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ON AFFORDING TO KEEP A CONSCIENCE. is related of the late Dr. Paley, IT that he jocularly said of himself, that "he was not rich enough to afford to keep a conscience." Whether the jocularity was real or affected, the saying appears to afford a key to the doctor's character. About the period of his using these expres sions, much discussion had taken
place among many clergymen of the church of England, on the subject of subscription to the 39 articles; and some highly respected characters, as Lindsey, Disney, &c. bad resigned their livings rather than comply, when the dictates of their judgment did not sanction the external act of compliance. The doctor's thorough orthodoxy was rather suspected, but as a salvo to his own mind, he invented the convenient doctrine, that each might put his own construction on the articles, which were only to be considered as "articles of peace" This convenient doctrine soon became fashionable: many, as well as the doctor, satisfied themselves with a reservation as to internal belief, and by giving an external assent, retained their emoluments, and put a stop to the desertions, which were then rapidly for a season thinning the ranks of the church. The casuistry of "not affording to keep a conscience," soon became fashionable and was found very efficacious in silencing scruples.
From the present temper of the times, and the current of public o pinion, the disinclination to keep a conscience is very prevalent, and is a characteristic feature of modern manners. The inflexible firmness of good old times is out of fashion, and if knowledge have increased, unbending, undeviating integrity has declined. In the polish of manners, asperities have not only been rubbed off, but a considerable part of the substance has been lost, and a been sacrificed to smoothness and great portion of steady principle has pliancy.
We require to be recalled to an adherence to principle, and to prefer the higher toned virtues of foriner sessing a discriminating character. times, to the modish defect of not pos Pope's satire, partial when exclusively confined to one sex, may be extended to both sexes, and to most ranks in life, and we may admit that many "have no character at al" the many have so little of mind, and preserve so little of that independence, which best indicates the exercise of judgment, and the individuality that results from the employment of mind, that to go into company, and hear the conversation on the topics of the day, there is so little of discrimination, and originality of matter or manner, we might be induced to say, they are composed of
"Matter too soft a lasting mark to bear, And best distinguish'd by black, brown, or fair."
Man is a gregarious animal, and to dwell in herds is his favourite inclination. Consequently each circle has to a certain degree its owa maxims, and is governed by its own laws. So far all is well, and according to the nature and constitution of the mind of man, but as excess leads into error, and many
adopt the maxims of the society, whether religious, political, or social, into which inclination or accident may have thrown them. Being unwilling to be at the expense of keeping a conscience, they try the experiment of keeping one in common among them, and of squaring their conduct by a set of notions, which under such circumstances must be vague, and undefined. Diffusion of this kind necessarily produces weak
Dr. Johnson in conversing with a young woman, who had changed her profession of religion, and who pleaded conscience for the act, told her, that she had no right to judge, but leave the matter to the conscience of the state. She justly retorted on the Doctor, by archly embodying a personifica tion of the state, and its mighty conscience, and showed the absurdity of the phantom. Yet this conscience, of common stock, often supersedes the genuine unsophisticated visitingsofindividual conscience, and man drops his individuality, and suffers himself to lose his independent character, and becomes like an unanimated par ticle in the general mass.
In former times, the moral censor had the task of softening down the asperities of virtue, and teaching that virtue was more lovely without her frown: now the times, and prevailing errors are changed. Attempts are made to force virtue to wear a perpetual smile, and to as sume an unmeaning simper. She retires, and her place is frequently usurped by a phantom dressed like her, of complaisant and pliant maaners, but totally deficient in the energies of manly independence. Fashion exercises almost an omnipotent sway, not only over dress, and manners, but has intruded her dictates over opinion, and attempts to interdict independence, and principle. Virtue, retired at a distance,
calls to her followers to rally, and arrange themselves under her unspotted banners, that the more errors and vices abound, they may more resolutely make a stand, and resist the encroachment of the enemy. Above all her incessant call is, "Erect my standard over every discouragement, dare to do right in the worst of times, and do not begrudge the expense of keeping a clear conscience."
