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whatsoever else pertains to the conservation of the world, and the existence and multiplication and comfort of its various inhabitants. In all these things we acknowledge the operations and instrumentality of various agents, acting according to their several natures and capacities : but, first, and most of all, we acknowledge a superintending Providence; and opposed, though subject, to that, we acknowledge also the operation of the powers and principalities of evil. So also, in respect of language-so important as the medium by which all communication between man and man takes place, and without which society could not exist; so important (most of all) as the medium by which truth and wisdom are made known and transmitted we acknowledge, first of all, the providence of God, and next, the working of the devil, endeavouring, to the very limit of his chain, to oppose and counteract the gracious and holy purposes of the Most High. And in this, as in other respects, his opposition, though vain, is manifold and mighty : though overruled, so as to defeat itself, and tend ultimately, with all things else, to the praise and glory of Him whom he opposes, it is yet to be acknowledged in its true character and awful effects: and, so far as we may, it is our wisdom and our duty to discern and consider it. Let us remember too (besides these general considerations) that two languages were more especially selected by Him that is Most Wise, for the revelation of his truth and will to man; and as we know that in every other case He wisely selects and prepares and fashions the instrument before he uses it, so also we are persuaded that He has done with respect to those two languages; and that in every respect they were the most suitable for his good and gracious purposes that could have been devised. We feeble men, indeed, are obliged to take languages as we find them, and to make the best of them ; sometimes complaining that we are incumbered by their imperfections. But it is not so with God. He makes them fit for his purposes, and then he uses them. We assert this with a peculiar emphasis in regard to the Hebrew and the Greek, as being especially the sacred tongues, the languages of the Holy Ghost. But so far as God in his providence has made use of other languages for the communication of his truth to men—that. is to say, so far as the Gospel has been preached in other tongueswe maintain the same principles. We believe, that, wherever he intended to give a great and abiding blessing, he made all things ready, by preparing a language for the purpose ; which, while it was suited to the
genius and character of the people on the one hand, was also suited to express spiritual and scriptural ideas on the other. We see sometimes part of the process of
preparation very clearly: for example, the preparation beforehand of the Greek language for the promulgation of the New Testament. That language, rich and copious as it was, before it could be fit for such a great and blessed purpose, must in a measure be Hebraized. Had this been at a moment, and by miracle, the book to be published in it would not have been so readily understood by those to whom it was sent: therefore Providence, making way for this blessing long beforehand, prepared the language by the Septuagint version : and the circulation of this book, in a sort of Hebraized Greek, not only prepared the way for the New Testament by diffusing some knowledge of Divine truth, but also by bringing into some notice the kind of language in which it was to be written. And when this Hebraized dialect of the Greek was brought to its perfection, then the New Testament was written and published; and then in the wonderful providence of God) other changes began to take place, so that the Greek written by Christians in the very next age was quite a different language in many respects. Thus no subsequent writings could for one moment be put in competition with the canonical books. The difference of style and language sufficiently distinguishes them, and forbids it, excluding them from all pretence to be admitted into the sacred canon.
This may suffice as a hint: but the thoughtful student will readily perceive that in many respects the Divine providence is to be adored, in all that relates to the peculiar style and language of the New Testament. But, to come to modern times : it is a very remarkable circumstance, that what may be considered the beginning of the cultivation and regular formation of the English tongue was co-eval with the first dawnings of the Reformation. Chaucer and Gower were contemporaries of Wickcliffe; and more, perhaps, was done by their writings, for the gradual dissemination of his principles, than we are aware of. They were in some degree his disciples: and thus the cultivation of the language, to which their writings so mainly contributed, and in which they led the way, was made subservient to the diffusion of some notions of the truth of God, and thus to God's gracious purposes in the introduction of the Reformation. Then, when the Reformation was established in this country, what a burst of mind do we immediately observe! what intellectual power was put forth! What Chaucer had begun to do for the language, was completed by Spenser and Shakspeare and their contemporaries. If you will have prose writers, take Hooker for an example: respecting whom it has been justly said by Lowth, in his English Grammar, “ that, in correctness, propriety, and purity of English style, he hath hardly been sur
VOL. III.-NO. IV.
passed, or even equalled, by any of his successors.” When the language had thus been brought to its perfection, especially in regard to purity and energy, the authorized version of the Scriptures was made: and those who have attempted or pretended to improve the language since have only spoiled it *. From the time of Milton (that is, but one generation later than the time of our Translators) we may certainly date the period of its decline, except so far as men have had the wisdom and good taste to stick to the language of the Bible, and return to the old standard. That blessed book, indeed, has contributed not a little to give stability to our language; and but for that, we may safely say that Shakspeare at this day would have been unintelligible to all ordinary readers. So that the glory of our literature and the honour of God's word (though at first they may seem little connected) must stand and fall together. And herein we must adore and praise the providence of God. It is a matter of no little importance to the Christian welfare of our country, that the language of our Bible is the language of Shakspeare and Milton. The consequence is, that no Englishman can bear to forget that language, however differently some may choose to write, and though we might easily shew that, in this country also, the devil and his servants have been busy in endeavours to introduce a new-fangled dialect, which should make the translation of the Bible, and all the best divinity in the language, obsolete and offensive together. They have done us no little mischief as it is. For, if any one should now write pure, old-fashioned, Biblical English, in its force and purity, would he be endured ? Not by those who reckon themselves polished and well-educated, assuredly; though we find good reason to believe that this is still the language which plain people understand and are pleased with.
