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strongly tempted to do. Nay, we stop short of this, and jump to general conclusions, from a very inadequate number of observations. Sometimes, under strong prejudices and passions, the mind will sweep to the most general result from one excepted case. Shakspeare introduces one of his characters, saying -when he found, or thought he found his wife to be unfaithful to him
'We are bastards, all;
When I was stamped; some coiner with his tools,
So Mrs. Page says, in the 'Merry Wives of Windsor,' after having heard Falstaff talk morality and tempt her virtue 'Well,' she says, 'I will find you twenty lascivious turtles ere one chaste man.' All this is beautiful, considered as picturing our propensity to general conclusions; but it shows how general conclusions, from inadequate premises, mislead us. When Sir Walter Raleigh burnt a part of his history because he was deceived as to a scuffle, which he saw through the window of his prison, he reasoned like a blockhead; and I hope, for his credit's sake, the story is not true. Human life is a compound scene; if there is darkness in which we wander, there is day
light in which we can see; and both these belong to human nature. To confound these distinctions, does not prove that skepticism is necessary, but that the skeptic has made a bad use of his eyes. There is no universal midnight, oh thou universal doubter, but in thine own soul !
But, secondly, I will go farther, and say that the darkness illustrates the light; or, without a metaphor, our ignorance proves our knowledge. In order to show this, let us suppose a case. Suppose some metaphysician should come and endeavor to perplex my notions of perception. He should say it is no proof, because you see a tree, that that tree exists; for there is such a thing as dreaming; and life may be but little else than a protracted dream. This, you know, is the philosophy of the Hindoos; and the great Berkley came very near to similar conclusions. Now, what should I say to such a man? I should say to him, 'Sir, I have dreamed; and my own experience informs, as clearly as I can conceive human information to speak, that a tree seen in a dream, is a very different thing from a tree seen when awake. The error reflects light on that knowledge which stands in contrast with the error. If all perceptions were alike; if I had never seen the dream in contrast with the reality; I might suppose that seeing was dreaming. Or, to state the case stronger, (for this comparison hardly comes up to the point,) if, when I turn my eyes on vacancy, I discern no tree, and
when I turn my eyes to one point in the orchard, or forest, I perceive one, the negative perception strengthens the positive one, and rescues a comparing mind from all the sophistry of the skeptic. When we have completed the catalogue of the objects unknown, by a kind of intellectual subtraction, we find that the remaining objects are known.
The truth is, in the infancy of our reason, the objects of creation lie before us in a kind of logical chaos; and we have not yet had leisure to separate the confusion into its elements. A partial discrimination may lead to a very general skepticism; but, as we proceed to discriminate, we know better when we ought to doubt and when to believe. So that skepticism, on some subjects, is so far from justifying skepticism on all, that it is the very thing that brings the mind to an intelligent conclusion.
For truth, like a stately dame, will not be seen, nor show herself, at the first visit, nor match with the understanding, upon an ordinary courtship, or address.-Dr. South.
PERHAPS the best illustration of the remarks in the last number might be borrowed from a department deeply connected with religion. It is well known that the genius of skepticism has attempted to pour her shadows over the page of history. There can be no doubt, that there are great uncertainties as to the origin of nations. Invention has supplied the place of investigation; and imagination has spread her colors over the canvass which should have been filled with the images of truth. The first history of Greece is uncertain; the whole story of Pisistratus has been disputed; the imposition of Lycurgus's laws, on the Lacedemonians, appears more like the work of some rhetorician, than the wisdom of a real
statesman. And the early history of Rome is considered by many as very doubtful. Now, from all this, some hasty minds would conclude that history is false. So with regard to characters and motives, how little can be known! how much painting is mixed with the best authenticated narratives! I have noticed that some of the most experienced statesmen, who live to a period just after the important events in which they have been active, are extremely apt to represent the history of their own times as uncertain. 'O, tell not me of history,' said Sir Robert Walpole, 'for that I know to be false.' The late President Adams considered, in one of his letters to Mr. Niles, of Baltimore, the real cause and character of things in our revolutionary war, as buried in oblivion; and Aaron Burr, according to Mr. Knapp's representation, has made a similar remark. Now, what a strong case! Here are living witnesses, sagacious men, the very agents of the events, who represent history as uncertain. But a little reflection will show us that even the wisest men, the Walpoles and Adamses, are deceived by their partial views. They stand in the very spot to generate doubt. Truth is the daughter of time; and the agitated water must settle a little before it can become so clear as to allow us to see to the bottom. The first historians are always mistaken; they are not only misled by their prejudices, but they have not the full amount of materials; for history is a hemisphere,