Famous Reviews eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 678 pages of information about Famous Reviews.
The state of the exact sciences proves, says Mr. Gladstone, that, as respects religion, “the association of these two ideas, activity of inquiry, and variety of conclusion, is a fallacious one.”  We might just as well turn the argument the other way, and infer from the variety of religious opinions that there must necessarily be hostile mathematical sects, some affirming, and some denying, that the square of the hypothenuse is equal to the squares of the sides.  But we do not think either the one analogy or the other of the smallest value.  Our way of ascertaining the tendency of free inquiry is simply to open our eyes and look at the world in which we live; and there we see that free inquiry on mathematical subjects produces unity, and that free inquiry on moral subjects produces discrepancy.  There would undoubtedly be less discrepancy if inquirers were more diligent and candid.  But discrepancy there will be among the most diligent and candid, as long as the constitution of the human mind, and the nature of moral evidence, continue unchanged.  That we have not freedom and unity together is a very sad thing; and so it is that we have not wings.  But we are just as likely to see the one defect removed as the other.  It is not only in religion that this discrepancy is found.  It is the same with all matters which depend on moral evidence, with judicial questions, for example, and with political questions.  All the judges will work a sum in the rule of three on the same principle, and bring out the same conclusion.  But it does not follow that, however honest and laborious they may be, they will all be of one mind on the Douglas case.  So it is vain to hope that there may be a free constitution under which every representative will be unanimously elected, and every law unanimously passed; and it would be ridiculous for a statesman to stand wondering and bemoaning himself because people who agree in thinking that two and two make four cannot agree about the new poor law, or the administration of Canada.

There are two intelligible and consistent courses which may be followed with respect to the exercise of private judgment; the course of the Romanist, who interdicts private judgment because of its inevitable inconveniences; and the course of the Protestant, who permits private judgment in spite of its inevitable inconveniences.  Both are more reasonable than Mr. Gladstone, who would have private judgment without its inevitable inconveniences.  The Romanist produces repose by means of stupefaction.  The Protestant encourages activity, though he knows that where there is much activity there will be some aberration.  Mr. Gladstone wishes for the unity of the fifteenth century with the active and searching spirit of the sixteenth.  He might as well wish to be in two places at once.

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We have done; and nothing remains but that we part from Mr. Gladstone with the courtesy of antagonists who bear no malice.  We dissent from his opinions, but we admire his talents; we respect his integrity and benevolence; and we hope that he will not suffer political avocations so entirely to engross him, as to leave him no leisure for literature and philosophy.

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