This Puritan Prolixity

“Prolixity, therefore, is a sin against movement. Every epithet should be retrenched which adds nothing to the true rendering of the thought. This virtue is violated, of course, by all needless repetitions, by all digressions and episodes which lead away from the true path of the discussion, by tedious or superfluous explanation and definition. It is marred also by useless subdivisions, and by every formal appendage to the method of the discourse which is not necessary to make its order clear. This remark will explain to you the excessive dryness which you have doubtless felt in reading the multiplied subdivisions of some of the Puritan divines. It is as though the progress of the mind toward its goal were arrested at every third step for some useless formality. What can be more wearisome to the eager mind than such a journey?” (R.L. Dabney, Sacred Rhetoric, p. 124; underlining mine–CD).

Dabney just took a shot at the Puritans. I can’t blame him, though. This Puritan Prolixity is one reason several-hundred page commentaries on small books of the Bible are written. Not for orthodoxy in theology of course, but for a less-prolix Puritan, I like reading Thomas Watson. For a non-Puritan, John Calvin is right up there being the most concise writer.