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which ever will, or ever can remove them. But this only by the


26. Concerning the other qualities of style to be found in these writings, I acknowledge I have not much to add. Simplicity, gravity, and perspicuity, as necessarily resulting from simplicity, are certainly their predominant characters. But as

in writings it is not always easy to distinguish the qualities arising from the thought, from those arising merely from the expression, I shall consider, in a few sentences, how far the other properties of good writing, commonly attributed to the style, are applicable 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 similes. 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 recall to the fancy the thoughts of rural happiness and tranquillity. And even in cases where propriety required that things disagreeable should be in



troduced, 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 man 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 ignorant. It is true it originated among them, but it did not terminate with them. Contrary to the common 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.





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 respects now mentioned. This acquaintance with each can be attained only by the frequent and attentive reading of his works in his own language.

2. The second general direction is, to inquire carefully, as far as is compatible with the distance of time, and the other disadvantages we labour under, into the character, the situation, and the office of the writer, the time, the place, and the occasion of his writing, and the people for whose immediate use he originally intended his work. Every one of these particulars will sometimes serve to elucidate expressions otherwise obscure or doubtful. This knowledge may, in part, be learnt from a diligent and reiterated perusal of the book itself, and in part be gathered from what authentic or at least probable accounts have been transmitted to us concerning the compilement of the canon.

3. The third, and only other general direction I shall mention, is, to consider the principal scope of the book, and the particulars chiefly observable in the method by which the writer has purposed to execute his design. This direction, I acknowledge, can hardly be considered as applicable to the historical books, whose purpose is obvious, and whose method is determined by the order of time, or, at least, by the order in which the several occurrences recorded have presented themselves to the memory of the compiler. But in the epistolary writings, especially those of the apostle Paul, this consideration would deserve particular


4. Now, to come to rules of a more special nature: If, in reading a particular book, a word or phrase occur which appears obscure, perhaps unintelligible, how ought we to proceed? The

Diss. I. Part ii. sect. 1.

first thing undoubtedly we have to do, if satisfied that the reading is genuine, is to consult the context, to attend to the manner wherein the term is introduced, whether in a chain of reasoning, or as belonging to an historical narration, as constituting some circumstance in a description, or included in an exhortation or command. As the conclusion is inferred from the premises; or, as from two or more known truths, a third unknown or unobserved before may fairly be deduced; so from such attention to the sentences in connexion, the import of an expression, in itself obscure or ambiguous, will sometimes with moral certainty be discovered. This, however, will not always answer.

5. If it do not, let the second consideration be, whether the term or phrase be any of the writer's peculiarities. If so, it comes naturally to be inquired, what is the acceptation in which he employs it in other places? If the sense cannot be precisely the same in the passage under review, perhaps, by an easy and natural metaphor, or other trope, the common acceptation may give rise to the one which perfectly suits the passage in question. Recourse to the other places wherein the word or phrase occurs in the same author, is of considerable use, though the term should not be peculiar to him.

6. But, thirdly, if there should be nothing in the same writer that can enlighten the place, let recourse be had to the parallel passages, if there be any such, in the other sacred writers. By parallel passages, I mean those places, if the difficulty occur in history, wherein the same or a similar story, miracle, or event, is related; if in teaching or reasoning, those parts wherein the same doctrine or argument is treated, or the same parable propounded; and if in moral lessons, those wherein the same class of duties is recommended: or, if the difficulty be found in a quotation from the Old Testament, let the parallel passage in the book referred to, both in the original Hebrew and in the Greek version, be consulted.

7. But if in these there be found nothing that can throw light on the expression of which we are in doubt, the fourth recourse is to all the places wherein the word or phrase occurs in the New Testament, and in the Septuagint version of the Old; adding to these, the consideration of the import of the Hebrew or Chaldaic word whose place it occupies, and the extent of signification of which, in different occurrences, such Hebrew or Chaldaic term is susceptible.

8. Perhaps the term in question is one of those which very rarely occur in the New Testament, or those called ȧaž λɛyoμɛva, only once read in Scripture, and not found at all in the translation of the Seventy. Several such words there are. There is then a necessity in the fifth place, for recurring to the ordinary acceptation of the term in classical authors. This is one of those cases wherein the interpretation given by the earliest Greek

fathers deserves particular notice. In this verdict, however, I limit myself to those comments wherein they give a literal exposition of the sacred text, and do not run, as is but too customary with them, into vision and allegory. There are so many advantages which people have for discovering the import of a term or phrase in their mother-tongue, unusual perhaps in writing, but current in conversation, above those who study a dead language solely by means of the books extant in it, that no reasonable person can question that some deference is, in such cases, due to their authority.

You will observe that, in regard to the words or phrases whereof an illustration may be had from other parts of sacred writ, whether of the Old or of the New Testament, I should not think it necessary to recur directly to those primitive, any more than to our modern expounders. My reason is, as the word or phrase may not improbably be affected by the idiom of the synagogue, the Jewish literature will be of more importance than the Grecian for throwing light upon the passage. Now this is a kind of learning with which the Greek fathers were very little acquainted. Whereas, on the other hand, if the term in question' rarely or but once occur in the New Testament, and never in the version of the Old, there is little ground to imagine that it is affected by the idiom of the synagogue, but the greatest reason to suppose that it is adopted by the sacred penmen in the common acceptation.

I think it necessary to add here another limitation to the reference intended to the ancient Greek expositors. If the doubtful passage have been produced in support of a side, in any of the famous controversies by which the Christian church has been divided, no regard is due to the authority, whatever may be due to the arguments, of any writer who lived at, or soon after, the time when the controversy was agitated. If you know the side he took in the dispute, you are sure beforehand of the explanation he will give of the words in question. Nothing blinds the understanding more effectually than the spirit of party, and no kind of party-spirit more than bigotry, under the assumed character of religious zeal.

9. With respect to the use to be made of the Fathers, for assisting us to understand the Scriptures, there are two extremes, to one or other of which the much greater part of Christians show a propensity: One is, an implicit deference to their judgment in every point on which they have given an opinion; the other is, no regard at all to any thing advanced by them. To the first extreme, the more moderate Romanists, and those Protestants who favour pompous ceremonies and an aristocratical hierarchy, are most inclined; and to the second, those Protestants, on the contrary, who prefer simplicity of worship, and the democratical form in church government. But these observa

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