Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

In his intercourse with men of ious exclamations in common dis. this description the man of taste course, though they were even bene.

dictions to the Almighty, which he has probably found some zealous

has often heard so ill-timed, as to Christians, who were slightly ac- have an irreverent and almost a ludi. quainted with the evidences of crous effect.” their faith, and were ready to discourage every attempt to lay

That the man of taste should bare its foundations. He may

allow these considerations to inhave heard the discourse of oth- fluence his conduct, in a case of ers, whose religion involved no such importance, is wholly intellectual exercise, and strictly reprehensible, and a solemn lecspeaking, no subject of intellect. ture is read to him by our auSeparately from their feelings it thor at the close of the second has no definition, no topics, no

letter. Perhaps the littleness, distinct succession of views. He with which their religion is inhas found others, who made the vested by unlettered Christians, whole of religion lie in two or

cannot fail to excite, at the time, three points of opinion, which pain and disgust. But he ought they were always ready zealous- always to recollect, that it is Jy to defend even before they wholly adventitious. If he does, were questioned.

it will need no great exercise of The great majority of Chris- modesty to persuade him to be tians are precluded by their con

cautious, how he thinks that to dition in life from any acquisi

be little, which Milton and Pastion of general knowledge. Ma

cal felt to be great. ny of these are, of course, sub

The unfortunate metaphors jects of extreme intellectual pov

and similes with which he has erty. He may often have seen

heard evangelical sentiments exthem live on for a number of plained and enforced by ignorant years, content with the same con

Christians, and not unfrequently fined views, the same meagre list

by the ministers of religion, of topics, and the same uncouth

have disgusted him with the senlanguage ; and have observed as

timents themselves. The recomplacenta sense of suffi- currence of the one is always acciency in their little sphere, as

companied by a recollection of if it comprised everything which

the other. it is possible for any mind to see in the Christian religion. The

Among these," says Mr. F. “I

shall notice only that common one in attachment of some Christians

which the benefits and pleasures of to modes of worship may have religion are represented under the excited his surprise, and their image of food. I do not recollect religious habits, his disgust.

that in the New Testament, at least,

this metaphor is ever drawn to a “Everything," says Mr. F.“which great length. But from the facility could, even distantly, remind him of of the process it is not strange, that grimace, would inevitably do this ; it has been amplified both in books as for instance, a solemn lifting up of and discourses into the most extend. the eyes; artificial impulses of the ed description ; and the dining-room breath: grotesque and regulated ges- has been exhausted of images, and tures, and postures, in religious ex- the language ransacked for substan. ercises ; an affected faltering of the tives and adjectives, to stimulate the voice; and I might add abrupt relig. spiritual palate. The metaphor is

a

combined with so many terms in our inconceivable perversion of taste language, that it will sometimes una

and of labour has he framed for voidably occur, and when employed in the simplest and shortest form, it the sentiments of his religion, a may, by transiently suggesting the vehicle so uncongenial with the analogy, assist the thought without eloquence of his country, and so lessening the subject. But it is de adapted to dissociate them from grading to spiritual ideas to be ex

all connexion with that elotensively and systematically transmuted, I might even say cooked, into quence.” sensual ones. It will take some time Mr. F. distinguishes this dicfor a man to recover any great de- tion into three parts. gree of solemnity in thinking on the

The first is a peculiar mode of delights or the supports of religion, after he has seen them reduced into using various common words, all the forms of eating and drinking. partly by expressing ideas in When the mind has been taught to such single words, as do not descend to a low manner of consider, properly belong to them ; as ing divine truth, it will easily descend

walk and conversation, instead to the lowest. There is no such vio. lent tendency to abstraction and sub- of conduct, actions, and deportlimity in the minds of the generality ment ; flesh, instead, sometimes, of readers and hearers, as to render of body, sometimes of natural init necessary to take any great pains clination ; and partly by using for the purpose of retaining their such combinations of words as ideas in some small degree of alli. ance with matter."

