« PreviousContinue »
thus applied to the future lot of man on earth, is applicable to his relations to the higher and greater order of nature and providence around him. For there is every reason to suppose that his acquaintance with the higher mysteries of the universe would be as inconsistent with his indulgence of the affections—or his performance of the duties--or his enjoyment of the comforts of his present state as would be his knowledge of what is yet to befal himself, or the beings or communities in which he feels the deepest interest ;-and the limitation of view by which man is characterized is thus found to extend around him on all sides with equally beneficial effect-and to insulate him as well from the mysteries above him, as from the uncertainties that yet lie in his progressive path.
There is, however, equal wisdom and beauty in what he but dimly discovers as in what he clearly understands and perceives;—for the former gives a constant and appropriate stimulus to his imagination, corresponding with the vague but splendid conjectures in which it is the delight of that faculty to indulge—and the latter ascertains to him, in a manner beyond all doubt, what is the precise duty given him to fulfil, and by the proper fulfilment of which, progressively and steadfastly, his well
being at all the succeeding moments of his course is infallibly ascertained.
The limitation of view which nature has assigned to man being thus part of the entire order of things, and therefore not to be removed by any efforts of imagination or of abstraction in which the human mind can busy itself,—the following very important practical conclusions result from this consideration.
In the first place, that the speculative science of mankind has chiefly erred during its past course, from an attempt to overleap the boundaries which nature has placed to the researches of man—that it has accordingly been chiefly an accumulation of mere imaginations--or conjectures--or abstractions—that it will never regain its healthy character till the limits of human thought have been more clearly apprehended—and that its only legitimate field of research, as well as that which opens the most productive and pleasant range for its speculations, is that which embraces human interests--human duties—and human affections, and which seeks to give to these their most enlightened character, and their freest and most unfettered range of exertion.
In the second place, that by a corresponding
error, the political wisdom of mankind has never yet attained a clear conception of the only legitimate field in which its exertions should be made--that that field chiefly embraces the moral and social condition of the human beings who are the professed subjects of its cares—and, especially, that the greatest of all the mistakes which it can commit, is that of withdrawing the great body of the community from those private scenes and domestic labours, which by their very place in life, they have been appointed to manage, to speculations or exertions which are altogether out of their sphere, and their indulgence in which is as absurd and detrimental, as would be the conduct of the labourers in a vineyard, who, instead of devoting themselves sedulously to their appointed tasks, should rather choose to busy themselves with the entire interests of the husbandman, and with the ordering of his plans for the good of the community.
And, in the last place, that for each individual of mankind, his happiness and his success in life depend not upon mere excursions of his imagination into fields of thought on which he is not fitted to enter, or in the indulgence of conjectures respecting what is to be the course of the Divine dispensations either towards himself or others- but upon an assiduous-a persevering—an affectionate
and high-minded fulfilment of the trust committed to him by his peculiar station in life—and by the relations in which that station places him to his fellow-creatures-either as members of the same family—or of the same political association
-or of the entire household of man.
ESTIMATE OF ACTUAL CHANGES.
“ It seemeth the children of Time do take after the nature and malice of the Father. For as he devoureth his children, so one of them seeketh to devour and suppress the other, while antiquity envieth there should be new additions, and novelty cannot be content to add but it must deface : surely the advice of the prophet is the true direction in this matter : State super vias antiquas, et videte quænam sit via recta, et bona, et ambulate in ea.'”_Bacon.