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pious Christian, whose ambition it is to be rich in faith. To have received of the celestial grace is not enough in point, either of acquirement, or of evidence, to him whose ardent and daily desire it is to grow in
grace, and in the comforts of God's Spirit. Now, to make progress in divine knowledge, is (if I may be allowed the similitude) to improve the soil in which faith, and hope, and charity, and all the graces of the Spirit, must be sown and cultivated.
§ 18. But, to return to the style of the sacred history, from which I fear this controversy, though exceedingly important, and intimately connected with the subject, has made me digress too far ; there is another species of simplicity, besides the simplicity of structure, and the simplicity of sentiment above mentioned, for which, beyond all the compositions I know in any language, Scripture history is remarkable. This may be called simplicity of design. The subject of the narrative so engrosses the attention of the writer, that he is himself as nobody, and is quite forgotten by the reader, who is never led, by the tenour of the narration, so much as to think of him. He introduces nothing as from himself. We have no opinions of his, no remarks, conjectures, doubts, inferences; no reasonings about the causes, or the effects, of what is related. He never interrupts his reader with the display, of either his talents, or his passions. He makes no digressions: he draws no characters : he gives us only the naked facts, from which we are left to collect the character. The ut,
most he does in characterizing, and that but seldom, is comprised in a very few words. And what is thus said, is not produced as his opinion, either of the person or of the thing, but as the known verdict of the time, or perhaps, as the decision of the Spirit. No attempt to shine, by means of the expression, composition, or sentiments. Plainness of language is always preferred, because the most natural, the most obvious, and the best adapted to all capacities.
Though, in style, by no means slovenly, yet, in little points, as about those grammatical accuracies which do not affect the sense and perspicuity of the sentence, rather careless than curious.
[ 19. Now in the last of the three sorts of simplicity enumerated, our Lord's biographers particularly excel. This quality, or something akin to it, has been much and justly celebrated in some pagan writers, in Xenophon, for instance, among the Greeks, and Cæsar among the Latins. It were easy, however, to show, were it a proper subject of discussion here, that the difference between these and the sacred penmen, especially the Evangelists, is very considerable. In respect of the first species of simplicity mentioned, simplicity of structure, the difference of the genius of the Greek language from that of the Hebrew, must no doubt occasion some difference in the manner of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, from that of Moses; but the identity of idiom explained in a former discourse 59, occasions still a strong re.
semblance between them. If Genesis, therefore, may be justly said to possess the first rank of simplicity of composition in the sentences, the Gospels are certainly intitled to the second. But even these are not, in this kind, entirely equal among themselves. John and Matthew have it in a higher degree than Mark and Luke.
As to the second species, simplicity of sentiment, arising chiefly from the uncultivated state of society, in the period and country about which the history is conversant; the change of times, which was doubtless very great, as well as the difference of subject, would necessarily confer the first degree here also upon the former. But in what was denominated simplicity of object or design, the Evangelists, of all writers, sacred and profane, appear the foremost. Their manner is indeed, in some respects, peculiar and unrivalled. It may not be amiss to consider a little, the circumstances which gave occasion to this diversity and peculiarity.
$ 20. For this purpose I beg leave to lay before the reader the few following observations. observe, that the state and circumstances of things were, before the times of the Apostles, totally changed in Palestine, from what they had been in the times of the Patriarchs. The political alterations gradually brought upon the country, by a succession of revolutions in government, which made their condition so very unlike the pastoral life of their wandering forefathers, are too obvious to need illustration.
2dly, Their intercourse with strangers of different nations, to some of which they had been successively in subjection, had, notwithstanding their peculiarities in religion, introduced great changes in manners, sentiments, and customs. In our Saviour's days we find the nation divided into religious sects and political parties; the former of which had their respective systems, schools, and patrons among the learn. ed. Each sect had its axioms or leading principles, and its particular mode of reasoning from those principles. Now there is not a single trace of any thing similar to this in all the Old Testament history. 3dly, As the great object of our Lord's ministry, which is the great subject of the Gospels, was to inculcate a doctrine and morality with which none of their sys. . tems perfectly coincided ; and as, by consequence, he was opposed, by all the principal men of the different factions then in the nation, the greater part of his history must be employed in relating the instructions which he delivered to the people, and to his disciples, the disputes which he had with his antagonists, and the methods by which ne recommended and supported his doctrine, exposed their sophistry, and elud. ed their malice.
This must give a colour to the history of the Messiah, very different from that of any of the ancient worthies recorded in the Old Testament; in which, though very instructive, there is comparatively little delivered in the didactic style, and hardly any thing in the argumentative. A great deal of both we have in the Gospels. It ought not here to pass unnoticed,
that it is more in compliance with popular language, than in strict propriety, that I denominate his manner of enforcing moral instruction, arguing. Our Lord, addressing himself much more to the heart than to the head, and, by his admirable parables, without the form of argument, convincing his hearers, that the moral truths he recommended are conformable to the genuine principles of our nature, in other words, to the dictates of conscience and the common sense of mankind, commands, from the impartial, and the considerate, an unlimited assent. Accordingly, when a similitude, or an example, is made to supply the place of argument, in support of a particular sentiment, he does not formally deduce the conclusion, but either leaves it to the reflections of his hearers, or draws it from their own mouths, by a simple question. This, without the parade of reasoning, is, in practical subjects, the strongest of all reasoning. After candidly stating an apposite case, it is appealing, for the deci. sion, not to the prejudices or the passions, but to the natural sense of good and evil, even of his adversaries. 4thly, As our Lord's history is occupied, partly with what he said, and partly with what he did, this occasions in the Gospels a twofold distinction of style and manner; first, that of our Saviour, as it appears in what he said ; secondly, that of his historians, as it appears in their relation of what he did. I shall consider briefly, how the different sorts of simplicity above mentioned may be applied to each of these.