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LETTERS TO THE YOUNG.
You ask me to recommend you books, and some time or other I will name a few that it will be for your advantage to peruse; my object, at present, is to gain your pre-eminent attention to one, because that one in its two characters, as a book, and as the book of God, is pre-eminent in its claims. It is respecting its human, its literary character, that I shall first address you.
Some works we read and lay aside without even the intention of reading them again ; they are not worth the trouble, or we have more important demands on our leisure and attention. Some there are, which, having
read, we refer to afterwards for particular passages and expressions, otherwise their office is fulfilled, and we think of them no more. There remains a third class of books, few indeed, but far more valued by us; these we study, these we make our companions, returning to them again and again, with increased confidence and undiminished zest.
Most readers have two or three authors whom they thus estimate as standards whose writings have tended to model and mature their minds, whom it pains them to hear depreciated, to understand and to love whom, supplies a bond of union something like that which the knowledge of a third person affords to strangers. Now this feeling ought, in its highest degree, to obtain for the bible.
Were I to say to you, or any other young person of an ardent inquiring turn of mind, fond of knowledge, somewhat for its own sake, but somewhat more for its estimation,
My love, some writings have just been found in Herculaneum, the discovery of which will form an epoch in the annals of
literature :"-such an address would insure your eager attention.
If I proceeded to say, “ The portions already decyphered, contain notices of habits, manners, individuals, and even nations, the very name and remembrance of which are extinct; and also inform us of events antecedent to the date of any other known records :-they supply several points in history and chronology, which the learned have vainly sought elsewhere; and enable us to disprove a thousand fables which we must otherwise have been content to receive as truth; added to which, they exhibit specimens of the higher branches of composition, unparalleled in any other productions, ancient or modern; and some monarch's library, or some national museum, is destined to become the sole possessor of this literary treasure.” At this point of my address, you would certainly begin to lament the impossibility of your ever obtaining a glimpse of these inestimable writings; you would sigh to be rich and learned, that you might travel to examine this world's wonder before you died. But if I were to say instead,
writings are all that I have represented, only with us they are so cheap and common, that you, and I, and every one we know, possesses a copy of them,” you would interrupt me, and say, with a look and tone of disappointment, * You mean the BIBLE!” Yes, my dear
I do mean the Bible; and it is no slight proof of the obliquity of our nature, that we so little study and so lightly regard in the sacred volume, the very beauties which when discovered in the works of our fellowmortals, we reverence even to idolatry. I speak now of the bible as a book; and I speak of it as such, to you a young person. Tell me then, my love, why the beautiful composition therein contained, should excite less interest, merely from its connexion, with pure and solemn truth? Why easiness of access, and facility of comprehension, should derogate from intrinsic merit? Why figures, and epithets, and harmony of language,why narrative, and poetry, and history, and allegory, should delight you less than similar, or, perhaps, as regards the structure, the self-same things elsewhere? I am not afraid to speak decidedly, because in another letter I shall faithfully press upon you the devotional study of the bible; that, for which it was primarily given; that, in fact, for which it was given at all. I will say then, the intellectual study of the bible is also most important, and to young persons enthusiastic in their estimation of talent, absolutely indispensable; as affording a salutary check to high-minded opinions of human intellect, by showing that “wherein men have dealt proudly, God is above them.” Have they poured forth strains, which at the close of tens of centuries, are fresh and vigorous as the sun that rose this morning in his strength, or the dews that last night refreshed the flowers ? Such has he inspired
“The lasting Iliads have not lived so long."* Have they opened the fountain of the heart, unlocked the source of tears, or called forth
* Waller, in his second Canto “ On Divine Poesy," has the following lines on the song of Deborah. “ Heaven to the pious did this art reveal,
And from their store succeeding poets steal;