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powers of perception or of intelligence, of boundless extent and grandeur-and the wisdom that pervades it is so infinitely unfathomable, that, as it has been well remarked, a full account even of the minutest and most familiar of the productions that cover the face of our own world, would be an achievement far exceeding any that the proudest speculations of man have yet been able to effect.
Any such idea, indeed, would involve the absurdity of supposing that the mind of man, which is itself but a portion of the great scheme of things, was yet able to sit in judgment on all the restand to form a complete conception of the powers and plan by which the actual frame of the universe is pervaded—a supposition which may have vaguely influenced the speculations of thinking minds on many past occasions—and which probably has lain at the foundation of the most limited as well as the most enlightened speculations or systems that have hitherto been adopted—but which, however, is too extravagant ever to have been expressly announced—and which we cannot, therefore, believe to have been intended to be conveyed by any form of expression that has become current in philosophy.
Indeed, so far is man from being able to sit in judgment on the entire scheme of things--or to
form any thing like a satisfactory idea of their planthat his own nature that very human nature which he bears constantly about with him—is as much a mystery to him as anything else within the entire compass of creation ;-for there are properties of his bodily frame, and powers of his intellectual and sentimental nature, which are in habitual exercisebut of which he is in profound, and it may be, perpetually hopeless ignorance--and which, to the reflecting mind, make his individual constitution, perhaps, the most wonderful, as it is the most constantly present, with him, of all the boundless mysteries by which he is surrounded.
Setting then these suppositions of the meaning of the phrase aside, it may still be considered as expressive of a great purpose to be accomplished by philosophy—not beyond her reach—and of the utmost importance to man to be achieved—and, in this view, the following propositions may be regarded as an exposition of its meaning—viz. That there is a portion of nature over the arrangements of which man is capable of looking with intelligence, so as to apprehend the principles by which it is pervaded, at least so far as these principles and their operations concern himself—and of forming, from the contemplation of them, some idea of the entire scheme which Divine Providence is conducting.
That that portion comprises more especially his own position in existence his duties in consequence of that position—and the hopes which, in consequence of the corresponding position of creatures endowed with the same nature with himself, he is enabled to entertain respecting their future history, -or respecting the coming evolutions of the great plan of nature, so far as this subordinate portion of it is concerned.
That man, however, is subject, from various causes, to great misapprehensions in his speculations or notions respecting that portion of the plan of nature in which he is personally interested—and on which Providence intended that he should look with intelligence, with a satisfactory apprehension of its relation to himself, and with a clear idea of the duties and the hopes which, in consequence of that relation, he is bound to cultivate ;-that these causes of perplexity are chiefly the limited points of view from which his present contemplations of the order of nature are taken the erroneous impressions which are thus apt to be made on his imagination-and the imperfection of the instruments or symbols which he is necessitated to employ, both in his private speculations, and in the communication of his views to others ;—and that from the operation of the whole of these an appearance
of mystery is made to invest the frame of nature to the eyes of man, while but beginning to contemplate its wonders—which has no existence but in his own erroneous habits of thought-and which a wiser and more enlightened style of contemplation would infallibly remove.
That, in fact, the views of man have hitherto been most strangely limited—and perplexed—and vague-and inconsistent even regarding things most intimately connected with his own interests and duties and position—and respecting which, therefore, it must have been expected that his notions would have speedily attained the clearest evidence-so that nature has hitherto been to him a great mystery, the greater portion, however, of the darkness and perplexity of which, has originated in his own erroneous modes of studying her arrangements.
And lastly, that it is the great purpose and privilege of philosophy, in the first place, to remove these causes of perplexity, by shewing the sources in which they have originated-and by pointing out the darkness and mystery with which they have encircled man,-in the second place, to give him a more extended view of the position which he actually occupies, and of the duties incumbent on him from that position ;-and, in the last place,
to give him, by this process, a view of his condition in existence at once simpler--clearer-and more satisfactory than any to which he had formerly been accustomed-aview, on the contemplation of which, he may rest with the assurance that he has seen the plan of nature around him, and his own position and duties as parts of that plan, as they really are---and from which, indeed-since he naturally conceives of the entire scheme of Providence as one connected, though boundless design, he may form some notion, not altogether unsatisfactory to himself, of the principles which pervade all the works of the Creator.
Now, this giving unto man a simpler--clearer-more extended—and more satisfactory view of his own position in the universe, and of the duties and hopes which that position involves, is what, in any fair explanation of the phrase, we are to understand by explaining the mystery or solving the riddle of the universe, so far as man is concerned to understand its principles. This is indeed the true aim of all enlightened speculation, and her highest glory and triumph to have achieved—and happy above all other inquirers are they who have best succeeded in this grand purpose—though much still remains to be done for the entire clearing up of the mystery, and for setting mankind generally on