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prevent him from seeking a remedy for his miseries; and both of them are a striking proof of the misery and corruption of man, and of his greatness also; since both that weariness which he feels in all things, and that restless search after various and incessant occupation, spring equally from the consciousness of a happiness which he has lost; which happiness, as he does not find it in himself, he seeks fruitlessly through the whole round of visible things; but never finds peace, because it is not in us, nor in the creature at all, but in God only.
Whilst our own nature makes us miserable in whatever state we are, our desires paint to us another condition as being happy, because they join to that in which we are, the pleasures of a condition in which we are not; and whenever we shall attain to those expected pleasures, we shall not be therefore happy, because other desires will then spring up conformed to some other condition, yet new and unattained.
Imagine a number of men in chains, and all condemned to die, and that while some are slaughtered daily in the sight of their companions, those who yet remain see their own sad destiny in that of the slain, and gazing on each other in hopeless sorrow, await their doom. This is a picture of the condition of human nature.
THE WONDERFUL CONTRARIETIES WHICH ARE FOUND IN MAN WITH RESPECT TO TRUTH, HAPPINESS, AND MANY OTHER SUBJECTS.
THERE is nothing more extraordinary in the nature of man, than the contrarieties, which are discovered in it on almost every subject. Man is formed for the knowledge of truth; he ardently desires it; he seeks it; and yet, when he strives to grasp it, he so com
pletely dazzles and confounds himself, that he gives occasion to doubt whether he has attained it or not.
This has given rise to the two sects of the Pyrrhonists and the Dogmatists, of whom the one would deny that men knew any thing of truth; the other professed to shew them that they knew it accurately; but each advanced reasons so improbable, that they only increased that confusion and perplexity in which man must continue, so long as he obtains no other light than that of his own understanding.
The chief reasons of the Pyrrhonists are these, that we have no assurance of the truth of our principles (setting aside faith and revelation) except that we find them intuitively within us. But this intuitive impression is not a convincing proof of their truth; because, as without the aid of faith, we have no certainty whether man was made by a benevolent Deity, or a wicked demon, whether man is from eternity, or the offspring of chance, it must remain doubtful whether these principles are given to us,-are true or false; or like our origin, uncertain. Further, that excepting by faith, a man has no assurance whether he sleeps or wakes; seeing that in his sleep he does not the less firmly believe that he is awake, than when he really is so. He sees spaces, figures, movements; he is sensible of the lapse of time; he measures it; he acts, in short, as if he were awake. So that as one half of life is admitted by us to be passed in sleep, in which, however, it may appear otherwise, we have no perception of truth, and all our feelings are delusions; who knows but the other half of life, in which we think we are awake, is a sleep also, but in some respects different from the other, and from which we wake, when we, as we call it, sleep. As a man dreams often that he is dreaming, crowding one dreamy delusion on another.
I leave untouched the arguments of the Pyrrhonists against the impressions of habit, education, manners, and national customs, and the crowd of similar influences which carry along the majority of mankind, who build their opinions on no more solid foundation.
The only strong point of the Dogmatists is, that we cannot, consistently with honesty and sincerity, doubt our own intuitive principles. We know the truth, they say, not only by reasoning, but by feeling, and by a quick and luminous power of direct comprehension; and it is by this last faculty that we discern first principles. It is in vain for reasoning, which has no share in discovering these principles, to attempt subverting them. The Pyrrhonists who attempt this, must try in vain. However unable we may be by reasoning to prove the fact, yet we know that we do not dream. And this inability may prove the feebleness of our reason, but not as they pretend, the want of reality and substance in the subjects of our knowledge. For the knowledge of first principles, as the ideas of space, time, motion, number, matter, is as unequivocally certain, as any that reasoning imparts. And, after all, it is on the perceptions of common sense and feeling, that reason must, at last, sustain itself, and found its own argument. I perceive that space has three dimensions, and that number is infinite, and reason demonstrates from this, that there are not two square numbers, of which one is just double of the other. Principles are perceived, propositions are deduced each part of the process is certain, though in different ways. And it is as ridiculous that reason should require of feeling and perception, proofs of these first principles, before she assents to them, as it would be that perception should require from reason an intuitive impression of all the propositions at which she arrives. This weakness, therefore, will only serveto abase that reason which would become the judge of all things, but not to invalidate the convictions of common sense, as if reason only could be our guide and teacher. Would to God, on the contrary, that we had no need of reason, but that we knew every thing intuitively by instinct and feeling. But this blessing is withheld from us by our nature; our knowledge by intuitive impression is very scanty; and every thing else must be attained by reasoning.
