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it is to design a tower like that of Babel, which, if it were possible, as it is not, to reach heaven, would come to nothing by the confusion of the workmen. For every man is building a several way; impotently conceited of his own model and his own materials: reason is always striving, and always at a loss; and of necessity it must so come to pass, while it is exercised about that which is not its proper object. Let us be content at last to know God by his own methods ; at least, so much of him as he is pleased to reveal to us in the sacred Scriptures: to apprehend them to be the word of God, is all our reason has to do ; for all beyond it is the work of faith, which is the seal of heaven impressed upon our human understanding.
John Locke, the eminent philosophical writer, was born at Wrington, in Somersetshire, on the 29th of August, 1632. He was educated at Westminster school, and at the age of nineteen entered the University of Oxford. He applied himself with great diligence to the study of classical literature, and to the philosophical works of Bacon and Descartes. He made choice of medicine as a profession, and after taking his degrees in the arts, he practised for a short time in the university. But he was soon compelled to relinquish it from the weakness of his constitution.
In 1664 he visited Berlin, as secretary to the English minister; but after a year he returned 10 Oxford, where he formed an acquaintance with Lord Ashley, afterwards the Earl of Shaftesbury, and accepted his invitation to reside in his house; where he became acquainted with some of the most eminent men of the day. Here he drew up a constitution for the government of South Carolina, which province had been granted by Charles II, to Lord Ashley, with seven others. In 1670 he commenced his investigations in metaphysical philosophy, and laid the plan of that great work, his « Essay on the Human Understanding." In 1675, being apprehensive of consumption, Locke went to Montpelier, in France, and after residing there four years, he was invited to England by the Earl of Shaftesbury, who had been restored to favor and appointed presiilent of the new council. But this prosperity was not of long duration, for in 1682 the earl was obliged to flee to Holland, to avoid a prosecution for high treason. Locke followed his patron, where, even after his death, he continued to reside, for the hostility felt towards Shaftesbury was transferred to Locke. On the Revolution of 1688, he returned with the fleet that brought over the Prince of Orange; and accepted the offer of apartments in the house of his friend Sir Francis Masham, in Oates, in Essex, where he resided for the remainder of his life, devoting it mostly to the study of the Scriptures, and died on the 28th of October, 1704.
1 The main provisions of his constitntion were, that "all men are free and equal by nature," and that "the object of government is the security of persons and property." What a melancholy reflection it is, that a state which can trace its constitutional history to such a man as John Locke, should hold more than half of its population as "challels personal, to all intents, constructions, and Trurposes whatsoever."
The great work of Locke, and that which has immortalized his name, is (1.) bis . Essay concerning Human Understanding.” It applies the Baconian method of observation and experience to establish a theory of human knowledge, showing that we have no innate ideas; that the only source of our knowledge is experience; that this experience is twofold, either internal or external, according as it is employed about sensible objects or the operations of our minds; and hence that there are two kinds of ideas,-ideas of sensation, and ideas of reflection. These positions, with many others collateral and connected, this great work establishes on a basis that can never be shaken.
His other works, scarcely inferior in value and importance to his “ Essay," are, (2.) * On the Reasonableness of Christianity," published in 1695. This was intended to aid the reigning monarch, William III., in his design to reconcile and unite all sects of professing Christians; and accordingly, the object of the tract was to determine what, amid so many conflicting views of religion, were the points of belief common to all. (3.) “ Letters on Toleration.” (4.) “ Two Treatises on Civil Government,” in defence of the Revolution, and in answer to the partisans of the exiled king, who called the existing government a usurpation. In this he maintains conclusively, that the legitimacy of a government depends solely and ultimately on the popular sanction, or the consent of men, making use of their reason, to unite and form societies. (5.) “ Thoughts on Education.” (6.) “ A Discourse on Miracles." (7.) “ Paraphrases, with notes, of the Epistles of St. Paul,” together with, (8.) an “ Essay for the Understanding of St. Paul's Epistles, by consulting St. Paul himself.” To these were added many minor treatises, with that most useful book, entitled " A New Method of a Common-Place Book.”
