Page images
PDF
EPUB

adjective qualifies the noun to which it belongs, and that an adverb is added to a verb to modify its sense; and what more does he know about the meaning of a conjunction until he is informed that it serves to conjoin or to connect two or more words together in the same sentence ? And what does the mere Englishman know about the meaning of a pronoun, until he is told it comes from two, Latin words, pro, for, and nomine, name, and hence by a pronoun we are to understand for, instead of a name, which makes it properly speaking a substitute for a noun? It was not intended to have said so much upon this head; but one thought seemed to suggest another, while thinking upon the absurd notion kept in countenance by a pedantic and affected veneration for a foreign language, that we cannot acquire a grammatical knowledge of our own tongue independently of another; whereas the truth is, we have paid such a blind and superstitious reverence to the ancient and dead languages, that we have learned to despise our own, until we think it needful to treat it with contempt, and even neglect its cultivation; and then to apologize for our ignorance of its beauties and peculiarities by an affected acquaintance with, and popish reverence for, an imported language.

But neither are we among those who think a knowledge of the ancient languages a superfluous acquisition. On the contrary, we are of opinion that it very much facilitates a critical knowledge of the English, especially in the department of Etymology, the knowledge of which conducts us to an acquaintance with the radical meaning of terms, which, indeed, is often essential to a correct understanding of them. You may take an instance of the utility of this sort of knowledge in our word conscience, which comes from two Latin words, con, joint or together, and scientia, science or knowledge, and therefore signifies, joint-knowledge, or the knowledge of two or more things; which shews that our ancestors, in the formation of their words, thought as well as spoke. The affinity between the English, French and Latin languages, enables them mutually to explain each other, so that the knowledge of one leads to an acquaintance with the others, while the peculiar idioms of each shews them to be derived from different sources. The Greek language will exhibit many words, especially terms of art and of science, the verbal signification of which is lost to the mere English scholar; but which, when traced to their simple terms, we perceive to have an appropriate meaning, having been compounded and naturalized by men of deep thought and attentive observation. And in no department of study are these more frequently found, or do they have a more important bearing, than in Christian Theology, the name itself importing a discourse concerning God, contradistinguished from all other systems of Theology, by being called after Christ, the anointed One.

As all words in the Hebrew language are derived from verbs of the third person singular, preterite, which of course signify either VOLA VH.

78

being, suffering or acting, it affords no small instruction to ascertain the ideal or radical meaning of Hebrew words, as we shall thereby be enabled more accurately as well as philosphically to trace the progress of language, and to perceive the mutual relalation and dependence one word has with and upon another. But this is not the only advantage to be derived from a knowledge of this ancient, and, as some think, primitive language.

In the names of places, persons, and things, all of which are classed among common nouns, but were primarily derived either from verbs, adjectives, or adverbs, we shall be able to perceive the reason why the name was so appropriated, because the name itself was suggested by some circumstance connected with the place, some quality of the thing, or some action of the creature, or by some peculiar circumstance attending the birth of the person. Of the truth of this, the mere English reader may be convinced by consulting his Bible, and observing the marginal references. Now, although we may repose confidence, generally, in the knowledge and integrity of our translators of the Bible, yet it is no small satisfaction to be able to follow the streams to their fountains, or of tracing words to their respective roots, and of observing how the branches of these verbal trees were anciently formed.

Do you inquire for books? In mentioning these we shall keep in mind for whose benefit we are writing; and therefore shall recommend only those which are fittest for such persons. PARKHURST's Hebrew and Greek Lexicons, HEDERICI Lexicon, Pike's and Frey's Grammars and Lexicons, Ewing's and Dawson's Greek Lexicons, MIDDLETON on the Greek Article, A Hebrew Bible, the Septuagent, or Greek translation of the OldTESTAMENT, GRIESBACH's or LEUSDEN's Greek New TestaMENT, will be sufficient for your purpose, unless you wish to study the Greek and Latin classics ; but if you have not already, in the course of your youthful studies, obtained some knowledge of the Latin and Greek languages, it will be hardly worth your expense of time and labour, unless you have youth on your side, to undertake at this time, in your present employment, to plod through them. Of the propriety of this, however, you must be your own judge.

But it ought, nevertheless, to be recollected that the same necessity does not now exist for a knowledge of the learned languages, as did formerly, when almost all the learned professions were taught through the medium of either the Greek, Latin, or French language. The case is now widely different. Not only the scriptures, but most of the ancient authors, are rendered into English, and also all the arts and sciences, which were so long hidden in a dead language, are now taught in the language of our own country. And, indeed, a man that understands his native tongue, may acquire through that medium alone, a knowledge of every branch of science which is necessary for him to know; and a man may be pronounced truly learned, without going beyond the precincts of his own native language. Yes, more knowledge is spread before the mere English scholar, than any one man can master, were he to devote his whole life to retirement and study; and the field is continually enlarging by the labours of scientific men.

But after all that may be said upon this subject, the leading principles of grammar are the same in all languages, only they differ in the details according to the peculiarity of idiom which predominates in each. , And it should not be forgotten, though it may be somewhat humbling to the learned philologist, that language existed, both verbal and written, long before any grammar was either studied or taught : hence it follows that grammatical treatises are but artificial arrangements of the materials furnished by nature, variously combined and expressed by the organs of speech, in order to communicate thought for thought : and hence also, after all the nice and methodical arrangements of the skilful linguist, who dissects the language into its elementary principles, the many exceptions to his general rules, nature thereby evincing its determination to resist the innovations of the artist, and its stubbornness in yelding its prior demands to the taste and rules of human art and contrivance. The pruning knife of the judicious sciolist may lop off some of the wild luxuriances of nature, and his mandate may restrain the avidity of engrafting redundancies from a foreign stalki; but he cannot make the unbending laws of nature so pliable as to suit all his artificial rules, no more than he can entirely curb the whims and fancies of those who vainly imagine that they can improve the beauty of their own language by the perpetual introduction of foreign terms.

