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So there could be no truth, where there was no reason. reason, resulting only from the mind's perception of a comparison and relation of things to each other; it follows, that truth is not made up of a machinery of words, nor to be measured by their absolute correctness or incorrectness. Nor is it in any proposition, abstractly, that the truth, is so that any man might have a right to say, "this is truth to my mind, and therefore it shall be truth to yours." It is in the mind's perception itself, and like the value of money, exists just in the moment of con
Man possesses this faculty of truth; it is the highest excellence of his rational nature; and his richest preception of dignity and happiness, is in the exercise of it.
I come now therefore, to the consideration of the moral obligations which our occupation of this inestimable talent, binds upon us. These are, 1st. Our high esteem. 2nd. Our diligent improvement. And 3rd. Our consistent exercise of it.
1st-The obligation of entertaining ever an high esteem of the value and importance of this faculty of communicating and receiv ing knowledge, is determined by the same fitness and propriety of sentiment which determines our self-love, and makes us dear to ourselves. It is involved in the possession of the faculty itself, which, not to perceive, would be, not to possess: and the absence of which, would be as unnatural and monstrous as an error, in an arithmetical calculation.
"But heaven doth with us, as we with torches do,
Not light them for themselves, but for their use;
Nor Nature never lends the smallest portion of her excellence,
But like a thrifty goddess, she determines
They who have this faculty, will love this faculty, and they who have it most, will prize it best. The principle and motive which will always sufficiently influence a wise and good man, to be veracious and faithful in his communications, to let his yea, be yea, and his nay, nay, in all cases where the terms of the covenant are, that they should be so; are a principle and motive, of which all religious persons are not only necessarily destitute, but to which religion itself, in every form of it that hath ever existed, is necessarily and diametrically opposed."
The practice of truth, is, to the moral man, insured in the love of truth, in his perception of its excellence and beauty, his mind's delight in it, and his heart's only possible satisfaction in the perception of it. And his want of perception of it, is attended with a feeling of a physical rather than of moral defect, as if his hand had failed to retain its grasp on what it held, or his stumbling foot had slipt from the intended place of its position. On the contrary, the religionist supposes himself to discharge the paramount duty of his faith, in resigning his mind to indistinct impres
sions, in ascribing certainty to uncertainty, distinctness to indistinctness, and making himself very sure, where he is very sure that he has no reason to be sure of any thing. The man of faith, "seeth the things which are invisible:" and very fine things, I dare say, he takes 'em to be. The man of truth, seeth nothing, but what there is to be seen, and takes it just as he finds it.
The eternal contrariety therefore, and everlasting opposition of religion and morality, to each other, can never be too strongly insisted on, nor too steadily maintained before the mind's observance. In every respect they are at variance with each otherbut in none so entirely as in the article of the moral virtue of truth.
The love of truth, is fatal to religion. Because it will always make a man as unwilling to impose upon himself, as to impose upon another. Nay more so; because, when he has imposed upon another, the fault, how great soever, may be still amended; but he who has once surrendered his own mind to what is, or what may be, a delusion; can recover himself no more, cannot repair the mischief he hath done, but, like the pest-infected robe, spreads contagion and death, in the innocence of his stupidity. For ye will observe, that the first place of truth, in the great commerce of human communication, is necessarily in the bill of invoice and if not there-'tis out of the question for ever.
Such as the chattels are which the mind takes in-such it will send out again. To expect a man to be very particular, in not uttering falshoods, who makes no scruple of believing them: is like asking for a commodity at a shop, where you know that they don't deal in it.
If our love of truth be, as it ought to be, right, hearty, and sincere, we shall love it in all persons, but most of all in ourselves. Our indignation and contempt of all the mean and pitifu arts of chicane and sophistry, will be tempered with a philosophical compassion for the imbecility of nature-and regret for the really to be pitied, and greatly to be lamented degradation of the sophisticating quibbler and shallow-minded falsifier. Alas! they know not what they lose, nor calculate at how dear a price they purchase their poor triumphs. The conscious sophisticator sinks in his own esteem, and feels his dribbling littleness of soul, hang on him beyond the power of cosmetics, to wash-off, or of varnishes, to grace.
The ready and easy believer, as being the worst of falsifiers, the most grievous offender against nature, in the capital crime of palming a lie upon himself, and being willing to be decieved, or what is the same thing, not being willing to be undeceived, when he is decieved; is punished by nature; in having so much of his nature taken from him: he loses the capacity at last of discerning the truth; and would'nt see it-tho' it stood before him, as big as huge Olympus. Ye cannot indeed, convince such an one of his
errors, nor show him the disparagements he has incurred; for that would be to give him back the faculties he has lost. The palsy of the mind, contented idiotcy, and babyhood in whiskers, must be his fate for ever.
Our duty of highly esteeming the faculty of perceiving the truth, will stand in eternal inhibition of any prostitution of our powers of attention or of communication, to purposes of which truth is not the object.
The powers of communication, contracted as they are in their widest range of operation, and feeble in the strongest, will never endure the being played with, from the purpose of their destination. Our love of truth, will forbid our ever arguing, merely for arguing sake, or countenancing those who do so.
This brings me to the second moral obligation involved in our possession of the faculty of truth, which is, our duty of diligently improving the faculty.
2nd-Like all the inferior and animal faculties, this, the distinguishing one of the mind, has its various states of health and disease, vigour and impotence, may be prodigiously and incalculably strengthened by discipline; and will be enervated and destroyed, by idleness and neglect.
We observe and admire, with the strictest propriety, the painter's eye, the sculptor's touch, and the musician's ear, discovering niceties of perception, of which the eyes, hands, and ears of persons not exercised in those arts, appear to have no capacity.
