« EdellinenJatka »
the breast and the back; this is a square piece of purple
of the official grades may be obtained from the Emperor, by the payment of a large sum, of which we have an example in the case of Howqua, the wealthiest of the Hong merchants, who purchased his nominal rank at the enormous price of 100,000 dollars.
THE ORIGIN OF ALPHABETICAL WRITING.
(Continued from page 226.)
Modern science, pursued with extraordinary industry and success, has thrown surprising light upon the dark vestiges of remote and sacred antiquity. Even the mysterious symbols of Egyptian mythology can now be deciphered, explained, and understood. One of the most interesting monuments of ancient Egypt is the famous · ROSETTA STONE ;' and its venerable inscriptions have afforded remarkable illustrations of the profound opinions expressed by those learned gentlemen already quoted. Dr. Wall, in his recently published work 'ON THE ORIGIN OF LANGUAGE,' thus mentions that valuable relic:
This highly interesting remnant of Egyptian caligraphy
was by mere accident discovered, a little before the close of the last century, by some French soldiers, in digging for the foundation of a fort, which they were going to erect near Rosetta : and when victory transferred it from French to English hands, it was brought to London, and is now deposited in the British Museum. The subject of the record is a decree, made in honour of Ptolemy Epiphanus, in the ninth year of his reign, that is in the year B.C. 196 ; and this is exhibited in three distinct kinds of writing. The uppermost part of this inscription consists of hieroglyphs; the intermediate one of characters never before observed ; and the lowest is Greek; the last line of which states, that the pillar contained one and the same decree, in sacred, in enchorial, (or such as were in common use in , the country,) and in Greek characters. What gives this document its great value is, that it contains an authentic specimen of hieroglyphics, expressly accompanied by an alphabetic text, exhibiting their meaning; and it is hence very justly called by Mr. Klaproth, the true touch-stone of Egyptian investigation.'
Chinese writing has been mentioned, and the language of that vast country remains yet to be noticed. As that prodigiously populous empire has been distinguished for its civilization, far beyond that of any other nation of the East, it may perhaps be supposed, that possibly the art of alphabetical writing originated in that country; but to this it is sufficient to reply, that the Chinese language does not possess even now, what is properly called an alphabet ; their writing is to this day a kind of symbolic or hieroglyphic mode; and contains according to some authors, about 80,000 characters. On this subject, however, our learned Missionary to the Chinese, the Rev. Mr. Medhurst, will speak most satisfactorily. Of the Chinese writing, he says:
We are now prepared to consider the nature and origin of the Chinese mode of writing. Their traditions tell us, that in the infancy of their empire, events were recorded by means of knotted cords, as among the Peruvians. These were soon found indistinct, and pictorial representations were resorted to, similar to those used by the Mexicans. The abridged plan of the Egyptians was then adopted ; and curiologic, tropical, and symbolic hieroglyphics were used, till all these proving insufficient, arbitrary marks were invented and increased, till the present written medium, with all its variety and multiplicity was formed. The Chinese
characters are not strictly hieroglyphic, as they were neither invented by, nor confined to the priesthood. They were in the first instance, doubtless pictorial, then symbolic, afterwards compounded, and finally arbitrary.'
Opinions and differences thus expressed, lead us to the conclusion, that none of the most ancient and inquisitive Pagan sages professed to have any certain ground for laying claim to the invention of letters, as having been their own; while some of them really professed a measure of valuable knowledge, derived from tradition concerning their origin. And so many of them ascribing it to one person, the Egyptian Thoth, seems very probably to be the remnant of a tradition, that they first had writing among them in the days of Osiris, to whom this Thoth is said to have been secretary. And when they first received the knowledge of this art, there might be frequent mention of Moses, a native of Egypt, as the first writer among the Hebrews, from whom they learnt that it had been derived. This accords substantially with the sentiments of those who believe writing to have been the miraculous gift of Divine revelation; and these obscure
pagan hints are valuable in support of this opinion, which it is concluded is the true one, that Moses was
person who exercised this art, and that he is intended by Thoth, who had the knowledge and use of letters, or alphabetical writing; and that he received it by miracle immediately from God!
