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as the nursery companions of our present mischievous nursery books. It is neither rash nor unfair to say, that they do not come within the scope of reasonable and respectable criticism. Wild romance cannot be treated as doubtful truths.
Mr. Taylor will continue these readings, passing over such allusions to the birth of Jesus Christ, as will not admit of decent comment, or of such as is proper to be mentioned in a mixed company.
Mr. Carlile mentioned an apology for the introduction of the Mahometan religion to be, that, the Christian had become so very corrupt by being founded upon so wild a romance, common human decency required a change, and that change Mahomet successfully introduced into almost all those countries in which the Christian religion then existed. It was urged, that the Christian romance had grown and would grow less and less evidential by time, and more and more corrupt as it lasted, that six hundred years had so far worn it out, as to require some better and higher religious restraint among mankind. This was introduced, and it would have been well, if the Christian had been entirely subdued and checked in farther progress by the Mahometan. It has now to encounter something higher than a religious check. It has corrupted England for twelve hundred years, and since Mahometanism has never reached us, let us now try to make an amend, by introducing a system of ethics without religion, that shall be better than either. Let us now have war with all the superstition' that degrades the human mind R. C.
I have seen the article in the Leeds Mercury of Sept. 26, and again on the 3d inst. signed, "Thomas Brook," professing to report the proceedings of one of our Huddersfield Meetings; and I will next week show that Mr. Brook is not an honest and faithful reporter, by addressing to the editor of the "Leeds Mercury" such an analysis of Potter's translation of the Prometheus of Eschylus, as shall satisfy any one as to its very close resemblance to the story of the gospels. I should have liked nothing better than to have seen in the "Leeds Mercury" a faithful report of each night's proceeding in Huddersfield; but this Thomas Brook was one of our opponents, who was made to look very little in his defence of the Christian religion, and who has misrepresented the proceedings, to gratify any other spirit than a love of truth. I read several passages from the work closely applicable to the question, and failed only in finding one, which Mr. Taylor has often quoted, and which begins" Ah me, see what, a God, I suffer from the Gods." I heard an admission made the next day, that it was not a perfect copy. At any rate, I will make that sort of analysis as will falsify the report of Mr. Brook in the "Leeds Mercury." R. C.
On the Moral Improvement of Circumstances.
Delivered in the Areopagus, on Easter Sunday 1827. By the Rev, ROBERT TAYLOR, B. A. Orator of the Society:
MEN AND BRETHREN-The moral science is the ultimate and
One self-approving hour, whole years outweighs,
Who noble ends, by noble means attains,
Or failing, smiles in dungeons and in chains;
The great counsel and purpose of nature to evolve and bring forth the moral capabilities of man, may be traced from the very first origination of animal life, even in the most inferior works of creation. All is elementary, all subsidiary and preparative to the grand ulterior production of a mind. The universe is the theatre, all the world the stage, all creatures else, the servants and the instruments of the scene; but man is the hero of great nature's drama. 'Twill be my particular happiness, should I live to see
the day, when the storm of persecution now hanging over me, shall have left my mind to that tranquillity, which, philosophical pursuits so essentially require, to bring before you the physiological demonstrations to which I am pledged to trace out this great propositum of nature, in the phenomena of comparative anatomy, and thus to introduce you into the sublime temple of moral virtue, as founded upon its only basis, physical and mathematical science. 'Twill not be very easy to fail of being a good man, and consequently a happy one, when you shall find that nothing but ignorance, mistake, and infirmity, can produce an aberration from the mathematical line of moral rectitude, that virtue is nothing more than a highly cultivated reason, and that right heartily to wish to be virtuous, is accomplishment enough to set out with, for making sure of being so.
As all the laws of physical life, so all the circumstances in which man is at any time placed, subserve the great purpose of producing his moral character. Man is therefore with philosophical propriety, said to be the creature of his circumstances, as certainly taking the complexion of his mind, as he does the strength or weakness of his body from the operation of those circumstances upon him.
It will be hereafter (if my Christian persecutors shall hereafter forgive me the offence, which I cannot now recall if I would) that I shall analyze the moral indications of physical phenomena. I shall now endeavour to point out the moral improvement of existing circumstances, of whose uncontrolable operation on the mind, you have what the anatomists would call a preparation before you, exhibiting the immense difficulty, with which a mind much pressed on by the weight of those circumstances, could apply itself to any other. It is in proportion as the mind can command the power of diverting itself from the impression of present circumstances, and exercise an election and choice of the ideas that it will entertain, that it is estimated as a strong or weak mind. We absurdly give, or take credit to ourselves, for our enjoyment of a degree of self-possession, or a mental serenity, to which we could contribute no more, than we can to the temperature of the weather. The problem, from the impossibility of calculating the degree in which the pressure operates, and the sensibility of the mind to its operation, will always remain incapable of solution: these must be the two given quantities in the quadratic, to find out the resulting third, upon which censure shall be just. We may congratulate a man, but cannot praise him for being of a strong mind-we may pity, but ought not to blame him for being of a weak one.
