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"MAGNA EST VRBITAS, ET PRÆVALEBIT."
65, PATERNOSTER ROW.
MEN have not only to learn, but to unlearn. To do either aright, the critical faculties must be trained. Reflective thought has been of much use to society. It has corrected mistakes and removed misjudgments; it has reformed codes and creeds; it has suggested change and advocated progress; it has confirmed sciences and aided pbilosophy; it has affected states and improved human life. Every new truth on which men's minds have been excited to inquiry has loomed out upon the horizon of investigation like the Cape to the Portuguese navigator, shrouded in storms; but, as steady approaches have been made towards it, calm settles where the former agitation raged; and when the resolute adventurer has passed round to the other side, and so seen both, he can say,
“ Cape of Storms! thy spectre's filed,
And the angel Hope, instead,
Lights, from heaven, upon thy head." We become wiser by pressing experience into new regions, and putting the good ship “Investigation" under the charge of Captain Intellect. We may under his guidance explore new seas of thought, and re-survey some of the old ones, so as to rectify our charts and make sure of the soundings. In a world of changes, opinion too must change; or, at least, must watch and register the changes which take place around it, and keep a critical look-out on the highways and byways of speculative research, in order that where necessary it may re-map the territory and adapt its charts to the combined results of time, thought, and truth.
Plato thought that the search after truth was not only the noblest occupation, but the highest delight of life. Some modern thinkers, in their care only for results, or from experience of the fatigue and difficulty of the truth-seeker's task, have thought that dogmatic beliefs received on authority constitute a better furnishing for actual life than the culture of a critical, or, as they term it, a sceptical activity of intellect. The mind is mastered, not by what it receives on authority as right, but by what it perceives by reason as true. The search for truth is in man's power, the attainment of it may be beyond his reach; but if it is to be gained at all, it must be found more certainly after examination than upon mere authority; for faith in authority is entirely different from faith in truth, and man's soul is enriched and ennobled by the truth he believes in, not by the authority on which he accepts it. Man may be conquered, not converted, by dogmatic authority; reasoned thought alone can convince him.
"Doubt," as double thought, said Aristotle, is “the beginning of truth ;' “a good beginning" enough, as Locke says, “but a bad end.” Inquiry implies doubt, because it is a search for certainty which may succeed or may be disappointed, but it seeks certainty, not scepticism. The more we think for ourselves, the less inclined we feel to accept the thoughts of others; for we then know the power and pleasure of thought as well as gain its profit. Truth can challenge doubt; falsehood cannot.