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ligent, -of those who can study human nature in all its bearings, and love it, or sympathize with it, for all its affections. The best part of pleasure is the communication of it. Why must we be perpetually craving for amusement or information from others (an appetite which, after all, will be seldom acknowledged), and never think of bestowing them ourselves ? Again, as the best part of pleasure is that we have just mentioned, the best proof of intellectual power is that of extracting fertility from barrenness, or so managing the least cultivated mind, which we may happen to stumble upon, as to win something from it. Setting even this talent aside, there are occasions when it is refreshing to escape from the turmoil and final nothingness of the understanding, and repose upon that contentedness of mediocrity which seems to have attained its end without the trouble of wisdom. It has often delighted me to observe a profound thinker of my acquaintance, when a good natured person of ordinary understanding has been present. He is reckoned severe, as it is called, in many of his opinions : and is thought particularly to overrate his intellectual qualities in general; and yet it is beautiful to see how he will let down his mind to the other's level, taking pleasure in his harmless enjoyment, and assenting to a thousand truisms, one after another, as familiar to him as his finger-ends. The reason is that he pierces deeper into the nature of the human being beside him, can make his very deficiencies subservient to his own speculations, and, above all, knows that there is something worth all the knowledge upon earth, — which is happiness and a genial nature. It is thus that the sunshine of happy faces is reflected upon our own. We may even find a beam of it in every thing that Heaven looks upon. The dullest minds do not vegetate for nothing, any more than the grass in a
green lawn. We do not require the trees to talk with us, or get impatient at the monotonous quiet of the fields and hedges. We love them for their contrast to noise and bustle, for their presenting to us something native and elementary, for the peaceful thoughts they suggest to us, and the part they bear in the various beauty of creation.
Is a bird's feather exhibited in company, or a piece of sea-weed, or a shell that contained the stupidest of created beings, every one is happy to look at it, and the most fastidious pretender in the room will delight to expatiate on its beauty and contrivance. Let this teach him charity and good sense, and inform him that it is the grossest of all coxcombry to dwell with admiration on a piece of insensibility, however beautiful, and find nothing to excite pleasing or profitable reflections in the commonest of his fellow-men.
A POPULAR VIEW OF THE HEATHEN MY
qHE divinities of the ancient mythology are of a
very tangible order. They were personifications of the power of the external world, and of the operations of the intellect; and some
times merged themselves into the particular providence of an eminent prince or reformer. Mankind wishing to have distinct ideas of the unknown powers of the universe, naturally painted them at first in their own shapes; and not being able to conceive of them otherwise than by the light of their understanding, they as naturally gifted them with their own faculties, moral and intellectual. Hence, the heathen gods were reflections of the qualities most admired or feared during the times in which they originated; and to the same cause were owing the inconsistencies and the vices palmed upon them by the stories of different ages and nations, whose gods became lumped together; and hence the trouble that the philosopher had in endeavoring to reconcile the popular superstitions with a theology more becoming.* Plutarch, who was a priest at Delphi, and a regular devout pagan, but good-hearted and imbued with philosophy, is shocked at the popular stories of the rapes and quarrels of the gods; and Plato, on a similar account, was for banishing Homer from his republic. Plutarch will not allow that it was the real Apollo who fought a serpent and afterwards had to purify himself. He said it must have been a likeness of him, a demon. In other words the gods of Plutarch were to resemble the highest ideas which Plutarch could form of dignity and power. Hence, the greater philosophers whose ardor in the pursuit of truth rendered them still more desirous of departing from conventional degradations of it, came to agree that the nature of the deity was inconceivable ; and that the most exalted being they could fancy was at an incalculable distance from it, -an emanation, a being deputed, a sort of spiritual incarnation of one of the divine thoughts ;- if we may so speak without absurdity and without blame. Plato, for instance, observing the moral imperfections of our planet, and not knowing how to account for them any more than we do (for the first cause of evil is always left in the dark), imagined that this world was created by what he called a Demiurgus, or inferior divine energy; just as an artist less than Raphael might paint a fine picture though not so good as what might have come from the hands of the greater one. If you asked him how he made out that the chief creator did not do the work himself, he would have referred you to the fact of the imperfection and to the existence of different degrees of skill and beauty in which we see all about us; for he 'thought he had a right to argue from analogy, in default of more certain principles. This right he undoubtedly possessed, and it was natural and reasonable to exert it; but considering the imperfection of the human faculties and the false reports they make to us, even of things cognizable to the senses, it is, in truth, impossible to argue with any certainty from things human to things divine. The only service to all appearance, which our faculties can do for us in these questions, is to save us from the admission of gratuitous absurdities and dogmas dishonorable to the idea of a Divine Being, and to encourage us to guess handsomely and to good purpose. For sincerity at all events must not be gainsaid ; otherwise belief and probability and principle and natural love and the earth itself slide from under our feet. The mystery of the permission of evil still remained; the mystery of imperfection and of cause itself was only thrown back; and in fact the invention of the Demiurgus was merely shifting the whole mystery of Deity from a first cause to a second. The old dilemma between omnipotence and omnibenevolence perplexed the understanding then, as it does now; and as this world was made the reflection of every other, or rather as evil was supposed to render all the operations of the Deity imperfect, except immediately in his own sphere; men seem to have overlooked among other guesses, the probability that evil may exist only in petty corners or minute portions of the universe, and even then be only the result of an experiment with certain elementary compounds to see whether they cannot be made planets of perfect happiness as well as the rest. For, after all, Plato's assumption of the innate and unconscious difficulty which matter presents in the working (or an inability of some sort, whatever it be, to render things perfect at once), is surely the best assumption among the hundreds that have been taken for granted on this point; seeing that it sets aside malignity, encourages hope, and stimulates us to an active and benign state of endeavor such as we may conceive to enlist us in the divine service. We must never take any thing on trust in order to make a handle of it for dictation or hypocrisy, or a selfish security, or an indolence which we may dignify with the title of resignation ; but as we are compelled to assume or conjecture something or other, unless indeed we are deficient in the imaginative part of our nature, it is best to assume the best candidly, and acknowledge it to be an assumption in order that we may do the utmost we can. Happy opinions are the wine of the heart. What if this world be an experiment, part of which consists in our own co-operation, that is to say, in trying how far the inhabitants of it can acquire energy enough, and do credit enough, to the first cause, to add it finally to the number of blessed stars ?
* Virtue or vice either if accompanied with power, will do to make a god of in barbarous times, and till mankind learn the perniciousness of that sort of apotheosis. An Eastern writer says that Pharaoh wished to pass for a divinity with his subjects, and had frequent conversation with the devil for that purpose. The devil put him off from time to time, till he told him one day that the hour was arrived. “How is that,” cried Pharaoh, — "why is it time now, and was not before?” -“The reason is," replied the devil, “that you have not hitherto been quite bad enough: at length you have become intolerable, and there is no alternative between a revolt of your subjects, and their belief in your being a god. Once persuade them of that, and there is nothing so extravagant, either in word or deed, which they will not take from you with respect.” D'Herbelot, article Feraoun.