Imágenes de páginas

and learning, we need only cast an eye on those periods when they most flourished, The first is that of Socrates, already mentioned, when Greece was at once the distinguished seat of literature, of arts, and of every species of moral depravity. The second has been marked by the title of the Augustan age, when, soon after the introduction of the Grecian philosophy into Italy, Rome lost her liberties, and every virtue for which she had been long renowned. The third is that of Leo the Tenth, a period, though abandoned to superstition and every vicious disorder, in which learning again revived after a slumber of many ages, and probably, in part, paved the way, and furthered the progress, of the reformation. I say in part, for there are other and more powerful causes, both political and moral, (not here to be enumerated) to which this great event is chiefly to be ascribed. The Last period has been styled the age of Lewis the Fourteenth, when, under the patronage of that monarch, and amidst bigotry, persecution, war, lewdness, and court-intrigue, the

progress in France; and at the same time in England, under the reign of Charles the Second, in the midst of profaneness, plots, persecution, and every kind of low debauchery. We see, then, that in each of these periods, vice and profligacy flourished together with human learning; and, if we except the era of the reformation, received from it no sensible check or counteraction. And as to what is called modern philosophy, how far it has a tendency to promote the virtue and happiness of mankind, we may with probability judge from those dire effects of its influence which are yet fresh in our memories:—the extinction of religion, both natural and revealed;—the dissolution of every bond of social union ;—the destruction of kings;—the subversion of nations; —and the reign of atheism and anarchy.

Let it not be misunderstood, as if it was here meant to cast an indiscriminate censure on human learning, which would be as unjust in itself, as it would be alien and remote from the writer's intention. Far be it from him to disparage any useful branch and experimental philosophy, which serves to unfold the wisdom and goodness of the Creator in the structure and destination of his works, and to supply many solid advantages to the world, with a science falsely so called, or with that miserable sophistry, which is the disgrace, and has proved the sorest calamity of the present age. Or, as if it was meant to censure any ingenious art, while it maintains its proper rank, and seeks to improve in adorning human life, by ministring in the cause of virtue and religion.

It must not however be forgotten, that while the philosopher and the artist are mindful to perform their part, we must take care on ours, if we mean to profit by their labours, to be provided with a mind sound and well-constituted, both morally and in* tellectually :—Then all things will contribute to our improvement; every excellence of art, as well as every discovery of nature, will lead to the great source of truth and perfection; shadows will teach realities, and creation become a mirror of the Deity.

conceived by an ancient philosopher”, resembles that of men chained down from their infancy in a cavern, with their backs towards the light, and thus left to contemplate the figures projected upon the sides of their prison, mistaking them for the reak objects. . . . . . . . . . Man in this shadowy state is fond of shadows, and turns his back upon the world of realities. He will dwell with rapture on the power of Raphael's pencil displaying the histories and characters of scripture, without any regard to the real nature of the things represented; and will speculate with wonder on the earth and visible heavens, which shall soon pass away and be dissolved, while he remains insensible to that world which knows neither time nor change, and to which he stands so nearly related. . The sum is this: That so far as the arts and sciences are of use to set forth the glory of the Creator, as manifested in his works; or to facilitate the means of human subsist. . . . . . . . ." ; : y (', . . . . . . . . . . . . o

ence; or even so far as they bestow on life an agreeable, yet sparing and chaste ornament; and by affording employment, prevent one part of mankind from becoming a burden or a nuisance to the other; they are warranted by the severest policy. But, on the other hand, when we oppose to these advantages, their liableness to be abused, and how commonly they are abused, to the purposes of vanity and luxurious indulgence, their utility, on the whole, then becomes not a little uncertain and problematical,

« AnteriorContinuar »