Εικόνες σελίδας
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

authors of deep erudition differ from them all, and, in some instances, from each other, who can be supposed to possess sufficient authority in this department of literature, to settle the mooted question ? That many words in our language are encumbered with superfluous letters, must be obvious to every person who has inspected them with the slightest attention, comparing the orthography with the most popular and approved pronunciation : and these superfluities have resulted from a change in the pronunciation of the words. Take as an example of this all those words that end in ive, which syllable was pronounced ive, the final e serving to lengthen out the sound of the i so as to give it its long first sound, or the sound of y in eye. This, indeed, was said by the grammarians to be the use of e final, namely, to lengthen the sound of the preceding vowel. But does it serve any such purpose now? Certainly not, except in a few instances. In all such words as native, alternative, potative, motive, as well as examine, the i has its short unaccented sound ; and, therefore, the final vowel serves no other purpose than to mislead the learner. In many particular words, however, custom has conformed the orthography to the pronunciation, and no doubt that time and use will ultimately dispense with many more of those letters which are now entirely useless.

Nor is the pronunciation any more uniform, even among the lexicographers and learned public speakers, than the orthography. Notwithstanding all the pains which have been taken by the several dictionaries of our language to arrest the progress of innovations on what were considered established usage in pronunciation, to correct that which was vitiated and vulgar, as well as to fix that which was uncertain and multiform, many words are still subjected to a variety of pronunciation ; nor is it at all likely that such a standard can be devised as shall produce uniformity in this particular. While the most eminent English orthoëpists differ so widely among themselves, who is to fix the standard ? Shall we refer to the practice of living speakers ? Alas! they are as discordant among themselves as are the orthoëpists who have given us their written rules. Shall we appeal to the taste of competent judges ? But what forms the taste? Is it custom? But custom is not uniform. Is it habit? But we habituate ourselves to one mode of pronunciation because we were so taught in our youth ; to another, because some distinguished orthoëpist has given us the rule, and then to another because some popular speaker has given it currency. And amidst these discordant practices, all claiming the sanction of either custom, the analogy of the language, or the authority of some great name, who is to interpose his taste and decide the controversy? Perhaps after all it will be found that a love of novelty, or a certain undefinable aversion we all feel to a perpetual repetition of the same thing, to the hourly recurrence of the same sounds, contributes more than any other one thing, to change our old pronunciation for a new one.

Amidst these fluctuations, from whatever cause they may arise, whether from caprice, false taste, or a love of singularity, the man who shall arise and prune our language from its troublesome excres. cences, by introducing a consistent orthography, and a uniformity of pronunciation, will lay the nations who speak the English language under a debt of lasting gratitude, and erect for himself a monument which will transmit his name to posterity as one of the brightest benefactors of mankind.

That the dictionary before us has done something in these departments of philological criticism is matter of congratulation ; and that it would have done much more had not the prejudices of the age presented an insurmountable barrier in the way, we may presume from the author's avowed conviction of the necessity of this sort of reform, and from his known zeal in the cause which has engaged so much of his attention. For what he has achieved in his attempt to clear away the rubbish of former ages and writers, and of rescuing many words from their obscurities, we may augur what he would have done had he been borne up by those who alone can sustain an author in effecting a regeneration of this character. We hope he may live to receive the reward' of his labors in the approbation of his countrymen, and that his last days may be gilded by a ray of that light from the eternal throne, which beams so brightly in the face of Christianity, and finally be conducted to glory and immortality.

It may, however, be contended by some, that though it may be well enough for philologists to acquaint themselves thoroughly with the structure of language, so as to make themselves masters of verbal criticism, yet this sort of study ill becomes the minister of the Gospel. We know not what may be the character of all our readers, but we should hope those are exceedingly few to whom an answer to such an objection is necessary. Had we lived in the tenth, eleventh, or twelfth century, we should have been surrounded with the petty tyrants of a degraded priesthood, more solicitous to fatten themselves upon the hard earnings of a superstitious populace, than they were to enrich themselves and their flocks with sacred knowledge and the graces of the Holy Spirit, and who taught the people that ignorance is the mother of devotion ;' but in this age of light, of inquiry, of critical and profound research, when successful exertions are making to open every avenue of knowledge, for any to suppose that the ministry may with impunity lag behind their cotemporaries in the acquisition of sound learning, and still maintain their credit as expounders of God's sacred word, is presuming too much upon the ignorance and credulity of the present race of mankind. Since the lights of the

Vol. V.-January, 1834.


reformation have so generally dispelled the clouds of darkness which had for a long time enveloped the minds of men, it is in vain for any one to attempt to re-erect the ebon throne on which a pseudo priesthood so long received the homage of prostrate millions, merely because they and their predecessors had succeeded in shrouding their minds in the mantle of ignorance. Now, when oriental literature is brought to bear upon the sacred Scriptures, to aid in their hermeneutical interpretation, shall we say that the study of verbal criticism is useless, or unnecessary for the theologian? Shall we allow the adversaries of Christianity all the advantages derivable from a critical knowledge of words—and especially of those words in which the Holy Spirit has spoken to man? This would, it seems to us, be a criminal neglect of those means of defence which a gracious Providence has put thin the range of our abilities

On this subject, we ought not to forget that a knowledge of words is very often a knowledge of things; and hence, he that is inattentive to the one, must be negligent in respect to the other. And to those especially, who may not have had in their youth the advantages of a thorough education, must a dictionary which accurately traces up the words of their mother tongue to their respective sources, be of incalculable advantage. While those able and critical commentaries which have been written by eminent scholars and divines, and those lexicons of the original languages which have explained the radical meaning of words, have all poured a flood of light upon the pages of inspiration, it is no small help to have a lexicon always at hand, that will gently lead us up through the several streams which have fertilized our vernacular language to their respective sources. This, we verily think, is no small advantage for the Biblical student.

