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conduct, as religion and morals, or on the government of society, as legislation and social economy. If it is of moment to know the constitution of the material universe, and the real functions and relations of its several parts, it is at least of equal moment that we should know the constitution of our own minds, the purposes for which we were created, and the principles on which we must act in order to fulfil them. Alas, that these should be the very questions in which truth, abstractedly from all other considerations, is least sought for. We are all ready enough to maintain that truth is the especial possession of our sect or our party, but we take little pains to examine whether the principles of either are really founded on truth, or conducive to its farther development. It is, however, as Archbishop Whately well expresses it, a very different thing to wish to have truth on our side, or to wish to be on the side of truth." While the former remains the predominant feeling in the minds of those most actively engaged in the religious or political controversies of the day, we cannot wonder at the slow progress of morals and good government, nor at the virulent opposition which every attempt to clear the way for a freer and more enlightened state of opinion is sure to encounter. We must still submit to see physical science outstripping with giant strides the feeble advance of mental and political philosophy, and to feel that whilst we calculate with unerring precision the movements of the heavenly bodies, we yet remain in ignorance or fierce contention respecting the principles on which depend human conduct and happiness.
Yet the sad effects of this ignorance might have taught us ere this the value of the truth we neglect to seek. We may safely affirm the great mass of human misery to have been caused by ignorance of the means of happiness, of the real sources of national and individual prosperity, rather than by neglect of them when known. Even an Eastern despot, could we convince him that the true source of national wealth lies in the security of life and property, which assures to industry its due reward, and, consequently, that he would fill his coffers better by a just and equal administration than by violence and extortion, would assuredly (except where passion directly interfered), mould his future government on those principles. If such principles should spread widely amongst his subjects, and just views of legislation, of religious and political freedom, become at length universal, the monarch, however despotic, must yield to them or lose his throne; since, as history has abundantly proved, no government can be long carried on in opposition to the feelings and opinions of the great mass of the people.
The wide spread of education in our days, and the rapid circu
TO SEEK TRUTH IS TO SEEK GOD.
lation of thought and knowledge, by means of the press, give to public opinion now a weight which it never before possessed, and it becomes, therefore, daily more important that that opinion should be enlightened. Some of our readers may think that, as women, they have no concern with these matters; but a little reflection will show them that public opinion is only the general expression of the individual opinions most prevalent in the community. Taken singly they are insignificant; in the aggregate they govern the nation; and thus the soundness of each individual's judgment affects more or less the soundness of the whole result. The influence of women must be a heavy weight thrown into the scale of truth or error, and, received in this light, it becomes a social no less than a private duty to form correct opinions on subjects that so materially affect the welfare of our fellow
As Christians, we can look for no higher testimony to the value of truth than that borne by Christ himself, when, before the judgment-seat of Pilate, he declared that "for this end was he born, and for this cause came he into the world, that he might bear witness to the truth." Was not this to declare that knowledge of the truth was the only means by which man could be raised from his fallen state, and restored to that position in the scale of beings for which God designed him when he created him in His own image? Christianity was the first religion which founded its claim to acceptance, solely on its truth, and invited inquiry before it required obedience. Far different from the pagan philosophy, which considered truth as too precious to be disclosed to the vulgar gaze, it has thrown open the portals of her temple, and promised that all who seek shall find. It has made truth the end and aim of our highest aspirations, by declaring that “ God is truth."
And, in seeking truth, are we not indeed seeking God? The subjects of human inquiry are no other than the phenomena presented to us by the material world, by our own minds, and by the progress of society, together with the laws by which they are governed. Beyond these our knowledge cannot extend. But what are these laws but expressions of the will of the Lawgiver, manifestations of his character; and, to seek them as such, is it not, in the strictest sense of the words, to seek the knowledge of God? They are, indeed, too often sought in a very different spirit; but it is not the less certain that he who, in singleness of heart seeks only for truth, will find God. It follows that the love of truth is but one phasis of the love of God; and if to love God be man's highest duty, to love truth must be an obligation equally imperative.
To considerations like these, of the sacred claims of truth to be sought and valued for its own sake, may be added another, though, of course, a secondary one; we mean its superiority to error, as a source of those delightful emotions arising from the contemplation of the sublime and beautiful. Such a superiority was naturally to be expected, since error is the invention of man, and truth the creation of God; but from the state of our own minds, truth is often so distasteful to us that we are in no fit state to appreciate its beauty. "Truth," says Lord Bacon, "is an open daylight that doth not show the masques and mummeries and triumphs of the world half so stately and daintily as candlelights," and even as we shrink from letting the morning shine in upon a scene of nightly revel, and feel its pure, cold rays unpleasing to eyes accustomed to the glare of artificial light; so truth, in its simple beauty, seems strange and uncongenial when its beams first pierce through the atmosphere of artifice, vanity, and worldliness, with which we too often surround ourselves till the " masques and mummeries" appear to us realities.
