Page images

the invention of utensils of life, and new characters and offices of men, yet names entirely new are seldom invented; therefore old names are almost necessarily used to signify new things, which may occasion much confusion and error in the receiving and communicating of knowledge.

Give me leave to propose one single instance, wherein all those notes shall be remarkably exemplified. It is the word bishop, which in French is called evêque, upon which I would make these several observations. (1.) That there is no natural connexion between the sacred office hereby siguified, and the letters or sound which signify this office; for both these words evêque and bishop signify the same of. fice, though there is not one letter alike in them; nor have the letters which compose the English or the French word any thing sacred belonging to them, more than the letters that coinpose the words king or soldier. (2.) If the meaning of a word could be learned by its derivation or etymology, yet the original derivation of words is oftentimes very dark and unsearchable; for who would imagine that each of these words are derived from the Latin episcopus, or the Greek EPISCOPUS ? yet in this instance we happen to know certainly the true derivation; the French being anciently writ evesque, is borrowed from the first part of the Latin word; and the old English biscop from the middle of it. (3.) The origiual Greek word signifies an overlooker, or one who stands higher than his fellows and overlooks them: it is a compound word, that primarily signifies sensible ideas, translated to signify or include several moral or inteilectual ideas ; therefore all will grant that the nature of the office can be never known by the mere sound or sense of the word overlooker. (4.) I add farther, the word bishop or episcopus, even when it is thus translated from a sensible idea, to include several intellectual ideas, may yet equally signify an overseer of the poor; an inspector of the customs; a surveyor of the highways; a supervisor of the excise, &c. But by the consent of men, and the language of scripture, it is appropriated to signify a sacred office

in the church. (5.) This very idea and name, thus translated from things sensible, to signify a spiritual and sacred thing, contains but one property of it, (viz.) one that has an oversight, or care over others : but it does not tell us whether it includes a care over one church, or many: over the laity, or the ciergy. (6.) Thence it follows, that those who in the complex idea of the word bishop include an oversight over the clergy, or over a whole diocese of people, a superiority to presbyters, a distinct power of ordination, &c. must necessarily disagree with those who include in it only the care of a single congregation. Thus, according to the various opinions of men, this word signifies a pope, a Galliciau bishop, a Lutheran superintendant, an English prelate, a pastor of a single assembly, or a presbyter or elder. Thus they quarrel with each other perpetually; and it is well if any of them all have hit precisely the sense of the sacred writers, and included just the same ideas in it, and no others.

I might make all the same remarks on the word church or kirk, which is derived from KURIOU Oikos, or the house of the Lord, contracted into kyrioik, which some suppose to signify an assembly of Christians, some take it for all the world that professes Christianity, and some make it to mean only the clergy, and on these accounts it has been the occasion of as many and as furious controversies as the word bishop which was mentioned before.

Sect. II.-Of negative and positive Terms. From these and other considerations it will follow, that if we would avoid error in our pursuit of knowledge, we must take good heed to the use of words and terms, and be acquainted with the various kinds of them.

1. Terms are either positive or negative.

Negative terms are such as bave a little word or syllable of denying joined to them, according to the various idioms of every language, as unpleasant, imprudent, immortal, irregular, ignorant, infinite, endless, lifeless, deathless, nonsense, abyss, anonymous, where tlie prepositions un, im, in, non, a, an, and the termination less, signify a negation, either in English, Latin, or Greek

Positive terms are those which have no such ne. gative appendices belonging to them, as life, death, end, sense, mortal.

But so unhappily are our words and ideas linked together, that we can never know which are positive ideas, and which are negative, by the word that is used to express them, and that for these reasons:

There are some positive terms which are made to. signify a negative idea; as dead is properly a thing that is deprived of life; blind implies a negation or privation of sight; deaf a want of hearing; dumb a denial of speech.

2dly, There are also some negative terms which imply positive ideas, such as immortal and deathless, which signify ever-living, or a continuance in life : insolent signifies rude and haughty; indemify, to keep safe; and infinite perhaps has a positive idea too, for it is an idea ever growing ; and when it is applied to God, it signifies his complete perfection.