As to the style of Locke, Dr. Drake makes the following just remarks: * The diction he has adopted is, in general, such as does honor to his judg. ment. Relinquishing ornament and studied cadences, he is merely solicitous to convey his isleas with perspicuity and precision. No affectation, no conceits, no daring metaphors or inverted periods, disfigure his pages; all is clear, easy, and natural, exhibiting a plain and simple style accommodated to the purposes of philosophy."
As to his personal character, it was in complete harmony with the opinions, political, moral, and religious, which he so zealously and so ably advocated. A more happy combination of the Christian, the gentleman, and the scholar, has, perhaps, never been exhibited than in the person of this distinguished philosopher. While his talents were devoted to works which take the highest rank in English literature, liis pure and virtuous life gave the most satisfactory proof of the practical efficacy of a piety, the sincerity of which was clearly proved by his efforts to show that all the parts of the Christian system are reconcilable to human reason.
PRACTICE AND HABIT. We are born with faculties and powers capable almost of any thing, such at least as would carry us farther than can be easily imagined; but it is only the exercise of those powers which gives us ability and skill in any thing, and leads us towards perfection.
1 "Few books," says Sir James Mackintosli, "have contributed more to rectify prejudice, to underinine established errors, to diffuse a just mode of thinking, to excite a fearless spirit of inquiry, and ret to contain it within the boundaries which nature has prescribed to the human understanding."
2 " His writings have diffused throughout the civilized world the love of civil liberty; the spirit of oleration and charity in religious differences; the disposition to reject whatever is obscure, fantastic, or hypothetical in speculation; to abandon problems which admit of no solution; to distrust whatever cannot be clearly expressed; and to prefer those studies which most directly contribute to Jurnan happiness." --Sir James Mackintosh.
A middle-aged ploughman will scarce ever be brought to the carriage and language of a gentleman, though his body be as well proportioned, and his joints as supple, and his natural parts not any way inferior. The legs of a dancing-master, and the fingers of a musician, fall, as it were, naturally, without thought or pains, into regular and admirable motions. Bid them change their parts, and they will in vain endeavor to produce like motions in ihe members not used to them, and it will require length of time and long practice to attain but some degrees of a like ability. What incredible and astonishing actions do we find rope-dancers and tumblers bring their bodies to! not but that sundry in almost all manual arts are as wonderful; but I name those which the world takes notice of for such, because, on that very account, they give money to see them. All these admired motions, beyond the reach and almost the conception of unpractised spectators, are ncthing but the mere effects of use and industry in men, whose bodies have nothing peculiar in them from those of the amazed lookers on.
As it is in the body, so it is in the mind; practice makes it what it is; and most even of those excellencies which are looked on as natural endowments, will be found, when examined into more narrowly, to be the product of exercise, and to be raised to that pitch only by repeated actions. Some men are remarked for pleasantness in raillery, others for apologues and apposite diverting stories.
This is apt to be taken for the effect of pure nature, and that the rather, because it is not got by rules, and those who excel in either of them, never purposely set themselves to the study of it as an art to be learnt. But yet it is true, that at first some lucky hit which took with somebody, and gained him commendation, encouraged him to try again, inclined his thoughts and endeavors that way, till at last he insensibly got a facility in it without perceiving how; and that is attributed wholly to nature, which was much more the effect of use and practice. I do not deny that natural disposition may often give the first rise to it; but that never carries a man far without use and exercise, and it is practice alone that brings the powers of the mind as well as those of the body to their perfection. Many a good poetic vein is buried under a trade, and never produces any thing for want of improvement. We see the ways of discourse and reasoning are very different, even concerning the same matter, at court and in the university. And he that will go but from Westminster Hall to the Exchange, will find a different genius and turn in their ways of talking ; and one cannot think that all whose lot fell in the city were born with different parts from those who were bred at the university or inns of court.
To what purpose all this, but to show that the difference, so observable in men's understandings and parts, does not arise so much from the natural faculties as acquired habits? He would be laughed at that should go about to make a fine dancer out of a country hedger, at past fifty. And he will not have much better success who shall endeavor at that age to make a man reason well, or speak handsomely, who has never been used to it, though you should lay before him a collection of all the best precepts of logic or oratory. Nobody is made any thing by hearing of rules, or laying them up in his memory; practice must settle the habit of doing, without reflecting on the rule; and you may as well hope to make a good painter or musician, extempore, by a lecture and instruction in the arts of music and painting, as a coherent thinker, or strict reasoner, by a set of rules, showing him wherein right reasoning consists.
