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Now as the book of Job* is supposed to teach both a SEPARATE EXISTENCE and a FUTURE STATE OF REWARD AND PUNISHMENT; and is besides thought by some to be the first of Moses's writings, and by others to be written even before his time, and by the Patriarch himself, I shall give it the precedence in this inquiry : which it deserves likewise on another account, the superior evidence it bears to the point in question; if indeed it bear any evidence at all. For it may' be said by those who thus hold it to be the earliest Scripture (allowing the words of Job, I know that my Redeemer liveth, &c. to respect a future state) that the Jewish people must not only have had the knowledge of a FUTURE STATE of rewards and punishments, but, what is more, of the RESURRECTION of the body, and still more, of the REDEMPTION of inankind by the Son of God: therefore Moses had no need to inculcate the doctrine of a future state f. But I much suspect that the clear knowledge of so sublime a mystery, which, St. Paul says, had been hid from ages, and from generations, but was now (on the preaching of the Gospel) made manifest to the Saints I, was not at all suited to the times of Job or Moses. The learned and impartial Divine will. perhaps be rather inclined to think, that either the book of Job was written in a much later age, or that this famous passage has a very different meaning. I shall endeavour to shew, that neither of these suspicions would be entertained without reason.
As to the Person of Job, the eminence of his Character, his fortitude and patience in afflictions, and
See note [B] at the end of this volume. + See note [C] at the end of this volume. t Col. i. 26.
his preceding and subsequent felicity; these are realities so unquestionable, that a man must have set aside sacred Antiquity before he can admit a doubt concerning them. But that the book which bears Job's name was written by him, or in any age near his own, a careful and capable examiner will, I persuade myself, be hardly brought to believe.---- In the order of this discourse therefore I shall inquire, I. What kind of composition the hook of Job really is. 11. In what age it was written. And, III.Who was its Author.
I. Even those who are inclined to suppose this a Work of the highest Antiquity, and to believe it an exact history of Job's sufferings and patience, and of God's extraordinary dispensations towards him, recorded by his own hand, are yet forced to confess that the Introduction and Conclusion are of another nature, and added by a later hand, to give that fulness and integrity to the Piece, which works of imagination, and only such works, require. This is a large concession, and, plainly intimates that he who wrote the Prologue and Epilogue; either himself believed the body of the work to be a kind of dramatic Composition; or, at least, intended that others should have that opinion of it. I shall therefore the less scruple to espouse the notion of those who conclude the WHOLE TO BE DRAMATICAL. For the transferring the Prologue and Epilogue to a late writer, was only an expedient to get rid of a circumstance which shewed it to be such a sort of work; and which consequently might bring it down to an age remote from that of the subject. But those who contrived this expedient seem to have had but a slender idea of the ancient Drama, which was generally rounded with a Prologue and Epilogue of this sort; to give,
by way of narrative, information of such facts as fell not within the compass of the one entire Action represented *.
I am induced to embrace this opinion from the cast of the style, the SENTIMENTS, and COMPOSITION; all perfectly suited to such a kind of Work, and ill agreeing with
other. 1. As to the Style, it hath been observed by the Critics, even from the time of Jeroin, that all but the jutroduction and conclusion is in measure. But as it was the custom of antiquity to write their gravest works of Religion, Law, and History, in verse; this circumstance alone should, I think, have little share in determining the nature of the Composition. And as little, I think, on the other hand, onght the frequent use of the Arabic dialect to be insisted on, in support of its high original, since, if it be of the nature, and of the date, here supposed, an able writer would chuse to give his Fable that air of antiquity and verisimilitude.
2. But when we take the sentiments along, and find throughout the whole, not only verse but poetry, a poetry animated by all the sublimity of figures and luxuriance of description; and this, on the coolest and most abstracted subject; we cannot chuse but conclude ' it to be a work of imagination. Nor is it sufficient to say, that this is owing to an Eastern genius, whose kindling fancy heats all his thoughts into a glow of expression: for if the two ends be his who wrote the middle, as we have no reason to doubt, they shew him not unused to the plainest form of narration. And as to that Eastern genius itself, though distinguishingly sublime when a poetic subject has enflamed its enthusiasm, yet in mere history, nothing can be more cool and simple; as all acquainted either with their * See note [D] at the end of this volume,
ancient or modern writers can inform us. But, what is more to our purpose, the sacred Prophets themselves, though rapt in ecstasy of the divine impressions, when treating of the question here debated, namely, Whether and whcrefore the Good are frequently unhappy and the Bad prosperous, a question that came sometimes in their way, while they were reproving their impious and impatient countrymen, who by their repeated apostasies had now provoked God to withdraw from them, by degrees, his extraordinary providence; when, I say, they touch upon this question, they treat the matter with the utmost plainness and simplicity.
3. But the last and most convincing circumstance is the form of the composition. And here I shall not urge, as of much weight, what hath been observed by some who take this side of the question, the scenical image of Job and his friends sitting together on the ground seven days and seven nights without a word speaking*. Because we reasonably suppose no more to be meant than that excess of mutual grief making them unfit to give, and him to receive consolation, they were some days † before they entered on the subject of their visit.
This rather is the thing to be admired, (if we suppose it all historic truth) that three cordial friends should make a solemn appointment to go mourn with Job and to comfort him; that they should be so greatly affected with his extreme distresses, as to be unable to utter a word for seven whole days together;
* Chap ii. ver. 13. t-Eo quod Hebræi soleant multiplicare per septem (h. e. sep.. tenarium numeruna pro multitudine ponere). Maimon. More Nevochim. p. 267. Chap. ii. ver. 11.
and yet, after this, to be no sooner sct in, than intirely to forget their errand, and (miserable comforters as they were) instead of mourning with him in the bitterness of his soul, to wrangle, and contradict him in every word he spoke; and this without the least softening of friendship; but with all the fierceness and acrimony of angry Disputants contending for a victory. It was no trifle neither that they insisted on, in wbich indeed disputatious men are often the warmest, but a contradiction in the tenderest point. They would needs have it, against all Job's protestations to the contrary, that his misfortunes came upon him in punishment for his crimes. Suppose their Friend had been wrong in the judgment he passed on things, W'as this a time to animadvert in so pitiless a manner on his errors? Would not a small share of affection, pity, or even common humanity, have disposed them to bear one seven days longer with their old distressed Acquaintance ? Human nature is ever uniform; and the greater passions, such as those of friendship and natural affection, shew themselves to be the same at all times : But we have an instance in these very times, in that amiable domestic story of Joseph. This Patriarch had been cruelly injured by his brethren. Providence at length put them into his power; and, in just resentment of their inhuman usage, he thought fit to mortify and humble them : but no sooner did he find them begin to be unhappy, than his anger subsided, violated affection returned, and be melted into their bosoms with all the tenderness of a fellow-sufferer. This was Nature: This was History. And shall we suppose the feelings of true Friendship to be inferior to those of Family-affection? David thought otherwise, where, speaking of Jonathan, he declares their mutual love was wonderful, surpassing