« EdellinenJatka »
hostile to the interests of both. While freedom of discussion was thus restrained, the faculties of the human mind were benumbed, and truth and falshood were confounded together. Crude speculations were ushered into the world, with the authority of truths; and not oply was fcepticism propagated by means of the promulgation of opinions, nurtured in ignorance, but encreased from that propensity which the mind has, when newly freed from restrictions, to rush from one extreme to another.
• From the nature of our constitution (whose spirit is tolcration) and from the freedom of our religion from superstition, scepticism has made liitle progress here, in comparison of what it has done upon the Continent. There iis triumph has been in proportion to the blind obedience exacted to the national superftition, to which men of sense and observation could noi, contrary to the dictates of their reason, subscribe ; ard from that propensity of the human mind, which i have just mentioned, these formed fyftems for themselves, as distant from the truth, as the doctrines of the high priests of the country were from the pure pre-cepts of Christianity.
« The only species of sceptics that abound in this kingdom, are not think
ing, but may be called talking sceptics. There are men of shallow understandings, and cold hearts; who feeling their incapacity to attract attention, by going on in the ordinary path, endeavour to gain it by stating opinions which may astonish their hearers, and acquire them fome degree of applause, for their ingenuity and boldness. It may, indeed, be observed of this class, that they take special care never to utter their oracles before those that are capable of entering into arguments with them, though they deliver themselves with dogmatical assurance before the ignorant and illiterate.
But let not my voble friend imagine from this account of scepticism, or from his own penetrating observation on the conduct of the gentlemen at Ardept. Hall, that metaphysical enquiry is without its use. Such enquiry expands the powers of the human mind, enlarges the understanding, and, by placing the science of morals on a true foundation, tends to encrease the happiness of society.
“ Would its professors pursue the same plan of investigation that has been fo successfully adopted by natural philo. fophers, that of first making themselves well acquainted with facts, and thoroughly investigating them, before they draw
conclusions, they would perceive the neceflity of allowing first principles, which are so self-evident as not to admit of any direct proof. Indeed, I do not hesitate to affert, that almost all the errors of me. taphysicians have arisen from their neglect of natural philosophy. The extreme accuracy, and exact precision, that is requisite in the investigation of the phenomena of the material world, would induce like habits of reasoning in regard to that of the mental : while that Co. Hoffus of Scepticism, I mean Atheism, would by acquaintance with the works of Nature, be utterly annihilated.
“I have endeavoured to explain myself to my noble friend as clearly as pofsible on the subject of his letter; and shall only add, that true philosophy is never the companion of arrogance and vanity. While it investigates with assiduity, and pronounces with diffidence; they affert with boldness and give the crude conjectures of fancy, for the found deductions of truth. 7.66 The natural turn of my mind, and ftill more the object which have for the greatest part of my life occupied my attention, have eflectually precluded nie from - sceptical opinions, and rendered me callous to the sophistry of their promoters—but it has always appeared to me,
Vol. II. . H
that where freedom of discussion is permitted, there fcepticism and infidelity will be but liule known.” . · Such, Maandaara, are the opinions of the natural philosopher. The Philosophers at Ardent-Hall declare, that it is a pity so good a man should have fo many odd prejudices. I confess, that, to me, who have been accustomed to behold with reverence, the self-inflicted torture of holy men— the noble enthufiasm of the worshippers of System is object of more veneration. It is uue, these philosophers hold it not necessary 10 mortify the body, or to bring ihe irregular passions under subjection. But what is the feverest penance of the most pious Yogee, compared to the utter dereliction of eternal happiness? By hope, a man is supported through many forrows, but, on the shrine of his Idol, the philofophic Sannassee, makes a voluntary facrifice of even Hope itself.-On the system that he worships, his thoughts for ever dwell, on it, his tongue for ever runs: and while it exclusively occupies every avenue to his soul, he, with a fuperlative degree of modefty, bestows the epithet of prejudiced enthusiast, on the votary of Christianity. How amiable is This condescension !
Shall I confess to my friend--that to my weak mind, the enlightening conversation of the philosophers had become so tiresome, as to render the arrival of Lady Grey, and her blooming party, a considerable relief to my wearied fpirits ?. Till then, I was destitute of all resource: Miss Ardent, being too fond of disputing with the philosophers, and too much engaged by them to attend to me; and her ladyship so entirely engrossed by her darling boy, as to be incapable of attending to any other object. This boy, is suffered to become so troublesome, that it entirely eradicates that benevolent complacency which one is accustomed to feel at the sight of infant innocence. His parents behold the capriciousnefs of his desires increase with gratification, and the irrascibility of his temper receives fuel from fatiety: yet do they continue to pamper the over-pampered appetite, and to indulge each caprice of the wayward fancy, in full expectation, that in the age of reason, he will be able to exercise the virtue of self-controul! - Yes, Maandaara, when, from the presure of existing circumstances, sparrows are taught to make honey, then Thall the passions, which have been fanned into a flame by the breath of indulgence, listen to the voice of moderation !