« AnteriorContinuar »
a holy-day, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days," * and that modern philosophy, being itself a revelation from God, and being the handmaid of true religion, being adapted to exalt the Creator, and abase the creature, is not to be either condemned or neglected, simply because the apostle discountenanced a “ philosophy falsely so called.” The application of the inspired remarks on “qiaoooqiv” to the philosophy of our day, is about as wise as would be the application of the remarks against speaking in an unknown tongue to our speaking in the English language; for our language was as much unknown in Paul's time, as our philosophy was then “a vain deceit.” Metaphysical and scientific disquisitions are indeed censurable, when not adapted to the character of him who reads or hears; but when we censure them merely because the apostle censured the books of Jewish wisdom, which were books of mere mummery
and impertinence, we entirely mistake the purport of the apostle, and imitate the form, at sacrifice of the substance of the Bible. Indeed the condemnation of a false philosophy is an eulogium upon the true. There are many instances like these in which literal imitators are essential perverters of the Bible, and the stiff copying of the picture becomes, unintentionally, a caricature.
From time to time preachers have appeared, who hesitated not, in their pulpit addresses, to call their hearers hypocrites and liars; and when the indignant congregation have remonstrated against such incivility, their remonstrance has only provoked new assaults, and they have been aspersed for dislike of faithful preaching, and unwillingness to hear the very words of Christ. Christ did indeed in one instance apply the word weúoins to his hearers, and in several instances the word 'vroxpirns, but both of these words have in our language a peculiar odium of meaning, which they had not in the sacred Greek ; and “ for this reason” says a judicious translator, “ I have in some instances considered it as no more than doing justice to the spirit of the original, to soften the expression in the common version, though otherwise unexceptionable."* And yet what if the great preacher did call his hearers not only dissemblers but hypocrites, not only false speakers but liars, do the Jewish
* See Roseninueller, on Col. 2: 8, 16, and 1 Tim, 6: 20.
† Campbell's Four Gospels, Diss. 3. § 24 ; also Notes on Matt. 22: 18 and John 8: 55,
scribes and pharisees, whom he reproved, live in America ; and if they did, could they be profited by the same words from a subaltern which might be profitable from the captain of their salvation? There have been preachers too of an opposite class, loving to prophesy smooth things, disbelieving the cardinal doctrines of the evangelical system, but yet ministering to congregations who were attached to those doctrines. If these preachers had abstained from all allusions to the principles of orthodoxy, or if they had avowed their disbelief in these principles, they would have forfeited the confidence and the pecuniary support of their people; they therefore deemed it prudent to adopt the minutiae of scriptural style, and whenever they alluded to the character of Christ, or the depravity of man, used the words of inspiration. Their hearers could not certainly object to the language of the Bible, and were for years unsuspicious of the real faith of their pastors, and would have remained unsuspicious until this day, had they not found out that every man, who believes the Bible, believes every doctrine which it teaches, and that men of every faith will subscribe to the Calvinistic, or Arminian, or any other creed, provided it be expressed in scriptural language. Who does not believe in election, total depravity, regeneration, and at the same time the opposite doctrines; in eternal punishment, and universal salvation, in the sense in which they are taught by the sacred word ? and if a man, when his craft is in danger, refuses to give his creed save in the terms of the Bible, and will only say, that he believes in what the sacred writers meant by those terms, he shows a kind of reverence for the scriptural mode, which would be thought more sincere, if it were associated with more apparent reverence for the modes of honesty. Not that the language of inspiration is itself equivocal ; but different sects have established such different interpretations of it, that he who would learn the meaning of a scriptural creed, must learn from other phraseology, how the creed-maker interprets his quotations. When therefore Mr. Brown of Haddington says,“ God hath made me generally to preach, as if I had never read another book but the Bible; I have essayed to preach scriptural truths in scriptural language,” he could not mean to recommend, that none but scriptural phrases be employed in our expositions of doctrine. He could not mean to recommend a style of preaching which would conceal heresy, and allow hearers to interpret as variously as they speculated.
