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that all these “things that are lovely and of good report,” which have been placed before him, are the genuine fruits of the Holy Land; though the spies who have brought them bring also an evil report of that land, and would persuade us to remain wandering in the wilderness.-(p. 468.)
In pointing out the unfairness to a new colony of making it the receptacle of the blackguards and scapegraces of the old country, by the system of penal transportation, the Archbishop happily illustrates the way in which people of not very logical minds are brought to associate things which are not merely unconnected, but inconsistent:—
In other subjects, as well as in this, I have observed that two distinct objects may, by being dexterously presented, again and again in quick succession, to the mind of a cursory reader, be so associated together in his thoughts, as to be conceived capable, when in fact they are not, of being actually combined in practice. The fallacious belief thus induced bears a striking resemblance to the optical illusion effected by that ingenious and philosophical toy called the ‘thaumatrope;’ in which two objects painted on opposite sides of a card, for instance, a man and a horse, a bird and a cage,_are, by a quick rotatory motion, made so to impress the eye in combination, as to form one picture, of the man on the horse's back,-the bird in the cage, &c. As soon as the card is allowed to remain at rest, the figures, of course, appear as they really are, separate and on opposite sides. A mental illusion closely analogous to this is produced, when, by a rapid and repeated transition from one subject to another, alternately, the mind is deluded into an idea of the actual combination of things that are really incompatible. The chief part of the defence which various writers have advanced in favour of the system of penal colonies, consists, in truth, of a sort of intellectual thaumatrope. The prosperity of the colony, and the repression of crime, are, by a sort of rapid whirl, presented to the mind as combined in one picture. A very moderate degree of calm and fixed attention soon shows that the two objects are painted on opposite sides of the card.--(p. 334.)
On the risk run by superstitious persons of falling into grave error:
Minds strongly predisposed to superstition, may be compared
to heavy bodies just balanced on the verge of a precipice. The
slightest touch will send them over; and then, the greatest exertion that can be made may be insufficient to arrest their fall. —(p. 155.) Illustration is sometimes the most cogent of argument. A volume of reasoning against ultra-conservatism would not equal, for general impression, the following plain statement of the case:— Is there not, then, some reason for the ridicule which Bacon speaks of, as attaching to those “who too much reverence old times o' To say that no changes shall take place is to talk idly. We might as well pretend to control the motions of the earth. To resolve that none shall take place except what are undesigned and accidental, is to resolve that though a clock may gain or lose indefinitely, at least we will take care that it shall never be regulated. ‘If time (to use Bacon's warning words) “alters things to the worse, and wisdom and counsel shall not alter to the better, what shall be the end ? —(pp. 236–7.)
We shall throw together, without remark, some further examples of Archbishop Whately’s power of illustrating the moral by the physical. So marked a feature in his intellectual portraiture deserves, we think, extended notice. But it is only by studying the Annotations for themselves, that our readers can form any just idea of the affluence and exuberance of happy imagery with which they sparkle all over.
To these small wares, enumerated by Bacon, might be added a
very hackneyed trick, which yet is wonderfully successful—to
Those whom Bacon here so well describes, are men of a clear and quick sight, but short-sighted. They are ingenious in particulars, but cannot take a comprehensive view of a whole. Such a man may make a good captain, but a bad general. He may be clever at surprising a piquet, but would fail in the management of a great army and the conduct of a campaign. He is like a chess-player who takes several pawns, but is checkmated.— (p. 215.) The truth is, that in all the serious and important affairs of life men are attached to what they have been used to ; in matters of ornament they covet novelty; in all systems and institutions—in all the ordinary business of life—in all fundamentals—they cling to what is the established course; in matters of detail—in what lies, as it were, on the surface—they seek variety. Man may, in reference to this point, be compared to a tree whose stem and main branches stand year after year, but whose leaves and flowers are fresh every season.—(p. 228.) In no point is the record of past times more instructive to those capable of learning from other experience than their own, than in what relates to the history of reactions. It has been often remarked by geographers that a river flowing through a level country of soft alluvial soil never keeps a straight course, but winds regularly to and fro, in the form of the letter S many times repeated. And a geographer, on looking at the course of any stream as marked on a map, can at once tell whether it flows along a plain (like the river Meander, which has given its name to such windings), or through a rocky and hilly country. It is found, indeed, that if a straight channel be cut for any stream in a plain consisting of tolerably soft soil, it will never long continue straight, unless artificially kept so, but becomes crooked, and increases its windings more and more every year. The cause is, that any little wearing away of the bank in the softest part of the soil, on one side, occasions a set of the stream against this hollow, which increases it, and at the same time drives the water aslant against the opposite bank a little lower down. This wears away that bank also ; and thus the stream is again driven against a part of the first bank, still lower; and so on, till by the wearing away of the banks at these points on each side, and the deposit of mud (gradually becoming dry land) in the comparatively still water between them, the course of the stream becomes sinuous, and its windings increase more and more.
And even thus, in human affairs, we find alternate movements, in nearly opposite directions, taking place from time to time, and generally bearing some proportion to each other in respect of the violence of each ; even as the highest flood-tide is succeeded by the lowest ebb.-(p. 154.)
Very beautifully, in the following paragraph, does the Archbishop illustrate the law that whatever is to last long, must grow slowly:
We hear of volcanic islands thrown up in a few days to a formidable size, and in a few weeks or months, sinking down again or washed away; while other islands, which are the summits of banks covered with weed and drift-sand, continue slowly increasing year after year, century after century. The man who is in a hurry to see the full effect of his own tillage, should cultivate annuals, not forest trees. The clear-headed lover of truth is content to wait for the result of his. If he is wrong in the doctrines he maintains, or the measures he proposes, at least it is not for the sake of immediate popularity. If he is right, it will be found out in time, though, perhaps, not in his time. The preparers of the mummies were (Herodotus says) driven out of the Aouse by the family who had engaged their services, with execrations and stones; but their work remains sound after three thousand years.—(p. 503.)
Although these extracts have been given mainly to exemplify Archbishop Whately's mode of enforcing and illustrating his views, they may have served likewise to give our readers some notion of the variety of topics treated in this volume, and of the Archbishop's opinions upon some of these. We hardly know how to attempt a description of the matter of the work, as distinguished from its manner. There are scores of