« AnteriorContinuar »
ponט יוה א The letters »
read with or without points, the sense and meaning of the language must entirely depend upon the written characters, deftitute of points and accents, as they still remain in the most ancient and authentic MSS. The Jews have never suffered the • MSS. which are preserved in their synagogues for the purposes of religious worship to be disfigured with points.'
The method here proposed of reading without the points is illustrated by a specimen (viz. the ift Pfalm), in which, by fupplying a lort ő or ě between the contonants, their enunciation becomes easy and natural. There is a fimplicity in this method that recommends it in preference to the Maforetic, which is complex and difficult beyond measure, and exceedingly discouraging to a beginner.
The following remark is very judicious, and contains an objection to the Masoretic scheme, which is founded on the philofophy, or primary and essential principles of language, and is at the same time established by analogy, as well as by the particular fructure of the Hebrew tongue.
"' the plan of the Masorites are termed quiescent, because, according to them, they have on some occasions no sound. At other times these same letters indicate a variety of sounds, as the fancy of these critics hath been pleased to distinguish them by points. This fingle circumstance exhibits the whole doctrine of points as the baseless fabric of a vision. To suppress altogether, or to render insignificant a radical letter of any word, in order to supply its place by an arbitrary dot, or a fictitious mark, is an invention fraught with the groffest absurdity.'
Though Mr. Wilson thinks the points arbitrary and superAuous, and an incumbrance on the language, yet as many Hebrew bibles are printed on the Masoretic plan, he briefly explains and exemplifies their nature and use : and hath given a cataJogue of the Authors who have written for and against their adoption. To thew in what manner the Greek writers in the 3d century read the Hebrew language, he hath given a curious 1pecimen of that part of Origen's Hexaplus, which contains the Hebrew text converted into Greek characters. The first verse of Genesis is thus witten :
Βρησις βαρα Eλωειμ εθ ασαμαιμ ουεθ ααρες. It is very remarkable, that Origen expresses the four letters &077' which the Malorites call Quiescent, by vowels ; though with some variety, for X is sometimes denoted by a, t, rig yea, and also by w.
din and Hheth are always treated by him as vowels : the former as a ork; the latter as w, a, n and E. The Hebrew consonants are represented by the same Greek ones that we use when converting the former into the latter, with only one exception, viz. the Tsade (3 ts]is expreffed by s. He is not scrupulous about the vowel to be supplied between two conso
nähts for their enunciation, but promiscuously employs, &, 1, ng and even w (as pa Luxep) to accomplish this purpose. Mr. Wilson quotes a passage from Jerom, in which that learned Father, speaking of a Hebrew word which consists of three consonants, expressly faye, that it is pronounced indifferently Salem, or Salim, according to the fancy of the speaker, or the custom of particular places.
On the nature and genius of Hebrew grammar, the Author observes, that the roots are generally verbs, and confift commonly of three, sometimes of two, rarely of four letters. There are eleven letters that are pure radicals, and never can be serviles or derivatives. The other eleven may be either the one or the ocher. Few words have more than ten letters. A great number confift of three or four. But of whatever letters any word confifts, it must at least contain One of a radical character.
In chapter the 7th, entitled, Of Nouns, in Government or Conftru&ion, the author takes notice of a peculiarity in the Hebrew, which is equally elegant and expressive, and which he calls the Genitive of position. A bloody man, is denominated in Hebrew a man of blood; a talkative man, a man of tongue; an intimate friend, the man of my fecret, &c. &c. . To express the superlative degree, the name of God is very often annexed. The loftieft cedars are called the cedars of God; the highest mountains, the mountains of God; and, river of God full of waters, is an elegant expreffion to denote rain.
