« Prev COMMENT. Next »


Selfishness is common to all ages and countries. In all ages self-seeking is the rule, and self-sacrifice the exception. But if to seek our private advantage in harmony with, and by the furtherance of, the public prosperity, and to derive a portion of our happiness from 110 sympathy with the prosperity of our fellowmen--if this be public spirit, it would be morose and querulous to pretend that there is any want of it in this country and at the present time. On the contrary, the number of "public souls" and the general readiness to contribute to the public good, in science and in religion, in patriotism and in philanthropy, stand prominent** among the characteristics of this and the preceding generation. The habit of referring actions and opinions to fixed laws; convictions rooted in principles; thought, insight, system;--these, had the good Bishop lived in our time, would have been his desiderata, and the theme of his complaints. "We want thinking souls, we want them."

This and the three preceding extracts will suffice as precautionary aphorisms. And here, again, the reader may exemplify the great advantages to be obtained from the habit of tracing the proper meaning and history of words. We need only recollect the common and idiomatic phrases in which the word "spirit" occurs in a physical or material sense (as, fruit has lost its spirit and flavour), to be convinced that its property is to improve,

**The very marked, positive as well as comparative, magnitude and prominence of the bump, entitled benevolence (see Spurzheim's map of the human skull) on the head of the late Mr. John Thurtel, has woefully unsettled the faith of many ardent phrenologists, and strengthened the previous doubts of a still greater number into utter disbelief. On my mind, this fact (for a fact it is) produced the directly contrary effect; and inclined me to suspect, for the first time, that there may be some truth in the Spurzheimian scheme. Whether future craniologists may not see cause to new-name this and one or two other of these convex gnomons, is quite a different question. At present, and according to the present use of words, any such change would be premature: and we must be content to say, that Mr. Thurtel's benevolence was insufficiently modified by the unprotrusive and unindicated convolutes of the brain, that secrete honesty and common sense. The organ of destructiveness was indirectly potentiated by the absence or imperfect development of the glands of reason and conscience, in this "unfortunate gentleman!" 111 enliven, actuate some other thing, not constitute a thing in its own name. The enthusiast may find one exception to this where the material itself is called spirit. And when he calls to mind, how this spirit acts when taken alone by the unhappy persons who in their first exultation will boast that it is meat, drink, fire, and clothing to them, all in one--when he reflects, that its properties are to inflame, intoxicate, madden, with exhaustion, lethargy, and atrophy for the sequels;--well for him, if in some lucid interval he should fairly put the question to his own mind, how far this is analogous to his own case, and whether the exception does not confirm the rule. The letter without the spirit killeth; but does it follow, that the spirit is to kill the letter? To kill that which it is its appropriate office to enliven?

However, where the ministry is not invaded, and the plain sense of the Scriptures is left undisturbed, and the believer looks for the suggestions of the Spirit only or chiefly in applying particular passages to his own individual case and exigencies; though in this there maybe touch weakness, some delusion and imminent danger of more, I cannot but join with Henry More in avowing, that I feel knit to such a man in the bonds of a common faith far more closely, than to those who receive neither the letter nor the Spirit, turning the one into metaphor and oriental hyperbole, in order to explain away the other into the influence of motives suggested by their own understandings, and realized by their own strength.

« Prev COMMENT. Next »
VIEWNAME is workSection