The rhetorical character of the Bible must be understood, before we can decide how far to imitate its forms of style. It is composed in great part of letters, history, and poetry. Its letters are worthy of the inspired apostles; but the style of a letter to be read, must be somewhat different from the style of a sermon to be spoken. Its history is admirable; the calm unimpassioned narration has always been extolled; but how would it appear for the religious orator to describe the Saviour's sufferings, with no more emotion than was proper for the faithful historian? The poetry of the Bible is perfect; yet discourses in prose are not to be moulded in strict conformity to it. We cannot preach in acrostics as some of the Psalms were written, nor can we adapt a sermon, as some of them were adapted, to the singing of alternate choirs ; nor would the scriptural paronomasia comport with modern views of pulpit dignity. The simple truth is, the Bible is not a sermon, but a book.
When we examine the different rules, which are given for the structure of a discourse, we find that they cannot be interpreted, as requiring a rigid conformity to the scriptural mode in its details, without involving a contradiction among themselves. It is an excellent remark of Mr. Bridges, that in our sermons we are “to form alike the doctrine, the statement, and the terms upon
the divine model,” and also that “our Lord's pungent addresses to the scribes and pharisees exhibit the boldness of christian ministrations ;” and yet this same author says, that " even the courtesies of life never restrained our Lord from his office,” and he would doubtless sanction the rule, that our sermons should never violate the courtesies of life.* It is a precious remark of Witsius, " that the things of God cannot be more fitly explained than in the words of God. The man greatly mistakes, who presumes that he can explain the mysteries of Divinity more accurately, or more clearly, or more powerfully, or with greater aptitude of instruction than in the trait and phrases, which, after the example of the prophets, the apostles used, as being dictated by Him who formed the mouth and tongue of man, who “ fashioneth the hearts of each," and therefore best of all knows the method of instructing and touching the heart.” It is an equally precious remark of bishop Ridley, “In those matters I am so fearful, that I dare not speak
* See Bridges on the Christian Ministry, Vol. II. pp. 17, 76, 78. First American Edition.
women are un
further, yea, almost none otherwise than as the very text doth,
On the contrary, that
“ There are many duties
It was a well known rule of Augustine, that a “christian ora-
may be understood without difficulty, yet we must not suppose that these authors are to be imitated by us in those things, which they have spoken obscurely. Their obscurity was useful. They resorted to it that they might exercise and perfect the minds of their
Bridges on the Christian Ministry, p. 17.
readers ; might repress pride ; and stimulate the diligence of those, who wished to learn ; might veil the minds of the irreligious, so as to convert them to piety, or seclude them from mysteries. Indeed they spoke with this obscurity, so that their successors, who should rightly understand and expound them, might receive a different grace, unequal indeed to that of the sacred writers, yet corresponding with it and honoring it. Their expositors therefore ought not so to speak, as if they would set up themselves to be expounded with similar authority ; but in all their discourses they should labor principally and chiefly to be understood.” * The great principle on which Augustine would reconcile his two assertions, that the scriptural style is just what it should be, and that many deviations from it are just what they should be, is stated by himself in the following language, “As there is a kind of eloquence appropriate to youth, and another kind appropriate to old age; and as that style cannot be called eloquent, which is not appropriate to the
person of the speaker, so there is a certain kind appropriate to men, who are invested with the highest authority and are plainly divine. With this latter kind the sacred writers spoke; no other kind became them; to no other men is this kind becoming; for with their character is their style strictly congruous; but for others, it appears as much too humble, as it surpasses the style of others, not in mere sound but in solidity. Where I do not understand the sacred writers, their eloquence does indeed appear to be, but probably is not in reality, less powerful than where I do understand them. Even the obscurity of their divine and profitable words was mingled with such eloquence, as is adapted to improve our intellect, not merely by finding out their meaning, but also by the mental exercise in finding it.”
It is said of the epistle to the Hebrews, “argumentative throughout, connected in the train of reasoning, and logical in its deductions, each successive link is interrupted by some personal and forcible conviction, while the continuity of the chain is preserved entire to the end ;” and from the general example of Paul to interweave exhortation with argument, it has been inferred that “the method of perpetual application, where the subject will admit of it, is perhaps best calculated for effect.”+ On the contrary, it is the remark of Dr. Porter, that “the con
to de rule episti rhetc
L. Ney hear neve tain, once who unit will tou the Ric сос Se
* De Doc. Christ., 22.
+ Bridges, Vol. II, pp. 47, 48.