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The Author of the following Sermon would not have deemed it necessary to trouble the reader with any Prefatory remak, had he not found from private conversation, that his meaning on one point has been misunderstood. He takes this occasion of declaring, what will indeed be clear from mere perusal of the Sermon, that nothing could be farther from his intention than the presuming to offer any objection to the pursuit of Mathematical Science. Considered as an engine of education, no man can doubt its signal power to educe and exercise
some of the most valuable faculties of the human mind.
It ought, however, to be always remembered, that when viewed in that light, this cultivation and exercise of the intellect are its main objects, and that the results of the pursuit, however valuable in themselves, are in this view only of secondary importance.
One word may perhaps be added without impropriety, as to the sentiments expressed in the Sermon with reference to Experimental Philosophy. None but a madman can be blind to its advantages in some respects, or can wish that it should be neglected or undervalued; but the object in the present day
is to exalt it above other pursuits, to make it the exclusive object, to force it on the attention of all, and to devote to it minds capable of far better and higher things. These are honors to which it has no pretensions from any sort of service which it can render to man's intellect, or his higher interests, they are honors likely to do extensive mischief, by misleading and misdirecting the young and the ardent, and every man who foresees the evil is bound in conscience to utter his earnest, though it should be his feeble protestation, against it.
In conclusion, it must be said that the following Discourse considers only which of two given paths leads most to intellectual and moral elevation; but it by no means asserts that the improvement of the intellect is the requisite condition of the moral amelioration of mankind. Christianity certainly reverses the order, when it teaches that they who would understand the doctrine of God, must do his will.
THE TENDENCY OF PREVALENT OPINIONS
ABOUT KNOWLEDGE CONSIDERED.
ECCLES. III. 2.
No man can find out the work, which God maketh, from
the beginning to the end.
In estimating the actual state of Religion, in any country or period, and enquiring how it was produced, it too often happens that attention is addressed only to causes of direct operation. Direct errors in belief obtain instant notice and regard, and meet with instant refutation at our hands, while others are entirely overlooked because their influence is only indirect, although, perhaps, far more dangerous than that of a single error of faith. For in this latter case, the principles of belief may be untainted though erroneously exerted, while in the other, although the canker is not obvious to the eye, the fruit may be poisoned to the
An obvious instance of the justice of this remark presents itself, in the influence exercised over our modes of thinking on religious matters, by the prevalent notions as to knowledge and intellect. The confession may, perhaps, be painful to him who considers Religion with the honor due to her, but it cannot be denied, that, practically, men's method of regarding Religion is too much influenced by their modes of thinking on other subjects. The case indeed is really this, that although man consists of an higher and a lower part, and is, in fact, the denizen of a spiritual and a sensual world, although in the order of truth, the higher should ever give the law and the rule to the lower, and the sensual ever give place to the spiritual, yet the lower and the sensual have this great advantage, that they are perpetually pressed on our notice, that they must gain our attention, that in this everyday world they will be heard.
And this advantage is abused till they gain the dominion, and the higher part is either neglected, or, if it gain regard, is judged by the laws, and subjected to the influence of the lower constituents of man. Thus it is that men are guided too often in their Religious Creed by their habits of thinking on the daily occupations of their minds or bodies, and thus mightily important, therefore, does it become, that even on minor matters there should be a due regulation of the mind, and that no false or partial habits of thinking or judging on subjects perhaps intrinsically of little importance, should betray us into errors in that which is most important of all.
In looking to the state of things in our own days, we must not indeed forget that it is ever the propensity of man to judge with harshness of the age and men among whom he lives, and to proclaim and lament the faults which his constant and heedful observation