make uncouth phrases ; as

sense of divine things, instead of Another cause of this aver- an impression of religious subjects. sion to evangelical religion is The second is the use of a class. the peculiarity of language in of words peculiar in themselves; the discourses and books of but which, at the same time, are its teachers ; a peculiarity offen- not different in their meaning sive to that classical standard of from others in general use. phraseology, which our best The words godliness, tribulation, writers have so distinctly settled, lusts, carnal; might certainly and which every man of taste ale give place to piety, affliction or ways realizes, if he is not able to distress, passions, sensual. The define it. This peculiarity is word blessedness might often, but chiefly owing to the use of a bar- not always, give place to happibarous diction, wholly foreign ness. Edification think from the standard itself; should hardly be made to give much so, that were an enlight- way to instruction or improveened foreigner, after having be- ment. In the scriptural sense come familiar with the writings of the word they would be sorry of Dryden and Addison, to hear a substitutes. discourse formed in this manner, The third distinction of the he would instinctively exclaim, theological dialect is the use of “ In what remote corner, placed words, which are properly techbeyond the authority of criticism nical, such as sanctification, and the circulation of literature, grace, covenant, salvation. Alwhere a most dignified language though the reasons urged by stagnates into barbarism, did this Mr. F. for the disuse of these man study his religion and ac- and similar words have weight, quire his phrases ? or by what still we are unwilling to give

we

SO

them up; and for this obvious they are obliged to leave the levreason, that the ideas we forme el of men of taste, and conform should have names. To commu- their language and their thoughts nicate ideas by description

by description to humbler views and more vul. should be the work only of chil- gar capacities. This answer is dren, and we conceive that it will founded on a mistake. When be difficult to find a word synony- we urge theologians to write mous to either of the words good classical English, we do above recited, if scripturally un- not, as they seem to think, ask derstood. In this case, especial. for any peculiar elevation of lanly, where the words in question guage; we are not petitioning are the only proper names of for what has strangely been callthe richest blessings in the gifted the sublime style, a style of God, the arguments must be which derives its sublimity from strong, indeed, which shall in- its being seen, like an object from duce us to resign them.

the top of a precipice, at a great The reasons urged for the depth below us, and which is disuse of all these theological most happily ridiculed in the barbarisms are too powerful to following letter. We ask for be overlooked. They are these ; no Roman conformities, no lat. the more easy conduct of religious inized barbarisms, no stateliness conversation in mixed compa

on stilts. These intruders, so nies; the more satisfactory vindi- uncongenial io Saxon frankness cation of evangelical religion from and Saxon vigour, not all the authe charge of fanaticism ; the ex- thority of Johnson was ever able posure of niere hypocrisy, by to naturalize. stripping it of that religious cant In answer to this considera. wbich it puts on and wears, as

tion, we observe, that the kind the proper livery of a Christian, of writing, which taste and in the drapery of which the body criticism patronize, is the writing and limbs of corruption can

which is most intelligible 10 all effectually be hid ; the necessity classes of people. All men unwhich many sincere Christians derstand the Spectator and the would immediately feel of more Tatler. Dryden's Prose, perprecision in their principles ; haps the most beautiful of which and the prevention of that un. our language can boast, is, if happy impression made on the possible, the plainest ; and the minds of men of cultivated taste, Pilgrim's Progress, or even the by a recurrence of barbarisms, as clumsiest work that can be seunnecessary as they are grating. lected, is not more intelligible

On the last of these reasons to a little child, than that model we remark, that beside the apol- of taste and elegance, the Shefogy mentioned in the ensuing herd of Salisbury Plain. letter, theological writers are of- But we have another reply. ten ready to urge two singular The scriptures were, if any considerations in defence of the book ever was, written for all peculiarity of their dialect. The classes of people. Herdsmen first is, that their writings are in- and shepherds, fishermen and tended for the benefit of all; and, tent makers, were among the as the ignorant are the majority, persons employed to compose

[ocr errors]

them; men who possessed no arus ;-but we need not particu. greater advantages than other larize ; he who dictated the herdsmen and other tent ma- scriptures of truth, seems to kers. If then this defence be bave known full well, the value just, we ought to look into their of taste, and to have been willing writings, at least, for examples to win those, who cultivate it by of coarse and vulgar language, examples of beauty and tenderfor low comparisons, for mixed ness, of rhetorical and moral and clumsy metaphors. For sublimity, superior to all the certainly it will not be said that world has ever witnessed. And he, who dictated them emphat he seems thus to have furnished ically for the poor and the needy, a model for his friends to copy. did not know the best language A third ground of defence for for his purpose. Search the Bi- the peculiarity of their diction, ble throughout, however, and taken by these writers, is, that it you find no example of any con- has grown out of the language descension in the style of its lan- of the Bible.

