Sidor som bilder

address philosophers, and to obtain the character of a polite preacher among the polite-a much more useless, though more sought-for character---requires a different method of proceeding. All I shall obo serve on this head is, to entreat the polemic divine, in his controversy with the deist, to act rather offen. sively than to defend; to push home the grounds of his belief, and the impracticability of theirs, rather than to spend time in solving the objections of every opponent. It is ten to one,' says a late writer on the art of war, but that the assailant who attacks the enemy in his trenches, is always victorious.'

Yet, upon the whole, our clergy might employ themselves more to the benefit of society, by decline ing all controversy, than by exhibiting even the profoundest skill in polemic disputes : their contests with each other often turn on speculative trifles; and their disputes with the deists are almost at an end, since they can have no more than victory; and that they are already possessed of, as their an. tagonists have been driven into a confession of the necessity of revelation, or an open avoval of athe. ism. To continue the dispute longer would only endauger it; the sceptic is ever expert at puzzling a debate which he finds himself unable to continue, . and, like an Olympic boxer, generally fights best when undermost.'

[ocr errors]



I HAVE frequently been amazed at the ignorance I of almost all the European travellers, who have penetrated any considerable way eastward into Asia. They have all been influenced either by motives of commerce or piety, and their accounts are such as might reasonably be expected from men of a very narrow or very prejudiced education-the dictates of superstition, or the result of igaorance, Is it not surprising, that, of such a variety of adventurers, not one single philosopher should be found among the number? For, as to the travels of Ge. melli, the learned are long agreed that the whole is but an imposture.

There is scarce any country, how rude or upcul. tivated soever, where the inhabitants are not possessed of some peculiar secrets, either in nature or art, which might be transplanted with success; thus, for instance, in Siberian Tartary, the natives extract a strong spirit from milk, which is a secret probably unknown to the chemists in Europe. In the most savage parts of India they are possessed of the secret of dying vegetable substances scarlet, and likewise that of refining lead into a metal, which, for hardness and colour, is little inferior to silver ; not one of which secrets but would, in Europe, make a man's fortune. The power of the Asiatics in producing winds, or bringing down rain, the Europeans are apt to treat as fabulous, because they have no instances of the like nature among themselves; but they would have treated the secrets of gunpowder, and the mariner's compass, in the same manner, had they been told the Chinese used such arts before the invention was common with themselves at home.

Of all the English philosophers, I most reverence Bacon, that great and hardy genius: be it is, who, undaunted by the seeming difficulties that oppose, prompts human curiosity to examine every part of nature; and even exhorts man to try whether he cannot subject the tempest, the thunder, and even earthquakes, to human control. Oh! had a man of bis daring spirit, of his genius, penetration, and learning, travelled to those countries which have been visited only by the superstitions and mercenary, what might not mankind expect! How would he enlighten the regions to which he travelled ! and what a variety of knowledge and useful inprovement would he not bring back in exchange! • There is probably no country so barbarous, that would not disclose all it knew, if it received equivalent information; and I am apt to think, that a person who was ready to give more knowledge than he received, would be welcome wherever he came. All bis care in travelling should only be, to suit his intellectual banquet to the people with whom he conversed: he should not attempt to teach the unlettered Tartar astronomy, nor yet instruct the polite Chinese in the arts of subsistence: he should endeavour to improve the barbarian in the secrets of living coinfortably; and the inhabitant of a more refined country, in the speculative pleasures of science. How much more nobly would a philosopher, thus employed, spend his time, than by sitting at home, earnestly intent upon adding one star more to his catalogue, or one monster more to his collection ; or still, if possible, more triflingly sedulous, in the incatenation of fleas, or the sculpture of cherry.stones!

I never consider this subject without being sur. prised that none of those societies so laudably established in England for the promotion of arts bad learning, have ever thought of sending one of their members into the most eastern parts of Asia, to make what discoveries he was able. To be convinced of the utility of such an undertaking, let them but read the relations of their own travellers. It will there be found, that they are as often de ceived themselves, as they attempt to deceive others. The merchants tell us, perhaps, the price of different commodities, the methods of baling them up, and the properest manner for a European to preserve his health in the country. The missionary, on the other hand, informs us with what pleasure the country to which he was sent embraced Christianity, and the numbers he converted; what methods he took to keep Lent in a region where there was no fish, or the shifts he made to celebrate the rites of his religion, in places where there was neither bread nor wine : such accounts, with the usual appendage of marriages and funerals, inscriptions, rivers, and mountains, make up the whole of a European traveller's diary: but as to all the secrets of which the inhabitants are possessed, those are universally attributed to magic; and when the traveller can give no other account of the wonders he sees performed, he very contentedly ascribes them to the devil.

It was a usual observation of Boyle, the Eoglish chemist, that, if every artist would but discover what new observations occurred to him in the exercise of his trade, philosophy would thence gain innumerable improvements. It may be observed, with still greater justice, that, if the useful know ledge of every country, howsoever barbarous, was gleaned by a judicious observer, the advantages would be inestimable. Are there not, even in Europe, many useful inventions, known or practised but in one place? Their instrument, as an example, for cutting down corn in Germany, is much more handy and expeditious, in my opinion, than the sickle used in England. The cheap and expeditious manner of making vinegar, without pre. vious fermentation, is known only in a part of France. If such discoveries therefore remain still to be known at home, what funds of knowledge might not be collected in countries yet unexplored, or only passed through by iguorant travellers in hasty caravans?

The caution with which foreigners are received in Asia, may be alleged as an objection to such a de. sign. But how readily have several European mer.' chants found admission into regions the most sus. picious, under the character of sanjapins, or northern pilgrims ? To such, not even China itself denies access. .

To send cut a traveller properly qualified for these purposes, might be an object of natiopal concern: it woula, in some measure, repair the breaches made by ambition; and might show that there were still some who boasted a greater name than that of patriots, who professed themselves lovers of men.

The only difficulty would remain in choosing a proper person for so arduous an enterprise. He should be a man of a philosophical turn; one apt to deduce consequences of general utility from particular occurrences; neither swold with pride, nor hardened by prejudice; neither wedded to one particular system, nor instructed only in one particular science; peither wholly a botanist, nor quite an antiquarian: his mind should be tinctured with miscellaneous knowledge, and his manners humanised by an intercourse with men. He should be, in some measure, an enthusiast to the design ; fond of travelling, from a rapid imagination, and an innate love of change; furnished with a body capa. ble of sustaining every fatigue, and a heart not easily terrified at danger.

« FöregåendeFortsätt »