Page images
PDF
EPUB

of the reason of high intelligences the desire of knowledge in the bosom of the fall of that mighty spirit whose of the successful aspirant after new desire to know, transcended the law ideas keep pace with his intellectual of his being and the object of those attainments. sublime endowments bestowed upon This again suggests to us a good him. That he was experimentally reason for the variety and immensity acquainted with this paramount desire of creation. Man needs such a uniof rational nature, is obvious from verse as this, and the universe needs the policy of the temptation which he such a thing as man, not merely as offered. Its point was to stimulate, a competent part, but as the worthy not the animal, but the intellectual guest of it. Every thing that exists appetite of our mother Eve, by dog- is to be enjoyed by a being who has matically affirming that God forbade the power of understanding and adthe fruit, because he knew that, if miring it. Now, as the human they should eat it, “ they would be power to know and to enjoy, is natuas gods, knowing both good and evil.” rally cumulative and progressive, the

But while it appears most probable objects to be known and enjoyed that all - intelligences, angelic and must be proportionably vast and human, embodied and disembodied, illimitable. And here again arises a or superlatively fallible or vulnerable new proof of design and adaptation in in this one point, and that their this grand and eloquent universe of catastrophe was so far, at least, homo- God. For it is not only in the ingeneous, as to afford plausible ground finitude and variety of its parts—in of inference that the not holding or its physical, intellectual, aud moral employing any power bestowed upon dimensions ; but in the immeasurable us in abeyance to the will of the aggregate of its provisions, as respects donor, is the radical sin of our nature, variety, extent, and duration, that it and the prolific fountain of all the is so adapted to the human constitufollies and misfortunes of man ; still tion—to this unquenchable thirst for the desire of knowledge is one of the knowledge—this eternally increasing kindest and noblest instincts and im- intellectual power of knowing and pulses of our nature. Without it, the enjoying, bestowed on our rational power to know would have been and moral nature. comparatively, if not altogether, use- In all the language of celestial or less to man.

terrestrial beings, there is no word of The physical wants of the infant more comprehensive and transcendant do not more naturally and necessarily import, than the term Universe. In prompt his first animal exertions to its mighty grasp, in its boundless find relief, than does this innate extent, it embraces Creator and creaprinciple, this natural desire of know- ture—all past, all present, all future ledge, urge the mind in the pursuit of existences within the revolting circles new ideas. The ineffable pleasure of of time, and all the endless ages of the first conception only invites to a eternity. Our finite minds, indeed, second effort ; and success in that with all their gigantic powers of acstimulates to a third ; and so on, in quisition, cannot compass infinite increasing ratios, till the full grown ideas, but they can divide and subdiman, on his fledged wings of intellec- vide the mighty whole into such small tual maturity, soars aloft, as the eagle parts and parcels as come within their from the mountain top, in quest of easy management. We have ,therenew and greater discoveries. And fore, divided the universe into innunever did the miser's love of gold merable solar systems spread over bear a more direct proportion to his fields of space, so immense as to make success in accumulating it, than does imagination herself flag in her most

!

vigorous efforts to survey them. ever passed under the observation of These systems we have again divided our greatest masters. Not one of into planets, primary and secondary ; | them is yet understood. The whole and these again into various kingdoms universe is yet to be studied ; and

--mineral, vegetable, animal, intel- with such care and attention that the lectual. These we have farther dis-worlds, and systems of worlds-of tributed into genera, species, and ideas within us, shall exactly corresindividuals, until a single individual pond to the worlds and systems of becomes a distinct theme of contem- worlds without us. As exactly as plation. Even that we often find an the image in the mirror resembles object too large for our feeble efforts, the face before it, so must the ideas and set about separating an individual within us correspond to the things existence into the primary elements without us, before we can be said to of its nature, the attributes, modes, understand them. What ages, then, and circumstances of its being, before must pass over them, before the it comes within the easy grasp of a single system to which he now bespecial operation of our minds. longs shall have stamped the image

But the feast of the mind, the joy upon his soul, and left as many of the banquet, is not found in these sciences within him as there are distributions and classifications of things cognate and homogeneous things, but in viewing every organ withont him ! Before this begins to and atom of every creature in refer- be accomplished, the seven sciences ence to itself, and to the creature of of the ancients will not only have which it is a part ; then that creature multiplied into the seventy times as related to other creatures of its seven of the moderns, but into mulown species and genera ; and these titudes that would bankrupt the whole again in reference to other ranks and science of numbers to compute. If orders belonging to the particular Socrates, the great master of Grecian world of which they are atoms ; and philosophy, could only boast that he that world itself as connected with had attained so much knowledge of others; and then all as related to the the universe as to be confident that Supreme Intelligence, the fountain he knew nothing about it-compreand source of all that is wise, and hended no part of it—how much of great, and good, and beautiful, and that science of ignorance ought we lovely—the Parent of all being and to possess, to whom so many founof all joy ; and thus to look through tains of intelligence have been opened, universal nature, and her ten thousand from what the sage of Athens was portals and avenues, up to Nature's debarred! uncreated and unoriginated Author. But as there is nothing isolated or