But in other countries the great adversary of all good and truth has succeeded much better. We have been assured, by those who are far more conversant with the antiquities of the French language than we have the least pretensions to be, that, in comparison with the good old French wbich Calvin wrote and preached, the modern French is mean and contemptible to the last degree. The Academy took the language in hand, and (under pretence of polishing and refining it) made such alterations, that all the sound divinity in the language became thereby harsh, disgusting, and unintelligible; and nothing would please any longer, but the works of the new school, devoted, as it was, to the cause of ungodliness, licentiousness, and infidelity. And, in connection with this subject, we were further called upon to observe how remarkably the language is characteristic of the people.
* If any one is disposed to question this, let him only compare any more modern attempts at translation of the Scriptures with the Authorized Version, merely in respect of style and language; and he will find how miserably poor and tame they are on comparison. To us they are unreadable.
And is it not always so? As a language degenerates, is it not a sure sign that the people are degenerating too? If men cannot bear energetic and nervous language, it is because they are afraid of strong and determined thinking. Their thoughts, their feelings, their conduct, and their language, all become tame and feeble together; and nothing is strong, but the current of vice and corruption. Exceeding weakness and exceeding wickedness may, indeed, very well go together; for it requires no effort to swim downward with the headlong stream of lust: but to do any thing greatly good, energy and resolution are required; for it can only be done by striving and struggling against the current of nature, in ourselves and in others. And, in order that there should be virtuous energy in the conduct, there must be strong and clear thinking, and staight-forward decision of judgment; there must be vigour of inward principle, the deep sense of duty, and that abhorrence of evil and baseness which inseparably accompanies a high standard of moral excellence. And where these things are, there will, there must, be powerful language to express them : things must be called by their right names: and the squeamishness of language, which modern sentimentality affects, will not suffice to express the thoughts and feelings of those who have indeed, or desire to have, the hearts and minds of heroes and of martyrs. For example: there is a new-fangled generation of ministers in Holland, who think it dreadful, and even impious, to speak of God's wrath. What then must we say ? “God's displeasure!” (The word ongenoegen in Dutch is even weaker still.) Is not this enough to shew to what dreadfully low views of God's holiness and the sinfulness of sin they are come? They can have no Christian standard, no scriptural views of sin or holiness, who are so meally-mouthed.
We seem, perhaps, to be wandering, far from our subject ; but, without giving some hint of our views on these points, we cannot explain what we mean by saying that Satan has been busy with the changes and false refinement of modern languages. But, to return to the Dutch language and the Dutch Bible: We are persuaded, that when the States Translation was made, amongst other favourable circumstances, the language was come to its vigour and perfection. The translators and revisers did all that in them lay to fix the standard. But in every thing human there is a principle of decay and ruin, and of this Satan avails himself. In Holland he certainly raged against the truth with a peculiar vehemence, and against every thing connected with it. În that country there had been no constellation of literary talent about the same period, to concur with the translators of the Bible in fixing the standard of the language. Many other circumstances combined to make the effort unavailing; and especially the varieties in the language of the different provinces, and sometimes of the different cities—which is perceptible to a traveller even to this day. Then, many of the most eminent writers wrote principally in Latin. The small extent of the country afforded but little encouragement to the cultivation of the native literature, and made the people also peculiarly susceptible of the impressions of that which was foreign. Germany was on one side, and France on another, to infect Holland with the evils which belonged to each. And what proved perhaps in the end the most unfavourable circumstance of all was, that the cultivation of the elegancies of Dutch literature fell principally into the hands of those who were not merely indifferent, but decided and bitter enemies, to the truth. Vondel, their greatest poet, was a bitter Remonstrant, both in religion and politics, and did all that in him lay to make the orthodox party hateful and contemptible. He was also the centre and director of a literary society; and thus gathered around him a large proportion of those who were likely to influence the literary taste and feelings of the country: This society adopted and brought into use a spelling very different from that used by the translators of the Bible : and this was a first step to further innovations in the language. It may be thought a trifle how we spell, and some would alter the spelling as fast as the pronunciation alters : but this is absurd, and the way to hasten onward endless innovations, till no trace of the original language remains. In the course of time the pronunciation of words will vary greatly from the spelling. This has been the case, more or less, with all languages: but if the spelling be retained, the etymology of words is not lost by these changes of pronunciation, and therefore it is less likely that the true meaning will be lost; for, while that remains, the origin of the word may be traced, and therewith the connection between all the cognate languages, which to the real student is of no small importance. Besides, we find, that, as the spelling becomes obsolete, the books become obsolete too, with all the treasures of wisdom and truth which they contain: and this is Satan's purpose in introducing all these changes; in which also those who are evidently his servants are commonly most forward. For these are the men who, rejecting the light which Scripture and experience combined, and mutually illustrating each other,