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acceptation, and confined to some one branch of knowledge, --some peculiar department of intellectual industry. The Society whom I have now the honour to address, associates in its pursuits great and varied subjects. Conformably with its pretensions, the objects of this Institution embrace both literature and science, and extend themselves to the moral, as well as to the intellectual and natural, world. If our exertions keep pace with our avowed intentions, we shall have full scope for our industry.
Philosophy is, literally, the love of wisdom ; and to this inspiring principle do we owe the creative operations of genius, and the matchless combinations of taste. The discoveries of the savage, impelled by his necessities, and terminating with them, can never attain this excellence : he distinguishes, in the vegetable world, between that which is noxious and that which is wholesome: he hunts the prey, and learns, by experiment, to know the meat which is good for food but he never classes the beautiful productions of the earth, nor arranges the magnificent variety of the animal creation. far as his wants urge him, he advances, but no further: he is a stranger to any principle of action beyond the stimulation of appetite, or the compulsive cravings of necessity: he builds the hut, because it is necessary that he should have a defence from beasts of prey, and a shelter from the inclemency of winter, and the cold dews of midnight. Here, with his absolute wants, his labour terminated. It was a nobler principle which, from beginnings so rude, elicited the magnificent combinations of architecture; and, with magic effect, transformed the shed of the savage into the palace of the monarch, or the temple of the Deity. Necessity impelled the barbarians of Italy to raise their hovels in the vicinity of each other, and to unite for their common interest and mutual defence; but it was an impulse of another and a higher order, which, out of these miserable cottages, created imperial Rome, and reared structures which still command the admiration of the world; and which, while time has defaced, he almost seems afraid to destroy. How inconceivable was the progress of excellence, in the most beautiful of all the arts, between the periods when the Grecian Virgin traced, with the innocent hand of affection, her lover's profile on the wall, which paternal indulgence afterwards moulded in clay into the rude resemblance of the human form, and when the pencil of Apelles rivalled nature on the canvass, and the chisel of Phidias imparted expression to the block, that needed not the theft of Prometheus to make the marble alive. This
This progress of the arts is referable to the same principle—the love of wis
dom; and the consideration is not irrelevant to the object of a Philosophical Society; if the opinion of Socrates is to be regarded, who ranks artists high among wise men: or, if the decisions of ancient wisdom are to be respected, which gave them a place in the legislature, and in every station of honour and distinction.
If we cannot accredit the experiments and discoveries of the savage, impelled by necessity, as philosophy; we may trace, in the curiosity of children, the incipient workings of this love of wisdom : they almost uniformly, when left to themselves in their choice of toys, prefer the useful to the ornamental,the little machine, which they can take in pieces, and put again together, to the glittering and fragile bauble which matured folly places before them: and the disposition to destroy, which is condemned as mischief, and imagined to be caused by caprice, often originates in an inquisitiveness, which, if properly directed, will in the event assume a more important form, and prove itself that thirst of knowledge, without which nothing intellectual can be obtained, and to which nothing is impossible.
It is the business of philosophy to trace back effects to their cause; and, if we have succeeded in ascribing to that desire of information, which appears even in childhood, the astonishing efforts, and the interesting discoveries of the human mind, it is most certain that the researches, which lead to results so important, must have commenced in the infancy of the world. In the earliest ages, what the wants of man did not demand, this active principle would incite him to pursue and accomplish in hours of leisure. But philosophy associates with itself history; and more than a vain curiosity suggests the inquiry after the favoured spots first distinguished by the pursuits of wisdom, and the researches of science. The glorious orb has risen upon the earth; but we cannot feel its genial influences without asking,~" Whence are thy beams, O sun ? thy everlasting light?” Instantly our eyes are directed to the east : and that quarter of the globe, first visited by the light of the natural day, is the point from which the rays of philosophy diverged to visit the civilized world. The Chaldean seems to have borrowed from India his love of science; from him it passed to the Egyptian; the Phænician sailed with it down the Nile, and landed it on the isles of Greece. Rome plundered the states of Greece of their arts, when she deprived them of their liberties. From Italy, the universal domination of the Romans, extended civilization and knowledge over the western world; and philosophy found an honourable retreat beneath the consecrated oaks of Britain, where, in the person of the Druid, the philosopher was disgraced by the sanguinary superstition of the priest, until he learned from Christianity a more excellent way.
It is an admirable rule of this Society, to exclude from the topics of discussion religion and politics : and, perfectly aware of the necessity and propriety of such a regulation, I shall certainly not be the first, and on an occasion so important, to infringe it. At the same time, I apprehend, it could never be the intention of that rule, to prohibit allusions to the Hebrew writings, or statements relative to the moral principles and effects of Christianity. This would be to deprive philosophical disquisition of the oldest authentic records existing ; to overlook or despise monuments of ancient wisdom of transcendant importance; and to refuse facts in connection with the moral branches of our legitimate design. Sir William Jones, as President of the Asiatic Society, did not fail, in his anniversary discourses, to give these points full consideration, and to render them subservient to the pursuits of philosophy; and, I apprehend, if I make use of them only as monuments of antiquity, or as moral facts, I shall violate neither the letter nor the spirit of the law established.
