« PreviousContinue »
I have been taken almost wholly from labour for four months, but am slowly rising. Sometimes I dream of a visit to England, and the thought of seeing you comes to me among the chief pleasures I should meet abroad; but I shall probably prove a dreamer.
I do not mean to trouble you with a long letter. I write to express my sympathy, and to assure you of the sincere respect with which I remain,
W. E. CHANNING.
July 14th. A letter from Mr. — , saying little that gives me the idea of despatch of business. He is evidently afraid of frightening me with the view of testaments and wils. This seems to be an universal silliness.
July 27th. Received a most kind letter from Lord Holland, and, under a frank of Lord Melbourne, a Note from one of his Secretaries, desiring me to apply to the Treasury to receive £300 from the Queen's Royal Bounty. This is truly royal !
Aug. 1st. Wrote to Mrs. Whately declining the £100, this year.
Nothing in the whole course of my life, has perplexed me more than this lingering in the face of Death.
I became totally crippled in my legs, about six weeks ago, and have been, during that time, unable to rise from my arm-chair. Mr. Thom has been all this time out of Liverpool, and I have been left to myself in this wretched state. For many weeks I have lost the power of fixing my attention. The most overwhelming somnolency seizes me. Under the influence of these circumstances, together with the diminished hope of dissolution, which formerly cheered me, I have lost all energy. One thing, however, consoles me: my still being in Life seems to be likely to be beneficial to my Son. He is extremely attached to me, and my last advice will ever be impressed upon his Soul. If I do not live many months, I shall leave him a handsome sum, out of the £300 received from the Queen. ....
Friday, Aug. 3rd. This miserable state of existence lowers my spirits daily. To pass the night in moaning and drinking laudanum as the only means of getting a little repose; to rise up, and be wheeled to the spot where I must remain fixed till the hour of going to bed, unable to pursue any mental object, and hardly awake enough for writing a Letter—thus to have lived month after month, and yet to see no end at band, is extremely trying and distressing. Of its being arranged in Wisdom I have no doubt; but pain and anguish must be felt, however willingly you submit. Socrates so feared the moral evils of Disease, that the certainty of escaping those of extreme old age by the legal Murder of which the Athenians were about to be guilty against him, was one of the main supports he had against the Terrors of Death. How would Socrates have stood the trial of severe Illness (he never in his life was even indisposed) is a problem of great curiosity, but which we have not the means to solve. Socrates, an Invalid, or Valetudinarian, would have been quite another individual. As far as we know the personal qualities of Jesus of Nazareth, the same may be probably asserted. A sickly man may be an amiable and interesting person, but he cannot be extensively useful.
Sunday, Aug. 5th. God cannot have formed his intellectual creatures to break like bubbles, and be no more. To die with implicit trust in Him, but without drawing absurd Pictures of a future life, is the only rational conduct of which the subject admits.
Monday, Aug. 6th. “ Were this world our only sphere of action, we might be depressed at the thought of our unfinished plans, and of going, before half our work was done. But the very power which grasps at so much more than we can accomplish, is prophetic of a higher life.” Dr. Channing, in a Letter received this day.
This is, indeed, one of the most powerful arguments in favour of the Immortality of the Soul. If any one who possesses even a slight power of selfobservation, will turn candidly within himself, and try to obtain a collective view of what he calls his Soul, he will soon be convinced that the Spirit which dwells in him cannot be the effect of a mere combination of organic phenomena. It is, on the contrary, the most real, and, using the word in a truly philosophical sense, the most substantial thing, with which we are acquainted: it is the ultimate and most firm foundation for our belief in God. Our Soul is not a growth of our external or material Frame: on the contrary, it is the foundation of our Being. But the Soul contains in itself the deepest mysteries of the Universe: the more we examine it, the greater is our perplexity in regard to its Personality, and even to its Unity. Observe the tendency of self-observers to divide it into two—a higher and an inferior Soul. This is the great Problem of true philosophy-namely, the separation of the superior and inferior Faculties, the fixing the seat of Personality. Were this settled, were it shown, for instance, that Personality consists in the Limitation, the shaping of the inferior Soul by the circumstances of each person's condition in this life, I believe that all the difficulties against the Immortality of the Soul would vanish. They arise, in my opinion, from making the word soul express a multitude of things, which cannot be reduced to one Predicament. This is, however, the effect of the Imagination-that treacherous Faculty to which men surrender themselves, in all subjects connected with religion. P.P., Clerk of the Parish, must be the identical Individual throughout Eternity: the same are every one of his Neighbour's wishes; against which wishes there are difficulties which every reflecting man must find insuperable.
“Alas! You will take away our Personality." And who will mourn for the loss ? Some distressed Impersonal. “But what becomes of all the system of Rewards and Punishments ?" It will surely exist as long as man is upon the face of the Earth. But here we are gliding again into the Political Religion
-the Instrument which employs Man's hopes and fears, in order to shape him to some system of government, which must, under all modifications, exclude both violence and profligacy. Let men know themselves—let them be well educated from their infancy, and they will find Heaven in doing their Duty,—and Hell, in defying it.
“ Oderunt peccare boni, virtutis amore ;
Tu nihil admittes in te, formidine pænæ." The former should be the Aim of all Education; for the latter no sensible man would give a straw.