This being so, that defects and weakness in men's understandings, as well as other faculties, come from want of a right use of their own minds, I am apt to think the fault is generally mislaid upon nature, and there is often a complaint of want of parts, when the fault lies in want of a due improvement of them. We see men frequently dexterous and sharp enough in making a bargain, who, if you reason with them about matters of religion, appear perfectly stupid.
INJUDICIOUS HASTE IN STUDY.
The eagerness and strong bent of the mind after knowledge, if not warily regulated, is often a hinderance to it. It still presses into farther discoveries and new objects, and catches at the variety of knowledge, and therefore often stays not long enough on what is before it, to look into it as it should, for haste to pursue what is yet out of sight. He that rides post through a country may be able, from the transient view, to tell in general how the parts lie, and may be able to give some loose description of here a mountain and there a plain, here a morass and there a river; woodland in one part and savannas in another. Such superficial ideas and observations as these he may collect in galloping over it ; but the more useful observations of the soil, plants, animals, and inhabitants, with their several sorts and properties, must necessarily escape him; and it is seldom men ever discover the rich mines without some digging. Nature commonly lodges her treasures and jewels in rocky ground. If the matter be knotty, and the sense lies deep, the mind must stop and buckle to it, and stick upon it with labor and thought, and close contemplation, and not leave it until it has mastered the difficulty and got possession of truth. But here, care must be taken to avoid the other extreme: a man must not stick at every useless nicety, and expect myste
ries of science in every trivial question or scruple that he may raise. He that will stand to pick up and examine every pebble that comes in his way, is as unlikely to return enriched and laden with jewels, as the other that travelled full speed. Truths are not the better nor the worse for their obviousness or difficulty, but their value is to be measured by their usefulness and tendency. Insignificant observations should not take up any of our minutes; and those that enlarge our view, and give light towards further and useful discoveries, should not be neglected, though they stop our course, and spend some of our time in a fixed attention.
IMPORTANCE OF MORAL EDUCATION. Under whose care soever a child is put to be taught during the tender and flexible years of his life, this is certain ; it should be one who thinks Latin and languages the least part of education ; one who, knowing how much virtue and a well-tempered soul is to be preferred to any sort of learning or language, makes it his chief business to form the mind of his scholars, and give that a right disposition; which, if once got, though all the rest should be neglected, would in due time produce all the rest ; and which, if it be not got, and settled so as to keep out ill and vicious habitslanguages, and sciences, and all the other accomplishments of education, will be to no purpose but to make the worse or more dangerous man.
THE RIGHT IMPROVEMENT OF HISTORY. The stories of Alexander and Cæsar, farther than they instruct us in the art of living well, and furnish us with observations of wisdom and prudence, are not one jot to be preferred to the history of Robin Hood, or the Seven Wise Masters. I do not deny but history is very useful, and very instructive of human life; but if it be studied only for the reputation of being an historian, it is a very empty thing; and he that can tell all the particulars of Herodotus and Plutarch, Curtius and Livy, without making any other use of them, may be an ignorant man with a good memory, and with all his pains hath only filled his head with Christmas tales. And, which is worse, the greatest part of history being made up of wars and conquests, and their style, especially the Romans, speaking of valor as the chief if not the only virtue, we are in
1 "Next in rank and in efficacy to that pure and holy source of moral influence the mother-is that of the schoolmaster. It is powerful already. What would it be if, in every one of those schooldistricts which we now count by annually increasing thousands, there were to be found one teacher well-informed without pedantry, religious without bigotry or fanaticism, proud and fond of his profession, and honored in the discharge of its duties! How wide would be the intellectual, the moral influence of such a body of men. But to raise np a body of such men, as numerous as the wants and dignity of the country demand, their labors must be fitly remunerated, and themselves and their calling cherished and honored." -- Discourse of Hon. Gulun C. Lerplanck, of New York.