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The Bible Prohibited And Improved
by [?]

But an attempt by Pere Berruyer is more extraordinary; in his Histoire du Peuple de Dieu, he has recomposed the Bible as he would have written a fashionable novel. He conceives that the great legislator of the Hebrews is too barren in his descriptions, too concise in the events he records, nor is he careful to enrich his history by pleasing reflections and interesting conversation pieces, and hurries on the catastrophes, by which means he omits much entertaining matter: as for instance, in the loves of Joseph and the wife of Potiphar, Moses is very dry and concise, which, however, our Pere Berruyer is not. His histories of Joseph, and of King David, are relishing morsels, and were devoured eagerly in all the boudoirs of Paris. Take a specimen of the style. “Joseph combined, with a regularity of features and a brilliant complexion, an air of the noblest dignity; all which contributed to render him one of the most amiable men in Egypt.” At length “she declares her passion, and pressed him to answer her. It never entered her mind that the advances of a woman of her rank could ever be rejected. Joseph at first only replied to all her wishes by his cold embarrassments. She would not yet give him up. In vain he flies from her; she was too passionate to waste even the moments of his astonishment.” This good father, however, does ample justice to the gallantry of the Patriarch Jacob. He offers to serve Laban, seven years for Rachel. “Nothing is too much,” cries the venerable novelist, “when one really loves;” and this admirable observation he confirms by the facility with which the obliging Rachel allows Leah for one night to her husband! In this manner the patriarchs are made to speak in the tone of the tenderest lovers; Judith is a Parisian coquette, Holofernes is rude as a German baron; and their dialogues are tedious with all the reciprocal politesse of metaphysical French lovers! Moses in the desert, it was observed, is precisely as pedantic as Pere Berruyer addressing his class at the university. One cannot but smile at the following expressions:–“By the easy manner in which God performed miracles, one might easily perceive they cost no effort.” When he has narrated an “Adventure of the Patriarchs,” he proceeds, “After such an extraordinary, or curious, or interesting adventure,” etc. This good father had caught the language of the beau monde, but with such perfect simplicity that, in employing it on sacred history, he was not aware of the ludicrous style in which he was writing.

A Gothic bishop translated the Scriptures into the Goth language, but omitted the Books of Kings! lest the wars, of which so much is there recorded, should increase their inclination to fighting, already too prevalent. Jortin notices this castrated copy of the Bible in his Remarks on Ecclesiastical History.

As the Bible, in many parts, consists merely of historical transactions, and as too many exhibit a detail of offensive ones, it has often occurred to the fathers of families, as well as to the popes, to prohibit its general reading. Archbishop Tillotson formed a design of purifying the historical parts. Those who have given us a Family Shakspeare, in the same spirit may present us with a Family Bible.

In these attempts to recompose the Bible, the broad vulgar colloquial diction, which has been used by our theological writers, is less tolerable than the quaintness of Castalion and the floridity of Pere Berruyer.

The style now noticed long disgraced the writings of our divines; and we see it sometimes still employed by some of a certain stamp. Matthew Henry, whose commentaries are well known, writes in this manner on Judges ix.:–“We are here told by what acts Abimelech got into the saddle.–None would have dreamed of making such a fellow as he king.–See how he has wheedled them into the choice. He hired into his service the scum and scoundrels of the country. Jotham was really a fine gentleman.–The Sechemites that set Abimelech up, were the first to kick him off. The Sechemites said all the ill they could of him in their table-talk; they drank healths to his confusion.–Well, Gaal’s interest in Sechem is soon at an end. Exit Gaal!”

Lancelot Addison, by the vulgar coarseness of his style, forms an admirable contrast with the amenity and grace of his son’s Spectators. He tells us, in his voyage to Barbary, that “A rabbin once told him, among other heinous stuff, that he did not expect the felicity of the next world on the account of any merits but his own; whoever kept the law would arrive at the bliss, by coming upon his own legs.”

It must be confessed that the rabbin, considering he could not conscientiously have the same creed as Addison, did not deliver any very “heinous stuff,” in believing that other people’s merits have nothing to do with our own; and that “we should stand on our own legs!” But this was not “proper words in proper places.”