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that the bulk of mankind, fecretly conscious of their own incapacity, embrace almost implicitly the opinions of those whose superior station, abilities and authority, entitle them at least to respect and deference, and whose extensive influence is upon the whole favourable to the general happiness. As in consequence therefore of free enquiry just and liberal sentiments will ultimately prevail amongst the higher ranks of society, those sentiments will sooner or later infallibly diffuse themselves amongst the lower classes of mankind; not as the result of rational conviction indeed, so much as of that irrisistible influence which must always accompany superiority of knowledge and ftation, I do not however mean to insinuate that all attempts to enlighten the minds of the multitude are useless or abfurd :-such arguments as they are capable of comprehending, and such as have any tendency to enlarge their sphere of comprehension, ought undoubtedly to be exhibited in the most conspicuous point of view. A little knowledge is said to be a dangerous thing: but I believe total ignorance is much more so. By unremitted efforts to instruct and enlighten mankind, the number of competent judges must con. tinually increase, and the minds of the multitude will be gradually prepared for the reception of those truths which they may be unequal to the investigation of. If the majority of Christians in this enlightened country are not properly qualified to decide in controversies of faith, certainly

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those of Spain and Portugal are much less so ; There are degrees of ignorance; and every ad- . vance in knowledge is favourable to virtue and happiness; but it does not appear to me advifable, because the Church of Rome extravagantly claims a right to judge for every private Chrif. tian, to embarrass the question by maintaining that every private Christian is qualified to judge for himself. The right to judge is indeed unquestionable ; but the ability to exercise that right is quite another thing; and though I do think it infinitely better that the most illiterate Christian under Heaven should take upon him to decide upon the most difficult questions in Theology, rather than fancy himself under an obligation of conscience to submit to the decisions of any other man or body of men, and though such an illiterate Christian may undoubtedly be a very upright judge, I hope I am not, by any principle of Protestantism, compelled to acknowledge him to be a seecond Daniel ; or even to allow that the majority of those who pass under the general denomination of Christians, and who

may be very good Christians, but whole worldly occupations and modes of life leave them no leisure for literary pursuits, ought to be considered as competent to decide upon questions which they have neither opportunity nor ability to discuss.

ESSAY XIV.

Reflections upon EDUCATION.

THE
HERE are two very opposite opinions prea

vailing in the world respecting human life; one is, that life is a jeft ; and for the benefit and instruction of posterity, this maxim has been recorded on a monument placed amidst the venerable remains of all that mankind have been taught to call good and great. The other is, that life is not a jest, but a most serious and important reality; that though the duration of our temporal existence is short and transitory, the manner in which it is passed is in the highest degree momentous ; for if, as various natural phænomena seem to indicate, and as Christianity expressly affirms, we are destined by our omnipotent Creator for a future and an eternal life, and the present state should be only the first stage of our existence, our future happiness or misery may, nay, mult depend upon those good or evil propensities and dispositions, which, in our passage through this world, we must inevitably contract. This connection between the present and a future state of existence, adds a dignity and folemnity unspeakably interesting to the vain and transient scenes of this mortal life; and

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by this means a principle of action is implanted in the mind, far more powerful, as well as noble, than

any which temporal motives can posibly infpire. To those who entertain no such expectation or belief, life must appear comparatively a jest, an ænigma far more inexplicable than that of the Sphinx. The present state of things, independently considered, exhibits a scene which we cannot possibly reconcile to our ideas of the natural and moral perfections of the Deity. By recur. ring to the celebrated Essay on Man, we may easily be convinced how inadequate were the powers of a great Philofopher and Poet in conjunction for the accomplishment of that purpose. The result of the whole bears no proportion to the astonishing display of magnificence and wisdom which we discover in the investigation of the several parts; and if man, lord of this lower world, is himself to fink into annihilation almost as soon as he is brought into existence, what end or purpose worthy of the great Creator is answered by this wonderful exertion of Divine power? Surely it may be said, “ Man walketh in a vain show;" and the wisest of the human race migħt well exclaim,“ Vanity of vanities, all is vanity." Never theless, though men who have been accustomed to indulge the sublime and elevated sensations which a prospect of immortality is calculated to excite would, if totally deprived of that glorious hope, be inclined to regard the prefent scene of things as wretchedly trifling and contemptible, yet to

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those who have never extended their views beyond the limits of the present life, the scenes before them will undoubtedly appear highly important and interesting ; and a ribband, a title, or a white wand, have been as eagerly pursued by some, as knowledge; virtue, and everlasting happiness, by others.

In the celebrated letters of Lord Chesterfield, we fee, with a mixture of pity and indignation, a man of high station, a man of parts, of observátion and reflection, who does not appear, even in the decline of life, to have raised his thoughts or wishes beyond that species of happiness which is to be derived from temporal distinctions; of which ħe had himself experienced the vanity, but which he nevertheless urges his fon to pursue with such intemperate ardour, that honour, virtue, and reputation, are to be facrificed without hesitation at the shrine of the idol which his Lordship has fet up: To say nothing of the preposterous nature of his Lordfhip's plan of education in other respects ; of the absurdity of fuppofing that mankind could be made the dupes of a boy; of the abfurdity of urging a youth, destitute of ambition, or superiority of talents, and labouring under peculiar disadvantages, to aim at the highest honours of the State; of the absurdity of educating a youth in a foreign country, who was afterwards to feek for advancement at home; of the abfurdity of endeavouring to excite that ardent spirit of emulation by threats and menaces, which could only be kiñ.

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