« AnteriorContinuar »
or at the foot of Raphael's Madonna-and sketched out on a plan which would have made the plot and catastrophe of Romeo and Juliet partly turn on the adventures of Punch and Judy. The frequent absences of a plain work-a-day sense among all his great endowments, remind us of Augustus, emperor of the world, sitting in his palace, without a shirt to his back, or a glass window. · Why will he change backwards and forwards from the digester of Count Rumford to the perturbed cauldron of Macbeth ? and present, to the white up-turned eyes of mortals, at one moment, the spectacle of a party-coloured kite sent up out of St Luke's into the empyrean—the next, the Patmos eagle, maestro di color chi sanno ? For he has a mind full of searching and original invention, and a patience that never tires. It is a fountain which, in its wildest deviations, never risks being lost in barren sands, or forced back by the counter current of antagonist opinions : But, like the vast rivers of a great continent, is strong enough, in the body of waters it pours forth, to preserve their freshness and identity long after weaker streams would have mingled and disappeared in the open sea. From the unreasonableness with which the law of evidence had been constructed, Mr Bentham's constant maxim—that of looking for his object in the direct contrary direction from that which the turnpike fingerpost may point-bas for once led him right: and, when right at all, it is the nature of such a character to be right thoroughly and greatly. His present enterprise bas been indeed rather a voyage than a journey: like Columbus, relying on the strength of his own philosophical conjectures, and enlightened by the errors of those who had preceded him, he bas dashed boldly across an uoknown ocean. Like bim, too, with a comprehensiveness and reach of thought, able to circumnavigate so vast a subject, he has united a minuteness of detail, and heaving of the lead at every moment, under which the reader would drop, unless he saw before him the discovery of a new world. Speaking of jurisprudence generally, there are few greater instances of the advance which a new intellectual world has made upon the old (a corresponding hint to what Europe bas just received from Don Pedro's preference of the Brazils to Portugal) than the successful parallel, or rather contrast, that Mr Dumont has lately instituted between Montesquieu and Bentham. It is one of the most striking testimonies to the progress of juster reasoning on the science of legislation; for no writings can be mentioned which have done so much for the human race, in their generation, as the Esprit des Loix, and from which, at the same time, a reader of the present day can bring away so few sound available ideas. In making this
contrast, it never should, and never will be forgotten, that we owe chiefly to Montesquieu bimself the present comparative uselessness of his justly celebrated work.
It is, we well know, an ungracious task to prophesy for mankind-our planet takes such a strange pleasure in waylaying its fortune-tellers, and in disappointing the most reasonable expectations. But there is no standard whereby one can judge of the understandings and consciences of other men, except by reference to one's own. Our prophecy would be, that among Mr Bentham's grains of mustard seed there are those which some day will be trees. As we have spoken plainly our real sentiments regarding the flaws, wbich strike across this great work a vein so deep and coarse that there is scarce a page together which we have read with unmixed pleasure; we are bound to state, with equal sincerity, that we should have thought it impossible for any book upon a subject, with which we had fancied ourselves well acquainted, and with which, in our idiomatic form of it at least, we had been long conversant, to have given us so many new ideas, and to have so completely changed our old ones.
ART. IX.-A Sermon preached in the Cathedral Church of St
Paul, on Thursday, May 8th, 1828, at the Festival of the Sons of the Clergy. By the Rev. Philip Nicholas SHUTTLEWORTH, D. D. Warden of New College, Oxford. London, Rivington, 1828.
LTHOUGH there is a good deal in this discourse with which
- it is impossible for us to agree, yet the tone of moderation which the reverend author preserves through the greater portion of his remarks, must be mentioned as extremely praiseworthy, and as somewhat rare in such controversies. It must be admitted, too, that the subject which he has undertaken to discuss, is one fairly belonging to the province of the religious instructor, and which he may handle without incurring the smallest blame for narrowness or illiberality—the superiority of religious to temporal knowledge, and the risks we run from too exclusive an attention to the latter. While others are instructing the community in literature and science, it is, beyond all doubt, the duty of the clergy to give the information which is necessary for its religious improvement; and, provided there be no misrepresentations used, they may fairly urge the greater importance of that kind of knowledge, and take the requisite pains to prevent other pursuits from interfering with the attainment of it. A report was
prevalent that Dr Shuttleworth had stood forth to sound the alarm against educating the people in those branches of science which Laplace declared them fitted to learn, and from which Lord Liverpool indignantly deprecated their being excluded. The sermon, in which this warning was said to be proclaimed, is now before us; and it is with great pleasure that we testify that it is any thing rather than a confirmation of the rumour. Some few matters are perhaps not stated with perfect candour; others are represented a little inaccurately; but there is nothing like an attempt to raise an outcry of a religious kind, or to point the thunders of the church against the secular instructors of the people. On the contrary, it seems substantially intended to reconcile the pursuits recommended by the preacher with a large allowance of scientific improvement.
After observing, that the extraordinary pains taken to diffuse knowledge in the present day, though calculated to excite feelings of pride and self-congratulation,' are yet fitted, at the same time, to make us ask ourselves, where all this will end? he proceeds to show in what consist the dangers of a disproportionate attention to the pursuits of science. And it is a singular thing, that he assumes the friends of popular education to exclude from their plans every branch of knowledge, except mathematical and physical science. The following passage contains a great deal of important truth respecting the value of intellectual im, provement, which the author had, in the sentence immediately preceding, distinctly stated, that it was not his wish to depreciate, but only to show the necessity of connecting with religion. But it closes with a most inaccurate suggestion, which, being further enforced in the next passage, requires some animadversion.