• If alphabetical writing,' says Dr. Wall, “ be not an invention of man, it must be a miraculous gift to him from God. This consideration necessarily leads us to search for its origin in the Bible,-in which alone is any authentic account of miracles to be found—and particularly in the Pentateuch, as being the very oldest book alphabetically written, of those which have reached our times. But the author of the Pentateuch does not mention any use of letters before his own time, and therefore, it most probably began with himself. Had the knowledge of alphabetic writing been previously conveyed to man, we have reason to think that Moses would have recorded the fact, for in the case of . arts, of far less interest, as having been arrived at without the aid of any miraculous interposition, he has noticed their commencement. Thus he has specified who were the inventors of tent making; playing on stringed and wind instruments of music, working in brass and iron, &c., &c.
We are not however confined to mere negative reasons for fixing here the termination of our search. That Moses
was the first who made use of alphabetic writing, and that the perception of its nature was a gift miraculously conferred on him, may, I apprehend, be positively collected from his own narrative. He does not indeed dwell upon the circumstance, or boast of it—this would not have been in keeping with his conduct in other instances—but he has left us materials from which the inference can be drawn with a very high degree of probability, and the conclusion is inevitable, that it must have been communicated to him in a miraculous manner, or, as he himself twice expresses it, when the tables were delived to him,-written with the finger of God !
From this brief examination of the great subject before us, we feel now no hesitation in affirming confidently that alphabetical writing was given by Divine revelation to Moses. This is agreeable to the very letter of the Mosaic history. The two tables were prepared, and the laws of God in ten commandments were inscribed upon them, and thus delivered into the hand of Moses, perfectly finished and complete by the power and goodness of God. Hence we read, Exod. xxxi. 18, “And he gave unto Moses, when he had made an end of communing with him on Mount Sinai, two tables of the testimony, tables of stone, WRITTEN WITH THE FINGER OF GOD.'-' And the tables were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, graven upon
the tables.' xxxii. 16. This inestimable favour was granted according to a promise previously made to Moses. Exod. xxiv. 12. “And the LORD said unto Moses, come up to me into the mount, and be there, and I will give thee tables of stone, and a law, and commandments, which I have written. Moses therefore had no hand in writing them: he might certainly have been miraculously taught to write them, as well as to read them: but the matter of fact is related otherwise, and we are not warranted in offering objections to this plain statement designed for our information relating to the momentous fact.
Moses, it will probably be remembered, excited by the idolatry of the people, threw down and broke these first tables of the law; and though he was divinely directed to prepare two other tables like the first, the similitude of which he might easily remember, yet they were again miraculously inscribed. - And the LORD said unto Moses, Hew thee two tables of stone like unto the first: and I will write upon these tables the words that were in the first tables, according to the first tables which thou breakest.'
Exod. xxxiv. 1. And he wrote on the tables according to the first writing, the ten commandments, which the LORD spake in the Mount. Deut. x. 4.
However sceptical any mind may be, it seems extremely difficult to conceive that this inscription would have been miraculously repeated, if Moses had been qualified for the performance of the work, having learned the art of writing before, either among the Egyptians by whom he had been educated in all their wisdom, or among the Arabians with his father-in-law Jethro.
Nature and Providence are analogous in their varied operations; for they are but the Divine operations in different respects. And, accordingly, we never have any miracles wrought for us, except when they are necessary, or on occasions worthy of God. We never find, in the course of either common or extraordinary providence, that God interposes to perform anything for man, which, in the use of his powers, he can do for himself. In the whole settled course of nature, or common providence, what we can do, we are required to perform ; and what we cannot, God will do for us by his own selected instruments. Thus, when writing was taught in this primitive pattern of it, in the two tables; when the alphabet was fixed, and the art of compounding these literal marks into words was made known, we hear of no more miraculous or divine writing. Moses himself, after this, wrote every other law and statute as he received commandment from the Lord Jehovah.
There were many revelations given to mankind before the law, and many after it; the history of the creation; the first law of human duty concerning the tree of life, and that of the knowledge of good and evil; the promise of a Şaviour, in the seed of the woman; the institution of the Sabbath and of sacrifices, the covenant and promises to Noah on the new plantation of the renovated world: these were all public things, in which all human kind were deeply concerned; yet they do not appear to have been written even in hieroglyphics, till the time of Moses; but that great prophet was directed by Divine inspiration to commit them to writing, as we find them now recorded in the book of Genesis. There were many things after the giving of the tables, as the whole system of worship under the Levitical economy; the laws of the Hebrew commonwealth under å special and peculiar theocracy; the prophecies concerning the Messiah before his manifestation; the whole scheme of human redemption by his mediation, the authentic assur