previous next
[9] truths inspiring action, no laws regulating human
chap I.} 1748.
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

1 Vivre dans la grande vie des siecles.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
Providence, R. I. (Rhode Island, United States) (1)

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
1748 AD (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: