Page:An Exposition of the Old and New Testament (1828) vol 1.djvu/15

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PREFACE.

relates to the literal interpretation of Scripture; yet we do not found his claim to preeminence on his critical acumen, or profound erudition, but on qualities which shall now be distinctly brought into view.

1. To begin, then, with the style of this work, I would remark, that two qualities, not often united, are here combined perspicuity and conciseness. That the style is perspicuous needs no other proof than the examination of any page of the Exposition. And when I attribute perspicuity to this composition, I use the word in direct reference to the capacity and apprehension of the unlearned reader. A style chiefly formed of words of a foreign origin, may be as perspicuous to a learned man as any other; but not so to the common reader, who is only familiar with that kind of language which is commonly used in conversation. For the most part, Mr. Henry's style is made up of pure old English words, and therefore it is plain to every class of people; and is also familiar, because the words are the same as those all are accustomed to hear every day.

But it will not be so readily granted that the style is concise. The number and size of the volumes seem to lead to a different conclusion. And, indeed, when we see six folio volumes, written by one hand, the presumption is very natural and strong, that he must be a diffuse writer. This, however, in regard to our Expositor, is not the fact. There are few books, in the English language, written in a more concise, sententious style, than Henry's Exposition. On examination, very few expletives will be found. Every word speaks, and every sentence is pregnant with meaning; so that I do not know how the book could be abridged in any other way than by leaving out a part of its contents. And we must distinguish between a long discourse and one which is diffuse: a short work may be very diffuse, while one of great length may not have a superfluous word.

2. Another quality of the style of this Commentary is vivacity. This word does not exactly express the idea which I wish to convey, but it comes as near it as any one I can think of at present. I mean that pleasant turn of thought, in which we meet with unexpected associations of ideas, expressed in that concise and pointed form which, on other subjects, would be termed wit. Indeed, if I were permitted to invent a phrase to indicate the quality of which I am now speaking, I would call it spiritual wit. It has, by some, been called a cheerful style; and certainly, the reading of this work has a tendency not only to keep the attention awake, but to diffuse a cheerful emotion through the soul. He must be a very bad man who would become gloomy by the perusal of Henry's Commentary. Now, I need not say how important this quality is in a composition of such extent. Without it, however excellent the matter, weariness would take hold of the reader a thousand times before he had finished the work. This seems to have been the natural turn and complexion of the pious author's thoughts. There is no affectation; no unnatural comparisons, or strained antitheses. It is true there is an approach to what is called quaintness, and a frequent play on words and phrases of similar sound, but different meaning; but, although these things are not conformable to the standard of modern taste, yet they are very agreeable to the great mass