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History of Unitarianism
Health of Ministers
Harris, T. M., D. D. Natural History of the Bible
The Judgment, a Poem
Lathrop, Jos., D. D., Sermons and Life
Life of Ulrich Zwingle
New-York Collection of Psalms and Hymns
Specimens of the Russian Poets
Sermon, of H. Moore, at the Ordination of A. Conant
of Dr. Lyman, on the guilt and danger of religious error
NEW SERIES-No. 13.
For January and February 1821.
HERDERS' LETTERS RELATING TO THE STUDY OF DIVINITY.
[Translated from the German.]
Lowth's book on the sacred poetry of the Hebrews. Review of the Hebrew scriptures according to the Jewish division of them. On the oldest remains that concern the origin of the human race. The patriarchal history, and the style in which it is written.
You mistook me about Lowth. I love and value his book as agreeable and useful; and am not at all on the side of those, who think they can find all that he contains in their Glassius : Glassius had no such wide and elegant view of his subject, The prelections on the parabolic style of the Hebrews; on the metaphors, images and allegories, that are peculiar to them; and especially the descriptions of particular passages, and his remarks on them, are beautiful. In his beautiful latin they become still more charming; and with the notes of Michaelis, which often exceed the text, and are among his best productions, the work is a good general introduction to the poetical writings of the Old Testament. I would have you read it directly and become fond of it; and to these add two other*
* Sir William Jones' "Commentar. Poeseos Asiat. edit. Eichhorn, Leips. 1779;" and John Richardson's Essay on the literature, languages and customs of the Eastern nations, Leipsic 1779. If any will add to these my work on the spirit of the Hebrew poetry, I shall have nothing against it.-Author's Note.
[All the notes to the preceding letters were by the translator; and all in this and the future letters, which are not marked as the author's, will be known to be by the translator.]
books, which I account as equally serviceable in this study. And here let me tell you that I would not be considered as a critic in speaking of books and authors. I am writing letters to you, and not a review. I am no well appointed censor of works by profession, according to the received rules and spirit; but an old friend, who from the pleasant pilgrimage of his reading, his study, his occupation and life, tells you his experiences and opinions, as he tells them to himself, and then leaves them to your examination and approval. Of what use is it to name over books, or to give you long catalogues of them, without any true guide and direction how to read, to use, and to apply them? Seldom is all good in one book; seldom at least
good for all persons. Time brings about many changes in books as in other things. The finest library wants an interpreter; and the best gift that a young man can receive is-not books, but advice how they are to be used.
What I objected, merely in passing, to Lowth, and which you must not stumble at, was the somewhat artificial and modern way, in which he has treated the old Hebrew poetry, sometimes in general, and sometimes in particular classifications and passages:-or rather I should say, in which some of his admirers have treated it, pushing his principles too far. According to the representation of these last, David composed this psalm as an idyl for his amusement, and that as an elegy for a youthful exercise; and the most earnest exhortations, denunciations and encouragements of prophecy, are but specimens of Hebrew didactics: I cannot express how much injury is done to the use of the Bible, by regarding it in this manner. It is a disordered function in the principal channels, so that the other vessels can give no nourishment: it is a false first principle, and corrupts and perverts all the rest. The poetry of the Bible was not designed for pastime, nor for an idle mental recreation, still less in the way of paltry common place, as poetry is apt to be among ourselves: indeed we can hardly give the same name to things so entirely and essentially different. Poetic expression, the manner of conceiving and executing, was in those times all nature; the very exigency of the language and feeling of him who spoke, and of the ear and feeling of those who listened ;--the necessity of the subject, the time, the object and the circumstances. I do not say this because I am speaking of the Bible; but because I am speaking of the infancy of the world, of the east, of a peculiar language, of a peculiar people and their writings. Here we have need of a new Lowth, who should know nothing of the artificial poetry of later times, to go through this collection of compositions