Tuesday, February 12, 2008

A Small Treasure - Laycock

I have a treasure on my shelf. A friend bought it for me at an antique shop a few years ago. It’s a small book, leather-bound and gold embossed, called Trench’s Study of Words. Dr. Trench, an Anglican priest, gave a series of lectures to students at “The Diocesan Training School, Winchester,” which were later put into book form. Apparently it sold quite well. I have a copy of the seventeenth edition, published in London in 1878. I googled the title of this little book and was surprised to discover you can still purchase a copy of it, though not a leather-bound edition, at Amazon.com. Perhaps the longevity of Dr. Trench’s work has to do with the fact that he was a man who valued the worth of words. He also valued the Bible.

In his introductory lecture Dr. Trench negates the possibility that language was an accident of human nature, that man invented language himself from “rude imperfect beginnings,” as was put forth by the “urang-utang theory” beginning to gain prominence at the time. No, Dr. Trench assures us, “The truer answer to the inquiry how language arose is this: God gave man language just as he gave him reason and just because He gave him reason. For what is man’s word but his reason coming forth that it may behold itself. They are indeed so essentially one and the same that the Greek language has one word for them both. He gave it to him because he could not be man, that is, a social being, without it.”

Yet man did not begin with a fully formed vocabulary, Trench states - “He did not thus begin the world with names but with the power of naming: for man is not a mere speaking machine; God did not teach him words, as one of us teaches a parrot from without; but gave him a capacity and then evoked the capacity which He gave.”
Dr. Trench goes on to link the agency of man with the divine will of God. God brought the animals to Adam; Adam gave them names.

As I read this passage in Dr. Trench’s book I was amazed again at the grace and mercy of our God – the One who created us to be social beings, the One who gave us language, the One who gave us “the power of naming” and then “evoked the capacity.” And I am made aware, again, of the responsibility we carry as writers, yet the simplicity and creativity of God’s design in giving us this power. As our reason goes forth in language to “behold itself,” may that enlightenment truly be, so that we also behold Him. May we use the power He has given us for the enrichment of others, for our pleasure, and all to His glory.

1 comment:

Linda Wegner said...

Wonderful thoughts, Marcia. Once again we see the balance of God's investment in us and our role in maximizing that investment. It makes my technical writing seem even more important! Thanks - I needed that.

Your friend and colleague


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