It is, indeed, a sublime and glorious independent in all the dominions of truth, that this, to us, unsearchable God, so there cannot be an isolated and incomprehensible universe, can or detached science in any mind, save all be converted into an infinite and that in which the original archetypes eternal fountain of joy, an inexhaust- of all things were arranged before ible source of pure and perennial one of them was called into existence. bliss, commensurate with the whole And this is now, and always has capacity of man. But this, to us, is been, the insuperable obstacle to the yet in the boundless future, and must perfect comprehension of any one depend upon the proper direction science, the basis of which is in the given to our desires and pursuits in realms of mind or matter. the contemplation and study of the Still the desire to know rises with universe. The fields of science are the consciousness of our ignorance, innumerable. But few of them have' and even of our present inability, and

we promise ourselves a day of grace is, she has five points peculiarly her in which we shall not only know in own, wbich no other science in the part, and prophesy in part ; but shall universe has ever been able to desee clearly, comprehend fully, and velope with either certainty or satisknow as we are known. Till then faction to any man. These five points we must be content to study the are the origin, the nature, the primer of Nature, and learn the ele- relations, the obligations, and the ments of things around us, as prepa- destiny of man. ratory to our admission into the high Many, indeed, of the teachers, adschool of the universe. Indeed, the mirers, and votaries of a science greatest genius, the most gifted and sometimes called "moral philosophy,learned in all human science, rises as taught by the ancients and by the but to the portico of that school, the moderns, have, with a zeal and devestibule of that temple in which the votion truly admirable, and worthy true science of true bliss is practically of a better cause, inculcated upon the taught, and rationally communicated youth of past and present times, the to man,

all-sufficiency of human reason, or of There is one science, however, in human philosophy, to clear up all which it is possible to make great doubts and uncertainty upon all subproficiency in this life, and which, of jects connected with man's relations all the sciences, is the most popular, and resposibilities to the universe. and, withal, the least understood. It That there are sciences physical, has been a favorite in all the schools mental, and moral, truly and properly of the ancients and of the moderns ; so called, I doubt not ; but that the but has never been successfully taught science sometimes called “moral phiby Grecian, Roman, Indian, or Egyp- losophy,” which professes, from the tian philosophy. It is, indeed, neither mere light of nature, to ascertain and more nor less than the science of establish-indeed, to originate and happiness than the philosophy of set forth the origin, nature, relations, bliss. But some of you will imme- obligations, and destiny of man-is a diately ask, “Where shall that science true science of the inductive order, be found ? In what temple does she founded upon facts—upon observation deign to dwell ? By what rites are and experiment, and not upon asher ears to be propitiated to our sumption, plagiarism, imagination ; I prayers? And by what less ambi- cannot admit. If, then, we cannot guous name shall she be called ? set forth the science of happiness, nor

To introduce her, without proper find for it, at this time, an appropriate ceremonies, to your acquaintance, name ; we shall attempt to expose, would be as impolitic on my part as in part at least, the fallacy and imit would be perplexing to my inven- position of all human science, (espetive powers to find for her a pleasing cially of moral philosophy, which in and familiar name. But, in the ab- this particular arrogates to itself more sence of such a designation, I will than every other science), in attemptstate the five points of which she ing to settle or develope any one of treats.

these five points with any degree of Whether it is because we have certainty, authority, or evidence, only five senses, five fingers on each | either salutary or satisfactory to any hand, or because there are five points man of sense. in Calvinism, and as many in Armi-[ This is neither the time nor the nianism, that this divine science has place for mere definitions, metaphyonly five points, I leave it to more sical arguments, nor for abstract learned doctors and sages than your reasonings. A definition or two we humble servant to decide. But so it may have occasion to offer ; but we shall rely much more upon a safer gleaned from his numerous writings; and more palpable evidence in demon- | but a few sentences will suffice to strating the perfect impotency of imprint his views on every mind. philosophy and human reason, how- “ Philosophy,” says he, “is the culever cultivated, possessing only the ture of the mind that plucketh-up mere light of nature to decide and vice by the roots—the medicine of enforce any one of these five cardinal the soul that healeth the minds of points.

men. From philosophy we may It will, I presume, be conceded by draw all proper helps and assistance all persons of education and good for leading virtuous and happy lives. sense, that human happiness demands The correction of all our vices and the full enjoyment of all our powers sins is to be sought for from philoand capacities, in harmony with all sophy. Oh! Philosophy!” adds he, our relations and obligations to the “ the guide of life—the searcher out creation of which we are a part, and of virtue and the expeller of vice, that a knowledge of those relations what would we be, nay, what would and obligations is essential to the be the life of man, without thee ! fulfilment and enjoyment of them ; Thou wast the inventress of laws, the consequently there is a very great mistress of morals, the teacher of intimacy between the knowledge of discipline! For thee we pleadthese points and the philosophy of from thee we beg assistance. One bliss.

