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“Mr. Beecher proceeds on an axiom that is false, fanatical, and subversive of all revealed truth_namely, that meaning is to be assigned to words in any document, not from the authority of the use
of language, ascertained by acknowledged examples, but from views of probability of the thing related independently of the testimony of the word.”
Mr. Carson does not pretend that this axiom is stated in my words; but he gives it in his own words, and in italics too, as a condensed summary of my principles. To all this I have but one reply to make, and that is a direct denial. I reject this statement of my views as entirely delusive and totally unfair. Do I indeed avowedly disregard the authority of the use of language ascertained by acknowledged examples in assigning meaning to words ? All of my principles are avowedly derived from the use of language ascertained by acknowledged examples, and rest upon this use.
What I actually do is this. In assigning secondary meaning to words, I regard three things at least, and not one alone. -I regard, 1. General laws of language, established by examples. 2. The original and primary sense of particular words. 3. T'he circumstances of the speaker, and the nature of the subject spoken of. It is by considering all these that I decide when a word has a secondary sense.
§ 48. True statement of my principles.
My principles are fully and carefully set forth in $$ 147, occupying in all nearly 18 pages. No one who will carefully read them can mistake them, or think that I hold the views ascribed to me by Mr. Carson. I cannot again go over all that ground; but for the sake of perspicuity I will here briefly recapitulate the most important of my principles.
1. In assigning secondary senses, we are to be guided, as just stated, by general laws of language; the primary meaning of the word, the circumstances of the speaker, and the nature of the subject spoken of.
2. One of these general laws is, that, inasmuch as in all languages, a large number of words have left their primary sense and adopted secondary senses, it is never a priori improbable that the same should be true of any particular word.
3. But whilst such transitions are common in all words, they are particularly common in words of the class of Bantišo, denoting action by, or with reference to a fluid. This is owing to
SECOND SERIES, VOL. IX. NO. I. 7
the fact, that the effects produced by the action depend not on the action alone, but on the action and the fluid combined, and of course may be varied as the fluid or its application varies. And this I illustrated at great length by acknowledged examples of the use of language in the case of cognate words.
From this I inserred that the usages of language create no probability against a secondary sense of the word Bantiça, but that the probability is decidedly in its favor. Still further, I alleged,
4. That the existence of manners and customs tending to such a result, renders such a result still more probable; and that among
the Jews such manners and customs did exist. 5. That this probability is still more increased according to the laws of language, by the fact that Banriča refers to the work of the Holy Spirit
, and that this is to purify, and that no external act has in itself any fitness to present this idea to the mind. For the effects of pouring, sprinkling, and immersion, depend not on the act, but on the fluid. The act being the same, ink, or oil, or wine, or pure water, or filthy water, would produce effects entirely unlike. The law of language in this case is, that in the progress of society new ideas produce either new words or new senses of old words—and that Bantíšw when applied to the operations of the Holy Ghost was applied to a subject of thought unknown to the writers of classic Greek, and therefore had probably undergone a change to qualify it for its purpose, i. e., to designate his peculiar work.
Now all of these principles relate to general laws of language, and in proof of them I appealed to acknowledged facts in the use of language.
But I clearly stated that these principles do not of themselves prove that Banrico means to purify, but merely open the way for such proof, and enable us to decide what, and how much proof is needed in order to prove the point. I also definitely stated that it was to be proved as other facts are, i. e., by appropriate evidence.
And here comes up the real ground of difference between Mr. Carson and me. This point deserves particular attention. The whole stress of this part of the battle rages
here. 1. Mr. Carson assumes, against all these previous probabilities, that a secondary sense in the word ßantico cannot be established except by the highest possible proof, i. e., a case in which the primitive sense is impossible. This I totally deny, and maintain that a lower degree of proof is amply sufficient
to prove a meaning, which the laws of language have already rendered so probable.
2. Mr. Carson totally disregards not only the lower degrees of moral evidence, but the laws of cumulative evidence also. He takes each passage separately, and if he can prove that it does not come up to his canon of proof, i. e., if it cannot be shown that the sense immersion is impossible, he sets it aside as a cipher, and so of every other one in detail. He then says, “ each of the cases considered separately is nothing ; all taken together, then, must be nothing. It is the addition or multiplication of ciphers."-Reply, p. 47.
All this I totally deny, and maintain that it is entirely at war with the laws of moral and cumulative evidence. Because the reasoning of philology is not demonstrative, but moral and cumulative, and an ultimate result depends upon the combined impression of all the facts of a given case as a whole, on the principle that the view which best harmonizes all the facts, and falls in with the known laws of the human mind, is true.
