11. I shall conclude this essay with a story which I have some where read in an account of Mahometan superstition. A dervise of great sanctity one morning had the misfortune, as he took up a crystal cup, which was consecrated to the prophet, to let it fall upon the ground and dash it in pieces. His son coming in some time after, he stretched out his hand to bless him, as his manner was every morning; but the youth going out stumbled over the threshold and broke his arm. As the old man wondered at those events, a caravan passed by in its way from Mecca. The dervise approached it to beg a blessing; but as he stroked one of the holy camels, he received a kick from the beast, that sorely bruised him. His sorrow and amazement increased upon him, till he recollected, that, through hurry and inadvertency, he had that morning come abroad without washing his hands.
The Advantages of a good Education.
1. I consider a human soul without education like marble in the quarry, which shews none of its inherent beauties, until the skill of the polisher fetches out the colours, makes the surface shine, and discovers every ornamental cloud, spot and vein, that runs through the body of it. Education, after the same manner, when it works, upon a noble mind, draws out to view every latent virtue and perfection, which, without such helps, are never able to make their appearance.
2. If my reader will give me leave to change the allusion so soon upon him, I shall make use of the same instance to illustrate the force of education, which Aristotle has brought to explain his doctrine of substantial forms, when he tells us that a statue lies hid in a block of marble; and that the art of the statuary only clears away the superfluous matter, and removes the rubbish. The figure is in the stone, the sculptor only finds it. What sculpture is to a block of marble, education is to an human soul.
3. The philosopher, the saint, or the hero, the wise, the good, or the great man, very often lie hid and concealed in a plebeian, which a proper education might have disinterred, and have brought to light. I am therefore much delighted with reading the accounts of savage nations, and with contemplating those virtues which are wild and uncultivated; to see courage exerting itself in fierceness, resolution in obstinacy, wisdom in cunning, patience in sullenness and despair.
4. Men’s passions operate variously, and appear in different kinds of actions, according as they are more or less rectified or swayed by reason. When one hears of negroes, who upon the death of their masters, or upon changing their service, hang themselves upon the next tree, as it frequently happens in our American plantations, who can forbear admiring their fidelity, though it expresses itself in so dreadful a manner?