Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

ON THE PROPER AND IMPROPER USE OF TERMS.

NOTWITHSTANDING the number of words found in every language, they are far from being equal to the number of ideas found in the human mind. Hence it is that one and the same term has a variety of meanings ; and hence arises the distinction between the proper, and improper, or figurative use of terms. The word as abib, e. g. the first in the Hebrew lexicon, signifies, First, verdure, or greenness. Job. viii. 12. Secondly, an ear of torn on its first appearance, being then of a green colour. Lev.

ü. 14. Thirdly, a month in the Jewish year, falling somewhere · about March or April, when corn in that country began to ear.

Here we see the progress of language, and the causes of different ideas being affixed to the same term. When a name is wanted to express an idea, men do not think of making a new one; but call it by something already known, to which it bears a resemblance : and as this resemblance is frequently confined to one leading property, and some times to one that is not so, hence it comes to pass that the more objects a term is applied to, the fur. ther it commonly advances from the original idea. In mentioning the month Abib, e. g. a Jew would think nothing of greenness or verdure, which is its true and primarymeaning; but merely of the time of his forefathers coming out of Egypt, and of the institution of the passover. Yet in arguments from the meaning of scripture terms, it becomes of importance to ascertain the true primitive, or proper sense, and to measure all secondary and figurative applications by it as a standard. It appears to me, that many important errors have been introduced and defended, for want of attending to this rule, which is dictated by common sense. Instead of defining a term according to its primary or proper meaning, and resting nothing upon its secondary or figurative applications, any further than they accord with it, the L'everse has been the practice. The proper meaning has been

made to give way to the figurative, rather than the figurative to the proper.

EXAMPLES.

First: The Universalist, finding the terms used to express the duration of future punishment frequently applied to things which have an end, endeavours from thence to set aside the evidence of its eternity. That is, he grounds bis argument on the secondary and figurative application of terms, to the setting aside of that which is primary or proper. Thus aww, though its proper meaning is always being, is made to mean no more than age or ages ; and awnios, though it literally signifies everlasting or endless, yet is said to mean no more than age-lasting. Thus, instead of measuring the secondary sense of words by the primary, the primary is measured and excluded by the secondary; which goes to exclude all just reasoning, and to introduce everlasting wrangling. It were just as reasonable to contend that the English word turnpike signifies a road made by an act of parliament, though it is so called merely in a way of contraction, and because such roads have toll-gates, and such gates a turnpike for the accommodation of foot passengers.

Secondly: The adversaries of the doctrine of the atonement have taken the same method. “By a sacrifice,” says Dr. Taylor, “ is meant a symbolical address to God, intended to express before him the devotions, affections, &c. by significant emblematical actions; and consequently, whatever is expressive of a pious and virtuous disposition may be rightly included in the idea of a sacrifice; as prayers, thanksgivings, expenses, labours, &c. &c." It is easy to see that the primary notion of a sacrifice is here explained away, or lost in the crowd of secondary meanings ; by which any thing may be proved, or disproved, as the writer pleases.

Thirdly: Let it be dispassionately and impartially considered, whether the principal objections brought against the ordinance of baptism being administered exclusively by immersion, do not ori. ginate in the same cause. The word Barrigw, it is said, will not always agree with the idea of immersion. It is applied to the effu

ON THE PROPER AND IMPROPER USE OF TERMS

NOTWITHSTANDING the number of words found in even guage, they are far from being equal to the num ideas found in the human mind. Hence it is that one and ti term has a variety of meanings ; and hence arises the dis. between the proper, and improper, or figurative use or The word JIN abib, e. g. the first in the Hebrew lexicon,... First, verdure, or greenness. Job. viii. 12. Secondly, com on its first appearance, being then of a green colou. ü. 14. Thirdly, a month in the Jewish year, falling so about March or April, when corn in that country began Here we see the progress of language, and the causes of ideas being affixed to the same term. When a name is express an idea, men do not think of making a new one it by something already known, to which it bears a re. and as this resemblance is frequently confined to or property, and some times to one that is not so, hence to pass that the more objects a term is applied to ther it commonly advances from the original idea. tioning the month Abib, e. g. a Jew would think a greenness or verdure, which is its true and primaria but merely of the time of his forefathers comita Egypt, and of the institution of the passover. Yet in from the meaning of scripture terms, it becomes of im ascertain the true primitive, or proper sense, and to i secondary and figurative applications by it as a standa pears to me, that many important errors have been inti defended, for want of attending to this rule, which is common sense. Instead of defining a term according ry or proper meaning, apd resting nothing upon its st figurative applications, any further than they accord teverse has been the practice. The pronor mean.

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

sion of the Holy Spirit, and to some other things wherein immersion is inadmissible. Be it so: still it amounts to no more than this,

That the terın baptizo, like almost every other term, has its sec. ondary and figurative senses. Its proper and primary meaning is allowed by the most learned pædobaptists in all ages, to be that which the antipædobaptists contend for; and this is the only mean. ing which ought to be called in to settle a dispute. By the contrary method, it were easy to prove that the English word immersion does not mean dipping or plunging: for if a person be very wet by rain, it is common to say he is immersed, merely because he is as wet as if he had been immersed.

To generalize the meaning of a term, in order to include its secondary or figurative senses, is the way to lose its true and proper sense ; and if applied universally, might go to undermine all the great doctrines of Christianity. .

[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

MR. EDITOR,

I must acknowledge, that it seems to me that the Review of Williams on Soloraon's Song, which appeared in your last number, was calculated, whatever might be the design, to undermine the divine authority of that book; and by consequence, of revelation in general. I must add, I wish that some other pieces, particularly that on the Time of the Creation, had had less of a skeptical tendency.

The reviewer puts the following query : “ Had Solomon, in writing this poem, any spiritual intentions in reference to the Mesa

« AnteriorContinuar »