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History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom by Andrew Dickson White

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cardinal doctrine of a fanatic's creed is that his enemies are
the enemies of God.

Any person daring to hint the slightest distrust of the
proceedings was in danger of being immediately brought under
accusation of a league with Satan. Husbands and children were
thus brought to the gallows for daring to disbelieve these
charges against their wives and mothers. Some of the clergy
were accused for endeavouring to save members of their

[398] This is admirably brought out by Upham, and the lawyerlike
thoroughness with which he has examined all these hidden springs
of the charges is one of the main things which render his book
one of the most valuable contributions to the history and
philosophy of demoniacal possession ever written.

One poor woman was charged with "giving a look toward the great
meeting-house of Salem, and immediately a demon entered the house
and tore down a part of it." This cause for the falling of a bit
of poorly nailed wainscoting seemed perfectly satisfactory to Dr.
Cotton Mather, as well as to the judge and jury, and she was
hanged, protesting her innocence. Still another lady, belonging
to one of the most respected families of the region, was charged
with the crime of witchcraft. The children were fearfully
afflicted whenever she appeared near them. It seemed never to
occur to any one that a bitter old feud between the Rev. Mr.
Parris and the family of the accused might have prejudiced the
children and directed their attention toward the woman. No
account was made of the fact that her life had been entirely
blameless; and yet, in view of the wretched insufficiency of
proof, the jury brought in a verdict of not guilty. As they
brought in this verdict, all the children began to shriek and
scream, until the court committed the monstrous wrong of causing
her to be indicted anew. In order to warrant this, the judge
referred to one perfectly natural and harmless expression made by
the woman when under examination. The jury at last brought her
in guilty. She was condemned; and, having been brought into the
church heavily ironed, was solemnly excommunicated and delivered
over to Satan by the minister. Some good sense still prevailed,
and the Governor reprieved her; but ecclesiastical pressure and
popular clamour were too powerful. The Governor was induced to
recall his reprieve, and she was executed, protesting her
innocence and praying for her enemies.[399]

[399] See Drake, The Witchcraft Delusion in New England, vol.
iii, pp. 34 et seq.

Another typical case was presented. The Rev. Mr. Burroughs,
against whom considerable ill will had been expressed, and whose
petty parish quarrel with the powerful Putnam family had led to
his dismissal from his ministry, was named by the possessed as
one of those who plagued them, one of the most influential among
the afflicted being Ann Putnam. Mr. Burroughs had led a
blameless life, the main thing charged against him by the Putnams
being that he insisted strenuously that his wife should not go
about the parish talking of her own family matters. He was
charged with afflicting the children, convicted, and executed.
At the last moment he repeated the Lord's Prayer solemnly and
fully, which it was supposed that no sorcerer could do, and this,
together with his straightforward Christian utterances at the
execution, shook the faith of many in the reality of diabolic
possession. Ere long it was known that one of the girls had
acknowledged that she had belied some persons who had been
executed, and especially Mr. Burroughs, and that she had begged
forgiveness; but this for a time availed nothing. Persons who
would not confess were tied up and put to a sort of torture which
was effective in securing new revelations.

In the case of Giles Corey the horrors of the persecution
culminated. Seeing that his doom was certain, and wishing to
preserve his family from attainder and their property from
confiscation, he refused to plead. Though eighty years of age,
he was therefore pressed to death, and when, in his last agonies,
his tongue was pressed out of his mouth, the sheriff with his
walking-stick thrust it back again.

Everything was made to contribute to the orthodox view of
possession. On one occasion, when a cart conveying eight
condemned persons to the place of execution stuck fast in the
mire, some of the possessed declared that they saw the devil
trying to prevent the punishment of his associates. Confessions
of witchcraft abounded; but the way in which these confessions
were obtained is touchingly exhibited in a statement afterward
made by several women. In explaining the reasons why, when
charged with afflicting sick persons, they made a false
confession, they said:

"...By reason of that suddain surprizal, we knowing ourselves
altogether Innocent of that Crime, we were all exceedingly
astonished and amazed, and consternated and affrighted even out
of our Reason; and our nearest and dearest Relations, seeing us
in that dreadful condition, and knowing our great danger,
apprehending that there was no other way to save our lives,...
out of tender...pitty perswaded us to confess what we did
confess. And indeed that Confession, that it is said we made,
was no other than what was suggested to us by some Gentlemen;
they telling us, that we were Witches, and they knew it, and we
knew it, and they knew that we knew it, which made us think that
it was so; and our understanding, our reason, and our faculties
almost gone, we were not capable of judging our condition; as
also the hard measures they used with us, rendred us uncapable of
making our Defence, but said anything and everything which they
desired, and most of what we said, was in effect a consenting to
what they said...."[400]

[400] See Calef, in Drake, vol.ii; also Upham.

Case after case, in which hysteria, fanaticism, cruelty,
injustice, and trickery played their part, was followed up to the
scaffold. In a short time twenty persons had been put to a
cruel death, and the number of the accused grew larger and
larger. The highest position and the noblest character formed
no barrier. Daily the possessed became more bold, more tricky,
and more wild. No plea availed anything. In behalf of several
women, whose lives had been of the purest and gentlest, petitions
were presented, but to no effect. A scriptural text was always
ready to aid in the repression of mercy: it was remembered that
"Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light," and above
all resounded the Old Testament injunction, which had sent such
multitudes in Europe to the torture-chamber and the stake, "Thou
shalt not suffer a witch to live."

Such clergymen as Noyes, Parris, and Mather, aided by such judges
as Stoughton and Hathorn, left nothing undone to stimulate these
proceedings. The great Cotton Mather based upon this outbreak
of disease thus treated his famous book, Wonders of the Invisible
World, thanking God for the triumphs over Satan thus gained at
Salem; and his book received the approbation of the Governor of
the Province, the President of Harvard College, and various
eminent theologians in Europe as well as in America.

But, despite such efforts as these, observation, and thought upon
observation, which form the beginning of all true science,
brought in a new order of things. The people began to fall
away. Justice Bradstreet, having committed thirty or forty
persons, became aroused to the absurdity of the whole matter; the
minister of Andover had the good sense to resist the theological
view; even so high a personage as Lady Phips, the wife of the
Governor, began to show lenity.

Each of these was, in consequence of this disbelief, charged with
collusion with Satan; but such charges seemed now to lose their

In the midst of all this delusion and terrorism stood Cotton
Mather firm as ever. His efforts to uphold the declining
superstition were heroic. But he at last went one step too far.
Being himself possessed of a mania for myth-making and
wonder-mongering, and having described a case of witchcraft with
possibly greater exaggeration than usual, he was confronted by
Robert Calef. Calef was a Boston merchant, who appears to have
united the good sense of a man of business to considerable
shrewdness in observation, power in thought, and love for truth;
and he began writing to Mather and others, to show the weak
points in the system. Mather, indignant that a person so much
his inferior dared dissent from his opinion, at first affected to
despise Calef; but, as Calef pressed him more and more closely,
Mather denounced him, calling him among other things "A Coal from
Hell." All to no purpose: Calef fastened still more firmly upon
the flanks of the great theologian. Thought and reason now
began to resume their sway.

The possessed having accused certain men held in very high
respect, doubts began to dawn upon the community at large. Here
was the repetition of that which had set men thinking in the
German bishoprics when those under trial for witchcraft there had
at last, in their desperation or madness, charged the very
bishops and the judges upon the bench with sorcery. The party
of reason grew stronger. The Rev. Mr. Parris was soon put upon
the defensive: for some of the possessed began to confess that
they had accused people wrongfully. Herculean efforts were made
by certain of the clergy and devout laity to support the
declining belief, but the more thoughtful turned more and more
against it; jurymen prominent in convictions solemnly retracted
their verdicts and publicly craved pardon of God and man. Most
striking of all was the case of Justice Sewall. A man of the
highest character, he had in view of authority deduced from
Scripture and the principles laid down by the great English
judges, unhesitatingly condemned the accused; but reason now
dawned upon him. He looked back and saw the baselessness of the
whole proceedings, and made a public statement of his errors.
His diary contains many passages showing deep contrition, and
ever afterward, to the end of his life, he was wont, on one day
in the year, to enter into solitude, and there remain all the day
long in fasting, prayer, and penitence.

Chief-Justice Stoughton never yielded. To the last he lamented
the "evil spirit of unbelief" which was thwarting the glorious
work of freeing New England from demons.

The church of Salem solemnly revoked the excommunications of the
condemned and drove Mr. Parris from the pastorate. Cotton
Mather passed his last years in groaning over the decline of the
faith and the ingratitude of a people for whom he had done so
much. Very significant is one of his complaints, since it shows
the evolution of a more scientific mode of thought abroad as well
as at home: he laments in his diary that English publishers
gladly printed Calef's book, but would no longer publish his own,
and he declares this "an attack upon the glory of the Lord."

About forty years after the New England epidemic of "possession"
occurred another typical series of phenomena in France. In 1727
there died at the French capital a simple and kindly
ecclesiastic, the Archdeacon Paris. He had lived a pious,
Christian life, and was endeared to multitudes by his charity;
unfortunately, he had espoused the doctrine of Jansen on grace
and free will, and, though he remained in the Gallican Church, he
and those who thought like him were opposed by the Jesuits, and
finally condemned by a papal bull.

His remains having been buried in the cemetery of St. Medard,
the Jansenists flocked to say their prayers at his grave, and
soon miracles began to be wrought there. Ere long they were
multiplied. The sick being brought and laid upon the tombstone,
many were cured. Wonderful stories were attested by
eye-witnesses. The myth-making tendency--the passion for
developing, enlarging, and spreading tales of wonder--came into
full play and was given free course.

Many thoughtful men satisfied themselves of the truth of these
representations. One of the foremost English scholars came
over, examined into them, and declared that there could be no
doubt as to the reality of the cures.

This state of things continued for about four years, when, in
1731, more violent effects showed themselves. Sundry persons
approaching the tomb were thrown into convulsions, hysterics, and
catalepsy; these diseases spread, became epidemic, and soon
multitudes were similarly afflicted. Both religious parties
made the most of these cases. In vain did such great authorities
in medical science as Hecquet and Lorry attribute the whole to
natural causes: the theologians on both sides declared them
supernatural--the Jansenists attributing them to God, the Jesuits
to Satan.

Of late years such cases have been treated in France with much
shrewdness. When, about the middle of the present century, the
Arab priests in Algiers tried to arouse fanaticism against the
French Christians by performing miracles, the French Government,
instead of persecuting the priests, sent Robert-Houdin, the most
renowned juggler of his time, to the scene of action, and for
every Arab miracle Houdin performed two: did an Arab marabout
turn a rod into a serpent, Houdin turned his rod into two
serpents; and afterward showed the people how he did it.

