Abbildungen der Seite

The latter aspiration probably alludes to the very ancient practice of hewing characters into the faces of vast rocks, as eternal memorials of persons and events. It is said by travellers whose testimony seems worthy of credence, that various fragments of such inscriptions, now utterly undecipherable, may be seen to this day in the wildernesses of Ara. bia Petrea-monuments at once of the grasp and the limitation of the mental power of man; thus making the hardest substances in nature the depositories of his thoughts, and yet betrayed in his ambitious expectation of so perpetuating them. The slow influences of the elements have been incessantly, though insensibly, obliterating what the chisel had ploughed into the solid marble, till at length nothing remains but a mockery of skeleton letters, so unlike their pristine forms, so unable to explain their own meaning, that you might as well seek anong the human relics in a charnel-vault the resemblances of the once-living personages,mor invoke the dead bones to tell their own history, -as question these dumb rocks concerning the records engraven on them.

The passage just quoted shows the state of alphabetical writing in the age of Job, and, according to the best commentators, he describes three modes of exercising it :-"O that my words were now written,--traced out in characters,--in a book composed of palm-leaves, or on a roll of linen! O that they were engraven with a pen of iron on tablets of lead, or indented in the solid rock to endure to the end of time !” Arguing against the perverse sophistry of his friends that he must have been secretly a wicked man, because such awful calamities, which they construed into divine judgments, had befallen him ; so fast does he hold his integrity, that, not only with passing words, liable to be forgotten as soon as uttered, does he maintain it; but by every mode that could give his expressions publicity and ensuiro them perpetuity, he longs that his confidence in God to vindicate him might be recorded, whatever might be the issue of those evils to himself, even though he were brought down by them to death and corruption, descending, not only with sorrow, but with ignominy to the grave; for, saith he,

“ I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand at the latter day on the earth; and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God, whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, though my reins be consumed within me."-Job xix. 25–27.

Had these words of the patriarch been indeed engraven with a pen of iron on the rock for ever," yet without some more certain medium of transmission to posterity, they would have been unknown at this day, or only speaking in the desert with the voice of silence, which no eye could interpret, no mind could hear. But, being inscribed on materials as frail as the leaves in my hand, yet capable of infinitely multiplied transcription, they can never be lost; for though the giant-characters enchased in everlasting flint, would ere now have been worn down by the perpetual foot of time, yet, committed with feeble ink to perishable paper, liable “ to be crushed before the moth,” or destroyed by the touch of fire or water, the good man's hope can never fail, even on earth; it was “a hope full of immortality;' and still through all ages, and in all lands, while the sun and moon endure, it shall be said by people of every kindred and nation, and in every tongue spoken under heaven, “I know that my Redeemer liveth."

Sacred Literature.

We must here conclude what the limits of this brief essay will permit to be said respecting the literature of the Bible, the first five books of which contain examples of every species of writing and

discourse in use among the Jews-poetry and prose, eloquence, ethics, legislation, history, biography, prophecy. It may be added, that the narrative portions especially are of inimitable simplicity; they breathe a pathos, and at times exercise a power over the affections, which no compositions extant besides them have equalled, except some passages of rare occurrence in the subsequent books of the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament. The historian presents men, manners, and incidents to the eye, the mind, and the sympathies of the reader precisely in the way that they impressed his own. This is the uniform style of the inspired penman in his highest mood :-"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. And the earth was without form and void ; and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, 'Let there be light, and there was light."--Gen. i. 1-3.

In scenes of common life and the intercourse between man and man, nothing can be more delicately true to nature than the light touches of a hand that could sketch such a scene as the following,—the picture composed of words having this advantage over any picture drawn with lines and colours; that, whereas the latter can exhibit but one moment, and only imply discourse, the former can express motion, speech, and progress-the beginning, middle, and end of the action represented. How graceful, and yet how emphatic, are the orientol pleonasms in Jacob's reply to Pharaoh's simple question.

“And Joseph brought in Jacob his father, and set him before Pharaoh; and Jacob blessed Pharaoh.

“And Pharaoh said unto Jacob, How old art thou ?

“And Jacob said unto Pharaoh, "The days of the years of my pilgrimage are one hundred and thirty years; few and evil have the days of the years of my life been, and have not attained unto the days of the years of the life of my fathers, in the days of their pilgrimage.'

« And Jacob blessed Pharaoh, and went out from before Pharaoh."*

of the remaining books of Scripture (all of which are more or less conformed to these primitive models) it will not be expedient to enter into further particulars than to offer an example of the perfection to which the most perfect of all the forms of " literary composition was carried by him who, both as prophet and minstrel, is distinguished by the title of the sweet singer of Israel. Considered merely as an emanation of genius, conceived in the happiest frame of mind, and executed with force and elegance corresponding,—the 104th Psalm may not only be quoted in competition with any other similar product of fine taste, but may, indeed, be placed as the standard by which descriptive poetry itself ought to be measured and estimated as it approaches or falls short of the excellence of such a model. This divine song is a meditation on the mighty power and wonderful providence of God. It begins with an apostrophe to Him, as "clothed with honour and majesty, who covereth Himself with light as a garment, who stretcheth out the heavens like the curtain of a tent, who layeth the beams of his chambers in the waters, who maketh the clouds his chariot, who walketh upon the wings of the wind.”

Then follow exhibitions of Almighty power in creation, when “ He laid the foundations of the earth, that it should not be removed for ever;" and in destruction, when, at the deluge," the waters stood above the mountains,” but having accomplished their ministry of wrath, " at (His) rebuke they fled ; at che voice of (His) thunder they hasted away.”

This scene of devastation is succeeded by one of amenity and fruitfulness, exquisitely delineated :

Gen. xlvii, 7

“He sendeth the springs into the valleys which run among the hills. They give drink to every beast of the field; the wild asses quench their thirst. By them shall the fowls of heaven have their habitation, which sing among the branches.” The earth is represented as pouring forth from her lap the abun. dance of food for man and beast. The habits of various animals are accurately noted. The revolu. tions of the heavenly bodies, bringing day and night, and the change of seasons are next reviewed and celebrated in strains rivalling their own, when “the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy." Afterward the great and wide sea, in its depths, is disclosed, and exhibited as a world of enjoyment as infinitely extended as the endless diversities of its strange population of living things innumerable, "both great and small."

One passage, and but one more, must not be passed over, the picturesque reality of which will be perceived by all who have a heart to feel horror, or an eye to rejoice in beauty :-" Thou makest darkness, and it is night: wherein all the beasts of the forest do creep forth.—The young lions roar after their prey, and seek their meat from God.—The sun ariseth; they gather themselves together, and lay them down in their dens.-Man goeth forth unto his work and his labour until the evening.-0 Lord! how manifold are thy works! in wisdom hast thou made them all.”

The remaining unquoted passages of this Psalm are worthy of the foregoing, especially the verses which describe animal life, death, and resuscitation, by the breathing, withdrawing, or regenerating influence of that Divine Spirit which at first “moved upon the waters.” Who, after reading the whole of this sublime strain, can forbear to exclaim, with the royal Psalmist, at the close :-“ Bless Thou the Lord, O my soul!" and then invoke all living to do the samo" Praise ye the Lord.”

« ZurückWeiter »