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For, if this only be allowed, which no one, I think, will contest, that a strange language aoquired. by illiterate men, in the ordinary way, would be full of the idioms of their native tongue, just as the Scripture-Greek is obferved to be full of Syriasms and Hebraisms ; how can it be pretended by those who reflect upon the nature of language that a strange tongue divinely infused into illiterate men, like that at the day of Pentecost, could have any other properties or conditions ?
" Let us weigh these cases impartially. Every language consists of two distinct parts; the lingle terms, and the phrases and idioms. The first, as far as concerns appellatives efpecially, is of mere arbitrary imposition, tho' on artificial principles common to all men : The fecond arises insensibly, but constantly, from the manners, customs, and tempers of those to whom the language is vernacular ; and so becomes, tho' much less arbitrary, as what the Grammarians call congruity is more concerned in this part than in the other, yet various and different as'the several tribes and nations of Mankind. The first therefore is unrelated to every thing but to the genius of language in general; the second hath an intimate connexion with the fashions, notions, and opinions of that people only, to whom the language is native.
Let us consider then the constant way which illiterate men take to acquire the knowlege of a foreign tongue. Do they not make it their principal, and, at first, their only study, to treasure up, in their memory the signification of the terms Hence, when they come to talk or write in the speech thus acquired, their language is found to be full of their own native idioms. And thus it will continue, till by long use of the strange tongue, and especially by long acquaintance with the owners of it, they have imbibed the particular genius of the language.
Suppose then this foreign tongue, instead of being thus gradually introduced into the minds of these illiterate men, was instantaneously infused into them ; the operation, tho’ not the very mode of operating, being the same, must not the effect be the same, let the cause be never so different ? Without question. The divine impression must be made either by fixing the terms or single words only and their fignification in the memory; as for instance, Greek terms corsesponding to the Syriac or Hebrew; or else, together with that simple impression, another must be made to enrich the
mind with all the ideas which go towards composing the phrases and idoms of the language so inspired : But this lars ser impression seems to require, or rather indeed implies, a previous one, of the tempers, fashions, and opinions of the people to whom the language is native, upon the minds of zhem to whom the language is thus imparted; because the phrase and idiom arises trom and is dependent on those manners: and therefore the force of expression can be understood only in proportion to the knowledge of the manners : and understood they were to be ; the Recipients of their spiritual gifts being not organical canals, but rational Dispensers, So that this would be a wafle of miracles without a fufficient cause; the Syriac or Hebrew idiom, to which the Dirciples were enabled of themselves to adapt the words of the Greek or any other language, abundantly serving every useful purpose, all which centered in the giving CLEAR IN
We conclude, therefore, that what was thus inspired was the Terms, and that grammatic congruity in the use of them, which is dependent thereon. In a word, to suppose such kind of inspired knowledge of strange tongues as includes all the native peculiarities, which, if you will, you may call their elegancies ; (for the more a language is coloured by the character and manners of the native users, the more elegant it is esteemed) to suppose this, is, as I have faid, an ignorant fancy, and repugnant to reason and experience.
“ Now, from what hath been observed, it follows, that if the style of the New Testament were indeed derived from a language divinely infused on the day of Pentecoft, it must be just such, as to its style, which, in fact, we find it to be; that is to say, Greek words very frequently delivered in Syriac and Hebrew idiom.” *
But Doctor Middleton is so perfectly satisfied that this bar barity of style which claims the title of inspired, is a sure mack of impofture, that he almost ventures to foretel, it will prove the destruction of those pretensions, as it did to the Delphic cracles. Our Author points out the effential differences between the pretensions of these oracles to infpiration, and the pretensions of the Christian Evangelists, all of which, he
Hence fome may infer, that if his Lordship's concessions in this case are to be admitted, we need not much wonder that the preaching of the Apostles, was to the Jeu's a fi umbling block and to the Greeks! joolishness. But we underitand the partage in a different sense.
Pays, the Doctor thought proper to overlook ; and he obferves that any one of them is sufficient to Thew, that, tho the objection may hold good against these heathen oracles, yet it has not the least force against fcripture inspiration. He goes on to examine, as he proposed, the Doctor's second proposition, viz. " that eloquence is something congenial and effential to human speech ; and inherent in the constitution of things."
“. This supposes, that there is some certain ARCHETYPE in nature, to which that quality refers, and on which it is to be formed and modeled. And, indeed, admitting this to be the case, one should be apt enough to conclude, that when the Author of nature condescended to inspire one of these plastic performances of human art, he would make it by the exactelt pattern of the Archetype." But the proposition, his Lordship says, is false and groundless. Eloquence is not congenial or effential to human speech, nor is there any Archetype in nature to which thật quality refers. It is accidental and arbitrary, and depends on custom and fashion : it is a mode of human communication which varies with the varying climates of the Earth ; and is as inconftant as the genius, temper and manners of its much diversified inhabitants.
