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lables more or less, according to their audible divisions.
But still this apparatus would be difficult and perplexing from the multitude of signs necessary; till a finer ear, trying syllables more accurately, would unravel sound as Newton's prism unravelled light, and discover its primary intonations as he discovered the primary colours. Thus the alphabet would be gradually developed, and a familiar sign being attached to each letter, a new creation of intelligible forms for embodying thought would arise, where all was silent, dark, and spiritless before. The lumbering, unwieldy logographic machinery is now confined to the unimproving and unimproveable Chinese, whose inveterate characteristic seems to be, that they obtained a certain modicum of knowledge early, which, for thousands of years, they have neither enlarged nor diminished. They have lent out their intellects at simple interest, and have been content to live upon the annual income, without ever dreaming that both capital and product might be immensely increased by being invested in the commerce of minds—the commerce of all others the most infallibly lucrative, and in which the principles of free trade are cardinal virtues.
This theory of the process by which letters were gradually invented, has been actually exemplified in our own day.-A Cherokee chief, having heard that white men could communicate their thoughts by means of certain figures impressed on soft or hard substances, set himself the task of inventing a series of strokes, straight and crooked, up, down, and across,
which should represent all the words in the Indian language. These, however, became so numerous and so refractory in their resemblances, that he must have given up the work in despair, had he not recollected that the sounds, or syllables, of which all words consisted, were comparatively few, though capable of infinite combination. To these, then, he applied his most approved symbols, which, in the course of time, he reduced to two hundred; and, latterly, it is said that he has brought them down as low as eighty; and that by these he can accurately express the whole vocabulary of his mother-tongue. It is to be observed, in abatement of this marvellous effort of a savage mind, that the primary idea of writing was suggested to it, not originally conceived by it.
So beneficent to man has been the invention of letters, that some have ascribed it to the immediate instruction of the Almighty, communicated to Moses when the two tables of stone, containing the Decalogue, written by the finger of God, were delivered to him on the Mount. For this there appears to me no evidence that will bear the test of a moment's calm consideration. Of the Supreme Being we know nothing but what He has been pleased to manifest concerning himself in his works and in his word. To the volumes of nature and of revelation man must no more presume to add than to diminish aught. In neither of these can we find that letters were thus miraculously given ; it therefore cannot be admitted, nay, it must be rejected, so long as all probability is against the supposition.
Man, in every progressive state of society, however
insulated from the rest of the world, endeavours to express his feelings and perpetuate his actions by imagery or mnemonics of some kind; now these, so long as he continues to improve in knowledge, will, in the same degree, be more and more simplified in form, yet more and more adapted to every diversity and complexity of thought. Nay, it is not too bold to assume, that, thus circumstanced, man, by the help of reasoning, reflecting, and comparing, would as naturally — yea, as necessarily-be led to the invention of alphabetical characters, as the young of animals, when they are cast off by their dams, are led by an ineffable faculty, which we call instinct, to all those functions and habits of life which are requisite both for existence and enjoyment, and which their parents never could exemplify before them during their brief connection. Birds may be imagined to teach their offspring how to eat, to fly, to sing; but no bird ever taught another how to build a nest, bird ever taught another how to brood over eggs till they were quickened into life; — yet every linnet hatched this year, will build her nest next spring as perfectly as the first of her ancestors in the bowers of Eden; and, though she never knew a mother's warmth before, so soon as her own first eggs are laid, she will sit upon them, in obedience to a kindly and mysterious law of nature, which will change her very character for the time, inspire her with courage for timidity, and patience for vivacity; imposing on her confinement instead of freedom, and self-denial in the room of self-indulgence, till her little fluttering
family are all disclosed, and reared, and fledged, and flown.
If external circumstances thus conduct every irrational creature, individually, to the knowledge and acquirement of all that is necessary for its peculiar state, - it seems to follow, as a parallelism in Providence, that man in society, at one period or another in his progress of improvement in knowledge, would inevitably discover all the means by which knowledge might be most successfully obtained and secured ; these being as necessary to the rank which he holds in creation, as the respective functions of inferior animals are to their different conditions.
I cannot, however, allow it to be said, because I thus state the question, that I derogate from the glory of God, by not attributing immediately to Him, what He has no where claimed for Himself, in the only book written by his command. To Him nothing is impossible ; with Him nothing is great or small, easy or difficult. His power is not more magnified by working miracles, than it was by ordaining, or than it is by upholding, the regular course of nature. 6. There is a spirit in man, and the breath of the Almighty giveth him understanding.” Is it less, then, to say of the Almighty, that, by the understanding which He gave, man found out the divine art of writing (for divine in this connection it may be called), than to suppose, without any proof, that this art is so super-human, that it could not have been discovered, unless it had been absolutely revealed by the Deity ? — No, surely; for though He made man a little lower than the angels, yet hath He crowned him with glory and ho
nour; and, to speak after the manner of men, the more exalted the creature is found, the more praise redounds to the Creator, who is “ God over all, and blessed for evermore.'
Modes of Writing
That the art of writing was practised in Egypt before the emancipation of the Israelites, appears almost certain from their frequent and familiar mention of this mode of keeping memorials. When the people had provoked the Lord to wrath, by making and worshipping the golden calf, Moses, interceding in their behalf, says,—" Yet now, if Thou wilt forgive their sin; and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which Thou hast written. And the Lord said unto Moses, Whosoever sinneth, him will I blot out of my
book.' The allusion here is to a table of genealogy, the muster-roll of an army, a register of citizenship, or even to those books of chronicles, which were kept by order of ancient oriental princes, of the events of their reigns, for reference and remembrance. Besides, such a mode of publishing important documents is alluded to, not merely as nothing new, but as if even the common people were practically acquainted with it. 66 And thou shalt bind them (the statutes and testimonies of the Lord) as a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes, and thou shalt write them
* Exod. xxxii. 32, 33.