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996. Religion of the Chinese.-It is true, that the laws of China do not speak of rewards and punishments after death; they would not venture to affirm that, of which they know nothing. The doctrine of a hell was useful, but the government of China would never admit it. They were content to exhort men to reverence the deity; and to be just and upright. They believed that a strict attention to, and a constant restraint exercised over, the manners and habits of the people, would have more effect than opinions, which may be disputed; and that the people would live in greater fear of the law, always present, than a law to come.
Philosophy of History.
997. Life.—Life, using the word in its popular and general sense, which at the same time, is the only rational and intelligible one, is merely the active state of the animal structure. It includes the notions of sensation, motion, and those ordinary attributes of living beings which are obvious to common observation. It denotes what is apparent to our senses; and cannot be applied to the offspring of metaphysical subtlety, or immaterial abstractions, without a complete departure from its original acceptation, without obscuring and confusing what is otherwise clear and intelligible.To talk of life as independent of an animal body,—to speak of a function without reference to an appropriate organ, is physiologically absurd. It is in opposition to the evidence of our senses and rational faculties; it is looking for an effect without a cause.—Lawrence's Lectures ou Man.
998. Effects of Morality and Regimen.— All orders hate, and ever will bate, whatever tends to destroy the characteristics of their profession. Divines hate morality, when opposed to religion; as physicians hate regimen when opposed to medicine. The reason is that morality and regimen, thus circumstanced, tend to set aside religion and medicine ; because they represent them, indirectly at least, as superfluous and unnecessary. And what can be more mortifying to a professor, than any thing which tends to show that his profession is a useless, and therefore probably pernicious, burthen to society?
The Bishop of Gloucester, in his fast sermon, February 1782, is offended with Dr Adam Smith for saying that “Mr Hume approached as nearly to the idea of a perfectly wise and virtuous man, as, perhaps, frail humanity will permit;" and well he may be offended; for, if this can be without aid from religion, as it seems here presumed, what occasion can there be for a church and for bishops ?-Sylva, or the Wood.
999. Conscience.-Conscience is merely our own judgment of the moral rectitude or turpitude of our own actions.---Locke.
1000. Morals. There is no error fraught with so many evils as that of founding morals on mysteries and doctrines, rather than upon the real nature of man.
1001. War.— I have seen burned cities, desolated fields, and impover. ished families: I have heard the groans of the father when deprived of his son, the support of his
age; I have witnessed the despair of the mother, when bereaved of the delight of her eyes and the joy of her life; I have heard the frantic cries of the widow, and have seen the tears of the orphan; I have beheld the decrepit soldier oppressed with age and covered with wounds, begging a wretched support at the doors of the opulent: “ This is thy work, 0 war! these are thy fruits, O ambition !”—The Savage.
1002. Freedom of Speech.-Without freedom of thought there can be no such thing as wisdom; and no such thing as public liberty without freedom of speech: which is the right of every man, as far as by it he does not hurt and controul the right of another; and this is the only check which it ought to suffer, and the only bounds which it ought to know.
Freedom of speech produces excellent writers, and encourages men of fine genius.
Tacitus tells us, that the Roman commonwealth bred great and numerous authors, but when it was enslaved its great wits were no more. Tyranny had usurped the place of equality, which is the soul of liberty, and destroyed public courage. The minds of men, terrified by unjust power, degenerated into all the vileness and methods of servitude : abject sycophancy and blind submission became the only means of preferment, and indeed of safety; men durst not open their mouths but to flatter.
Pliny the Younger observes that this dread of tyranny had such effect, that the senate, the great Roman senate, became at last stupid and dumb. And in one of his Epistles, speaking of the works of his uncle, he makes an apology for eight of them, as not written with the same vigour which was to be found in the rest; for that these eight were written in the reign of Nero, when the spirit of writing was cramped by lear.
Gordon, Cato's Letters.
1003. Philosophy and Philosophers -Cicero's wise man is one whom neither crosses nor misfortunes torment, but remains the same in prosperity and adversity; and looks upon external things so calmly, as to feel no care or concern, no fear or anxiety, no great displeasure or joy. This high strain only shows what a man should be, to deserve Cicero's epithet of wise. But man is not a statue, and cannot be divested of his passions, without being unmanned. The real difference betwixt a wise man and a fool consists in this, that the wise man strives against his weaknesses, appetites, and passions, to prevent being conquered by them; while the fool is always their captive.
Even the wisest man is frail, and the greatest philosopher cannot prevent the first sallies and emotions of his mind, or hinder the ruffling and fermenting of his thoughts, upon being suddenly struck with unexpected accidents. To do this is as impossible, as not to see when our eyes are open. Such a power manifestly belongs not to man ; nor can all the philosophy in the world procure it It is therefore wrong to ascribe all commotions of mind, either to weakness, fear, or want of understanding. A sensible man may suddenly die by surprise, or sicken with grief, before the fit, or first transport, has time to subside, so as to give an opportunity for reason to exert itself, and the scattered powers of the mind to rally. Socrates had violent passions; yet was the greatest philosopher we know of. His philosophy did not consist in insensibility; but in the struggle he had with his passions, to prevent their getting the ascendant over him. In this consists the merit of a philosopher. It is no character at all to be insepsible. An eunuch cannot be commended for his chastity; nor a dispassionate man for his calmness. To ride a quiet horse is no merit in horsemanship; but to manage, and break a wild one, shows skill.
These distinctions usually pass unnoticed by the vulgar, who judge of virtues and vices more from men's constitutions, than from the qualities of their minds. And hence, in common estimation, he is no steady man who changes countenance, or appears moved at an unexpected question, or event; but the appellations of courageous, resolute, and brave, are bestowed upon him who stands, unmoved, the shocks and accidents of life; which is as wise a judgment, as attributing greater perfection to a statne than to a man
The Reflector, 1750.