3dly, There are both positive and negative terms, invented to signify the same and contrary ideas; as unhappy and miserable, sinless and holy, pure and undefiled, impure and filthy, unkind and cruel, irreligious and profane, unforgiving and revengeful, &c. and there is a great deal of beauty and convenience derived to any language from this variety of expression; though sometimes it a little confounds our conceptions of being and not-being, our positive and negative ideas.

4thly, I may add also, that there are some words. which are negative in their original language, but setm positive to an Englishman, because the negation is unknown; as abyss, a place without a bottom; anodyne, an easing medicine; amnesty, an unremembrance, or general pardon ; anarchy, a state without government; anonymous, i. e. nameles; inapt, i. e. not fit; iniquity, i e. unrighteousness; jufant, one that cannot speak, (viz.) a child; injurious, not doing justice or right.

The way therefore to know whether any idea be negative or not is to consider whether it primarily imply the absence of any positive being, or mode of being; if it doth, then it is a negation or negative idea; otberways it is a positive one, whether the word that expresses it be positive or negative. Yet after all, in many cases this is very hard to determine, as in amnesty, infinite, abyss, which are originally relative terms, but they signify pardon, &c. which seem to be positives. So darkness, madness, clown, are positive terms, but they imply the want of light, the want of reason, and the want of manners; and perhaps these may be ranked among the negative ideas.

Here note, that in the English tongue two nega. tive terms are equal to one positive, and signify the saine thing, as not unhappy, signifies happy; not immortal, signifies mortal; he is no imprudent man, i. e. he is a man of prudence: but the sense and force of the word in such a vegative way of expression seem to be a little diminished.

Sect. III.-Of simple and complex Terms. II. Terms are divided into simple or complex. A simple term is one word, a complex term is when more words are used to signify one thing.

Some terms are complex in words, but not in sense, such is the second emperor of Rome; for it excites in our minds only the idea of one man, (viz.) Augustus.

Such terms are complex in sense, but not in words ; so when I say an army, a forest, I mean a multitude of men, or trees; and almost all our moral ideas, as well as many of our natural ones, are expressed in this manner; religion, piety, loyalty, knavery, theft, include a variety of ideas in each term.

There are other terms which are complex both in words and sense; so when I say a fierce dog, or a pious man, it excites an idea, not only of those two creatures, but of their peculiar characters also.

Among the terms that are complex in sense, but not in words, we may reckon those simple terms which contain a primary and a secondary idea in them; as when I hear my neighbour speak that which is not true, and I say to him this is not true, or this is false, I only convey to him the taked idea of his error; this is the primary idea : but if I say it is a lie, the word lie carries also a secondary idea in it, for it insplies both the falsehood of the speech, and my reproach and censure of the speaker. On the other hand, if I say it is a mistake, this carries also a secondary idea with it; for it not only refers to the falsehood of his speech, but includes my tenderness and civility to him at the same time. Another iestance may be this; when I use the word incest, adultery, and murder, I couvey to another not only the primary idea of those actions, but I include also the secondary idea of their unlawfulness, and my abborrence of them.

Note ist, Hence it comes to pass, that among words which signify the same principal idea some are clean and decent, others unclean; some chaste, others obscene; some are kind, are affronting and reproachful, because of the secondary idea which custom has affixed to them. And it is the part of a wise man, when there is a necessity of expressing any evil actions, to do it either by a word that has a secondary idea of kindness, or softness; or a word that carries in it an idea of rebuke and severity, according as the case requires. So when there is a necessity of expressing things unclean or obscene, a wise man will do it in the most decent language, to excite as few un. cleaply ideas as possible in the minds of the hearers.

Note, 2dly, In leugth of time, and by the power of custom, words sometimes change their primary ideas, as shall be declared, and sometimes they have changed their secondary ideas, though the primary ideas may remain : so words that were once chaste, by frequent use grow obscene and uncleanly; and words that were once honourable, nay in the next generation grow mean and contemptible. So the word dame originally signified a mistress of a family, who was a lady, and it is used still in the English law to signify a lady; but in common use now-a-days it represents a farmer's wife, or a mistress of a family of

« PreviousContinue »