Here then is war openly proclaimed among men. Each one must take a side; must necessarily range himself with the Pyrrhonists or the Dogmatists; for he who would think to remain neuter, is a Pyrrhonist par excellence. This neutrality is the very essence of Pyrrhonism. He who is not against them, is completely for them. What then must a man do in this alternative? Shall he doubt of every thing? Shall he doubt that he is awake, or that he is pinched or burned? Shall he doubt that he doubts? Shall he doubt that he is? We cannot get so far as this; and I hold it to be a fact, that there never has been an absolute and perfect Pyrrhonist., Nature props up the weakness of reason, and prevents her from reaching this point of extravagance. But then on the other side, shall man affirm that he possesses the truth with certainty, who, if you press him ever so little, can bring no proof of the fact, and is forced to loose his hold?
Who shall clear up this perplexity? Common sense confutes the Pyrrhonists, and reason the Dogmatists. What then must become of thee, O man, who searchest out thy true condition, by the aid of natural reason? You cannot avoid adopting one of these opinions; but to maintain either, is impossible.
Such is man in regard to truth. Consider him now with respect to that happiness, which in all his actions he seeks with so much avidity; for all men, without exception, desire to be happy. However different the means which they adopt, they aim at the same result. The cause of one man engaging in war, and of another remaining at home, is this same desire of happiness, associated with different predilections. He will never stir a step but towards this desired object. It is the motive of all the actions of all men, even of those who destroy themselves.
And yet, after the lapse of so many years, no one has ever attained to this point at which we are all aiming, but by faith. All are unhappy princes and their subjects, noble and ignoble, the old and the young, the strong and the weak, the learned and the
ignorant, the sick and the healthy of all countries, all times, all ages, and all conditions.
Experience so lengthened, so continual, and so uniform, might well convince us of our inability to be happy by our own efforts. But then here we get no profit from example. It is never so precisely similar, but that there is some slight difference, on the strength of which, we calculate that our hope shall not be disappointed, in this as in former instances. And thus while the present never satisfies us, hope allures us onward, and leads us from misfortune to misfortune, and finally to death and everlasting ruin.
It is remarkable, that in the whole range of nature, there is nothing that has not been accounted fit to become the chief end and happiness of man. The stars, the elements, plants, animals, insects, diseases, wars, vices, crimes, &c. Man having fallen from his original and natural state, there is nothing however mean on which he does not fix his vagrant affections. Since he lost that which is really good, any thing can assume the semblance of it, even self-destruction, though it is so manifestly contrary at once both to reason and to nature.
Some have sought happiness in power; some in science or in curious research; and some in voluptuous pleasure. These three propensities have given rise to three sects; and they who are called philosophers, have merely followed one or other of them. Those who have come nearest to happiness have thought, that the universal good which all men desire, and in which all should share, cannot be any one particular thing, which one only can possess, and which if it be divided, ministers more sorrow to its possessor, on account of that which he has not, than pleasure in the enjoyment of that which he has. They conceived that the true good must be such that all may enjoy it at once, without imperfection and without envy; and that no one could lose it against his will. They have rightly understood the blessing, but they could not find it; and instead of a solid and practical good, they