Strong presumptive evidence, to say the least, has been adduced by some learned men of no mean attainments, to
prove the origin of science and philosophy to have been with the Hebrews. Their arguments have been drawn from the ease with which the Greek terms applied to their idols, and manifestly derived through Egyptian and Phænician channels, may be resolved into Hebrew roots; and the aslinity between those tongues is unquestionable. They have been farther deduced from the resemblance between the Gentile institutions at large, anil the ceremonial observances of ancient Judaism from the parabolic method of instruction adopted in Greece until the times of Aristotle, who first took from philosophy the veil of fiction, and clothed it in a garh more simple; and from the mention made by Plato of Syrian Allegories, in the use of those symbols which he undoubtedly borrowed from the Egyptians and the Hebrews. Sir William Jones remarks, that the Chaldaic letters, in which most Hebrew books are copied, were originally the same, or derived from the same prototype, both with the Indian and Arabian characters ; and that the Phænician, from which the Greek and Roman alphabets were formed, by various changes and inversions had a similar origin, there can be little doubt." I will venture to add, that whatever arguments are founded upon etymology should be received with caution, and employed sparingly; since it is most evident, that'fanciful resemblances may be produced, in a very imposing form, between
the sounds of words in different languages, where no actual analogy exists. The great man, to whom I have just alluded, after his laborious researches, no less painful than his who unveiled the fountains of the Nile, is doubtful where to find the spring of philosophy,—whether in Arabia, India, or Persia; to the latter he seems to incline : but there can be no hesitation in admitting, that it is clearly to be traced to the East.
The science most diligently cultivated in the earliest ages appears to have been astronomy. When we consider the magnificent appearance of the heavens, attracting the eye even of ignorance, and forcing admiration upon a heart of insensibility, it is not surprising that a scene so splendid should have arrested the first attention of a spirit consecrated to reason and reflection. If the milder features of nature were beautiful to the contemplative disposition ; if the humblest forms of created being were not overlooked by the student of the material universe,-how must he have been elevated, when he followed the high career of the sun, in his apparent circuit through the heavens, coming forth in his strength, and rejoicing as a giant to accomplish his course !-and what emotions of unspeakable sublimity must have agitated his mind, when he beheld the moon walking in majesty, leading forth her attendant orbs in countless succession. I speak of this grand spectacle as it would first present itself to the eye, and to the heart, before investigation and experience had communicated more correct notions of their actual movements, and of the laws by which they are really governed. It is easy to conceive why astronomy should occupy a first place in the researches of the human mind; and it was accordingly diligently cultivated in the East: it is the science into which a large proportion, if not the whole, of their religious rites may be resolved.
In Chaldea, the study of astronomy was pursued with avidity, upon the presumption, that there is a certain influence of the stars upon human events, and that futurity might be anticipated by a diligent perusal of the face of the heavens. These are the pitiable aberrations of genius, when the imagination is permitted to take the lead in subjects which ought to be submitted only to the test of patient and dispassionate inquiry. To learn something of the future, is a natural anxiety ; but, to withhold the intelligence so much coveted, is an instance of the benevolence of Providence. Such extravagant expectations have, however, been always associated with a first acquaintance with any science. the pursuit of chemical experiments were first started, the dreain of alchymy obtruded itself to disturb the sober train of philosophical investigations,—when Pliny, the greatest naturalist of his age, and that an age much enlightened, detailed the operations of animal nature, how many fables he admitted into his history! Precious stones have been invested with the most splendid and important properties, and it cannot excite astonishment, that astronomy should have furnished occasion to the absurd, but imposing fancy of astrology. In fine, philosophy wandered, and of its wanderings found no end, until the Father of English philosophy, denying to hypothesis any claim beyond that of ingenuity, and having first emancipated us from the trammels of system, reduced science to its proper test-experiment; and subordinated the fancy to facts.
When we pass from the Chaldeans, with their magical pretensions, to the Egyptians, we find astronomy cultivated; but from other motives, and directed to other purposes. The study of this science was to them indispensable. The only certain sign of the rising of the waters of the Nile was the star, called for that very reason the Dog-star, in allusion to the vigilance of that animal, which name it retains now that the import of the title is lost. When this star became disengaged from the rays of the sun, and appeared above the horizon before break of day, it arrested the attention of those who were so deeply interested in the event, and admonished the inhabitants of Lower Egypt to withdraw from the approaching inundation. The course of the heavenly bodies was diligently marked, and carefully committed to symbols, at that time intelligible, for the purpose of fixing agricultural pursuits, with a precision essential to that singular climate and country. Those symbols were afterwards much misunderstood; in evidence of which, it is only necessary to refer to the sphinx. The inundation lasted two months, during which time the sun passed through the signs of Leo and Virgo: the type adopted, in the instrument intended to mark the height of the waters, corresponded with the signs through which the sun then passed, and was accordingly composed of the body of a Lion, and the head of a Virgin-symbolizing the constellations of those important months. This was the origin of that singular monument of Egyptian industry, which the sands of the desert have not yet quite overwhelmed; and of the monster fabled in the magic strains of Grecian poetry.
To the Phoenician, astronomy became an important study for a different reason. They were the first who tempted the mighty deep, and braved its storms. Committing themselves to a frail bark, (and frail, indeed, must have been the first vessel constructed by human skill, to float on the bosom of this new world !) they contented themselves at the beginning with