day spent according to thy precepts It will also be conceded that the is preferable to an immortality spent knowledge of our obligations and re- in sin.”* So spake the gigantic lations presupposes a knowledge of Roman, standing on the shoulders of our origin and destiny ; and, there- the more gigantic Greek philosophers, fore, whatever system of reasoning, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Zeno, and whatever science fails to reveal these, a hundred others of minor fame. cannot possibly develope those. These We shall next hear the oracle of things premised, I hasten to show, modern philosophers who filled the that while moral philosophy proposes chair of Dugald Stewart, the greatest to do all this, she has never done it of metaphysicians. “ Philosophy,” in any one instance - her greatest says he-quoting the most renowned masters and most eloquent and power- of the stoics of Roman fame, the ful pleaders being accepted as credible distinguished Seneca—“ Philosophy testimony in the case.

forms and fathoms the soul, and gives That moral philosophy assumes to to life its disposition and order, which teach man his obligations and rela- points out what is our duty to do, tions to Creator and creatures, and and what is our duty to omit. It sits to make him virtuous and happy, is at the helm, and in a sea of peril first to be proved. Whose testimony, directs the course of those who are then, shall we hear ? That of the wandering through the waves.” greatest of Roman philosophers—the “Such,” says our modern philosopher most learned of her scholars — the in American schools, Brown of Edinmost profound of her reasoners—the burgh, “ is the great practical object most eloquent of her orators — the ofall philosophy.” “It comprehends," most accomplished of her citizens- adds the standard author, “ the nathe unrivalled Cicero? He was, ture of our spiritual being, as disindeed, an honor to human nature ; played in all the phenomena of feeland, without exaggeration, in my ing and of thought-the ties which opinion, the greatest man Pagan bind us to our fellow-men, and to our Rome ever produced. Many a fine

See Cic. Tuscul. Disputations, lib. 2, caps. 4 and encomium on philosophy may be ' 5; lib. 3, cap. 3 ; lib. 4. cap. 38 ; lib. 5, ca. 2.

Creator, and the prospect of that country or place in which they were unfading existence, of which life is originally located. but the first dawning gleam,” vol. 1. The Eleatic school was wholly ch. 14. Such, then, are the preten- atheistic, root and branch. Leucipsions of philosophy, mental and moral, pus first taught the doctrine of atoms, in the esteem of Christian as well as afterwards adopted by the learned in that of Pagan sages.

and facetious Democritus. While I believe this to be the orthodox Heraclitus, the great Ephesian philcreed in all the popular schools of osopher, wept over the follies of men, Britain and in America. Indeed, Democritus laughed at them, and both Hartley and Paley might be taught that the universe was but the quoted as going still farther in as- fortuitous concourse of atoms. The cribing to moral philosophy an almost more refined and accomplished Episuperior excellence in some points, curus speculated at great length upon even to the Revelation itself. But the same theories, somewhat modified ; we need not such exaggerated views. and each of those great names headed The preceding will suffice for a a sect of Atheists, who, while they text.

agreed in the essential doctrine We shall now look for the exem differed in minor points. The essenplification of the fruits of this boasted | tial doctrines of all the sects of the and boastful philosophy in the admis- Eleatic school were, that the world sions, declarations, and acts of its was made by the god Chance-a teachers, and in the lives and morality fortuitous concourse of atoms ; that is of its students and admirers.

governed by no intelligence, ruled by The witnesses to be heard in this no governor, and preserved by no case are the Grecian and Roman providence. That the soul, if there lawgivers and philosophers. We be any, dies with the body ; consehave not time to hear them deposingly quently there is no future life. That and separately ; we shall therefore there is neither virtue nor vice, moral examine them in companies.

good or moral evil by nature, or any The Greek pdilosophy is all arrang- other law than that of custom and ed in three lines ; as the learned, public unity. That pleasure is the since and before the revival of litera- chief good, and pain the greatest evil ture, have conceded. These three to man. great lines are the Ionic, the Italic, With the moral theories of this and the Eleatic. The Ionic was school, other distinguished philosofounded by the great Thales of the phers concurred; amongst whom Ionian Miletus ; the first natural Laertius ranks Theodorus, Archelaus, philosopher and astronomer of Greece, and Aristippus ; teaching that upon who divided the year into 365 days ; fit occasions (that is, when not likely observed in the diameter of the sun ; to be detected), theft, sacrilege, and and foretold eclipses, about the mid- other enormities which we cannot dle of the sixth century before Christ. name, might be committed, because The Italic was founded by that great nothing was by nature, or of itself, lawgiver and philosopher, Pythagoras, base, but by law and custom. I shall who established a school in Italy a certainly be allowed to dismiss this little after the middle of the fifth school without farther hearing century before Christ. The Eleatic without a more formal proof that was founded by Leucippus and Par- moral philosophy, in their hands, was menides, of Elæ, early in the fifth not what our great moral philosocentury before Christ ; the chiefs of phers, from Cicero down to Stewart which may be alluded to in the sequel. and Brown, of Scotch and American These schools are all named from the fame, have affirmed, viz.—“ The

« PreviousContinue »