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CCCCLXXXIll. Sensation. Thoughts seem to us something strange; but sensation is no less wonderful; a divine power equally shows itself in the sensation of the meanest insect, as in a Newton's brain. We receive our first knowledge from our sensations, and our memory is no more than a continued sensation: a man born without any of his five senses, would, could he live, be totally void of any ideas. It is owing to our senses that we have even our metaphysical notions; for how should a circle or a triangle be measured, without having seen or felt a triangle? How can we form an idea, imperfect as it is, of infinitude, but by enlarging boundaries? And how can we throw down boundaries, without having seen or felt them? An eminent philosopher in his Trait de Sensations, says, sensation includes all our faculties.--Voltaire.
Genius.-Genius is properly the faculty of invention, by means of which a man is qualified for making new discoveries in science, or for producing original works of art. We may ascribe taste, judgment, or knowledge, to a man who is incapable of invention; but we cannot reckon him a man of genius. In order to determine how far he merits that character, we must inquire whether he has discovered any new principle in science, or invented any new art, or carried those arts, which are already practised to a higher degree of perfection than former masters? Or whether, at least, in matters of science, he has improved on the discoveries of his predecessors, and reduced principles, formerly known, to a greater degree of simplicity or consistence, or traced them through a train of consequences hitherto unknown? Or in the arts designed some new work, different from those of his predecessors, though perhaps not excelling them. Whatever falls short of this is servile imitation, or a dull effort of plodding industry, which, as not implying invention, can be deemed no proof of genius, whatever capacity, skill, or diligence it may evidence. But if a man shows invention, no intellectual defects which his performance may betray, can forfeit his claim to genius. His invention may be irregular, wild, undisciplined, but still it is regarded as an infallible mark of real natural genius: and the degree of this faculty that we ascribe to him, is always in proportion to our estimate of the novelty, the difficulty, or the dignity of his invention.-Gerard.
Of Faith.-To compare the shortness of the present life with the eternity of the future, and consider the rewards and punishments to follow upon good and bad actions, yet find so little true practical religion upon earth; one might almost suspect there was no faith among mankind, but that all doubted as to the certainty of an hereafter. There are few of us who, upon the promise of a temporal reward, would not labour to be good, or renounce our vicious inclinations. A drunkard will live sober, a profligate turn prudent, and a rebel become obėdient, to obtain favours of their king. Many, from the mere motive of hope, will force and subdue their appe. tites and passions, or even belie their own natures, in expectation of a place or a title; yet the King of heaven and earth, whose promises cannot fail, and whose rewards are eternal, does not prevail upon men to quit their vices, or
suppress their inordinate appetites. Whence it might seem as if the faith we Christians value ourselves upon was only nominal: for really to believe a state of eternal rewards and punishments, and not live according to this belief, is a paradox of the first magnitude. If we allow no Christian faith among mankind, the solution is easy, but such a suspicion would be extravagant; since there have been those who sealed this faith with their blood.
To solve the difficulty, we must allow men so made, as to be more affected with small matters, that are sensible and at hand, than with the most momentous things, that are invisible and at a distance. All men know they are to die; yet do not shudder at death, till the hour approaches, when they see him, as it were, face to face. Man, being immersed in his affections, is more moved by corporeal than mental rewards and punishments.—The Reflector. 1750.
Illiberality of Parents.- A man shall see, where there is a house full of children, one or two of the eldest respected and the youngest made wantons; but in the midst, some that are, as it were, forgotten, who, many times, nevertheless, prove the best. The illiberality of parents in allowance towards their children, is a harmful error, and makes them base; acquaints them with shifts; makes them sort with mean company; and makes them surfeit more when they come to plenty; and therefore the proof is best when men keep their authority towards their children, but not their purse.—Lord Bacon.
Liberty of the Press.-It is to discussion, and conse. quently to the liberty of the press, that the science of physics owes its improvements. Had this liberty never subsisted, how many errors, consecrated by time, would be cited as incontestable axioms! What is here said of physics, is applicable to morality and politics. If we would be sure of the truth of our opinions, we should make them public. It is by the touchstone of discussion that they must be proved. The press, therefore, should be free. The magistrate who prevents it, opposes all improvement in morality and politics; he sins against his country, he chokes the very seeds of those happy ideas which the liberty of the press would produce. And who can estimate that loss! Wherever this liberty is withheld, ignorance, like a profound darkness, spreads over the minds of men. It is then that the lovers of truth, at the same time that they seek it, fear to find it; they are sensible that they must either conceal, basely disguise it, or expose themselves to persecution, which every man dreads.
There are no specious pretexts with which hypocrisy and tyranny have not coloured their desire of imposing silence on men of discernment; and there is no virtuous citizen that can see in these pretexts any legitimate reason for remaining silent.--Helvetius.
Virtue and Vice.Whoever considers the state and condition of human nature, and upon this view, how much stronger the natural motives are to virtue than to vice,
would expect to find the world much better than it is, or ever has been;-for who would suppose the generality of mankind to betray so much folly, as to act against the common interest of their own kind, as every man does who yields to the temptation of what is wrong?-Sterne's Sermons.
Good Temper, its Effects and Utility.--A good-natured man, whatever faults he may have, they will for the most part be treated with lenity; he will generally find an advocate in every human heart;-his errors will be lamented, rather than abhorred; and his virtues will be viewed in the fairest point of light;—his good humour, without the help of great talents or acquirements, will make his company preferable to that of the most brilliant genius in whom this quality is wanting—but with it, such a brightness will be added to their lustre, that all the world will. envy and admire, while his associates will almost adore, and labour to imitate him.
By good temper is not meant an insensible indifference to injuries, and a total forbearance from manly resentment. There is a noble and generous kind of anger, a proper and necessary part of our nature which has nothing in it sinful or degrading; we are not to be dead to this, for the person who feels 2.0t an injury, must be incapable of being properly affected by benefits; with those who treat us ill, without provocation we ought to maintain our own dignity; but whilst we show a sense of their improper behaviour, we must preserve calmness, and even good breed. ing, and thereby convince them of the impotence, as well as injustice, of their malice.- Dr. Blair.