Those who speak contemptuously, or even lightly, of the labors of lexicographers, seem to forget how much they are indebted to them for all they know of the meaning of words. And equally inattentive to the history of events are such as undervalue a knowledge of the learned languages. Had our ancestors been actuated by similar views, what should we have been at the present day? We might have been either bowing down to stocks and stones with our pagan forefathers, or prostrating ourselves before a wafer god, and joining in the senseless worship of departed saints in imitation of our popish ancestors. But for the powerful impulse which was given to the human mind at the memorable era of the reformation, which led to the translation of the Holy Scriptures into the vernacular tongues of the several nations who received the salutary effects of that event, those who understand no other language but their own might have remained as destitute of Scriptural knowledge as the heathen of our wilderness, except so far as they might have received it from the lips of a corrupt and tyrannical priesthood. Shall we then undervalue these means, to which we are so much indebted for all that we hold most dear; or reject with scornful indifference the aids which are now offered us, by which we may be enabled critically to analyze the articles of our faith?

We allow, indeed, that mere speculative knowledge puffeth up;' but this is not the fault of knowledge. It is the fault only of those who attain it to abuse it. Like every other gift or acquisition, it becomes an instrument of unrighteousness' only when it is not sanctified by the word of God and prayer.' Let those who possess it consecrate it to the service of God and humanity, and it shall be the means of procuring for them, not merely a poor perishable wreath, but a crown of glory that fadeth not away.


ENTERTAINED BY ABRAHAM ON THE PLAINS OF MAMRE. WHEN an author differs in opinion on any subject, much more on a subject of Biblical criticism, from most all others, he is bound to assign his reasons. We confess that among the multitude of commentators we have consulted on the eighteenth chapter of Genesis, in which the transactions referred to at the head of this article are recorded, none of them has afforded us perfect satisfaction. They all seem to take for granted that the guests entertained by Abraham, were celestial beings, sent from heaven to confer with Abraham respecting the birth of Isaac, and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. To this opinion we cannot concede for the following rea


1. These guests are not called angels in the text at all, in that chapter, but they are called men in three places, namely, in the second, sixteenth, and twenty-second verses. In the second verse it is said, • Lo, three MEN stood by him.' In the sixteenth verse it is said the MEN rose up from thence'-and in verse twenty-second, · And the MEN turned their faces from thence. Why, then, it may be asked, has it become so generally received, that these were angels, or celestial beings? We answer, if you will look at the summary of contents prefixed to the chapter, you will find the following sentence : Abraham entertaineth three angels ;' and though this must be considered as nothing more than the comment of the translators, and not the infallible doctrine of the text; yet it has, no doubt, led many so readily to adopt the opinon that these men were celestial beings.

2. But even if the word angels had appeared in the text, it would not have determined the matter in favor of celestial messengers. The word angel, in Greek ayyedos, signifies simply a messenger, from aygendw, to reveal, or deliver, a message: and had our translators rendered the word messenger, instead of retaining the Greek word angel, many passages of sacred Scripture would have been much more intelligible to the mere English reader. When the Lord Jesus addressed the angels of the seven Churches of Asia, as recorded in the book of Revelation, there can be no doubt that the ministers of those Churches are intended, as they were His messengers, sent by Him to reveal His will and to deliver His message unto the Churches. That this word frequently imports nothing more than a human messenger, is manifest from several passages of Scripture. In Matt. xi, 10, it is said, Behold, I send my ayyehos, messenger, before thy face.'Here the angel was John the Baptist. In Mark i, 2, the same person is called an ayyɛdov, rendered there also a messenger. In Luke vii, 24, those disciples whom John sent unto Jesus to inquire whether He was the Christ that should come,' are called ayyenwv, messengers ; and in 2 Cor. xii, St. Paul speaks of the ayyɛdos, messenger of Satan.These texts, and abundance more might be quoted in proof of the position, amply testify that even allowing that the word angel had occurred in the text, it would be no proof that celestial messengers were meant.

3. Nor are they called angels in either the original Hebrew or the Septuagint or Greek translation. The Hebrew 'word generally rendered ayyedos, in the Septuagint, and angel, in the English translation, is 750; but in Gen. xviii, 2, 16, 22, it is v1, which, though a generic term signifying existence, subsistence, or any thing really existing, in opposition to mere shadows and figures, is frequently rendered man, but never angel. In the Septuagint in all those places in this chapter the Hebrew word is translated avopes, men ; and so it is rendered also in the Latin Vulgate, and in the French translation. On the whole, therefore, we inay safely conclude that no argument can be derived from the name given to these guests in favor of their having been any other than human beings.

4. We object to the opinion of their being celestial beings, because, though what is related of them, in their intercourse with Abraham, may all be predicated of human messengers, it cannot agree with their having been pure celestial spirits.

It is said that they did eat of the butter, and milk, and the calf,' which Abraham had prepared for them. And when Abraham solicited them to tarry with him, saying, • Let a little water, I pray you, be fetched, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree : and I will fetch a morsel of bread, and comfort ye your hearts,' &C they said, “So do as thou hast said.' We know it is contended by those who believe that these men were pure spiritual intelligences that they merely appeared to eat, to have their feet washed, and ta

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »