Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 38.djvu/449

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.


THE

POPULAR SCIENCE

MONTHLY.

 

FEBRUARY, 1891.


 

NEW CHAPTERS IN THE WARFARE OF SCIENCE.

XI. FROM BABEL TO COMPARATIVE PHILOLOGY.

By ANDREW DICKSON WHITE, LL. D., L. H. D.,

EX-PRESIDENT OF CORNELL UNIVERSITY.

PART II.

IN the first part of this article we saw 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 secular 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, bishops, Catholic and Protestant, kings, 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 favorite 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 of good. Hence it is that so many leading theologians have come to know at first hand the truths given by this science, and to recognize its fundamental principles. What the conclusions which they, as well as