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giving of the law upon Mount Sinai. This seems quite evident from the testimony of Moses himself. In the 17th chapter of Exodus, before the children of Israel reached Sinai, Moses was commanded to write the discomfiture of Amalek, for a memorial in a book, and rehearse it in the ears of Joshua,' verse 14. In the 28th chapter it is stated that those who were charged with making the holy garments? for Aaron, were commanded to engrave on the onyx stones the names of the children of Israellike the engravings of a signet. The people were also directed to write the law upon their door posts. These commands plainly indicate that the art of writing was already known among the Israelites some time before the moral law was written upon the tables of stone. In Numbers, chapter xxxiii, 2, it is said Moses * wrote their goings out, according to their journeys, by the commandment of the Lord.' Neither in these places, nor at the time of the giving of the law, is writing spoken of as a new or recent invention, but on the contrary as a practice well understood. If, indeed, the art of writing had been revealed to Moses in the miraculous way supposed by some, it seems more than probable that the event would have been recorded among other evidences of his Divine commission ; especially when it is considered how beneficial the knowledge of this art has been to mankind.

From various considerations it seems highly probable that alphabetical writing was preserved in the family of Noah, even from the time of the flood. Why, indeed, should Adam have been ignorant of alphabetical writing? Though we have no authentic history of the fact, yet is it not reasonable to suppose that God would have communicated this knowledge among others to the great progenitor of the human race? But laying this out of the question, are there not abundant reasons to suppose that this art was known to the antediluvians ? Let us take into consideration the longevity of that people, together with the fact resulting from it, that before the general deluge there were probably twenty times as many inhabitants on the earth as there have been at any one time since; and shall we not have reason to conclude that they must have arrived to a great degree of perfection in the arts and sciences ? What should have hindered them? The length of time they lived, and the mighty increase and spread of population must have created as many wants, and have been much more prolific in the invention of useful arts, than any age since that time. Is not the ark itself a splendid proof of the architectural'skill of the antediluvians ? And that they were not ignorant of the ornamental arts is evident from what is said of Jabal, the son of Laniech, that he was the father of such as handle the harp and organ ;' and of Tubal-Cain, that he was an instructer of every artificer in brass and iron.' See Gen. iv, 21, 22.


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We see no reason therefore why these people, so renowned in sacred history, so long lived, so exceedingly numerous, and certainly equally as capable of acquiring knowledge as any of their descendants, should have been totally ignorant of an art so highly beneficial to mankind, and so necessary to maintain a correspondence among each other as is alphabetical writing.

It is highly probable, however, that though Noah must, on the supposition that his progenitors understood the use of letters, have preserved the knowledge of it in his family, that at the dispersion of the human race at the building of Babel, the knowledge of this very useful art might have been nearly lost in the confusion which followed that singular event. Though we need not allow that a confusion of tongues or a diversity of languages was the immediate result of this transaction,*


* From the short account of this event in the Holy Scriptures, it seems to have been the design of these people to erect that tower for purposes of Divine worship; not that the top of it might reach to heaven, but that it might be dedicated to the hosts of heaven. So some eminent interpreters have rendered the words d'DVI WNT, (ve; rasho bashemim,) there being no word in the Hebrew text for may reach. It seems highly probable, therefore, that they designed to preserve themselves from being separated into different sects, and scattered abroad upon the face of the earth, by thus preparing a central place of worship. They might also have been prompted to this by a feeling of pride, and an inclination to idolatry. To prevent the accomplishment of this object, and to punish them for their idolatrous designs, God, it is said by the sacred historian, confounded their language, and scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of the earth : hence the name of the tower or temple was called 522, (babel,) from 5a, which signifies to mingle, or confound; thereby commemorating the confounding of their designs and frustrating their magnificent projects by introducing confusion into their counsels. It appears, moreover, that the confusion introduced among them refers more immediately to the confounding of their senti. ments and designs, than to their speech or language; for it seems highly improbable that a diversity of languages was the immediate result of their disappointment; but that it was the consequence of their being separated and scattered abroad upon the earth, and brought about by a gradual process.

