Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

is deficient, and improves what is right in human systems” (p. 66).

In the admirable essay in the Friend,* in which Coleridge has discussed Paley's doctrine of the utility of actions considered as the criterion of their morality, he has pointed out how our author's system is opposed to the Christian scheme in the confounding of morality with law; in the substitution of obedience for faith; and how it necessarily denies the doctrine propounded by the Scriptures of the judgment of God on our

For the Scriptures tell us of an Omniscient as well as All-powerful Being, who shall judge us hereafter according to the thoughts and intents of the heart, and not according as our actions have resulted in apparent good or apparent evil to our fellows: whereas Paley, in fact, tells us that motives—that is, these thoughts and intents—are of no moment at all. “ One of the most persuasive, if not one of the strongest, arguments for a future state,” as Coleridge remarks in the essay to which we have referred,“ rests in the belief, that although by the necessity of things, our outward and temporal welfare must be regulated by our outward actions, which alone can be the objects and guides of human law, there must yet needs come a juster and more appropriate sentence hereafter, in which our intentions will be considered, and our happiness and misery made to accord with the grounds of our actions. Our fellow-creatures can only judge what we are by what we do; but in the eye of our Maker, what we do is of no worth, except as it flows from what we are. Though the fig-tree should produce no visible fruit, yet if the living sap is in it, and if it has struggled to put forth buds and blossoms, which have been prevented from maturing by inevitable contingencies of tempests or untimely frosts, the virtuous sap will be accounted as fruit; and the curse of barrenness will light on many a tree from the boughs of which hundreds have been satisfied, because the Omniscient Judge knows that the fruits were threaded to the boughs artificially by the outward working of base fear and selfish hopes, and were neither nourished by the love of God or of man, nor grew out of the graces engrafted on the stock by religion.”

There is one, amongst the somewhat miscellaneous observations with which Paley concludes his first book, to which we must briefly call attention before concluding,—that, we mean, in which he lays down the well-known rule in morality about the safe side. «In every question of conduct, where one side is doubtful and the side safe, we are bound to take the safe side.” A very little consideration will tell any one that, though this may be true, it is far from being the whole truth; and Dr.

• Vol. ii. Essay xi.

Whately has some observations on it which are worth reading. “ This very ancient maxim,” he observes, “ which is most just and valuable, is one of which the misapplication has led to an unspeakable amount of evil. I mean, when men have sought to keep on the safe side, but have erred as to what is the safe side; for (1) what appears to be perfectly safe and harmless, will sometimes not be really such; and (2) that which is in itself harmless, may, under some circumstances, carry with it the admission of a dangerous principle(pp. 52, 53).

But the limitation which we should be inclined to put upon the rule, as far more natural, and therefore far sounder, is this, —that the consideration of safety should never be resorted to until the consideration of right and truth has been exhausted. We mean, that a man, in considering any question of moral conduct, should first consider what is true, what is right,—with the utmost indifference as to whether the answer to that question will redound to safety or danger, ease or disquiet, convenience or inconvenience. But if this investigation, having been honestly pursued to the end, leaves no certain result; if every means have been tried in vain, and, after all, the scales hang even and undecided,—then, and then only, may he resort to the consideration of whether of the two courses is the one of safety. We should all rightly despise a man who acted, on the hypothesis of there being future rewards and punishments, because he thought it safer, without ever giving himself the trouble to inquire what reasons there were for the belief; though we should regard as rightly prudent, and in that sense wise, a man who so acted because, after the most patient search, he still felt left in somewhat of doubt-felt that an assured decision was for him impossible.

We feel at once the miserable cowardice of flying to considerations of safety, when we ought to seek for what is true, and ought to be willing to follow that through all risks and dangers, nay, if need be, to certain destruction; so little has safety, primarily, to do with the matter. Hide nothing from us, let us know the worst, if it be the truth. 'Ev páei kaì óleocov,

και όλεσσον, “ Give light, and let us die,” is the prayer of every true heart. The consideration of safety, whether here or hereafter, is alike secondary in any soul conscious of such a thing as truth. To try and stay our hunger after truth with considerations about our safety, is like the Indians, who fill their stomachs with earth to stave off the gnawings of want.

The cowardly nature of the maxim about the safe side, when so understood, has been so well characterised by Lord Shaftesbury, that we willingly conclude with another extract from him. “'Tis the most beggarly refuge imaginable,” he says, “ which

,

[ocr errors]

is so mightily cry'd up, and stands as a great maxim with many able men,-' that they should strive to have faith, and believe to the utmost, because if, after all, there be nothing in the matter, there will be no harm in being thus deceived; but, if there be any thing, it will be fatal for them not to have believed to the full. But they are so far mistaken, that whilst they have this thought, 'tis certain they can never believe either to their satisfaction and happiness in this world, or with any advantage of recommendation to another. For besides that our reason, which knows the cheat, will never rest thorowly satisfy'd on such a bottom, but turn us often adrift, and toss us in a sea of doubt and perplexity; we cannot but actually grow worse in our religion, and entertain a worse opinion still of a Supreme Deity, whilst our belief is founded on so injurious a thought of Him."*

Art. IV.-THE BLIND.

