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449. A variety of opinions seems to have been meant to be allowed to men; and to be in a certain degree disconnected with their responsibility. If this is the case, can we wonder that these different opinions (and on the most important subjects) should admit of that defence which precludes both the absolute refutation, and the right of determining the merit or demerit of those who hold them ?-W. Danby.
As the understanding may be injured, so may the opinions. We form both by social intercourse, and thus Society, whether good or bad, tends either to form or to impair them. It is, then, above all things important, to choose such Society whereby they may be formed, and not impaired; and the choice cannot be properly made, if they have not been already formed, and not impaired. In this manner the whole forms a circle ; happy those who can deviate from it without danger !-Pascal.
451. Live not on opinions; but think for thyself, and act with reason; and shun carefully the contagion of minds, which communicates itself by the ways and manners of those we converse with.—Dr T. Fuller.
452. What we think, has often to be corrected by what we ought to think. I do not mean by this, that we should make a sacrifice of our reason; but that our reason should examine whatever is before it, with a due sense of our own limited powers, and that the examination should not be a partial one. By observing this rule, if we are not always sure of making a right decision, we may at least be pretty sure of not making a wrong one: and many are the cases in which it is better to suspend our judgment,
than to run the risk of making an improper use of it. Suspending our judgment is not suspending our opinion; for I believe the human mind is so constituted, that it cannot help forming an opinion on whatever it adverts to.-W. Danby.
453. He that shortens the road to knowledge, lengthens life; and we are all of us more indebted than we believe we are, to that class of writers whom Johnson termed “the pioneers of literature, doomed to clear away the dirt and the rubbish, for those heroes who press on to honour and to victory, without deigning to bestow a single smile on the humble drudge that facilitates their progress.”—Lacon.
454. Some writers write nonsense in a clear style, and others sense in an obscure one; some can reason without being able to persuade, others can persuade without being able to reason ; some dive so deep that they descend into darkness, and others soar so high that they give us no light; and some in a vain attempt to be cutting and dry, give us only that which is cut and dried. We should labour therefore, to treat with ease, of things that are difficult; with familiarity, of things that are novel; and with perspicuity, of things that are profound.—Lacon.
455. Condensation results from the mastery of a subject. It is imperfection of view or imbecility that occasions diffuseness; and it is to such a cause, rather than to amplitude of resources or invention, that we owe the generality of bulky tomes; for great books, like large skulls, have often the least brains.“ W. B. člulow.
456. Books are not absolutely dead things, but do
contain a progeny of life in them, to be as active as that soul was whose progeny they are ; nay, they do preserve, as in a vial, the purest efficacy and extraction of that living intellect that bred them. I know they are as lively, and as vigorously productive as those fabulous dragon's teeth; and being sown up and down, may chance to bring up armed men. And yet, on the other hand, unless wariness be used, as good almost kill a man as kill a book. Who kills a man, kills a reasonable creature—God's image, but he who destroys a good book, destroys reason itself, kills the image of God, as it were, in the eye. Many a man lives a burden to the earth : but a good book is the precious life-blood of a master spirit, embalmed and treasured up on purpose to a life beyond life.-.John Milton.
457. Many books require no thought from those who read them, and for a very simple reason ;-—they made no such demand on those who wrote them. Those works therefore are the most valuable, that set our thinking faculties in the fullest operation. For as the solar light calls forth all the latent powers, and dormant principles of vegetation contained in the kernel, but which, without such a stimulus, would neither have struck root downwards, nor borne fruit upwards, so it is with the light that is intellectual; it calls forth and awakens into energy those latent principles of thought in the minds of others, which without this stimulus, reflection would not have matured, nor examination improved, nor action embodied. Lacon.
458. Were all books reduced to their quintessence, many a bulky author would make his appearance in a penny paper. There would be scarcely any such thing in nature as a folio : the works of an age would be contained on a few shelves; not to
mention millions of volumes that would be utterly annihilated. --Addison.
459. We shall generally find, that the most excellent books in any art or science, have been still the smallest and most compendious; and this not without ground; for it is an argument that the author was a master of what he wrote, and had a clear notion, and a full comprehension of the subject before him. For the reason of things lies in a little compass, if the mind could at any time be so happy as to light upon it: most of the writings and discourses in the world are but illustration and rhetoric, which signifies as much as nothing to a mind eager in pursuit after the causes and philosophical truth of things.-Dr T. Fuller.
460. By only seeking and perusing what is truly excellent, and by contemplating always this, and this alone, the mind insensibly becomes accustomed to it, and finds that in this alone it can acquiesce with content.-Harris.
461. The best books are those which every reader thinks he himself could have written. Nature, which is the highest excellence, seems familiar and level to all.-Pascal.
462. It has long been deemed the glory of Socrates, that he brought Philosophy from the schools of the learned to the habitations of men-by stripping it of its technicalities, and exhibiting it in the ordinary language of life. There is no one, in modern times, who has possessed the talent and disposition, for achievements of this kind, to an equal extent with Paley; and we can scarcely conceive any one to have employed such qualities with greater success. The transmutation of metals into gold was the
supreme object of the alchemist's aspirations. But Paley had acquired a more enviable power. Knowledge, however abstruse, by passing through his mind, became plain, common sense-stamped with the characters which insured its currency in the world.—Bp. Turton.
463. may perhaps be worth while to remark, that if we except the poets, a few orators, and a few historians, the far greater part of the other eminent men of letters, both of Greece and Rome, appear to have been either public or private teachersgenerally either of Philosophy or Rhetoric.-Adam Smith.
464. A total seclusion from the world must of course give a wrong bias to our opinions, and too much mixing with it will leave us no opinions but what we borrow from others. A judicious observer will not be carried away by the tide of popular opinion, nor will he be bound by the long-worn chains of prejudice. Sometimes the chief proof that we give of the independence of our opinions, is by a constant opposition to those of others. We may fancy this is independence, without feeling that it is, in fact, a dependence on our own humour.—W. Danby.
465. The studious men, while they continue heaping up in their memories the customs of past ages, fall insensibly to imitate them, without any manner of consideration how suitable they are to times and things. In the ancient authors they find descriptions of virtues more perfect than indeed they were. The governments are represented better ; and the ways of life pleasanter than they really deserved. Upon this, these bookish men straight compare what they read, with what they see; and there beholding nothing so heroically transcendent, because