1004. On the Fear of Death.
From the Greek Anthology
1005. Religion and Morality.—Morality, unconnected with religion, rests solely on the foundation of reason, and is the sole preserver of the peace of the world : religion is the reverse, for every religion believing itself the true one, is of course intolerant towards others, and seeks to subject all to its own faith ; hence come 'wars and fightings.' Reason is one and the same in all climates and countries, and therefore it can never be at variance with itself, nor persecute others who are the most remote from its doctrines : it may seek to convert, but never by the means of force or violence: its only weapons are persuasion and argument. Its creed is simple and intelligible, for it believes nothing which it cannot understand, nor enforces more upon others : it pretends not to comprehend either the formation or government of the world, and limits its researches to the moral duties between man and man : it teaches us to do to others what we wish them to do to us; and seeks its own good without neglecting that of others : it tells us, in one word, that general utility is the first rule of all actions, and that while we do harm to ourselves or to others, we do harm to the community. Much more may be taught, but much more it is not easy to compreheud.
William Burdon, Materials for Thinking, 1803.
1006. Bad Governments. The worst governments are always the most chargeable, and cost the people dearest; as all men in courts of judicature pay more for the wrongs that are done them, than for the right.
1007. Modern Legislators.-Ancient lawgivers studied the nature of man, and formed his mind to virtue and glory; but the founders of modern republics think mind altogether unworthy of their attention; they take no measure to prevent the existence of vice, but suppose they have fulfilled their duty, when they inflict punishment on the vicious.
What wouldst thou think of a physician, to whom some prince had committed the care of the health of his subjects, who, instead of recommending temperance and exercise, and using every means in his power to prevent the existence of disease; instead of watching the approaches of distemper, and administering in good time the necessary remedy; should encourage the objects of his care in every species of excess, and pay no attention whatever to the causes or progress of indisposition; but when the patient should become absolutely incurable would order his head to be taken off by an attendant?-Such is the conduct of modern legislatures; they never attempt to form the mind; to give a salutary direction to its energies ; to implant the seeds of honour, patriotism, friendship, heroism; to awaken in the breast a love of glory, and to stir up the sparks of the noble ambition. No; they permit every species of vice to flourish until it have taken such deep root in society, that it cannot be extirpated. What then? The sapient legis. lators assemble and make a law against this destructive vice: and, in obedience to this law, the sword of justice is sent forth to destroy those members of the community who are the most deeply infected with the prevailing distemper; a distemper which, if the government had done its duty would never have existed. Another vice becomes universal, and another law is made against the vicious. Crines are multiplied, and laws are multiplied also; until men lose the idea of right and wrong in that of lawful and unlawful: and however base, perfidious, and unjust their conduct may be, they account themselves “good men and true” if they do not incur the penalty of the law.
It is amusing to hear those who thrive by the vices and follies of others, and fatten on the corruptions of society, boast of their civilization, and adduce the multiplicity of their laws as a proof of their refinement. Whereas, in truth, the multiplicity of their laws proves nothing but the multiplicity of their crimes.- The Savage.
1008. Government. The end of all governinent is the happiness of the whole community; and whenever it does not secure that, it is a bad government, and it is time it was altered.-Barlow.
1009. Nothing but man can be highly interesting to man. The Savage.
1010. Origin of Evil.—The first person who, having inclosed a piece of ground, bethought himself of saying, “ This is mine," and found people simple enough to believe him, was the real founder of civil society. From how many crimes, battles, and murders; from how many horrors and misfortunes, would that man have saved mankind, who should have pulled up the stakes, or filled up the ditch, crying out to his fellows, "Beware of listening to this impostor ! you are undone if you once forget that the fruits of the earth belong to us all, and that the earth belongs to nobody."-Rousseau.
1011 Sloth.-Sloth is a most pernicious mistress: she smiles, soothes, seduces, and caresses; but finally destroys every one who yields to ber blandishments. Though thou wert Samson, thou wilt lose thy strength, if thou layest thy head in the lap of this Dalilah! Though thou wert Ulysses, thou wilt sink to a state of brutality if thou yield to the solicitations of this Circe! Though thou wert Hercules, thou wilt become contemptible if thou become the slave of this Omphale The Savage.
1112. The Soul.—Many, indeed, imagine these no great difficulties ; and we daily find young people boldly deciding on such metaphysical questions; so that if you ask any stripling candidate of philosophy what the soul is, he immediately tells you; and, in his own opinion, gives you an exact account of it. Great is the knowledge of those who have read a little, but never reflected! The more a man thinks of these subjects, the less he understands of them; for it here happens as it did to Turnus, who, the longer he pursued the phantom of Æneas, the farther he ran from what he was seeking. The author of the Art of Thinking speaks to the purpose : “He who once, with sincerity, acknowledges he knows nothing of this kind, advances in an instant, farther than a philosopher who has been arguing for twenty years upon metaphysical subjects. The difference is, that he who labours to fathom these secrets, is the most ignorant of the two; because he fan sies he knows what he really has no conception of.”
The Reflector. 1113. For mation of Character.--It is of great importance to observe that the character of every man is in some degree formed by his profession. A man of sense may only have a cast of countenance that wears off, as you trace his individuality ; while the weak, common man bas scarcely ever any character, but what belongs to the body; at least, all his opinions have been so steeped in the vat consecrated by authority, that the faint spirit which the grape of his own vine yields, cannot be distinguished. Society, therefore, as it becomes more enlightened, should be very careful not to establish bodies of men, who must necessarily be made foolish or vicious by the very constitution of their profession.--Mary Woollstonecraft.
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