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MARCUS AURELIUS. did ;--and the conclusion of that tyranny was, his murder.

- SERVIUS TULLIUS. Unhappy father ! unhappy king! what a detestable thing is absolute monarchy, when even the virtues of Marcus Aurelius could not hinder it from being destructive to his family, and pernicious to his country, any longer than the period of his own life ! But how happy is that kingdom, in which a limited monarch presides over a state so justly poised* that it guards itself from such evils, and has no need to take refuge in arbitrary power against the dangers of anarchy ; which is almost as bad a resource, as it would be for a ship to run itself on a rock, in order to escape from the agitation of a tempest.

LORD LYTTELTON,

SECTION IV

THERON AND ASPASIO.

On the excellence of the Holy Scriptures.

THERON.

I FEAR my friend suspects me to be somewhat wavering, or defective, in veneration for ine Srciptures.

ASPASIO.

THERON

No, Theron, I have a better opinion of your taste and discernment, than to harbour any such suspicion.

The Scriptures are certainly an inexhaustible fund of materials, for the most delightful and ennobling discourse and meditation. When we consider the Author of those sacred books, that they came originally from Heaven, were dictated

* The

young reator will here be naturally reminded of the excellence of the British Constitution ; a fabric which has stood the test of ages, and attracted the admiration of the world. It combines the advantages of the three great forms of government, without their inconveniences : it preserves a happy balance amongst them: and it contains within it. self the power of recurring to first principles, and of rectifying all the disorders of time. May Divine Providence perpetuate this invaluable constitution, and excite in the hearts of Britons, grateful acknowledge ments for this blessing, and for many others by which they are emireak ly distinguished

by Divine Wisdom, have the same consummate excellence as the works of creation ; it is really surprising, that we are not often searching, by study, by meditation, or converse, into one or other of those important volumes.

ASPASIO. I admire, I must confess, the very language and composition of the Bible. Would you see history in all her simplicity, and all her force ; most beautifully easy, yet irresistibly striking !-See her, or rather feel her energy, touching the nicest movements of the soul, and triumphing over our pagsions, in the inimitable narrative of Joseph's life. The representation of Esau's bitter distress ; the conversation pieces of Jonathan and his gallant friend; the memorable journal of the disciples going to Emmaus ; are finished models of the impassioned and affecting. Here is nothing studied ; here are no flights of fancy ; no embellishments of oratory. If we sometimes choose a plaintive strain, such as softens the mind, and sooths an agreeable melancholy, are any of the classic writers superior, in the eloquence of mourning, to David's pathetic 'elegy on his beloved Jonathan ; to his most passionate and inconsolable moan over the lovely but unhappy Absalom; or to that melodious wo, which warbles and bleeds, in every line of Jeremiah's Lamentations ?

Are we admirers of Antiquity ?-Here we are led back, beyond the universal deluge, and far beyond the date of any other annals. We are introduced to the earliest inhabitants of the earth. We take a view of mankind in their undisguised primitive plainness, when the days of their life were but little short of a thousand years. We are brought acquainted with the origin of nations ; with the creation of the world ; and with the birth of time itself.

Are we delighted with vast achievements !-Where is any thing comparable to the miracles in Egypt, and the wonders in the field of Zoan ? to the memoirs of the Israelites passing through the depths of the sea; sojourning amidst the inhospitable deserts ; and conquering the kingdom of Canaan miten Here we behold the fundamental laws of the universe, sometimes suspended, sometimes reversed ; and not only the current of Jordan, but the course of nature controlled

If we want maxims of wisdom, or have a taste for the laconic style,--how copiously may our wants be supplied, and how delicately our taste gratified ! especially in the book of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and some of the minor prephets. Here are the most sage lessons of instruction adapted

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to every circumstance of life ; formed upon the experience of all preceding ages; and perfected by the unerring Spirit of inspiration. These are delivered with a conciseness so remarkable, that one might venture to say, every word is a sentence : at least, every sentence may be called apothegm, sparkling with brightness of thought, or weighty with solidity of sense. The whole, like a profusion of pearls, containing, in a very small compass, a value almost immense ; all heaped up (as an ingenious writer observes) with a confused magnificence, above the little niceties of order.

If we look for strength of reasoning, and warmth of exhortation, or the manly boldness of impartial reproof; let us have recourse to the Acts of the Apostles, and to the Epistles of Paul. These are a specimen, or rather these are the standard, of them all.

Another recommendation of the Scriptures, is, that they afford the most awful and most amiable manifestations of the Deity. His glory shines, and his goodness smiles, in those Divine pages, with unparalleled lustre. Here we have a satisfactory explanation of our own state. The origin of evil is traced ; the cause of all our misery discovered, and the remedy, the infallible remedy, both clearly shown, and freely offered. The atonement and intercession of Christ lay a firm foundation for all our hopes ; while gratitude for his dying love suggests the most winning incitements to every duty.-Morality, Theron, your (and, let me add, my) ad. mired morality, is here delineated in all its branches, is placed upon its proper basis, and raised to its highest elevation. The Holy Spirit is promised to enlighten the darkness of our understandings, and strengthen the imbecility of our wills. What an ample-Can you indulge me in this favourite topic

THERON.

