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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 implied 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 unsuitable to his design, or wbich 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 Jerome had said more than a thousand years before, “Nec putemus in verbis scripturarum evangelium esse, sed in sensu.”+ Allow ine 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 propriae cujusque scriptoris naturae atque ingenio concedamus. Neque enim instinctu divino ita concitatur vatis animus, ut protinus obruatur
• “The Spirit dictates the things, leaving the words and, language free to the speaker or writer.”—Defensio contra Bezam.
+ " Let us not imagine that the gospel consists in the words of Scripture, but in the sense."--Comment. in Epist, ad Gal. cap. i.
hominis indoles : attolluntur et eriguntur, non extinguuntur aut occultantur naturalis ingenii facultates; et quanquam Mosis, Davidis, et Isaiae, scripta semper spirent quiddam tam excelsum tamque coeleste, ut plane videantur divinitus edita, nihilo tamen minus in iis Mosem, Davidem, et Isaiam, semper agnoscimus."**
3. In this there was an eminent disparity between the prophets of God, and those among the Pagans said to be possessed of the spirit of Python, or spirit of divination. These are reported to have uttered their predictions in what is called ecstasy or trance, that is, whilst they underwent a temporary suspension both of their reason and of their senses. Accordingly, they are represented as mere machines, not acting, but acted upon and passive, like the flute into which the musician blows. This is what has been called organic inspiration. In imitation of one remarkable class of these, the sorcerers and soothsayers among the Jews (who, like those of the same craft among Pagans, reaped considerable profit from abusing the credulity of the rabble) had acquired a wonderful mode of speaking, in which they did not appear to employ the common organs of speech, and were thence termed éyyaoroiuvioi, ventriloqui, belly-speakers. It is in allusion to this practice that Isaiah (8:19. 29: 4) denominates them the wizards, that peep and that mutter, whose speech seemed to rise out of the ground, and to whisper out of the dust.
Totally different was the method of the prophets of the true God. The matter, or all that concerned the thoughts, was given them : what concerned the manner, or enunciation, was left to themselves. The only exception the Rabbis mention is Balaam, whose prophecy appeared to them to have been emitted in spite of himself. But this case, if it was as they imagine, which may be justly doubted, was extraordinary. In all other cases, the prophets had, when prophesying, the same command over their own actions, over their members and organs, as at other times. They might speak, or forbear; they might begin, and desist, when they pleased ; they might decline the task assigned them, and disobey the divine command. No doubt, when they acted thus, they sinned very heinously, and were exposed to the wrath of Heaven. Of the danger of such disobedience we have two signal examples, in the prophet who was sent to prophesy against the altar erected by Jeroboam at Bethel, and in the prophet Jonah.
But that men continued still free agents, and had it in their power to make a very injudicious use of the spiritual gists and illuminations which they had received from above, is manifest from the regulations, on this subject, established by the apostle Paul in the church of Corinth. The words wherewith he concludes his direc
* Do Sacra Poesi Heb. Prael. xvi.
tions on this topic are very apposite to my present purpose. spirits of the prophets," says he, "are subject unto the prophets," 1 Cor. 14: 32. Such is the difference between those who are guided by the Spirit of truth, and those who are under the influence of the spirit of error. There is therefore no reason to doubt, that the sacred writers were permitted to employ the style and idiom most familiar to them, in delivering the truths with which they were inspired. So far only they were over-ruled, in point of expression, by the divine Spirit, that nothing could be introduced tending, in any way, to obstruct the intention of the whole. And sometimes, especially in the prediction of future events, such terms would be suggested, as would, even beyond the prophet's apprehension, conduce to further that end. The great object of divine regard, and subject of revelation, is things, not words. And were it possible to obtain a translation of Scripture absolutely faultless, the translation would be, in all respects, as valuable as the original.