The too general habits of living above income, are destructive of virtu ous independence. This is one of the effects of luxury which now so generally prevails. Many will deny the charge; but under its more comprehensive definition, all improper indulgence of expense above means is luxury, which thus becomes in a certain sense a relative term. Such is the strange compound produced by the passions, that we often meet with sordid meanness, as to matters of useful expenditure, combined with great prodigality in articles, in which indulgence and ostentation are concerned, and find people nig gardly and profuse at the same time. A high toned virtue teaches us to hold all things in their proper estimation, and to give to each its appropriate place; to be generous and liberal on proper occasions, even though the exertions should lay us under the necessity of abridging ourselves of some selfish gratifications. But an indulgence in improper expenses, has a strong tendency to debase the mind, by lowering the standard of moral excellence. Many from being straitened to make expenses commensurate with income, are led into acts, which destroy peace of mind, and are reduced to that state of poverty, both literally and metaphorically as not to be able to afford to keep a conscience. conscience. Bad habits often com‐ mence in thoughtlessness and pro
fusion, and terminate in debase. ment of character.
Lord Kames, says he, has observed K." that, generally speaking, the figu rative sense of a word is derived from To the Editor of the Belfast Magazine. its proper sense," and then, in illus Magazine.ration of this remark, the Professor
N his philosophical essays, Dugald Stewart shows himself a zealous antagonist to the theory of Hartley, yet his own performance appears to be a perpetual practical application of that very theory. It illustrates as it were the ubiquity of the associating principle, in all the philosophy of mind, and in all the effects of experience. Indeed, as has been well remarked by Horne Tooke, philosophers have taken away from experience the credit of our instruction, for want of perceiving how early she begins her lessons.
proceeds in tracing the various metaphorical or transitive meanings of the term sublime, to its literal and primary sense, as synonimous with height or altitude.
Whether Mr.. Tooke's political principles have had any influence in exasperating the repugnance which the Scotch philosophers have expressed with respect to his etymological doctrine, it is not easy to say; but I am disposed to believe, that a man who made use of such a sentence as the following, stands but little chance of ever receiving a warm compliment from the Edinburgh Reviewers." But I do acknowledge, and In like manner, Professor Stewart, I make it my boast, that upon all finds fault with this same Horne great public questions, neither friends, Tooke, for recurring in his explana- nor foes; nor life, nor death; nor tion of terms, to the literal, and thunder, nor lightning shall ever primitive sense of the roots from make me give way, the breadth of whence they sprung, elucidating, by one hair," This was indeed a dethis means with a glance of his ori- claration sufficient to cause the broadginal genius, the gradual process of est stare throughout the Scottish analogical phraseology, by which, land, and to, fix all its poets, its phimetaphysical terms, that were seem-losophers, and its patriots, in mute ingly divested of their primary im- astonishment. port, are again resolved into the circumstances, which originally suggested them; and thus, terms, the most refined and abstracted, are proved to have been at first, borrowed from some object of external perception. Hence the Etymologist will often correct the errors of the Metaphysician.
Yet, notwithstanding his rejection of Mr. Tooke's most ingenious hypothesis; Mr. Stewart in his essay on SUBLIMITY, seems to have implicitly adopted it, though he is willing, with the esprit de corps common to all Scotch authors, to make Lord Kames the original source om whence he drew his theory.
I feel the highest or deepest respect for the inhabitants of Scotland personally, for their many estimable qualities, for their habits of industry and economy, their tranquil and indefatigable ambition; their hard though polished manners; their tenaciousness of purpose; their general education; and even their na. tionality, which can, however, be deemed but a bastard patriotism. Personally, they are to be respected; as a public they are nothing, and with respect to public spirit, or the souL of a COUNTRY, it is my unalterable opinion, that it was lost for ever at that fatal era, when a historian of their own nation said that
no sum was too little for purchasing the votes of the Scottish members.
Although it be certain that the period of time between the revolution, and the passing of the act of union produced men of eminent talents; yet it is some compensation, and some consolation if in consequence of that act so destructive of public spirit in Scotland, literature has been more successfully cultivated, and learned men become more abundant. It is some compensation that they can lay claim to such an author as Dugald Stewart, though it is much to be doubted whether they ever will have to boast of such a man as Horne Tooke. Lord Erskine will by many be deemed a veteran patriot, but some who more narrowly watch the difference between the exits and entrances of men will only call him a veterinary patriot. Fletcher of Saltoun appears to me the last of the Scottish patriots, as Marcus Brutus, was calJed by Cremutius Cordus (who suffered death in consequence of this libel on the government)-the LAST of the Romans. It was said of Fletcher that he would lose his life, readily, to preserve his country, and would not do a base action to save it. He was a learned, gallant, honest, and every way well accomplished gentleman, and if ever a man proposes to serve and merit well of his country, let him place the courage, zeal, and constancy of this man before him, and think himself suffi ciently applauded and rewarded, if he obtained the character of being like Andrew Fletcher, of Saltoun.
