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Danger of an exclusive Attention to Secular Learning
It is a truth which cannot be too strongly insisted on, that all the powers of the soul should be cultivated harmoniously. If the intellect be strengthened by the acquisition of science, professional learning, or general literature, or by secular knowledge of any kind, without being proportionately exercised on spiritual subjects, its susceptibility of the objections which may be urged against revelation will be increased. Conscious of having mastered certain difficulties that attach to subjects which he has studied, a man so educated finds it impossible to satisfy himself about difficulties in revelation. Revelation has not received from him the same degree of attention. And, forgetful of the unequal distribution of his studies, he charges the fault on the subject. Doubt, discontent and contemptuous infidelity are no unusual results. It, indeed, seems to have been required of us by the Author of revelation, that his word should have a due share of our intellect, as well as of our heart; and that the disproportional direction of our talents, no less than of our affections, to the things of this world, should disqualify us for faith. What is sufficient sacred knowledge for an uneducated person becomes inadequate for him when educated. We must not think to satisfy the divine law, by setting apart the same absolute amount as the tithe of an enlarged understanding which was due from a narrow and more barren field of mental culture. If the balance of intellectual exercise be not preserved, the almost certain result will be, either an utter indifference to religion, or else a slowcorroding skepticism.
Men love their country when the good of every particular man is comprehended in the public prosperity, and the success of their achievements is improved to the general advantage. They undertake hazards and labors for the government, when it is justly administered; when innocence is safe, and virtue honored; when no man is distinguished from the vulgar, but such as have distinguished themselves by the bravery [goodness] of their actions. They do not spare their persons, purses or friends, when the public powers are employed for the public benefit. They imprint the like affections in their children from their infancy.
The discipline of obedience in which the Romans were bred, taught them to command ; and few were admitted to the magistracies of inferior rank, till they had given such proof of their virtue as might deserve the supreme rank. Cincinnatus and Fabius Maximus were not made dictators that they might learn the duties of the office, but because they were judged to be of such wisdom, valor, integrity and experience, that they might be safely trusted with the highest power; and, whilst the law reigned, not one was advanced to that honor, who did not fully answer what was expected from him. The city was a perpetual spring of such men, as long as liberty lasted; but that was no sooner overthrown, than virtue was torn up by the roots; the people became base and sordid ; the small remains of the nobility slothful and effeminate ; and their Italian associates becoming like them, the empire, whilst it stood, was only sustained by the strength of foreigners.
It is absurd to impute this to the change of times; for time changes nothing; and nothing was changed in those times but the government, and that changed all things.
This is not accidental, but according to the rules given to nature by God, imposing upon all things a necessity of following their causes. That society of men which constitutes a government upon the foundation of justice, virtue and the common good, will always have men to promote those ends; and that which intends the advancement of one man's desires and vanity, will abound in those that will foment them. Such as live under a good discipline, and see that all benefits procured to the country by virtuous actions redound to the honor and advantage of themselves, their children, friends and relations, contract from their infancy a love to the public, and look upon the common concernments as their own.
Incomprehensibility of God no Argument against his Er
Though we cannot fully comprehend the Deity, nor exhaust the infiniteness of his perfection, yet we may have an idea or a conception of a Being absolutely perfect, as we may approach near to a mountain, and touch it with our hands, though we cannot encompass it all round, and clasp it within our arms. Whatsoever is in its own nature absolutely inconceivable is nothing; but not whatsoever is not fully comprehensible by our imperfect understandings.
It is true, indeed, that the Deity is more incomprehensible to us than any thing else whatever, which proceeds from the fulness of his being and perfection, and from the transcendency of his brightness; but for the very same reason may it be said also, in some sense, that He is more knowable and conceivable than any thing ;-as the sun, though, by reason of its excessive splendor, it dazzle our weak sight, yet, notwithstanding, is far more visible, also, than any of the small, misty stars. Where there is more of light, there is more of visibility; so where there is more of entity, reality and perfection, there is more of conceptibility; such an object filling up the mind more, and acting more strongly upon it. Were there nothing incomprehensible to us, who are but contemptible parts and small atoms of the universe, were there no other being in the world but what our finite and imperfect understandings could fathom, then there could be nothing absolutely and infinitely perfect, that is, no God.
The Twenty-second of December.
Wild was the day; the wintry sea
Moaned sadly on New England's strand, When first the thoughtful and the free
Our fathers—trod the desert land.
They little thought how pure a light,
With years, should gather round that day ; How love should keep their memories bright,
How wide à realm their sons should sway.
Green are their bays; but greener still
Shall round their spreading fame be wreathed, And regions now untrod shall thrill
With reverence, when their names are breathed.
Till where the sun, with softer fires,
Looks on the vast Pacific's sleep, The children of the pilgrim sires,
This hallowed day like us shall keep.
Prospects of the United States.—JAMES GOULD.
Our present condition, as a people, is a subject of just congratulation; and our future destiny is committed, under Providence, to our own care. We have advantages, possessed, to an equal extent, by no other people on the globe, for a high career in intellectual improvement. Our unlimited freedom of inquiry, of opinion and of enterprise ; our free and frequent intercourse with every region of the earth; a language more widely extended and known, throughout the world, than any other living tongue; a freedom of competition which enables the humblest citizen to aspire to the highest distinctions; and the general prosperity and increasing resources of our country; all these, combined, present peculiar facilities and scope for exertion and emulation in every useful pursuit.
But, above all, the age in which we live, and the existing state of the world, bring with them irresistible motives to exertion in the cause of liberal and useful knowledge. There are certain periods, in which the human mind is excited, by an almost simultaneous and universal impulse, to unusual activity; and such is the period which we, this day, witness. The present is, preëminently, an age of inquiry and enterprise, of discovery, of invention and of universal improvement. It is an age full of destiny; and, if we are just to ourselves, of most auspicious omen to our country.
The present generation has introduced a new era in science and productive industry. Liberal knowledge and the useful arts are now pursued to an extent far surpassing all former example; the general scale of learning is enlarged; and, even in these latter days, sciences unknown to our fathers have sprung into life. Mineralogy, geology, galvanism, statistics, political economy, and the modern