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charms of the other. The happiness which it proposes in an union with God, and a participation of the image of Christ, is so far from being congenial to the inclinations of worldly men, that it can scarcely be mentioned without exciting their ridicule and scorn. General speculations on the Deity have much to amuse the mind, and to gratify that appetite for the wonderful, which thoughtful and speculative men are delighted to indulge. Religion, viewed in this light, appears more in the form of an exercise to the understanding, than a law to the heart. Here the soul expatiates at large, without feeling itself controlled or alarmed. But when evangelical truths are presented, they bring God so near, if we may be allowed the expression, and speak with so commanding a voice to the conscience, that they leave no alternative, but that of submissive acquiescence or proud revolt. As men of taste are, for the most part, men of the world, not at all distinguished from others by a greater familiarity with religious ideas, these observations are applicable to them in their utmost extent.
Though we thought it right to suggest these hints, we wish not to be understood to convey any censure on Mr. F. for confining his attention principally to others. In discussing more fully and profoundly some of the subordinate causes, which have come in aid of the primary one, to render men of cultivated taste averse to evangelical piety, we think he has rendered an important service to the public.
The first cause he assigns is, that of its being the religion of many weak and uncultivated minds; in consequence of which, it becomes inseparably associated, in the conceptions of many, with the intellectual poverty of its disciples, so as to wear a mean and degraded aspect. We regret that we cannot follow the author in his illustration of this topic. We must be content with observing, that he has exposed the weakness of this prejudice in a most masterly and triumphant manner.
The second cause which the author assigns, as having had, in his opinion, a considerable influence in prejudicing elegant and cultivated minds against evangelical piety, is the peculiarity of language, adopted in the discourses and books of its teachers, the want of a more classical form of diction, and the profusion of words and phrases which are of a technical and systematical cast.
We are inclined to think, with Mr. F. that the cause of religion has suffered considerably from the circumstance here mentioned. The superabundance of phrases, appropriated by some pious authors to the subject of religion, and never applied to any other purpose, has not only the effect of disgusting persons of taste, but of obscuring religion itself. As they are seldom defined, and never exchanged for equivalent words, they pass current without
being understood. They are not the vehicle, they are the substitute of thought. Among a certain description of Christians, they become, by degrees, to be regarded with a mystic awe; insomuch, that if a writer expressed the very same ideas in different phrases, he would be condemned as a heretic. To quit the magical circle of words in which many Christians suffer themselves to be confined, excites as great a clamor as the boldest innovation in sentiment. Controversies which have been agitated with much warmth, might often have been amicably adjusted, or even finally decided, could the respective partisans have been prevailed on to lay aside their predilection for phrases, and honestly resolve to examine their real import. In defiance of the dictates of candor and good sense, these have been obstinately retained; and have usually been the refuge of ignorance, the apple of discord, and the watch-words of religious hostility. In some instances, the evil which we lament, has sprung from a more amiable cause. The force and solemnity of devotional feelings are such, that they seem to consecrate every thing with which they have been connected; and as the bulk of pious people have received their religious-impressions from teachers more distinguished for their simplicity and zeal, than for comprehension of mind and copiousness of language, they learn to annex an idea of sanctity to that set of phrases with which they have been most familiar. These become the current language of religion, to which subsequent writers conform, partly perhaps from indolence, and partly from the fear of offending their brethren.
To these causes, we may add, the contentious and sectarian spirit of modern times, which has taught the different parties of Christians to look on one another with an unnatural horror, to apprehend contamination from the very phrases employed by each other, and to invent each for itself a dialect as narrow and exclusive as their whimsical singularities. But, while we concur, in the main, with Mr. F. on this subject, we are disposed to think that he has carried his representations too far, both with respect to the magnitude of the abuse itself, and the probable advantages which would ensue on its removal. The repugnance of the human mind, in its unenlightened state, to the peculiarities of the Christian doctrine, is such, that we have little hope of its yielding to the voice of the charmer, charm he never so wisely. Till it is touched and humbled by grace, we are apprehensive that it will retain its aversion, and not suffer itself to be cheated into an approbation of the gospel by any artifice of words. Exhibit evangelical religion in what colors you will, the worldly-minded and the careless will shrink from the obtrusion of unwelcome ideas. Cowper has become, in spite of his religion, a popular poet, but his success has
not been such as to make religion popular; nor have the gigantic genius and fame of Milton shielded from the ridicule and contempt of his admirers, that system of religion which he beheld with awful adoration.
In treating subjects properly theological, we apprehend, great caution should be used, not to deviate wantonly and unnecessarily from the phraseology of Scripture. The apostle tells us, that in preaching the gospel, he did not use the enticing words of man's wisdom, but such words as the Holy Ghost taught him. We do not, indeed, contend, that in the choice of every particular word or phrase, he was immediately inspired; but we think it reasonable to believe, that the unction which was on his heart, and the perfect illumination that he possessed, led him to employ such terms in the statement of the mysteries of Christianity, as were better adapted than any other, to convey their real import; which we are the more inclined to conclude, from observing the sameness of phraseology which pervades the writings of the Apostles, when they are treating on the same subject. As the truths which the revelation of the New Testament unfolds, are perfectly original, and transcendantly important, it might naturally be expected, that the communication of them would give birth to an original cast of phraseology, or, in other words, a steady adherence to certain terms, in order to render the ideas which they conveyed, fixed, precise, and unchangeable.
