Page images
[ocr errors]

ral fitness in one word or phrase more than in another, for denoting the thing signified ? Is not the connexion between sounds and ideas merely artificial —the result of human, though tacit conventions ? With regard to those. rules which constitute purity in the language of any country, what are they, in effect, but the conventions which have happened to obtain among the natives, particularly those of the higher ranks ?--Vulgarisms, and foreign idioms, which may obtain among strangers, and those of the lower ranks, have no more natural unfitness to convey the sense which they that use them intend to convey by them, than the terms and phrases which, in conse. quence of the preference given by their superiors, may be regarded as elegancies. It may be as reasonably objected against our religion, that the persons by whom it was propagated, were chosen from what men, in high life, account the dregs of the people, as that the Holy Spirit should accommodate himself to the language of those who were actually chosen. Nay, language as well as dress being in fact no more than a species of mode, it may with as good reason be maintained that the ambassadors whom Christ sent for promulgating his doctrine, should have been habited like gentlemen, and men of fashion, as that they should have spoken the dia. lect of such. Splendid style had no more connexion with the purpose of their mission than splendid apparel. The cloth which they wore, how coarse so. ever, answered all the essential purposes of clothing; the same may be said of the language which they

spoke. And if it be argued, that good language would create greater respect to their persons, and closer attention to what they said, and consequently would contribute to its making a deeper impression; as much may be affirmed, with truth, of a genteel appearance both of person and of dress. Nothing serves more powerfully to quash curiosity and expectation, and consequently to destroy attention, than such an external figure as generally accompanies poverty and ignorance, and suggests a total want of the advantages of education, and, more especially, of that indispensable advantage which the fashionable world calls seeing good company.

But these very disadvantages or defects, both in speech and in outward figure, are assigned by the inspired writers as the reason of God's preference, whose thoughts are not our thoughts, nor are our ways his

that the success of the preachers of the Gospel, in spite of the absence of those accomplishments in language then so highly valued, was an evidence of the divine power and energy with which their ministry was accompanied. He did not address them, he tells us 15, with the wisdom of words—with artificial periods and a studied elocution, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect ;-lest to human eloquence that success should be ascribed which ought to be attributed to the di. vinity of the doctrine, and the agency of the Spirit, in the miracles wrought in support of it. There is

ways. Paul


1 Cor. i. 17.

hardly any sentiment which he is at greater pains to enforce. He used none of the enticing or persuasive words of man's wisdom.-- Wherefore ?- That their faith might not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God". Should I ask, What was the reason why our Lord Jesus Christ chose for the instruments of that most amazing revolution in the religious systems of mankind, men perfectly illiterate, and taken out of the lowest class of the people? your answer to this will serve equally for an answer to that other

question- Why did the Holy Spirit choose to deliver such important truths in the barbarous idiom of a few obscure Galileans, and not in the politer and more harmonious strains of Grecian eloquence ? I repeat it, the answer to both questions is the same—That it might appear, beyond contradiction, that the excellency of the power was of God, and not of man ?.


1 Cor. ii. 4,

5. 17 Those who desire to see this argument treated as it affects infidels (who make a handle of the badness of the style to discredit revelation), may consult the late Bishop of Gloucester's Doctrine of Grace, B. I. ch. viii, ix, and x. I here consider the question chiefly as affecting some well-meaning but mistaken Christians. It may be proper further to observe, that the opi. nion of the very acute and learned author of the work above mentioned, does not, on the subject of inspiration laid down in ch. vii., in every thing coincide with that here supported. A distinction is made by him, not only between the style and the sentiments, but between the sentiments of greater and those of less moment, in the several books. The latter distinction leads to a controversy which is quite foreign from my argument, and with which for that reason I have not meddled;


11. There are some collateral purposes which Providence has effected by the same means. One is, that the writings of the New Testament carry, in the very expression and idiom, an intrinsic and irresisti. ble evidence of their authenticity. They are such as, in respect of style, could not have been written but by Jews, and hardly even by Jews superior, in rank and education, to those whose names they bear. And what greatly strengthens the argument is that, under this homely garb, we find the most exalted sentiments, the closest reasoning, the purest morality, and the sublimest doctrine. The homeliness of their diction, when criticised by the rules of grammarians and rhetoricians, is what all the most learned and judicious of the Greek fathers frankly owned. And is it modest in us, petty critics of modern times, to pretend to be nicer judges of purity and elegance in the Greek language, than Origen and Chrysostom, whose native tongue it was ; and who, besides, were masters of uncommon skill, as well as Auency, in that language? I have heard of a French critic who undertook to demonstrate that Aristotle did not under. stand Greek, nor Livy Latin. There is hardly an opinion so paradoxical or absurd as not to find some admirers. What wonder then that we should meet with people who esteem a Pfochinius and a Blackwall 18 better judges of Greek than the greatest ora

[ocr errors]


A. Blackwall, author of "'The Sacred Classics defended and illustrated.”

[blocks in formation]

tors among the Grecians, and maintain that Paul's style, in spite of his own verdict, is as classical as Plato's. The writings of the ancient Greeks have been rummaged for the discovery of words and phrases, which, in the import given them, might appear to resemble what has been accounted Hebraism or Syriasm in the New Testament. The success of such endeavours has been far from giving satisfaction to readers of discernment. It will readily be acknowledged, by the impartial, that several idioms in the New Testament have been mistaken for Oriental, which may be as truly denominated Grecian. But there remains a much larger number of those brought under that class, concerning which there can be no reasonable doubt 19

19 The very first words of the Gospel, BeBros Yeverews, for genealogy or lineage, are one example amongst hundreds that might be produced. How many meanings are given to the word Oups, flesh, in that Sacred Volume, for which you will not find a single authority in any prophane writer ? Beside the original meaning of the word universally admitted, it sometimes denotes the whole body considered as animated, as in Matth. xxvi. 41. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. This may indeed be thought to be of all the deviations from the proper sense, the most defensible on classical and rhetorical principles, being not an unnatural synecdoché of the part for the whole.--Secondly, It sometimes means a human being, as in Luke iii. 6. All flesh shall see the salvation of God ;--sometimes, 3dly, a person's kindred collectively considered, as in Rom. xi. 14. If by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh; sometimes, 4thly, any thing of an external or ceremonial nature,

« PreviousContinue »