In the strong impressions supposed to operate on the mind of the lover, his perfect passiveness and utter incapacity to abstract himself from the force of those impressions, has been recognised in all ages, and adorned in the similar fictions of the pastoral
poetry of all nations. The swain is ever supposed to be the creature of his mistress. He is said to be absent from the company with which he is surrounded, and lives in a world of her creation; and so to be sure
"If Delia frowns, all nature mourns, the skies descend in showers, Hushed are the birds, and closed the drooping flowers.
If Delia smiles, the flowers begin to spring,
The skies to brighten, and the birds to sing."
It is from this law of nature, that conscience derives its power to punish. The guilty man is haunted by the personified remembrance of his crime, and cannot abstract himself from the censure of that moral justice, which we see in this instance directly ori ginating in the laws of his physical organization.
"Evasisse putes quos diri conscia facti
Mens habet attonitos, et surdo verbere cædit
"Think'st thou the wretch whom human laws release,
With horror fills the astonished soul, and shakes
A scorpion whip unseen by human eyes,
The victim of oppression, as well as the oppressor, will in like manner be irresistibly overborne, by the strong impression of the wrongs that he hath suffered, especially while a continuance and aggravation of those wrongs hangs still like the threatening cloud of impending vengeance over his head. Thus, supposing any man to have been thrown into a prison on a cold winter's night, where he had almost died of cold, and not to be released the next day, because that was Sunday, and it would be a sin you know to do a good natured act of a Sunday. Nay, I have heard, (and a most commendable example it is for this whole city to follow) that there are those who have their dinners cooked on a Saturday night, preferring to have their mutton cold, for the sake of getting their gospel hot.
I am only supposing a case; but supposing that when after the man that had been so thrown into prison, had expected his release on the Monday, he was sent back again to prison till the Wednesday, only because it COULD be done, by a merciless stretch of arbitrary power, what impressions would become predominant in that man's mind? How naturally and irresistibly would all the objects of his senses take a complexion from the medium of his just resentment. Every ugly unyielding stone that stumbled him in his path, would seem to be a lord mayor set in bass-relief, (hard as his heart, and senseless as his understanding) every death's head in the church yard, so the teeth were out, would look like a grinning city solicitor, presenting the hideousness of a memento mori, impregnant of its moral. As it is impossible not to see, in such a sketch, the almost mechanical operation of
the circumstances supposed upon the mind, and utterly beyond the province of moral science to contravene that operation, the province of morals will be, to bring the mind back again, by what is called reflection, to operate in its turn, upon the circumstances that have operated upon it.*
This reflex action of the mind upon the circumstances that are compulsory and irresistible upon itself, though infinitely weaker, is of more permanent effect, and of more happy indication, than any impression of circumstances upon the mind; and this faculty of bringing the mind back again into re-action, upon that which first acted on itself, so tritely expressed in the common proverb, "when you cannot bring your circumstances to your mind, you must bring your mind to your circumstances," is the identical principle that constitutes the moral nature in man, and renders him capable of becoming, not merely what his circumstances have made him, but what he may be said to make himself; and thus attaining continual improvement and advancement in wisdom and virtue, taking his lesson from his circumstances, his wisdom from that lesson-an economy of nature so nobly expressed by our great poet, who has scarce left any thing that is noble unexpressed
"The icy fang
And churlish chiding of the winter's wind,
Which when it bites and blows upon my body,
That feelingly persuade me what I am.
Sweet are the uses of adversity,
Which like the toad, ugly and venomous,
Wears yet a precious jewel in his head :
And this our life, exempt from public haunt,
Finds tongues in trees, books in the running stream,
This great moral chemistry, (if that figure be allowed me) obeys the law of that physical economy, whereby in all actions that are of long continuance, it is the soft and yielding body that operates upon the hard one-it is the tendon that works its groove and pulley upon the bone-it is the drop of water that wears away the flint-it is the cap of the skull, the very hardest substance in the animal machine, that is scooped, grooved out, and moulded by the brain, which is the very softest.
Nature, seeming hereby to indicate that there should be no triumph without conflict, and that virtue in man should be the result, in like manner, of the patient acting of his soft and tender structure, upon the acerbities and asperities of his situation.
The circumstances alluded to, are the exceeding cruel, and Christian treatment, which the author suffered from the then Lord Mayor, Alderman Brown, and Solicitor Newman, in commencement of the late prosecution før blasphemy.
No. 15.-Vol. 4.