We cannot pursue this Author through every part of the work before us. We have perused it with attention ; and, on the whole, we think it entitled to our recommendation. The characteristics of the different verbs are pointed out with great precision; and their irregularities very happily accounted for and explained. As a grammar, however, the present publication appears to be defective in one circumstance, and that too of no fmall importance to beginners, especially to those who are obliged to proceed without the affiftance of a master :-what we mean is, the want of a practical analysis of the Hebrew passages printed in this work, and accompanied with translations. This would have been of fingular service, and we earnestly recommend it to the ingenious and learned Author to prepare one for the next edition. In the mean time, we must acknowledge, that this defect may be, in a good degree, supplied by the very copious and uteful account which is here given, with great perspicuity and accuracy, of derivatives, and from the rules laid down, with equal judgment and clearness, to facilitate the investigation of the root,
ART. XV. An Elay to show that Chrifianity is bet conveyed in the
Hiftoric Form. By John Simpson. Printed in Leeds. Svo. 2 s. Boards. Johnson. 1782.
S truth will always bear the light, it has justly been
esteemed a circumftance highly favourable to Christianity, that its advocates have had such frequent occasion to bring the grounds of their faith into full view, in order to refute the objections of its adversaries. Nay, it has, in many instances happened, that those very circumstances which have been urged as difficulties attending the belief of Christianity, have, upon a fuller examination, appeared to furnish presumptive evidence in its favour.
It is with the design of obviating an objection against Chrift. ianity, of this kind, that the piece now before us is written. The hiftorical form in which the records of the Chriftian religion are preserved, has led many to object, that the doctrines of Christ are delivered to the world in an indistinct and irregular manner; and that it is mixed with many trifing circumstances, which derogate from the dignity of divine instructions, and divert the attention from the main subject. Instead of conveying the Christian religion in a diffuse narrative, in which its doctrines and precepts are thinly scattered, they think it would have been better to have given a compact and methodical view of them, classed and arranged in proper order. A system of this kind, they imagine, would have imparted clearer notions of the objects of our belief and practice; would have been more easily retained in the memory, than a number of unconnected accounts; and would have been more immediately applicable to use, as a rule of faith, as well as of manners.
This ingenious and candid writer, examines at large the force of this objection, and shows, in detail, the peculiar advantages attending the method in which Christianity has been conveyed to the world. With this view, he considers distinctly the strength of evidence which both the internal and external proofs of the divine authority of Christianity receive from the historical form; the clearness with which the knowledge of the doctrine of Christ is, in this manner communicated; the deep impression which instructions, given in the way of narrative, make upon the memory; and the superior in Aence which they are, on this account, likely to have upon the heart and life. Under this last head, he shows, particularly, that the historical method tends to fix the attention, interest the affeclions, and excite men to action; that it suggests the proper means of forming a worthy character; that it manifests the operation of good principles in the general tenor of life, and in various cases to which precepts cannot be adapted; that it exhibirs a perfect standard of religion
and virtue; that it introduces many useful incidental narratives, and sketches of characters; and that it presents such views of the moral government of God as are highly favourable to virtue.
This outline our Author has filed up with a variety of judicious remarks, expressed with clcarness and simplicity. The practical utility of the historical mode of instruction is well illuftrated in the following passage:
• Syftems of religion and morality point out, diflinctly, the separate dispositions we ought to cultivare, and the duties it becomes us to practise. But a person who endeavours to direct his own heart and life by the rules of rectitude, will find himself greatly at a loss, in many cases, if he has only a well arranged set of doctrines and dua ries to guide him. He will want to be instructed, how these various branches of moral obligation may be blended in the usual temper and conduct of the same perion ; how they may be combined together in proper measures and proportions, and the times and seasons in which they should be exerted, so as to form a complete and consistent be. haviour. Por, as the chymist may know how to prepare all his colours of the most delicate hue, without being skilled in the painter's art, so the scientific moralist may distinguilh the nature of particular virtues, and their separate boundaries, in a general way, without being acquainted with the method of fixing them in the mind as principles of action, or of moulding them into an easy, unaffe&ted character of goodness.
