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so happily the indolent virtue of the world, and squares so well with the unaspiring prudence of its wisdom,— is this Truth? And is that sudden, violent, momentary, grasping of a prouder spirit—is that illusion—the fond folly of presumptuous self-ignorance,
* That raught at mountains with outstretched arms, And parted but the shadow with his hand?" Who shall give the answer? The same division of spirit among men, which has divided their conduct, divides also their understanding,—and each will answer from his own spirit, as it may have been enlightened, or corrupted, or bewildered, by his past life, and not from inquisition of truth. Though perhaps no man ever feels with full conviction that he possesses truth, yet every man, except in his despairing moments, assures himself that he is near to it,—and perhaps he is so,— as if there were but a veil interposed that he cannot put aside, which sometimes gathers in thicker folds under his hand, and sometimes, perhaps without his endeavour, parts for a moment, and then closes again, while he is yet gating.
Those who have upheld, as philosophical dogmas, asseverations of our utter incapacity for truth, and have, for their system of nature, represented man as a being bewildering himself, hopelessly and in vain, in dark and inextricable mazes of thought,—have spoken falsely to their own minds, and falsely to the convictions of men. There is no such belief in the human mind: no man, looking back upon his own life, whatever seasons of gloom he may have known, can find a fixed habitual consciousness of living on in bewildering darkness. That forlorn estate is not known to our natural life: There is no place then for such philosophy in nature. But there have been men, who, living according to their own belief, in the very light of their minds, have chosen in their pride, or been otherwise misled, to cast such disheartening illusions on the belief of others, and have given a show of truth to a false philosophy, by taking out from the whole course of life its unhappiest moments, and constituting into a system of permanent belief, the naturally transient impressions of fear, sadness, suspicion, self-aversion, and despair.
We all feel that there is a light by which we must regulate our lives. This is the common consenting belief of all mankind. No doubt their conceptions of truth are various. The impulse, the instinct of nature, which urges them, is the same to all. But soon variance begins by the diversity of individual being. Each sees by his own light, and amidst his own illusions. Each views in different aspect the mysterious, half-revealed, uncomprehended power, which is ever present and ever remote: he shapes by his own mind that undefined form. As his heart suggests—as his will purposes—as his thought dares—he hopes, demands, conceives truth. This he does, not in order to submit himself to truth, but to subject truth to himself, to incorporate her power with his own life. Truth, by which he may strengthen, exalt, enlarge his own being, is what he seeks j not truth, therefore, awful, authoritative, and controlling, but truth fettered and ministering; truth justifying himself to himself— soothing his pride—licensing his passions—taking her looks, her life, her law, her being, from himself. Each man seeks truth, but each his own. And hence is there such diversity in all the opinions of men. Hence is it that, from the birth of science to this hour, philosophy has so often changed her shape,—that the labour of one age has been to pull down the fabric of another, and to build as perishably upon its ruins. Hence is it that the same original principle of belief and desire, working in the minds of fellow-men, has so often conducted them, not to common participation in common good, but to fearful division and implacable hate—to dissensions of opinion—convulsing life,—when the vulgar passions of men have stood aloof and astonished, to see speculative intellect kindle the torch, and forge the sword, to arm the bands of common war.
Each man believes that he desires and seeks truth, that in part he knows it, and in part subjects the course of his life to that knowledge. But when he bends his mind thitherward, he brings it, such as it is, unpurified, unchastised, full of illusions of its own cherishing. Is it wonderful then, if men, thus making mdeavour, find no better success? if, under incitement of a principle which might guide them to just knowledge, they make deeper. way into error? or that, with the truth which they find, and in which so far they must consent, they should each blend enough of separate error to hold them all in variance with one another?