On this supposition it is easy to account for the diversity of languages which soon after prevailed among mankind. Being separated into several tribes, inhabiting different climates, they gradually slid into the use of different dialects. Different climates undoubtedly have considerable influence on the organs of speech, and the invention of new arts and trades, the cultivation of the sciences and the extension of commerce, would all contribute to change the language, while a similarity between the most important terms would show that they all sprung from one common root. This, indeed, is actually the case in respect to all the known languages of the earth. While sufficient evidence of the confusion of tongues is afforded by the numerous anomalies which are found even in the most regular languages of men, there are those striking resemblances discoverable among them all which indicate their common origin; and that this origin is most naturally found either in the Hebrew or Arabic language. See Dr. A. Clarke on Gen. xi, 4-9, and Dr. Webster's Introduction to his 4to Dictionary. In this Introduction the learned and indefatigable author has treated this subject with much critical acumen, and fully shown

yet they must have gradually acquired a variety of dialects, until finally perhaps no one, or only one of the tribes preserved a knowledge of the ancient language, whatever that language might have been. The tribe


the practicability of tracing all languages back to one common origin; and likewise shown the manner in which the different languages now prevalent on the earth may have been formed from providential circumstances.

And, indeed, any one may be convinced of the facility of the manner and the almost unavoidable necessity by which mankind came into the use of different dialects, if he will only consider the perpetual changes which have been and are now taking place in every living language. Hence the changes of orthography which are introduced to accommodate it to the change of pronunciation. Were our ancestors, who lived two hundred years ago, now to arise from the dead, and speak to us in the tone of voice, the accentuation, and the cadences they used while living, their language would be perfectly unintelligible to us. Any man may be convinced of this who will compare the orthography of the English language in the days of Wickliffe with that now in use,

Much of the orthography now in use in our own language furnishes no more of a just key to the pronunciation than if horse were made to stand for a rose. What foreigner would ever suspect that tough stands for tuff, trough for trawf, neighbour for naber, know for no—and so of a multitude of other words. The strong gutteral sounds of our ancestors may have justified this orthography at the time it was adopted; but surely no good reason can be assigned for the retention of this barbarous manner of spelling many of our words since the old pronunciation has become obsolete. There seems to be a perpetual effort in the organs of speech to abbrevi. ate words in the manner of pronunciation; which may account for the changes here referred to.

These remarks, however, are somewhat foreign to our present subject, as it was our intention merely to show that there is no necessity for supposing that a multitade of languages were the result of a moment at the time those ancient builders were confounded in their design; but that they originated from their becoming divided into several tribes, and from the combined operation of different climates, customs, modes of living, and the gradual increase of knowledge. And be it remembered also, that it was much more difficult to preserve a uniformity of language at that time, when the art of printing was entirely unknown, the knowledge of letters, if known at all, was restricted to a very narrow sphere, and the arts and sciences must have been comparatively few. This will appear evident to all who consider what corruptions in pronunciation, as well as in the wrong application of words, creep into any living language, even in our day, among those who are comparatively illiterate. If, with all the efforts which are now made to diffuse knowledge by means of books, schools, and colleges, it is not possible to secure our language from corruption among the mass of the people, what would be our condition in a few years were all our books annihilated and our schools demolished! And more especially were our nationality broken up, and we divided into a number of insulated tribes, separated from each other by government, laws, usages, and habits of living. Should we not soon cease to understand each other ?

- Such is the present state of our Indian neighbors. And hence their condition, in respect to their languages, is a full confirmation of the views here expressed in regard to the gradual, and unavoidable manner in which different dialects have been formed. Those who have endeavored to trace out a resemblance between the language of the aboriginal inhabitants of our country and the Hebrew, and from thence to derive

Vol. IV.-April, 1833. 19

of Shem, from whom the Israelites descended through Abraham, might have preserved a knowledge of the primitive language, and of the art of recording events and transactions by means of alphabetical writing ; and Abraham might have taught it to his sons, and they to the succeeding generations down to the time of Moses; while the other tribes who were dispersed abroad at the time God confounded their designs, losing a knowledge of the language itself, lost with it, as a punishment for their temerity, a knowledge of the characters by which it was represented. This may account for the ignorance of the greater proportion of the nations of the earth in regard to the letters of the alphabet in the early period of their history.