• What we call character implies consistency; a direction of the general sentiments and conduct to some one point. It is not deno.' micated from a few single actions, but from the prevailing tenour of the conversation and behavionr. The inward dispositions are the sources of it. And an even bent and inclination of the soul will Now itself, by a correspondent uniformity of life and manners. The best method, then, of teaching how to form a character of integrity, mult be, by setting to view the discourses and actions of a wife and worthy man. These show, the actual operation of good principles, in the different circumstances, fituations, and relations of life, upon the temper and conduct; how they pervade the heart, and regulate the life; how the general train of thoughts and ideas, the chiet views and defires, the habitual frame of Toul, and the prevailing tenour of the conversation and behaviour, are governed by the rule of rectitude. The common principles of our nature, the rational, intelligent, moral and religious faculties of mankind, and their affeciions, paflions and desires, operate in the same general way, in every person ; though they are variously modified, in their degree and manner of exercion, by different circumstances. And even these circumstances, namely, the motives by whichi tbe mind is influenced, and the occafions upon which the different fituations and objects of pursuit in human life, and external varicries of date, have such Atriking resemblances, in the lives of different persons, that parallel cases in ano. ther, are the most useful directions to guide us in the right path. And to fit us. for deriving this instruction from living examples and biographical memoirs, the Author of our frame has given to every
an intuitive discernment of character. By this we immediately dis tinguish the right from the wrong, in temper and conduct, and we can apply this judgment to the regulation of our hearts and lives, with much more ease, quickness, and accuracy, than we can apply a mere precept.
• Without descending to a servile imitation, a person may learn, from the histories of others, to infuse the excellencies that are related into his owo character, in such a manner as is suitable to, and becoming it. The good qualities of another may be cally copied, so as to preserve the peculiar ftyle, or natural caft of character, and to improve, exalt, and refine it. A person may learn to imbibe che fame predominant spirit of piety and of benevolence, which he sees in another, and to exert them suitably to his own abilities, situation, and circumstances in life, without using the very same individual expressions of them as the other does. If a wise man, in high rank, plans and executes great and extensive schemes for the welfare of his country, or of mankind at large; the man of low ftation and modesate talents may exercise the same generous temper, in his narrower sphere of action, by candour in judging and speaking of others, by labouring with his own hands for their benefit, and by comforting the distressed with friendly aid and personal attendance. The man who follows a studious life, will employ his thoughts on subjects that may render him useful. While the active man, from the same deGre of doing good, will be engaged in the execution of laudable plans for the advantage of his fellow creatures.
• The effect of moral and religious inftru&tion, in whatever mode it is conveyed, does, indeed, much depend upon the capacities and difpofitions, of the particolar persons to whom it is communicated. The best poffible way of transmitting divine truths muft admit of being miflaken and abused, by the unthinking and the vicious. Precepts must be delivered in general terms, and the proper application of them to particular intances, depends, greatly, on the sagacity and uprightness of those who use them as the rule of life. The completelt models, in every art, as well as in the art of living virtuously, are always reckoned preferable to the best set of rules. And it is, by observing carefully the performances of eminent masters, that improvements are made, and proficiency is gained ; notwithstanding there are some who, through inattention or want of skill, copy those things with the greated eagerness, which leaft deserve their notice. Realon and a righe taste and relih for any attainment, will, if diligently applied, distinguish in a pattern, what may be iinitated with propriety, and what ought to be avoided as unbecoming. Those parts of the conduct of another which are competent to oor talents, and suitable to our circumftances, are what we thould follow. An attempt to imitate what does not accord with our own chara&ter and Greation, exposes us to ridicule. And in every mode of conveying religion that can be devised, common sense, and an honest heart, are requisite to the proper application, either of rules or of examples, for our own improvement.
Memoirs of a good life are highly serviceable in a variety of cases in which the best fyftem of doctrines and precepts cannot, fufficiently, guide and instruct us. They lay before us many particular instances