The Clue of the Maze

Style of the Bible

He who should begin to read the Bible at the Gospel according to John would be met by such words as these, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” If candid in spirit and cultured in mind, he would be exceedingly struck with the sublime simplicity of the language, and the fathomless depth of the meaning. There is a case on record of an instantaneous conversion to faith in God by the first hearing of these wondrous words. Nor do we wonder.

It little matters where the perusal begins: let the volume fall open as if by chance, and the reader will still discover the same singular majesty of manner. It is unique. Although the many books, which compose the library, called the Bible, were written by some forty or more authors, and each writer has his own idiosyncracy of utterance, yet the style of the entire volume is one. It is indeed singular that the unity of tone should be so eminently preserved amid the plurality of voices.

The Bible style, we venture to say, is per se, and altogether inimitable. It would be impossible for any man to compose a supplement to the Pentateuch, or to dictate another Gospel, or even to write another Epistle. The fabrication has been tried, but there has been no chance of palming it off upon readers of the Scriptures. Forgeries of great authors have been common, and some of them have well-nigh succeeded. The church has disposed of all attempts to force apocryphal books upon her with far less difficulty than the literary world has been able to dispose of forgeries of Shakespeare. Neither the honesty nor the religiousness of men would have prevented the crime of adding vile inventions to the sacred books of the Old and New Testaments; but the attempt itself must for ever be futile, because of the impossibility of an impostor’s imitating that style of perfect truth, which is the peculiarity of the Word of God. We cannot imagine a mere man speaking after the manner of God; assuredly no uninspired person has yet spoken after the style of the Holy Spirit.

We would trust an ordinary schoolboy to detect the wide difference between any apocryphal or pretendedly sacred book, and the writings of an inspired psalmist, prophet, or apostle. The notion that the Vedas of the Brahmins, the Avesta of Zoroaster, and the Koran of Mahomet, are comparable in style or manner to the Word of God is ridiculous. Max Müller tells us that those who believe “that these are books of primeval wisdom and religious enthusiasm, or, at least, of sound and simple moral teaching, will be disappointed on consulting them.” As well might the uncouth rhyme of a clown be mistaken for the stately verse of Milton, as the noblest language of man be thought by an instructed mind to be the utterance of God. The style of Scripture is never stilted nor bombastic, yet it has a quiet, unostentatious royalty, all its own; and this sets the Bible altogether apart, and marks it as the king of books. Far from being fettered by conventionalities, it is as free as the air, and yet its music is ever tuned to the same harmonies. It is varied,—joyous, denunciatory, plaintive, descriptive, simple, intricate; and yet it remains in every phase true to its own manner: ever human, and yet at the same moment always divine.
The Clue of the Maze.

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