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he was in his twenty-fourth year, that his belief in Christianity was not unmixed with doubts. These doubts were stated by him, in hopes of obtaining a . solution of them; but being disappointed, he declared his determination to peruse the whole of the scriptures in the original, uninterruptedly, that he might be enabled to form a correct judgment of the connection between the two parts, and of their evidence both internal and external. The exposition of his doubts, to those whom he thought qualified to solve them, was a proof of his anxiety to know the truth; and the determination which he formed, in consequence of his disappointment, is no less a proof of his sincerity in the search of it. I cannot deny myself the satisfaction of anticipating the conclusion to which his investigation led; a firm belief in the authenticity and inspiration of the Holy Scriptures.
In a Hebrew copy of the book of Hosea, I find a series of propositions in the hand-writing of Mr. Jones, containing the sketch of a demonstration of the divine authority of the Christian religion. These propositions appear
to have been written near the period of the preceding conversation at Harrow. They are not expressed with such accuracy, or elegance, as to justify a supposition that they were intended to be made public; but as I know that he always considered the demonstration contained in them satisfactory, I exhibit them as evidence of his early conviction of the truth and completion of the prophecies respecting our Saviour.
There is as much reason to believe, that the writings of Isaiah and the Hebrew prophets, as that those of Homer and the Greek poets, are more ancient than the time of Jesus.
Objection. Some men might have an interest in forging Isaiah.
Answer. Forged writings would have been more in point. Those of Isaiah bear no marks of forgery: and the Jews themselves, who were puzzled by them, acknowledged their antiquity.
These ancient writings, especially Isaiah, allude to some great event, and to some real extraordinary person, “who was put to death, and complained not,” &c. Isa. c. liii.
The life and death of Jesus, his virtues and doctrines, though not his miracles, are as much to be believed as the life and death of Socrates, his virtues, and his doctrine.
No person, in the history of the Jews, before or after Jesus, coincides with this account, except Jesus.
Therefore Jesus was the subject of their writings, which are consequently inspired, and he a person of an extraordinary nature, that is, the Messiah.
If this be just reasoning, we may believe his miracles, and must obey his law.
If difficulties occur, and we are asked, “ how they can “ be solved ?" we may safely answer, “ We do not “know;" yet we may truly be, and justly be called, Christians.
To these propositions the following note is subjoined: “What must be the importance of a book," of which it may be truly said, “ if this book be not true, “the religion which we profess is false?”
Mr. Jones returned with his pupil from Harrow, in the autumnal vacation of 1769, and availed himself of this opportunity to visit his friends at Oxford. During his residence there, he made an excursion to Forest Hill, the occasional habitation of Milton, for whose genius and learning he early and ever entertained the highest veneration. The public will read with pleasure his own relation of what he felt and saw on this occasion, in an animated letter which he wrote to Lady Spencer.
To Lady Spencer.
7th of Sept. 1769. The necessary trouble of correcting the first printed sheets of my history prevented me to-day from paying a proper respect to the memory of Shakespeare, by attending his jubilee. But I was resolved to do all the honour in my power to as great a poet, and set out in the morning, in company with a friend, to visit a place, where Milton spent some part of his life, and where, in all probability, he composed several of his earliest productions. It is a small village, situated on a pleasant hill, about three miles from Oxford, and called Forest Hill, because it formerly lay contiguous to a forest, which has since been cut down. The poet chose this place of retirement after his first marriage, and he describes the beauties of his retreat in that fine passage of his L'Allegro:
Sometime walking, not unseen,
While the ploughman, near at hand,
Under the hawthorn in the dale.
Hard by a cottage-chimney smokes,
It was neither the proper season of the year, nor time of the day, to hear all the rural sounds, and see all the objects, mentioned in this description; but, by a pleasing concurrence of circumstances, we were saluted, upon our approach to the village, with the music of the mower and his scythe; we saw the ploughman intent upon his labour, and the milkmaid returning from her country employment.
As we ascended the hill, the variety of beautiful objects, the agreeable stillness and natural simplicity of the whole scene, gave us the highest pleasure. We at length reached the spot, whence Milton, undoubtedly, took most of his images: it is on the top of the hill, from which there is a most extensive prospect, on all sides: the distant mountains that seemed to support the clouds, the villages and turrets, partly shaded with trees of the finest verdure, and partiy raised above the groves that surrounded them, the dark plains and mea. dows of a greyish colour, where the sheep were feeding at large, in short, the view of the streams and rivers, convinced us that there was not a single useless or idle word in the above-mentioned description, but that it was a most exact and lively representation of nature. Thus will this fine passage, which has always been admired for its elegance, receive an additional beauty from its exactness. After we had walked, with a kind of poetical enthusiasm, over this enchanted ground, we returned to the village.
The poet's house was close to the church. The greatest part of it has been pulled down; and what remains belongs to an adjacent farm. I am informed that several papers, in Milton's own hand, were found by the gentleman who was last in possession of the estate. The tradition of his having lived there is current among the villagers: one of them shewed us a ruinous wall, that made part of his chamber; and I was much pleased with another, who had forgotten the name of Milton, but recollected him by the title of the Poet.
It must not be omitted that the groves near this village are famous for nightingales, which are so elegantly described in the Pensieroso. Most of the cottage-windows are overgrown with sweet-briars, vines, and honey-suckles; and, that Milton's habitation had the same rustic ornament, we may conclude from his description of the lark bidding him good-morrow,
Thro' the sweet-briar, or the vine,
for it is evident, that he meant a sort of honey-suckle by the eglantine, though that word is commonly used for the sweet-briar, which he could not mention twice in the same couplet.
If I ever pass a month or six weeks at Oxford in the summer, I shall be inclined to hire and repair this 'venerable mansion, and to make a festival for a circle of friends, in honour of Milton, the most perfect scholar, as well as the sublimest poet, that our country ever