« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
may have its due exertion, it is necessary that the understanding be free, and, consequently, unhampered by established authority. Reason cannot abide the “ balm of superstition.” It is that which perplexes it and ren. ders it unhappy.
Our author asserts, page 392, that “the best feel. ings of mankind are the result of prejudice. And finding enthusiasm, " that fine delirium of the soul,” oppoled by reason, scruples not to call the latter “a cold,, and till of late, ineffectual sceptic, that would rob of all our bliss.”
Now what are the best feelings of mankind ? Are they not such as coincide with his most just and most enlarged conceptions ? Are not genuine devotion and universal benevolence, the sources of men's most ex. alted and purest delights ? Devotion and benevolence consist in loving and resembling that Being who is free from all partiality and prejudice. Prejudice the source of the best feelings ! Who knows not, on the contrary, that it is the source of the worst disorders. in society? Alarmed as our author appears at the innovation of reason, and the success it is obtaining over prejudice and enthusiasm; he is, perhaps, not less novel, though sufficiently unreasonable in his assertions, that he might oppose its inroads. It is conviction which is the genuine spring of the best and finest feelings. Where this is wanting, the affections are either fluctuating or disordered, or fixed in some erroneous pursuit. Error rashly fixed, conititutes prejudice; which is, therefore, the direct and well known opponent of conviction. The latter can rarely find place where the former is previously harboured. They are, indeed, things diametrically opposite, and cannot co-exist in the same mind on the same subject. Consequently, the feelings which result from each of them, must be of natures. no less opposite. And whereas those which arise fromn, conviction, cannot bụt be among the best and finest feelin
insing ings of mankind; those which result from prejudice must reafonably be expected to rank among the worst and coarseft of them.
But enthufiafm, “ that fine delirium of the foul,” is its offspring. Till now, I had always understood a delirious person to be one of the most wretched and unhappy of mortals. That delirious feelings are among the finest, is surely a doctrine not less novel and strange, than any of those which have been suggested even by “ chemical moralifts." Enthusiasm is, in fact, no other than a disorderly state of the passions. We ever, in common language, regard an enthusiast as one whose mind is overheated by some prejudice. None will deny that the pafsions are liable to extreme disorders; but few will assert, either that this diforderly state is the most delightful, or that to let them continue in that ftate, is the best means of preserving them in their genuine vigour. Most will allow that here the salutary aid of reason must be called in; not, indeed, to effect their extermination, but rather, left they should exter- ! minate each other.
It is true the term reafon, like most other words, is liable to abuse. Perhaps it ought to be conceded, that this term has been, in some respects, considerably abused by fome late moralifts. Reason, or the human under. standing, is not designed to operate against any other laws of our nature, but in perfect conformity with them. Reason is cool, impartial reflection. The rarious objects of the passions are thus carefully contemplated, and their comparative worth estimated. By this means the passions are duly regulated; their ardour in puríuit of particular objects is, perhaps, often abated. But this is because those objects are not worthy of being so ardently pursued--because nobler objects may, amidst this eagerness, be forgotten or neglected ; and because the too eager pursuit of any object is liable to unnd in disappointment. What will be the result: Will
any of the sympathies of our nature be thus destroyed ? will even self-love, the most homely of all the passions, eeafe? No; its usurpations will be prevented. It will be kept at home to be purified by the springs of kindred affections, patriotifin, and benevolence. It is because the inferior paffions are fo apt to ufurp an unrighteous dominion, that the aid of reason is lo neces. fary. Besides, were it not for reflection, man must remain an entire stranger to the most exalted and lasting enjoyments. If we do not reflect, we must be led by fense, and remain ignorant of those objects which reflection brings to our knowledge. Our pleasures, therefore, must be fenfual, grofs, and of short conti.. nuance. Let reflection be employed, and an endless field of improvement in knowledge and virtue will be prefented. But let imagination be indulged without restraint, and many unreal beings and doctrines may quickly be conjured' up; prejudices will be formed; fuperftition will occupy the place of fublime truth, and enthufiasm will be plentifully kindled. Instead of this, let calm and patient investigation be exercised, and inany real, though invisible objects, will be presented; truth will be feparated from fanciful delusions ; super: ftition itself will be dispelled, and the fublimest truths being clearly distinguished, will elevate the human mind, and implant in it the seeds of lasting and increafing felicity.
Our author seems to speak of morality as a thing diftinct from reason ; and as the proper corrective of fenfe. It appears somewhat difficult to determine, precisely, the meaning which he affixes to the terms Tense and morality. It is not improbable that he was become somewhat aware of the truly alarning confequences of his scheme of banishing reason from human nature, and was desirous of concealing a certain portion, or modification of it, under the term morality. For whatever has nothing of reason in its composition, can be only the mere suggestions of sense, or of a wanVOL. II,
dering dering disordered imagination. Morality implies a law, 'or standard of right, by which human beings are to act. But how can that standard of right be discerned, and aptly applied, without reason ? Nay, what is the perception, or application of that standard, but that very exercise of the mind which we call-reasoning?
In the followng paragraph our author proceeds to argue against systems of morality as human inventions. Human nature, he asserts, “trusts for its support to the independant illuminations of mind.” But why thould mankind trust to illuminations independant of proper means? The Divine Being has, indeed, been pleased to reveal many sublime truths, which reflect great light on their prefent nature and circumstances. For what purpose is this revelation given them, except to call forth the right exercise of their powers ? Not, surely, to operate in any way to the exclusion of them; not independant of them, but by means of the influence of those truths upon them. With respect to systems of morality, they certainly ought to be guided by revelation. But if true, they are not superseded by it; but, on the contrary, derive from it additional force. To furnith us with reasons and motives sufficient to prompt us earnestly to search for a rule of right with respect to every action, word, and thought, is the great object of revelation. To deduce a number of rules of moral life, from the joint light of nature and of revelation, cannot but be productive of good.
The system of morality to which our author seems chiefly to allude, is that proposed by modern unbelieve
Some of their principles are sufficiently absurd, and particularly this, which he quotes from Mr. God. 1 win's Political Justice. “ We are sick and subject to death, merely because, in a certain sense, we content to suffer these accidents.” But surely this is not the case, because mortality is, we know by sad experience, the present law of our nature. And though mortality will,
finally, be swallowed up of life, yet this will not be through the energy of our own wills, but through the good pleasure of that Being, who alone has the laws of nature under his controul. There was, however, no need of abandoning reason in order to encounter such an absurd chimera. Mr. Godwin may ascribe his new discovery to the powers of reason, unshackled by religious creeds; but those who perceive its absurdity, will efteem the term, reason, abused by such an application of it. And Christian may regard this as an appropriate instance, that reason cannot, even in spite of its most vigourous efforts, maintain the helm, unallifted by revelation.
Sept. 9, 1797.
IMPERIAL BOTANIC GARDEN.
the severe winter of 1793, I often went there to enjoy the beauties of a tropical climate. What a pleafing contrast, when, from being battered with driving fleet, or covered with snow in my way thither, whilst the vegetable world was dead, and the very earth was hid by snow from my sight, I stepped into these hose houses, rich with odours, and adorned with the rarest palms.
These hot houses, I believe, are the finest in Europe, One range is nineiy yards long and thirty feet high within : another range is nearly as high, and above a hundred yards long :-part of this is a green-house : and three more ranges of hot-houses, each about eighty yards long, but much lower than the former ; and, lastly, two or three small green-houses, in one of which