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ality of mind. It is due to Christianity, it is due to the generation who are coming forward with the elastic step of youth and full of the spirit of republican independence, it is a duty we owe to them, to maintain the declaration of the Scriptures, that “Christ makes free" – that “where his Spirit is, there is liberty."
A liberal, free, philosophical spirit! what is it? Not exemption from chains and fetters, that keep the body bound; it can exist alike in the air of heaven, and in the cells of a prison ; under the tyranny of an Athenian populace, and of the papal inquisition. The soul of Socrates was not shut in by the walls of his dungeon ; the spirit of Galileo bowed not when he was compelled to bend his knee before the ignorant monks of Rome, and on rising from the ground, exclaimed, at the hazard of a second imprisonment, as he shook his foot," it can move yet.”
Free-thinking is the natural action of the mind upon the objects of thought. Strictly speaking so far as the mind acts at all
, it necessarily acts freely; restraints upon its freedom are restraints upon
upon its action. There is a natural relation between the intelligent principle and truth, which cannot be conceived of as dissolved for a moment. It is as impossible not to be convinced by evidence, as it is not to see, with the eyes open. If nothing prevents the action of the mind upon truth, nothing can prevent the perception of truth, just so far as the mind does act on it. No two minds can differ as to the same thing. It is only in a loose, popular sense, that we ever speak of them as doing so. The law of our mental perceptions is as invariable as that of external sensation. The eye of one may look at objects through a different medium, or from a different point of view from another; but it cannot see the same thing in the same light, differently. If it were not so, we could not reason, we could not converse together ; mind could know nothing of mind. There being no common standard, there could be no common views; the spirit of the maxim, “De gustibus nil disputandum” would be applicable to all science and all knowledge.
In the operation of mind upon truth, there are, therefore, strictly no degrees of freedom. If it act, it acts freely ; if it act not freely, it acts not at all. Mental freedom, then, has reference only to causes which may prevent, or limit mental action. These causes exist within the mind itself, or without. If within, they are our prejudices and our passions. Undue reverence for antiquity or authority, fear, selfishness, envy, am
It is due to Christianity, it is due to the genecoming forward with the elastic step of youth spirit of republican independence, it is a duty we o maintain the declaration of the Scriptures, that ces free” – that “where his Spirit is, there is
bition, any wrong feeling, that is, any feeling not justified by the real state of things — by truth - may interpose itself between the mind and truth, and like a delusive medium of sight, distort or discolor the objects of vision. It is only when all the principles of our nature are in perfect unison when the mind is not divided against itself — that it can act itself, that is freely, in relation to truth. Intellect and the sensitive powers, the affections and the will must harmonize in order to produce this kind of freedom.
In relation to much of what we loosely denominate thought, the mind scarcely acts; it is rather acted upon — acted for, by other minds. But when it thinks, it may be laid down as a general principle, that it will think freely and philosophically, if the conscience be, as it was designed to be, in authority over the whole man. If any prejudice or passion, national or personal, bring the conscience under its influence, that is, if we have any partiality for falsehood, any interest in error, any wrong taste or inclination to indulge, “the worse will be made to appear the better reason.” In our moral judgments so many circumstances are to be regarded, so many points of observation are presented, that it is no difficult matter for a mind, that is willing to be deceived, to impose upon itself. The best assurance we have therefore of reasoning philosophically arises from the consciousness of feeling aright.
Look now at Christianity in relation to these restraints upon freedom of thought. Was ever any thing so fitted to free the mind from its domestic tyrants? We find here nothing like irreverence for age, or station, or authority. A veneration almost romantic for the temple and the patriarchs, runs through the Old Testament and the New. Paul uttered the national feeling, when he spake with such evident enthusiasm of the “ Israelites, to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises, whose are the fathers.” Yet in the very idea of the soul, which seems to lie at the foundation of the gospel, there is something that raises the mind at once to a lofty self-respect, utterly inconsistent with servile submission to human authority. To its own master it standeth or falleth. There is a moral sublimity, which has seemed to me without a parallel, in the simple, meek, honest declaration of the fishermen of Galilee to the national authorities, “ We ought to obey God rather than men.” Here was the true spirit of freedom; it was more ; it was moral
e, philosophical spirit! what is it? Not exempand fetters, that keep the body bound; it can
air of heaven, and in the cells of a prison ; unof an Athenjan populace, and of the papal insoul of Socrates was not shut in by the walls of e spirit of Galileo bowed not when he was d his knee before the ignorant monks of Rome, 7 the ground, exclaimed, at the hazard of a ent, as he shook his foot, “ it can move yet.”
the natural action of the mind upon the obStrictly speaking so far as the mind acts at acts freely ; restraints upon its freedom are action. There is a natural relation between ciple and truth, which cannot be conceived a moment. It is as impossible not to be con- as it is not to see, with the e action of the mind upon truth, nothing can Son of truth, just so far as the mind does act ds can differ as to the same thing. It is onr sense, that we ever speak of them as do
our mental perceptions is as invariable as
all science and all knowledge.
eyes open. If
heroism. And it was the natural expression of that all-pervading doctrine of the Bible, by which conscience is enthroned in the human mind; which leads a man to ask only what is right in the sight of God. He who has thoroughly emancipated himself from every other influence is, in the true sense, free ; free in thought, and free in action. He feels that what is true is good, and good for him to know. Wherever the light of truth leads, he treads fearlessly. He may encounter reverend opinions; he may war with authorities ; he may violate prejudices ; but to him truth and duty and happiness are coincident. Tempests may lash the ocean; and the wrecks of a thousand foundered barks may be tossed in cruel mockery, upon its vagrant surges ; yet he starts not with fears; he confides in reason because he has faith in God. The spirit of Christianity is the spirit of rectitude; and the spirit of rectitude, is twin sister to the spirit of truth, daughters, both, of God. It is only they, who like not to retain God in their knowledge, that are given up to believe a lie.
The impediment, to mental freedom, without, exist either in the circumstances of our physical condition, or in the subjects of inquiry. These may limit the mind's action.
When we speak of liberality in relation to these impediments, we have in mind the range and compass of thought — the amplitude of the field of vision. The proper opposite of it, in this sense, is imperfection, partiality, narrowness of views. A liberal scholar or critic is one, whose reading is not confined to elementary or professional books — to history or fiction - to prose or poetry -- to this or that school — to one or another age. He is one, who has freed himself from the dominion of local and temporary tastes, who has escaped from the control of personal and peculiar associations, and expanding his thoughts and sympathies to embrace the whole development of cultivated mind, has become a citizen of the world of letters. He does not cease to have predilections and associations of his own ; but he has learned to set a proper value on the productions, and to make a proper allowance for the predilections and associations of other minds, differently taught and differently situated. A liberal judge of character is not confined to single acts or habits; he considers the current and complexion of the whole of life — the mass of a man's principles, feelings and actions. A liberal view of human nature, is neither that of the crimes and cruelties of history, nor that of the frivolities and follies of ordinary life, nor
as the natural expression of that all-pervadBible, by which conscience is enthroned in hich leads a man to ask only what is right
He who has thoroughly emancipated him- influence is, in the true sense, free ; free n action. He feels that what is true is m to know, Wherever the light of truth essly. He may encounter reverend opinth authorities; he may violate prejudices ; duty and happiness are coincident. TemPan; and the wrecks of a thousand fourssed in cruel mockery, upon its vagrant not with fears; he confides in reason be. God. The spirit of Christianity is the
the spirit of rectitude, is twin sister to ghters, both, of God. It is only they, God in their knowledge, that are given
that of the virtues and quiet enjoyments which have so sanctified and consecrated a few sunny spots on this world's surface. He is neither an optimist, nor a satirist, nor a misanthrope. He is a man, whose study has been man.
The world is a system; every thing is part of one great whole; and has relations to the whole, which go to make it, what it really is; and nothing is fully appreciated, when considered apart from these relations. Hence compass and correctness of view have an intimate relation to each other. To be just our ideas must be comprehensive. Liberality and truth are commensurate. The mind is, in this sense, liberal and free, just in proportion to the largeness of its views of truth. And if we could once reach that central point, where the eye commands all nature and all being at one broad sweep; then and then only might our freedom of thought be pronounced absolutely unlimited.
In this respect, then, think what Christianity does for the freedom of the mind. How it struggles with the selfish principle; how it carries out the thoughts to distant objects; how it widens, and widens, and widens the circle of our contemplations and our sympathies, till self, and home, and country are lost in the magnificent idea of one universal brother
one human family ; binding us to all that have lived before us, and all that shall live after us.
What relations to the spiritual world it unveils, implicating our existence, and destiny with the existence and destiny of the angels ; and associating our mortal life with the future history of all intelligent beings, giving to what we think and do hiere a bearing on the entire administration of the Almighty forever. What a universe, what an administration, what a God! No intellect can grasp the infinite idea.
No mind can raise itself to these contemplations, and not cease to think as a child, or to feel as a child -- not put away childish things.
Again ; Christianity deserves a prominent place in a course of public instruction, because it is, in fact, an essential element in a finished education.
Christianity is one of the wants of the human mind; as much so as any class of ideas or emotions. It is not made indispensable by the authority of God; it is commanded by God, because it is indispensable to the perfection of man. It is no mere accident, no mere condition of something else. So far from it, that we cannot conceive of mental perfection, without including this as the crowning excellence. Without it we are not eduVOL. IX. No. 25.
mental freedom, without, exist either in r physical condition, or in the subjects
limit the mind's action. erality in relation to these impediments, dre and compass of thought the anon.
The proper opposite of it, in this tiality, narrowness of views. A liberwhose reading is not confined to eleoks
to history or fiction to prose : school — to one or another age. He self from the dominion of local and escaped from the control of personal nd expanding his thoughts and symole development of cultivated mind, world of letters. He does not cease ssociations of his own ; but he has 2 on the productions, and to make a dilections and associations of other id differently situated.
A liberal onfined to single acts or habits; he plexion of the whole of life - the lings and actions. A liberal view hat of the crimes and cruelties of ies and follies of ordinary life, nor
hood among m
cated ; our powers are not all and only developed; the noblest part of our nature is a waste; the faculties, that apprehend God, the affections that are warmed into life by the ideas of divinity, of love unmeasured, infinite, of greatness inconceivable, these best and holiest feelings of our moral nature, are left to slumber. Without it, we are neither fitted for the future, nor the present. Every man sees the inimitable perfection of Jesus Christ. No decent deist denies it. It meets the demands of conscience; it answers to our idea of man made perfect. And till we attain the consciousness of this perfection, we have neither peace nor self-approbation.
The history of the world, apart from its relation to the christian religion, is the mystery of mysteries. If God has not some such design in conducting human affairs as the Bible ascribes to him, if the present state of man is not a state of trial, of moral discipline and probation, under a dispensation of pardon and sanctifying grace, what are we, and what are we doing here? If life is a trial of faith for the working out of patience and experience and hope, it is, indeed, the fittest possible, for its puro pose ; if not, it is a perfect enigma. Assume the existence and character of the God of revelation, and faith must, of necessity, be the vital principle of our moral being. By it we draw nigh to him, in humble adoration ; by it we cling to him in adversity; by it we muse upon him, and the heart burns within us ; by it he becomes to us all and in all. And such faith, it is obvious, can be produced in man only by such discipline as life affords. It could not be developed in a state of existence, in which God is essentially more, or less known; or, in which his providence is one of pure rewards or unmingled punishments. It requires just such a checkered scene as this world affords, to nourish such a virtue as christian faith. So, also, of the other graces of the spirit; they are the growth of this world as it is ; they could not spring up in any other soil.
Shakspeare has drawn a picture of a mind endowed with all other traits save christian principle, in his masterly delineation of Hamlet - contemplative, profound, all-comprehending, keenly alive to honor, to kindness, to magnanimity; but puzzled, oppressed, wearied even to the loathing of life, by the contemplation of events — events which the least in the kingdom of heaven understands full well.
If, then, we are to be educated to live at all, why not to live right? If we are to be taught truth, why not the whole truth?