Imágenes de página



IT T is the opinion of many learned perfons, not only among Chriftians and Jews, but also prophane writers, that language was taught men by God, their maker: and it appears from the inftance of the wild man taken in the woods of Hanover, and other matters of a fimilar nature, that man, with all his boasted reafon, would never have been able to form and conftruct a language diftin&tly, articulate, and expreffive of ideas, without divine inftruction; and that the Primeval Language was partly loft at the time of the Disperfion.

In treating of this fubject, it may be neceffary to premife fomething relative to the


building of the Tower of Babel, and the confufion of Tongues. Various and foolish have been the conjectures on the fubject. Some imagined the intention of this great work was to fecure a place of fafety in cafe of a Second Deluge: Had this been the cafe, they would never have defcended into a plain, fituated between two great rivers, the Euphrates and the Ganges: if they meant to fecure hemselves against destruction by fire, from Heaven, which is faid to have been predicted by Seth, they would not have attempted to afcend towards Heaven, to meet the lightning flashing from the clouds, but would much rather have fought the hollow rocks, and the caves of the earth.

But we are told by Mofes, that mankind. were urged by two motives, the one of ambition, whereby they hoped to immortalize their names; the other of prefervation, so natural to man, left they should be difperfed. For men were then occupied principally in attending their flocks and herds, leading the wandering life of fhepherds, dwelling in temporary huts; from hence it might come to pafs, that they might ftray from the grounds where they intended, one time or other, to form a great fociety: they might have therefore

fore imagined it a wife policy to build a tower, which rifing to a great height, might be seen at a vast distance, and become a place of refort and intercourfe.

Yet, whatever were their intentions, we are told, that all the earth, that is, all the inhabitants of the earth, were there, and not one exception made; and as there had been at that time but one primæval language, we may very naturally fuppofe, that in confequence of the confufion of tongues, whatever were the various dialects which fucceeded, they all were partakers of fome portion of that primæval language, as the bafis of them.

We have no poffible reafon to believe, that the pofterity of Shem derived from a younger fon Arphaxad, could have, in exclu fion of the other, and elder branches of his own, and alfo of his elder brother's family, been fignalized with fo parti cular a favour by God, as alone to have preferved the primeval language pure and uncorrupt. Not only the defcendants of Japhet, but also the pofterity of Ham, were as likely to preserve it. In the tenth chapter of Genefis, which precedes the hiftory of the Difperfion, in relating the generations of the fons

fons of Noah, of the generations of Japhet it is faid, "by these were the ifles of the Gentiles divided in their lands; every one after his tongue, after their families, and their nation". And after mentioning the generations of Ham and Shem, the words, after their tongues, are again and again repeated; all which is made perfectly intelligible by the relation given us in the next chapter of the Difperfion. From hence it almoft evidently appears, that all the families who were affembled at the building of the Tower, were feparated by different dialects or tongues.

That it is most likely to expect, and find among nations who have perfevered for a long ferics of time in one ftate, not fond of change or variety, a language nearer allied to originality than amongst refined and polifhed countries, is a moft reasonable conjec ture. Accordingly it is not impoffible, that the Indian Bramins, and the Chinese may fpeak a dialect more approximating to that which was first taught man, than even the Jews themselves for altho' the Jews never had much tafte for refinement, yet they were subject to such a variety of changes and difperfions, that a very confiderable, and un



avoidable change must have been made in their diale&.

There is a curious differtation in Jamblicus de Myfteriis, which is highly applicable to the prefent inquiry: he believed that words were taught the Gods, and that the nearer any words approached to originality in offering up prayers, the more acceptable they will prove.--- εχει δε και τα βαρβαρα ονοματα πόλλην μεν έμφαση πολλην δὲ συντομίας αμφιβολίας τε ελατίονος μετεσχηκε και ποικιλίας (C τ8 πλήθος των λέξεων. Add, that the words of barbarians have much emphafis, and much brevity, and admit of less doubt, variety and multiplicity of diction, on which account they are better adapted to the worship of the Gods. He fays alfo, that, on account of the multiplicity of words, prayers lofe much of their efficacy: and blaming the practice of the Greeks, whom he calls innovators, he speaks thus of barbarians.Βαρβαροι δὲ μόνιμοι τοις ήθεσιν οντες, και τοις λόγοις βεβαίως τοις αυτοις εμμενες διοπερ έτσι προσφιλεις τοις Θεοις. The barbarians, as they have gravity of manners, fo alfo are they permanent in their words, wherefore they are daily regarded by the Gods, and offer up to them the most acceptable and pleafing words.



Having therefore given sketches of the character and learning of Mofes previous to his


« AnteriorContinuar »