What if there be no evidence for truth but that which becomes apparent to each man within himself, in his own thoughts, in his own being? It is possible—it is not inconsistent with any ascertained nature of our faculties, to believe that such must be the evidence of truth,—that it must arise and be formed within the individual mind. If so, it is incommunicable, and the inability of philosophy to furnish it is justified. The evidence of truth,—what is it but the mind's own assured recognition of truth? An act, then, of consciousness, and just, because the state of mind in which that act arises is just. Acts of the mind, states, properties, or powers which it owes to its state,—all seems to refer directly to the mind, and to nothing else. The reception, knowledge, intelligence, discernment, acquisition, production of truth; can they have any distinct origin, property, essence, seat, from that assured recognition of truth which is its own evidence? Are they separable to our apprehension? Have they not almost identity? Are they not all one power, more or less matured, more passive, or more in action? That glowing consciousness of pure just feeling in a spotless heart, is it another truth from that which is calm, and bright, and clear, in the wisdom that has fulfilled its years? Is there truth, in any kind, that the mind can know, of which it must not be the source to itself? Then all we seek is near. Yet so near, inseparable, co-existent, it still seems as if it might not be attained but in long, slow, difficult, toilsome acquisition. And is not that also possible? For though the mind in which truth will spring is given us, yet the state is not given us. What the growth shall be with which that mind must teem is in our own choice, —is not assigned at least in the calmcities of the mind, which are free to good and ill. And if there is something to be produced that requires an entire state of adaptation in the mind, is it not probable and reasonable that time, and more than time, should be
required to bring to effect that entire adaptation? Much may be demanded of ourselves: but time is necessary, slowly fulfilling the processes of nature, and changing our minds themselves. Could we wonder, if that knowledge, which shall guide in intellectual and moral light the steps of our lives, be hard and slow to be won? We need feel no distrust then, no anxiety, no dejection, though our first endeavours reap little success,— though the strong effort of our souls be baffled,—though our overstrained sight find darkness. If strong will, and powerful thought, unite their force in vain, time, perhaps, shall bring to gentle solicitations what they could not wrest from him. It is desirable, that knowledge so high and great, in which our spirits shall live in light, which shall embrace, cherish, and sustain all our faculties, should be granted, not to the will's in tense passion, nor to the giant graspings of thought, but to long-continued faithful desire, to the patient love of the soul. It is yielded as a fruit to labour—not as a spoil to power. It is a work growing to perfection, under a diligent hand in long life,—a form of beauty slowly accomplishing—conceived, beloved, but yet unrealized; but still softening, glowing, breathing more and more, audits various beauty still more and more blending into one.
It may lie within ourselves;—where else have the wise of all times ever sought it? The teachers of all nations, —the sages whose wisdom has rested upon the people among whom they sprung,—has become incorporated with the history of man,—has flowed down like a mighty river through the regions of time, rolling its calm deep waters, for ever a power of life to the earth, they have told us, where wisdom was to be found. They drew firm their own deep spirit. They have left us their lesson and their example. The fountain which they opened wells in every breast; it springs like life to to each man within himself.
Look then within. There dwells the life of truth; there only may it be sought. But how? What is the process? How shall the poor doubting inquirer, who longs for truth, and is told to bend his eyes inward and search there—how shall he begin his uncertain eventful search? Let him turn again to the masters of wisdom! Let him ask of those who have studied her ways, to whose feet her paths are known. If they cannot save him the labour of the pursuit,—if they cannot confer truth,—let them aid him at least with their counsels. If they constrain him to enter the perilous labyrinth, let them guide mm by their knowledge,—let him not be lost in the very entrance.
How shall he begin ?—Even as he must seek all that is to be found within himself, in sincerity of purpose and simplicity of desire. If this be not a light, there is no light for us. We are the offspring of chance, and the wanderers of darkness.
And is this all that philosophy can do? This all she can teach? When her willing pupil looks up to her with reverend and supplicating eyes, seeking in her countenance the light of his life,—is it all she will do, to shroud her face, and turn her hand away, and leave him to himself? To throw back the beggar upon the resources of his penury? Tot rust the benighted wanderer to the guidance of his own light —alas! to his own darkness?
