truths inspiring action, no laws regulating human
achievements; the movement of the living world would be as the ebb and flow of the ocean; and the mind would no more be touched by the visible agency of Providence
in human affairs.
In the lower creation, instinct is always equal to itself; the beaver builds his hut, the bee his cell, without an acquisition of thought, or an increase of skill.
‘By a particular prerogative,’ as Pascal has written, ‘not only each man advances daily in the sciences, but all men unitedly make a never-ceasing progress in them, as the universe grows older; so that the whole succession of human beings, during the course of so many ages, ought to be considered as one identical man, who subsists always, and who learns without end.’
It is this idea of continuity which gives vitality to history.
No period of time has a separate being; no public opinion can escape the influence of previous intelligence.
We are cheered by rays from former centuries, and live in the sunny reflection of all their light.
What though thought is invisible, and even when effective, seems as transient as the wind that raised the cloud?
It is yet free and indestructible; can as little be bound in chains as the aspiring flame; and, when once generated, takes eternity for its guardian.
We are the children and the heirs of the past, with which, as with the future, we are indissolubly linked together; and he that truly has sympathy with every thing belonging to man, will, with his toils for posterity, blend affection for the times that are gone by, and seek to live in the vast life of the ages.1
It is by thankfully recognising those ages as a part