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Theological Style

IN a previous page some notice has been taken of the attempts to recompose the Bible, in a finical, affected style; but the broad vulgar colloquial diction, which has been used by our theological writers, is less tolerable than the quaintness of Castalion and the floridity of Père Berruyer. I omitted to preserve a specimen in its proper place.

The style now noticed was familiar to, and long disgraced the writings of our divines; and we see it sometimes still employed by some of a certain stamp. Matthew Henry, whose Commentaries are well known, writes in this manner on Judges ix.—“We are here told by what acts Abimelech got into the saddle.—None would have dreamed of making such a fellow as he king.—See how he has wheedled them into the choice. He hired into his service the scum and scoundrels of the country. Jotham was really a fine gentleman.—The Sechemites that set Abimelech up, were the first to kick him off. The Sechemites said all the ill they could of him in their table-talk; they drank healths to his confusion.—Well, Gaal’s interest in Sechem is soon at an end. Exit Gaal!

Lancelot Addison, by the vulgar coarseness of his style, forms an admirable contrast with the amenity and grace of his son’s Spectators. He tells us, in his voyage to Barbary, that “A rabbin once told him, among other heinous stuff, that he did not expect the felicity of the next world on the account of any merits but his own; whoever kept the law would arrive at the bliss, by coming upon his own legs.”

It must be confessed that the rabbin, considering he could not conscientiously have the same creed as Addison, did not deliver any very “heinous stuff,” in believing that other people’s merits have nothing to do with our own; and that “we should stand on our own legs!” But this was not “proper words in proper places!”


Editor’s Notes

 § In later editions of the Curiosities, these pargraphs are subsumed into the article on ‘The Bible Prohibited and Improved’.