But in the study of language, whether of our own or of another, we should remember, that its only use is to be an organ of communication from one person to another; and hence its utility is to be estimated in proportion to its subserviency to this ulterior object; and therefore, just so far as the knowledge of languages becomes an auxiliary to the minister in explaining and enforcing the truths of the gospel, so far it should be sought after. With this object in view, which alone will sanctify the pursuit, you may labour, especially to read the Old-Testament in the Hebrew, and both the Old and New in Greek. The study of these languages, particularly with the aid of Parkhurst's Lexicons, will enrich your mind with divine truth, and open to your soul a field of intellectual pleasure and delight, which will amply repay you for the many hours of tedious application which it may cost you.

I cannot conclude without one caution. It is this: whatever knowledge you may obtain of this sort, you must remember that you are not called to preach' either in Latin, Greek or Hebrew; and therefore the introduction of these words with a view to criti

cise upon the translation, should be as sparing as possible. In ad: dition to the disgusting spectacle of a pedantic preacher instructing mankind in the lessons of Christian humility, it tends rather to weaken the confidence of the major part of your hearers in the faithfulness and integrity of those words of the Holy Scripture which long use has made familiar to their minds. Though it may be granted that in many places the translation might be mended by substituting a modern term for one that has become obsolete, and in some cases by changing the tense and mood of the verb, or by altering the translation of a particle; yet this changing should be resorted to only in cases of absolute necessity, when the truth cannot be otherwise rescued from the hands of its adversary; and even in that case, it is generally better, when before a congregation, to conceive and clothe the idea in an easy and popular paraphrase, than to deaden an audience who know not what you say, by a rehearsal of an unknown language, and by a criticism which may raise a suspicion of vanity, instead of inspiring a confidence in your wisdom and integrity.

And a Thus saith the Lord has more weight on an English audience than a thousand words of the same import in Hebrew, Greek or Latin, which none of them understand. D bx 728" may be understood by a Hebraist, and Himlo avlou ó Ingous, might suit a Grecian ear, while In qua mensura mensis fuerites, remetieter vobis, might make an agreeable sound in the ear of a Latin scholar, and a Frenchman would understand Ne jugez point, afin que vous ne soyez point jugés; but how much more pleasant and edifying would it be to an English audience to express the same things, Oratio vulgo accommodata, in a popular discourse, in the following manner :--And then said God-Jesus touched him For whatsoever measure ye mete it shall be measured to you again! ---Judge not that ye be not judged..

It is very possible to astonish the ignorant with an affected ap- pearance of learning, while we disgust the learned by the ignorance and vanity which we exhibit in striving to appear what we are not. Sound learning, combined with deep experience, will ever be productive of that diffidence and humility, which all together constitute true dignity of character, and which will command that respect and attention due to an ambassador of Jesus Christ.

(To be continued.)

ERROR RECTIFIED. As several periodical Miscellanies had taken the liberty to publish erroneous accounts of the Funds of our Church, which were calculated to injure its character and to mislead the public mind, we thought it our duty to correct these statements, which pe endeavoured to do in the March number of the Magazine. As * Editors are in the habit of quoting from each other, an error of this kind, affecting the vital interests of the Church, and even aiming a deadly blow at the characters of its ministers, unless timely contradicted, might be circulated far beyond the bounds of its immediate origination, and thus prejudice the minds of thousands, who might not have the means of ascertaining the truth. These considerations induced us, after consulting several of our judicious friends, to publish the article alluded to. In doing this, however, we inadvertently committed a verbal error ourselves, in relation to Bishop M.Kendree, which the following letter from him will sufficiently explain, and set in its true light. Instead of saying "these sums are accordingly drawn, and no more,” it would have been more in accordance with truth to have said, “these sums the bishops are authorized to draw, and no more." It is hoped this apology will be deemed satisfactory to the bishop and his numerous friends. To the Editor of the Methodist Magazine.

Baltimore, April 22, 1823. DEAR SIR,

In your number for March 1823, page 109, you inform the public, that the last General Conference, in consideration of my infirmities and consequent increase of expense, authorized the Book Committee in New-York and the Book-Agents, to make an additional allowance to me. That the Committee acting under this authority, allowed me to draw one hundred dollars annually, and that this sum is accordingly drawn and no more.

That this statement is intended to defend my character against some ungenerous attack, is evident; but whether such matter ought to have a place in our Magazine, which ought to be a standard work, may be doubted.

I have no objection to account with the Methodist Church or with the public, for moneys received of them; and I would rather invite than decline a disclosure of receipts and disbursements of public Funds.

The last General Conference saw and sympathized with me in my affliction; anticipated possible events, and by the resolution to which you allude, generously provided for them. This act of the General Conference, is remembered with gratitude. I then thought, and still think, it was designed only to meet cases of necessity, and consequently, intended never to draw on the generosity of the Conference, except in obedience to such a call.

I soon received official notice that, by virtue of a resolution of the Committee, I was authorized to draw one hundred dollars from the Book-Fund. But such was the kindness of the people who had the trouble of me in my various afflictions, and the physicians who attended me (to their honour be it spoken) that their liberality exceeded reasonable expectation;-by which I have not only

« PreviousContinue »