In teaching the principles of every science, it is found necessary to select or invent terms, which, though originally of a laxer signification, are afterwards restricted and confined to one peculiar modification of thought, and constitute the technical language of that science. Such terms are always capable of being defined; (for mere words convey nothing to the mind ;) but to substitute a definition in their place, would be tedious circumlocution; and to exchange the term itself for a different one, would frequently lead to dangerous mistakes.
In the original elementary parts of a language, there are, in truth, few or no synonymes; for what should prompt men, in the early period of literature, to invent a word, that neither conveyed any new idea, nor enabled them to present an old one with more force and precision. In the progress of refinement, indeed, regard to copiousness and harmony, has enriched language with many exotics, which are merely those words in a foreign language, that perfectly correspond to terms in our own; as felicity for happiness, celestial for heavenly, and a multitude of others. Since, then, the nature of language is such, that no two terms are exactly of the same force and import, (except in the case last mentioned,) we cannot but apprehend that dangerous consequenc
es would result from a studied attempt to vary from the standard phraseology, where the statement of doctrines is concerned; and that, by changing the terms, the ideas themselves might be changed or mutilated. In teaching a religion designed for the use and benefit of all mankind, it is certainly desirable that the technical words, the words employed in a peculiar and appropriate sense, should be few; but to fix and perpetuate the ideas, and to preserve the faith once delivered to the saints from the caprices of fancy, and the dangers of innovation, it seems necessary that there should be some. We are inclined to think that, in inculcating Christian morality, and in appeals and addresses to the heart, a much greater latitude may be safely indulged, than in the statement of peculiar doctrines; and that a more bold and varied diction, with a wider range of illustration and allusion than is usually employed, would often be attended with the happiest effect. Mr. Foster has given in many parts of these volumes, beautiful specimens of what we intend.
With respect to the copious use of Scripture language, which Mr. F. condemns, (in our opinion with too much severity,) as giving an uncouth and barbarous air to theological books, we prefer a middle course; without applauding the excess to which it is carried by many pious writers on the one hand; or wishing it to be kept so entirely apart as Mr. F. contends, on the other. To say nothing of the inimitable beauties of the Bible, considered in a literary view, which are universally acknowledged; it is the book which every devout man is accustomed to consult as the oracle of God; it is the companion of his best moments, and the vehicle of his strongest consolations. Intimately associated in his mind with every thing dear and valuable, its diction more powerfully excites devotional feelings than any other: and when temperately and soberly used, imparts an unction to a religious discourse, which nothing else can supply. Besides, is there not room to apprehend, that a studied avoidance of the Scripture phraseology, and a care to express all that it is supposed to contain in the forms of classical diction, might ultimately lead to a neglect of the Scriptures themselves, and a habit of substituting flashy and superficial declamation, in the room of the saving truths of the gospel? Such an apprehension is but too much verified by the most celebrated sermons of the French; and still more by some modern compositions in our own language, which usurp that title. For devotional impression, we conceive that a very considerable tincture of the language of Scripture, or at least such a coloring as shall discover an intimate acquaintance with those inimitable models, will generally succeed best.
It is impossible to establish an universal rule, since different
methods are equally adapted to different purposes; and therefore we are willing to allow with Mr. F. that where the fashionable and the gay are addressed, and the prejudices arising from a false refinement are to be conciliated, whatever in the diction might repel by an appearance of singularity, should be carefully shunned. Accordingly, we equally admire, in the Rise and Progress of Religion, by Dr. Doddridge, and in the Rural Philosophy of Mr. Bates, the dexterity with which these excellent writers have suited their composition to their respective classes of readers. On the whole, let it once for all be remembered, that men of taste form a very small part of the community, of no greater consequence in the eyes of their Creator than others; that the end of all religious discourse is the salvation of souls; and that to a mind which justly estimates the weight of eternal things, it will appear a greater honor to have converted a sinner from the error of his way, than to have wielded the thunder of a Demosthenes, or to have kindled the flame of a Cicero.
We hasten to close this article, by making a few observations on the last cause which our author has assigned, for the general distaste that persons of polite and elegant attainments usually discover toward evangelical religion. This is, the neglect and contempt with which it has been almost constantly treated by our fine writers, of whose delinquency, in this respect, the author takes a wide and extensive survey, exposing their criminality with a force of eloquence that has perhaps never before been exerted on this subject. Though his attention is chiefly directed to the influence of modern literature, yet as the writings of the ancients, and especially of the poets, have had a powerful operation in forming the taste and sentiments of succeeding generations, he has extended his notice to these, and has made some most striking animadversions on the ancient authors of the epopee, and particularly on Homer.
We must do justice to his intrepidity in venturing to attack the idol of all classical scholars; nor can he have failed to foresee the manner in which it will be attempted to be repelled. They will remind him, that the lawfulness of defensive war has seldom been called in question; that the one in which Homer's heroes were engaged, was not only just but meritorious, being undertaken to avenge a most signal affront and injury; that no subject could be more suited to the epic muse, either on account of its magnitude, or the deep interest it excited; that having chosen it, the poet is to be commended for throwing into it all the fire of which it was susceptible; that to cherish in the breasts of youth a gallant and warlike spirit, is the surest defence of nations; and that this spirit, under proper regulations, constitutes that vuosions which Plato