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cieties for the psomotion of the Arts and Sciences have been planned and established in most parts of Europe, and they have been eminently successful and useful.
The refinements of civilized life, unattended with that haughty magnificence, which renders them subservient to luxury, have now taken a residence in that Temple, which freedom has erected on the shores of America. The Arts and Sciences, the Muses and Graces, are emulous to deck the asylum of independence. Several learned Societies have been formed among us, for the cultivation of every branch of knowledge, and direct their views to whatever can interest the mind of man, whether in the walks of science and literature, or relative to the arts and economy of life.
Around the superior advantages, which these scientific institutions furnish, a kind of gentle glory is diffused by those humane, charitable, and friendly associations, whose design is to alleviate the sorrows and smooth the asperities of life; to promote candor of disposition and urbanity of manners. While we are struck with admiration at the productions of genius, we can taste the refined pleasures of reason and philanthropy; and, as the friends of America, of Science, and of mankind, we may congratulate our fellow men upon those improvements in the social system, which have at once diminished the miseries and multiplied the enjoyments of the human condition.
Experience hath taught that nothing has more advanced the progress and extended the boundaries of knowledge, than the zeal and emulation, with which men have united in its pursuit ; and that mankind improve in elegance of manners according to the opportunities they have for communicating with each other. From the comparison and the discussion of the different opinions of different persons, there often result those general truths or those particular applications, which the sagacity of an individual would never have discovered. Immersed in solitary contemplations, the mind grows torpid, and the man becomes an useless member of cociety. The mental faculties may lie concealed for years in the gloom of unagitated abstraction; that kind of society, of which we speak, will give them a vigorous play and beneficial influence. Thus the flint and the steel may remain for ages in unenvied darkness and neglect ; their collision strikes out a spark, which lights us to their use.
Literary and friendly associations have been found to strengthen reason, to confirm the judgment, and to excite emulation ; to warm the heart with sentiment, and store the mind with information ; and to lead to philosophical precision, free from pedantry, and to complacency of mana ners, devoid of affectation.
Since, therefore, they have these tendencies and produce these advantages, they deserve encouragement even in their most humble form ; especially, if only a smile of approbation be necessary to give success to their enterprise, and re. ward to their endeavours.
SOME ladies of prime quality at Rome, finely dressed, glittering with jewels, and valuing themselves not a little on these ornaments, paid a visit to another lady of the first rank. After having, with the satisfaction natural to weak minds, displayed their own finery, they earnestly pressed this lady to give them a sight of her jewels. She waved a compliance with their
request for some time, till her sons, who were some of the most accomplished youths in Rome, and in forming whose minds she had a large share, were returned from their exercises ; then, calling them in, and pointing to them, she said, Ladies, these are my jewels, the ornaments, on which I most value myself, and which really do me the greatest honor.
ON THE HEBREW LANGUAGE.
Sanctos ausus rechudere fontes.
IT is much to be regretted, that there are so many prejudices against Oriental Literature. The study of Hebrew in particular is thought so dry and uninteresting, that a prevailing indifference and even aversion are excited against it in most of our Universities; and a knowledge of it is considered neither an ornamental nor an useful qualification. The writer of this Essay conceives, that these are opinions, which ignorance or indolence has suggested, and prejudice propagated; and therefore presumes, in opposition to them, to vindicate the importance and utility of an accurate and extensive acquaintance with that neglected language.
As a primitive language, deriving its origin from the most remote antiquity, and especially as that, in which was recorded the first revelation of the will and purposes of the Deity, the Hebrew is certainly deserving of our high respect. It is not easy therefore to discover a plausible excuse for the disregard, into which it has fallen. Had a similar inattention to the original of the Sacred Scriptures characterized former times, they had been as “a sealed book," and we should have remained ignorant of the only correct account of the creation of the world, the interesting history of the divine dispensations, and the prophecies and events, which lay the grand foundation of the Christian Religion. though we have a translation of those scriptures into English, yet it must be of singular importance to possess a thorough knowledge of the language, in which they were originally written, in order to judge accurately and decisively of the merit and fidelity of the version, we use, and as our last re
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sort in all doubtful cases, and on all controverted points. Nay, it is impossible perfectly to understand the New Testament, without having carefully studied the Old; or to relish all the beauties, or receive the full impression of the doctrines of the apostolic writings, without being well acquainted with that venerable language, which has transmitted to us the first written intimations of the Divine will.
