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1er has been selected (historical, moral and miscellaneous) as has been thought most likely to please and engage as well as improve the young mind. The whole has been thrown into paragraphs of a convenient length for reading-lessons; and interspersed with many remarks.
As the book is designed for the use of Christians of all denominations indifferently, no remark has been made on any points which are disputed between Christians; and the remarks in general have a threefold object: 1stly, to inculcate the several divine virtues, and religion in general, frem scripture history and example--2dly, to bring into view, in the most compendious manner, some of the evidences of the truth of Christianity; and 3dly, to illustrate the unequalled beauties of the sacred writings.
Among the advantages proposed by this selection are the follow. ing: The knowledge of the doctrines and moral duties of our holy religion will be hereby instilled into young minds, without any corrupting mixture. They will learn the nature of the Christian religion, not from second hand descriptions, or as it is drawn by a hunan pencil, but from a real view of the thing itself. And they will in this way be led to read the bible with a relish, as a pleasant employment; which relish may be likely to grow with their growth and strengthen with their strength :" whereas it has been objected, that when youth are made to read those parts which they do not understand, they consider it as an irksome task, that sometimes occasions a disgust against the whole book.
It is further hoped, that some who are not incompetent judges may think this to be an advantageous method of defending cur holy religion, and guarding inexperienced minds against the attacks of infidelity. If one should deny that this world were made by a -wise and good Eeing, because of the defects which appear upon it, and the confusion that seems to reign in it, there might be an impossibility of answering all his quibbling arguments. The shortest and surest way would be to point out a number of the most strik-" ing beauties; the marks of wisdom and design, and the displays of goodness which appear on the face of the earth; cbserving withal, that seeming deformities may be beauties in disguise."
Or, if a man who had been long shut up in a dark room should deny that the sun is the fountain of light, and pretend that it had no better title to that distinction than his own glimmering lamp; you would not undertake to confute all his quibbles, but rather bring him out to the open day, and show him the sun in its meridian glory, and let him then compare his lamp with it. In like manner the most striking beauties of the bible, drawn together and presented in a single point of view, may go further to convince some people of the divine excellency of that book, than a whole volume of accurate and learned reasoning in its favour.
Perhaps too much attention has been occupied in answering the minute and trivial objections of infidel writers: at least in a great measure, it seems to have been a fruitless task; because without taking any notice at all of the answers, they have, from time to time, renewed their objections with as much confidence as if no answers had been given. This conduct has equally manifested their cunning and their dishonesty; for they well knew that many would read their objections, who would never have opportunity or inclination to read the ingenuous and solid answers which had already been made to those objections.
It is an old maxim, that the bible is the best expounder of itself; and perhaps it is equally true, that the bible is the best vindicator of itself. We do not light a candle to see the sun: it shows itself to us by its own light. And when the great doctrines and truths of the bible, unmixed and without any foreign ornament, are drawn together and presented in a clear view, they carry powerful evidence of their own divinity: they have a spirit and energy which are peculiar to themselves. The collecting together the most plain and important doctrines and preces in religion which are scattered through the bible, may be compared to collecting the rays of the sun into a focus, whereby they are made to act with the greater force.
With respect to the Dissertation on the style of our English bible, the concise proofs of Christianity, and the various remarks which are scattered through this work, it becomes me to say but little; otherwise I might incur the imputation either of vanity on the one hand, or of an affected humility on the other. I will there re only observe, that it is hoped, that these well meant essays will be conducive to the improvement of youth in knowledge and virtue; and that some people of more mature age and enlarged understandings, may reet with valuable thoughts in them, which had heretofore escaped their notice.
Finally, a hope is indulged, that real Christians, of whatever denomination, will think this book a valuable present to bestow on a child, or any dear friend; and that they will feel the propriety of intreducing it into schools, E. S.
ON THE STYLE OR LANGUAGE OF OUR ENGLISH TRANSLATION OF THE BIBLE.
ALL who have any considerable knowledge of the English langauge well know that it has in some degree been corrupted, by in. termixing with it words and phrases of a foreign kind. This cor ruption of our language seems to have taken its first rise from the circumstance of placing on the British throne a foreign prince,namely, William of Nassau in consequence of this event, the British court being crowded with foreigners, an affectation of using foreigu words and phrases began to prevail.
The evil was greatly increased by the war of the confederates with Lewis the 14th of France, which began in the reign of William, and continued through most of the reign of Queen Ann, his successor. By that war a number of the British nobility and commoners, as well as peasantry, were drawn over as soldiers, and were employed for several years on the continent of Europe; where, being mixed together with the people of several other nations, they were accustomed, at length, to express themselves in a mixed sort of language, consiting partly of words and phrases of a foreign stamp.
