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upon those brilliant points, and not fancy them the spangled pavement of a divine abode? There is virtue as well as poetry and philosophy in them. They shed down a healing and restorative influence upon their worshippers. They are the symbols of endurance and perpetuity. "When I gaze upon the stars, do they not seem to look down on me as if with pity from their serene spaces, like eyes glistening with heavenly tears over the little lot of man? Thousands of human generations, all as noisy as our own, have been swallowed up of time, and there remains no wreck of them any more; and Arcturus, and Orion, and Sirius, and the Pleiades are still shining in their courses, clear and young, as when the shepherd first noted them in the plain of Shinar."
Another variety of human greatness is practical talent; by which I understand a talent for business, skill in affairs, a faculty of compassing ends and of swaying the judgments and wills of others, and compelling them to execute our purposes and behests. This, unquestionably, is a high endowment, enabling its possessor, when it is skilfully used, to wield a mighty influence and to bring about vast results. At the present day, it is in great repute, and perhaps is more estimated than any other species of talent, far more, I think, than it intrinsically deserves. For often it is a minute species of wisdom, narrow in its views, limited in its plans, and selfish in its aims. The mere practical man is, after all, but an imperfect specimen of humanity. He is little
fitted, by his habits of thought and action, to manage public affairs, discuss the great questions of morals or government, or legislate on the complicated interests of a people. The author of the book of Ecclesiasticus says of such men, "Without these a city cannot be inhabited, and they will maintain the state of the world. But they shall not be sought for in public council, nor sit on the judges' seat; they cannot declare justice and judgment." And the most popular writer of the present age observes, "those who live in public business, and of course in constant agitation and intrigue, know but little about the real and deep progress of opinions and events. Immersed in little political detail and the struggling skirmish of party, they seem to lose sight of the great progressive movement of human affairs. They put me somewhat in mind of a miller, who is so busy with the clatter of his own wheels, grindstones, and machinery, and so much employed in regulating his own artificial mill-dam, that he is incapable of noticing the gradual swell of the river from which he derives his little stream, until it comes down with such force as to carry his whole manufactory away before it.”*
Let it be remembered that I have been speaking of mere practical talent. When, however, this is combined with intellectual power, and guided by humane and benevolent feelings, then is manifested a species of moral greatness, from the influence of which the most important and beneficial results have redounded to the * Lockhart's Life of Scott, Vol. V. Chapter 7.
world. It becomes the instrument of advancing civilization, improving the condition of our race, mitigating the woes of humanity, lessening the dangers and exposures of life, and prolonging the term of human existence. For my own part, I would rather have been the discoverer of vaccination, the inventor of the safetylamp, or the author of "The Practical Navigator," than stand at the head of all the merely speculative philosophers and theorists that have ever lived. The names of Jenner, and Davy, and Howard, the preservers and benefactors of their species, in real greatness how do they transcend those of the famous military heroes, the destroyers of their fellow-men! Burke mentions it as the high praise of Howard, that "he visited all Europe to take the gauge and dimensions of misery;" and he adds that "his plan was as full of genius as of humanity." "Maria d'Escobar," we are told by Sir James Mackintosh, "a Spanish lady, first brought a few grains of wheat into the city of Lima. For three years she distributed their produce among the colonists, giving twenty or thirty grains to each farmer. By this supply of food she brought into existence more human beings than Napoleon destroyed. If she had come from Egypt to Attica in the earlier days of Grecian history, she would have been a goddess. Sir John Malcolm introduced potatoes into India. That benefit may be remembered long after his Persian mission is forgotten. If Lord Wellesley had accomplished the abolition of infanticide, his name would have been held in everlast
ing remembrance. All the negotiations and wars, which appear so splendid at present, will, in a history of twenty years hence, not occupy ten pages. So nearly, in some parts of human conduct, does the distribution even of fame agree with the dictates of that eternal justice which declares, that whosoever shall give to drink to one of these little ones a cup of cold water, shall in no wise lose his reward. The smallest act of benevolence, especially of benevolence towards those who spread truth, is sure to reward itself, and is likely to be praised by future generations."
We come at last to the highest species of human greatness, namely, pure moral and spiritual greatness. Would we view man in his noblest aspect, we must turn from mere physical operations and intellectual pursuits, and survey his moral and spiritual nature. "The proper study of mankind is man." The noblest of sciences is moral science; the highest philosophy is the philosophy of man's spiritual nature; and the most glorious exercise of his powers is in developing and cultivating his religious instincts. The man who devotes himself, singly and earnestly, to the cultivation of moral principle and spiritual truth, who labors to extend through the community a reverence for right, duty and virtue, and by the persuasive influence of his own example and the deep fervor of his own cheerful and unaffected piety, diffuses all around him the same trusting confidence in God and the same unwavering reliance upon a benignant Providence that fill his own
bosom-that man seems to me to have attained to the highest endowments of human nature, and reached the summit of earthly greatness. And it is worthy of remark that this was the sentiment of the most illustrious and successful investigator of chemical science which this age has produced-I mean Sir Humphry Davy. "I envy," says that great philosopher, "no quality of the mind or intellect in others; not genius, power, wit, or fancy. But if I could choose what would be most delightful, and, I believe, most useful to me, I should prefer a firm religious belief to every other blessing. For it makes life a discipline of goodness, creates new hopes when all earthly hopes vanish, and throws over the decay, the destruction of existence, the most gorgeous of all lights; awakens life even in death, and from corruption and decay calls up beauty and divinity; makes an instrument of torture and of shame the ladder of ascent to paradise; and, far above all combinations of earthly hopes, calls up the most delightful visions of palms and amaranths, the gardens of the blest, the security of everlasting joys, where the sensualist and the skeptic view only gloom, decay, annihilation, and despair."
You have doubtless perceived, my hearers, long ere this, that the train of my remarks has been suggested by the solemn event which has recently deprived this community of one of its most efficient and valuable