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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 38.djvu/317

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NEW CHAPTERS IN THE WARFARE OF SCIENCE.

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 declare, 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 an 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 The Edict of Nantes had been revoked; and the Huguenots, so far as they could escape, were scattered throughout the world, destined to repay France with interest a thousand-fold during the next two centuries. The bones of the Jansenists were dug up and scattered at Port Royal. 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 ether characters," are established forever and beyond all cavil, by proofs drawn from all peoples, kindred, 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 great 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 an antiphonal chant, its doctrines were echoed from land to land. From America there came the earnest words of noble 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 comes, as it were, a strong antiphonal answer in this chorus from England. Meric Casaubon, the learned Prebendary of Canterbury, thus declares: "One language, the Hebrew, I hold to be simply and absolutely the source of all." And, to make the chorus perfect, 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,