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that the bulk of mankind, fecretly confcious of their own incapacity, embrace almost implicitly the opinions of those whose superior station, abilities and authority, entitle them at least to respect and deference, and whofe extenfive influence is upon the whole favourable to the general happiness. As in confequence therefore of free enquiry just and liberal fentiments will ultimately prevail amongst the higher ranks of fociety, thofe fentiments will fooner or later infallibly diffufe themselves amongst the lower classes of mankind; not as the result of rational conviction indeed, fo much as of that irrifistible influence which must always accompany fuperiority of knowledge and ftation. I do not however mean to infinuate that all attempts to enlighten the minds of the multitude are useless or abfurd:-fuch arguments as they are capable of comprehending, and fuch as have any tendency to enlarge their sphere of comprehenfion, ought undoubtedly to be exhibited in the most confpicuous point of view. A little knowledge is faid to be a dangerous thing: but I believe total ignorance is much more fo. By unremitted efforts to inftruct and enlighten mankind, the number of competent judges must con tinually increase, and the minds of the multitude will be gradually prepared for the reception of thofe truths which they may be unequal to the investigation of. If the majority of Chriftians in this enlightened country are not properly qua lified to decide in controverfies of faith, certainly thofe
thofe of Spain and Portugal are much lefs fo; There are degrees of ignorance; and every advance in knowledge is favourable to virtue and happiness; but it does not appear to me advifable, because the Church of Rome extravagantly claims a right to judge for every private Chrif tian, to embarrass the question by maintaining that every private Christian is qualified to judge for himfelf. The right to judge is indeed unqueftionable; but the ability to exercife that right is quite another thing; and though I do think it infinitely better that the moft illiterate Christian under Heaven fhould take upon him to decide upon the most difficult queftions in Theology, rather than fancy himself under an obligation of confcience to fubmit to the decifions of any other man or body of men, and though fuch an illiterate Christian may undoubtedly be a very upright judge, I hope I am not, by any principle of Proteftantifm, compelled to acknowledge him to be a feecond Daniel; or even to allow that the majority of those who pafs under the general denomination of Chriftians, and who may be very good Christians, but whofe worldly occupations and modes of life leave them no leifure for literary purfuits, ought to be confidered as competent to decide upon queftions which they have neither opportunity nor ability to difcufs.
Reflections upon EDUCATION.
are two very opposite opinions prevailing in the world refpecting human life; one is, that life is a jeft; and for the benefit and inftruction of pofterity, this maxim has been recorded on a monument placed amidst the venerable remains of all that mankind have been taught to call good and great. The other is, that life is not a jest, but a moft ferious and important reality; that though the duration of our temporal existence is short and transitory, the manner in which it is paffed is in the highest degree momentous; for if, as various natural phænomena feem to indicate, and as Christianity exprefsly affirms, we are deftined by our omnipotent Creator for a future and an eternal life, and the present state should be only the first stage of our existence, our future happiness or mifery may, nay, muft depend upon thofe good or evil propenfities and difpofitions, which, in our paffage through this world, we must inevitably contract. This connection between the prefent and a future state of existence, adds a dignity and folemnity unspeakably interesting to the vain and tranfient fcenes of this mortal life; and S by
by this means a principle of action is implanted in the mind, far more powerful, as well as noble, than any which temporal motives can poffibly infpire. To those who entertain no fuch expectation or belief, life must appear comparatively a jeft, an ænigma far more inexplicable than that of the Sphinx. The prefent ftate of things, independently confidered, exhibits a scene which we cannot poffibly reconcile to our ideas of the natural and moral perfections of the Deity. By recurring to the celebrated Effay on Man, we may eafily be convinced how inadequate were the powers of a great Philofopher and Poet in conjunction for the accomplishment of that purpose. The refult of the whole bears no proportion to the aftonishing difplay of magnificence and wisdom which we discover in the investigation of the feveral parts; and if man, lord of this lower world, is himself to fink into annihilation almost as foon as he is brought into existence, what end or purpofe worthy of the great Creator is anfwered by this wonderful exertion of Divine power? Surely it may be faid, "Man walketh in a vain fhow; and the wifeft of the human race might well exclaim, “ Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.” Never theless, though men who have been accustomed to indulge the fublime and elevated fenfations which a profpect of immortality is calculated to excite would, if totally deprived of that glorious hope, be inclined to regard the prefent fcene of things as wretchedly trifling and contemptible, yet to
those who have never extended their views beyond the limits of the prefent life, the fcenes before them will undoubtedly appear highly important and interesting; and a ribband, a title, or a white wand, have been as eagerly purfued by fome, as knowledge, virtue, and everlasting happiness, by
In the celebrated letters of Lord Chesterfield, we fee, with a mixture of pity and indignation, a man of high ftation, a man of parts, of observation and reflection, who does not appear; even in the decline of life, to have raifed his thoughts or wifhes beyond that fpecies of happiness which is to be derived from temporal distinctions; of which he had himself experienced the vanity, but which he nevertheless urges his fon to pursue with fuch intemperate ardour, that honour, virtue, and reputation, are to be facrificed without hesitation at the fhrine of the idol which his Lordfhip has fet up. To fay nothing of the prepofterous nature of his Lordfhip's plan of education in other refpects; of the abfurdity of fuppofing that mankind could be made the dupes of a boy; of the abfurdity of urging a youth, destitute of ambition, or superiority of talents, and labouring under peculiar disadvantages, to aim at the highest honours of the State; of the abfurdity of educating a youth in a foreign country, who was afterwards to feek for advancement at home; of the abfurdity of endeavouring to excite that ardent spirit of emulation by threats and menaces, which could only be kin