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of the fame work, is rather a difadvantage to the whole, many excellent remarks being thereby deprived of that relative force and propriety, which they would have acquired from a more regular connection, and more judicious order of arrangement.
In judging of the work before us, we must confider its writer, not as a theological, but as a poetical and philofophical critic. He makes no oftentatious difplay of rabbinical literature, and enters not into the minute difquifitions of verbal interpretation; but confiders his fubject in a light that renders it interefting to every reader who has a tafte for polite learning. In explaining paffages of fcripture, he furveys them merely in an hiftorical view; and, by examining and abftracting the rhetorical and poetical language in which they are expreffed, he endeavours to afcertain the plain facts which they are defigned to tranfmit. In this process, however, he has fometimes taken liberties of which many of his readers will difapprove; and it must be owned that, in a few inftances, his explanations are founded rather on plaufible conjectures, than on folid argument,
In his firft dialogue, he vindicates the Hebrew language from the objections usually made against the ftudy of it; he examines its ftructure, and, from its abounding in verbs and verbal nouns, he argues that it is peculiarly adapted to poetry; the chief excellency of which is action and fcenery. This leads him to take a fhort view of its etymology; after which, he explains the conftruction of its poetry, and the parallelifm of fentences, which is peculiar to it.
In the next dialogue, M. HERDER inveftigates the earliest opinions of mankind concerning the Deity, creation, providence, the angels, and Elohim. His ideas on these subjects are truly philofophical; and he speaks of them with a dignity of manner, and fublimity of ftyle, that feem to be infpired by a deep fenfe of their importance. He expofes, with juft contempt, the abfurdity of those, who reprefent religion as originally derived from the terrors and apprehenfions of mankind. Thefe, he allows, may have been the fource of the fuperftitious notions and practices which were afterward introduced; but he maintains that the religious fentiments of the earliest times were liberal and fublime. As inftances of the exalted notions of the Deity, entertained by the patriarchs, and, by them, transmitted to the Jewish poets of later ages, he refers his readers to the ninth chapter of Job, and the 139th pfalm.
M. HERDER is of opinion that the term Elohim was used, by the most ancient Hebrew writers, to fignify intellectual and fpiritual beings; to whom, each in his refpective sphere, they supposed that the immediate care of creation was committed by the Deity. They were, he thinks, confidered as a kind of Genii, or guardian fpirits, and of a rank inferior to angels. In
fupport of this opinion, which, as it was originally held, was not at all inconfiftent with the unity of the Deity, he quotes Pfalm viii. 5. where they are reprefented as little fuperior to mankind. The introduction of these beings gives the Hebrew poetry, fays M. HERDER, the genuine characters of fublimity and truth; and renders it peculiarly adapted to the purposes of religious inftruction.
The ideas of the ancient Hebrews concerning the invifible world, and their notions of chaos, are inveftigated with great accuracy and judgment in the third dialogue: the book of Job forms the fubject of the fourth and fifth. The exquifite tafte, with which the author enters into the fpirit of this admirable poem, the judicious and ftriking light, in which be confiders and illuftrates its numerous beauties, his excellent obfervations on its defign and tendency, the warm and liberal piety with which he feems infpired, together with his animated and pleafing ftyle of compofition, entitle him to a very high rank as a good critic, and an elegant writer.
