Sunday, May 25, 2008

Webster's 1828 Dictionary

I was reading an article on about why every American Christian family should own a copy of Webster's 1828 Dictionary. In it the author points out how definitions in the dictionary reflect a worldview. Here are some examples from the article.

MODERN DICTIONARY (2000)—The legal union of a man and a woman as husband and wife. The state of being married, wedlock. A common-law marriage. A union between two persons having the customary but usually not the legal force of marriage.
WEBSTER DICTIONARY (1828)—The act of uniting a man and a woman for life; wedlock; the legal union of a man and a woman for life. Marriage is a contract both civil and religious by which the parties engage to live together in mutual affection and fidelity, till death shall separate them. Marriage was instituted by God Himself for the purpose of preventing the promiscuous intercourse of sexes, for promoting domestic felicity, and for securing the maintenance and education of children. “Marriage is honorable in all and the bed undefiled.” Hebrews 13.
The dictionary imparts either a secular or a Christian framework that will form the attitudes
and values concerning education. Consider the definitions of the word education:
MODERN DICTIONARY (1980)—The action or process of educating or of being educated; a stage of such a process; the knowledge and development resulting from an educational process; the field of study that deals mainly with methods of teaching and learning in schools.
WEBSTER DICTIONARY (1828)—The bringing up, as of a child; instruction; formation of manners. Education comprehends all that series of instruction and discipline which is intended
to enlighten the understanding, correct the temper, and form the manners and habits of youth, and fit them for usefulness in their future stations. To give children a good education in manners, arts and science, is important; to give them a religious education is indispensable; and an immense responsibility rests on parents and guardians who neglect these duties.
The dictionary defines the words that expound a theology and the vocabulary with which to
describe the knowledge of God. Consider the definitions of the word sin:
MODERN DICTIONARY (1984)—The act of breaking a religious or moral law. An offense, error, or fault.
WEBSTER DICTIONARY (1828)—The voluntary departure of a moral agent from a known rule or rectitude or duty, prescribed by God; any voluntary transgression of the divine law, or violation of a divine command; a wicked act; iniquity. Sin is either a positive act in which a known divine law is violated, or it is the voluntary neglect to obey a positive divine command, or a rule of duty clearly implied in such command. Sin comprehends not actions only, but whatever is contrary to God’s commands or law. I John 3; Matt. 15; James 4. (The definition goes on for another column in the 1828 Dictionary.)
The dictionary imparts a philosophy of government either secular or Christian that will form
the basis for how individuals in the family will govern themselves and expect to be governed.
Consider the definitions of law:
MODERN DICTIONARY (1980)—A binding custom or practice of a community: a rule of conduct or action prescribed or formally recognized as binding or enforced by a controlling authority. (This definition continues for two inches of one column.)
WEBSTER DICTIONARY (1828)—A rule, particularly an established or permanent rule,
prescribed by the supreme power of a state to its subjects, for regulating their actions, particularly their social actions. Laws are imperative or mandatory, commanding what shall
be done; prohibitory, restraining from what is to be forborne; or permissive, declaring what
may be done without incurring a penalty. The laws which enjoin the duties of piety and morality, are prescribed by God and found in the Scriptures. (This definition continues for twenty-one inches of three columns.)
A world view is being pressed upon us from all sides, even from dictionaries. As parents, it is our duty to protect our children from world views that do not honor God (humanism, atheism, materialism, etc.). As adults it is our duty to renew our minds through the study of Scripture.

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