And where many and separate and independent facts all tend, with different degrees of probability, to a common result, there is an evidence over and above the evidence furnished by each case in itself, in the coincidence of so many separate and independent probabilities in a common result. And to prove that each may be explained otherwise, and is not in itself a demonstration, cannot break the force of the fact that so many separate and independent probabilities all tend one way. The probability thus produced is greater than the sum of the separate probabilities; it has the
force of the fact that they coincide, and that the assumption of the truth of the meaning in which they all coincide is the only mode of explaining the coincidence.
Any one of the following facts may be true of a young gentleman and a lady, to whom it is not improper or improbable that he should be married without giving reason to believe that they are engaged. They may be seen walking together in one instance, or riding together, or in a store together, or looking at furniture together, or they may exchange letters in one instance with each other, or they may be seen examining a house together; and each act may be such as to prove no engagement; but can all these acts take place in connexion with each other, and each be oft repeated, and yet furnish no higher proof of an engagement than any one alone ? Shall we say each is nothing, and therefore all taken together are nothing; it is the addition or multiplication of ciphers ?
So, if there is no reason why Bantigo should not have the sense purify, and a strong probability that it should, and innumerable facts on all sides create each a probability of it, is the existence and coincidence of all these facts nothing, because each by itself does not demonstrate it? Such is Mr. Carson's position—such is not mine. Who is correct let the universal opinions and practices of mankind, and the laws of circumstantial evidence in all courts of justice decide.
Such, in short, are my principles, and my whole argument tested by these is sound and unanswerable. Mr. Carson in replying to me ought first to have stated them clearly, and to have shown their falsehood, if he could. This he has not done, nor attempted to do, and that for the best of all reasons, they admit of no reasonable denial, and they cannot be disproved.
§ 49. Mr. Carson's course and his objections.
What then does Mr. Carson do? Hear him. 66 To much of the former part of the work I can have no possible objection, because it is a mere echo of my own philological doctrines, illustrated with different examples. In a work controverting the conclusions which I have drawn in my treatise on baptism, it surely was very unnecessary to prove that words may have a secondary meaning wandering very far from their original import.
any writer be pointed out who has shown this more fully than I have done? I do not question this principle. I have laid it down for him as a foundation.” We have here an admirable specimen of Mr. Carson's usual modesty and humility. Does Mr. Carson indeed regard himself as the father of the doctrine, that words may have a secondary meaning wandering very far from their original import? if not, why does he call it his own philological doctrine? It is mine as truly as his. Does he indeed think that he has laid it down for me as a foundation ? My teachers in college, yea, even before that, had anticipated Mr. Carson in that work. Even in my sophomore year,
it never occurred to me that this was a discovery, a new idea. On what other principle have all sound modern lexicographers and commentators ever proceeded? I stated it not because I deemed it a new idea, but because I did not. Because I considered it a first principle of common-sense on the whole subject. I was, indeed, surprised to see it fully recognized by Mr. Carson ; Baptists are so prone to forget it. But I should as soon think of calling the doctrine that there is a God, or that
every effect must have a cause, my own doctrine, as to call the doctrine that words may have a secondary sense, my own.
But Mr. Carson says, “ to much of the former part of the work I can have no possible objection.” Very well
. Of how much is this true? He does not say; he implies that to some he does object, but does not say to what. This again is a prudent silence. It would not answer to state fairly, and in my own words, what he does object to. For the mere statement of the principles on which my argument rests is their proof. And they are entirely fatal to his cause.
What then does he do? He proceeds to the discussion of the passages alleged by me, and silently assuming the truth of his own positions, in cases where we differ, he charges upon me ignorance of the laws of controversy, want of perspicacity, heresy, nonsense, blasphemy, etc., because my conclusions do not agree with his premises, though they follow irresistibly from my own. Would it not have been much better to show that my premises were false ? Alas! that he could not do. Being determined not to admit the truth, he did the only thing that remained, first to misrepresent, and then to deny it.
Let it not then be forgotten that the real question at issue is not this, Shall a secondary meaning of Bantito be admitted from mere views of probability, without reference to the usages of language, or to the primary meaning of the word ? but this: A certain secondary sense of Barriča being probable according to the laws of language and the human mind, how much evidence is needed to prove it, and of what kind shall it be? Mr. Carson says an impossibility of the primitive sense in some one instance, and rejects all degrees of probability below this as ciphers. I deny the necessity of such proof, and allege that a proof may be made out by lower degrees of probability, so coinciding, as to form a cumulative argument on the principles of circumstantial evidence.
But Mr. Carson may say that these degrees of probability arise, not from the words of the record, but from the nature of the thing spoken of. True, they do, and so does the impossibility that he demands. Why is it impossible to immerse a lake in the blood of a mouse ? Not the word Bánra, but the nature of things forbids it. Why is it highly improbable that all the Jews immersed their couches ? Not the word Bantito, but the nature of things makes it highly improbable that such a practice was ever universal among all the Jews, though it is