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воок ог JO B:
THE ENGLISH POE T S.
IN THE BOOK OF JOB, THE MOST ANCIENT POEM IN THE WORLD, WE HAVE SUCH PAINTINGS AND DESCRITIONS AS ARE TRANSCENDENTLY ABOVE THE MOST CELEBRATED HEATHEN WRITERS; WHEREBY WE MAY PERCEIVE HOW FAINT AND LANGUID THE IMAGES ARE WHICH ARE FORMED BY MORTAL AUTHORS; WHEN COMPARED WITH THOSE WHICH ARE FIGURED, AS IT WERE, JUST AS THEY APPEAR IN THE EYE · · OF THE CREATOR. ADDISON.
AND BOOK OF JO B.
ARIOUS are the conjectures of the learned, in regard to
this grand exemplar of heroic virtue, and this most excellent, and fublime portion of facred writ: There are fome, who peremptorily infift, that there never was any fuch illuftrious perfonage in being; and that the whole composition is mere invention, and in every respect as much an allegory composed only for the inftruction of mankind, as any of our Saviour's parables which are recorded in the New Testament.
The number, however, of the advocates for this opinion are, comparatively speaking, but few; fince it is very evident, from feveral paffages, interspersed throughout the facred scriptures, that this narrative is matter of fact; that there really was in ancient times a great and powerful prince of this name, distinguished by his immense riches, his extenfive power, and what is more, his exemplary and heroic virtues. We find him mentioned, in the OLD TESTAMENT, in company with NOAH and DANIEL, and there particularly commemorated for his fanctity of manners; and recorded in the NEW, as a peculiar and exalted pattern of patience and refignation to the Divine Will; and it cannot fairly be imagined, that the Spirit of God would, in any part of the inspired writings, introduce a vifionary Being as the object of our imitation.
Others again, not only allow, that this BOOK was written by fome inspired penman, though by whom in particular they are at a lofs to determine, but as ftrenuously affert, as the others deny, that the whole contains a regular narration of facts, without the interpofition of any fiction whatfoever; and for that reafon look on it, as a beautiful, and fublime historical poem.
There are another class of criticks and commentators, and these indeed are very numerous, who fteer a middle courfe, that is to say, who maintain, that this portion of fcripture is grounded on as true history, as thofe of HoMER and VIRGIL; yet ftill, fay they, it is an historical poem; and the conduct, the mode, the fcenes, machines, and other incidents, carry along with them, very visibly, the marks of contrivance; and were, doubtless, formed only in the Poet's imagination; that is to fay, in other words, that a great part of it is dramatical, and an ingenious, inftructive fiction, mixed with realities.
As for those who affirm there never was fuch a perfon as JoB, their notion, for the reafons before-mentioned, must be false and groundless; but fince there are very specious arguments to be offered for the contrary affertion, we shall produce fome few of them that appear to be most weighty and important; without presuming to pass a definitive fentence, and decide a controverfy, where fo much has and may be faid by the learned on both fides, in fupport of their refpective opinions,
Those then, who are advocates for the reality of this hiftory peremptorily infift, that the SACRED SCRIPTURES ought at all times, and in all places, to be conftrued in their literal fenfe, wherever they will bear it, and that they ought not to be wrested, unless where an abfolute neceffity requires: that there is no article throughout the whole narration, but what lies within the compafs of poffibility: and in cafe fome part of it may seem lefs credible than others, yet in all ages of the world many occur