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"cold deductions of the understand"ing."
"No one," resumed the evasive Fitzofborne," can have a greater refpect "for female excellence than myself; "and before you profefs yourself the "champion of fentiment, as opposed "to argumentative deductions, you "fhould foften the afperity which ap<c pears in your manner, by remember❝ing that I never attacked the fair."
"Not in a direct way, I believe," faid Henry in a most animated voice, and at the fame time leading the eye of his antagonist to the countefs, who fat netting near them, feemingly engroffed by fome country vifitors, but really attentive to this conversation.
Edward felt ftruck as by an electrical fhock. Habitual reserve could not prevent a fudden crimson from flushing his face; and his quickly with
drawn eye told a truth which he would willingly have concealed; namely, that he understood Powerfcourt's allusion.
Unable to pursue a theme where difcovery menaced every word, and precluded from the fubterfuge which availed him in his former difpute with Mr. Evans, (I mean a reference of the argument to fome future time, which it depended upon himself to procrastinate,) Fitzofborne muft either have waited for Henry's attack on deiftical principles, or have renewed his own charge against the authenticity of the fcriptures. He chose the latter. He began to lead back the converfation by fome flourishing compliments on the peculiar fuitability of religion to the female character; and the impreffion which every thing fupernatural and elevated always made upon the delicate organs of their imaginations. His zeal to cor
rect the facred text-(he used the term correct upon the prefent occafion, in preference to his ufual expreffions of reform or improve)-proceeded from a fincere perfuafion of the merits of feveral parts of the received canon, and a wish to expunge from it whatever might corrupt the delicacy of female readers, or harden their exquifite fenfibility by the narration of fome acts of more than favage brutality.
"The fimple manners and unrefined "language of the earlier ages," replied Henry," are recorded by their faithful "hiftorians in characters of undisguised "veracity. Our ideas of decorum vary "with the customs of the time and "country; but vice and virtue are sta
tionary. It may be a fubject of re"gret, that tranflators who render au"thors of very remote antiquity fhould "think themfelves compelled to give " a verbal
" a verbal transcript of paffages which might be fafely paraphrafed; yet, "with refpect to the bible, I obferve, that fome of those interpreters who "profefs to avoid the faults which many "years obfervation have difcovered in "our prefent copy, have substituted a "fort of gay licentioufnefs in the place "of the objectional groffnefs, much "more offenfive to the purity of the "heart. Refpecting your fecond ob" fervation, as I do not recollect any "inftance in which the vindictive fpi"rit of the Jews is pointed out to the "imitation of fucceeding ages, I fhould fuppofe their history might be ftudied " even in a critical or hiftorical point " of view as an authentic monument " of ages but for infpiration wholly "obliterated, with lefs danger of ren
dering the feelings obdurate, than the "page of Homer, or even the epic
"labours of that champion of anti"chriftian liberality, Voltaire."
"You forget," faid Fitzofborne triumphantly," the merit annexed to the
extirpation of the Canaanites, and "the extinction of Amalek. Such pre"tended injunctions from the bene"ficent Parent of the universe are with "me a conclufive proof against the en"tire inspiration of the Old Tefta"ment."
"I read in thofe commands," replied Powerfcourt, "an inconteftable mark "of Divinity. 1 recollect the state of "fociety at that time, and I venerate "the merciful feverity which imprinted upon the minds of a fmall portion. "of mankind a renewed abhorrence "of that cruel and degrading idolatry "prohibited by one of the first com"mands which was imparted to the fa"ther of the Poftdiluvian world. Surely,