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learned from the thoughts of others ;-wise we cannot be but from our own."
The foregoing observations are in no wise disparaging to the legitimate honours of learning. For what though, in some, it produces the pedantry of conceited weakness, and what though, as to others, it is perverted to vile purposes ? Learning itself is not to blame ; nor is it the less excellent for these disfiguring excrescences, which no more belong to it than doth a wen to the proper form of the human body.
Learning, conjoined with science, and resulting in a high degree of civilization, is the procurer of all the embellishments and delights, and most of the conveniences and comforts of our present condition ; the civilized world being raised now almost as much above the condition it stood in when classical learning was first rising on Europe in the fifteenth century, as it then was above that of the hordes of roaming savages. Add to this, the pleasure of learning, like that of religion, is not confined to time or place, nor dependant upon the smiles of fortune. It may be enjoyed in solitude, in penury, and in old age ; which last does sometimes, if not often, increase rather than diminish it.
In conclusion ; having observed above, that learning furnishes food or materials for thought, I will venture to recommend to readers an excellent rule, taken from the practice of a very eminent man of the last age. It is this :-In reading observe the course of your thoughts, rather than of your books. Sometimes your reading will give occasion to a thought not connected with the subject which your book treats of ; and, in such a case, drop the course of your reading, and follow the course of the thought that has been started.
He that would seriously set upon the search of truth,” says
the great Locke,“ ought in the first place to prepare his mind with a love of it; for he that loves it not, will not take much pains to get it, nor be much concerned when he misses it. There is nobody in the commonwealth of learning who does not profess himself a lover of truth : and there is not a rational creaʻure that would not take it amiss to be thought otherwise of. And yet, for all this, one may truly say, there are very few lovers of truth for truth's sake, even amongst those who persuade themselves that they are so. How a man may know whether he be so in earnest, is worth enquiry, and I think there is this one unerring mark of it, viz. the not entertaining any proposition with greater assurance, than the proofs it is built upon will warrant."
These weighty sentiments, so worthy to be carried along with us in all our secular, and in all our moral and religious concerns, are particularly applicable to the subject of evil-thinking. Downright wilful slander is considered on all hands as a detestable vice; and a person habitually guilty of it, in its grossness, is marked as a foe to society. A man, a woman, or a family, that is notoriously infected with this species of scrofula, is watched as carefully as is a pick-pocket, or a common cheat. But it unhappily falls out, that although rank, wilful slander, commonly meets with the reprobation it merits, yet, what is of near kin to it passes with very little censure or remorse. I meån one's taking up a reproach against one's neighbour, or believ
ing an ill report of another upon slight grounds, or without sufficient evidence.
The commonness of this fault seems to evince a strong predisposition to it in our very nature. It is a remark of the great British moralist, Dr. Johnson, that 56 there are two causes of belief; Evidence and Inclination.” When we are in no manner inclined to believe a thing, we naturally require full evidence of it before we yield our credence : and, on the other hand, when we are powerfully inclined to believe, we can do so, not only without evidence, but against it. Hence it would seem, that we naturally have a strong inclination to believe or think ill of others, since we so often do it on no real proof at all, or what is next to none.
How happens it, that even in well-ordered society, scandal flies as upon the wings of the wind ? That it so quickly spreads over a whole neighbourhood, parish, or town ? That it continues to widen its circle from day to day, till every body knows it save one, to wit, the very person scandalized –Does not this argue a general love of scandal ?—Perhaps you will say No; and will hold, that two or three tale-bearers or busy bodies may have done the whole mischief. But how could they have done it if they had not found a multitude of ears to listen to their tale, and a multitude of tongues to aid them in its circulation ? As there would be no thieves of one kind, if there were no receivers of stolen goods, so there would be no tale-bearers, if there were no greedy listeners to their buzz: and as the receiver is as bad as the thief, so the greedy listener to groundless scandal is well nigh as bad as its author, or at least possesses some portion of the same pravity of feeling
No one has travelled very far upon the journey of life, and been an observant traveller, who has not noti
ced the manner in which, for a while, this “ pestilence walketh in darkness," and then bursts forth into open light. The foul report is for some time communicated in whispers, accompanied with solemn injunctions of secrecy. Every one professes to hope it is not true, and yet every one whispers it to every one's acquaint
If it be a young female that the story is about, one that is distinguished by some personal attractions ; lo the rueful faces of the rival young sisterhood and their good mothers ! Crumpling up their mouths while they are spreading it, and every now and then venting a deep sigh, they hope, forsooth, the thing is not quite so bad, but are sorely afraid there is too much truth in it. At length it comes to be a common report; a inatter of public notoriety. It is in every body's mouth, and every body must believe it ; because, according to one orthodox old saying, “ What every body says, must be true;" and, according to another of equally sacred authority, " Where there is much smoke, there must be some fire.” It is a settled point. In the public opinion, the case is decided, and the defamed party is cast. All are of one mind, that there must be something in it; though, here and there, one charitable body or another expresses a faint hope that the affair may not turn out to be quite so scandalous as it is represented.
Last of all, after the lapse of months, or perhaps of a year, it reaches the astounded ears of the
most immediately concerned. It is sifted, and turns out to be a sheer fabrication, invented and first put in circulation, by Nobody. Search is made in vain for the author, who lies snugly concealed amidst the multitude.
Well, then, the matter is cleared up, and all the slur is wiped away at least from the character of the defam. ed. Not exactly so, nor indeed can it be. Some are no less loath to disbelieve, than they were forward to believe. Some who pretend to be mighty glad at the result, secretly wish it had turned out a little otherwise. Some have their doubts still, but charitably believe that, in the main, the poor girl “ is more sinned against than sinning.” And some again, have no inclination to examine the disproof of the calumny, though they had swallowed it with a voracious appetite. “If she have cleared herself of the aspersion, it is well; we wish the girl no harm : but, for our part, we have our own opinion about that matter, and leave it to others to think as they please.”-At the same time they look mighty wise, and not a little mysterious.
Of treating children with excessive severity.
In the excellent little tract of Dr. Cotton Mather's, entitled, “ Essays to do Good," the venerable author lays down for himself the following rule in regard to his treatment of children : 6 I will never use corporeal punishment except it be for an atrocious crime, or for a smaller fault obstinately persisted in.” A maxim, which deserves to be written in golden characters, or rather, and far better, to be engraven upon the hearts of parents, and instructers of schools. Nor is it at all inconsistent with the maxim in Holy Writ, “ He that spareth the rod hateth his son.” For, by no fair interpretation can this last be made to mean, that the discipline of the rod is necessary in any cases other than the aforementioned.
Obedience is the first lesson to be inculcated upon childhood. Ere it can discern between good and evil, the child should be taught to obey. Then it is that the task is comparatively easy, and may be effected by