Page images
PDF
EPUB

1849.]

Ministers should be earnest students.

469

first found, then their antecedents or causes, and then the theory is formed; a theory not like the Median laws, unalterable, but subject to modifications to be suggested by subsequent discoveries.

The student of nature delights to trace the analogy between different classes of facts, and to find their relations to each other. He learns to look upon the whole natural world as a chain of many links, reaching from the bright seraph before the throne to the minutest atom which floats in a sun-beam, a chain forged by the same master hand, and in every part manifesting the most consummate wisdom.

In such exercises of mind, the student acquires that kind of discipline which is all inportant to the student in theology.

Of all inen living, no one ought to be more earnest in inquiring after truth than the minister of the gospel; for he must needs investigate not for himself alone, but for his hearers who have not time to study, and who expect that his "lips should keep knowledge." To arrive at truth and make that truth his own, he needs to investigate, to in. quire after facts and not after theories, to become satisfied what the Scriptures teach, rather than to conform his views to those of some one who has preceded him. To do this, to investigate, and to do so systematically, he requires no discipline better than that secured by the student of nature in his search after facts. It is needful that the pastor and student in theology should be disengaged from the trammels of old systems, and investigate for himself. He must inquire after truth, not after the opinions of others ; after facts, not theories.

Many scout the idea of improvement in theology. Ready as they are to admit that in philosophy and chemistry and other sciences there has been a great advance, they are unwilling to admit that there can be any improvement made in understanding the greatest science of all. True, we are not to expect any new revelations from God; but we are much mistaken if there are not increased facilities for a correct understanding of these revelations. Recent discoveries in the natural sciences have modified the interpretations of Scripture to some extent; and doubtless the day is coming when the light of science shall enable us to see many things which have hitherto been undiscoverable. The more God's works are studied, the better his word will be understood ; and the more knowledge there is respecting his word, the inore certainly may we hope for that interpretation of his works which shall be productive of his glory. The better these revelations are understood, the more mankind will know of the science of theology in the most enlarged sense of that term. Each age has the advantage of the discoveries of its predecessors, and hence occupies Vol. VI. No. 23.

40

higher ground; and if so, the views of the present ought to be more enlarged than those of any age which has preceded it.

With many, Calvin's works are regarded as standards ; others, equally honest and zealous, regard Arminius as the most correct expounder of biblical theology. Others pin their faith on the church; others, on councils; others, on the last two united; and others think the teachings of the church in patristic theology are the most true interpretations of the word of God. Each of these classes leans upon man rather than God; upon another rather than themselves for light. Such sneer at the ignorant devotee of a false religion for following his leaders without hesitation ; while these religionists do not follow their guides any more implicitly than many Protestant ministers do their standard authors. They regard modifications in theology, occasioned by new discoveries in mental, moral, and physical science, of a dangerous tendency, because these views differ from what their standard authors have taught for truth.

Few men, when they know that they must be regarded by their brethren with suspicion, and perhaps anathematized, have the bardihood to come out and face the storm which will certainly be occasioned, if their conceptions or utterances of truth shall vary from the commonly received opinions. Thus one age adopts a doctrine because others have adopted it; and it is only once in a long period that there arises one who, like Luther, has the moral courage to investigate for himself and throw out his results before the world. When one such does arise, he must have a courage which nothing can daunt, or he will not carry the point at wbich he is aiming.

Independence of thought is the out-shoot only of independent investigation; and if ministers would be independent thinkers and preachers, they must themselves dig in the mines of truth. They must not only delve on in the same mines which have been wrought for ages, but must seek new mines, and labor in the hope of bringing to the surface ore which none other has ever seen. There is a freshness in thoughts which become ours, as the fruits of our own investigations and the results of our own labors, which those which we receive from others never possess. The theologian ought to study for bimself; but to do this properly, he needs the same discipline which the scientific student of nature bas. He must have his laboratory, and his retorts, and his tests, so that the precious may be separated from the vile, and so that he may not proclaim for truth that which will not abide the most severe tests. And here the reader cannot fail to note that had many theological writers possessed this kind of mental discipline, the 1849.]

The Sanskrit Language.

471

[ocr errors]

world would have been saved from many inundations of theological lore. Had these writers put their works to the torture and removed the error, the church would have been saved from many delusions. We hazard nothing in saying that, to a theologian, the kind of mental discipline afforded by the study of the natural sciences, is eminently important. He who can bring to the study a mind thus trained, even if it may lack brilliancy, will accomplish much.

The late Dr. Chalmers laid the foundation for a fame which has ranked him among the noblest intellects of earth, by bringing to the study of the Scriptures a mind well disciplined by reading the book of nature. The germ of his astronomical discourses was the germ of his fame, a fame which will live as long as science and Christianity are known. His preaching became the power of God to the salvation of sinners, when his well stored mind laid all its acquisitions at the feet of the Saviour, and his soul melted in love to him who blends in one glorious personage the Creator and the Crucified.

ARTICLE IV.

THE SANSKRIT LANGUAGE.

On the Grammatical Structure of the Sanskrit.

Translated and somewhat abridged from v. Bohlen's "Das Alte Indicn." By W.D. Whitney,

Northampton, Mass.