But as the daylight displays to us beauties in nature, surpassing in richness and variety the most splendid pageant, so does truth surpass the systems of man's devising. How poor and clumsy, for instance, appears the philosophy of the old schools when compared to the science which has expanded their solid firmament into illimitable space, discovered in each star of the myriads that hang in its azure depths, a sun shedding light and glory on other worlds, and even in this narrow earth, reduced from its assumed importance as the centre of the universe to a point in immensi has revealed such infinite and marvellous beauty, order so perfect amidst variety, so inexhaustible, that imagination sinks overpowered under the effort to comprehend them!
Or, again, how childish, often how low and impure, are the religious systems invented or corrupted by men when compared with the magnificent reality of the one God, Almighty, Omniscient, Omnipresent, the Mind of this universal frame, whose law is truth, whose service is the practice of virtue. Where, even among the beautiful allegories, the poetry-breathing worship of ancient Greece, shall we find any conception equal to the character of the true Christ, "the man of sorrows and acquainted with grief," reviled and persecuted by the race he came to save, yet pouring out healing and blessing wherever he went, and consummating a life of self-sacrifice by an agonising death? So it is with all truth. The nearer we approach to it, the more simplicity, harmony, and beauty do we find, and that so invariably, that their presence might almost be regarded as a test of truth. In the words of the poet :—
BEAUTIFUL RESULTS OF TRUTH.
EXERCISE OF REASON
"Was wir als Schonheit hier empfunden,
SECT. II.-WORK OF REASON IN SEEKING TRUTH.
SUCH Considerations of the paramount value of truth, naturally lead us to inquire what means we possess of attaining it; and we are thus brought to examine the power and use of reason as the great instrument in its discovery.
It would be far beyond our limits to examine the conflicting theories which have prevailed with regard to the nature and extent of reason; or to make any metaphysical inquiry into the first principles of human knowledge. It is sufficient for our purpose to say generally that, in so far as our knowledge is either relative, or based on other knowledge not intuitive or absolute, so far it depends on the exercise of reason, and, therefore, that beyond a few primitive truths, all we know is acquired by the use of this faculty. It is mostly in tracing relations that reason is concerned; whether in comparing facts, drawing conclusions, abstracting or generalising principles; and wherever the knowledge of any fact or principle involves an inference from any other fact or principle, or establishes a relation between them, there it is evident a process of reasoning has been carried on. This may be continued from step to step through a series of propositions, stretching out to distant and abstruse conclusions; but the effort we make to understand the most simple proposition, that is, to trace the relation between the ideas it presents to us, is equally a process of reasoning, differing only in length and complexity from the more difficult series.
Some inferences are drawn so rapidly, that we are not conscious of any mental operation. This is the case with knowledge apparently derived from our senses, which seems to be an immediate perception, but which, nevertheless, involves an exercise of reason. We are accustomed, for instance, to say that we see a house, or hear a waterfall, whereas, in truth, we only see a certain form or colour, and hear a certain sound; and it is by reasoning from experience, and by the comparison with other sights and sounds, aided by the power of association, that we know them to indicate a human dwelling, or water falling from a height. In the most simple, then, as in the most sublime forms of human knowledge, we may trace the operation of reason. Certain inuitive principles are, indeed, the foundation to which such rea
*What we have seen and loved as Beauty here,
IN ALL INQUIRIES AFTER TRUTH.
sonings are ultimately referred; but in whatever direction we go beyond those principles, whatever we build upon them, it must be by the aid of reason,
All questions on which we desire to gain knowledge, or form an opinion, present themselves in the shape of propositions, to be affirmed or denied on certain grounds. There are some propositions the truth of which is self-evident, that is to say, the moment they are presented to our minds we perceive and are certain of them, without requiring further proof. They refer to those fundamental principles in the mind which are prior to reason: of this kind are the axioms of geometry, as, for instance, that "the whole is greater than its part,' or "from equals take equals, and the remainders will be equal." In other propositions, the terms involve complex ideas, and require, therefore, to be carefully explained; but when they are understood, the proposition is received with the same immediate assent. If we suppose, for example, the terms God and goodness to be clearly understood, the relation between them becomes evident, and the proposition "God is good" is at once felt to be true, requiring no further proof. Where the proposition involves several terms, then, besides the explanation of the latter, a long chain of reasoning may be required, to trace the relation between them, on which depends the truth of the proposition. For instance, suppose it is said that "Irresponsible power leads to abuse, therefore a despotic government is an evil." After we fully understand the terms power, responsibility, government, &c., we must examine the relation said to exist between them; see how, and why, irresponsible power leads to abuse; trace the connexion between irresponsible power and despotism, and between the abuse said to result from the former, and the evil belonging to the latter. The truth of the general conclusion, that a despotic government is an evil, must depend on the truth of the relations assumed as its foundation, so that we cannot affirm or deny even so simple a proposition as this without going through a chain of reasoning. Of course, the more complicated the relations involved, the longer will be the chain, and the more severe the effort required to arrive at a just conclusion. Questions which regard the application of general principles are almost always of this complex nature. What strict and careful reasoning it requires, for example, to decide what is just or unjust, under certain circumstances; or again, how far, in any particular instance, strict justice may be allowed to yield to compassion: yet these are questions which arise daily, which touch closely on the welfare of human beings, and which scarcely any one can pass through life without being called upon at one time or another to decide. Can we have a stronger proof