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and invention : so that when I view the Hebrew language, such as I have now represented it to you, (in too small a compass for the greatness of the subject) I am persuaded it must either have been originally given to man by his Creator; or framed by men, the powers of whose minds were very different from our
But give me leave to forewarn you, that caution is to be used, and great experience is requisite in order to handle the Hebrew with safety; otherwise you may chance to make that ridiculous, which you intend to magnify. For want of knowing better, we may give the lead to a wrong idea; that which is not the radical one; and then we shall be forced upon strange and unnatural alliances; and, from our imperfect insight into many things, we may not be able to discover that there is any leading idea at all. It is natural to follow with too much assurance the alluring pursuits of etymology; and, if we are found to do it without temperance or discretion, we shall find no mercy from those who are not well affected to the originalities of learning and religion; who may therefore treat us with a smile, meaning it for the smile of superior wisdom: but folly and ignorance are more given to smile than wisdom and science.
I have said enough to convince you, that the study of Hebrew, if you use it properly, will abundantly repay your labour; that it is even necessary and essential, if you would be, what I may call (to speak after the Hebrew style) a radical scholar, and see into the originals of things both sacred and profane': that it is related to itself by associations and images, not merely curious, but often very beautiful and instructive: in short, that it communicates knowledge of the best kind under a singular form, no where else to be
met with. I could have multiplied my examples in abundance; for there was a time of my life when I sat for half a year together to compare the Hebrew language with itself in every word of it (so far as it is retained and preserved) and I have loved and admired it ever since. You will do the same, if you take half as much pains as I did ; and for your encouragement, you will have an advantage which I had not; later years having produced that excellent work, the Lexicon Hebrew and English of Mr. Parkhurst; who has made it a magazine of general learning, antiquity, divinity, and natural history; and has illustrated his Hebrew literature from the Greek and Roman classics, and from useful authors, ancient and modern, of every denomination.
In the modern Hebrew learning, you have another advantage, and a great one it is; that you are taken out of the hands of the Jews; who begin their teaching with the egregious absurdity of an alphabet without vowels to make way for their Hebrew points, which are a modern invention, and overburthen you with an insupportable multiplicity of rules. Their notions of the Hebrew are much of a size with their sense of divinity. That noble instrument of wisdom in their hands, is like an instrument of astronomy in the hands of a child, or like a telescope with the blind. Trust yourself to Mr. Parkhurst, a good Christian, and he will take you by the hand at the first step, and carry you as far as you will wish to go in CHRISTIAN : HEBREW. That your success may be such as I augurate from a foreknowledge of your capacity and application, is the sincere wish of,
RELIGIOUS WORSHIP OF THE HEATHENS,
AS BEARING UNANSWERABLE TESTIMONY
PRINCIPLES OF CHRISTIANITY.
L E T T E R
REV. W. VINCENT, D.D.
HEAD MASTER OF WESTMINSTER-SCHOOL.