True philosophy leaves man to himself. And what then? Is that to desert him? To tell him that what he seeks from her he brings with him,—that indigent as he deems himself, he is lord of unknown wealth,—that for the darkness of his steps there is a light within himself—a mysterious light that waits but his will to shine? And what if she then dismiss him? Shall she not allot her own favours, and judge the measure of her own bounty? What if she know too well the impetuous spirit, and would but guard it from its own harm? She knows the spirit, its powers, and its will; its bounded powers, its illimitable will. She knows that strong, impatient, ungovernable spirit, which will not know itself. She has seen it from the beginning contending with the limitations of nature, with the laws of its being,—high-gifted and high-destined, yet foregoing its powers, and renouncing its destination, to grasp at impossible existence. Shall she grant to this spirit to choose its own course, its own measure of knowledge? Shall she, the guardian of the treasures of truth, yield them up, but at the challenge of this invader? Shall she, the friend, the tutelary genius of this spirit's self, aid it to perish by its own self-confounding will? How wildly,
blindly, within her own precincts, has she seen it fight with the fearful powers it cannot overcome. It knows no awe, —it will know no subjection. It would lift the veil of mystery,—it would pierce the cloud that wraps invisible presence,—it will tread on holy ground, —it will gather interdicted fruit. She fears, when it will not fear. Therefore has she refused her earnest supplicant: She has repelled a lawless or vain desire, and turned back the inquirer on himself. From their dwelling-places of peace, the quiet homes in which nature had cast their lives, her pilgrims break forth, in restless desire, to seek afar her seats of inspiration. They bring to her shrine, in unquiet hearts, their vain wild wishes, and their eager daring solicit- ings of hidden power. For them, on her temple's front, above its awful gates, to meet their approach and first salutary gaze, she has inscribed, in pity and in mild rebuke, her only willing answer,—her one clear faithful oracle,—her y<cti Zmvtm. Let them understand the gentle warning, and bethink them ere they press within the sanctuary to wrest from her reluctant lips more dubious responses, words dark with truth that shall avail but to confound them in their own illusions.
She does not leave him to himself; but thoughtfully, tenderly, with gracious awe, she stays his forward impatient zeal. In the pause of suspended expectation she holds up for a moment her mirror to his sight, a mirror that shews him the world of her dominion— a glorious world within himself. She calls back the spirit to still self-consciousness, revealing in it a gladness of inward life,—hopes springing pure and innocent from a softened heart. Gently she raises him whom she had gently abashed; and then she leaves him, to be for ever after an accompanying presence around his steps,—felt but unbeheld,—visiting his spirit with hidden impulses,—charming, with her continual power, his varying life,—and blending, in his heart, her power of truth with its own pure life of innocence and peace.
Is there such a favoured pupil ? The time shall come when he shall be the priest of her temple and the minister of her altar,—when all her sanctuary shall be his own, and neither veil nor cloud shall intercept their perpetual communion.
But this, to us, is nothing. This is not our Jot. If we shall know truth, we must know it partially, imperfectly, with many interruptions. We have heard another call. We have a necessity that we must obey. We have a work to perform,—a servitude to be accomplished,—functions to which our powers are bound. We have a life set before us, and the path on which we tread prescribes our steps. But amidst these avocations, under this bondage of necessity, and in the conflict and toil of life, we require truth; and truth, in some degree,—to some effect,—to the enlargement of our peace, and to some acquisition of power,—we are able to obtain; and the question of moment to us is, how shall we begin to seek it?
If we are to seek it within ourselves, it is some encouragement that the field of inquiry at least is always at hand. if all that is required to direct the search be clear purpose and pure desire, the means are not difficult to the understanding, if they should prove so to the will.
But what does it mean, to seek truth within ourselves? What truth? Why, that truth which all men seek; that truth, the understanding of which is wisdom, and which, blended in our lives, is peace, and liberty, and power. Let each man understand for himself. He should know his own need. He remembers little of the past, if he has not to tell that he has often felt a fearful void in life, —an oppressive existence of inexplicable evils,—a capacity within himself of good that was not to be found,— desires and wants of something that reality should give, and does not give. He seeks therefore for something which is to satisfy his understanding and fill his heart,—which shall make stedfast his unstable life,—bind together his inconsistent purposes,—give clearness to all the relations of life,—harmony to all the movements of his mind,— unity to his being; that truth which shall be his friend, his monitor, speaking to him at every moment of life— counselling him to do and to leave undone.
We find within ourselves conflicts, tumults, changes of passion, fluctuating thoughts, desires, loves, fears, joys, oppressions of sorrow and pain, a whole world moving within ourselves, in answering motion to an external life. If
truth any thing that is here? I am a creature living to joy and pain Do I know even what gives me joy or pain r what gave them yesterday perhaps, and will give them to-morrow? But do I know what my capacities are for joy and pain? or what there is in this world in which I breathe adapted to fill them? in this overflowing inexhaustible world in which I feel that I am unsatisfied? I have a life which I fulfil as a slave; and I have a power of life in which I should be sovereign and free. What is it? and where shall I find it? Surely in myself only, who Am what I desire to know. But how shall I direct my thought to this inquisition? How begin my search? How shall I lay hold upon that knowledge, of which this inward life,—my whole complicated, immeasurable, unordered, unintelligible life,—may furnish the materials? I know them,—I can find them well in my painful, passionate, memory,—I can heap together their incongruous moss:—But what is the potent alchemy to which they shall yield their hidden essence, and breathe up the pure being of truth?
