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But how vast the sum of
without assuming that of a dictator. misery which would be spared in early life if this difficulty were more often overcome! What errors might be avoided, what painful tossing in a sea of doubt, when the mind unused to reason is suddenly startled from its security, and looks round in vain for some firm anchorage, some steady beacon of hope ;what bitter scepticism, withering the soul, what wild departure from all that is worthy, because degraded by early associations with all that is frivolous;-what confusion of mind, leading to wavering principles and vacillating conduct! Yet these are only some of the evils attendant on a mode of education, the least pernicious effects of which are to bind common minds to the tread-mill of custom and prejudice, and to cripple or waste the energies of finer natures. The moral requisites for forming opinion, are no less endangered by it than the intellectual. The mind, when first emancipated from its constraint, will generally rush into the opposite extreme, and adopt conclusions no less one sided and dogmatical than those it has thrown off; and in some respect more dangerous still; since the opinions blindly received from others may influence conduct without corrupting the mind, whereas the opinions we have formed for ourselves under the influence of passion and prejudice are truly, in Lord Bacon's words, the "lies that sink in and settle in the mind,” poisoning the very sources of health and vigour.
Another danger which frequently besets minds unused to reason, is impatience of doubt. The feeling is in itself natural, and very hard to subdue, and it is often made more painful by the prevalent dogmatism of opinion. When every one but ourselves seems to have reached perfect certainty, and to be walking in broad day-light whilst we are still groping in the dark, we feel as if such a state were one of reprobation; we seem cut off from the sympathy and companionship of our fellow-creatures, and what began in discomfort ends in a sense of guilt. The misery endured by many young minds from this cause, is of itself a sufficient condemnation of intolerance, and the too common result makes the condemnation heavier. Some rush out of doubt by determinately banishing thought, and blindly pinning their faith upon authority, they become the most vehement opposers of all who cannot be satisfied on the same grounds. Others try to escape from it, or rather from the harassing feeling which it creates in their minds, by rejecting as superstition whatever cannot be proved on demonstrative evidence. Hence, from ignorance of the very principles of reasoning, or from want of habit in the use of a faculty which they cannot repress, some fall into the utter scepticism which withers the finest qualities of the soul, others into bigotry, with
its train of errors and prejudices, and all alike miss the truth, which a better training might have enabled them to reach.
It is essential to remember that doubt is a necessary condition of an imperfect state. In most questions beyond the province of demonstrative science, there must still remain enough of uncertainty to make us diffident of our own conclusions, and tolerant of those of others, while at the same time sufficient truth, or probability of truth, is discerned, to form the basis of action, and preserve the mind from any wavering or want of firmness in principle or opinion. In all that immediately concerns conduct, the will of God is too plainly declared in His word, and in the constitution which he has given us, to admit of hesitation or very material error, so long as we are careful to use our reason rightly in giving light to conscience. As regards other questions, we must be content to bear with doubt, as a necessary, however painful, accompaniment of human infirmity. But while admitting this necessity, we must carefully guard against transferring the feeling of uncertainty from our own minds to the subjects themselves that we contemplate. On every,-the most perplexed and doubtful question,-truth, fixed, invincible truth, pregnant with all its inevitable consequences, is there, on one side or the other, whether we can discover on which side it lies or not. Our own minds are weak and imperfectly informed, but truth is clear and immutable; and this consideration is the only security for earnestness of inquiry into doubtful subjects, and for steadfast adherence to the preponderating probability, which to our own conscience carries the authority of truth, since it is the nearest approach to truth that we can make. The uncertainty which still clings to it should only make us humble and tolerant, not indifferent or vacillating. The truth, the child cannot understand, which is too dark to him to bear the character of truth, is clear and undeniable to us; and so, if we remembered St. Paul's words, that here we think, and speak, and understand like children, waiting for the time when we "shall put away childish things," we should feel at once how completely our own weakness leaves untouched the real character of the truth our faculties can only dimly apprehend. Nor is the pain of doubt altogether an evil. It is a symptom of our natural tendency to seek rest in truth. It is one of the many indications of that beautiful dispensation by which all the impulses and desires which point to the future, are endowed with peculiar vigour. Hope, that "springs eternal in the human breast," never to be wholly destroyed by life-long disappointments, the desire for happiness unsatisfied by all the treasures of earthly bliss,-the longing for certain and perfect knowledge, of which impatience of doubt is a part, as if the soul
FROM OUR IMPERFECT STATE.
had a prescience of the unlimited truth that lies veiled behind the curtain of time,-love of the new and marvellous, of the mysterious and the beautiful, ever stretching beyond the bounds of the actual, ever craving to realise some ideal of which this world affords no perfect type,-all these point with the very finger of God to the immortal destiny which awaits us; and like the feeble effort of the child, while revealing present weakness, give the promise of a future and more perfect manhood.