Mr. F's reply to guage to the intellect of igno- this allegation is full and satisrance. And yet it is called, by factory, but too long to be transthe highest authority,“ a way in cribed, and too complete to be which way-faring men, though abridged. He is of opinion that fools, need not err."

passages of the scriptures, cited The second consideration, as such, are attended with an auwhich these writers allege is, thority and a venerableness wholthat the importance of their er- ly peculiar ; but is not willing rand ought of itself to command to allow the same importance to attention, and that they wer:

combinations of words made in not sent, nor are bound, to gra an intentional resemblance of the ify the fastidiousness and delica- characteristic language of that cy of men of taste. We readily book. acknowledge with Mr. F. the high importance of the subject

“ Scriptural phrases," he remarks,

“can no longer make a solemn im. which they handle ; but neither pression, when modified and vulgar. these writers nor ourselves feel ized into the texture of a language, it more forcibly than an ancient which taken all together is the redivine of some celebrity who

verse of every thing that can attract

or command. declared, “ I was made all things deed remind one of prophets and

Such idioms may inunto all men, that I might by all apostles, but it is a recollection, means save some ;"

« If meat

which prompts to say, who are these make my brother to offend, I

men that, instead of seriously introwill eat no meat while the world ducing at intervals the direct words

of those revered dictators of truth, stands;" nor than he who declar

seem to be mocking the sacred lan. ed, “ It is impossible but that guage by a barbarous imitative dicoffences will come, but wo un- tion of their own! They may affect to him by whom they come !" the forms of a divine solemnity, but He who preached the Sermon

there is no fire from heaven. They on the Mount; he who told the bush, but it is without an angel. Let

may shew something like a burning story of the Prodigal and of Laz- the oracles of inspiration be cited con

[blocks in formation]

tinually, both as authority and illus- quently to retrace our steps. tration, in a manner that shall make

We think obscurity is the promthe mind instantly refer each expression that is introduced, to the vene

inent defect. rable book from which it is taken ; It is an opinion often express, but let our part of religious language ed, that those things are the best be simply ours, and let those oracles said, which we, when we read or retain their characteristic form of expression unimitated to the end of hear them, think we should have time."

said in the same manner. Were

Mr. F. to be judged by this law, We never more sincerely re

the verdict must go against him. gretted the narrowness of our Few men, we conceive, can read limits,' than throughout the his Essays, without feeling their whole of this fourth letter. It own incompetency to say such contains a general survey of the things, or to say them so well. evangelical writers of England. The truth is, the rule, if it ever We have no where met with a be true, can never hold good more finished specimen of sound when applied to subjects about criticisin, and bold, masterly elo- which we are not accustomed to quence.

think. When a man's thoughts The remainder of the Essay possess the originality, so strong. is devoted to the following sub- ly discernible in our author, they ject : The effect which a fond- cannot fail to give the same cast ness for the polite literature of to his expressions. And perGreece, Rome, and modern Eu- haps we cannot pay a truer or a rope, has had on the diffusion of more deserved compliment to evangelical religion. The same the language, than when we revigour of thought, the same mark, that it is just such lanbrilliancy of imagination, the guage, as the thoughts spontanesame proofs of piety, pervade the ously select. The conceptions whole of it. From some of the are animated and forcible ; the opinions, however, we should images are brilliant and glowing; dare to differ ; but we cannot the addresses are eloquent and go into an examination of the va- often sublime ; and they rarely rious particulars.

if ever lose any part of their dig. With regard to the style in nity or grace by the kind of dress which these Essays are written, in which they are presented. our readers will be able to judge On the whole, we congratulate from the passages we have trans- our readers and the community cribed. For ourselves we frank- on the appearance of a work ly confess, that we had little highly evangelical, and strictly time or inclination to think of it classical ; and while we fear that during the perusal. Still in in- we shall not quickly see its like stances not very rare we were again, we recommend it without obliged to proceed with delibera. hesitation to men of sense, men tion and caution, and not unfre- of taste, and men of piety.

« AnteriorContinua »