4. But is not this doctrine, it may be said, liable to an objection also from the gift of tongues conferred on the apostles and others for the promulgation of the gospel? In the languages with which those primitive ministers were miraculously furnished, it may be objected, they could not have any style of their own, as a style is purely the effect of habit, and of insensible imitation. This objection, however, is easily obviated ; First, as they received by inspiration those tongues only whereof they had previously no knowledge, it is not probable, at least it is not certain, that this gist had any place in the writings of the New Testament; that in most of them it had not, is manifest. But 2dly, If in some it had, the most natural supposition is, 1. That the knowledge of the tongue wherewith the Holy Ghost inspired the sacred writers must have been in them, precisely such a knowledge and such a readiness in finding words and expressions, as is, in others, the effect of daily practice. This is even a necessary consequence of supposing that the language itself, and not the words of particular speeches, (according to Dr. Middleton's notion),* was the gift of the Spirit. 2. That their acquaintance with the tongue supernaturally cominunicated, must have been such as would render their teaching in it best adapted to the apprehensions of the people with whom they would be most conversant, or such as they would have most readily acquired among them in the natural way. Now on this hypothesis, which appears on many accounts the most rational, the influence of habit, of native idiom, and of particular genius and turn of thinking, would be the same on the writer's style as though he had acquired the language in the ordinary way.
As to the hypothesis of the author above-mentioned, it is not
Essay on the Gift of Tongues.
more irrational in itself, than it is destitute of evidence. It is irrational, as it excludes the primary use, the conversion of the nations, for which, by the general acknowledgment of Christians in all ages, the gift of tongues was bestowed on the apostles, and represents this extraordinary power as serving merely to astonish the hearers, the only purpose, according to him, for which it ever was exerted. And as to evidence, the great support of his system is an argument which has been sufficiently considered already, the defects of the style of the sacred writers, when examined by the rules of the rhetoricians, and the example of the orators of Athens. For, because Cicero and the Greek philosophers were of opinion, that if Jupiter spoke Greek he would speak like Plato, the learned Doctor cannot conceive that a style so unlike Plato's as that of the evangelists, can be the language of inspiration, or be accounted worthy of God. It was not, we find, peculiar to the Greeks, or to the apostolic age, to set too high a value on the words which man's wisdom teacheth. Nor was it only in the days of Samuel, that men needed to be taught that “the Lord seeth not as man seeth,” i Sam. 16:7. DISSERTATION II.
THE CAUSES TO WHICH THE PRINCIPAL DIFFERENCES IN LANGUA
GES ARE IMPUTABLE; THE ORIGIN OF THE CHANGES PRODU-
THE CAUSES OF THE DIFFERENCES IN LANGUAGES. When we compare one tongue with another, if we enter critically into the genius and powers of each we shall find, that neither the only nor the chief difference is that which is most obvious, and consists in the sounds or words employed, the inflections, the arrangement, and the construction. These may soon be learnt from a tolerable grammar, and are to be considered as affecting only the form of the language. There are others, which, more intimately affecting its spirit, it requires a nicer discernment to distinguish. These serve much more to characterize both the language and the people who speak it.. Indeed, the knowledge of one of these has a great effect in advancing the knowledge of the other. Wemay say, with the greatest justice, that as, on the one hand, the real character of a nation will not be thoroughly understood by one who is a persect stranger to their tongue; so, on the other, the exact import of many of the words, and combinations of words, made use of in the language, will never be perfectly comprehended by one who knows nothing of the character of the people, who is totally unacquainted with the history of their religion, law, polity, arts, manners, and customs. Whoever, therefore, would be a proficient in either kind, must be a student in both. It is evident, that the particulars enumerated, or whatever regards the religion, the laws, the constitution, and the manners of a people, operate powerfully on their sentiments; and these have a principal effect, first on the associations of ideas formed in their minds in relation to character, and to whatever is an object of abstract reflection ; secondly, on the formation of words, and combination of phrases, by which these associations are expressed. But this will be better understood from what follows.