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much like an incipient man. He wished that the vegetable embryo had been suffered to ripen. In this, however, the doctor was very disinterested; for the best part of his practice consists in being a manmidwife.
But the most credulous man that ever I knew, is my old school-fellow, Abner Alltail. Abner was an unaccountable boy, when young, and signalized himself at school, by endeavoring to make impossible gimcracks. He tried to fly a kite, with a string at the tail instead of at the head; and once insisted, that the only true way to navigate a boat, was to put the rudder forward. This, he said, was steering, in the proper sense of the word. As Abner grew up, he became an infidel; and often has he mentioned to me the argument which carried conviction to his mind, and which, he says, is unanswerable. Happening to meet with a translation of Lucretius, he there found that that bad philosopher, but beautiful poet, teaches the motion of the atoms, through the vast inane, combining and conforming in various adhesions, until this world of beauty, and man at the head of it, arose as the true shapes happened to jumble together. This, Alltail combined with the rule of permutations and combinations, as he found it stated in Pike's arithmetic. You must grant me,' said he, one day when he was descanting on his favorite theme, that all sorts of combinations, in these atoms, are possible; you must grant me, further,
that one of these combinations is the present system of order and beauty; suns, stars, mists, streams, birds, beasts, man, male and female. Now, sir,' continued he, 'these atoms have had an indefinite period in past time, to shake about like the figures in a kaleidoscope, and you and I happen to fall on the present configuration. That's all.' I told him I had never seen a system of cosmogony more easily despatched. I ought to have mentioned before, that Abner is an old bachelor, and hates the present race of women almost as much as he hates his Bible. But, as he wants a wife, whenever he can find a suitable one, he is resolved to carry his system of philosophy into practice. He has procured himself a kind of long tub, like the circular churn, which I have seen among the Dutchmen in New York. This tub, or vessel, turns with a crank, and he has put into it some of the finest pipe-clay he could get, together with pulverized marble and chalk, mixed with a little. milk and water. This he turns diligently, for six hours every morning, and says he doubts not, when the right configuration of particles comes about, he shall see a beautiful woman hop out of his tub, whom he intends to marry. I called on him the other day, and found him sweating away at his task, nothing discouraged by the sweet, reluctant, amorous delay, with which his bride, in posse and not in esse, treats his philosophic advances. Abner has been at work on the project now for almost a whole year; and Į
asked him if he was not about discouraged. 'No,' said he, with great simplicity; 'for, though it is possible that this crank may be turned for billions of ages, and the right configuration not be found, it is possible, also, it may come the next moment.' Poor Abner! before I embrace your principles, I think I shall wait until you have found your wife.
A faint erroneous ray
If a man were to have eyes sensitive to some of the objects in the prospect, but partially or totally blind to others, we should at once pronounce the organs of his vision to be defective; because a good eye implies equal sensibility to whatever is revealed by the light of heaven. Such a defect is known in those curious cases, in which some people are incapable of distinguishing some colors. Now, in all languages, knowledge has been expressed by a metaphor, or half-metaphor, borrowed from seeing; which shows there is an analogy (perhaps the closest in nature) between the perception of the mind and the function of the eye. In some cases, they act together; and it is impossible to separate them, though
we may be able to distinguish. We may say, then, that a good mind should resemble a good eye, and be awake to all the proofs or arguments in the intellectual prospect, which God, the source of knowledge, has spread around it. It is natural to consider our perceptive faculties, intuition, reason, or whatever we choose to call it, as a kind of mental eye. All the possible arguments or proofs, which can be adduced on any side of any question, are a kind of complex landscape, lying around the investigating mind; and, as a good eye discerns all the bright spots and dark corners in the literal horizon, and especially discerns what is the limit of its vision, and where are the boundaries between the clear and obscure; so, I suppose, it is the office of a well-balanced mind, to take all considerations into view-to weigh the force of all proofs, and make its inward belief an exact picture of the external world. The field and the forest, the mountain and the meadow, are not more exactly pictured on the retina of the pleased spectator, than the parts of external truth are reflected in the cautious conclusions of a wise and impartial man.
But this exact balance, this clearness to discern all that is true, and willingness to be impressed by it, certainly implies that we know the weakness of our powers as well as their strength. A good eye discerns not the light alone; it distinguishes the faintest shadow that passes beneath the sun. To see, implies that we clearly know when we do not see. If a