The ingenious Addison noticed and reprobated this inundation of foreign words in the following manner: The present war has so adulterated cur language with strange words, that it would be impossible for one of our great grand fathers to know what his posterity had been doing, were he to read their exploits in a modern news-paper." (Sce No. 435 of the Spectator, where this affectation of using foreign words instead of English is delicately satirized)
Other causes have co operated, not only to corrupt our language with strange words, but also to darken it by such artificial arrangement of words as obscured the sense in the same degree that it improved the sound. Particularly, some authors of great fame have written in a very pompous affected style; among the most eminent of whom was Dr. Samuel Johnson, who, composing some of his celebrated books while his attention was partly occupied in compiling his dictionary, and by that means, having his head filled with technical terms, he distributed them with an unsparing hand; and disfigured his language by an unnatural stiffnes and pomposity.
Many other writers of inferior abilities, affecting to form themselves by that celebrated model, have imitated with too much success, not the beautiful and noble thoughts, but the swollen stile of Dr. Johnson.
After Richardson and Fielding had obtained a fame as novelists, a numerous tribe of writers engaged in the same line. The shelves of book-sellers have been crowded with novels, which besides their
immoral tendency, and the entire barrenness of many of them as to common sense, have frequently been written in an unnatural swollen language. And as novels in latter years, have, unhappily, been a principle part of reading among the American youth, they have caught from them an unnatural- taste with respect to language, as well as many impure and extravagant ideas.
From the aforementioned causes as well as others it has happened that many words not English have unnecessarily been mixed with our language; which in the mean time, has been obscured by such unnatural arrangements of words as hid the meaning, while they attempted to please the ear; and if we had not a standard of pure English, it might at length become impossible to separate the false from the true coin.
It is readily granted that in the progress of arts, some new words became necessary to express new ideas; and when new words have been either coined or borrowed from other languages, merely to sup ply the deficiency of our language, it was both necessary and advantageous: but the coining of new words or introducing foreign words to express things which already had English names apprepriated to them, occasions a redundancy, and breeds confusion in our language.
Now it has favorably happened that the Bible-translation, which is at present in use, was made before those innovations in our language began. Fifty-four men, distinguished for their knowledge, not only of the Hebrew, Greek, and Latin, as well as English, but also of the principal modern languages of Europe, were selected and appointed by king James 1st of England, A. D. 1604, to make a new English translation of the Bible.
Forty-seven of them began this task in the year 1607; and forming themselves into six divisions, they carefully compared the former English translations of the Bible, not only with the original, but also with translations into Spanish, and some other European languages. At length after abundance of care and labor, the English translation which is now in use, was published in the year 1613.
It is worthy of remark, that the Grecian and Roman Classics, which are justly considered the standard of purity and elegance in style, were studied much more thoroughly at that period than at any time since. And to this circumstance, in a great degree, it is probably owing that our English translation of the Bible is simple in its language and entirely free from affectation. The words made use of are pure English, and there is not a phrase from the beginning to the end that swells into bombast.
It is acknowledged that in our bible translation some words have become obsolete, and some thoughts might be better expressed in different phrases, in order to suit them to the delicacy of a mod. ern ear; but with these small variations, and also rectifying a few.
Inaccuracies in point of grammar, it may be pronounced a com. plete standard of pure English.
We read or hear, not for the sound of words, or for the sake of observing a stately structure of language, but to obtain informa tion so that, in general, that is the best style, by which thoughts are communicated with the greatest plainness and in the fewest words. And the scripture language, in our English translation, is, in a remarkable degree, both concise and clear.
It may justly be called the perfection of style, to speak or write in such a manner that the hearer, or reader, without noticing the lan guage, is led to yield up his whole attention to the thoughts which it communicates. And this is the case, when we read the Bible in its English dress while the thoughts strike our minds, we scarcely think of the language in which those thoughts are conveyed to us! whereas an affected style ever turns the attention on itself rather than on the sentiment. Every attempt to embellish the sublime thoughts of scripture, by divesting them of their simple dress, and adding the decorations of florid language, has debased the sacred writings, and manifested the folly of the attempter. As well might one attempt to varnish the colours of the rainbow.
The language of our Bible translation may, in particular, be considered as a very excellent model for youth. An affectation in language is no less disgusting than an affectation in dress and manners; "for language is the dress of thought."-Now it is observable that youth who have an ambition to excel, are very apt, through a desire to distinguish themselves, to run into an affectation in language; or to endeavor to make their style glitter with ornaments. It is therefore proper that their style should at first be formed upon a most simple plan.
I will subjoin some remarks of Mr. in point of language, is indisputable.
Addison, whose authority,
There is a certain coldness and indifference in the phrases of our European languages, when they are compared with the oriental forms of speech; and it happens very luckily, that the Hebrew idi. oms run into the English tongue with a particular grace and beauty. Our language has received innumerable elegancies and improvements, from the infusion of Hebraisms which are derived to it out of the poetical passages in Holy Writ. They give a force and energy to our expression, warm and animate our language, and convey our thoughts in more ardent and intense phrases than any that are to be met with in our own tongue.
"There is something so pathetic in this kind of diction, that it often sets the mind in a flame, and makes our hearts burn within us. How cold and dead does a prayer appear, that is composed in the most elegant and polite forms of speech, which are natural to our tongue, when it is not heightened by that solemnity of phrase, which may be drawn from the sacred writings."