« PreviousContinue »
cause he knew that an evening breeze always sprung up from the land. The breeze arose, the circle was disordered, and at that moment he made his onset. The Athenian captives by repeating the strains of Euripides were enabled to charm their masters into a grant of their liberty.
IV. When two events, both of which are perceptible, follow each other without any connection between them, and the cause of the succeeding event is latent, there is a tendency to ascribe the succeeding event to the improper cause.
The anecdote from Bishop Latimer as to Tenderden steeple is an instance of this species of error, ante 139.
A common instance of this species of error is in the lovenote of the spider, called the death watch. Sitting by the bed of a sick or dying friend, when all is still, the noise of the spider is heard a short time, perhaps, before the death of the sufferer; and the events are, therefore, supposed to be connected. Astrology is, perhaps, founded upon this delusion.
V. When the connection of events is unknown, Ignorance refers the event to what is called “ Chance ;” and Superstition, which is ignorance in another form, to the immediate agency of some superior benevolent or malevolent being : but Philosophy endeavours to discover the antecedent in the chain of events.
See the anecdote respecting the Spectre of the Broken, in pote, ante 222, as to the different conclusions of ignorance and philosophy.
Dr. Arnot, in his work on Physics, says, “ It happened once on board a ship sailing along the coast of Brazil, 100 miles from land, that the persons walking on deck, when passing a particular spot, heard most distinctly the sounds of bells, varying as in human rejoicings. All on board listened and were convinced; but the phenomenon was mysterious and inexplicable.” The different ideas which this would excite in the minds of ignorance and intelligence may be easily conceived. “ Some months afterwards,” continues Dr. Arnot, “it was ascertained that, at the time of observation the bells of the city of St. Salvador, on the Brazilian coast, had been ringing on the occasion of a festival : the sound therefore, favoured by a gentle wind, had travelled over 100 miles of smooth water; and striking the wide-spread sail of the ship, rendered concave by a gentle breeze, had been brought to a focus, and rendered perceptible.” Of the consternation occasioned in uninformed minds by lightning we are all aware. How different is the effect upon unin
formed minds, and upon the mind of the philosopher in his quiet retreat. Dr. Franklin, speaking of conductors, says,
A rod was fixed to the top of my chimney, and extended about nine feet above it. From the foot of this rod, a wire the thickness of a goose-quill came through a covered glass tube in the roof, and down through the well of the staircase; the lower end connected with the iron spear of a lamp. On the staircase opposite to my chamber door the wire was divided ; the ends separated about six inches, a little bell on each end, and between the bells a little brass ball suspended by a silk thread, to play between and strike the bells when clouds passed with electricity in them.” Instances of the same nature may with a little observation be constantly discovered. Dreams are to the ignorant, often objects of terror; to the intelligent they are evidence of some diseased state of the body, or agitated state of the mind.
VI. Ignorance, by stopping at second causes hus a tendency, forgetting the prime cause to be sceptical; but philosophy looks through to the cause of all things.
“ Looks through Nature, up to Nature's God.” Lord Bacon says,
"For certain it is that God worketh nothing in nature but by second causes ; and if they would have it otherwise believed it is mere imposture, as it were, in favour towards God : and nothing else but to offer to the Au. thor of truth the unclean sacrifice of a lie. But farther, it is an assured truth, and a conclusion of experience, that a little or superficial knowledge of philosophy may incline the mind of man to atheism, but a farther proceeding therein doth bring the mind back again to religion ; for in the entrance of philosophy, when the second causes, which are next unto the senses, do offer themselves to the mind of man, if it dwell and stay there, it may induce some oblivion of the highest cause; but when a man passeth on further, and seeth the dependence of causes and the works of Providence : then, according to the allegory of the poets, he will easily believe that the highest link of nature's chain must needs be tied to the foot of Jupiter's chair.”