If impatience of doubt be sometimes an obstacle to our attaining truth, narrowness of mind is a still more formidable one. The former is in itself but an indication of that longing for perfect knowledge which, if kept in subordination to reason, will animate instead of impeding our efforts. But narrowness of mind which makes us not only content with what we already possess, but utterly averse to gaining more, is incompatible with love of truth, and its attendant virtues, candour and tolerance. The narrow-minded man maintains his own views with intolerant dogmatism, and looks with distrust and aversion on all others. He is not actuated by any love for truth in itself, but by the love of a particular set of truths, or propositions assumed to be true, which he has adopted as his own, and which he is both afraid and indignant to see disturbed by the admission of a wider view. He stands upon a mole-hill and is furious that another who stands upon a mountain should see more distant objects, or estimate differently those that are near. We see the effects of this disposition in the dread with which many pious people look on the progress of science and philosophy, as if they were the necessary antagonists of religion; while the advocates of science, on the other hand, too often err in the same spirit, when they reject the moral authority of Scripture, because its statements on other subjects are not in accordance with the discoveries of modern science. But when we thus seek to maintain the truth we believe by excluding every other truth from our minds, we act as wisely as an architect who should think to strengthen his edifice by narrowing its base. Since all truth comes from one common Source, not only is it impossible that one truth should contradict another, but each must be part of one great and harmonious whole. If, in spelling out detached portions, we cannot always see their connection with each other, and their place in the stupendous system to which they belong, our failure should teach us not to reject any with scorn, but to labour yet more earnestly for wider knowledge, and confess with yet deeper humility, that what we know, is to what remains unknown, as the few objects brought here and there into sight by the dim ray of a lanthorn, are to the boundless horizon shrouded in impenetrable darkness beyond.
Narrow-mindedness is not always the result of ignorance. The latter may co-exist with candour and humility, whilst profound learning is often seen accompanied by the former; for it is not the amount of our knowledge, but the spirit in which we learn, that enlarges and elevates the mind. If we accumulate learning in obedience to any motive but the simple love of truth, we may, indeed, gain the lower objects of ambition or vanity, but the wisdom, which estimates men and things from a height raised above the distorting medium of passion and prejudice, which interprets the past and forecasts the future by the rules of right reasoning and wide experience,-that wisdom which is the noblest fruit of knowledge, and which alone makes knowledge worth striving for, will never be ours.
One form of narrow-mindedness proceeds from the thoughts and affections being habitually limited to a small sphere, beyond which nothing appears good or profitable, nothing excites our interest or calls forth our sympathies. This disposition is most frequent amongst those who live in seclusion, and are constantly occupied with one set of objects, which are thereby magnified into undue importance. In general intercourse with the world, the tendency to it is powerfully counteracted by contact and conflict with every shade of opinion and every variety of character; but when we attach ourselves to a coterie, whether religious, political, or literary, we are in danger of becoming narrow-minded, and of considering the opinions of our own set as the infallible standard of truth. "In this," says Locke, "we may see the reason why some men of study and thought, that reason right and are the lovers of the truth, do make no great advances in their discovery of it. Error and truth are uncertainly blended in their minds, their decisions are lame and defective, and they are often mistaken in their judgments; the reason whereof is, they converse with but one sort of men, they read but one sort of books, they will not come in the hearing but of one sort of notions. The truth is, they canton out to themselves a little Goshen in the intellectual world where light shines, and as they conclude, day blesses them, but the rest of that vast expanse they give up to night and darkness, and so avoid coming near it. They have a petty traffic with known correspondents in some little creek; within that they confine themselves, and are dexterous managers enough of the wares and products of that corner with which they content themselves, but will not venture out into the great ocean of knowledge to survey the riches that nature hath stored other parts with, no less genuine, no less solid, no less useful than what has fallen to their lot in the admired plenty and sufficiency of their own little spot, which to them contains whatsoever is good in the universe." It is under
MORAL MERIT OR DEMERIT OF OPINIONS.
the influence of such narrow-mindedness as this, that the artist or the poet too often despises the pursuits of the natural philosopher; that the latter again rejects with contempt the speculations of the metaphysician; whilst the metaphysician returns the scorn with interest to what he terms the materialism of physical science. But the different branches of human knowledge are as the different colours of the sunbeam. The limits of each meet and mingle; and it is only from the union of all that the eye receives the pure and perfect ray of light.
There is yet a more fatal obstacle to the attainment of truth than even passion or prejudice, rash impatience of doubt, or narrow-minded views,— -i. e., the almost universal practice of attaching moral merit or demerit to opinions. This practice strengthens prejudice, creates dogmatism, and vitiates our moral judgments by confounding vice and virtue with intellectual truth or error. To this we may ascribe the persecuting intolerance which has stained with blood so many pages of human history. Its roots lie deep in the passions of mankind, and hence it has been as universal as they. In every age and every country, we find the opinions professed by the governing power, whether religious or political,, held up and rewarded as meritorious, and all dissent punished, (not on grounds of public policy,) but as in itself criminal. To the cry of rebellion or sacrilege, ever raised against the opponents of established opinions, the noblest and wisest of our race have fallen victims; and each victory that has been achieved for humanity over evil and error has been purchased, as Christ purchased the greatest of all, with the blood of the victor. Religion, science, politics, philosophy, each in turn, has had its martyrs; and though the improved moral feeling of our own times forbids the continuance of the bloody persecutions which disgrace the past, we have daily evidence that the persecuting spirit still lives. The thousand petty annoyances inflicted upon those who dissent from established opinions, and the stigma often so unjustly cast on their moral character, prove but too clearly, that the error of considering certain opinions meritorious and others guilty still prevails in full force.
The many and great evils which have resulted, and still are resulting from this error, appear to us to justify a digression for the purpose of exposing it. The fallacy consists in supposing that opinion or belief is in our own power, and, consequently, that we are morally responsible for it as for a voluntary act. The very nature of opinion as a judgment pronounced by reason on the evidence submitted to it, should refute this error. There can be no action of the will in forming honest opinions; for to say "I will see truth here or there," "I will