Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors]

1

future state, and can know but extremely little of the peculiar occupations and pleasures of it. I am firmly perfuaded likewife, as I obferved in a late discourse, that most of our knowledge, confidered as knowledge, of whatever fpecies or kind it may be, must there fall away as totally useless; and that in this refpect the enlightened man, the man enriched with all the treasures of learning, will have no great advantage over the unlettered and ignorant. This however is very certain, that our future life is linked to the present, that it is a fequel of it, that the degree of inward perfection we here attain will determine the point of perfection of which we fhall there be capable. This however is very certain, that in that, as well as in the present state, we shall think, fhall investigate truth, perceive truth: that we fhall do all this as men, and that it will be fo much the more eafy or difficult for us to do this, we fhall do it fo much better or worse, as we have more or lefs exercised ourselves in it here: accordingly, whatever exercifes us in thought, whatever promotes intellectual perfection; therefore muft great, er proficiency in intellectual improvement as the strongest incentive and the best means to that end, be preparative to that superior state; therefore muft enlightened times have a real and great value in this respect also. Are we already in this world, the children of light; do we here already live in the kingdom of light; are we eagerly defirous of every ray of it, however feeble: then must we become

the

the fitter for its brighter influx, for its perfect fplendor, in a better world!

This will fuffice, my pious hearers, for difplaying the great value of a confiderable progrefs in intellectual acquirements, and for placing it beyond all doubt. Let us now proceed to draw a few inferences from it in regard to our conduct.

If you are fenfible to the worth of this intellectual advancement, use all diligence to turn that portion of it you are bleffed with to moft profit; and cause it to produce in you that good which it has a tendency to produce. The more enlightened the times and the people, in which, and amongst whom you live; the more should you be afhamed of ignorance, of fuperftition, of implicit faith, of thoughtleffness and indifference in reference to matters which it behoves all men, and confequently you, to know. Therefore, shut not your eyes against the light that fhines around you. Walk not in darkness, fince the day begins to appear. In regions where all is dark, where ignorance and fuperftition prevail without controul: there no man indeed need be afhamed of being ignorant and fuperftitious, to grope his way in the dark, and to stumble or fall at every step he takes ; for there one is as impotent and wretched as another, and yet neither believes himself either wretched or weak. But, to prefer darkness to the light that beams upon our eyes; to ftumble and to fall in a path irradiated by the fun, as though it were shrouded in the deepest night; to remain still igno

P 4

rant

rant and fuperftitious amidst all the means to knowledge and a rational faith; this indeed degrades a man, this renders him grofsly criminal. And this, my dear friends, may be more or lefs the cafe with you. "The night is far spent," may we likewise exclaim to you with an apoftle, the night is far fpent; "the day is at hand," the dawn has already. appeared: "it is high time to awake out of fleep." The time is over and gone, when free reflection and inquiry was a crime, and implicit belief meritorious: none of you, except by his own fault, can be deficient in means and inducements to reflection, to refearch, to the augmentation and improvement of his knowledge. Avail yourselves of thefe means and inducements, use them like men endowed with reafon, and as chriftians who are called to liberty. Remain not fupine on the spot where tradition, where vulgar prejudice and old wives' faws delivered down from age to age have brought you, as if they were the boundaries of all human knowledge. Implicitly follow no human leader; from children proceed to be men, who are learning to think for themselves, to go alone, and to proceed with a firm and steady ftep along the path of truth. To think and act upon th roughly tried and fure principles; conftantly to be pursuing greater light, farther certainty; to love truth above all things and to receive it with an open heart, without regard to prevailing opinions and outward circumftances, as it appears to you: is what should diftinguish you from lefs enlightened

men,

men, and your times from the times of ignorance and darkness.

Farther. If you confefs the great value of intellectual improvement to a nation, then let every one of you promote it according to his station and in proportion to his abilities. Particularly you who are teachers of the people, or are farther advanced in knowledge than the reft. But do it with that prudence and affection, which should guide and actuate us in all our affairs, and most in the most important. Every man is not capable of every truth. Every manner of producing and of diffeminating even the most generally useful truths, is not the beft. Few perfons are ftrong and liberal minded enough at once to comprehend and adopt and make a proper use of truths hitherto unknown to them, or even a considerable part of them. A bright effulgence of light, not making its approaches by degrees, but fuddenly intromitted in all its force, frequently dazzles more than it enlightens. No, in the moral as in the natural world, the tranfition from the darkness of night to the full blaze of noon must come on by degrees, if mankind are to enjoy that light, and not be forced to fhut their eyes. against it. Take heed then not to favour falfehood and error by any means; and still more, not to profefs and to teach them as verity. This is horrible high-treafon against truth, and debafes every man that does it, even though he do it in really good in tentions. But you need not therefore directly con

tend

[ocr errors]

--

tend against every error; not furiously attack everything that either is or appears to you to deferve that name: otherwife, you may at the fame time fhake the foundations of truth, which is often in more than one respect connected with error, and thus bar it from all access to the heart. As little need you bestow or obtrude every truth, without distinction or exception, upon every human mind. As every kind of grain will not flourish in every foil, so neither is every truth adapted to the comprehenfion of every individual. Even the proper field requires previ ous culture before it can be fown with can be fown with any reafonable expectation of a plentiful harvest. — Are you ambitious of contributing to the intellectual improvement of your brethren, begin by fetting their attention and curiofity in motion; bring them to the conscious fenfe of their imperfections, their intellectual wants; induce them to think for themfelves and affift them in their reasonings: conduct them to the track of truth, and remove the principal impediments and obftructions out of their way; make them fee what they already know and believe in a clearer light, or understand it with greater perfpicuity, and thus accustom them to think with calmnefs and precifion, and make them defirous of greater light. By this means you will best carry on your attacks against levity, floth, fenfuality, indifferency in religious matters, the low, fervile fear of man, falfe fcrupulofity, hypocritical piety; and thus ftop up the fprings of error and fuperftition. Render

truth

« ForrigeFortsæt »