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Materials for Thinking.
EXTRACTED FROM THE WORKS OF
ANCIENT AND MODERN AUTHORS.
WHATEVER CHARITY WE OWE TO MEN'S PERSONS, WE OWE NONE TO
THEIR ERRORS.”—Bishop Burnet.
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337. How to estimate Mankind. -How important is the lesson which teaches us not to measure mankind by ideal standards of morality; for to imagine too fondly that men are gods, is to end by believing that they are demons: the young pass usually through a period of misanthropy, and the misanthropy is acute in proportion to their own generous confidence in human excellence. We the least forgive faults in those from whom we the most expected excellence. But out of the ashes of misanthropy Benevolence rises again; we find many virtues where we had imagined all was vice--many acts of disinterested friendship where we had fancied all was calculation and fraud—and so gradually from the two extremes we pass to the proper medium; and feeling that no human being is wholly good, or wholly base, we learn that true knowledge of mankind which induces us to expect little and forgive much. The world cures alike the optimist and the misanthrope. Withproper
and sober estimate of men, we have neither prudence in the affairs of life, nor toleration for contrary opinions we tempt the cheater and then condemn' him—we believe so strongly in one faith, that we would sentence dissentients as heretics. It is experience alone that teaches us that he who is discreet is seldom betrayed, and that out of the opinions we condemn, spring often the actions we admire.--Bulwer. Se trata
338. Luther. "Who is this Luther?" said Margaret, governess of the Netherlands, the courtiers around her replied “he is an illiterate monk," “is he so?” said she, “I am glad to hear it; then do you, gentlemen, who are not illiterate, who are both learned and numerous, do you, I charge you, write against this illiterate monk. That is all you have to do. The business is easy; for the world will surely pay more regard to a great many scholars, and great men, as you are, than to one poor illiterate monk."-Dr. Knox.
339. The Grave. When Diogenes was about to die, he was asked what should be done with his body. The cynic ordered it to be carried out and left unburied in the fields. “What,” said his friends, “shall it be exposed as a prey to the birds and beasts?” “Lay a staff near me,” replied the dying philosopher, “with which I may drive them away.” “How can you drive them away," demanded his friends, “since you will not perceive them?” “What harm can they do me,” said Diogenes, “if when they devour my flesh, I do not perceive it."
If Diogenes cared as little about the disposal of his body after death as his words indicate, he had divested himself of a very general weak. ness; for the most of men show an uncommon solicitude on this subject. Some desire to be buried in consecrated ground; supposing no doubt, that evil spirits will be afraid to disturb them within the precincts of the sanctuary. Possibly they desire to rest among the saints, that they may have good company in the grave; or at least may be found among the righteous at the general resurrection. We have sometimes supposed that they were apprehensive that they might be overlooked by the eye of the Eternal, at the great day, if they were deposited in any other place than a churchyard.
The greater part of mankind express a wish to be buried near their relations or friends. This desire is very general, and, we had almost said, natural; but the man who has experienced the perfidy of friends and the coldness of relations would rather be buried in the desert or cast into the ocean. The antient Jews, who appear to have had very faint ideas of a future state, found a strange consolation in going down to the grave in peace and sleeping with their fathers.
Socrates declared it to be a matter of indifference to him how they disposed of his body. Another philosopher, being told in a threatening tone by a tyrant, that he should remain unburied, replied, “Fool! do you suppose that I care whether this body rot above ground or below?" Reason, indeed. informs us all, that it is a matter of no consequence what becomes of the body when the spirit has departed; but we have been so long in the habit of connecting life and feeling with the human frame, that we can hardly be led to suppose that the body is totally destitute of sensation. The custom of digging a deep pit for the recep tion of the dead, and leaving them as a prey for worms and corruption is excessively disagreeable: the practice of burning the body was much more decent, and had not a tendency to awaken so many gloomy and loathsome ideas. The urn containing the ashes of a deceased relative might be deposited in our chamber to remind us continually of the virtues of the departed, and of the friendship that had subsisted between us. Who would not rather that his flesh should be consumed by the action of fire, than undergo an abominable fermentation in the grave? Who would not rather his body should be purified by the flames, than become the parent and the nourishment of worms? Who would not rather ascend in smoke to the clouds, than become an inhabitant of darkness and the grave? Who would not rather be scattered by the four winds of heaven than say "to corruption, thou art my father, and to the worm, thou art my sister and my mother?”—The Savage.
340. How to prolong Life.--For many years there prevailed in China an extraordinary superstition and belief that the secret sect of Tao had discovered an elixir which bestowed immortality. No less than three Emperors died after swallowing a drink presented to them by the eunuchs of the palace, as the draught that was to confer never-ending life. “The best method of prolonging life, and of making life happy," said a wise Mandarin to one of these infatuated princes, “is to control your appetites, subdue your passions, and practise virtue! Most of your predecessors O Emperor! would have lived to a good old age had they followed the advice which I give you!"-P. M.
341. Popular Poison.-When pure ardent spirits are taken into the stomach, they cause irritation, which is evinced by warmth and pain experienced in that organ; and next, inflammation of the delicate coats of this part, and sometimes gangrenes. They act in the same manner as poisons. Besides the local injury they produce, they act on the nerves of the stomach which run to the brain, and if taken in large quantities, cause insensibility, stupor, irregular convulsive action, diffi. culty of breathing, profound sleep, and often sudden death.—The habitual use of ardent spirits causes a slow inflammation of the stomach and liver, which proceeds steadily, but is often undiscovered, till too late for relief.- London Medical and Surgical Journal.
