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-written by Moses, under the divine inspiration. But to all these was prefixed, in the book of Genesis, a history of the original creation of all things, and of the providential government of the world by the adorable Creator.
Moses was the first writer of the Holy Scriptures. But many have asked, “How did he acquire the art of writing ?” This we may now answer. Being brought up in Egypt, as “the son of Pharaoh's daughter,” Moses was educated at court, by the best instructors, and he became “ learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians.” (Acts vii. 22.) But he was not able to gain from that accomplished people the art of alphabetical writing ; neither was that admirable contrivance the invention of his own ingenuity. While various suppositions have been offered as to the origin of that most useful art, the Scriptures alone solve the difficulty, which some learned men have found in it. Many have supposed that letters were altogether a human contrivance, employed to facilitate the useful purposes of commerce. Generally, the heathen considered letters to have been one of the precious gifts of their fabulous divinities ; but Christian and Jewish authors of the greatest fame for learning and judgment, believe that letters were given first to Moses, for the divine laws, by the immediate inspiration of Jehovah.
Analogy seems to favour this opinion. For speech, the power of communicating our ideas to each other by distinct vocal sounds, was, beyond all question, God's original favour bestowed on man,-a faculty which distinguishes him from all other animals. Lord Monboddo, Voltaire, Dr. Adam Smith and some others of the infidel school, regard speech as a human invention ; but Drs. Delany, Warburton, Johnson, Beattie, Blair and most of those of the highest name, acknowledge speech to have been the gracious gift of God. They hold that there was one original language. And Mr. Halked, in his learned Preface to his “ Code of Gentoo Laws,” says, “ If our judgment leans to the side of revelation, let it not be hastily condemned by those whose knowledge of language extends no further than to Greece and Rome, France and England ; for if they will carry their philological inquiries to the East, they may, perhaps, be able to trace the remains of one original language through a great part of the globe at this day.”
Alphabetical writing, in a great degree, resembles that wonderful gift of speech ; it is only the power of communicating our thoughts by acknowledged signs, at all times, to those absent as well as those present, and after their decease as well as while living! The great and extensive advantages, also, which are derived to mankind by written documents,—as fixing the principles of law,-recording the momentous events of natural history, and of political and social transactions,-may reasonably vindicate the claim for it as a divine gift. Matters of such high importance to the welfare of mankind, afford solid ground for our belief that the art of alphabetical writing was a special favour of heaven, as it seems in every way worthy of the beneficence of Almighty God.
“ Picture writing,” by symbolical representations, was common, at a very remote period, both in Canaan and in Egypt, and probably among the Chaldeans. The Egyptians became famous for their hieroglyphic engravings; but no evidence is believed to exist of alphabetic writing, so early as the time of Moses. Letters may be traced up to that great man, but no higher. The learned Mr. Wise insists, “ that Moses and Cadmus could not learn the alphabet in Egypt; and that the Egyptians had no alphabet till they received what is called the Coptic, which was introduced either in the time of the Ptolomies, or earlier, under Psammeticus or Amasis; and these letters, which are the oldest alphabetical characters of the Egyptians that can now be produced, are plainly derived from the Greek.”
Pliny declares his opinion that letters were of Assyrian origin; at the same time mentioning the Egyptians and Phænicians as being competitors for the honour of their invention. However, the majority of the ancient Pagan authors are unanimous in ascribing their origin not only to one nation, but to one man,-attributing them to the Egyptian Thoth, or Mercury
Sanchoniathon, the most ancient Pagan historian, a native of Phænicia, declares that Thoth was the first that wrote records. Plato affirms that the first invention of letters was in Egypt, by this Thoth; but “it is doubtful,” he says, “whether he were a god or man.” Diodorus Siculus mentions the Egyptian Mercury as the inventor of letters and of most other useful arts. In another place he asserts, that “the
Syrians were the inventors of letters, and that the Phænicians learned them from that people.” All these statements indicate the uncertainty and ignorance of their authors; and it is believed that by Thoth they intended Moses.
It is well known that all the nations of Europe derived their letters from the ancient Latin ; the Latins obtained their letter from Greece; the Greeks received them from the Phænicians, by Cadmus; and they from the Hebrews, after the time of Moses, who possessed all the learning of the Egyptians. But Egypt, in the time of that legislator of Israel, did not possess the art of alphabetical writing, nor till after the days of Solomon. Moses did not, therefore, as some have supposed, gain this art from his Egyptian instructors; for, as many affirm, after having examined their most ancient alphabet, “ they did not possess thís art till more than a thousand years after the death of Moses.”
India has been thought by some to have been the birthplace of letters; but this has been disproved. For Sanscrit, the sacred language of India, does not lay claim to be the original. Though it may be difficult, or even impossible, to ascertain when letters were carried across the Indus, they are believed to have been derived from a source which can be found only in the divine inspiration of Moses. Mr. Halked, in his Grammar of that language, says, “Sanscrit is not only the grand source of Indian literature, but the parent of almost every dialect from the Persian Gulf to the Chinese seas, and is a language of the most venerable antiquity.” “ There is,” he adds, “ a great similarity between the Sanscrit words and those of the Persian and Arabic, and even of Latin and Greek; and this not in technical and metaphorical terms, but in the main ground-works of language, in the names of numbers, and the appellations of such things as would be first discriminated on the immediate dawn of civilisation. The coins of Assam, Nepaul, Cashmeria and many other kingdoms, are all stamped with Sanscrit letters, and mostly contain allusions to the old Sanscrit mythology. The same conformity I have observed on the impressions of seals from Bootan and Thibet.”
This important subject, so interesting to the Christian, in his belief in the Holy Scriptures, has been investigated with the greatest care, by men of the profoundest learning; and their researches have led them to the conclusion, that “till the time of Moses, the World knew nothing of letters : for we find not any laws of God or man written before. It is likewise most probable, that we owe them not, nor their use, to human invention, but to divine revelation. And it is a thing that offers itself fairly to our belief, that God himself, when he gave the Ten Commandments, written by his own finger, to Moses, introduced the first alphabet.”*
Dr. Winder, in his “History of Knowledge,” sets this matter in a striking point of view, as he observes, “ There is something so astonishing in alphabetical writing, as may justly authorize our calling it a divine art. It was perfect at first, and it has
* Sir C. Woolseley. Reasonableness of Scripture Belief, Pp. 212, 213.