Were we to estimate the whole of the advantages resulting to a na. tion from the pursuits of science and general literature, solely by what may in a familiar acceptation of the term be considered their value, that is to say, by their immediate tendency to promote such discoveries as may be exclusively useful for the acquisition of wealth, or the accommodation of our social existence, we should, I acknowledge, be taking a much too contracted view of the subject, and greatly undervaluing the many momentous blessings which we derive from them. The laws and principles of mechanism, the physical combinations and properties of the elements, and the profound truths derivable from the abstract calculation of figures or of numbers, may be made familiar to thousands; yet the inventive faculty, which derives from such knowledge the germ of new and valuable discoveries, which are to form part of the intellectual wealth of future ages, is, by the sage economy of Providence, dispensed but to a few. It, however, by no means follows, that those persons whose talents do not qualify them to become benefactors to mankind by their inventions, are not, therefore, elevated in the scale of sentient be
ings by the mère possession of scientific attainments. Knowledge (if by that term we mean to imply nothing more than the means for the acquisition of a specific end) may, it is true, be considered in one point of view as unprofitable, where that end is not attained, and where it terminates in barren contemplation : but, on the other hand, (when we recollect that its tendency is to develope the energies, and to give us a taste for the exquisite pleasures of our spiritual nature, and consequently to make us more indifferent to the gross animal enjoyments which we participate in common with the brutes,) it may, with no less confidence, be pronounced to be in itself intrinsically good, though, like all other gifts of Providence, liable to be perverted by abuse. Sucb, accordingly, is the judgment expressed respecting it by the Word of Revelation. “Behold," says the Almighty, with reference to the fall of our first parents, and whilst pronouncing that fearful judicial sentence which was to operate so fatally upon their descendants, “ behold, man is become like one of us to know good from evil :" from which words we must necessarily, I think, derive the conclusion, that, though knowledge may be accidentally dangerous from its inappositeness to the party possessing it, and sinful, where its acquisition implies the breach of a command or perversity of disposition, still its abstract and original tendency is to add to the dignity and perfection of the being of whom it is an attribute. And in this point of view will a Christian, and especially a Protestant Christian, who knows how much of the purity of his religious belief may be attributed to the dissemination of general literature, be disposed to consider it : not wishing for a single moment to limit the high gratifications of scientific research to any more favoured or privileged classes of the community, or to check, in any one instance, the progress of legitimate inquiry, but only anxious that the most easily perverted of all the transcendent gifts of the Almighty be not transformed from a blessing into a curse; only anxious, that whilst investigating the mighty wonders of the physical universe, they forget not that great Being who called that universe into existence; and that they mistake not the impatient eagerness of newly excited curiosity, which loves to depreciate every thing established, and to ponder over its own speculations upon what it conceives to be original principles, rather than to submit to the wisdom inculcated by experience, for that comprehensive grasp of intellect, whose real characteristic is sobriety and caution.
The risk which students of natural science are here supposed to run, of forgetting the great author of nature, appears wholly chimerical. But the author immediately afterwards states it in a way much more incorrect, and, as we take it, wholly contrary to the truth of the case. It is an acknowledged, and a no less painful than perplexing fact,' he says, that even well-educated persons, whose studies have particularly led them to the investigation of the beautiful and astounding mechanism of
the universe, and of the economy of the animal world, bave • often been disposed to scepticism with regard to the existence • and providence of a Godi'. It is Dr Shuttleworth's general practice to express himself with many qualifications, and to avoid all broad assertions; but this passage, though worded cautiously, plainly means, that those who study natural philosophy are apt to doubt the existence of the Deity; than which, we will venture to repeat, any thing more unfounded in fact could not have been stated. It might almost suffice, one would think, to name the names of Newton and of Boyle, or of Barrow and Baeon, to vindicate from this reproach the studies to which they were devoted. It is among metaphysicians, surely, rather than natural philosophers, that we shall find the greatest number of sceptics ; although the philosophy of mind has any thing rather than a natural tendency to produce unbelief. But it may be taught without a constant reference to the power and wisdom of the Creator ; whereas, we doubt if a single work, professing to teach the elements of physical science, especially if framed for popular use, can be found, in which the proofs of design manifest in the structure of the material world, are not stated with more or less earnestness and particularity.
However, Dr Shuttleworth having once laid down his assumption, goes on to argue on it as clear and admitted. Many • causes,' he says, “might be alleged to account for this mortifying • fact;' meaning the groundless and ridiculous fancy, that natural philosophy makes men atheists. Then, after an attempt at explaining why the thing should be what it certainly is not, he adds,- Be the real explanation of this circumstance what it 'may, the fact is unfortunately certain, that a mind may not
only possibly, but probably, be imbued with an accurate and • extensive knowledge of that vast aggregate of wonders, the • material universe, yet fail to draw from it that great moral
conclusion, which it would seem, above all others, most calculated to announce;' meaning, we suppose, the being and attributes of the Deity. And then he goes on to infer, that if men profoundly versed in natural science, find it so difficult to lend • their minds at the same time to the eager pursuit of physics, and • the awful impressions of religion,' the danger must be still greater with persons superficially informed. It would be throwing labour away, to answer arguments resting on the assumption of what is notoriously most groundless. If Dr Shuttleworth only means to state the danger of a too eager and exclusive study of natural knowledge relaxing men's religious feelings, he describes a risk common to all occupations of a worldly nature, whether speculative or active; but far less imminent in the case of physical science, than in that of almost any other pursuit, because its tendency is perpetually to lift the mind towards the contemplation of the wisdom displayed in the structure of the unis
VOL. XLVIII, No. 96. . 2M