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bly, be the case,) but that, in no succeeding time, could any improvement be made upon their sagacity. The changes to which they were at length compelled occasionally to submit, they adopted with a bad grace, and not until all the rest of the world had seen their necessity. These national institutions were regulated by exceedingly respectable personages; but they were elderly, and averse to enterprise. They enjoyed many things that were good, and they disliked to place them in jeopardy. Few men, after the age of forty, were disposed to adopt new principles. It might be useful that such was the
The mature and aged formed a barrier against the hasty encroachments of youth and inexperience; but there was a medium that was right in all things: it might be well not to go on too fast, lest we should fall; but it could not be desirable to stand still. It ought not to be assumed that we were perfect. We should listen favourably to suggested improvements; and, though we did not adopt them all, it could scarcely be wise to reject them all.
Thus, it appeared that the first impulses to improvement had taken their rise in the advantageous circumstances by which the country was surrounded; in its temperate climate, its population impelled to industry,—its insular position, which protected it from foreign invasion, and consequent despotism.
On the other hand, its public institutions had originated in the progressive improvements that had been effected; and, however valuable in themselves, as secondary causes, we could not refer the national prosperity to their sole or peculiar influence. Those institutions formed, indeed, an indication of prosperity; but the source was traceable to the local circumstances in which Great Britain had been fortunately situated.
In favor of the superiority of NATIONAL INSTITUTIONS, it was contended, that, notwithstanding the plausible view which had been presented of the efficacy of local circumstances, those circumstances were merely of a physical nature, and were far outweighed by the operation of all those moral influences which arise out of institutions consecrated by time, or endeared by the share we had taken in their establishment.
Granting even, as an abstract point, that the national mind was, in the first instance, excited by the advantages of her peculiar situation, yet the benefits strictly referable to such a commencement were exceedingly limited; and, had our progress been unaided by the superior excellence of our institutions, we should never have advanced so far as we had done in the career of national prosperity. The question related not to remote, but to proximate causes, not to the first step which ages ago was taken in the race, but to the actual condi. tion in which we were at present placed, after we had completed the labour, and gained the goal.
In this view of the subject, it was not difficult to prove that the public institutions for the management of public affairs, for the administration of justice, for the diffusion of knowledge, for the relief of the afflicted, and for the promotion of piety, were the direct and principal means by which the happiness and the welfare of the community were attained and secured.
It would not be necessary to trespass on the regulations of the institution, by referring to the political system which had been so long instituted, and had so long prevailed in this happy country: it was enough to observe, that the interests of all orders of society were protected, and the fullest liberty was allowed to the humblest person in the realm to aspire and to obtain the most elevated station ;-that it was not in theory alone that our institutions guaranteed these privileges, but it had been practically shewn, in innumerable instances, that wealth and power, titles and fame, were within the reach of merit, from whatever rank it sprang.
It might easily be conceived, how extraordinary must be the influence of so liberal and equal a system: it acted as a lever upon the whole energies of the country; it stimulated every individual to exert all the powers and capacity with which he was endowed. Though the splendid prizes were few, and could be possessed only by the fortunate, the inducements they held forth were of the most inspiring kind: their very scarcity increased the competition; and, even those who failed in obtaining them, succeeded to no mean degree of reward, for they enjoyed all the pleasure of the chase, and it was a distinction to be entitled to contest the prize. The number of competitors stimulated the victor to deserve his reward, and all shared in the benefit of the conquest.
In alluding to the institutions which had been formed for the administration of justice, it would be sufficient to refer to the free, social, and domestic features by which they were all distinguished. Each man in the community had a share in their management or execution, and an interest in upholding them. On all subjects of importance, juries were convened; and not only thus was the most rational and equal liberty ensured, but each individual carried judicial experiment and intelligence into the social circle with which he was acquainted, amongst the friends and neighbours by whom he was surrounded, and with whom a mutual influence and understanding prevailed. In the closer intimacy of his kindred
and family, he has also introduced the knowledge of these in. stitutions, and extended the conviction of their benefits. Thus, the sphere of this moral influence became more enlarged, and its effect on the national character was as important as it was extensive and incalculable.
It was self-evident that the institutions for the promotion of the cause of religion must produce the most beneficial effects upon the social and moral character of the people ; and those numerous and splendid establishments, the offspring of charity and benevolence, which every where prevailed for the relief of the infirm and the distressed, these Samaritan institutions “were twice blessed -blessing him who gives, and him who takes.” Between goodness and prosperity there was a natural alliance. When the poor were happy, the rest of the community must be prosperous.
The national establishments for education, and for the promotion of seience and letters, had been treated with some irreverance. Nothing that belonged to human nature was without imperfection, but it might be safely maintained, that the public schools and colleges of Great Britain had, in a very essential degree, contributed in forming the national character, and in leading forward those master-minds, by which the country had in successive ages been conducted to eminence and prosperity.
