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unto them Moses and Elias talking with him; Christ, at whose death the vail of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom, and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent, and the graves were opened, and many bodies of saints, which slept, arose and came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many; in conclusion, if Christ, whose resurrection was declared by angels, seen and acknowledged by many witnesses, and whose ascension into heaven crowned and completed the irrefragable evidence of his divine mission; if Christ, whose prophecies of his own death and resurrection, of the destruction of Jerusalem, and the subsequent dispersion of the Jews, have been and are now so fully verified, cannot, as our caviller asserts, meet the comparison with Moses, then is the Redeemer of lost mankind a less sublime and important character than the legislator of the Jews.
I have now attempted, in the first place, to discover how far the world was illuminated by right reason before the revelation of Christ took place; for had men's belief been such, and their practice also such as Christianity teaches, the world had not stood in need of a Redeemer.
The result of this enquiry was, that certain persons have expressed themselves well and justly upon the subject of God and religion, in times antecedent to the Christian æra, and in countries where idolatry was the established worship.
That the nation of the Jews was a peculiar nation, and preserved the worship of the true and only God, revealed in very early time to their fathers, but that this worship, from various circumstances and events, in which they themselves were highly criminal, had not been propagated beyond the limits of a small tract, and that the temple of Jerusalem was the only church in the world, where God was worshipped, when Christ came upon earth:
That from the almost universal diffusion of idolatry, from the unworthy ideas men had of God and religion, and the few faint notions entertained amongst them of a future state of rewards and
punishments, the world was in such deplorable error, and in such universal need of an instructor and redeemer, that the coming of Christ was most seasonable and necessary to salvation :
That there were a number of concurrent prophecies of an authentic character in actual existence, which promised this salvation to the world, and depicted the person of the Messias, who was to perform this mediatorial office in so striking a manner, that it cannot be doubted but that all those characteristics meet and are fulfilled in the person of Christ:
That his birth, doctrines, miracles, prophecies, death, and passion, with other evidences, are so satisfactory for the confimation of our belief in his divine mission, that our faith as Christians is grounded upon irrefragable proofs :
Lastly, that the vague opinions of our own dissenting brethren, and the futile cavils of a recent publication by a distinguished writer of the Jewish nation, are such weak and impotent assaults upon our religion, as only serve to confirm us in it the more.
If I have effected this to the satisfaction of the serious reader, I shall be most happy ; and as for those who seek nothing better than amusement in these volumes, I will apply myself without delay to the easier task of furnishing them with matter more suited to their taste.
Musa dedit fidibus Divos, puerosque Deorum,
In times of very remote antiquity, when men were not so slavish of their wit as they have since been, Poetry could not furnish employment for more than Three Muses ; but as business grew upon their hands and departments multiplied, it became necessary to enlarge the commission, and a board was constituted consisting of nine in number, who had their several presidencies allotted to them, and
branch of the art poetic thenceforth had its peculiar patroness and superintendent.
As to the specific time when these three senior goddesses called in their six new assessors, it is mạtter of conjecture only; but if the poet Hesiod was, as we are told, the first who had the honour of announcing their names and characters to the world, we may reasonably suppose this was done upon the immediate opening of their new commission, as they would hardly enter upon their offices without apprising all those, whom it might concern, of their accession.
Before this period, the three elder sisters condescended to be maids of all work; and if the work became more than they could turn their hands to, they have nobody but themselves and their fellow deities to complain for had they been content to have let the world go on in its natural course, mere mortal poets would not probably have overburthened either it or them; but when Apollo himself (who being their president, should have had more consideration for their case) begot the poet Linus in one of his terrestrial frolics, and endowed him with hereditary genius, he took a certain method to make work for the muses: accordingly, we find the chaste Calliope herself, the eldest of the sisterhood, and who should have set a better example to the family, could not hold out against this heavenly bastard, but in an unguarded moment yielded her virgin honours to Linus, and produced the poet Orpheus: such an instance of celestial incontinence could not fail to shake the morals of the most demure; and even the cold goddess Luna caught the flame, and smuggled a bantling into the world, whom, maliciously enough, she named Musæus, with a sly design, no doubt, of laying her child at the door of the Parnassian nunnery
Three such high-blooded bards as Linus, Orpheus, and Musæus, so fathered and so mothered, were enough to people all Greece with poets and musicians; and, in truth, they were not idle in their generation, but like true patriarchs, spread their families over all the shores of Ionia and the islands of the Archipelago: it is not therefore to be wondered at, if the three sister muses, who had enough to do to nurse their own children and descendents, were disposed to call in other helpmates to the task, and, whilst Greece was in its glory, it
may well be supposed that all the nine sisters were fully employed in bestowing upon every votary a portion of their attention, and answering every call made upon them for aid and inspiration : much gratitude is due to them from their favoured poets, and much hath been paid, for even to the present hour they are invoked and worshipped by the sons of verse, whilst all the other deities of Olympus have either abdicated their thrones, or been dismissed from them with contempt; even Milton himself, in his sacred epic, invokes the heavenly muse, who inspired Moses on the top of Horeb or of Sinai; by which he ascribes great antiquity, as well as dignity, to the character he addresses.
The powers ascribed to Orpheus were, under the veil of fable, emblems of his influence over savage minds, and of his wisdom and eloquence in reclaiming them from that barbarous state: upon these impressions civilization and society took place : the patriarch, who founded a family, or tribe, the legislator, who established a state, the priest, prophet, judge, or king, are characters, which, if traced to their first sources, will be found to branch from that of poet: the first prayers, the first laws, and the earliest prophecies were metrical ; prose hath a later origin, and before the art of writing was in existence, poetry had reached a very high degree of excellence, and some of its noblest productions were no otherwise preserved than by tradition. As to the sacred quality of their first poetry, the Greeks are agreed, and, to give their early bards the better title to inspiration, they feign them to be descended from the Gods; Orpheus must have profited by his mother's partiality, and Linus may well be supposed to have had some interest with his father Apollo. But to dwell no longer on these fabulous legends of the Greeks, we may refer to the books of Moses for the earliest and most authentic examples of sacred poetry: every thing that was the immediate effusion of the prophetic spirit seems to have been chaunted forth in dithyrambic measure; the valedictory blessings of the patriarchs, when dying, the songs of triumph and thanksgiving after victory are metrical, and high as the antiquity of the