“ For what is Purity, says he, but the use of such terms, with their multiplied combinations, as the interest, the temper, or the caprice of a Writer or Speaker of authority hath preferred to its equals? What is Elegance but such a turn of idiom as a fashionable fancy hath brought into repute? And what is Sublimity but the application of such images, as arbitrary or casual connexions, rather than their own native grandeur, have dignified and enobled ? Now Eloquence is a com. pound of these three qualities of speech, and consequently must be as nominal and unsubstantial as its constituent parts, So that that mode of composition, which is a model of perpect eloquence to one nation or people, must appear extravagant or mean to another. And thus in fact it was. Indian and Asiatic eloquence were esteemed hyperbolic, unnatural, abrupt. 2nd purerile to the more phlegmatic inhabitants of Rome and Athens. And the western Eloquence in its tarn, appeared nerveless and effeminate, frigid or insipid, to the hardy and infamed imaginations of the East. Nay, what is more, each fpecies, even of approved eloquence, changed its nature with the change of clime and language ; and the same expression, which, in one place, had the utmost fimplicity had, in ano. ther, the utmost sublime.
Apply all this to the books of the New Testament, an authoriled' collection professedly designed for the rule and direction of all mankind. Now such a rule required that it hould be inspired of God. But inspired writing, the Objectors faj, implies the most perfect eloquence. What human model then was the Holy Ghost to follow? And a human model, of arbitrary construction, it must needs be, because there was no other: or if there were another, it would never fuit the purpose, which was to make an impression on'the minds and affections; and this impression, such an eloquence only as that which had gained the popular ear, could effect. Should therefore the eastern eloquence be employed! But this would be too inflated and gigantic for the Wejt. Should it be the Western ? But this would be too cold and torpid for the East. Or suppose the generic eloquence of the more poJithed nations was to be preferred, which species of it was to be employed? The rich exuberance of the Asiatic Greeks, or the dry conciseness of the Spartans? The pure and poignant ease and flowing sweetness of the Attic modulation, or the strength and grare severity of the Roman tone? Or should all give way to that African torrent, which arose from the fermented mixture of the dreggs of Greece and Italy, and foon after overflowed the Church with theological conceits in a sparkling luxuriancy of thought, and a fombrous rankness of expression. Thus various were the species! all as much decried by a different Genus, and each as much difliked by a different species, as the eloquence of the remoteft East and West, by one another.
" But it will be said, Are there not some more general principles of eloquence, common to all ?-Without doubt, there are.-Why then should not these have been employed, to do credit to the apostolic inspiration?. For good reasons ; respecting both the Speakers and the Hearers. For what is eloquence but a persuasive turn given to the elocution, to supply that inward, that conscious persuasion of the Speaker, fo necessary to gain a fair hearing But the first Preachers of the Gospel did not need a succedaneum to that inward conscious persuafion! And what is the end of eloquence, even of these general principles, but to stifle reason, and inflame the passions? But the propagation of Christian truths indif: pensably requires the aid of reason, and requires no other human aid. And reason can never be fairly and vigorously exerted, but in that favourable interval which precedes she ap-. peal to the paflions. These were the caufes which forced the
Masters of eloquence to confefs, that the utmost perfection of their art consists in keeping it concealed; for that the oftentation of it' feemed to indicate the absence of truth, Ubicunque drs oftendatur, says the snost candid and able of them all, veritas abeffe videatur * Hence fo many various precepts to make their most artificial periods appear artless. Now furely that was a very fufpicious instrument for Heaven-directed men,' which, to preferve its credit, must pretend absence, and labour to keep out of fight.
" What, therefore, do our ideas of fit and right tell us is required in the style of an universal law ? Certainly no more than this-To employ those aids which are common to all language as such ; and to reject what is peculiar to each, as they are cafually circumstanced. And what are thefe aids, but CLEARNESS and PRECISION? By these the mind and sentiments of the Composer are intelligibly conveyed to the Reader. These qualities are essential to language, as it is diftinguished from jargon : they are eternally the same, and independent on custom or fashion. To give a language clearnefs was the office of Philosophy ; to give it precision was the office of Grammas. Definition performs the first service, by a resolution of the ideas which make up the terrns ; Syntaxis performs the second by a combination of the feveral parts of speech into a systematic congruity: these are the very things in language which are least positive, as being conducted on the principles of Logic. Whereas, all besides, from the
very power of the elements, and fignification of the terms, to the tropes and figures of compofition, are arbitrary; and what is more, as these are a deviation from thofe principles of Logic, they are frequently vieious. This, the great Master quoted above, freely confefieth, where speaking of that ornamented speech which he calls ocupe ocloc-notsws, he makes the following confeffion and apology 4 esset enim omne Schema VITIUM, « fi non peteretur, fed accideret. Verum auctoritate, vetuf “ tate, confuetudine, plerumque defenditur, fæpe etiam ra“ TIONE QUADAM. Ideoque cum fit a fimplici rectoque lo« quendi genere deflexa, virtus eft, fi habet PROBABILE ALI
QUID quod fequaturt:
« Now these qualities of clearness and precision, fo necessary to the communication of our ideas, eminently distinguish the Writers of the New Testament; insomuch that it might be easily dewing that whatever: difficulties occur in the sacred Quint. I ix. c. 3. ť Ibid.