842. Love of having the last word. Some men have a failing which is a source of great annoyance to others, and for which they pay the penalty by making the conversation less agreeable, and even at times making their conversation intolerable; it is the habit of stickling for the final word. Right or wrong in the controversy, subdued or victorious, there are persons who insist on exercising the petty and vexatious des. potism of uttering the last sentence that is uttered. This disposition is the out-break of pride in a very offensive shape? it is the usurpation of dominion over the self-love of other men, on a ground where men are ordinarily most sensitive. It is, in fact, a determination to humiliate him with whom you have been holding intercourse to humiliate him, not by the success of an irresistible argument, but by an intrusion of a tyrannic power. Avoid then the act, lest the act should create the habit; and if the habit exist, extra-regarding prudence, requires that it should be got rid of. Watch yourself, and inquire of any friend on whose sincerity you can rely-inquire, if you are quite sure you will not be hurt by his reply, whether the infirmity is exhibited by, or has been observed in you; and if it be, correct the infirmity.-Bentham.
343. Distinguished Men always Hard-workers.-When we read the lives of distinguished men in any department, we find them almost always celebrated for the amount of labour they could perform. Demosthenes, Julius Cæsar, Henry the Fourth of France, Lord Bacon, Sir Isaac Newton, Franklin, Washington, Napoleon,—different as they were in their intellectual and moral qualities,—were all renowned as hard-workers. We read how many days they could support the fatigues of a march; how early they rose; how. late they watched; how many hours they spent in the field, in the cabinet, in the court: how many secretaries they kept employed; in short how hard they worked.
344. Experience.-Men believe that what they have seen happen in one case, will happen again in the same circumstances, and that the same causes will always produce the same effects. Whatever are the principles of their belief, the fact is true, both with regard to the most profound philosopher, and the most ignorant peasant. The only difference between these two consists in this; the peasant concludes two cases to be precisely alike, because they resemble one another in their most obvious appearances; the philosopher, on the other hand, from a more enlarged experience and observation, does not so easily trust to obvious appearances: he is aware of the various sources of deception, and therefore examines all the most minute and latent circumstances, before he ventures to pronounce the same judgment; and the difficulty of ascertaining, with precision, the exact similarity of cases, makes every true philosopher extremely sceptical in forming conclusions of what will happen, from what he has seen happen.-An African who has seen water in an infinite variety of circumstances, but still retaining its fluidity, concludes, that fluidity is essential to water, and looks on it as a lie, when he is told, that in certain parts of the world, water often appears in a solid form. His mistake here does not proceed from his trusting to experience, but from thinking he had experience, when in reality he had none. All that he could justly infer from his experience was, that water, in the circumstances under which he had seen it would remain fluid. But water, exposed to a degree of cold sufficient to congeal it, was a circumstance in which he never saw it; therefore his experience could never tell him what effect that degree of cold would have upon the water, whenever it came to be exposed to it. We have a remarkable instance of the effects of trusting to a partial and limited experience, in that firm belief which people, ignorant of medicine, so frequently have in the wonderful effects of particular remedies, especially if they are kept as secrets. Many an old woman, and what is more surprising, many a grave philosopher, have infallible cures for a number of diseases, which every physician knows to be incurable. No physi. cian indeed has the comfort of thinking himself possessed of an infallible cure, even for the scratch of a pin.-Gregory's Duties of a Physician.
345. Perseverance.—1 recollect in Queen's County, to have seen a Mr. Clerk, who had been a working carpenter, and when making a bench for the session justices at the Court-house, was laughed at for taking peculiar pains in planing and smoothing the seat of it. He smilingly observed, that he did so to make it easy for himself, as he was resolved he would never die till he had a right to sit thereupon, and be kept his word. He was an industrious man--honest, respectable, and kind hearted. He succeeded in all his efforts to accumulate an independence; he did accumulate it, and uprightly. His character kept pace with the increase of his property, and he lived to sit as a magis. trate on that very bench that he sawed and planed.
Sir Jonah Barrington.
346. Passions.-Strong as our passions are, they may be starved into submission, and conquered, without being killed.-C. C. Colton.
347. Functions of the Brain.-If the mental processes be not the function of the brain, what is its office? In animals which possess only a small part of the human cerebral structure, sensation exists, and in many cases is more acute than in man. What employment shall we find for all that man possesses over and above this portion, for the large and prodigiously-developed human hemispheres? Are we to believe that these serve only to round the figure of the organ, or to fill the cranium?
They who consider the mental operations as acts of an immaterial being and thus disconnect the sound state of the mind from organisation act very consistently in disjoining insanity also from the corporeal structure, and in representing it as a disease, not of the brain, but of the mind. Thus we come to disease of an immaterial being, for which, suitably enough, moral treatment has been recommended.
I firmly believe, on the contrary, that the various forms of insanity, that all the affections comprehended under the general term of mental derangement, are only evidences of cerebral affections, disordered manifestations of those organs whose healthy action produces the phenomena called mental, in short symptoms of diseased brain.
These symptoms have the same relation to the brain, as vomiting, indigestion, heartburn, to the stomach; cough, asthma, to the lungs; or any other deranged functions to their corresponding organs.
348. A Newspaper is the history of the world for one day. It is the history of that world in which we now live, and with it we are consequently more concerned than with those which have passed away, and exist only in remembrance: though to check us in our too fond love of it, we may consider; that the present likewise, will soon be past, and take its place in the repositories of the dead.-Bishop Horne,