And to the same effect, David Hume in his general corollary at the conclusion of his Essays, says, " Though the stupidity of men, barbarous and uninstructed, be so great, that they may not see a sovereign author in the more obvious works of nature, to which they are so much familiarized, yet it scarce seems possible, that any one of good understanding should reject the idea, when once it is suggested to him. Å and when our comprehension is so far enlarged as to contemplate the first rise of this visible system, we must adopt, with the strongest conviction, the idea of some intelligent cause or author.
design, is evident in every thing;
purpose, an intenti
So, too, Browne, in his beautiful work on Cause and Effect, says,
“Wherever we turn our eyes, to the earth, to the heavens, to the myriads of beings that live and move around us, or to those more than myriads of worlds, which seem themselves almost like animate inhabitants of the infinity through which they range ; above us, beneath us, on every side, we discover with a certainty that admits not of doubt, intelligence and design, that must have preceded the existence of every thing which exists." The power of the Omnipotent is indeed so transcendent in itself, that the loftiest imagery and language which we can borrow from a few pass. ing events in the boundlessness of nature, must be feeble to express
its force and universality. It seems, therefore, that 1. There is through all nature a regular sequence of
2. All the order and happiness in the world depends upon the regular sequence of events.
3. Our power depends upon our knowledge of the sequence of events.
4. When two events, both of which are perceptible, follow, each other without any connection between them, and the cause of the succeeding event is latent, there is a tendency to ascribe the succeeding event to the improper cause.
5. When the connection of events is unknown, Ignorance refers the event to what is called “ Chance :" and Superstition, which is ignorance in another form, to the immediate agency of some superior benevolent or malevolent being : but Philosophy endeavours to discover the antecedent in the chain of events.
6. Ignorance, by stopping at second causes, has a tendency, forgetting the prime cause, to be sceptical : but philosophy looks through to the cause of all things.
NOTE IV.--Text 265.
PLEASURES OF IMAGINATION.
1. The mind aspires to perfection. This world is inferior to the soul, by reason whereof there is, agreeable to the spirit of man, a more ample greatness, a more exact goodness, and a more absolute variety than can be found in the nature of things.-BACON.
The soul during her confinement within this prison of the body, is doomed by fate to undergo a severe penance. For her native seat is in heaven; and it is with reluctance that she is forced down from those celestial mansions into these lower regions, where all is foreign and repugnant to her divine nature. But the gods, I am pursuaded, have thus widely disseminated immortal spirits, and clothed them with human bodies, that there might be a race of intelligent creatures, not only to have dominion over this our earth, but to contemplate the host of heaven, and imitate in their moral conduct the same beautiful order and uniformity, so conspicuous in those splendid orbs.
This purifying of wit, this enriching of memory, ennobling of judgment, and enlarging of conceit, which commonly we call learning, under what name soever it come forth, or to what immediate end soever it be directed, the final end is to lead and draw us to as high a perfection, as our degenerate souls, made worse by their clay-lodgings, can be capable of. Some give themselves to astronomy; some to be natural and supernatural philosophers; some an admirable delight drew to music; and some the certainty of demonstration to the mathematics; but all, one and other, having this scope to know, and by knowledge to lift up the mind from the dungeon of the body, to the enjoying his own divive essence.
SIR PHILIP SYDNEY. If there be a radical propensity in our nature to do that which is wrong, there is on the other hand a counteracting power within it, or an impulse by means of the action of the Divine spirit upon our minds, which urges us to do that which is right. If the voice of temptation, clothed in musical and seducing accents, charms us one way, the voice of holiness speaking to us from within in a solemn and powerful manner, commands us another. Does one man obtain a victory over his corrupt affections? an immediate perception of pleasure, like the feeling of a reward divinely conferred upon him, is noticed. Does another fall prostrate beneath their power? a painful feeling, and such as pronounces to him the sentence of reproof, and punishment is found to follow.
Whatever the Deity may have bestowed upon me in other respects, he has certainly inspired me, if any ever were inspired, with a passion for the good and fair. Nor did Ceres, according to the fable, ever seek her daughter Proserpine with such unceasing solicitude, as I have sought this perfect model of the beautiful in all the forms and appearances of things I am wont, day and night, to continue my search; and I fol. low in the way in which you go before.
MILTON'S LETTER TO DEODATI.
The highborn soul
Though I have lost
In spite of all,
From our dark spirits.—KEATS.
Ask the faithful youth,
And turns his tears to rapture.