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quam sonus, qui ore et lingua in vocem formatur. “ Vis ipsa non est in natura rerum posita, sed arbitrio " hominuin constituta; eamque mos et usus communis “ non gestibus corporis tribuit, sed verbis et voci." RUTHERFORTH, Determ.
The purpose of this fine observation, though so cloudily expressed, is to shew that motion and gesture can have no signification at all: Not from nature, since few gestures of the body are more apt of themselves to express the mind than articulate sound; and yet articulate sound is of arbitrary signification: Not from institution, since it is not to gesture, but to articulate sound, that men have agreed to affix a meaning. The consequence is, that gesture can have no meaning at all; and so there is an end of all Abrahain's sIGNIFICATIVE ACTION. The Divine would inake a great figure, were it not for his Bible ; but the Bible is perpetually disorienting the Philosopher. His general Thesis is, “That actions can never become significative but by the aid of words.” Now I desire to know what he thinks of all the TYPICAL Rites of the Law, significative of the Sacrifice of Christ? Were not these Actions? Had they no meaning which extended to the Gospel? or were there any Words to accompany them, which explained that ineaning? Yet has this man asserted, in what he calls a Determination, that in the instances of expressive gesture, recorded in Scripture, words were always used in conjunction with them. But to come a little closer to him. As a Philosopher he should have given his Reasons for those two assertions; or as an Historian he should have verified his Facts. He hath attempted neither; and I commend his prudence; for both are against him ; His Fact, that gestures have no meaning" by nature, is false: and his Reasoning, that they have none by institution, is mistaken. The Spartans might instruct him that gestures alone have a natural meaningó That sage People (as we are told by Herodotus) were so persuaded
of this truth, that they preferred converse by action, to Converse by speech; as action had all the clearness of speech, and was free from the abuses of it. This Historian, in his Thalia, informs us, that when the Samians sent to Lacedemon for succours in distress, their Orators made a long and laboured speech. When it was'ended, the Spartans told them, that the first part of it they had forgotten, and could not comprehend the latter. Whereupon the Samian Orators produced their empty Bread-baskets, and said, they wanted bread. What need of words, replied the Spartans, do not your empty Bread-baskets sufficiently declare your meaning ? Thus we see the Spartans thought not only that gestures were apt of themselves (or by nature) to signify the sentiment of the mind, but even more apt than articulate sounds. Their relations, the Jews, were in the same sentiments and practice; and full as sparing of their words; and (the two languages 'considered) for something a better
The sacred Historian, speaking of public days of humiliation, tells his story in this manner --- And they gathered together to Mispeh, AND DREW WATER AND POURED IT OUT BEFORE THE LORD, and fasted on that day, 1. Sam. chap. vii. ver. 6. The Historian does not explain in words the meaning of this drawing of water, &c. nor needed he. It sufficiently expressed, that a deluge of tears was due for their offences.' The Professor, perhaps, will say that words accompanied the action, at least preceded it. But what will he say to the action of Tarquin, when he struck off the heads of the higher poppies which overtopped their fellows? Here we are expressly told, that all was done in profound silence, and yet the action was well understood. But further, I will tell our Professor what he least suspected, that Gestures, besides their natural, have often an arbitrary signification. “A certain Asiatic Prince, entertained at Rome by Augustus, was, amongst other Shows and Festivities, amused with a famous Pantomime; whose
actions were so expressive, that the Barbarian begged him of the Emperor for his Interpreter between him and several neighbouring Nations, whose languages were unknown to one another.” Pantomimic gesture was amongst the Romans one way of exhibiting a Dramatic Story. But before such gestures could be formed into a continued series of Information, we cannot but suppose much previous pains and habit of invention to be exerted by the Actors. Amongst which, one expedient must needs be (in order to make the expression of the Actors convey an entire connected sense) to intermix with the gestures naturally significative, gestures made significative by institution; that is, brought, by arbitrary use, to have as determined a meaning as the others.
To illustrate this by that more lasting information, the Hieroglyphics of the Egyptians, and the real Characters of the Chinese; which, as we have shewn, run paralle! with the more fleeting conveyance of expressive gesture, just as alphabetic writing does with speech. Now, though the earlier Hieroglyphics were composed almost altogether of marks naturally significative, yet when the Egyptians came to convey continued and more precise discourses by this mode of writing, they found a necessity of inventing arbitrary significations, to intermix and connect with the other marks which had a natural. [Sce vol. iv. p. 125.]
Now, to shew that these arbitrary Hieroglyphic marks were real Characters like the other, let us turn to the Characters of the Chinese, which though (in their present way of use) most of them be of arbitrary signification, yet the Missionaries assure us that they are understood by all the neighbouring nations of different languages. This shews that the Augustan Pantonime, so coveted by the Barbarian for his interpreter, might be very able to discharge his function, though several of his gestures had an arbitrary signification. And we easily conceive how it might come to pass, since the gesture of arbitrary signification only served to connect the active discourse, by
standing standing between others of a natural signification, directing to their sense.
Thus (to conclude with our Determiner) it appears that GESTURES ALONE are so far from having no meaning at all, as he has ventured to affirm, that they have all the meaning which human expression can possibly convey: all which is properly their own, namely, natural information; and even much of that which is more peculiar to speech, namely, arbitrary.
To illustrate the whole by a domestic instance; the solemn gesture of a Professor in his Chair; which sometimes may naturally happen, to signify Folly; though, by institution, it always signifies Wisdom; and yet again, it must be owned, in justice to our Professor's scheme, that sometimes it means nothing at all.
P. 24. [H]. Would the reader now believe it possible, when these words lay before Dr. Stebbing, while he was answering my Book, that he should venture to ask me, or be capable of asking these insulting questions—Was there any good use' that Abraham could make of this knowledge which the rest of the People of God might not have made of it as well as He? Or if it was not unfit for every body else, was it not unfit for Abraham too?
P. 25. [I]. But all I can say, or all an Apostle can say, if I chance to say it after him, will not satisfy Dr. Stebbing. He yet sticks to his point, “That if any
“ “ information of the death and sacrifice of Christ had “ been intended, it is NATURAL TO THINK that the exoc “ planation would have been Recorded with the transas
action, as it is in all other such LIKE CASES.” Now if this orthodox Gentleman will shew me a such like case, i. e. a case where a Revelation of the Gospel Dispensation is made by an expressive action, and the explanation is recorded along with it, I shall be ready to confess, he has made a pertinent objection. In the meantime, I have something more to say to him. He supposes, that this words,
commanded Sacrifice of Isaac' was a Type of the Sacrifice,
If any type had been here intended, it is
P. 25. [K] “ You must give ine; leave to observe
(says Dr. Stebbing) that the transaction in question “ will have the same efficacy to sliew the dependency “. between the two dispensations, whether Abraham bad
thereby any information of the Sacrifice of Christ or “ not.” [Consid. p. 156.) This, indeed, is saying something. And, could he prove what lie says, it would be depriving my interpretation of one of its principal advantages. Let us see then how he goes about it, -" for is this does not arise from Abraham's, KNOWLEDGE, or
any body's KNOWLEDGE, at the tine when the trans" action happened, but from the siinilitude and corre
spondency between the event and the transaction, by es which it was prefigured; which is exactly the same
eitl:er supposition.” [Ibid. pp: 156, 7.) To this I reply,'' 1. That I never supposed that the dependency between the two Dispensations did arise from Abraham's knowledge, or any body's knowledge, at that, or at any other time; but from God's 'INTENTION that this com