Independently however of its utility, the Hebrew is entitled to our attention, as an object of literature. rent stock of other languages, it opens the most ample materials for a clear discovery of the origin of terms and the etymology of words. * Its structure is admirable. language of great uniformity and simplicity; and is at once singularly concise, forcible, and majestic. Strength appears to be its characteristic ; but it is a strength, by no means void of manly beauty. Besides the graceful dignity, with which it is distinguished, it possesses in many instances a neatness, purity, and precision in the sententious manner, which ape not excelled in any other language.
Add to this, that the ancient Hebrew books contain some fine metaphors and striking allegories ; and thus unite, in their composition, all the recommendations of the sublime and beautiful.
Although we are not well qualified to judge of the rhythm and harmony of the Hebrew language, yet the learned and ingenious investigations of Bishop Hare on this subject have proved, that its poetry was constructed with great regard to syllabic metre and graceful modulation. + Its
* The learned George Sharre makes this remark, after a variety of profound investigations into the origin of languages ; « I would not mislead the reader into a persuasion that the Hebrew of the Old Testament is the unvaried language of our first parents. I mean no more, whenever I speak of the Hebrew as A FIRST LANGUAGE, than this, that it was the general language of men at the dispersion, and, however it might have been improved and altered from the first speech of our first parents, it was the original of all the languages, or almost all the languages, or rather dialects, that have since arisen in the world.” Page 23.
+ Psalmorum liber in versiculos metrice divisus. 8vo Lond. 1736. See also Edward's Prolegomena in libros Veteris Testamenti poeticos 8vo. Can, tab. 1762.
other properties, the alternations and parallelisms of the sentences, the magnificent expressions, lively descriptions, and beautiful images, with which it abounds, are pointed out and elucidated by Bishop Lowth, in a most pleasing and instructive manner.
A learned French writer gives this character of the Hebrew. “ It is the true language of poetry, of prophecy, and of revelation. A celestial fire animates and transports it. What ardor in its odes ! What sublime images in the vision of Isaiah ! How pathetic and affecting are the tears of Jeremiah ! One there finds beauties and models of every kind. Nothing is more capable, than this language, of elevating a poetic spirit; and we do not fear to assert that the Bible, superior to Homer and Virgil in a great number of places, can inspire, still more than they, that rare and singular genius, which is the portion of those, who dedicate themselves to poetry. +
Luther observes, that “ those, who read only versions of the Hebrew Scriptures, see with the eyes of others; they stand with the people in the courts, and view the sacred rites at a distance ; but whoever is acquainted with the original text itself, is admitted with the priests into the sanctuary, and is himself a witness of all, that is transacted in the recesses of the Temple. Hence, says this learned Reformer, though my knowledge of the Hebrew tongue is small, I would not barter it for all the treasures of the whole world." I
To these remarks and testimonies may be added the declaration of an eminent Divine and learned Critic of the present day. “ The grand topic, in recommending the
* De sacra poesi Hebræorum, prælectiones academicæ. 8vo. Oxon. 1763. Also, his letter to Bishop Warburton on the Characters of some of the principal Hebrew writers, &c. and the excellent preliminary dissertation prefixed to his Comment on Isaiah.
† Encyclop. Yverdon, 4to. sur la langue Hebraique. # Quoted in the London Polyglot, Proleg. p. 20.
§ Bishop Newcome's Attempt towards an improved version, a metrical arrangement, and an explanation of the prophet Ezekiel. 4to. Dublin 1788 Preface, p. 62