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The art of writing is of great importance; there are several methods by which it was practised in former times and in later days. One method, used by some Indians and other untaught nations, is a kind of picture writing, or drawing, to represent the things which the writer desires to tell to others. The Rev. T. H. Horne, in a work which he has written about books, copies a drawing of this sort made by some North American In. dians, which represents one of their expeditions against their enemies. Similar drawings of the ancient Mexi. cans have been copied by Robertson and by other authors. Another sort of picture writing, probably an improvement on that just mentioned, was much used by the Egyptians, and is called hieroglyphic writing. The first sort of picture writing only represents things, but this represents ideas or thoughts. For instance—an eye represented God, who sees all things; a sword, a cruel týrant; an eye and sceptre, a king; a lion represented courage ; armies were meant by hands with weapons.
I have seen some cards or books, to amuse children, with pictures or hieroglyphics, which are not unlike the sorts of writing I have just mentioned. These methods were carried so far that an inscription on a temple in Egypt, expressing this moral sentence, “ All you, who come into the world and go out of it, know this, that the gods hate impudence;" was represented by an infant, an old man, a hawk, a fish, and a river horse. It is thought by some persons, that, from this way of representing re. ligious and moral truths by pictures of animals, the ancient Egyptians at length came to worship the animals themselves; as the introducing images, or paintings, into churches, led the papists to worship them. .Several obelisks, or high pillars, in Egypt, are covered with this sort of writing; see the representation of two famous ones at Alexandria, called Cleopatra's needles, page 124 ; they are a hundred feet in height, upwards of seven feet square at the base. The four sides of both are richly adorned with hieroglyphics, cut an inch deep in the granite stone.
Another sort of writing represents words by marks of different forms for each word, instead of spelling them by letters ; Chinese writing is of this sort ; many of the marks or signs, at first represented in some degree the things meant, as in hieroglyphics, but by degrees they were altered. Thus the words in the Chinese language, which are more than fifty thousand in number, are each represented by a different mark or character. All these methods are less useful and convenient than writing and spelling by means of a few letters.
We do not find in the Bible any account of the inven. tion of writing ; but there is reason to believe it was known to man before the flood. We read, Gen. ii. 19, that God brought the beasts of the field, and the birds of the air to Adam, to see what he would call them; and Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowls of the air, and to every beast of the field. From this it is plain that God taught Adam the language, or to speak the words, which he used to call the animals by their
And we may venture to suppose that God either taught Adam how to write the language he spoke, or that he enabled the children of Adam, who lived be. fore the flood, to discover the art of writing. We find, from the book of Genesis, that they were acquainted with music, and other arts and sciences.
After the flood, we read that “the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech ;” and that at first they all dwelt in the land of Shinar, near the Euphrates. There they began to build the Tower of Babel, when the Lord confounded their language, so that the different families or tribes did not understand each other's speech, and the Lord scattered them abroad upon the face of the earth. Some went in one direction, some in another; they doubtless must have suffered much trouble and many difficulties in this dispersion ; and their language being changed, their methods of writing would probably, like their other arts and customs, become changed and even forgotten in a greater or less degree.
Those who remained in or near the land of Shinar would suffer the least from this change, and the fore. fathers of Abraham were among the number of those who stayed in that country, as appears in the latter part of Gen. xi. Learned men tell us many reasons why we may suppose that the Hebrew language, in which the Old Testament is written, and which was spoken by the Jews, is the same or nearly the same as the language spoken when the whole earth was of one speech. If this be correct, we may conclude that the method of writing used by the Hebrews, which is spelling by an alphabet of letters, was the most ancient way of writing. The ancient Greek or Roman writers speak of these letters as being first invented and first used by the Phenicians. Now the Phenicians lived close to the Jews; they might learn the art of writing from them; and, as they had ships, and traded with Greece, and other nations, they probably taught them how to express their thoughts in writing.
We should be very thankful to God for teaching man the art of writing. It is not only most useful to us in the common business of life, but it is particularly so with respect to the truths of the gospel. And we should also observe, that in the scriptures these truths are explained,