So, too, at the last International Exposition, the French
Government, observing the evil effects produced by the mania for
table turning and tipping, took occasion, when a great number of
French schoolmasters and teachers were visiting the exposition,
to have public lectures given in which all the business of dark
closets, hand-tying, materialization of spirits, presenting the
faces of the departed, and ghostly portraiture was fully
performed by professional mountebanks, and afterward as fully

So in this case. The Government simply ordered the gate of the
cemetery to be locked, and when the crowd could no longer
approach the tomb the miracles ceased. A little Parisian
ridicule helped to end the matter. A wag wrote up over the gate
of the cemetery.

"De par le Roi, defense a Dieu
De faire des miracles dans ce lieu"--

which, being translated from doggerel French into doggerel
English, is--

"By order of the king, the Lord must forbear
To work any more of his miracles here."

But the theological spirit remained powerful. The French
Revolution had not then intervened to bring it under healthy
limits. The agitation was maintained, and, though the miracles
and cases of possession were stopped in the cemetery, it spread.
Again full course was given to myth-making and the retailing of
wonders. It was said that men had allowed themselves to be
roasted before slow fires, and had been afterward found
uninjured; that some had enormous weights piled upon them, but
had supernatural powers of resistance given them; and that, in
one case, a voluntary crucifixion had taken place.

This agitation was long, troublesome, and no doubt robbed many
temporarily or permanently of such little brains as they
possessed. It was only when the violence had become an old
story and the charm of novelty had entirely worn off, and the
afflicted found themselves no longer regarded with especial
interest, that the epidemic died away.[401]

[401] See Madden, Phantasmata, chap. xiv; also Sir James Stephen,
History of France, lecture xxvi; also Henry Martin, Histoire de
France, vol. xv, pp. 168 et seq.; also Calmeil, liv. v, chap.
xxiv; also Hecker's essay; and, for samples of myth-making, see
the apocryphal Souvenirs de Crequy.

But in Germany at that time the outcome of this belief was far
more cruel. In 1749 Maria Renata Singer, sub-prioress of a
convent at Wurzburg, was charged with bewitching her fellow-nuns.
There was the usual story--the same essential facts as at
Loudun--women shut up against their will, dreams of Satan
disguised as a young man, petty jealousies, spites, quarrels,
mysterious uproar, trickery, utensils thrown about in a way not
to be accounted for, hysterical shrieking and convulsions, and,
finally, the torture, confession, and execution of the supposed

[402] See Soldan, Scherr, Diefenbach, and others.

Various epidemics of this sort broke out from time to time in
other parts of the world, though happily, as modern scepticism
prevailed, with less cruel results.

In 1760 some congregations of Calvinistic Methodists in Wales
became so fervent that they began leaping for joy. The mania
spread, and gave rise to a sect called the "Jumpers." A similar
outbreak took place afterward in England, and has been repeated
at various times and places since in our own country.[403]

[403] See Adam's Dictionary of All Religions, article on Jumpers;
also Hecker.

In 1780 came another outbreak in France; but this time it was
not the Jansenists who were affected, but the strictly orthodox.
A large number of young girls between twelve and nineteen years
of age, having been brought together at the church of St. Roch,
in Paris, with preaching and ceremonies calculated to arouse
hysterics, one of them fell into convulsions. Immediately other
children were similarly taken, until some fifty or sixty were
engaged in the same antics. This mania spread to other churches
and gatherings, proved very troublesome, and in some cases led to
results especially painful.

About the same period came a similar outbreak among the
Protestants of the Shetland Isles. A woman having been seized
with convulsions at church, the disease spread to others, mainly
women, who fell into the usual contortions and wild shriekings.
A very effective cure proved to be a threat to plunge the
diseased into a neighbouring pond.


But near the end of the eighteenth century a fact very important
for science was established. It was found that these
manifestations do not arise in all cases from supernatural
sources. In 1787 came the noted case at Hodden Bridge, in
Lancashire. A girl working in a cotton manufactory there put a
mouse into the bosom of another girl who had a great dread of
mice. The girl thus treated immediately went into convulsions,
which lasted twenty-four hours. Shortly afterward three other
girls were seized with like convulsions, a little later six more,
and then others, until, in all, twenty-four were attacked. Then
came a fact throwing a flood of light upon earlier occurrences.
This epidemic, being noised abroad, soon spread to another
factory five miles distant. The patients there suffered from
strangulation, danced, tore their hair, and dashed their heads
against the walls. There was a strong belief that it was a
disease introduced in cotton, but a resident physician amused the
patients with electric shocks, and the disease died out.

In 1801 came a case of like import in the Charite Hospital in
Berlin. A girl fell into strong convulsions. The disease
proved contagious, several others becoming afflicted in a similar
way; but nearly all were finally cured, principally by the
administration of opium, which appears at that time to have been
a fashionable remedy.

Of the same sort was a case at Lyons in 1851. Sixty women were
working together in a shop, when one of them, after a bitter
quarrel with her husband, fell into a violent nervous paroxysm.
The other women, sympathizing with her, gathered about to assist
her, but one after another fell into a similar condition, until
twenty were thus prostrated, and a more general spread of the
epidemic was only prevented by clearing the premises.[404]

[404] For these examples and others, see Tuke, Influence of the
Mind upon the Body, vol. i, pp. 100, 277; also Hecker's essay.

But while these cases seemed, in the eye of Science, fatal to the
old conception of diabolic influence, the great majority of such
epidemics, when unexplained, continued to give strength to the
older view.

In Roman Catholic countries these manifestations, as we have
seen, have generally appeared in convents, or in churches where
young girls are brought together for their first communion, or at
shrines where miracles are supposed to be wrought.

In Protestant countries they appear in times of great religious
excitement, and especially when large bodies of young women are
submitted to the influence of noisy and frothy preachers.
Well-known examples of this in America are seen in the "Jumpers,"
"Jerkers," and various revival extravagances, especially among
the negroes and "poor whites" of the Southern States.

The proper conditions being given for the development of the
disease--generally a congregation composed mainly of young
women--any fanatic or overzealous priest or preacher may
stimulate hysterical seizures, which are very likely to become

As a recent typical example on a large scale, I take the case of
diabolic possession at Morzine, a French village on the borders
of Switzerland; and it is especially instructive, because it was
thoroughly investigated by a competent man of science.

About the year 1853 a sick girl at Morzine, acting strangely, was
thought to be possessed of the devil, and was taken to Besancon,
where she seems to have fallen into the hands of kindly and
sensible ecclesiastics, and, under the operation of the relics
preserved in the cathedral there--especially the handkerchief of
Christ--the devil was cast out and she was cured. Naturally,
much was said of the affair among the peasantry, and soon other
cases began to show themselves. The priest at Morzine attempted
to quiet the matter by avowing his disbelief in such cases of
possession; but immediately a great outcry was raised against
him, especially by the possessed themselves. The matter was now
widely discussed, and the malady spread rapidly; myth-making and
wonder-mongering began; amazing accounts were thus developed and
sent out to the world. The afflicted were said to have climbed
trees like squirrels; to have shown superhuman strength; to
have exercised the gift of tongues, speaking in German, Latin,
and even in Arabic; to have given accounts of historical events
they had never heard of; and to have revealed the secret thoughts
of persons about them. Mingled with such exhibitions of power
were outbursts of blasphemy and obscenity.

But suddenly came something more miraculous, apparently, than all
these wonders. Without any assigned cause, this epidemic of
possession diminished and the devil disappeared.

Not long after this, Prof. Tissot, an eminent member of the
medical faculty at Dijon, visited the spot and began a series of
researches, of which he afterward published a full account. He
tells us that he found some reasons for the sudden departure of
Satan which had never been published. He discovered that the
Government had quietly removed one or two very zealous
ecclesiastics to another parish, had sent the police to Morzine
to maintain order, and had given instructions that those who
acted outrageously should be simply treated as lunatics and sent
to asylums. This policy, so accordant with French methods of
administration, cast out the devil: the possessed were mainly
cured, and the matter appeared ended.

But Dr. Tissot found a few of the diseased still remaining, and
he soon satisfied himself by various investigations and
experiments that they were simply suffering from hysteria. One
of his investigations is especially curious. In order to observe
the patients more carefully, he invited some of them to dine with
him, gave them without their knowledge holy water in their wine
or their food, and found that it produced no effect whatever,
though its results upon the demons when the possessed knew of its
presence had been very marked. Even after large draughts of
holy water had been thus given, the possessed remained afflicted,
urged that the devil should be cast out, and some of them even
went into convulsions; the devil apparently speaking from their
mouths. It was evident that Satan had not the remotest idea
that he had been thoroughly dosed with the most effective
medicine known to the older theology.[405]

[405] For an amazing delineation of the curative and other
virtues of holy water, see the Abbe Gaume, L'Eau benite au XIXme
Siecle, Paris, 1866.

At last Tissot published the results of his experiments, and the
stereotyped answer was soon made. It resembled the answer made
by the clerical opponents of Galileo when he showed them the
moons of Jupiter through his telescope, and they declared that
the moons were created by the telescope. The clerical opponents
of Tissot insisted that the non-effect of the holy water upon the
demons proved nothing save the extraordinary cunning of Satan;
that the archfiend wished it to be thought that he does not
exist, and so overcame his repugnance to holy water, gulping it
down in order to conceal his presence.

Dr. Tissot also examined into the gift of tongues exercised by
the possessed. As to German and Latin, no great difficulty was
presented: it was by no means hard to suppose that some of the
girls might have learned some words of the former language in the
neighbouring Swiss cantons where German was spoken, or even in
Germany itself; and as to Latin, considering that they had heard
it from their childhood in the church, there seemed nothing very
wonderful in their uttering some words in that language also.
As to Arabic, had they really spoken it, that might have been
accounted for by the relations of the possessed with Zouaves or
Spahis from the French army; but, as Tissot could discover no
such relations, he investigated this point as the most puzzling
of all.

On a close inquiry, he found that all the wonderful examples of
speaking Arabic were reduced to one. He then asked whether
there was any other person speaking or knowing Arabic in the
town. He was answered that there was not. He asked whether any
person had lived there, so far as any one could remember, who had
spoken or understood Arabic, and he was answered in the negative.

He then asked the witnesses how they knew that the language
spoken by the girl was Arabic: no answer was vouchsafed him; but
he was overwhelmed with such stories as that of a pig which, at
sight of the cross on the village church, suddenly refused to go
farther; and he was denounced thoroughly in the clerical
newspapers for declining to accept such evidence.

At Tissot's visit in 1863 the possession had generally ceased,
and the cases left were few and quiet. But his visits stirred a
new controversy, and its echoes were long and loud in the pulpits
and clerical journals. Believers insisted that Satan had been
removed by the intercession of the Blessed Virgin; unbelievers
hinted that the main cause of the deliverance was the reluctance
of the possessed to be shut up in asylums.

