« PreviousContinue »
§ 6. It was totally different among the Hebrews, I might have said, among the ancients in general. The Greek word xupos kyrios, answering to the Hebrew 1978 adon, to the Latin dominus, and to the words lord or master in English, was not originally given, unless by a servant to his master, by a subject to his sovereign, or in brief, by one bound to obey, to the person entitled to command. Soon, however, it became common to give it to a superior, though the
person who gave it, had no dependence upon him ; and if sometimes it was, through complaisance, bestowed on an equal ; still the man who gave the title, was considered as modestly putting himself on the footing of an inferior and servant, inasmuch as the title was invariably understood to express, not only superior rank, but even authority, in the person on whom it was conferred, over him who gave it. We have examples in Scripture which put it beyond a doubt, that for any man to address another by the title my lord, and to acknowledge himself that person's servant, were but different ways of expressing the same thing, xypros and Sãos being correlative terms. The courteous form of addressing with them, when they meant to be respectful (for it was not used on all occasions), was not that of most modern Europeans, who, in using the second personal pronoun, employ the plural for the singular ; nor that of the Germans, who change both person and number, making the third plural serve for the second singular, but it was what more rarely could occasion ambiguity than either of these ; the
substitution of the third person for the first, the number being retained, whether singular or plural. This mode, as occurring in Scripture, gives an additional illustration of the import of the term xuplos with them. “ Let thy servant, I pray thee,” said Judah 3 to his brother Joseph, when governor of Egypt, “ speak a word in my lord's ears.” “Nay, my lord,” said the Shunamite to the Prophet Elisha, “ do not deceive thine handmaid 4.” Some other instances are marked in the margin ..
Assisted by these remarks, we may perceive the force of that observation of the Apostle Peter •, in regard to the conjugal respect and obedience yielded by Sarah to her husband Abraham. Being in subjection, says he, speaking of the wives, to their own husbands, even as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord ; that is, acknowledging, by this her usual compellation, her inferiority, and obligation to obedience ; for the intimacy of their relation hinders us from ascribing it to a ceremonious civility. Some have cavilled at this argument brought by the Apostle. The rank and quality of Abraham, say they, who, by the accounts we have of him, was a powerful prince, entitled him to be addressed in this manner by every body. Others, in the opposite extreme, have inferred that every dutiful wife ought to give the same testimony of respect and submission to her husband, which this pious matron did to
3 Gen. xliv. 18. * 2 Kings, iv. 16. xxxiii. 5. 8. xlii. 10, 1 Kings, xviii. 7. 9.
s Gen. xxxii. 4, 5. 6 1 Pet. iii, 5, 6.
the Patriarch. Both ways of reasoning are weak, and proceed from the same ignorance of the different import of words, resulting from the difference of manners and customs. The title lord with us, as applied to men, is either hereditary in certain families, or annexed by royal authority, or immemorial usage, to certain offices and stations. Wherever it is con. sidered as due, nobody, of what rank soever, withholds it. And wherever it is not due, one would not only expose one's self to ridicule by giving it, but, instead of paying a compliment to the person addressed, would put him out of countenance. It cannot, therefore, with us, serve as a token of subjection in the person who gives it. Such is the consequence of the different footing whereon things now stand, that the titles which, in those times of simplicity, were merely relative and ambulatory, are now absolute and stationary. Whereas the man who, in those ages, was well entitled to the compellation of lord in one company, had no title to it at all in another. It happens with us frequently (to wit, as often as two or more who, by law or custom, have a right to that mark of respect, converse together), that the title of lord is reciprocally given and taken by the same persons. But of this I do not recollect a single instance in Scripture. Such a thing to the ancients must, doubtless, have appeared ridiculous, as an acknowledgment of superiority in the person on whom it was conferred, was always understood to be conveyed by it. For, though it was sometimes, as I observed, politely given to an equal,
he was thereby treated as superior: and, as each could not be superior, to retort the title on him who gave it, must have been considered by them, as an indelicate rejection of the civility offered. To their sentiments it seems to have been more conformable, that the honour should be repaid with some other marks of respect or affection, by the person who received it. The fact, if I remember right, is cer. tain: this manner of accounting for it, I acknowledge to be no more than conjecture ; but it is a conjecture which some passages in ancient history, particularly the conversation of Abraham with Ephron and the sons of Heth?, and Jacob's interview with his elder brother Esau, after an absence of more than fourteen years, render not improbable.
§ 7. The title of master (for the Hebrew adon, and the Greek kyrios, signify no more) was perhaps universally the first which, by a kind of catachresis, was bestowed on a superior, or a person considered as such, by one who was not his servant or dependent. But still, as it implied the acknowledgment of superiority, it varied with the company. There were few so low who were not entitled to this honourable compellation from some persons; there were none (the king alone excepted) so high as to be entitled to it from every person. Joab, who was captain-general of the army, is properly styled by Uriah', who was only an inferior officer, my lord Joab; but had the king himself, or any of the princes, given him that title, it could have been understood no otherwise than in derision. It would have been, as if the sovereign should call any of his ministers his master. The title father, though held in
? Gen. xxiii. 3, &c.
8 xxxiii, 1.3 15.
9 2 Sam. xi. 11.
general superior to lord, yet, as the respect expressed by it, implied superiority, not in station, but in years, experience, and knowledge, was sometimes given to the Prophets of the true God, even by kings. Thus, the Prophet Elisha is in this manner addressed by the king of Israel "'; but no prophet is ever denominated lord or master by one vested with the supreme authority. By others the prophets were often so denominated. Thus Obadiah, who was steward of the king's household, calls the Prophet Elijah, my lord Elijah". The same title we find also given to Elisha ". Whereas to the king himself, the common address, from men of all ranks, was, my lord, O king, or, as the expression strictly implied, O king, my master; but by the king, the title my lord, or my master, was given to none but God. The reason is obvious. A monarch, who was not tributary, acknowledged, in point of station, no earthly superior. And though, in any rank inferior to the highest, good breeding might require it to be conferred on an equal, the royal dignity appears generally to have been considered as of too delicate a nature to admit the use of such compliments with
10 2 Kings, vi. 21.
11 i Kings, xviii. 7. 13. 2? 2 Kings, ii. 19. iv, 16. 28.