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Aug. 7th. “ What comforts can such Doctrines give in the seasons of Affliction, and on the approach of Death ?”
This observation works with immense power upon most minds; but what does it amount to? Are Doctrines true in proportion to their power of soothing a certain description of persons ? Then the imaginative Religions of the East must be true: the Koran must be true. If Comfort is the guage and measure of Truth, who is a more enviable being than the sincere Mahometan? His practical Fatalism gives him Resignation; he derives a lively Hope of future happiness—a clear, definite state of happiness
- from the performance of certain external duties. Let those who look for comfort in Doctrines, embrace those of the Koran. Why will they not?-Because the Koran is not a true revelation. This is a most sensible Answer. Why, then, do the same people employ the Topic of comfort, for the purpose of getting proselytes to their religious system ?
For my own part, I declare that I never derived any comfort from the doctrines of the Atonement, and their collateral branches; but that at present my mind is in a most satisfactory state in regard to religious questions.
Thursday, August 9th. . It is indeed with difficulty that I resist the utmost dejection of spirits. Nor is there anything surprising in this, considering the long time that I have continued pinned down to this chair, and generally even without the power of amusing myself with reading. I think, however, I have rather improved in patience. I am in hopes that on my approaching the End, unless I have the misfortune of dying in great pain, I shall derive mental strength from the sure prospect of the great change. I conceive there is something very dignified in a human being awaiting his Dissolution with firmness. Painful as Death frequently is from the nature of some of the diseases that inflict it, the transition from this to an unknown state of existence has something ennobling in it. May God grant me the great blessing of an Euthanasia.
Aug. 10th. In Mill's excellent article on Bentham (London and Westminster Review for this month), there are some very acute observations on the two kinds of Talent—the Constructive and the Destructive. [By the bye, I do not recollect to have seen this Nomenclature anywhere, before I proposed it with an apology, in an article on the state of Education in Spain, for which I was applied to, through Dr. Whately, by the Editor of the Journal of Education. There are two articles upon that subject in that Journal. Mine is the first; with the other I disclaim all connection.] It appears to me, that in treating of this subject, it is always taken for granted that in all matters there is a possibility of being Constructive; -that every Error has a corresponding Truth, which it is the duty of him who upsets the Error to establish, in the place of the Delusion which has been dispelled. This, however, appears to me an unwarrantable and mischievous assumption. Suppose a man discovers the absurdity of a certain system of religious ceremonies : is he to be called upon to give us another ? How often, in the destructive process, it is seen that the supposition of partial error, on which it was begun, is totally groundless, and that the only Remedy in the case is total Abolition! Now, to undertake inquiries of this kind, under the impression that whatever error we destroy will leave a chasm which it is our duty to fill up, must shackle our faculties, and give us a wrong bias throughout the whole examination. This is what has happened to the Reformation. It was supposed, and it is still firmly believed, that the basis of Christianity is some positive Authority; and every Reformer who has been successful in opening the eyes of a certain number of people to the existence of some hitherto unobserved Error, has invariably employed himself in the constructive attempt of establishing the supposed divine Authority which his destructive process has shaken. This is the cause of our making no Progress—that even the Unitarians are at a stand,
and do not know what course to take. Let them at once perceive, that in this case the whole process must be destructive, that nothing should be substituted in the place of an arbitrary system: and then, but not before, will true religious Liberty be established.
August 11th. The Misses Yates, whose kindness to me has been very marked, and most delicately expressed, by a constant attention to every little thing that could cheer my sinking spirits—such as beautiful flowers, and some choice vegetables from their kitchengarden-being on the point of setting out for Italy, Constantinople and Greece, requested me to write a few lines in their Album. I did so this morning, though much against my inclination, being convinced that even a man of the most ready wit, must be dull when he undertakes this kind of performance. I pointed out part of the moral duties of Travellers.
August 13th, 1838. An English Sunday is the very emblem of Dulness : but it is difficult to conceive its depressing effects on a solitary sufferer like myself. This religion of means converted into ends, is the occasion of great mischief everywhere.
14th. This was a day of much suffering, and little thought. Usquequo, Domine ?
15th. Those that praise cheerfulness in severe illness can have no notion of what it is to be ill. My experience is unfortunately very long, and if there is earnestness and honesty in man, I may be believed when I assert that my efforts to overcome the sinking of the spirits are strong and incessant. But alas ! for the cheerfulness which is to be obtained by Effort, unsupported by some alleviation of pain and misery. Such efforts are necessary; they are a Duty, and, as such, I take great care not to neglect them; but to be cheerful, to be in high jocular spirits, when there is not any part of the body exempt from actual pain, when every function of life is a torture, when eating is nausea, sleep agony, and even sitting in a luxurious chair may be compared to being on the rack-to ask for cheerfulness when all power of locomotion has been taken away, and the legs are felt to be unorganised burdens, performing no office but that of vehicles of pain,-denotes a thoughtlessness which the sufferer feels as one of his greatest trials. How dreadfully have I smarted under the cheering unfeelingness of people who enjoy habitual health !