Noah Webster’s Dictionary

 

In 1806, Noah began his work and studied about twenty different languages to translate and define words from their original languages into English. As a result of his efforts, Noah Webster’s Dictionary was published in 1828. The dictionary contained 70,000 words, with their spellings and definitions.  Noah’s strong faith and belief in God is evident not only in this original dictionary, but also in his 1833 The Holy Bible Containing the Old and New Testaments, in the Common Version, in which he updates outdated and unused words.

(Notice in the pictures below his use of Scripture to define words “Light” and “Help” and explain their meanings.)

light             help

A testimony of his faith is also recorded in the 1849 edition of his Dictionary, which was printed only six years after his death in 1843. The introduction contains a biography of Noah Webster’s life, including his views on religion. This introduction was written by the editor, Chauncey A. Goodrich, Noah Webster’s son-in-law, who was a Professor at Yale. In the transcript below, Professor Goodrich details Noah Webster’s conversion experience and his faith in God.


nw1849-1

In respect to religion, Dr. Webster was a firm believer, during a large part of his life, in the great distinctive doctrines of our Puritan ancestors, whose character he always regarded with the highest veneration. There was a period, however, from the time of his leaving college to the age of forty, when he had doubts as to some of those doctrines, and rested in a different system. Soon after he graduated, being uncertain what business to attempt or by what means he could obtain subsistence, he felt his mind greatly perplexed, and almost overwhelmed with gloomy apprehensions. In this state, as he afterward informed a friend, he read Johnson’s Rambler with unusual interest; and, in closing the last volume, he made a firm resolution to pursue a course of virtue though life, and to perform every moral and social duty with scrupulous exactness. To this he added a settled belief in the inspiration of the Scriptures and the governing providence of God, connected with highly reverential views of the divine character and perfections. Here he rested, placing his chief reliance for salvation on a faithful discharge of all the relative duties of life, though not to the entire exclusion of dependence on the merits of the Redeemer. In this state of mind he remained, though with some misgiving and frequent fluctuations of feeling, to the winter of 1807-8. At that time, there was a season of general religious interest at New Haven, under the ministry of the Rev. Moses Stuart, now a professor in the Andover Theological Seminary. To this Dr. Webster’s attention was first directed, but observing an unusual degree of tenderness and solemnity of feeling in all the adult members of his family. He was thus led to reconsider his former views, and inspire, with an earnestness which he had never felt before, into the nature of personal religion, and the true ground of man’s acceptance with God. He had now to decide not for himself only, but, to a certain extent, for others, whose spiritual interests were committed to his charge. Under a sense of this responsibility, he took up the study of the Bible with painful solicitude. As he advanced, the objections which he had formerly entertained against the humbling doctrines of the Gospel, were wholly removed. He felt their truth in his own experience. He felt that salvation must be wholly of grace. He felt constrained, as he afterward told a friend, to cast himself down before God, confess his sins, implore pardon through the merits of the Redeemer, and there to make his vows of entire obedience to the commands and devotion to the service of his Maker. With his characteristic promptitude, he instantly made known to his family the feelings which he entertained. He called them together the next morning, and told them, with deep emotion that, while he had aimed at the faithful discharge of all his duties as their parent and head, he had neglected one of the most important, that of family prayer. After reading the Scriptures, he led them, with deep solemnity, to the throne of grace, and from that time continued the practice with the liveliest interest, to the period of his death. He made a public profession of religion in April, 1808. His two oldest daughters united with him in the set, and another, only twelve years of age, was soon added to the number.

In his feelings, Dr. Webster was remarkably equable and cheerful. He has a very strong sense of the providence of God, as extending to the minutest concerns of life. In this he found a source of continual support and consolation, under the severe labors and numerous trials which he had to endure. The same divine hand he habitually referred all his employments; and it was known to his family, that he rarely, if ever, took the slightest refreshment, of any kind, even between meals, without a momentary pause, and a silent tribute of thanks to God as the giver. He made the Scriptures his daily study. After the completion of his Dictionary, especially, they were always lying on his table, and he probably read them more than all other books. He felt, from that time, that the labors of his life were ended, and that little else remained by to prepare for death. With a grateful sense of past mercies, a cheering consciousness of present support, and an animating hope of future blessedness, he waited with patience until his appointed change should come.

During the spring of 1843, Dr. Webster revised the Appendix of his Dictionary, and added some hundreds of words. He completed the printing of it about the middle of May. It was the closing act of his life. His hand rested, in its last labors, on the volume which he had commenced thirty-six years before. Within a few days, in calling on a number of friends in different parts of the town, he walked, during one afternoon between two and three miles. The day was chilly, and immediately after his return, he was seized with faintness and a severe oppression on his lungs. An attack of peripneumony followed, which, though not alarming at first, took a sudden turn after four or five days, with fearful indications of a fatal result. It soon became necessary to inform him that he was in imminent danger. He received the communication with surprise, but with entire composure. His health had been so good, and every bodily function so perfect in its exercise, that he undoubtedly expected to live some years longer. But though suddenly called, he was completely ready. He gave some characteristic direction as to the disposal of his body after death. He spoke of his long life as one of uniform enjoyment, because filled up at every stage with active labors for some valuable end. He expressed his entire resignation to the will of God, and his unshaken trust in the atoning blood of the Redeemer. It was an interesting coincidence, that his former pastor, the Rev. Mr. Stuart, who received him to the church thirty-five years before, had just arrived at New Haven on a visit to his friends. He called immediately, and the interview brought into affecting comparison the beginning and the end of that long period of consecration to the service of Christ. The same hopes which had cheered the vigor of manhood, were now shedding a softened light over decay and sufferings of age. “I know in whom I have believed,’” – such was the solemn and affecting testimony which he gave to his friend, while the hand of death was upon him, – “I know in whom I have believed, and that He is able to keep that which I have committed to him against that day.” Thus, without one down, one fear, he resigned his soul into the hands of his Maker, and died on the 28th day of May, 1843, in the eighty-fifth year of his age….

August 1847

 

By | 2017-01-17T21:43:09+00:00 December 15th, 2016|Categories: Historical Document|0 Comments