Under these circumstances the Bishop of Annecy announced that he
would visit Morzine to administer Confirmation, and word appears
to have spread that he would give a more orthodox completion to
the work already done, by exorcising the devils who remained.
Immediately several new cases of possession appeared; young
girls who had been cured were again affected; the embers thus
kindled were fanned into a flame by a "mission" which sundry
priests held in the parish to arouse the people to their
religious duties--a mission in Roman Catholic countries being
akin to a "revival" among some Protestant sects. Multitudes of
young women, excited by the preaching and appeals of the clergy,
were again thrown into the old disease, and at the coming of the
good bishop it culminated.

The account is given in the words of an eye-witness:

"At the solemn entrance of the bishop into the church, the
possessed persons threw themselves on the ground before him, or
endeavoured to throw themselves upon him, screaming frightfully,
cursing, blaspheming, so that the people at large were struck
with horror. The possessed followed the bishop, hooted him, and
threatened him, up to the middle of the church. Order was only
established by the intervention of the soldiers. During the
confirmation the diseased redoubled their howls and infernal
vociferations, and tried to spit in the face of the bishop and to
tear off his pastoral raiment. At the moment when the prelate
gave his benediction a still more outrageous scene took place.
The violence of the diseased was carried to fury, and from all
parts of the church arose yells and fearful howling; so
frightful was the din that tears fell from the eyes of many of
the spectators, and many strangers were thrown into

Among the very large number of these diseased persons there were
only two men; of the remainder only two were of advanced age;
the great majority were young women between the ages of eighteen
and twenty-five years.

The public authorities shortly afterward intervened, and sought
to cure the disease and to draw the people out of their mania by
singing, dancing, and sports of various sorts, until at last it
was brought under control.[406]

[406] See Tissot, L'Imagination: ses Bienfaits et ses Egarements
sutout dans le Domaine du Merveilleux, Paris, 1868, liv. iv, ch.
vii, S 7: Les Possedees de Morzine; also Constans, Relation sur
une Epidemie de Hystero-Demonopathies, Paris, 1863.

Scenes similar to these, in their essential character, have
arisen more recently in Protestant countries, but with the
difference that what has been generally attributed by Roman
Catholic ecclesiastics to Satan is attributed by Protestant
ecclesiastics to the Almighty. Typical among the greater
exhibitions of this were those which began in the Methodist
chapel at Redruth in Cornwall--convulsions, leaping, jumping,
until some four thousand persons were seized by it. The same
thing is seen in the ruder parts of America at "revivals" and
camp meetings. Nor in the ruder parts of America alone. In
June, 1893, at a funeral in the city of Brooklyn, one of the
mourners having fallen into hysterical fits, several other cases
at once appeared in various parts of the church edifice, and some
of the patients were so seriously affected that they were taken
to a hospital.

In still another field these exhibitions are seen, but more after
a medieval pattern: in the Tigretier of Abyssinia we have
epidemics of dancing which seek and obtain miraculous cures.

Reports of similar manifestations are also sent from missionaries
from the west coast of Africa, one of whom sees in some of them
the characteristics of cases of possession mentioned in our
Gospels, and is therefore inclined to attribute them to

[407] For the cases in Brooklyn, see the New York Tribune of
about June 10, 1893. For the Tigretier, with especially
interesting citations, see Hecker, chap. iii, sec. 1. For the
cases in western Africa, see the Rev. J. L. Wilson, Western
Africa, p. 217.


But, happily, long before these latter occurrences, science had
come into the field and was gradually diminishing this class of
diseases. Among the earlier workers to this better purpose was
the great Dutch physician Boerhaave. Finding in one of the
wards in the hospital at Haarlem a number of women going into
convulsions and imitating each other in various acts of frenzy,
he immediately ordered a furnace of blazing coals into the midst
of the ward, heated cauterizing irons, and declared that he would
burn the arms of the first woman who fell into convulsions. No
more cases occurred.[408]

[408] See Figuier, Histoire de Merveilleux, vol. i, p. 403.

These and similar successful dealings of medical science with
mental disease brought about the next stage in the theological
development. The Church sought to retreat, after the usual
manner, behind a compromise. Early in the eighteenth century
appeared a new edition of the great work by the Jesuit Delrio
which for a hundred years had been a text-book for the use of
ecclesiastics in fighting witchcraft; but in this edition the
part played by Satan in diseases was changed: it was suggested
that, while diseases have natural causes, it is necessary that
Satan enter the human body in order to make these causes
effective. This work claims that Satan "attacks lunatics at the
full moon, when their brains are full of humours"; that in other
cases of illness he "stirs the black bile"; and that in cases of
blindness and deafness he "clogs the eyes and ears." By the
close of the century this "restatement" was evidently found
untenable, and one of a very different sort was attempted in

In the third edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, published
in 1797, under the article Daemoniacs, the orthodox view was
presented in the following words: "The reality of demoniacal
possession stands upon the same evidence with the gospel system
in general."

This statement, though necessary to satisfy the older theological
sentiment, was clearly found too dangerous to be sent out into
the modern sceptical world without some qualification. Another
view was therefore suggested, namely, that the personages of the
New Testament "adopted the vulgar language in speaking of those
unfortunate persons who were generally imagined to be possessed
with demons." Two or three editions contained this curious
compromise; but near the middle of the present century the whole
discussion was quietly dropped.

Science, declining to trouble itself with any of these views,
pressed on, and toward the end of the century we see Dr. Rhodes
at Lyons curing a very serious case of possession by the use of a
powerful emetic; yet myth-making came in here also, and it was
stated that when the emetic produced its effect people had seen
multitudes of green and yellow devils cast forth from the mouth
of the possessed.

The last great demonstration of the old belief in England was
made in 1788. Near the city of Bristol at that time lived a
drunken epileptic, George Lukins. In asking alms, he insisted
that he was "possessed," and proved it by jumping, screaming,
barking, and treating the company to a parody of the Te Deum.

He was solemnly brought into the Temple Church, and seven
clergymen united in the effort to exorcise the evil spirit.
Upon their adjuring Satan, he swore "by his infernal den" that he
would not come out of the man--"an oath," says the chronicler,
"nowhere to be found but in Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, from
which Lukins probably got it."

But the seven clergymen were at last successful, and seven devils
were cast out, after which Lukins retired, and appears to have
been supported during the remainder of his life as a monument of

With this great effort the old theory in England seemed
practically exhausted.

Science had evidently carried the stronghold. In 1876, at a
little town near Amiens, in France, a young woman suffering with
all the usual evidences of diabolic possession was brought to the
priest. The priest was besought to cast out the devil, but he
simply took her to the hospital, where, under scientific
treatment, she rapidly became better.[409]

[409] See Figuier; also Collin de Plancy, Dictionnaire Infernale,
article Posseses.

The final triumph of science in this part of the great field has
been mainly achieved during the latter half of the present

Following in the noble succession of Paracelsus and John Hunter
and Pinel and Tuke and Esquirol, have come a band of thinkers and
workers who by scientific observation and research have developed
new growths of truth, ever more and more precious.

Among the many facts thus brought to bear upon this last
stronghold of the Prince of Darkness, may be named especially
those indicating "expectant attention"--an expectation of
phenomena dwelt upon until the longing for them becomes morbid
and invincible, and the creation of them perhaps unconscious.
Still other classes of phenomena leading to epidemics are found
to arise from a morbid tendency to imitation. Still other
groups have been brought under hypnotism. Multitudes more have
been found under the innumerable forms and results of hysteria.
A study of the effects of the imagination upon bodily functions
has also yielded remarkable results.

And, finally, to supplement this work, have come in an array of
scholars in history and literature who have investigated
myth-making and wonder-mongering.

Thus has been cleared away that cloud of supernaturalism which so
long hung over mental diseases, and thus have they been brought
within the firm grasp of science.[410]

[410] To go into even leading citations in this vast and
beneficent literature would take me far beyond my plan and space,
but I may name, among easily accessible authorities, Brierre de
Boismont on Hallucinations, Hulme's translation, 1860; also James
Braid, The Power of the Mind over the Body, London, 1846; Krafft-
Ebing, Lehrbuch der Psychiatrie, Stuttgart, 1888; Tuke, Influence
of the Mind on the Body, London, 1884; Maudsley, Pathology of the
Mind, London, 1879; Carpenter, Mental Physiology, sixth edition,
London, 1888; Lloyd Tuckey, Faith Cure, in The Nineteenth Century
for December, 1888; Pettigrew, Superstitions connected with the
Practice of Medicine and Surgery, London, 1844; Snell,
Hexenprocesse und Geistesstorung, Munchen, 1891. For a very
valuable study of interesting cases, see The Law of Hypnotism, by
Prof. R. S. Hyer, of the Southwestern University, Georgetown,
Texas, 1895.

As to myth-making and wonder-mongering, the general reader will
find interesting supplementary accounts in the recent works of
Andrew Lang and Baring-Gould.

A very curious evidence of the effects of the myth-making
tendency has recently come to the attention of the writer of this
article. Periodically, for many years past, we have seen, in
books of travel and in the newspapers, accounts of the wonderful
performances of the jugglers in India; of the stabbing of a child
in a small basket in the midst of an arena, and the child
appearing alive in the surrounding crowd; of seeds planted,
sprouted, and becoming well-grown trees under the hand of the
juggler; of ropes thrown into the air and sustained by invisible
force. Count de Gubernatis, the eminent professor and Oriental
scholar at Florence, informed the present writer that he had
recently seen and studied these exhibitions, and that, so far
from being wonderful, they were much inferior to the jugglery so
well known in all our Western capitals.

Conscientious men still linger on who find comfort in holding
fast to some shred of the old belief in diabolic possession.
The sturdy declaration in the last century by John Wesley, that
"giving up witchcraft is giving up the Bible," is echoed feebly
in the latter half of this century by the eminent Catholic
ecclesiastic in France who declares that "to deny possession by
devils is to charge Jesus and his apostles with imposture," and
asks, "How can the testimony of apostles, fathers of the Church,
and saints who saw the possessed and so declared, be denied?"
And a still fainter echo lingers in Protestant England.[411]

[411] See the Abbe Barthelemi, in the Dictionnaire de la
Conversation; also the Rev. W. Scott's Doctrine of Evil Spirits
proved, London, 1853; also the vigorous protest of Dean Burgon
against the action of the New Testament revisers, in substituting
the word "epileptic" for "lunatic" in Matthew xvii, 15, published
in the Quarterly Review for January, 1882.

But, despite this conscientious opposition, science has in these
latter days steadily wrought hand in hand with Christian charity
in this field, to evolve a better future for humanity. The
thoughtful physician and the devoted clergyman are now constantly
seen working together; and it is not too much to expect that
Satan, having been cast out of the insane asylums, will ere long
disappear from monasteries and camp meetings, even in the most
unenlightened regions of Christendom.




Among the sciences which have served as entering wedges into the
heavy mass of ecclesiastical orthodoxy--to cleave it,
disintegrate it, and let the light of Christianity into it--none
perhaps has done a more striking work than Comparative Philology.
In one very important respect the history of this science differs
from that of any other; for it is the only one whose conclusions
theologians have at last fully adopted as the result of their own
studies. This adoption teaches a great lesson, since, while it
has destroyed theological views cherished during many centuries,
and obliged the Church to accept theories directly contrary to
the plain letter of our sacred books, the result is clearly seen
to have helped Christianity rather than to have hurt it. It has
certainly done much to clear our religious foundations of the
dogmatic rust which was eating into their structure.

How this result was reached, and why the Church has so fully
accepted it, I shall endeavour to show in the present chapter.
At a very early period in the evolution of civilization men began
to ask questions regarding language; and the answers to these
questions were naturally embodied in the myths, legends, and
chronicles of their sacred books.

Among the foremost of these questions were three: "Whence came
language?" "Which was the first language?" "How came the
diversity of language?"

The answer to the first of these was very simple: each people
naturally held that language was given it directly or indirectly
by some special or national deity of its own; thus, to the
Chaldeans by Oannes, to the Egyptians by Thoth, to the Hebrews by

The Hebrew answer is embodied in the great poem which opens our
sacred books. Jahveh talks with Adam and is perfectly
understood; the serpent talks with Eve and is perfectly
understood; Jahveh brings the animals before Adam, who bestows on
each its name. Language, then, was God-given and complete. Of
the fact that every language is the result of a growth process
there was evidently, among the compilers of our sacred books, no

The answer to the second of these questions was no less simple.
As, very generally, each nation believed its own chief divinity
to be "a god above all gods,"--as each believed itself "a chosen
people,"--as each believed its own sacred city the actual centre
of the earth, so each believed its own language to be the
first--the original of all. This answer was from the first
taken for granted by each "chosen people," and especially by the
Hebrews: throughout their whole history, whether the Almighty
talks with Adam in the Garden or writes the commandments on Mount
Sinai, he uses the same language--the Hebrew.

The answer to the third of these questions, that regarding the
diversity of languages, was much more difficult. Naturally,
explanations of this diversity frequently gave rise to legends
somewhat complicated.

The "law of wills and causes," formulated by Comte, was
exemplified here as in so many other cases. That law is, that,
when men do not know the natural causes of things, they simply
attribute them to wills like their own; thus they obtain a
theory which provisionally takes the place of science, and this
theory forms a basis for theology.

Examples of this recur to any thinking reader of history.
Before the simpler laws of astronomy were known, the sun was
supposed to be trundled out into the heavens every day and the
stars hung up in the firmament every night by the right hand of
the Almighty. Before the laws of comets were known, they were
thought to be missiles hurled by an angry God at a wicked world.
Before the real cause of lightning was known, it was supposed to
be the work of a good God in his wrath, or of evil spirits in
their malice. Before the laws of meteorology were known, it was
thought that rains were caused by the Almighty or his angels
opening "the windows of heaven" to let down upon the earth "the
waters that be above the firmament." Before the laws governing
physical health were known, diseases were supposed to result from
the direct interposition of the Almighty or of Satan. Before the
laws governing mental health were known, insanity was generally
thought to be diabolic possession. All these early conceptions
were naturally embodied in the sacred books of the world, and
especially in our own.[412]

[412] Any one who wishes to realize the mediaeval view of the
direct personal attention of the Almighty to the universe, can
perhaps do so most easily by looking over the engravings in the
well-known Nuremberg Chronicle, representing him in the work of
each of the six days, and resting afterward.

So, in this case, to account for the diversity of tongues, the
direct intervention of the Divine Will was brought in. As this
diversity was felt to be an inconvenience, it was attributed to
the will of a Divine Being in anger. To explain this anger, it
was held that it must have been provoked by human sin.

Out of this conception explanatory myths and legends grew as
thickly and naturally as elms along water-courses; of these the
earliest form known to us is found in the Chaldean accounts, and
nowhere more clearly than in the legend of the Tower of Babel.

The inscriptions recently found among the ruins of Assyria have
thrown a bright light into this and other scriptural myths and
legends: the deciphering of the characters in these inscriptions
by Grotefend, and the reading of the texts by George Smith,
Oppert, Sayce, and others, have given us these traditions more
nearly in their original form than they appear in our own

The Hebrew story of Babel, like so many other legends in the
sacred books of the world, combined various elements. By a play
upon words, such as the history of myths and legends frequently
shows, it wrought into one fabric the earlier explanations of the
diversities of human speech and of the great ruined tower at
Babylon. The name Babel (bab-el) means "Gate of God" or "Gate
of the Gods." All modern scholars of note agree that this was
the real significance of the name; but the Hebrew verb which
signifies TO CONFOUND resembles somewhat the word Babel, so that
out of this resemblance, by one of the most common processes in
myth formation, came to the Hebrew mind an indisputable proof
that the tower was connected with the confusion of tongues, and
this became part of our theological heritage.

In our sacred books the account runs as follows:

"And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech.

"And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they
found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there.

"And they said one to another, Go to, let us make brick, and burn
them thoroughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime had
they for mortar.

"And they said, Go to, let us build us a city, and a tower, whose
top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be
scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.

"And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the
children of men builded.

"And the Lord said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all
one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will
be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do.

"Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that
they may not understand one another's speech.

"So the Lord scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of
all the earth: and they left off to build the city.

"Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the Lord did
there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence
did the Lord scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth."
(Genesis xi, 1-9.)

Thus far the legend had been but slightly changed from the
earlier Chaldean form in which it has been found in the Assyrian
inscriptions. Its character is very simple: to use the words of
Prof. Sayce, "It takes us back to the age when the gods were
believed to dwell in the visible sky, and when man, therefore,
did his best to rear his altars as near them as possible." And
this eminent divine might have added that it takes us back also
to a time when it was thought that Jehovah, in order to see the
tower fully, was obliged to come down from his seat above the

As to the real reasons for the building of the towers which
formed so striking a feature in Chaldean architecture--any one of
which may easily have given rise to the explanatory myth which
found its way into our sacred books--there seems a substantial
agreement among leading scholars that they were erected primarily
as parts of temples, but largely for the purpose of astronomical
observations, to which the Chaldeans were so devoted, and to
which their country, with its level surface and clear atmosphere,
was so well adapted. As to the real cause of the ruin of such
structures, one of the inscribed cylinders discovered in recent
times, speaking of a tower which most of the archaeologists
identify with the Tower of Babel, reads as follows:

"The building named the Stages of the Seven Spheres, which was
the Tower of Borsippa, had been built by a former king. He had
completed forty-two cubits, but he did not finish its head.
During the lapse of time, it had become ruined; they had not
taken care of the exit of the waters, so that rain and wet had
penetrated into the brickwork; the casing of burned brick had
swollen out, and the terraces of crude brick are scattered in

We can well understand how easily "the gods, assisted by the
winds," as stated in the Chaldean legend, could overthrow a tower
thus built.

It may be instructive to compare with the explanatory myth
developed first by the Chaldeans, and in a slightly different
form by the Hebrews, various other legends to explain the same
diversity of tongues. The Hindu legend of the confusion of
tongues is as follows:

"There grew in the centre of the earth the wonderful `world
tree,' or `knowledge tree.' It was so tall that it reached almost
to heaven. It said in its heart, `I shall hold my head in
heaven and spread my branches over all the earth, and gather all
men together under my shadow, and protect them, and prevent them
from separating.' But Brahma, to punish the pride of the tree,
cut off its branches and cast them down on the earth, when they
sprang up as wata trees, and made differences of belief and
speech and customs to prevail on the earth, to disperse men upon
its surface."

Still more striking is a Mexican legend: according to this, the
giant Xelhua built the great Pyramid of Cholula, in order to
reach heaven, until the gods, angry at his audacity, threw fire
upon the building and broke it down, whereupon every separate
family received a language of its own.

Such explanatory myths grew or spread widely over the earth. A
well-known form of the legend, more like the Chaldean than the
Hebrew later form, appeared among the Greeks. According to
this, the Aloidae piled Mount Ossa upon Olympus and Pelion upon
Ossa, in their efforts to reach heaven and dethrone Jupiter.

Still another form of it entered the thoughts of Plato. He held
that in the golden age men and beasts all spoke the same
language, but that Zeus confounded their speech because men were
proud and demanded eternal youth and immortality.[413]

[413] For the identification of the Tower of Babel with the "Birs
Nimrad" amid the ruins of the city of Borsippa, see Rawlinson;
also Schrader, The Cuneiform Inscriptions and the Old Testament,
London, 1885, pp. 106-112 and following; and especially George
Smith, Assyrian Discoveries, p. 59. For some of these
inscriptions discovered and read by George Smith, see his
Chaldean Account of Genesis, new York, 1876, pp. 160-162. For
the statement regarding the origin of the word Babel, see Ersch
and Gruber, article Babylon; also the Rev. Prof. A. H. Sayce in
the latest edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica; also Colenso,
Pentateuch Examined, part iv, p. 302; also John Fiske, Myths and
Myth-makers, p. 72; also Lenormont, Histoire Ancienne de
l'Orient, Paris, 1881, vol. i, pp. 115 et seq. As to the
character and purpose of the great tower of the temple of Belus,
see Smith's Bible Dictionary, article Babel, quoting Diodorus;
also Rawlinson, especially in Journal of the Asiatic Society for
1861; also Sayce, Religion of the Ancient Babylonians (Hibbert
Lectures for 1887), London, 1887, chap. ii and elsewhere,
especially pages 96, 397, 407; also Max Duncker, History of
Antiquity, Abbott's translation, vol. ii, chaps. ii, and iii.
For similar legends in other parts of the world, see Delitzsch;
also Humboldt, American Researches; also Brinton, Myths of the
New World; also Colenso, as above. The Tower of Cholula is well
known, having been described by Humboldt and Lord Kingsborough.
For superb engravings showing the view of Babel as developed by
the theological imagination, see Kircher, Turris Babel,
Amsterdam, 1679. For the Law of Wills and Causes, with
deductions from it well stated, see Beattie Crozier, Civilization
and Progress, London, 1888, pp. 112, 178, 179, 273. For Plato,
see the Politicus, p. 272, ed. Stephani, cited in Ersch and
Gruber, article Babylon. For a good general statement, see Bible
Myths, New York, 1883, chap. iii. For Aristotle's strange want
of interest in any classification of the varieties of human
speech, see Max Muller, Lectures on the Science of Language,
London, 1864, series i, chap. iv, pp. 123-125.

But naturally the version of the legend which most affected
Christendom was that modification of the Chaldean form developed
among the Jews and embodied in their sacred books. To a
thinking man in these days it is very instructive. The coming
down of the Almighty from heaven to see the tower and put an end
to it by dispersing its builders, points to the time when his
dwelling was supposed to be just above the firmament or solid
vault above the earth: the time when he exercised his beneficent
activity in such acts as opening "the windows of heaven" to give
down rain upon the earth; in bringing out the sun every day and
hanging up the stars every night to give light to the earth; in
hurling comets, to give warning; in placing his bow in the cloud,
to give hope; in, coming down in the cool of the evening to walk
and talk with the man he had made; in making coats of skins for
Adam and Eve; in enjoying the odour of flesh which Noah burned
for him; in eating with Abraham under the oaks of Mamre; in
wrestling with Jacob; and in writing with his own finger on the
stone tables for Moses.

So came the answer to the third question regarding language; and
all three answers, embodied in our sacred books and implanted in
the Jewish mind, supplied to the Christian Church the germs of a
theological development of philology. These germs developed
rapidly in the warm atmosphere of devotion and ignorance of
natural law which pervaded the early Church, and there grew a
great orthodox theory of language, which was held throughout
Christendom, "always, everywhere, and by all," for nearly two
thousand years, and to which, until the present century, all
science has been obliged, under pains and penalties, to conform.

There did, indeed, come into human thought at an early period
some suggestions of the modern scientific view of philology.
Lucretius had proposed a theory, inadequate indeed, but still
pointing toward the truth, as follows: "Nature impelled man to
try the various sounds of the tongue, and so struck out the names
of things, much in the same way as the inability to speak is seen
in its turn to drive children to the use of gestures." But,
among the early fathers of the Church, the only one who seems to
have caught an echo of this utterance was St. Gregory of Nyssa:
as a rule, all the other great founders of Christian theology, as
far as they expressed themselves on the subject, took the view
that the original language spoken by the Almighty and given by
him to men was Hebrew, and that from this all other languages
were derived at the destruction of the Tower of Babel. This
doctrine was especially upheld by Origen, St. Jerome, and St.
Augustine. Origen taught that "the language given at the first
through Adam, the Hebrew, remained among that portion of mankind
which was assigned not to any angel, but continued the portion of
God himself." St. Augustine declared that, when the other races
were divided by their own peculiar languages, Heber's family
preserved that language which is not unreasonably believed to
been the common language of the race, and that on this account it
was henceforth called Hebrew. St. Jerome wrote, "The whole of
antiquity affirms that Hebrew, in which the Old Testament is
written, was the beginning of all human speech."

Amid such great authorities as these even Gregory of Nyssa
struggled in vain. He seems to have taken the matter very
earnestly, and to have used not only argument but ridicule. He
insists that God does not speak Hebrew, and that the tongue used
by Moses was not even a pure dialect of one of the languages
resulting from "the confusion." He makes man the inventor of
speech, and resorts to raillery: speaking against his opponent
Eunomius, he says that, "passing in silence his base and abject
garrulity," he will "note a few things which are thrown into the
midst of his useless or wordy discourse, where he represents God
teaching words and names to our first parents, sitting before
them like some pedagogue or grammar master." But, naturally, the
great authority of Origen, Jerome, and Augustine prevailed; the
view suggested by Lucretius, and again by St. Gregory of Nyssa,
died, out; and "always, everywhere, and by all," in the Church,
the doctrine was received that the language spoken by the
Almighty was Hebrew,--that it was taught by him to Adam,--and
that all other languages on the face of the earth originated from
it at the dispersion attending the destruction of the Tower of

[414] For Lucretius's statement, see the De Rerum Natura, lib. v,
Munro's edition, with translation, Cambridge, 1886, vol. iii. p.
141. For the opinion of Gregory of Nyssa, see Benfey, Geschichte
der Sprachwissenschaft in Deutschland, Munchen, 1869, p. 179; and
for the passage cited, see Gregory of Nyssa in his Contra
Eunomium, xii, in Migne's Patr. Graeca, vol. ii, p. 1043. For
St. Jerome, see his Epistle XVIII, in Migne's Patr. Lat., vol.
xxii, p. 365. For citation from St. Augustine, see the City of
God, Dod's translation, Edinburgh, 1871, vol. ii, p. 122. For
citation from Origen, see his Homily XI, cited by Guichard in
preface to L'Harmonie Etymologique, Paris, 1631, lib. xvi, chap.
xi. For absolutely convincing proofs that the Jews derived the
Babel and other legends of their sacred books fro the Chaldeans,
see George Smith, Chaldean Account of Genesis, passim; but
especially for a most candid though somewhat reluctant summing
up, see p. 291.

This idea threw out roots and branches in every direction, and so
developed ever into new and strong forms. As all scholars now
know, the vowel points in the Hebrew language were not adopted
until at some period between the second and tenth centuries; but
in the mediaeval Church they soon came to be considered as part
of the great miracle,--as the work of the right hand of the
Almighty; and never until the eighteenth century was there any
doubt allowed as to the divine origin of these rabbinical
additions to the text. To hesitate in believing that these
points were dotted virtually by the very hand of God himself came
to be considered a fearful heresy.

The series of battles between theology and science in the field
of comparative philology opened just on this point, apparently so
insignificant: the direct divine inspiration of the rabbinical
punctuation. The first to impugn this divine origin of these
vocal points and accents appears to have been a Spanish monk,
Raymundus Martinus, in his Pugio Fidei, or Poniard of the Faith,
which he put forth in the thirteenth century. But he and his
doctrine disappeared beneath the waves of the orthodox ocean, and
apparently left no trace. For nearly three hundred years longer
the full sacred theory held its ground; but about the opening of
the sixteenth century another glimpse of the truth was given by a
Jew, Elias Levita, and this seems to have had some little effect,
at least in keeping the germ of scientific truth alive.

The Reformation, with its renewal of the literal study of the
Scriptures, and its transfer of all infallibility from the Church
and the papacy to the letter of the sacred books, intensified for
a time the devotion of Christendom to this sacred theory of
language. The belief was strongly held that the writers of the
Bible were merely pens in the hand of God (Dei calami.{;?} Hence
the conclusion that not only the sense but the words, letters,
and even the punctuation proceeded from the Holy Spirit. Only
on this one question of the origin of the Hebrew points was there
any controversy, and this waxed hot. It began to be especially
noted that these vowel points in the Hebrew Bible did not exist
in the synagogue rolls, were not mentioned in the Talmud, and
seemed unknown to St. Jerome; and on these grounds some earnest
men ventured to think them no part of the original revelation to
Adam. Zwingli, so much before most of the Reformers in other
respects, was equally so in this. While not doubting the divine
origin and preservation of the Hebrew language as a whole, he
denied the antiquity of the vocal points, demonstrated their
unessential character, and pointed out the fact that St. Jerome
makes no mention of them. His denial was long the refuge of
those who shared this heresy.

But the full orthodox theory remained established among the vast
majority both of Catholics and Protestants. The attitude of the
former is well illustrated in the imposing work of the canon
Marini, which appeared at Venice in 1593, under the title of
Noah's Ark: A New Treasury of the Sacred Tongue. The huge
folios begin with the declaration that the Hebrew tongue was
"divinely inspired at the very beginning of the world," and the
doctrine is steadily maintained that this divine inspiration
extended not only to the letters but to the punctuation.

Not before the seventeenth century was well under way do we find
a thorough scholar bold enough to gainsay this preposterous
doctrine. This new assailant was Capellus, Professor of Hebrew
at Saumur; but he dared not put forth his argument in France: he
was obliged to publish it in Holland, and even there such
obstacles were thrown in his way that it was ten years before he
published another treatise of importance.

The work of Capellus was received as settling the question by
very many open-minded scholars, among whom was Hugo Grotius.
But many theologians felt this view to be a blow at the sanctity
and integrity of the sacred text; and in 1648 the great scholar,
John Buxtorf the younger, rose to defend the orthodox citadel:
in his Anticritica he brought all his stores of knowledge to
uphold the doctrine that the rabbinical points and accents had
been jotted down by the right hand of God.

The controversy waxed hot: scholars like Voss and Brian Walton
supported Capellus; Wasmuth and many others of note were as
fierce against him. The Swiss Protestants were especially
violent on the orthodox side; their formula consensus of 1675
declared the vowel points to be inspired, and three years later
the Calvinists of Geneva, by a special canon, forbade that any
minister should be received into their jurisdiction until he
publicly confessed that the Hebrew text, as it to-day exists in
the Masoretic copies, is, both as to the consonants and vowel
points, divine and authentic.

While in Holland so great a man as Hugo Grotius supported the
view of Capellus, and while in France the eminent Catholic
scholar Richard Simon, and many others, Catholic and Protestant,
took similar ground against this divine origin of the Hebrew
punctuation, there was arrayed against them a body apparently
overwhelming. In France, Bossuet, the greatest theologian that
France has ever produced, did his best to crush Simon. In
Germany, Wasmuth, professor first at Rostock and afterward at
Kiel, hurled his Vindiciae at the innovators. Yet at this very
moment the battle was clearly won; the arguments of Capellus
were irrefragable, and, despite the commands of bishops, the
outcries of theologians, and the sneering of critics, his
application of strictly scientific observation and reasoning
carried the day.

Yet a casual observer, long after the fate of the battle was
really settled, might have supposed that it was still in doubt.
As is not unusual in theologic controversies, attempts were made
to galvanize the dead doctrine into an appearance of life.
Famous among these attempts was that made as late as the
beginning of the eighteenth century by two Bremen theologians,
Hase and Iken. They put forth a compilation in two huge folios
simultaneously at Leyden and Amsterdam, prominent in which work
is the treatise on The Integrity of Scripture, by Johann Andreas
Danzius, Professor of Oriental Languages and Senior Member of the
Philosophical Faculty of Jena, and, to preface it, there was a
formal and fulsome approval by three eminent professors of
theology at Leyden. With great fervour the author pointed out
that "religion itself depends absolutely on the infallible
inspiration, both verbal and literal, of the Scripture text"; and
with impassioned eloquence he assailed the blasphemers who dared
question the divine origin of the Hebrew points. But this was
really the last great effort. That the case was lost was seen by
the fact that Danzius felt obliged to use other missiles than
arguments, and especially to call his opponents hard names. From
this period the old sacred theory as to the origin of the Hebrew
points may be considered as dead and buried.


But the war was soon to be waged on a wider and far more
important field. The inspiration of the Hebrew punctuation
having been given up, the great orthodox body fell back upon the
remainder of the theory, and intrenched this more strongly than
ever: the theory that the Hebrew language was the first of all
languages--that which was spoken by the Almighty, given by him to
Adam, transmitted through Noah to the world after the Deluge--and
that the "confusion of tongues" was the origin of all other

In giving account of this new phase of the struggle, it is well
to go back a little. From the Revival of Learning and the
Reformation had come the renewed study of Hebrew in the fifteenth
and sixteenth centuries, and thus the sacred doctrine regarding
the origin of the Hebrew language received additional authority.
All the early Hebrew grammars, from that of Reuchlin down, assert
the divine origin and miraculous claims of Hebrew. It is
constantly mentioned as "the sacred tongue"--sancta lingua. In
1506, Reuchlin, though himself persecuted by a large faction in
the Church for advanced views, refers to Hebrew as "spoken by the
mouth of God."

This idea was popularized by the edition of the Margarita
Philosophica, published at Strasburg in 1508. That work, in
its successive editions a mirror of human knowledge at the close
of the Middle Ages and the opening of modern times, contains a
curious introduction to the study of Hebrew, In this it is
declared that Hebrew was the original speech "used between God
and man and between men and angels." Its full-page frontispiece
represents Moses receiving from God the tables of stone written
in Hebrew; and, as a conclusive argument, it reminds us that
Christ himself, by choosing a Hebrew maid for his mother, made
that his mother tongue.

It must be noted here, however, that Luther, in one of those
outbursts of strong sense which so often appear in his career,
enforced the explanation that the words "God said" had nothing to
do with the articulation of human language. Still, he evidently
yielded to the general view. In the Roman Church at the same
period we have a typical example of the theologic method applied
to philology, as we have seen it applied to other sciences, in
the statement by Luther's great opponent, Cajetan, that the three
languages of the inscription on the cross of Calvary "were the
representatives of all languages, because the number three
denotes perfection."

In 1538 Postillus made a very important endeavour at a
comparative study of languages, but with the orthodox assumption
that all were derived from one source, namely, the Hebrew.
Naturally, Comparative Philology blundered and stumbled along
this path into endless absurdities. The most amazing efforts
were made to trace back everything to the sacred language.
English and Latin dictionaries appeared, in which every word was
traced back to a Hebrew root. No supposition was too absurd in
this attempt to square Science with Scripture. It was declared
that, as Hebrew is written from right to left, it might be read
either way, in order to produce a satisfactory etymology. The
whole effort in all this sacred scholarship was, not to find what
the truth is--not to see how the various languages are to be
classified, or from what source they are really derived--but to
demonstrate what was supposed necessary to maintain what was then
held to be the truth of Scripture; namely, that all languages are
derived from the Hebrew.

This stumbling and blundering, under the sway of orthodox
necessity, was seen among the foremost scholars throughout
Europe. About the middle of the sixteenth century the great
Swiss scholar, Conrad Gesner, beginning his Mithridates, says,
"While of all languages Hebrew is the first and oldest, of all is
alone pure and unmixed, all the rest are much mixed, for there is
none which has not some words derived and corrupted from Hebrew."

Typical, as we approach the end of the sixteenth century, are the
utterances of two of the most noted English divines. First of
these may be mentioned Dr. William Fulke, Master of Pembroke
Hall, in the University of Cambridge. In his Discovery of the
Dangerous Rock of the Romish Church, published in 1580, he
speaks of "the Hebrew tongue,...the first tongue of the world,
and for the excellency thereof called `the holy tongue.'"

Yet more emphatic, eight years later, was another eminent divine,
Dr. William Whitaker, Regius Professor of Divinity and Master
of St. John's College at Cambridge. In his Disputation on Holy
Scripture, first printed in 1588, he says: "The Hebrew is the
most ancient of all languages, and was that which alone prevailed
in the world before the Deluge and the erection of the Tower of
Babel. For it was this which Adam used and all men before the
Flood, as is manifest from the Scriptures, as the fathers
testify." He then proceeds to quote passages on this subject
from St. Jerome, St. Augustine, and others, and cites St.
Chrysostom in support of the statement that "God himself showed
the model and method of writing when he delivered the Law written
by his own finger to Moses."[415]

[415] For the whole scriptural argument, embracing the various
texts on which the sacred science of Philology was founded, with
the use made of such texts, see Benfey, Geschichte der
Sprachwissenschaft in Deutschland, Munchen, 1869, pp. 22-26. As
to the origin of the vowel points, see Benfey, as above; he holds
that they began to be inserted in the second century A.D., and
that the process lasted until about the tenth. For Raymundus and
his Pugio Fidei, see G. L. Bauer, Prolegomena to his revision of
Glassius's Philologia Sacra, Leipsic, 1795,--see especially pp.
8-14, in tome ii of the work. For Zwingli, see Praef. in Apol.
comp. Isaiae (Opera, iii). See also Morinus, De Lingua primaeva,
p.447. For Marini, see his Arca Noe: Thesaurus Linguae Sanctae,
Venet., 1593, and especially the preface. For general account of
Capellus, see G. L. Bauer, in his Prolegomena, as above, vol. ii,
pp. 8-14. His Arcanum Premetationis Revelatum was brought out at
Leyden in 1624; his Critica Sacra ten years later. See on
Capellus and Swiss theologues, Wolfius, Bibliotheca Nebr., tome
ii, p. 27. For the struggle, see Schnedermann, Die Controverse
des Ludovicus Capellus mit den Buxtorfen, Leipsic, 1879, cited in
article Hebrew, in Encyclopaedia Britannica. For Wasmuth, see
his Vindiciae Sanctae Hebraicae Scripturae, Rostock, 1664. For
Reuchlin, see the dedicatory preface to his Rudimenta Hebraica,
Pforzheim, 1506, folio, in which he speaks of the "in divina
scriptura dicendi genus, quale os Dei locatum est." The
statement in the Margarita Philosophica as to Hebrew is doubtless
based on Reuchlin's Rudimenta Hebraica, which it quotes, and
which first appeared in 1506. It is significant that this
section disappeared from the Margarita in the following editions;
but this disappearence is easily understood when we recall the
fact that Gregory Reysch, its author, having become one of the
Papal Commission to judge Reuchlin in his quarrel with the
Dominicans, thought it prudent to side with the latter, and
therefore, doubtless, considered it wise to suppress all evidence
of Reuchlin's influence upon his beliefs. All the other editions
of the Margarita in my possession are content with teaching,
under the head of the Alphabet, that the Hebrew letters were
invented by Adam. On Luther's view of the words "God said," see
Farrar, Language and Languages. For a most valuable statement
regarding the clashing opinions at the Reformation, see Max
Muller, as above, lecture iv, p. 132. For the prevailing view
among the Reformers, see Calovius, vol. i, p. 484, and Thulock,
The Doctrine of Inspiration, in Theolog. Essays, Boston, 1867.
Both Muller and Benfey note, as especially important, the
difference between the Church view and the ancient heathen view
regarding "barbarians." See Muller, as above, lecture iv, p.
127, and Benfey, as above, pp. 170 et seq. For a very remarkable
list of Bibles printed at an early period, see Benfey, p. 569.
On the attempts to trace all words back to Hebrew roots, see
Sayce, Introduction to the Science of Language, chap. vi. For
Gesner, see his Mithridates (de differentiis linguarum), Zurich,
1555. For a similar attempt to prove that Italian was also
derived from Hebrew, see Giambullari, cited in Garlanda, p. 174.
For Fulke, see the Parker Society's Publications, 1848, p. 224.
For Whitaker, see his Disputation on Holy Scripture in the same
series, pp. 112-114.

This sacred theory entered the seventeenth century in full force,
and for a time swept everything before it. Eminent
commentators, Catholic and Protestant, accepted and developed it.

Great prelates, Catholic and Protestant, stood guard over it,
favouring those who supported it, doing their best to destroy
those who would modify it.

In 1606 Stephen Guichard built new buttresses for it in Catholic
France. He explains in his preface that his intention is "to
make the reader see in the Hebrew word not only the Greek and
Latin, but also the Italian, the Spanish, the French, the German,
the Flemish, the English, and many others from all languages."
As the merest tyro in philology can now see, the great difficulty
that Guichard encounters is in getting from the Hebrew to the
Aryan group of languages. How he meets this difficulty may be
imagined from his statement, as follows: "As for the derivation
of words by addition, subtraction, and inversion of the letters,
it is certain that this can and ought thus to be done, if we
would find etymologies--a thing which becomes very credible when
we consider that the Hebrews wrote from right to left and the
Greeks and others from left to right. All the learned recognise
such derivations as necessary;...and...certainly otherwise one
could scarcely trace any etymology back to Hebrew."

Of course, by this method of philological juggling, anything
could be proved which the author thought necessary to his pious

Two years later, Andrew Willett published at London his Hexapla,
or Sixfold Commentary upon Genesis. In this he insists that
the one language of all mankind in the beginning "was the Hebrew
tongue preserved still in Heber's family." He also takes pains
to say that the Tower of Babel "was not so called of Belus, as
some have imagined, but of confusion, for so the Hebrew word
ballal signifieth"; and he quotes from St. Chrysostom to
strengthen his position.

In 1627 Dr. Constantine l'Empereur was inducted into the chair
of Philosophy of the Sacred Language in the University of Leyden.
In his inaugural oration on The Dignity and Utility of the Hebrew
Tongue, he puts himself on record in favour of the Divine origin
and miraculous purity of that language. "Who," he says, "can
call in question the fact that the Hebrew idiom is coeval with
the world itself, save such as seek to win vainglory for their
own sophistry?"

Two years after Willett, in England, comes the famous Dr.
Lightfoot, the most renowned scholar of his time in Hebrew,
Greek, and Latin; but all his scholarship was bent to suit
theological requirements. In his Erubhin, published in 1629,
he goes to the full length of the sacred theory, though we begin
to see a curious endeavour to get over some linguistic

One passage will serve to show both the robustness of his faith
and the acuteness of his reasoning, in view of the difficulties
which scholars now began to find in the sacred theory." Other
commendations this tongue (Hebrew) needeth none than what it hath
of itself; namely, for sanctity it was the tongue of God; and for
antiquity it was the tongue of Adam. God the first founder, and
Adam the first speaker of it....It began with the world and the
Church, and continued and increased in glory till the captivity
in Babylon....As the man in Seneca, that through sickness lost
his memory and forgot his own name, so the Jews, for their sins,
lost their language and forgot their own tongue....Before the
confusion of tongues all the world spoke their tongue and no
other but since the confusion of the Jews they speak the language
of all the world and not their own."

But just at the middle of the century (1657) came in England a
champion of the sacred theory more important than any of
these--Brian Walton, Bishop of Chester. His Polyglot Bible
dominated English scriptural criticism throughout the remainder
of the century. He prefaces his great work by proving at length
the divine origin of Hebrew, and the derivation from it of all
other forms of speech. He declares it "probable that the first
parent of mankind was the inventor of letters." His chapters on
this subject are full of interesting details. He says that the
Welshman, Davis, had already tried to prove the Welsh the
primitive speech; Wormius, the Danish; Mitilerius, the German;
but the bishop stands firmly by the sacred theory, informing us
that "even in the New World are found traces of the Hebrew
tongue, namely, in New England and in New Belgium, where the word
Aguarda signifies earth, and the name Joseph is found among the
Hurons." As we have seen, Bishop Walton had been forced to give
up the inspiration of the rabbinical punctuation, but he seems to
have fallen back with all the more tenacity on what remained of
the great sacred theory of language, and to have become its
leading champion among English-speaking peoples.

At that same period the same doctrine was put forth by a great
authority in Germany. In 1657 Andreas Sennert published his
inaugural address as Professor of Sacred Letters and Dean of the
Theological Faculty at Wittenberg. All his efforts were given
to making Luther's old university a fortress of the orthodox
theory. His address, like many others in various parts of
Europe, shows that in his time an inaugural with any save an
orthodox statement of the theological platform would not be
tolerated. Few things in the past are to the sentimental mind
more pathetic, to the philosophical mind more natural, and to the
progressive mind more ludicrous, than addresses at high festivals
of theological schools. The audience has generally consisted
mainly of estimable elderly gentlemen, who received their
theology in their youth, and who in their old age have watched
over it with jealous care to keep it well protected from every
fresh breeze of thought. Naturally, a theological professor
inaugurated under such auspices endeavours to propitiate his
audience. Sennert goes to great lengths both in his address and
in his grammar, published nine years later; for, declaring the
Divine origin of Hebrew to be quite beyond controversy, he says:
"Noah received it from our first parents, and guarded it in the
midst of the waters; Heber and Peleg saved it from the confusion
of tongues."

The same doctrine was no less loudly insisted upon by the
greatest authority in Switzerland, Buxtorf, professor at Basle,
who proclaimed Hebrew to be "the tongue of God, the tongue of
angels, the tongue of the prophets"; and the effect of this
proclamation may be imagined when we note in 1663 that his book
had reached its sixth edition.

It was re-echoed through England, Germany, France, and America,
and, if possible, yet more highly developed. In England
Theophilus Gale set himself to prove that not only all the
languages, but all the learning of the world, had been drawn from
the Hebrew records.

This orthodox doctrine was also fully vindicated in Holland.
Six years before the close of the seventeenth century, Morinus,
Doctor of Theology, Professor of Oriental Languages, and pastor
at Amsterdam, published his great work on Primaeval Language.
Its frontispiece depicts the confusion of tongues at Babel, and,
as a pendant to this, the pentecostal gift of tongues to the
apostles. In the successive chapters of the first book he
proves that language could not have come into existence save as a
direct gift from heaven; that there is a primitive language, the
mother of all the rest; that this primitive language still exists
in its pristine purity; that this language is the Hebrew. The
second book is devoted to proving that the Hebrew letters were
divinely received, have been preserved intact, and are the source
of all other alphabets. But in the third book he feels obliged
to allow, in the face of the contrary dogma held, as he says, by
"not a few most eminent men piously solicitous for the authority
of the sacred text," that the Hebrew punctuation was, after all,
not of Divine inspiration, but a late invention of the rabbis.

France, also, was held to all appearance in complete subjection
to the orthodox idea up to the end of the century. In 1697
appeared at Paris perhaps the most learned of all the books
written to prove Hebrew the original tongue and source of all
others. The Gallican Church was then at the height of its
power. Bossuet as bishop, as thinker, and as adviser of Louis
XIV, had crushed all opposition to orthodoxy. The Edict of
Nantes had been revoked, and the Huguenots, so far as they could
escape, were scattered throughout the world, destined to repay
France with interest a thousandfold during the next two
centuries. The bones of the Jansenists at Port Royal were dug up
and scattered. Louis XIV stood guard over the piety of his
people. It was in the midst of this series of triumphs that
Father Louis Thomassin, Priest of the Oratory, issued his
Universal Hebrew Glossary. In this, to use his own language,
"the divinity, antiquity, and perpetuity of the Hebrew tongue,
with its letters, accents, and other characters," are established
forever and beyond all cavil, by proofs drawn from all peoples,
kindreds, and nations under the sun. This superb,
thousand-columned folio was issued from the royal press, and is
one of the most imposing monuments of human piety and
folly--taking rank with the treatises of Fromundus against
Galileo, of Quaresmius on Lot's Wife, and of Gladstone on Genesis
and Geology.

The great theologic-philologic chorus was steadily maintained,
and, as in a responsive chant, its doctrines were echoed from
land to land. From America there came the earnest words of John
Eliot, praising Hebrew as the most fit to be made a universal
language, and declaring it the tongue "which it pleased our Lord
Jesus to make use of when he spake from heaven unto Paul." At
the close of the seventeenth century came from England a strong
antiphonal answer in this chorus; Meric Casaubon, the learned
Prebendary of Canterbury, thus declared: "One language, the
Hebrew, I hold to be simply and absolutely the source of all."
And, to swell the chorus, there came into it, in complete unison,
the voice of Bentley--the greatest scholar of the old sort whom
England has ever produced. He was, indeed, one of the most
learned and acute critics of any age; but he was also Master of
Trinity, Archdeacon of Bristol, held two livings besides, and
enjoyed the honour of refusing the bishopric of Bristol, as not
rich enough to tempt him. Noblesse oblige: that Bentley should
hold a brief for the theological side was inevitable, and we need
not be surprised when we hear him declaring: "We are sure, from
the names of persons and places mentioned in Scripture before the
Deluge, not to insist upon other arguments, that the Hebrew was
the primitive language of mankind, and that it continued pure
above three thousand years until the captivity in Babylon." The
power of the theologic bias, when properly stimulated with
ecclesiastical preferment, could hardly be more perfectly
exemplified than in such a captivity of such a man as Bentley.

Yet here two important exceptions should be noted. In England,
Prideaux, whose biblical studies gave him much authority, opposed
the dominant opinion; and in America, Cotton Mather, who in
taking his Master's degree at Harvard had supported the doctrine
that the Hebrew vowel points were of divine origin, bravely
recanted and declared for the better view.[416]

[416] The quotation from Guichard is from L'Harmonie Etymologique
des Langues, . . . dans laquelle par plusiers Antiquites et
Etymologies de toute sorte, je demonstre evidemment que toutes
les langues sont descendues de l'Hebraique; par M. Estienne
Guichard, Paris, 1631. The first edition appeared in 1606. For
Willett, see his Hexapla, London, 1608, pp. 125-128. For the
Address of L'Empereur, see his publication, Leyden, 1627. The
quotation from Lightfoot, beginning "Other commendations," etc.,
is taken from his Erubhin, or Miscellanies, edition of 1629; see
also his works, vol. iv, pp. 46, 47, London, 1822. For Bishop
Brian Walton, see the Cambridge edition of his works, 1828,
Prolegomena S 1 and 3. As to Walton's giving up the rabbinical
points, he mentions in one of the latest editions of his works
the fact that Isaac Casabon, Joseph Scaliger, Isaac Vossius,
Grotius, Beza, Luther, Zwingli, Brentz, Oecolampadius, Calvin,
and even some of the Popes were with him in this. For Sennert,
see his Dissertation de Ebraicae S. S. Linguae Origine, etc.,
Wittenberg, 1657; also his Grammitica Orientalis, Wittenberg,
1666. For Buxtorf, see the preface to his Thesaurus Grammaticus
Linguae Sanctae Hebraeae, sixth edition, 1663. For Gale, see his
Court of the Gentiles, Oxford, 1672. For Morinus, see his
Exercitationes de Lingua Primaeva, Utrecht, 1697. For Thomassin,
see his Glossarium Universale Hebraicum, Paris, 1697. For John
Eliot's utterance, see Mather's Magnalia, book iii, p. 184. For
Meric Casaubon, see his De Lingua Anglia Vet., p. 160, cited by
Massey, p. 16 of Origin and Progress of Letters. For Bentley,
see his works, London, 1836, vol. ii, p. 11, and citations by
Welsford, Mithridates Minor, p. 2. As to Bentley's position as a
scholar, see the famous estimate in Macaulay's Essays. For a
short but very interesting account of him, see Mark Pattison's
article in vol. iii of the last edition of the Encyclopaedia
Britannica. The postion of Pattison as an agnostic dignitary in
the English Church eminently fitted him to understand Bentley's
career, both as regards the orthodox and the scholastic world.
For perhaps the most striking account of the manner in which
Bentley lorded it in the scholastic world of his time, see Monk's
Life of Bentley, vol. ii, chap. xvii, and especially his
contemptuous reply to the judges, as given in vol. ii, pp. 211,
212. For Cotton Mather, see his biography by Samuel Mather,
Boston, 1729, pp. 5, 6.

But even this dissent produced little immediate effect, and at
the beginning of the eighteenth century this sacred doctrine,
based upon explicit statements of Scripture, seemed forever
settled. As we have seen, strong fortresses had been built for
it in every Christian land: nothing seemed more unlikely than
that the little groups of scholars scattered through these
various countries could ever prevail against them. These
strongholds were built so firmly, and had behind them so vast an
army of religionists of every creed, that to conquer them seemed
impossible. And yet at that very moment their doom was decreed.
Within a few years from this period of their greatest triumph,
the garrisons of all these sacred fortresses were in hopeless
confusion, and the armies behind them in full retreat; a little
later, all the important orthodox fortresses and forces were in
the hands of the scientific philologists.

How this came about will be shown in the third part of this


We have now seen the steps by which the sacred theory of human
language had been developed: how it had been strengthened in
every land until it seemed to bid defiance forever to advancing
thought; how it rested firmly upon the letter of Scripture, upon
the explicit declarations of leading fathers of the Church, of
the great doctors of the Middle Ages, of the most eminent
theological scholars down to the beginning of the eighteenth
century, and was guarded by the decrees of popes, kings, bishops,
Catholic and Protestant, and the whole hierarchy of authorities
in church and state.

And yet, as we now look back, it is easy to see that even in that
hour of its triumph it was doomed.

The reason why the Church has so fully accepted the conclusions
of science which have destroyed the sacred theory is instructive.
The study of languages has been, since the Revival of Learning
and the Reformation, a favourite study with the whole Western
Church, Catholic and Protestant. The importance of understanding
the ancient tongues in which our sacred books are preserved first
stimulated the study, and Church missionary efforts have
contributed nobly to supply the material for extending it, and
for the application of that comparative method which, in
philology as in other sciences, has been so fruitful. Hence it
is that so many leading theologians have come to know at first
hand the truths given by this science, and to recognise its
fundamental principles. What the conclusions which they, as
well as all other scholars in this field, have been absolutely
forced to accept, I shall now endeavour to show.

The beginnings of a scientific theory seemed weak indeed, but
they were none the less effective. As far back as 1661,
Hottinger, professor at Heidelberg, came into the chorus of
theologians like a great bell in a chime; but like a bell whose
opening tone is harmonious and whose closing tone is discordant.
For while, at the beginning, Hottinger cites a formidable list of
great scholars who had held the sacred theory of the origin of
language, he goes on to note a closer resemblance to the Hebrew
in some languages than in others, and explains this by declaring
that the confusion of tongues was of two sorts, total and
partial: the Arabic and Chaldaic he thinks underwent only a
partial confusion; the Egyptian, Persian, and all the European
languages a total one. Here comes in the discord; here gently
sounds forth from the great chorus a new note--that idea of
grouping and classifying languages which at a later day was to
destroy utterly the whole sacred theory.

