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of such advancement be utterly denied to any individual ; if this rational source of enjoyment be entirely closed against him ; not only does life become a dreary and comfortless state of existence, but the character of the being who occupies it can never rise to its
proper standard. Such is man, in what is called the savage state; a state, not, what Poets feign, or Philosophers vainly dream, of attractive innocence and simplicity, of pure affections, guileless hearts, and instinctive propensities to virtue and goodness; but, for the most part, of brutal lust and violence, of sordid habits, of wily and insidious cunning, and other characteristic tokens of the depravity inherent in our fallen nature, more and more debased by the continued want of culture and correction.
What men thus are collectively in the savage state, such also, in a great degree, are the individuals in civilized communities, upon whom no moral or intellectual discipline has been bestowed. Though they may partake of some of the benefits which the Institutions of Society diffuse through the general mass; and though, by the coercive operation of salutary Laws and judicial Penalties, their disorderly wills and affections may be restrained from much evil which would otherwise ensue; yet these can work but ineffectually, where no higher and more potent remedies are applied. Nay, the contrast between such degraded members of the State, and those who enjoy the advantage of well-cultivated understandings, will render the wretchedness of the former so much more perceptible; and while it exhibits them almost as outcasts from the social body, it must proportionably quicken their sense of that wretchedness, and make them regard their happier fellow-members with emotions of envy, dissatisfaction, and ill-will. Hence, in countries where the distance between the high and low, the learned and the unlearned, is not filled up by some intermediate gradations, there may be observed a general propensity on the one hand to oppression and misrule, and on the other hand to disaffection and insubordination.
“ That the soul,” then, “ be without know“ ledge, it is not good.” It is neither good for the individual, nor good for the community. The ends of Society can be but very imperfectly, if at all, attained, where Ignorance prevails through any considerable portion of the State. Nor can any member of the body politic obtain his due share of the benefits of social life, where the first rudiments of instruction are wanting to qualify him for their enjoyment.
But this evil is most severely felt in the want of that salutary influence upon the mind which Religion supplies. To “ know how . 6 to be abased, and how to abound; both to “ be full, and to be hungry; both to abound, " and to suffer need ;" is not the character of an untutored mind. Nor is it the character which results from human wisdom only. It springs from a higher source. It owes its origin to that “wisdom from above,” which, while it enlightens the understanding, has power to control the will, and to regulate the affections; that, without which, the work of discipline, the real purpose of Education, can never take full effect.
This leads to the next great point for consideration,— What means may be most effectual for the removal of these evils.
Solomon intimates that there is a kind of learning productive of evil, rather than good:
“Cease, my son,” says he,“ to hear the in“struction that causeth to err from the words “ of knowledgek.” The Prophet denounces, “ Woe unto them that call evil good, and “ evil; that put darkness for light, and light “ for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and f Phil. iv. 12.
8 Prov. xix. 27.
“ sweet for bitter :" and adverting to one main cause of this perversion of the understanding, he adds, “ Woe unto them that are “wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight h..
False Knowledge is, in many respects, worse than entire Ignorance. It not only leaves the possessor uninformed as to what it most behoves him to know; but it shuts up the avenues to better instruction.
It preoccupies the space which should be more worthily filled. It inverts the order in which our several faculties were intended to exercise their functions. It renders reason the slave of
passion, appetite the arbiter of the will. It dethrones the judgment, and sets up imagination in its stead. It bewilders the mind with false views of human life, leads it to expectations never to be realized, and, after a series of anxieties and disappointments, gives up
its victims to vexation, despondency, and all the hateful passions which feelings undisciplined by religious control are wont to press upon the mind with overwhelming force.
To the prevalence of this false Knowledge, among those whose unfavourable circumstances enable them not to detect its delusions, may be ascribed the far greater
h Isa. v. 20, 21.
portion of those evils, moral and political, with which society has of late abounded in this and in other countries. The present is not, in the common acceptation of the term, an age of Ignorance. It is an age fruitful of knowledge of various kinds, and boastful of diffusing that knowledge to an extent incalculably beyond that which former ages had, perhaps, ever ventured to contemplate. So far as the mere exercise of intellectual power has been called forth, its claims are not to be gainsayed. It must be allowed, that never before were such pains taken, and successfully taken, to give to man, in the most depressed condition of his being, a consciousness of something nobler than mere animal instincts; a lively perception of that native force of intellect, which is common to all our species, though not always known or felt even by those who are as amply endowed with it as their fellows. That this sort of illumination is infinitely more extended now than heretofore, is not to be denied. And something it undoubtedly is, to have given men a juster estimate of their natural powers; to have impressed them with notions, or persuasions, which may render them more sensible of the true dignity of their nature, and of the place they hold in the scale of moral being.