« 上一頁繼續 »
fectly composed and content, and hold on your way unvaried, though you were convinced that you were the only real being in existence, and all the rest were mere phantasies and shadows ?”
If I had been the person to whom this speech was addressed, I should have frankly acknowledged, “I am the poor and pusillanimous creature you are disposed to regard with so much scorn.”
To adopt the sententious language of the Bible, “ It is not good for man to be alone.” All our faculties and attributes bear relation to, and talk to us of, other beings like ourselves. We might indeed eat, drink and sleep, that is, submit to those necessities which we so denominate, without thinking of any thing beyond ourselves; for these are the demands of our nature, and we know that we cannot subsist without them. We might make use of the alternate conditions of exercise and repose.
But the life of our lives would be gone. As far as we bore in mind the creed we had adopted, of our single existence, we could neither love nor hate. Sympathy would be a solemn mockery. We could not communicate; for the being to whom our communication was addressed we were satisfied was a non-entity. We could not anticipate the pleasure or pain, the joy or sorrow, of another; for that other had no existence. We should be in a worse condition than Robinson Crusoe in the desolate island; for he believed in the existence of other men, and hoped and trusted that he should one day again
enter into human society. We should be in a worse condition than Robinson Crusoe; for he at least was unannoyed in his solitude ; while we are perpetually and per force intruded on, like a delirious man, by visions which we know to be unreal, but which we are denied the power to deliver ourselves from. We have no motive to any of the great and cardinal functions of human life ; for there is no one in being, that we can benefit, or that we can affect. Study is nothing to us ; for we have no use for it. Even science is unsatisfactory ; unless we can communicate it by word or writing, can converse upon it, and compare notes with our neighbour. History is nothing; for there were no Greeks and no Romans; no freemen and no slaves ; no kings and no subjects ; no despots, nor victims of their tyranny; no republics, nor states immerged in brutal and ignominious servitude. Life must be inevitably a burthen to us, a dreary, unvaried, motiveless existence; and death must be welcomed, as the most desirable blessing that can visit us. It is impossible indeed that we should always recollect this our, by supposition, real situation; but, as often as we did, it would come over us like a blight, withering all the prospects of our industry, or like a scirocco, unbracing the nerves of our frame, and consigning us to the most pitiable depression.
Thus far I have allowed myself to follow the refinements of those who profess to deny the existence of the material universe. But it is satisfactory
to come back to that persuasion, which, from whatever cause it is derived, is incorporated with our very existence, and can never be shaken off by us. Our senses are too powerful in their operation, for it to be possible for us to discard them, and to take as their substitute, in active life, and in the earnestness of pursuit, the deductions of our logical faculty, however well knit and irresistible we may apprehend them to be. Speculation and common sense are at war on this point; and however we may “think with the learned,” and follow the abstrusenesses of the philosopher, in the sequestered hour of our meditation, we must always act, and even feel,"with the vulgar," when we come abroad into the world.
It is however no small gratification to the man of sober mind, that, from what has here been alleged, it seems to follow, that untutored mind, and the severest deductions of philosophy, agree in that most interesting of our concerns, our intercourse with our fellow-creatures. The inexorable reasoner, refining on the reports of sense, may dispose, as he pleases, of the chair, the table, and the so called material substances around him. He
include the whole solid matter of the universe in a nutshell, or less than a nutshell. But he cannot deprive me of that greatest of all consolations, the sustaining pillar of my existence, “the cordial drop Heaven in our cup has thrown,”—the intercourse of my fellow-creatures. When we read history, the subjects
of which we read are realities; they do not "come like shadows, so depart;" they loved and acted in sober earnest; they sometimes perpetrated crimes; but they sometimes also achieved illustrious deeds, which angels might look down from their exalted abodes and admire. We are not deluded with mockeries. The woman I love, and the man to whom I swear eternal friendship, are as much realities as myself. If I relieve the poor, and assist the progress of genius and virtuous designs struggling with fearful discouragements, I do something upon the success of which I may safely congratulate myself. If I devote my energies to enlighten my fellowcreatures, to detect the weak places in our social institutions, to plead the cause of liberty, and to invite others to engage in noble actions and unite in effecting the most solid and unquestionable improvements, 1 erect to my name an eternal monument; or I do something better than this,-secure inestimable advantage to the latest posterity, the benefit of which they shall enjoy, long after the very name of the author shall, with a thousand other things great and small, have been swallowed up in the gulph of insatiable oblivion.
OF HUMAN VIRTUE.
The life of man is divided into many stages; and we shall not form a just estimate of our common nature, if we do not to a certain degree pass its successive periods in review, and observe it in its commencement, its progress, and its maturity.
It has been attempted to be established in an early part of the present volumea, that all men, idiots and extraordinary cases being put out of the question, are endowed with talents, which, if rightly directed, would shew them to be apt, adroit, intelligent and acute, in the walk for which their organisation especially fitted them. We are bound therefore, particularly in the morning of life, to consider every thing that presents itself to us in the human form, with deference and attention.
“God,” saith the Preacher, “made man upright; but he hath sought out many inventions." There is something loose and difficult of exposition in this statement; but we shall find an important truth hid beneath its obscurity. Junius Brutus, in the play, says to his son,
I like thy frame: the fingers of the Gods
See above, p. 25, 36.