Des Aveugles: Considérations sur leur état physique, moral et in

tellectuel, avec un exposé complet des moyens propres à améliorer leur sort à l'aide de l'instruction et du travail. Par P. A. Dufau, Directeur de l'Institution Nationale des Aveugles de Paris. Ouvrage couronné

par l'Académie Française. Seconde édition. Paris : Jules Renouard et Cie. 1850. Souvenirs d'une Aveugle-née, recueillis et écrits par elle-même. Publiés par

P. A. Dufau. Paris : Renouard et Cie. 1851. The Sense of Vision) denied and lost. By Thomas Bull, M.D.

(] Edited by the Rev. B. G. Johns, Chaplain of the Blind School,

St. George's Fields. London: Longman and Co. 1859. The Land of Silence and the Land of Darkness. By the Rev. B.

G. Johns. London: Longman and Co. 1857. The Lost Senses. By John Kitto, D.D., F.S.A. Series II.-Blind

London: Charles Knight and Co. 1815. Essai sur l Instruction des Aveugles, ou exposé analytique des pro

cédés employés pour les instruire. Par le Docteur Guillié. Seconde

édition. Paris : imprimé par les Aveugles. 1819. “In the month of August 1425, as we read in the Journal de Paris, under the reigns of Charles V. and Charles VI., p. 104, four blind men,” says M. Dufau, “covered with armour and armed with staves, were shut up in the lists at the Hotel d'Armagnac with a pig of great size, which was to be the prize

• Characteristics, i. 37 (edit. 1732).

:

ness.

[ocr errors]

of the man who should kill it. When the contest began, the poor blind men, pursuing the pig and striking at random, gave one another such rude blows, to the great delight of the lookerson, that they grew angry; for when they were most confident of hitting the pig, they hit one another; and if they had not been covered with armour, they would in truth have slain each other."*

We are reminded by this story of Sydney Smith's remark in criticising some philosophical speculations of the earlier Greek schools, that common sense was not invented then. In the fifteenth century, natural human feeling seems scarcely to have been invented. But against the incident above related it is only fair to put the foundation of the Hospice des Quinze Vingts by St. Louis IX., in 1265, as an asylum for three hundred knights who had lost their eyesight in the crusades; and of a similar institution, dating also from the thirteenth century,

a at Chartres. We fear, however, that while the story told in the Journal de Paris illustrates with only too much truth the unthinking cruelty of a barbarous age, the establishments mentioned in the last sentence are to be attributed chiefly to the personal benevolence of the saintly monarch. Impulses good and bad, of the noblest generosity and the intensest selfishness, are not unfrequent in any nation at any time. They are most frequent, perhaps, among uncultivated people. But the systematic and deliberate consideration, to which it is as a rule

and duty,

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Never to blend our pleasure or our pride

With sorrow of the meanest thing that feels,” is of slow growth. To whatever extent it can be said to exist now among Christian communities, it is indisputably quite modern.

Of the condition of the blind in the ancient world little is known. The fact that they form the subject of special and benevolent legislation in the Jewish code-witness the precepts, “Thou shalt not put a stumbling-block in the way of the blind, but shalt fear thy God,” and “ Cursed be he that maketh the blind to wander out of the way”—is no doubt due to the fact, that throughout the East the blind form a very considerable proportion of the entire population. These injunctions are in contrast with the Jewish belief (possibly of later origin), that blindness was a divine judgment on, and a punishment of, sin. This belief is itself reversed in other Eastern countries, “where," as Mr. Johns remarks, “ the blind are regarded in some sense as sacred persons under the special

* Des Aveugles, p. xiii.

favour of Heaven. Not long since," he adds, "an intelligent friend of ours, a great traveller, who happens to be blind, in passing through Tetuan, an old Moorish city of Africa, was welcomed and fêted with peculiar honours, chiefly on account of his blindness."*

If we do not find among ancient heathen nations any systematic provision for the relief of the blind, as little do we find any trace of inhuman feelings directed towards them. Medical works leave no doubt, M. Dufau tells us, that the blind were numerous in Italy and in Roman Asia, though one of the most prolific causes of congenital blindness did not then exist. His statement, that institutions of public benevolence are foreign to the spirit of nations among whom slavery reigns, is substantially true. The reason is, that the necessitous in such countries are principally slaves; and that slaves, being private property, are naturally also a private charge, and not a public burden. We cannot, therefore, accept the non-existence of asylums and training-schools for the blind in Greece and Italy as an illustration of heathen indifference to suffering. M. Dufau's remarks on this subject contain a larger amount of conjecture than is consistent with sound historical judgment.

“ Among the thousands of slaves," he says, "possessed by an opulent Roman, the child which was born blind, sometimes no doubt became a kind of drudge (souffre-douleur), exposed to the caprices of his master, and the barbarous sports of his degraded companions ; oftener, perhaps, being regarded simply as a burdensome property, he was slain in his cradle ; so we may reasonably conjecture, when we notice that no blind man is ever signalised among the clan of freedmen as having worked his way to liberty by his talent. How is it that the blind, if they were allowed to live, did not manifest, as in our days, that general and constant aptitude for music, which forms one of the distinctive traits of their organisation ; how is it that no skilful, performer on the flute or lyre is found, recommended by his very condition to the notice of writers ? Moreover, to suppose the deliberate destruction of children afflicted with an important organic defect, is not to calumniate antiquity. At Sparta they were thrown into the Eurotas; and we know that, even at the present day, among some Eastern nations, infirm infants newly born pass at once from life to death."

An argument, every clause of which is introduced by a “peut-être," a "sans doute,” or a “conjecture à bon droit,” fails of cogency. The inference from Sparta to Rome, from the destruction of free-born children on the Eurotas to that of blind-born slaves on the Tiber, and from existing practices in

* Lands of Silence and Darkness, p. 98.

† It is not, however, entirely true, as the relief given to the adúvatoi at Athens, and to the alimentarii at Rome, shows.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »