Page images
PDF
EPUB

that he was universally considered as a person of eminent knowledge and abilities. It was the amazing success of his discourses to the people, in commanding the attention and reverence of all who heard him, which first awaked the jealousy of the scribes and pharisees.

PART II.

THE STYLE AND INSPIRATION.

We are not, however, to imagine that, because all the writers of the New Testament wrote in the idiom of the synagogue, there is no discernible di. versity in their styles. As the same language admits a variety of dialects, and even of provincial and foreign idioms, so the same dialect and the same idiom is susceptible of a variety of styles. The style of Paul has something peculiar, by which, in my opinion, there would be no difficulty in distinguishing him from any other writer. A discerning reader would not readily confound the style of Luke with that of either of the evangelists who preceded him, Matthew or Mark; and still less I imagine would he mistake the Apostle John's diction for that of any other penman of the New Testament. The same differences of style will be discovered by one who is but moderately conversant in Hebrew, in the writers of the Old Testament. In it we have still greater variety than in the New. Some of the books are writ. ten in prose, and some in verse: and in each, the differences between one book and another are considerable. In the book of Job, for instance, the character of the style is remarkably peculiar. What can be more dissimilar in this respect, though both are excellent in their kind, than the towering flights of the sublime Isaiah, and the plaintive strains of the pathetic Jeremiah? In the books of Scripture, we can specify the concise style and the copious, the elevated and the simple, the aphoristic and the diffuse.

The difference, I own, is not so remarkable in translations as in the original. The reason will be evident on a little reflection. Every man, and consequently every translator has his peculiar diction and manner, which will rarely fail to affect, not only his own compositions, but also the versions he makes from other authors. In every version of the Bible, therefore, wherein the different books have the same translator, there will be more or less of an assimilating quality, by which the works translated are brought, in point of expression, to bear some resemblance to the ordinary style of the translator. Now, by being all brought nearer the same thing, they are brought nearer one another. Translation, therefore, is a sort of leveller. By its means, generally, not always (for some can adapt themselves to different styles more easily than others), the lofty is depressed, the humble elevated, the looser strains are confined, and the laconic rendered more explicit. The learned reader will be sensible of the justness of this remark, when

he reflects how much more distinguishable the styles of the sacred penmen above mentioned are in their own language, than even in the best translations extant. Add to this, that if, of any two sacred authors who differ greatly in their style, we compare together some passages, as they are rendered in the same translation, we shall commonly find the sameness of the translator's style more remarkable in them all, than the differences there may be of the styles of the authors. We shall be oftener at a loss to discover, in the quotations, (if the recollection of the sentiments do not assist us) Isaiah and Amos, Matthew and John, than to recognize Castalio and Beza, the Vulgate and Junius. Every translator, however, is not equally chargeable with this fault. I think none indeed so much as Castalio.

§ 2. But it may be asked, How is this diversity in the diction of the sacred penmen reconcilable with the idea of inspiration? Is not the style of all inspired writers the same, as being the style of the same Spirit by which they were alike directed ? That in some sense the style of all those writers is the style of the Holy Spirit who spoke by them, and was the same in them all, is not to be denied; but that the Holy Spirit should always employ the same style in conveying celestial truths to men, is no more necessary than that he should always use the same language. People do not sufficiently advert, when they speak on this subject, to the difference between the expression and the sentiment, but strangely confound these, as though they were the same; yet no two things can be more widely different. The truths im. plied in the sentiments, are essential, immutable, and have an intrinsic value: the words which compose the expression, are in their nature circumstantial, changeable, and have no other value than what they derive from the arbitrary conventions of men. That the Holy Spirit would guide the minds of the sacred penmen in such a manner as to prevent their adopting terms upsuitable to his design, or which might obstruct his purpose ; and that, in other respects, he would accommodate himself to their manner and diction, is both reasonable in itself, and rendered unquestionable, by the works themselves, which have the like characteristic differences of style that we find in other literary productions.

Can it be accounted more strange that the Holy Spirit should, by the prophet Amos, address us in the style of a shepherd, and by Daniel, in that of a courtier, than that by the one, he should speak to us in Hebrew, and by the other, in Chaldee? It is as reasonable to think that the Spirit of God would accommodate himself to the phraseology and diction, as to the tone of voice and pronunciation, of those whom he was pleased to enlighten; for it cannot be denied that the pronunciation of one person, in uttering a prophecy, might be more articulate, more audible, and more affecting than that of another-in like manner as one style has more harmony, elegance, and perspicuity, than another. Castalio says justly, Res dictat Spiritus, verba quidem et linguam loquenti aut scribenti liberam permittit ;" which is to the same purpose with what Jerom had said more than a thousand years before—“Nec putemus in verbis scripturarum evangelium esse, sed in sensu ??.” Allow me to add the testimony of a late writer of our own—than whom none has done more to make men apprehend the meaning, and relish the beauties of the sacred poesy :

« Hoc ita sacris vatibus tribuimus, ut nihil derogemus Divini

Spiritus afflatui : etsi suam interea vim propria cujusque scriptoris nature' atque ingenio conceda

mus. Neque enim instinctu divino ita concitatur vatis animus, ut protinus obruatur hominis indoles : attolluntur et eriguntur, non extinguuntur aut occultantur naturalis ingenii facultates ; et quan

quam Mosis, Davidis, et Isaiæ, scripta semper spirent quiddam tam excelsum tamque cæleste, ut pla.. ne videantur divinitus edita, nihilo tamen minus in üs Mosem, Davidem, et Isaiam, semper agnosci

[ocr errors]
[blocks in formation]

3. In this there was an eminent disparity be. tween the prophets of God and those among the Pagans, said to be possessed of the spirit of Python, or

26 « The Spirit dictates the things, leaving the words and language free to the speaker or the writer.” Defensio contra Bezam.

6 Let us not imagine that the gospel consists in the words of Scripture, but in the sense.” Comment. in Epist. ad

27

Gal. cap. 1.

28 De Sacra Poësi Heb. Præl, xvi. VOL. I.

13

« PreviousContinue »