It is, I assure you, equally pleasing to myself. Your enlargements, therefore, need no apology.

ASPASIO.

What an ample provision is made, or referred to, by these excellent books, for all our spiritual wants ! and, in this respect, how indisputable is their superiority to all other compositions ! Is any one convinced of guilt, as provoking Heaven, and ruining the soul ? Let him ask Reason to point out a means of reconciliation, and a refuge of safety. Reason hesitates, as she replies • “the Deity may, perhaps, accept

our fupplications, and grant forgiveness. But the Scriptures leave us not to the sad uncertainty of conjecture. They speak the language of clear assurance. God has set forth a propitiation he does forgive our iniquities : he will remember our sins no more.

Are we assaulted by temptation, or averse to duty ? Philosophy may attempt to parry the thrust, or to stir up the reluctant mind, by disclosing the deformity of vice, and urging the fitness of things. Feeble expedients ! just as well calculated to accomplish the ends proposed, as the flimsy fortification of a cobweb to defend us from the ball of a cannon. The Bible recommends no such incompetent succours. “My grace,” says its Almighty author, is sufficient for thee. Sin shall not have dominion over you.”—The great Jehovah, in whom is everlasting strength, “worketh in us, both to will, and to do, of his good pleasure.”

Should we be visited with sickness, or overtaken by any calamity, the consolation which Plato offers, is, that such dispensations coincide with the universal plan of Divine government. Virgil will tell us, for our relief, that afflictive visitations are, more or less, the unayoidable lot of all men. Another moralist whispers in the dejected sufferer's ear, "Impatience adds to the load; whereas a calm submission reuders it more supportab.e.”-Does the word of revelation dispense such spiritless and fugitive cordials ?-No: those sacred pages

inform us, that tribulations are fatherly chastisements, tokens of our Maker's love, and fruits of his care; that they are intended to work in us the peaceable fruits of righteousness; and to work out for us an eternal weight of glory.

Should we, under the summons of death, have recourse to the most celebrated comforters in the heathen world ; they would increase our apprehensions, rather than mitigate our dread. Death is represented, by the great master of their schools, as the most formidable of all eyils. They were not able to determine, whether the soul survived the body. Whereas, this inspired volume strips the monster of his horrors, or turns him into a messenger of peace ; gives him an angel's face, and a deliverer's hand ; and ascertains to the souls of the righteous, an immediate translation into the regions of bliss.

6

THERON.

Another very distinguishing peculiarity of the sacred writings just occurs to my mind, the method of communicating

advice, or administering reproof, by parables : a method which levels itself to the lowest apprehension, without giving offence to the most supercilious temper. Our Lord was asked by a student of the Jewish law, “Who is my neighbour ?) which implied another question, “How is he to be loved? The inquirer was conceited of himself, yet ignorant of the truth, and deficient in his duty. Had the wise instructer of mankind abruptly declared, “ Thou neither knowest the former, nor fulfillest the latter;" probably the querist would have reddened with indignation, and departed in a rage.

To teach, therefore, and not disgust“; to convince the man of his error, and not exasperate his mind, he frames a reply, as amiable in the manner, as it was well adapted to the purpose.

A certain person going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, fell among thieves. Not content to rob him of his treasure, they strip him of his garments ; wounded him with great barbarity; and leave him half dead. Soon after this calamitous accident, a traveller happens to come along that very road : and what renders him more likely to afford relief, he is one of the ministers of religion ; one who taught others the lovely lessons of humanity and charity ; and who was, therefore, under the strongest obligations to exemplify them in his own practice. He just glances an eye upon the deplorable object ; sees him stretched on the cold ground, and weltering in his blood ; but takes no further notice : nay, to avoid the trouble of an inquiry, he passes by on the other side. Scarcely was he departed, when a Levite approaches. This man comes nearer, and looks on the miserable spectacle; takes a leisurely and attentive survey of the case : and though every gash in the bleeding flesh cried and pleaded for com. passion, this minister of the sanctuary neither speaks a word to comfort, 'nor moves a hand to help. Last of all comes a Samaritan ; one of the abhorred nation, whom the Jews hated with the most implacable malignity. Though the Levite had neglected an expiring brother, though the priest had withheld his pity from one of the Lord's peculiar people; the very moment this Samaritan sees the unhappy sufferer He melts into commiseration. He forgets the embittered foe and considers only the distressed fellow-creature. He springs from his horse, and resolves to intermit his journey The oil and wine, intended for his own refreshment, he freely converts into healing unguents. He binds up the wounds ; sets the disabled stranger upon his own beast; and

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