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in an endless despair of ever knowing their beginning or their end. All things are called out of nothing, and carried onward to infinity. Who can follow in this endless race ?
The Author of these wonders comprehends them. No other can.
This state which occupies the mean between two extremes, shews itself in all our powers.
Our senses will not admit any thing extreme. Too much noise confuses us, too much light dazzles, too great distance or nearness prevents vision, too great prolixity or brevity weakens an argument, too much pleasure gives pain, too much accordance annoys. We relish neither extreme heat, nor extreme cold. All excessive qualities are injurious to us, and not perceptible. We do not feel them, we suffer them. Extreme youth and extreme age alike enfeeble the mind; too much or too little nourishment weakens its operations; by too much or too little instruction it becomes stupid. Extreme things are not ours, any more than if they were not; we are not made for them. Either they escape us, or we them.
This is our real condition. It is this which confines our knowledge within certain limits that we cannot pass, being equally incapable of universal knowledge, or of total ignorance; we are placed in a vast medium ; ever floating uncertainly between ignorance and knowledge: if we attempt to go farther forward, our object wavers and eludes our grasp-it retires and flies with an eternal flight, and nothing can stay its course.
This is our natural condition; yet it is ever opposed to our inclination. We burn with desire to sound the utmost depth, and to raise a fabric that shall reach infinity. But all we build up crumbles, and the earth opens in a fathomless abyss beneath our deepest foundation.
2. I can readily conceive of a man without hands or feet; and I could conceive of him without a head, if experience had not taught me that by this he thinks. Thought then is the essence of man, and without this we cannot conceive of him.
What is it in us which feels pleasure? Is it the hand ? the arm? the flesh ? the blood ? It must be something immaterial.
3. Man is so great, that his greatness appears even in the consciousness of his misery. A tree does not know itself to be miserable. It is true that it is misery indeed to know one's self to be miserable ; but then it is greatness also. In this way, all man's miseries go to prove his greatness. They are the miseries of a mighty potentate of a dethroned monarch.
4. What man is unhappy because he is not a king, except a king dethroned. Was Paulus Emilius considered miserable that he was no longer consul. On the contrary every one thought that he was happy in having it over, for it was not his condition to be always consul. But Perseus, whose permanent state should have been royalty, was considered to be so wretched in being no longer a king, that men wondered how he could endure life. Who complains of having only one mouth? Who would not complain of having but one eye? No man mourns that he has not three eyes; yet each would sorrow deeply if he had but one.
5. We have so exalted a notion of the human soul, that we cannot bear to be despised by it, or even not to be esteemed it. Man, in fact, places all his happiness in this esteem,
If on the one hand this false glory that men seek after is a mark of their misery and degradation, it is on the other a proof of their excellence. For whatever possessions a man has on the earth, and whatever health or comfort he enjoys, he is not satisfied without the esteem of his fellow-men. He rates so highly the human mind, that whatever be his worldly advantages, if he does not stand, as well also in man's estimation, he counts himself wretched. That position is the loveliest spot in the world. Nothing can eradicate the desire for it. And this quality is the most indelible in the human heart; so that even those who most thoroughly despise men, and consider them equal with the brutes, still wish to be admired by them; their feelings contradict their principles. Their nature which is stronger than their reasonings, convinces them more forcibly of the greatness of man, than their reason can do of his vileness.
6. Man is but a reed; and the weakest in nature; but then he is a reed that thinks. It does not need the universe to crush him : a breath of air, a drop of water will kill him. But even if the material universe should overwhelm him, man would be more noble than that which destroys him; because he knows that he dies, while the universe knows nothing of the advantage which it obtains over him.
Our true dignity then, consists in thought. From thence we must derive our elevation, not from space or duration. Let us endeavour then to think well; this is the principle of morals.
7. It is dangerous to shew man unreservedly how nearly he resembles the brute creation, without pointing
out, at the same time, his greatness. It is dangerous also to exhibit his greatness exclusively, without his degradation. It is yet more dangerous to leave him ignorant of both, but it is highly profitable to teach him both together.
8. Let man then rightly estimate himself-let him love himself, for he has a nature capable of good; but yet let him not love the evils that he finds there. Let him despise himself, because this capacity is without an object; but let him not on that account despise the natural capacity itself. Let him both love and hate himself. There is in him the power of discerning truth, and of being happy, but he is not in possession of certain and satisfying truth. I would lead man to desire to find truth, to sit loose to his passions, and to be ready to follow truth wherever he may find it; and knowing how sadly his powers of comprehension are clouded by his passions, I would wish him to hate in himself that concupiscence which overrules his judgment, that henceforth it may not blind him in making his choice, nor impede his progress when he has chosen.
9. I blame with equal severity those who elevate man, those who depress him, and those who think it right merely to divert him. I can only approve of those who seek in tears for happiness.
The stoics say, Turn in upon yourselves, and there you will find your repose. This however is not true. Others say, Go forth from yourselves, and seek for happiness in diversion. This is not true either. Disease will come. Alas ! happiness is neither within us, nor without us. It is in the union of ourselves with God.
10. There are two ways of regarding human nature, one according to the end of man, and then it is grand and incomprehensible; the other according to his habits, as we judge of the nature of a horse or a dog, by the habit of observing his going, and then man is abject and vile. It is owing to these two different ways that philosophers judge so differently, and dispute so keenly; for one denies what the other assumes. One says, man is not born for this noble end; for all his actions are opposed to it. The other says, when he commits such base and grovelling actions, he wanders from the end of his being. Instinct and experience, taken together, shew to man the whole of what he is,
11. I feel that I might not have been; for when I speak of myself, I mean my thinking being ; and I, who think, would not have been, if my mother had been killed before I was quickened. Then I am not a necessary being, nor am I eternal, nor infinite; but I see clearly that there is in nature, a being who is necessary, eternal, infinite.
THE VANITY OF MAN.
WE are not satisfied with the life that we have in ourselves in our own peculiar being. We wish to live also an ideal life in the mind of others; and for this purpose, we constrain ourselves to put on appearances. We labour incessantly to adorn and sustain this ideal being, while we
eglect the real And if we possess any degree of