The Natural Basis Of Our Spiritual Language -- By: W. M. Thomson
BSac 30:117 (Jan 1873) p. 95
The Natural Basis Of Our Spiritual Language1
The Influence of the Hebrew Theocracy
In these Essays the words “evolve,” develop,” and others of like import, will be used in their ordinary, popular acceptation, with no reference to any scientific theories of development or evolution, either physical or philological. With the results claimed to have been reached by the latter science (which alone can have any bearing upon the subject of these Essays) the writer has not sufficient acquaintance to form a definite opinion. But even those who believe that the basis of reliable philological facts is too narrow and feeble to sustain the superstructure reared upon it, and therefore look upon such investigations with suspicion,— especially when carried into the domain of religion, — will find no occasion to distrust the application of such terms to the matter under discussion. There is, unquestionably, a sense true and safe in which development and evolution may be predicated of that verbal medium by means of which we acquire our religious knowledge. No one who has not derived his ideas from Milton, rather than Moses, will maintain that the spiritual nomenclature of Adam was as rich and varied as that of Abraham, or that the sweet singer of Israel did not add largely to the lexicon of the lawgiver, or that the evangelical prophet contributed nothing to the verbal wealth of David. We are told, by one who could not be mistaken, that there had arisen no greater prophet than John the Baptist, and yet that the least in the kingdom of
BSac 30:117 (Jan 1873) p. 96
heaven was greater than he. Thus development advanced from stage to stage, higher and richer, until Paul wrote his last Epistle, and John the divine closed the gorgeous visions of the Apocalypse.
It is along this line of evolution alone that we propose to carry our investigations, leaving scientific explorers to dig amongst dry roots of languages, dead and forgotten “before antiquity began,” to find, if they can, how the “idea of God” first germinated in human consciousness, and, above all, who sowed the seed of it in the virgin soil of man’s mental or moral constitution. There is no call upon us to search for the one or the other. We set out in possession of both. They constitute the first recorded facts in the Genesis of the universe — the most appropriate place possible for their announcement. All, except the few who exclude divine aid utterly and everywhere, admit that at some point in the long line of religious development such aid was actually superadded to that dim feeling after the Lord if haply they might find him which was merely human; and we see no reason, scientific or other, why...
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