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plicable to the Evangelists. In what concerns harmony, and qualities which may be called merely superficial, as adding only an external polish to their language ; about such, if we may judge from their writings, they do not appear, as was hinted before, to have had any the smallest solicitude. To convey the sense (the only thing of importance enough to be an object to them) in the most familiar, and consequently in the most intelligible, terms to their readers, seems to have been their highest aim in point of style. What concerned the sound alone, and not the sense, was unworthy of their attention.
In regard to elegance, there is an elegance which results from the use of such words as are most in favour with those who are accounted fine writers, and from such an arrangement in the words and clauses, as has generally obtained their approbation. This is still of the nature of varnish, and is disclaimed, not studied, by the sacred authors. But there is also an elegance of a superior order, more nearly connected with the sentiment; and in this sort of elegance they are not deficient. In all the Oriental languages great use is made of tropes, especially metaphor. The Scriptures abound with them. When the metaphors employed bear a strong resemblance, and the other tropes are happily adapted, to the subjects they are intended to represent, they confer vivacity on the writing. If they be borrowed from objects which are naturally agreeable, beautiful, or attractive, they add also elegance. Now of this kind, both of vivacity and of elegance, the Evangelists
furnish us with a variety of examples. Our Lord illustrates every thing (agreeably to the use of the age and country) by figures and similies. His tropes are always apposite ; and often borrowed from objects naturally engaging. The former quality renders them lively, the latter elegant. The ideas introduced are frequently those of corn-fields, vineyards, and gardens. The parables are sometimes indeed taken from the customs of princes and grandees, but oftener from the life of shepherds and husbandmen. If those of the first kind confer dignity on the examples, those of the second add an attraction, from the pleasantness of images which recal to the fancy, the thoughts of rural happiness and tranquillity. And even in cases where propriety required that things disagreeable should be introduced, as in the story of the rich man and Lazarus, the whole is conducted with that seriousness, and chaste simplicity of manner, which totally exclude disgust. We may justly say, therefore, that the essential attributes of good writing are not wanting in these histories, though whatever can be considered as calculated for glitter and ostentation, is rather avoided than sought.
$ 27. Upon the whole, therefore, the qualities of the style could not, to those who were not Jews, nor accustomed to their idiom, serve at first to recommend these writings. The phraseology could hardly fail to appear to such, awkward, idiomatical, and even vulgar. In this manner it generally did appear to gentile Greeks, upon the first perusal.
But if they were, by any means, induced to give them a second reading, though still not insensible of the peculiarity, their prejudices and dislike of the idiom rarely failed to subside. A third commonly produced an attachment.
The more they became acquainted with these books, the more they discovered of a charm in them, to which they found nothing comparable, or similar, in all that they had learnt before ; insomuch that they were not ashamed, nay, they were proud, to be taught by writers, for whose persons and performances they had formerly entertained a sovereign contempt. The persecutors of the church, both Jews and Pagans, perceived, at last, the consequences of conniving at the study of the Scriptures, and were therefore determined to make it their principal object, to effect the suppression of them, particularly of the Gospels. But the more this was attempted, the more were the copies multiplied, the more was the curiosity of mankind excited, and the more was the inestimable treasure of divine knowledge they contained, circulated. Early, and with avidity, were translations demanded, in almost every known tongue. Those Christians who had as much learning as to be capable, were ambitious of contributing their share in diffusing amongst all nations, the delight as well as the instruction, which the study of these books conveyed into the soul. Nor was this admiration of the divine writings to be found only among the vulgar and the igno
It is true, it originated among them ; but it did not terminate with them. Contrary to the com
mon course of fashion, which descends from the higher ranks to the lower, it arose among the lowest classes, and ascended to the highest. Not only nobles and senators, but even philosophers and men of letters, the pupils of sophists and rhetoricians, who by the prejudices of their education would be most shocked with the inelegancies, the vulgarisms, and even the barbarisms (as they would account them), of the sacred writers, found a secret and irresistible attraction, which overcame all their prepossessions, and compelled them to acknowledge, that no writers could so effectually convey conviction to the understanding, and reformation to the heart, as these poor, homely, artless, and unlettered Galileans.
DISSERTATION THE FOURTH.
OBSERVATIONS ON THE RIGHT METHOD OF PROCEEDING IN THE CRITI.
CAL EXAMINATION OF THE BOOKS OF THE NEW TESTAMENT.
It was remarked, in a foregoing Dissertation, that, notwithstanding the sameness both of the language and of the idiom employed by the penmen of the New Testament, there is a sensible diversity in their styles. The first general rule, therefore, which demands the attention of him who would employ himself in searching the Scriptures, is to endeavour to get acquainted with each writer's style, and, as he proceeds in the examination, to observe his manner of composition, both in sentences and in paragraphs, to remark the words and phrases peculiar to him, and the peculiar application which he may sometimes make of ordinary words; for there are few of those writers who have not their peculiarities, in all the re. spects now mentioned. This acquaintance with each can be attained only, by the frequent and attentive reading of his works, in his own language.
Diss. I. Part II. § 1.