not discuss this difference upon equal terms ? Why not suppose that I may be ignorant of a part of the question ? Why not, as is reasonable, offer what occurs to me, rather as a hint for en quiry, than as a decision emanating from an oracle of truth? Why not trust rather to the reason of the case, than to the arts or the passion with which I may inforce it ? :

“But I wish to leave a serious impression.” Am I so ignorant as to suppose that a large, sober and bland view of the subject, will not produce this effect? Do I imagine that a greater impreffion ought to be produced, than can thus be produced ? s. It may further be objected, " I am perfectly fure of the grounds upon which I proceed ; why. fhould I be expected to play the hypocrite, and pretend to be uncertain ? ” To this it can only be answered, 'It ought not to be expected from yoll, since

you show yourself thus ignorant of the first principles of morality and reason. The first principle of reason, and that which ought particularly to modify my practical judgments, is, that I should distrust myself and the completeness of

my information, both in point of argument and fact,,,

b9111... It is scarcely necessary in this place to enter & caveat against misapprehension, under the form


[ocr errors]

of an eulogium 'upon the virtue of sincerity: Without habits of entire, unqualified fincerity, the human character can never be raised to its true eminence. It gives what nothing else can so effectually give, an assured, unembarrassed and ingenuous manner. It is the true progenitor of contentment, and of the complacency with which a virtuous inan should be able to advert to his modes of proceeding. Insincerity corrupts and empoisons the foul of the actor, and is of pernicious example to every spectator.

Yet fincerity ought not to be practised solely for its own fake. The man who thinks only how to preserve his sincerity, is a glaringly imperfect character. He feels not for the suffering, and sympathises not in the deliverance of others, but is actuated solely by a selfish and cold-hearted pride. He cares not whom he insults, nor whom he injures. There is nothing against which it behoves a well-intentioned man to be more upon his guard, than the mistaking a part for the whole, or the substituting a branch of the trec of beneficence, for the root from which it is derived.

Politeness however, as has abundantly appeared, is, in its genuine sense, seldom or never at variance with sincerity. Sincerity in its principle, is nearer, and in more direct communication with, the root of virtue, utility, than politeness can ever be. The original purpose of fincerity, without which it is no more than idle rant and mysticism, is to provide for the cardinal interests of a human being, the great stamina of his happiness. The purpose of politeness is of a humbler nature. It follows in the same direction, like a gleaner in a corn-field, and picks up and husbands those smaller and scattered ears of happiness, which the pride of Stoicism, like the pride of wealth, condescended not to observe.





F we examine with a curious and attentive eye those individuals who may be said to have in any degree exerted themselves for tbe improvement of their intellectual faculties, we shall find ourselves easily able to distinguish those who are usually denominated the self-educated, from every other description of mentally industrious perfons.

By the self-educated in this place I would understand, not merely those who have not passed through the regular forms of a liberal education ; I include, in addition to this, the notion of their not having engaged in any methodical and persevering course of reading, but devoted themselves rather to the labour of investigating their own thoughts, than the thoughts of others.

These persons are well worthy of the intercourse and careful observation of men who are desirous of embracing every means of adding to their own stock of knowledge. There is a striking independence of mind about them. There is a sort of audaciousness of thinking, that has a most happy tendency to counteract that stationariness and sacredness of opinion which is too apt to insinuate itself among mankind. New thoughts, daring opinions, intrepid enquiries, are thus set afloat, upon which more disciplined minds would perhaps scarcely have ventured: . There is frequently a happiness in their reflections, that flashes light and conviction upon us

at once.

Yet such persons are often wholly, perhaps always very considerably, deficient in the art of reasoning. There is no lufficient arrangement in their arguments, or lucidness in their order. Often they alligr. reasons wholly foreign to the question ; often they omit in filence, steps the most material to their demonftration, and which none but the acuteft auditor can supply; and this, not because they forgot them; but because they never at any time occurred to their minds. They strain words and phrases in so novel a manner as altogether to calumniate their meaning, and their discourse must be tranflated into the vernacular tongue, before we can fairly make trial of its inerits. Their ideas, if I may be allowed the expression, are so Pindarical and unmethodised, that our chief wonder is at the felicity and wisdom which mixes itself


« VorigeDoorgaan »