Among the various opinions, which have been maintained concerning the hero of this poem, M. HERDER inclines to that expreffed in the note fubjoined to the Septuagint verfion; and fuppofes Job to have been an Emir, or Prince, who lived in the neighbourhood of Idumea, and was defcended from Efau. The j afflictions which befel this excellent man, and his exemplary behaviour under them, are here confidered as facts; and the author thinks that the poem founded on them, with all its beautiful imagery and fublime machinery, was compofed by fome bard among his fubjects, or perhaps one of his family, with a view to communicate inftruction to mankind, by cele brating the virtues of his prince. M. HERDER is of opinion, that it was originally written in Hebrew; but that it was unknown to the Jews, till the conqueft of the Edomites by David: his reafons for this conjecture are ingenious and plaufible, and are founded on a comparifon between the ftyle and imagery of fome of the Pfalms, with the fragments of Jewish poetry of preceding periods. He confiders the manner in which Satan is introduced in the firft chapter of Job, as a proof of the great antiquity of this book, and a powerful argument against thofe, who fuppofe the poet to have been a Chaldean. The Satan of this people was an evil principle, like the Arimanius of the Perfians; but, in the book of Job, he appears in a very different character, as a minifter of judgment, commiffioned to explore and punish the fins of mankind; he is reprefented as one of the angels, and as paying his homage with them, in the prefence of the Sovereign of the Universe: he executes with fidelity the order given to him, without tranfgreffing its limits; and though his fufpicions, with respect to Job's integrity, feem rather unfavour
able to his character, yet, we find, that fo far from incurring the Divine difpleafure, the permiffion to afflict this excellent fufferer, appears to have been given with an inftructive view,to convince him of the power and excellence of piety in beings inferior to himself. After dwelling at confiderable length on the beauties of this poem, M. HERDER apoftrophiles its un#known author in a moft animated and eloquent manner.
The account tranfmitted by Mofes, of the paradifiacal state, and of the fall, is confidered, in the fixth dialogue, as an allegorical and poetical narration of real facts; but the manner in which M. HERDER attempts to explain this allegory, however ingenious it may be thought, will not, perhaps, be deemed very fatisfactory. He thinks that the defcription of the garden. of Eden is a poetical fiction, reprefenting a ftate of pure and unimpaffioned affection, in which our common parents paffed the first period of their life; but which the Creator intended as only preparatory to their further deftination, and to be of fhort continuance: they ate the forbidden fruit; their paffions were inflamed, and they violated a pofitive prohibition, defigned only as a temporary trial; to this act of difobedience, fucceeded the painful fenfations of remorfe and terror. In this diftreffed state of their minds, their heavenly Father takes occafion to point out the natural confequences of their tranfgreffion, and to convince them of the neceffity of felf-government; he teaches them to know and abhor their feducer; and, from the alteration which had taken place in their feelings and circumftances, indicates the new scenes of life in which they were to engage. Eve was to exchange the bridal ftate of Paradife, for the duties of the wife, and the pains and cares of the mother: Adam, inftead of the easy culture of Eden, which had been the pleasing employment of his preparatory ftate, was to be occupied in more arduous labours, for which, however, he was originally intended: a prospect of the difficulties and diftreffes of their future ftate of probation in this life was laid before them, by which their minds were gradually prepared for the fentence of death, which was denounced in the gentleft manner. In fhort, the firft tranfgreffion of man was, in M. HERDER's opinion, rendered the means of introducing him into thofe circumstances for which he was originally defigned; and what had the appearance of a punishment, was, like all the corrective difpenfations of Infinite Goodness, a real bleffing in difguife. The hiftory of the fail, he adds, thus confidered, is applicable to all mankind:
We are always fubject to fome prohibitory law, indicated either by the dictates of confcience, or by pofitive prefcription: a ferpent, which feduces, or feeks to feduce, is ever prefent; our fenfual defires, the errors of reason, or, perhaps, both these causes united: the confequences of tranfgreffion are ever the fame; and I truft that the punishments, which our merciful God and Father provides for
all his erring creatures, will always be of a fimilar nature, that by truly paternal, though apparently fevere difpenfations, they will promote our beft and final happiness."
Such are the ideas of the author on this interefting subject. The feventh and eighth dialogues treat of the opinions of the ancient Hebrews concerning the nature and deftination of man, and the judicial providence of God. They are full of excellent obfervations, both of a critical and philofophical nature. The judicious and friking metaphors by which the facred writers indicated the infirmity of human nature, and the frailty of human Jife; their notions of the breath of God, as the univerfal principle of animation, of the immediate and abfolute dependance of all creatures on the Supreme Being, and of the particular paternal relation in which he ftood to his people, together with the influence of these fentiments on their poetry, are here amply dif cuffed and well illuftrated. He obferves, that the doctrine of a future ftate of happiness with God, was an effential article of their belief; and that they thought the fouls of good men entered on this felicity immediately after their decease, and joined their ancestors in the heavenly Canaan; to this opinion, the expreffion of being gathered to their fathers, evidently refers.