With respect to Mr. Stewart's reference of the different cases of the sublime to the literal acceptation of the word, meaning height or altitude, I think it a beautiful illustration of Horne Tooke's philosophical etymology. Yet the descent of Eneas, and
BELFAST MAG, AO. XXXHI,
of Ulysses into the infernal regions is one of the most sublime passages in the Eneid, and the Odyssey; and an earth-quake is really, and descriptively the sublimest occurrence which can happen to mortals, though it takes place beneath our feet.
But my purpose in writing, at present, was merely to adduce one instance of a nature scarcely referable to this literal acceptation of the term, sublime, even as the common basis of collateral associations. Perhaps the circumstance most impressively sublime, in the history of modern literature, is the impenetrable concealment, the shadows, cloud, and darkness which hang around the real author of the Letters of JUNIUS. "If I be a vain man, my vanity lies within a narrow circle. I am the depositary of my own secret, and it SHALL PERISH WITH ME." Such is the sentence, which, taken with all its concomitant circumstances, appears to me the most sublime in modern writ, yet without any supposable connexion with the literal import of that word.
There is, generally, one prominent quality which characterizes the stile, as it often does the individual, and we can readily distinguish both in orators, and in authors, different varieties of this very same character. Thus in the exuberance of words common to the three, how great is the difference, and how easy the distinction between the majestic and fertilizing flow of Ciceronian diction, the ostentatious, yet elegant amplification of Pitt, and the copious barrenness of C-t-h. Thus too in the common quality of brilliant fancy, we can easily discriminate the antithetical stile of Grattan from the efflorescent of Burke.
Far am I from confining the merits of the former, as Flood once did, to the powers of fancy, at a
time too, when he himself must have felt, what all Ireland then felt, and gloried in feeling that with those powers, that orator combined not only the principles but the flame of public virtue, and hence it was that all Ireland admired, and loved him. "When those principles," says an eminent genius, "are in the head alone, they are notions, principles from which to reason, and they serve oftener to judge of the conduct of others, than to influence our own. But when they are in the heart too, they become sentiments, principles of action, and they unite the powes of the whole man, in pursuit of every laudable purpose.'
Thus, again, in the common qua lity of the SUBLIME, we may distinguish between the concentrated energy of Tacitus, the opulent and ornate diction of Gibbon, and the inimitable stile of JUNIUS; a stile, polished, indeed so highly by art, as serves most effectually to collect and condense the rays of his genius; a rare combination of most vigorous intellect, with most exquisite taste; contemptuous of figurative language, and yet endowed with that delicate perception of the scarcely discernible boundary which separates ornament from exuberance, and elegance from affectation;" severe even to malignity*, and gifted with a sword of sarcasm so tempered, that neither keen nor solid might resist
Such and so great indeed is this malignity, that it may be said to insinuate somewhat of the same disposition into the reader, who, for a moment, feels himself inclined to suspect that this severe man, was in the confidence of the very ministry, whom he deemed it a duty to expose; that he compounded with his private and personal, for the sacrifice of his public and political conscience; and that had he ever made himself known, his real name would have sunk in perishable infamy, while in his assumed one, he has become immortal.
its edge; yet, with all this characteristic sublimity in the whole course of his letters, the master stroke, the crowning act of the practical sublime still remained. It was accomplished--in the impenetrable concealment of the author, mocking alike the sagacity of poli tical spies and the futile investiga tions of literary curiosity; and su perior not only to the temptations of popular fame while in life, but even to posthumous glory. There never has been, and relying as I do, on the sentence above cited, I am disposed to believe there never will be a revelation of this sublime myste ry, hitherto unexampled in the history of literature. Their monuments remain, but the names of him who built the greatest of the Pyramids and of him who polished the periods of Junius are alike unknown.
"The other shape, If shape it might be called, that shape had