of wisdom, falsely called Philosophy, would rob us of our Bible, to which we are all more indebted than we are willing to confess*, we must say of it as Cicero faid of the Twelve Tables :-" Though all should “ be offended I will speak what I think. Truly the little « book of the Twelve Tables alone, whether we consider the “ several chapters, or regard it as the foundation of all our “ laws, exceeds the libraries of all the Philosophers, as well in “ the weight of its authority, as in the extent of its utilityf.”
• Sir RICHARD STEEL fays, " the greatest pleasures with which the imagination can be entertained are to be found in Sacred Writ, and even the Itile of Scripture is more than human.” Táiler, No. 233.
We have an account in the Gentleman's Mag for June 1793, of a Mr. Henry Willis, farmer, aged 81, deceased, who had devoted almoit every hour that could be spared from his labour, during the course of fo long a life, to the devout and serious perusal of the Holy Scriptures. He' had read, with the most minute attention, all the books of the Old and New Testament eight times over ; and had proceeded as far as the book of Job in his ninth reading, when his meditations were terminated by death
A ftill more excellent account we have in Miss HANNAH Moore's Shephed of Salisbury Plaix, which is no feigned characters, but a narrative of real facts, like the above. In a conversation with Mr. JOHNSON, he gives the following pleasing account of himself:
:~" Blessed be God! through his mercy I learnt to read when I was a boy.- I believe there is no day for the last thirty years, that I have not peeped at my Bible. If we can't find time to read a chapter, I defy any man to say he can't find time to read a verse; and a single text, well followed and put in practice every day, would make no bad figure at the year's end ; 365 texts, without the loss of a moment's time, would make a pretty stock, a little golden treasury, as one may fay, from new year's day to new year's day; and if children were brought up to it, they would come to look for their text, as natural as they do for their breakfast. - I can say the greatest part of the Bible by heart. I have led but a lonely lite, and have often had but little to eat ; but my Bible has been meat, drink, and company to me and when want and trouble have come upon me, I don't know what I should have done indeed, if I had not had the promises of this book for my stay and support."
Let no man hereafter pretend he cannot find time to read the Sacred Writings. Every person has abundant leisure for the purpose. Find but inclination, and you will soon find time.
+ “ Fremant omnes licet, dicam quod sentio : bibliothecas mehercule “ omnium philosophorum unus mihi videtur XII. tabularum libellus, fi « quis legum fonteis, et capita viderit, et auctoritatis pondere, et utilitatis “ ubertate superare."
De Oratore, lib, g, fect, 195
The principles of natural religion are all' folid, and founded in the reason and relation of things. The Gospel of Christ is equally solid and rational. It takes in, unites, and confirms every principle of nature, and adds a number of circumstances suited to the fallen condition of man. And it calls upon, it invites, it challenges, it commands us to examine its pretensions with all possible care, accuracy, and severity.
“ Wrong not the Christian; think not Reafon yours;
“ On Argument alone our faith is built.” If the Gospel had not been agreeable to the most refined principles of human reason, we should never have found the foundest and most perfect reasoners, that ever appeared upon earth, enlift under its banner*. That it is not universally received, is by no means to be ascribed, either to its want of due evidence, or to its being an irrational
* We may add too, that the most active, useful, and benevolent characters in our own more enlightened day have been the firmelt believers in the writings of the Old and New Testaments. The late John WesLEY spent his whole life, time, strength, and fortune, in spreading the knowiedge of Christ and his Word. The late John HOWARD, Esq. was equally active in advancing the same cause, in a way as unprecedented, as it wa uleful. He was a firm believer in the Scriptures, and a very serious and conscientious Christian, of the Baptist perfuafion.
BOLLINGBROke, indeed, tells the world, that “ the resurrection of « letters was a fatal period: the Christian system has been attacked, and “ wounded too, very severely since that time.” Page 182. He tells us in another place. “ that Christianity has been in décay ever since the “ resurrection of letters." Page 185. The late King of Prusia has the fame sentiment: “ HOBBES, COLLINS, SHAFT ESBURY, and Bol“ LINGBROke, in Englard, and their disciples have given religion a more “ tal blow.” History of his Own Times, vol. 1. p. 02.
These two great men are mistaken. They confound pure evangelical religion with fuperftition. The latter we grant, and we glory in the truth, has received a mortal blow; but the former is as unshakeable as the throne of the ETERNAL.
One of the most extraordinary Philosophers of the present age was the late DAVID RITTENHOUSE, of America. Dr. Rush, of Philadelphia, who is himself an able Philefopher and a determined Chriftian, observes very justly, when speaking of the decease of the above RITTEN HOUSE,