The eye of an exquisite artist, will glisten with raptures of satisfaction, and in a moment dance along the lines of beauty, and trace lights, shades, and harmonies, where eyes to all other intents and purposes, as wide awake as his own, can see nothing but red and yellow paint. And the musical ear, in the notes of a Catalani, or a Braham, luxuriates in an Elysium of its own creation, and seems to listen to the harp of Orpheus, that charmed the dead-or to Apollo's lute, that woke the sleeping gods,-where ears not musical heard nothing but a noise.
Here, we see the demonstration, that there are faculties in man, which if not originally created by art, so entirely owe their evolution and expansion, and all the consequent capacities of pleasure and enjoyment of which they are the means, to their cultivation only-that but for that cultivation, they would, comparatively at least, have had no existence at all.
And in demonstration as certain, it will be found, that the HISTORICAL FACULTY, or art of perceiving and communicating truth, by which the mind acquires to itself still higher perceptions of rational pleasure, and enlarges its sphere of existence, may be prodigiously cultivated, and come to command a range of powers as wholly beyond the tether of ordinary minds, as the St. Paul's cathedral surpasses the mud-built cabin of a savage.
It is in the highest degree problematical, whether the senses themselves would bring in an accurate report to the mind, or would long continue to do so, if there were no pains or care taken to audit their account, and to compare their notes of evidence. And if nature, in the imperfection of our senses, has indicated our duty of receiving even their testimony, with suspicion, and not till 'tis confirmed by corroborating testimony, what crime can be more against nature, than that of implicit believing, or surrendering our mind's conviction to the testimony of others. For, after the good reason which we have to doubt the evidence of our own senses; the very first remove from intui, tion, the narrative of the immediate witness, multiplies the chances against our perception of truth, by the square, and if it should happen, that we would receive his testimony, without the suspicion to which we are bound to subject even our own senses,-there's an end to the multiplication of the chances against truth: for there's no chance left for truth on the other side of the equation.
And supposing the absolute truth, to be perfectly perceived, and fixed in the mind of the witness himself: (which is a great deal to suppose) the moment the witness becomes an historian, and attempts to convey to another mind, the impressions which exists in his own-you have his ability as well as his integrity to call in question.
Without the least intention to deceive you, he may not possess the communicative faculty, and may therefore produce one impression when he really intended to produce another: as a child, for the want of skill in the art of drawing, will chalk you out something like a four-legged stool for a horse, forgetting his head and tail: the child's ability in such a performance being not further removed from the ultimate perception attained by a Raphael, a Titian. or a West; than the faculty of perceiving and communicating truth, in an uncultivated mind, is from what it would be found to be, in one that was duly and highly cultivated.
So that, in all cases in which you would desire to discover truth from the testimony of another, the first enquiry is, to ascertain his competence to perceive it himself; and the second, to ascertain his competence to express what he has perceived; and the third, your own competence, to receive what he has expressed.
Would you bring the faculty to a high degree of perfection in yourself: the terms are, your own diligent improvement of itand the means of that improvement, are
1st--Your heedful avoidance of all those disparaging and counteracting causes which you see operating so fatally against the discriminating faculty, in others: and
2nd-Your careful study and habit of familiarizing yourself with the contemplation of things, which are true-your frequent
basking in the sunshine of that unspeakable satisfaction, which the perception of any thing which is true, never fails to give, and your established usage of comparing all the approximating or receding degrees of probability, with the unerring standard of mathematical certainty, and measuring out the degree of your mind's consent, to the exact proportion of the degree of probability. -Now on the negative side; of things to be avoided, in order to prevent our being mischievously and ruinously interrupted in the great business and duty of improving our faculty of perceiving and communicating truth: 'tis evident, that we should waste as little of our time as possible, on the innumerable blockheads and boobies, who never having perceived the beauty of truth themselves, would seriously pester us with such fool's questions, as what's your opinion of a future state? what will become of your soul when you die? what do you think of God? All which questions, and all of the nature of which, are the dunce's and booby's embattlements, thrown up to shelter himself from the invasion of an idea. No man who sincerely sought for information, would ever think of asking for it, from those whom he knew could have no more means of information than himself. To go to school, where you know before hand that there's nothing to be learned is just exactly the way to make sure of coming from your school, just as wise as you went.
Another, and perhaps still more fatal impediment to the faculty of perceiving truth, is the argumentum ad ignorantiam: or argument to your ignorance, whereby, the enemies to the cultivation of the human mind, press you, and would oppress you, with the painful consciousness of your own impotence, and of the narrow limits of the human capacity. "You know not, (say they) the nature of your own existence; you understand not the structure of a blade of grass; and therefore, infer they, you should shut your eyes and open your mouth, to see what God will send you." For this is in reality the meaning, and the whole and entire meaning, gist, and drift of all systems of faith, that were ever proposed to man.
These are the discouragements in the pursuit of truth, most heedfully to be avoided. Now for the positive cultivation of the faculty both of perceiving and communicating truth, I would most earnestly recommend, as the first initiatory exercise of the mind, the study of logic, which is the art of reasoning, connected with the study of rhetoric, which is the art of expressing our reasoning. The inseparable connection of these arts, is One of the most striking phenomena in the development of the human mind. If you express any one idea of your mind, with precision and fidelity; the mind, elated with the consciousness of having done so, instantly puts itself forth in a second exertion: and thus proceeds to enlarge its capacities, ad infinitum.
The best treatise of Logic in the world, is the elements of Euclid. Duncan's logic. will supply you with the technicalities