The language in which are written the classic works of the ancient Hindoos bears the name Sanskrita, literally composite, concrete (from sam together, and kri to make), but in its common acceptation signifying perfect, as distinguished from the popular dialects, which have grown out of it. In some districts of India it has entirely passed out of knowledge, so that in the Deccan, for instance, it is enough to say of any illegible inscription, “it is Sanskrit,” to put a stop to all attempts at deciphering it. It may be regarded as extinct throughout the whole country ever since the times of the Mohammedans, although still learned by the Brahmins, in order to the understanding of the sacred books, and even occasionally made use of in learned composition. And had nothing come down to us from Ancient India saving the grammar of their admirable language, and of this only the verb,

with its regularity of structure, its copiousness in respect to moods and tenses, the multitude of meanings it can convey with the help of a few prefixes, and its capability of being stripped of all adjuncts down to the naked root, we should still have been in a condition to judge with considerable accuracy of the spirit of the old Hindoo people. But apart from its value as an index of the intellectual character of those who spoke it, and as affording means for tracing historically the development of that character, the circumstance which gives to the study of the Sanskrit in our eyes its crowning importance is this: it is, to a reinarkable degree, the njost perfect and complete of a rich family of languages, embracing the Greek, Latin, Gothic, Lithuanic, and Persian. Analytical investigations by Bopp, Humboldt, and others, have led to the following conclusions: the Sanskrit must have already attained its philosophic precision and elegance when the Grecian, German, and Italian colonies were sent forth, for it exhibits regular forms analogous to most of the irregular and obsolete cases and infections of the other languages named; but, on the other hand, as the latter have retained much that has become obsolete in the Sanskrit, we should not be justified in considering this the inother of the family. In order that the proof of these propositions may be placed within the reach of those who are not versed in philological analysis, I will endeavor to present a brief sketch of the structure of the Sanskrit, so far as it is possible to do so without offering a great array of examples. But first of all, to lay firm ground for further progress, we must consider the written character, and the classification of the sounds. Or hieroglyphics we find no trace in India; the oldest inscriptions are written with a character which resembles more or less closely that of the manuscripts, or, even when illegible, gives evidence of its affinity therewith, and in its roughest forms is plainly an immediate invention, and not derived through the medium of any picture-writing. The antiquity of inanuscripts will give us as little help in ascertaining the time of the origin of writing among the Hindoos as among the Greeks : the oldest we have are of but a little later date than the codices of Homer. With the oldest deciphered inscriptions, also, of the fifth century, we lose all evidence of the earlier existence of an alphabetic character derivable from monuments, and are obliged to betake ourselves to internal probabilities and the testimony of foreigners. The perishable nature of the ordinary writing material, cotton paper, rendered frequent transcription necessary; and not only the iminense body of the literature itself, but more particularly the great variety of popular running-hands, which may all be traced back to the original alphabet, prove that in no country was there ever more written than in India.

1849.]
The Alphabet

473 It is impossible to fix historically the date of the invention of cotton paper; this only is well known, that as early as A. D. 650 the Arabians found a fine article of it in Samarcand, and Ali Ibn Mohammed, who gives us the information, adds that it was then in use only there and in China. Earlier than this was the use of silk paper, which the Chinese claim to have invented about 108 B. C.; those versed in Chinese antiquities, however, conjecture that the art of writing with paper and ink was introduced into China from India in the train of the religion of Fo. But the most ancient mode is undoubtedly that still practised in Malabar, of scratching with an iron point on green palm leaves; the method always employed in the native drama, when the scene is laid in the open

air. The Sanscrit word likh, to paint, made use of in the epics to express writing, supposes a liquid material; in all the ancient works, reading and writing, when reference is had to the Vedas, are taken for granted as universally known; the Bhagavadgita mentions the first letter in the alphabet ; and accordingly it is not true of India as of other countries, that the art of writing was born and grew up with the prose literature. It must, moreover, have been pretty generally familiar at the time of the Macedonians; else those guideboards by the road-sides, marked with names and distances, were wholly useless. Finally, we conclude that the written character, though unknown at the time of separation of the kindred tribes, (for otherwise the Greeks would hardly have adopted the imperfect Phenician alphabet, which so fettered their language,) must yet, at a comparatively early period, have allied itself with the Sanskrit; since the latter, in its euphonic changes, is so often governed by it: and above all, that it was not introduced from abroad, but must be deemed of independent Indian origin; that learned and accurate palaeographer, Kopp, having failed to establish any affinity between it and the Phenician alphabet.

The Sanskrit alphabet, whose invention, as an act of immediate inspiration, the Indians attribute to Brahma, is called Devanâ garî, or writing of the gods; and, like all its derivatives, reads from left to right. It is arranged according to the organs of utterance, and is so complete, that any language may be spelt with its forty-nine signs. Among its vowels, numbering with the diphthongs fourteen, we miss only short o and short e; that is to say, these sounds have no peculiar representatives in the written language; both, however, are included in the short a, and may often be traced out or guessed at by the aid of the kindred tongues; e. g. asthin, a bone, ostéov; aris, eneiny, špis. But it is unsafe attempting to fix, by such means, the pronunciation of a dead language; and the sound of a, in the Sanskrit, may have been

« PreviousContinue »