A confirmation of the opinion that alphabetical characters are of quite remote antiquity is found in the fact that bricks have been recently discovered by digging deep into the earth at the foundation of the tower of Babel, on which inscriptions are found, which were evidently designed as a record of some important event or events. Now it is well known that the foundation of this famous temple was laid soon after the flood; according to the chronology of our Scriptures it happened about one hundred years after that memorable event. It is generally supposed to have been about the time of the birth of Peleg; as in Gen. X, 25, it is said that unto Eber was born two sons, and the name of the one was Peleg; which being derived from the Hebrew up, signifying


an argument in favor of their descent from the ten lost tribes of Israel, seem to forget two important particulars in this investigation. The first is ; that there are a multitude of different dialects among these several tribes; that a Mohawk can no more understand a Chippeway than a German can an Englishman ; and hence, to make the argument complete which is derived from this source, the resemblance must be made to appear among all these different dialects. The second is ; that allowing the resemblance does actually exist in a few important words, it no more proves the point in hand, than it does that all nations have descended from these ten lost tribes, because such a resemblance may be found to exist in all languages. One very important conclusion, however, seems to follow from this last fact, namely, the resemblance between some terms in all languages; and that is, that we have a confirmation of the Scripture history of the human species, that all nations have descended from one original stock, and that before the dispersion spoken of in the sacred text, all the earth was of one language and of one speech: for if this resemblance of cognate terms can be fairly made to appear, as we believe it can, then the argument derives great force from this resemblance in favor of the inspired declaration, that one language only prevailed at that time ; and also that both nations and languages have all been derived from one original common stock. And whenever it can be ascertained satisfactorily what that language was, we shall be able to determine which is the mother of all language, just as conclusively as we can now determine who was the father of all nations. And we are satisfied that the more thoroughly and critically this subject is examined, the more striking will the evidence appear in favor of the Scriptural account of the origin and dispersion of the human family.

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to divide, to separate, or disperse, the following reason is given why that name was appropriated to him, .for in his days the earth was divided. Allowing, therefore, that alphabetical characters are found on bricks taken from the foundation of this temple, it follows that they were in use at that time, namely, one hundred and one years after the flood, which was the time of Peleg's birth ; and unless we allow that they were invented by Nimrod, or whoever else commenced this idolatrous structure, the knowledge of them must have been preserved in the family of Noah.

If, however, any should be disposed to assign them a later date from the fact that this temple was not completed until several hundred years afterward ; our answer is, that these bricks were found at the very foundation of the temple, and that they were discovered by digging deep into the earth; which is a manifest proof that the engravings were made at the time the tower was begun by the first builders. And the discovery of these bricks in this state of preservation confirms the Scriptural account respecting the materials with which this building was erected, namely, of burnt bricks instead of stone, and of slime instead of mortar ; that is, the bricks, which were indurated in the fire, were strongly cemented together in the building with bitumen, or a pitchy substance, of which, according to Josephus and Herodotus, great quantities to be found on the banks of the river Is, in the neighborhood of Babylon. On these hardened bricks, thus preserved for such a length of time, have these inscriptions been found, in plain characters. A splendid proof, not only of their knowledge of alphabetical characters, but of their 'admirable skill in the art of engraving or indenting them on the hardened and cemented bricks.

The discovery of this fact may also confirm the truth of a passage in Josephus, book i, ch. 2, which has been considered by some entirely fabulous, where he says that the posterity of Seth, having been forewarned of the deluge, erected two columns, one of stone and the other of bricks, on which they recorded their discoveries in astronomy. The column of stone is still extant in the land of Syria.' As this refers to a transaction which took place anterior to the flood, allowing its truth, it fully corroborates the opinion we have expressed, that alphabetical writing was understood and practised by the antediluvians ; for they not only erected these columns, but they also recorded their discoveries upon them. And we see no good reason why monuments might not have been erected sufficiently strong to have resisted the violence even of the flood, and therefore Josephus might have spoken the honest truth when he said the stone column was in existence in his day.*

* See Fragments to Calmet's Dictionary of the Bible, vol. 4, art. Ancient Writing.

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