« 이전계속 »
vails, with glorious presages. What are its signs? It is the spirit of vindication. Man feels that he has been the subject of atrocious wrong. He has been crushed to the dust. His claims have all been mocked and spurned. He but asserts himself, but that assertion is a business of no mean import, and must prove one of mighty earnest. It is the spirit of knowledge. The soul feels that, to be without it, is not good. As the eye covets light, and even the flower of the cavern turns towards it, man disdains the ignorance which has been forced upon him, and, "more than they who wait for the morning," invokes the irradiation which can change mental darkness into day. It is the spirit of independence. The postulates of intellectual exaction are refused. The watchwords of general opinion are slighted. Proof is craved. Test is applied. Theory is sifted. It is the spirit of liberty. The quenchless passion which found an inbeing in the bosom of the enlightened and the virtuous few of old, has now awakened an all but universal sympathy. Even the slave breaks his bonds, and shall idiot-sway hold nations captive? It is the spirit of dignity. Man emulates his proper place and rank:
"Himself he too much prizes to be proud,
And nothing thinks so great in man as man.`
And though there may be much superficial boast, though the malapert sciolist may be often observed, though the affected confidence may be the look of vacancy, though the vaunted march may be the strut of conceit and the stalk of pride,— yet is there in all that encourages our hope and confirms our augury, depth as well as diffusion, and strength as well as lustre. The pillar is massive in every proportion to its ornament. The bed of the river will sustain every rush of its tides and every confluence of its waters. The time shall come when the universal plan will be expounded,-how all has subserved one end, and hastened to one goal. Then shall we
Such are the prospects which unfold themselves. Their variety and glory, they must be left to disclose. They will break over our world when we are no more. And it mingles a hope with the very pang of dissolution, that as the friends of truth we cannot have lived in vain. We shall have befriended and served a future race, and assisted their entrance upon happier scenes and their progress to nobler stages of improvement. Our example may animate that future race in its turn, and they bequeath a still higher condition to their descendants! It is due to me, however, to observe, that while I most sanguinely and confidently indulge these visions, I dare not pursue them to all their extent, but in belief, and under the guidance, of that Religion which Montesquieu, who was certainly no fanatic, so happily describes: "How admirable the religion which, while it seems only to have in view the felicity of the other life, constitutes the happiness of this!"*
This is our anchor-hope. It fortifies us against all fear of lasting and general retrocessions. Otherwise we should be vexed until we were sick at heart. The pendulum does not describe an arc of more monotonous measurements, nor sweep a succession of more tiresome vibrations, than would the history of our kind, if unaided by other principles and unswayed by other influences, than our own. "It would be great, is not without ambition," but its proneness to ill is the source of its perpetual discomfiture. The force of the resistance would be insuperable. But these give our nature a giant-might,-it but steps back to take a farther spring or to strike a heavier blow. Christianity is that stirring element, and it only can secure what it enables and inspires man to gain. Wherever valuable knowledge and social pre-eminence have been preserved to a people for ages, the lamp of the one and the model of the other have been fed and enshrined in the sanctuary of this Religion. It gave the glory, and is its defence! It breathed the prophecy, and is its fulfilment !
Spirit of Laws.
"Historia testis temporum, lux veritatis, vita memoriæ, magistra vitæ, nuntia
CICERO. De Oratore.
"Nobis non modo satis esse video quod factum esset id pronuntiare, sed etiam quo consilio quaque ratione gesta essent demonstrare."
SEMPRONIUS ASELLIO,-quoted by Aulus Gellius,
"Historiæ decus est, et quasi anima, ut cum eventis causæ copulentur."
ON THE GROUNDS AND SOURCES
"CERTAINLY there be that delight in giddiness; and count it a bondage to fix a belief." This trite quotation from the first of Bacon's beautiful and compendious Essays, describes a not uncommon state of the human mind. Scepticism of all truth and certainty, is not infrequently vaunted as our worthiest and most ennobling independence. A very satisfaction is cherished by some in doubting every thing. Theirs is not the suspense of caution, nor the interval of deliberation,-they deride the hope, they abjure the capacity, of conviction. Now this is an intellectual condition most unhappy or most illegitimate,—most unhappy, if the nature of things precludes the possibility of just assent and settled belief,-most illegitimate, if there be an indifference to truth and a scorn of the evidence which confirms it. Whomsoever these Pyrrhonists call their Master, in their universal indetermination they have little cause to boast. Might not a more discursive enquiry, a more observant eye, detect the deciding proof? May there not exist, and only latent to carelessness and lassitude, powers and instruments of assurance to which even they must yield? If more silent and more reverent, -might not the Oracle speak to them, and in no equivocal response? At what point of human life, at what stage of human history, can man be justified in declaring that all the faculties of research are exhausted, that all the departments of knowledge are explored? And truly the spirit within us is placed most abjectly in all that concerns its improvement and pleasure, if it possess no tests by which to discriminate the impressions forced upon it, no rules to adjudge the circumstances out of which those impressions grow. To it only is this a phantom-world.
It secures to itself the prerogative of dreaming, only to question its dreams. To the inferior tribes all is real and indubitable. This diffuses joy and animation over the œconomies of sentient nature. It riots in the bound of the antelope, trills in the carol of the lark, sweeps along in the flight of the eagle. It is existence in sympathy with all the scenes about it,—the green earth, the blue heaven,-existence conscious, assured, unsuspecting,-existence which jealousy of any single instinct or object would cloud and mar. If man cannot thus partake the ecstacy of confidence,-if his superior intelligence compels him to a timid apprehensiveness of all that his predecessors have told, and all his contemporaries yet tell,—it is natural that he should bewail his fate, it may be laudable for him to submit to it, but it must be an enormous inconsistency to make it a reason of exultation. And that mind which so flippantly and recklessly avows its willingness to oscillate for ever between fact and falsehood, should, at least, be informed of its unhealthiness and decrepitude. It is the eye of the understanding which has gathered a film over itself,-the page which it cannot read is undefaced! The balance is accurately equal,-it is the palsied hand which agitates the scales into their ceaseless alternations!
The disposition to encourage this cavilling state of mind has manifested itself chiefly in matters of historical enquiry. There would have been a hardihood in disputing the demonstration of numbers and magnitudes,-the presumptuousness was not so palpable in impugning the authority and credibility of testimony. Historians and annalists are not, therefore, always most courteously and civilly quoted; and it cannot be concealed that they interchange as little courtesy, and as few civilities, among themselves. It is no new thing to call them to account, nor to bring them into suspicion. But some speculations of a more modern date,-speculations in mythology, geography, and cognate dialects,—and some daring siftings of long-acknowledged historic truth by new, and hitherto considered inapplicable, principles, have rendered it necessary that we should resort to these studies with additionl caution and firmness. And surely there is scarcely any species of knowledge so important and so indis