Even were it conceded, that it was not in the nature of antient establishments to encourage speculative improvements, it must, on the other hand, be allowed, that they afforded a seasonable check to dangerous innovation, and imparted a steadiness and stability to the national mind, which was peculiarly calculated to ensure repose, and promote happiness. If there were not some land-marks by which the adventurous might be guided in their course, they would for ever remain on the uncertain sea of experiment; and, if there were not some water-breakers to protect society, the inundation of the wild waves of untried opinion would overwhelm every thing social and sacred. We must be content, therefore, to submit to the occasional inconvenience of excluding a wholesome importation, for the sake of the general benefit derived from closing our barbours against a wide-spreading pestilence.
The importance of these intellectual edifices of antiquity was not to be measured alone by the instruction they had conveyed to thousands, but by the reverence they were calculated to excite for learning; the retreat which they afforded to the scholar, and the rewards they offered to scientifie success. The most enlightened men that ever benefited mankind, or conferred a lustre upon the human species, had been educated within the walls of these noble establishments; and, it was in vain to say, that they might possibly, had these institutions not existed, have imbibed the principles of excellence in some other way, for, without some exemplars of learning, it was probable that no other sufficient opportunities would have prevailed. Let it be recollected, that the universities of England were established at a period when even princes and nobles were totally unskilled in letters; and the wonder was, that, amidst the general ignorance which then prevailed, it was possible to found such valuable institutions. The beneficial effects which had resulted, in the course of ages, from the labors of the professors and tutors of these learned communities, it was impossible precisely to estimate; but it might fairly be presumed, that they had a mighty influence in forming and cultivating that intellectual power and acuteness by which so many of our countrymen had been distinguished.
Whether, therefore, we surveyed the institutions by which public policy and economy were regulated, or those by which religious instruction was conveyed, and the charities of life promoted; or contemplated the establishments in which the human mind was cultivated, and literature and science encouraged and advanced; we should equally be inclined to ascribe the principal part of our prosperity to these social, moral, and intellectual causes, rather than to the inanimate operation of soil, climate, and geographical position.
ANTIQUITY OF THE EARTH.
The antiquity of the Earth is a subject which is involved in much obscurity, yet has engaged the attention and excited the enquiry of the most learned men in all ages. The enquiry, it must be allowed, is highly interesting, because it leads to serious and important consequences. Though, with respect to the original formation of the earth, and to the first cause of the animal and vegetable species, absolute certainty be not attainable, probability at least lends a seasonable and friendly aid, and the door to philosophical enquiry is not entirely shut against us. Yet, in our researches, history and analogy are our only resources. Whether we consider the traditions and opinions of mankind, in the earliest recorded ages of the world; or carefully examine the nature and appearances of the internal or external structure of this globe, we certainly do not perceive any traces whereby to inferthe eternal duration of the present order of things : on the contrary, we discover evident marks of convulsions and revolutions, and nothing less than a general deluge could have deposited so numerous an assemblage of marine productions as are almost every where to be found, in parts of continents most remote from the present bounds of the sea and far elevated above its surface.
Without pretending to ascertain, whether, at the formation of the earth, chaos had long reigned in that rude state described by Moses, or was only then called into existence out of space by the Almighty fiat; independent too of the obvious deductions of unbiassed reason, from the very nature of cause and effect, and the evident absurdity of supposing an eternal duration of the material world, I still have strong, and, I hope, substantial reasons for objecting to the eternity of the earth, notwithstanding the bold and confident manner in which some persons of acknowledged talent have thought proper to assert it. Surely, we are not reduced to such an unfortunate dilemma, that, if we fail to prove the creation, we must necessarily allow the eternity of the earth. However, to deny the creation, these self-elected arbiters of the universe are obliged to assume an hypothesis, which is, in itself, equally inconceivable, and the very foundation of that hypothesis is ignorance. Thus, to explain a difficulty, or express what they do not understand,' they adopt an unintelligible term, and, to avoid a seeming obscurity, they incur a thousand real ones. For, to assert the eternity of the earth, though under the specious pretence of preserving the unchangeableness and consistency of the Deity, is an idea the most derogatory to his dignity; since it denies the necessity of his existence, and endeavours to establish the inutility of his attributes. To say that the earth is eternal, or coexistent with the Deity, is to declare that matter and all the laws of nature are self-existent and consequently independent of the Deity,-nay more, such a doctrine does not merely point to, but has a direct tendency to atheism. For, where is the necessity, or the probability, of the Deity interfering to preserve what he did not create, nor was any way instrumental in bringing into existence ?
From every traditional and historical document that has reached us, it seems to have been the universal belief that the world had a beginning, whatever difference there may be in point of time. The chronology of the Chinese and Indian Brahmins, which pretends to record events so many thousand