These benefits have already accrued to civilised men, because they have lately allowed a very few of their number peaceably to imitate Mr. Rarey, and find out what nature—or rather, to speak at once reverently and accurately, He who made nature—is thinking of; and obey the “voluntatem Dei in rebus revelatam.” This science has done, while yet in her infancy. What she will do in her maturity, who dare predict? At least, in the face of such facts as these, those who bid us fear, or restrain, or mutilate science, bid us commit an act of folly, as well as of ingratitude, which can only harm ourselves. For science has as yet done nothing but good. Will any one tell me what harm it has ever done? When any one will show me a single result of science, of the knowledge of and use of physical facts, which has not tended directly to the benefit of mankind, moral and spiritual, as well as physical and economic—then I shall be tempted to believe that Solomon was wrong when he said that the one thing to be sought after on earth, more precious than all treasure, she who has length of days in her right hand, and in her left hand riches and honour, whose ways are ways of pleasantness and all her paths are peace, who is a tree of life to all who lay hold on her, and makes happy every one who retains her, is—as you will see if you will yourselves consult the passage—that very Wisdom—by which God has founded the earth; and that very Understanding—by which He has established the heavens.
I wish this lecture to be suggestive, rather that didactic; to set you thinking and inquiring for yourselves, rather than learning at second-hand from me. Some among my audience, I doubt not, will neither need to be taught by me, nor to be stirred up to inquiry for themselves. They are already, probably, antiquarians; already better acquainted with the subject than I am. They come hither, therefore, as critics; I trust not as unkindly critics. They will, I hope, remember that I am trying to excite a general interest in that very architecture in which they delight, and so to make the public do justice to their labours. They will therefore, I trust,
“Be to my faults a little
Be to my virtues very kind;”
and if my architectural theories do not seem to them correct in all details—well-founded I believe them myself to be—remember that it is a slight matter to me, or to the audience, whether any special and pet fancy of mine should be exactly true or not: but it is not a light matter that my hearers should be awakened—and too many just now need an actual awakening—to a right, pure, and wholesome judgment on questions of art, especially when the soundness of that judgment depends, as in this case, on sound judgments about human history, as well as about natural objects.