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words, and a laboured smoothness of periods, than for truth of sentiment and justness of reasoning, was called by the apostle the wisdom of speech, (1 Cor. i. 17,) and the persuasive words of human wisdom, (1 Cor. ii. 4,) and was utterly disclaimed by him: “And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech, nor of wisdom, declaring the testimony of God.” (1 Cor. ii. 1.)
The Doctor assigns three good reasons why the apostle Paul, and the sacred writers in general, did not distinguish their productions by classic purity and elegance.
1. “In the first place, a concise unadorned style in preaching and writing, though accompanied with some obscurity, was, in the apostle’s situation, preferable to the clear and elegant manner of writing practised by the Grecian orators. For as he himself tells us, it was intended by Christ, to make the world sensible that the conversion of mankind was accomplished, neither by the charms of speech, nor by the power of sounds, nor by such arguments as a vain philosophy was able to furnish ; but by those great and evident miracles which accompanied the first preaching of the gospel, and by the suitableness of its doctrines to the necessities of mankind : facts, which it is of the greatest importance for us, in these later ages, to be well assured of. Christ sent me to preach the gospel, not with wisdom of speech, that the cross of Christ might not be made ineffectual.' (1 Cor. i. 17.) 'My discourse and my preaching was not with the persuasive words of human wisdom, but with the demonstration of the Spirit, and of power.' That your faith might not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of
(1 Cor. ii. 4, 5.) 2. “ Because it is well known to the critics, that the style in writing which is esteemed most elegant, derives its chief excellence from the frequent use of metaphors and allusions, which though they may charm the learned, are of no value in the eye of the illiterate, who cannot apply them to their proper counterparts. Whatever delight, therefore, such latent beauties may
give to those who can unfold them, to the vulgar they are little better than a picture to a blind man; for which reason the apostle, with great propriety, hath, for the most part, neglected them.
3. “ The sacred oracles were not designed as works of genius, to attract the admiration of the learned, nor to set before them a finished model of fine writing for their imitation; but to turn mankind from sin to God. For which purpose, the graces of a florid, or even of a melodious style, were certainly of little value, in comparison of those more solid excellencies of sentiment and language, whereby the scriptures have become the power of God unto salvation to all who believe them; and will continue to be so till the end of time.
may therefore in this, as in every other instance, affirm with the apostle, that the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men,” (1 Cor. i. 25,) and may
with understanding, ascribe to God, only wise, the glory that is due to him, on account of the admirable contriyance of his word."*
Dr. Campbell remarks in his preface to John's gospel : “ This gospel bears marks more signal than any of them, that it is the work of an illiterate Jew. Upon the whole, John's style is thought to be more idiomatical, and less conformable to the syntactic order, than that of any other writer in the New Testament. There is none whose manner more bespeaks an author destitute of the advantages which result from letters and education.”
This author justifies the apostles in the use of plain and homely language: “ It is not to be dissembled,'
" that the sacred penmen of the New Testament have, especially in modern times, had some strenuous advocates, both among foreigners and amongst our own countrymen, who have, in my opinion, with 'more zeal than judgment, defended their diction, as being, when judged by the rules of gram
* New Translation, Vol. i., Essay iii.
mar and rhetoric, and by the practice of the most celebrated writers in Greece, altogether pure and elegant. They seem to suspect, that to yield, even on the clearest evidence, a point of this nature, though regarding ornaments merely human and exterior, might bring dishonour on inspiration or render it questionable. I cannot help thinking that these people must have very indistinct ideas on this subject, and be justly said to incur the reproof which Peter, on a memorable occasion, received from his master, that they savour more the things of men than the things of God.' (Matt. xvi. 23.) Are words of any kind more than arbitrary signs ? And may not the same be said with justice of phrases and idioms? Is there a natural 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 consequence 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 tually chosen. Nay, language as well as dress, being in fact, no more than a species or mode, it 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 dialect of such. Splendid style had no more connexion with.
the purpose of their mission than splendid apparel. The cloth which they wore, how coarse soever, 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 dress. Nothing serves more powerfully to quash culriosity 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 reasons of God's preference, whose thoughts are not our thoughts, nor are our ways his ways.
argues, 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, (1 Corinthians i. 17,) 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 divinity of the doctrine, and the agency of the Spirit, in the miracles wrought in support of it. There is 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.' (1 Cor. ii. 4, 5.) 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 classes 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.
“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." *
If the writings of the apostles, considered in a literary point of view, were bad, their extempore discourses must have been worse; because all men who can write at all, can write better than they can speak.
The Holy Spirit suggested religious truth to their minds, but left them to publish that truth to the world in their own proper style of speaking and writing. Had he suggested the very words also in which that truth should be conveyed to others, no doubt the language would have been good, and the style uniform. That system of religious truth which the apostles received from the Holy Ghost, we have received from their writings; any man, therefore, who can read, may soon acquire all that learning for which they were indebted to inspiration.
During the two first centuries, the christian ministers
* Campbell on the Gospels. Dissertation First.