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candour and strict propriety, as to be easily distinguished from what is often so termed, in other compositions.
Yet here too, the language has sometimes suffered, in the very best translations, and that not so much through the fault of translators, as in consequence of the difference of genius found in different tongues. Some of the epithets employed by our Lord against his antagonists, have not that asperity which all-modern versions appear to give them. The Greek word furoxpotns, for example, as metaphorically used in Scripture, has more latitude of signification than the word hypocrite formed from it, as used in modern tongues. The former is alike applicable to all who dissemble on any subject or occasion ; the latter is in strictness applied only to those who, in what concerns religion, lead a life of dissimulation. It must be owned, that it is to persons of this character, that it is oftenest applied in the Gospel ; but the judicious philologist hardly needs to be informed, that the more the signification of a word is extended, the more vague and general it becomes, and consequently, if a reproachful epithet, the softer. The word REVsns, in like manner, has not that harshness in Greek that liar has in English. The reason is the same as in the former instance : for, though often properly rendered liar, it is not limited to what we mean by that term. Every man who tells or teaches what is false, whether he know the falsehood of what he says or not, is what the sacred authors justly denominate pevsns, a false speaker ; but he is not
what we call a liar, unless he knows it to be false, and deceives intentionally. For this reason I have, in some instances 62, considered it as no more than doing justice to the spirit of the original, to soften the expression in the common version, though otherwise unexceptionablé.
On the other hand, the Evangelists, in their own characters, are rarely other than mere narrators, without passions or opinions. In this, as I have said, they differ from Moses and the other historians of the Old Testament, who, though justly celebrated for native simplicity of manner, have not hesitated briefly to characterize the most remarkable persons and actions whereof they have occasion to speak. Without pretending to account entirely for this difference of manner, in writers who spoke by the same Spirit, I.shall only submit to the judicious reader the following considerations, which appear to indicate a singular propriety, in the modest reserve of our Lord's biographers.
Moses and the other writers of the Old Testament Scriptures were all prophets, a character with which, considered in a religious light, no merely human character can be compared. None therefore could be better authorized than they, to pronounce directly, on the quality both of the agents and of the actions mentioned in their histories. In this view of the matter, they had no superior, even in the most eminent personages whose lives they recorded.
62 Matth. xxii. 18. Jo. viii. 55,
unreserved plainness of censure, or approbation, was, in them, therefore, becoming, as it entirely suited the authority with which they were vested. But was not the situation of the Evangelists, it may be asked, the same in this respect, as they also wrote by inspiration? It is true, they were inspired, and, at lcast, equally entitled to the prophetical character with any who preceded them; but they were not entirely in the same situation. In the Old Testament, the sacred penmen were the mouth of God to the people. In the Gospels, the writers appear solely as Christ's humble attendants, selected for introducing to the knowledge of others, this infinitely higher character, who is himself, in a supereminent sense, the mouth, the oracle of God. It is this subordinate part of ushers which they professedly act. Like people struck with the ineffable dignity of the Messiah whom they serve, they lose no opportunity of exhibiting him to the world, appearing to consider the introduction of their own opinion, unless where it makes a part of the narration, as an impertinence. As modest pupils, in the presence of so venerable a teacher, they lay their hand upon their mouth, and, by a respectful silence, show how profound their reverence is, and how strong their desire to fix all the attention of mankind upon him. They sink themselves, in order to place him in the most conspicuous point of view: they do more ; they, as it were, annihilate themselves, that Jesus may be all in all. Never could it be said of any preachers, with more truth than of them, that they preached not
themselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord. Deeply impressed with their Master's instructions, and far from affecting to be called Rabbi, or to be honoured of men as fathers and teachers in things divine, they never allowed themselves to forget that they had only one Father who is in heaven, and only one Teacher the Messiah. The unimpassioned, yet not unfeeling, manner, wherein they relate his cruel sufferings, without letting one harsh or severe epithet escape them, reflecting on the conduct of his enemies, is as unexampled as it is inimitable, and forms an essential distinction between them and all who have either gone before or followed them, literate or illiterate, artful or artless, sceptical or fanatical. For if, in the latter classes, the illiterate, the artless, and the fanatical, fury and hatred flame forth, wherever opposition or contradiction presents them with an occasion; the former, the literate, the artful, and the sceptical, are not less distinguishable for the
supercilious and contemptuous manner, in which they treat the opinions of religionists of all denominations. The manner of the Evangelists was equally removed from both. Add to this that, without making the least pretences to learning, they nowhere affect to depreciate it; but, on the contrary, show a readiness to pay all due regard to every useful talent or acquisition.
§ 25. From all that has been said I cannot help concluding that, if these men were impostors, agree. ably to the infidel hypothesis, they were the most ex
traordinary the world ever produced. That they were not philosophers and men of science, we have irrefragable, I had almost said intuitive, evidence; and of what has hitherto been found invariably to mark the character of fanatics and enthusiasts of all religions, we do not discover in them a single trace. Their narratives demonstrate them to have been men of sound minds and cool reflection. To suppose them deceived, in matters which were the objects of their senses; or, if not deceived, to suppose such men to have planned the deception of the world, and to have taken the method which they took, to execute their plan; are alike attended with difficulties insurmountable. The Christian's hypothesis, that they spoke the truth, and were under the influence of the Divine Spirit, removes at once all difficulties, and, in my judgment, (for I have long and often revolv. ed the subject,) is the only hypothesis which ever will, or ever can remove them. But this only by the
26. CONCERNING the other qualities of style to be found in these writings, I acknowledge, I have not much to add. Simplicity, gravity, and perspicuity, as necessarily resulting from simplicity, are certainly their predominant characters. But, as in writings it is not always easy to distinguish the qualities arising from the thought, from those arising merely from the expression; I shall consider, in a few sentences, how far the other properties of good writing, commonly attributed to the style, are ap,