But the great chorus resounded on, as we have seen, from shore to
shore, until the closing years of the seventeenth century; then
arose men who silenced it forever. The first leader who threw
the weight of his knowledge, thought, and authority against it
was Leibnitz. He declared, "There is as much reason for
supposing Hebrew to have been the primitive language of mankind
as there is for adopting the view of Goropius, who published a
work at Antwerp in 1580 to prove that Dutch was the language
spoken in paradise."

In a letter to Tenzel, Leibnitz wrote, "To call Hebrew the
primitive language is like calling the branches of a tree
primitive branches, or like imagining that in some country hewn
trunks could grow instead of trees." He also asked, "If the
primeval language existed even up to the time of Moses, whence
came the Egyptian language?"

But the efficiency of Leibnitz did not end with mere suggestions.
He applied the inductive method to linguistic study, made great
efforts to have vocabularies collected and grammars drawn up
wherever missionaries and travellers came in contact with new
races, and thus succeeded in giving the initial impulse to at
least three notable collections--that of Catharine the Great, of
Russia; that of the Spanish Jesuit, Lorenzo Hervas; and, at a
later period, the Mithridates of Adelung. The interest of the
Empress Catharine in her collection of linguistic materials was
very strong, and her influence is seen in the fact that
Washington, to please her, requested governors and generals to
send in materials from various parts of the United States and the
Territories. The work of Hervas extended over the period from
1735 to 1809: a missionary in America, he enlarged his catalogue
of languages to six volumes, which were published in Spanish in
1800, and contained specimens of more than three hundred
languages, with the grammars of more than forty. It should be
said to his credit that Hervas dared point out with especial care
the limits of the Semitic family of languages, and declared, as a
result of his enormous studies, that the various languages of
mankind could not have been derived from the Hebrew.

While such work was done in Catholic Spain, Protestant Germany
was honoured by the work of Adelung. It contained the Lord's
Prayer in nearly five hundred languages and dialects, and the
comparison of these, early in the nineteenth century, helped to
end the sway of theological philology.

But the period which intervened between Leibnitz and this modern
development was a period of philological chaos. It began mainly
with the doubts which Leibnitz had forced upon Europe, and ended
only with the beginning of the study of Sanskrit in the latter
half of the eighteenth century, and with the comparisons made by
means of the collections of Catharine, Hervas, and Adelung at the
beginning of the nineteenth. The old theory that Hebrew was the
original language had gone to pieces; but nothing had taken its
place as a finality. Great authorities, like Buddeus, were
still cited in behalf of the narrower belief; but everywhere
researches, unorganized though they were, tended to destroy it.
The story of Babel continued indeed throughout the whole
eighteenth century to hinder or warp scientific investigation,
and a very curious illustration of this fact is seen in the book
of Lord Nelme on The Origin and Elements of Language. He
declares that connected with the confusion was the cleaving of
America from Europe, and he regards the most terrible chapters in
the book of Job as intended for a description of the Flood, which
in all probability Job had from Noah himself. Again, Rowland
Jones tried to prove that Celtic was the primitive tongue, and
that it passed through Babel unharmed. Still another effect was
made by a Breton to prove that all languages took their rise in
the language of Brittany. All was chaos. There was much
wrangling, but little earnest controversy. Here and there
theologians were calling out frantically, beseeching the Church
to save the old doctrine as "essential to the truth of
Scripture"; here and there other divines began to foreshadow the
inevitable compromise which has always been thus vainly attempted
in the history of every science. But it was soon seen by
thinking men that no concessions as yet spoken of by theologians
were sufficient. In the latter half of the century came the
bloom period of the French philosophers and encyclopedists, of
the English deists, of such German thinkers as Herder, Kant, and
Lessing; and while here and there some writer on the theological
side, like Perrin, amused thinking men by his flounderings in
this great chaos, all remained without form and void.[417]

[417] For Hottinger, see the preface to his Etymologicum
Orientale, Frankfort, 1661. For Leibnitz, Catharine the Great,
Hervas, and Adelung, see Max Muller, as above, from whom I have
quoted very fully; see also Benfey, Geschichte der
Sprachwissenschaft, etc., p. 269. Benfey declares that the
Catalogue of Hervas is even now a mine for the philologist. For
the first two citations from Leibnitz, as well as for a statement
of his importance in the history of languages, see Max Muller, as
above, pp. 135, 136. For the third quotation, Leibnitz, Opera,
Geneva, 1768, vi, part ii, p. 232. For Nelme, see his Origin and
Elements of Language, London, 1772, pp. 85-100. For Rowland
Jones, see The Origin of Language and Nations, London, 1764, and
preface. For the origin of languages in Brittany, see Le
Brigant, Paris, 1787. For Herder and Lessing, see Canon Farrar's
treatise; on Lessing, see Sayce, as above. As to Perrin, see his
essay Sur l'Origine et l'Antiquite des Langues, London, 1767.

Nothing better reveals to us the darkness and duration of this
chaos in England than a comparison of the articles on Philology
given in the successive editions of the Encyclopaedia
Britannica. The first edition of that great mirror of British
thought was printed in 1771: chaos reigns through the whole of
its article on this subject. The writer divides languages into
two classes, seems to indicate a mixture of divine inspiration
with human invention, and finally escapes under a cloud. In the
second edition, published in 1780, some progress has been made.
The author states the sacred theory, and declares: "There are
some divines who pretend that Hebrew was the language in which
God talked with Adam in paradise, and that the saints will make
use of it in heaven in those praises which they will eternally
offer to the Almighty. These doctors seem to be as certain in
regard to what is past as to what is to come."

This was evidently considered dangerous. It clearly outran the
belief of the average British Philistine; and accordingly we
find in the third edition, published seventeen years later, a new
article, in which, while the author gives, as he says, "the best
arguments on both sides," he takes pains to adhere to a fairly
orthodox theory.

This soothing dose was repeated in the fourth and fifth editions.
In 1824 appeared a supplement to the fourth, fifth, and sixth
editions, which dealt with the facts so far as they were known;
but there was scarcely a reference to the biblical theory
throughout the article. Three years later came another
supplement. While this chaos was fast becoming cosmos in
Germany, such a change had evidently not gone far in England, for
from this edition of the Encyclopaedia the subject of philology
was omitted. In fact, Babel and Philology made nearly as much
trouble to encyclopedists as Noah's Deluge and Geology. Just as
in the latter case they had been obliged to stave off a
presentation of scientific truth, by the words "For Deluge, see
Flood" and "For Flood, see Noah," so in the former they were
obliged to take various provisional measures, some of them
comical. In 1842 came the seventh edition. In this the first
part of the old article on Philology which had appeared in the
third, fourth, and fifth editions was printed, but the
supernatural part was mainly cut out. Yet we find a curious
evidence of the continued reign of chaos in a foot-note inserted
by the publishers, disavowing any departure from orthodox views.
In 1859 appeared the eighth edition. This abandoned the old
article completely, and in its place gave a history of philology
free from admixture of scriptural doctrines.

Finally, in the year 1885, appeared the ninth edition, in which
Professors Whitney of Yale and Sievers of Tubingen give admirably
and in fair compass what is known of philology, making short work
of the sacred theory--in fact, throwing it overboard entirely.


Such was that chaos of thought into which the discovery of
Sanskrit suddenly threw its great light. Well does one of the
foremost modern philologists say that this "was the electric
spark which caused the floating elements to crystallize into
regular forms." Among the first to bring the knowledge of
Sanskrit to Europe were the Jesuit missionaries, whose services
to the material basis of the science of comparative philology had
already been so great; and the importance of the new discovery
was soon seen among all scholars, whether orthodox or scientific.
In 1784 the Asiatic Society at Calcutta was founded, and with it
began Sanskrit philology. Scholars like Sir William Jones,
Carey, Wilkins, Foster, Colebrooke, did noble work in the new
field. A new spirit brooded over that chaos, and a great new orb
of science was evolved.

The little group of scholars who gave themselves up to these
researches, though almost without exception reverent Christians,
were recognised at once by theologians as mortal foes of the
whole sacred theory of language. Not only was the dogma of the
multiplication of languages at the Tower of Babel swept out of
sight by the new discovery, but the still more vital dogma of the
divine origin of language, never before endangered, was felt to
be in peril, since the evidence became overwhelming that so many
varieties had been produced by a process of natural growth.

Heroic efforts were therefore made, in the supposed interest of
Scripture, to discredit the new learning. Even such a man as
Dugald Stewart declared that the discovery of Sanskrit was
altogether fraudulent, and endeavoured to prove that the Brahmans
had made it up from the vocabulary and grammar of Greek and
Latin. Others exercised their ingenuity in picking the new
discovery to pieces, and still others attributed it all to the
machinations of Satan.

On the other hand, the more thoughtful men in the Church
endeavoured to save something from the wreck of the old system by
a compromise. They attempted to prove that Hebrew is at least a
cognate tongue with the original speech of mankind, if not the
original speech itself; but here they were confronted by the
authority they dreaded most--the great Christian scholar, Sir
William Jones himself. His words were: "I can only declare my
belief that the language of Noah is irretrievably lost. After
diligent search I can not find a single word used in common by
the Arabian, Indian, and Tartar families, before the intermixture
of dialects occasioned by the Mohammedan conquests."

So, too, in Germany came full acknowledgment of the new truth,
and from a Roman Catholic, Frederick Schlegel. He accepted the
discoveries in the old language and literature of India as final:
he saw the significance of these discoveries as regards
philology, and grouped the languages of India, Persia, Greece,
Italy, and Germany under the name afterward so universally

It now began to be felt more and more, even among the most
devoted churchmen, that the old theological dogmas regarding the
origin of language, as held "always, everywhere, and by all,"
were wrong, and that Lucretius and sturdy old Gregory of Nyssa
might be right.

But this was not the only wreck. During ages the great men in
the Church had been calling upon the world to admire the amazing
exploit of Adam in naming the animals which Jehovah had brought
before him, and to accept the history of language in the light of
this exploit. The early fathers, the mediaeval doctors, the
great divines of the Reformation period, Catholic and Protestant,
had united in this universal chorus. Clement of Alexandria
declared Adam's naming of the animals proof of a prophetic gift.
St. John Chrysostom insisted that it was an evidence of
consummate intelligence. Eusebius held that the phrase "That was
the name thereof" implied that each name embodied the real
character and description of the animal concerned.

This view was echoed by a multitude of divines in the seventeenth
and eighteenth centuries. Typical among these was the great Dr.
South, who, in his sermon on The State of Man before the Fall,
declared that "Adam came into the world a philosopher, which
sufficiently appears by his writing the nature of things upon
their names."

In the chorus of modern English divines there appeared one of
eminence who declared against this theory: Dr. Shuckford,
chaplain in ordinary to his Majesty George II, in the preface to
his work on The Creation and Fall of Man, pronounced the whole

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