In the ninth dialogue, M. HERDER vindicates the writings of the Old Teftament from the imputations, often caft on them, of fuggefting narrow and partial ideas of Providence; and, in the tenth, he inquires into the antiquity of the Hebrew, which, though he does not think the original language of Paradise, he confiders as one of the moft ancient that are derived from it.
In the firft differtation of the fecond volume, M. HERDER particularly examines the origin and nature of Hebrew poetry, explains and illuftrates feveral obfervations, which he had made in the preceding dialogues, and reduces them into a more regular order. The earlier traditions of the Hebrews were, he thinks, handed down to fucceeding generations as family or national poems, in which facts were related in figurative expreffions, and adorned with allegorical allufions founded on the names of perfons and places: this ftyle, he obferves, prevails in their historical books, down to the time of their Kings. Of this, he cites several inftances in the course of his work, taken, no only from the ancient monuments collected by Mofes, but allo from the book of Joshua, and that of Judges. To this cafs, he refers the account of the fun and moon ftanding at the command of Jofhua; by which, he thinks, no more is meant, than that the battle began very early in the morning, and was continued till late at night, after the moon was risen. It is not improbable, he adds, that, in the ardour of pursuit, Joshua might utter a wifh that the day were lengthened to give him an opportunity of completing the advantage he had gained
over his enemies; if he did this, if the evening was remarkably light, and was followed by a ftorm of thunder and hail, by which the enemy was thrown into further confufion, what could be more natural, in a fong of triumph, than to reprefent this day of victory as exceeding others in length, as well as celebrity, and the hero as retarding the fun and moon in their courfe, and having ftorms and tempefts at his command? Such figures would not feem extravagant to the Jews, because fuch were frequent in their writings. God is often reprefented as fighting for Ifrael, and, in the fong of Deborah, the fars in their courfes are faid to have fought against Sifera. In a fimilar manner does M. HERDER explain the fall of the walls of Jericho on the fhouting of the people; which was nothing more than the fignal for attack; and in confequence of this affault, the place was taken by ftorm, and the walls were deftroyed. The book of Judges, he obferves, is full of these poetical exaggerations, agreeable to the fpirit of the period to which it relates; it forcibly paints the fiery and irregular courage of a people, newly fettled; which, having yet no regular political establishment, was often oppreffed by the furrounding nations, and involved in circumftances of diftrefs, that afforded individuals opportunities of fig14 nalifing their patriotism and valour, in the deliverance of their Countrymen: hence M. HERDER calls this the poetical age of Ifrael, and thinks, that, when the spirit of the Lord is faid to come on the heroes of this book, an expreffion fometimes applied to perfons and actions not remarkable for moral goodness, nothing more is meant, than that these heroes were animated with the national fpirit of the Jews. Thefe obfervations are particularly applied to explain the history of Samfon, whose actions, he fays, were really nothing more than what might be expected from a man of extraordinary personal ftrength and courage, and are rendered marvellous by the poetical exaggerations of the narration.
The second differtation is concerning the vocation and office of the prophets, and contains many judicious observations, which our limits will not allow us to infert.
The third relates to the deliverance of the Ifraelites out of Egypt, and the evident marks of a particular providence attending them in their journey through the wilderness. This part of facred history is, in a masterly manner, vindicated from the objections that have been repeatedly made against it; and our author obferves that, whatever may be urged concerning the probability of thefe events, the feftivals, which were immediately inftituted in commemoration of them, celebrated by the Jews even to this day, and the frequent references to them by the writers of that nation, confirm, beyond all poffibility of reasonable doubt,