Sidor som bilder

touching than the most lucid order. He is often abrupt, and sometimes obscure: his reasoning, though generally clear, is, as the best critics allow, sometimes involved, perhaps owing to the suddenness of his transitions, the rapidity of his ideas, the sensibility of his soul.

But complicated as his meaning may occasionally appear, all his complications are capable of being analysed into principles; so that from his most intricate trains of reasoning, the most unlearned reader may select an unconnected maxim of wisdom, a position of piety, an aphorism of virtue, easy from its brevity, intelligible from its clearness, and valuable from its weight,

An apparent, though not unpleasing, disconnection in his sentences is sometimes found to arise from the absence of the conjunctive parts of speech. He is so affluent in ideas, the images which crowd in upon him are so thick-set, that he could not stop their course while he might tie them together. This absence of the connecting links, which in a meaner writer might have induced a want of perspicuity, adds energy and force to the expression of so spirited and clear-sighted a writer as our apostle. In the sixth chapter of the second of Corinthians, there are six consecutive verses without one conjunction. Such a particle would have enfeebled the spirit, without clearing the sense. The variety which these verses, all making up but one period, exhibit, the mass of thought, the diversity of object, the impetuosity of march, make it impossible to read them without catching something of the fervour with which

they are written. They seem to set the pulse in motion with a corresponding quickness; and without amplification seem to expand the mind of the reader into all the immensity of space and time.

Nothing is diffused into weakness. If his conciseness may be thought, in a very few instances, to take something from his clearness, it is more than made up in force. Condensed as his thoughts are, the inexhausti ble instructions that may be deduced from them, prove of what expansion they are susceptible. His compression has an energy, his imagery a spirit, his diction an impetuosity, which art would in vain labour to mend. His straight-forward sense makes his way to the heart more surely than theirs, who go out of their road for ornament. He never interrupts the race to pick up the golden bait.

Our apostle, when he has not leisure for reflection himself, almost by imperceptible methods invites his reader to reflect. When he appears only to skim a subject, he will suggest ample food for long-dwelling meditation. Every sentence is pregnant with thought, is abundant in instruction. Witness the many thousands of sermons which have sprung from these comparatively few, but most prolific seeds. Thus, if he does not visi bly pursue the march of eloquence by the critic's path, he never fails to attain its noblest ends. He is full without diffuseness, copious without redundance. His eloquence is not a smooth and flowing oil, which lubricates the surface, but a sharp instrument which makes a deep incision. It penetrates to the dissection of the inmost soul, to the dividing asunder of the soul and spirit,

and is a discerner of the thoughts and intentions of the heart."

The numerous and long digressions often found, and sometimes complained of, in this great writer, never make him lose sight of the point from which he sets out, and the mark to which he is tending. From his most discursive flights he never fails to bring home some added strength to the truth with which he begins; and when he is longest on the wing, or loftiest in his ascent, he comes back to his subject enriched with additional matter, and animated with redoubled vigour. This is particularly exemplified in the third chapter of the Ephesians, of which the whole is one entire parenthesis, eminently abounding in effusions of humility, holiness, and love, and in the rich display of the Redeemer's grace.

In the prosecution of any discourse, though there may appear little method, he has frequently, besides the topic immediately in hand, some point to bring forward, not directly, but in an incidental, yet most impressive manner. At the moment when he seems to wander from the direct line of his pursuit, the object which he still has had in his own view, unexpectedly starts up before that of his hearer. In the recapitulation of the events of his life before Festus and Agrippa, when nothing of doctrine appears to be on his mind; he suddenly breaks out, "Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead?" He then resumes his narrative as rapidly as he had flown off from it; but returns to his doctrine at the close, with the additional circumstance, that "Christ was the first that should rise from the dead ;”—as if,

having before put the question in the abstract, he had been since paving the way for the establishment of the fact.

Saint Paul is happy in a mode of brief allusion, and in the art of awakening recollection by hints. It is observable often, how little time he wastes in narrative, and how much matter he presses into a few words; "Ye, brethren, have suffered the like things of your own countrymen, even as they have of the Jews, who both killed the Lord Jesus and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they please not God, and are contrary to all men,-forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved; to fill up their sins always-for the wrath is come upon them to the utmost." What a quantity of history does this sketch present! What a picture of their character, their crimes, and their punishment!

Nor does his brevity often trench on his explicitness. In the fifth chapter of the first Thessalonians, from the fourteenth to the twentieth verse, there are no fewer than seventeen fundamental, moral, and religious monitions, comprising almost all the duties of a Christian life in the space of a few lines. The selection of his words is as apt, as his enumeration of duties is just. He beseeches his converts "to know them that are over them, and very highly to esteem them in love for their works' sake;" while to the performance of every personal, social, and religious duty, he exhorts them.

The correctness of his judgment appears still more visibly in the aptness and propriety of all his allusions, metaphors, and figures. In his epistle to the Hebrews,


he illustrates and enforces the new doctrine by reason ings drawn from a reference to the rites, ceremonies, and economy of the now obsolete dispensation; sending them back to the records of their early Scriptures. Again, he does not talk of the Isthmian games to the Romans, nor to the Greeks of Adoption. The latter term he judiciously uses to the Romans, to whom it was familiar, and explains, by the use of it, the doctrines of the grace of God in their redemption, their adoption as his children, and their "inheritance with the saints in light;" on the other hand, the illustration borrowed from the rigorous abstinence which was practised by the competitors in the Grecian games; to fit them for athletic exercises, would convey to the most illiterate inhabitant of Achaia, a lively idea of the subjugation of appetite required in the Christian combatant. The close of this last mentioned analogy by the apostle, opens a large field for instruction, by a brief but beautiful comparison, between the value and duration of the fading garland worn by the victorious Greek, with the incorruptible crown of the Christian conqueror.

But whether it be a metaphor, or illustration, or allusion, he seldoms fails to draw it from some practical inference for his own humiliation. In the present case he winds up the subject with a salutary fear, in which all who are engaged in the religious instruction of others are deeply interested. So far is he from self-confidence or self-satisfaction, because he lives in the constant habit of improving others, that he adduces the very practice of this duty as a ground of caution to himself. He appropriates to himself a general possibility, "lest that

« FöregåendeFortsätt »