Within myself I must seek, I cannot doubt it. Shall others tell me what is there? Or if the words of' their wisdom are borne by my ear, what is it that shall arrest them as they pass, call them down into my heart, and believe them? but that spirit which is searching within, which finds evil and good that it cannot comprehend, and leaps as the light darts in,—that shews it what it sought? Here let me seek. But what the process of search must be,—or what tile fruits it shall gather, —or how or when they shall be yielded,—let me leave to discovering time. How should it be understood by the poor dark, wavering, perplexed, perturbed being, who knows only that he is unsatisfied?
LETTER FROM THE CELEBRATED COLIN M'LAURIN.
I Send you an Original Letter from the celebrated Colin M'Laurin, written at the time he was private tutor in q gentleman's family in Argyllshire. As the envelope is wanting, it does not appear to whom it was addressed.
I Am very sensible a correspondence from a most retired corner in the country can be of no value or delight to one ever midst the brightest and most Improving Company. Tho' I cannot but have these thoughts, yet it is an inexpressible satisfaction and relief to me any way to communicate with the place and visit the Company I love and feelingly want. I hope therefor tho' I can communicate nothing of value to you, yet you will kindly wellcome and receive these views and remembrances of my former delights and Company. I refresh myself with the belief, when I review the Golden Dreams of Glasgow, that I shall retain them in my remembrance, when time has brightened them and worn off all the anxieties that mixed with them. The remembrance of summer in winter, of youthfull delights in old age, of Paradise after the expulsion, and knight errands in a wilderness meeting their mistresses, may something resemble my condition when thus I forget a half years absence and constant cares amongst strangers to remember that ease, freedom and past delight I enjoyed then. But to participate with and understand me it were necessary to have felt and known the same and I believe tho' I find People take pleasure to tell their dreams, others take no delight in hearing them.
News and affairs are the most ordinary subjects of correspondence and of them, this country is as barren as of corn and plenty. There is nothing new here ; the hills stand and the rocks are piled up the same way as they opposed the shock of the flood and have since sustained thro' ages of years successions of tempests, while under them have sprung fountains and streams that constantly run with murmurs and warblings as ancient as the world itself and have given drink to far distant generations of animals, while succeeding generations of grass and woods are nourished by them, descended by an exact lineal descent from that which first clothed the world, and at its nativity raised the songs of morning stars, and has given food since to distant generations of animals of as ancient clans as the oldest Inhabitants. Thus you see there is nothing new or changes here; for nature has ever held an undisputed and uninvaded sway con
stantly here, and in these antient scenes solely reigns and retired works.
But in the variable Human Mind we do not want our novelties and curiosities. I know you love Natural History and that especially of Men and Characters. Since I nave now and in my first Letter given some account of the place and country, I shall describe two very particular characters I have met with in this country. The one is very serious the other as fantastick and comicall.
Some time ago there served in this family as Gentlewoman to My Ldy Henriett Campbell, a young woman of the gayest and most jovial (even to extravagance) temper one can imagine. She (as they express it) with her high mirth kept an whole house stirring; she had been exceeding serviceable with this temper to my Lady in her refuge in Holland when her Husband was oblidged to fly thither after 1685. Yet in these few years, she has been several times taken with the deepest blackest melancholy to that degree that for a long time she would not speak. She is now under it, and for these two years has not spoken to any but her Husband and very little to him scarce more ever than yes or no. She is married to the minister of the Paroch. She has been ever lying these two years without any other trouble almost. Such influence has it had on her and so killed her mind that last winter when Colonel Campbell (whose sons are Mr Butler's pupils) her Brother whom she particularly had loved, returned after many years absence, she seemed insensible to him and was nothing moved at the sight of him. Some pretend 'tis witchcraft that troubles her and others give reasons considering the person and her friends and station I cannot well communicate this way. This temper runs much in blood, and her Father who was an excellent minister here was liable to some melancholy damps and sometimes would shun speaking for some weeks. I have insisted on this because I think it a very remarkable experiment anent the passions and their balance, considering her change from high extravagant chearfullness to such a melancholy; which confirms that the extremes in passions are most easily convertable and shews that proportion obtains much in this balance. I think this horrible instance may be