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Departed benefactors, whose virtues have been revered, and whose goodness venerated, appear to be recognised as the invisible protectors of mankind. Hence the gorgeous fiction of Grecian mythology, a superstition which two thousand years ago lost its authority over the useful occupations of man, but which still preserves a real power over their elegant amusements. Its temples still survive, in mouldering magnificence, though their deities have long since departed. The coral grove still springs up in the depths of the ocean, though the sea-nymph no longer sports in its branches.
We should to no purpose attempt an enumeration of the modification which superstition receives from variations in national character. The far hunting grounds of the Indian, and the luxurious paradise of the Persian, are as dissimilar as might be supposed, from the difference in their modes of life. The indolent Hindoo finds his highest hopes in annihilation; while the war-like Goth believes that in the other world, in the halls of Odin, he shall sing the song of triumph over his slaughtered enemies.
The effects of superstition, however, under whatever form may exist, are always the same - degrading to intellect — debasing to morals. A voice from the remotest antiquity echoes this truth, in deep reverberations. The dark ages of papal superstitionthe black conspiracies of the prince and the priest — the ignorance and degradation of an enslaved people — these will forever speak a language of fearful import. The smoke of the widow's funeral pile still darkens the sky of Hindostan, and ihe waters of the Ganges ever and anon close over a new victim to a cruel delusion. From the burning sands of Africa comes a boding wail, and the spicy gales from the land of myrrh are the messengers of sad tidings.
Turn we from the darker colorings of the picture. The effects of superstition are visible in the literature and science of a nation. The dim light of tradition, and the deceitful glare of fable, reveal not the true colors of things. The treacherous tongue of fiction, and the deceptive song of poetry, possess a dangerous power of fascination often favoring the deception which reason would condemn, and embellishing error, instead of ennobling truth.
It is the tendency of superstition to conceal and distort nature, by fixing upon its casual instead of its constant relations. Thus in the movements of the heavenly bodies, the wandering astrologer beheld only the finger of Fate, tracing the destinies of men: hence to him, the celestial host of midnight performed their ceaseless revolutions with reference solely to the fortunes of an individual. Science has long struggled with innumerable obstacles; but when reason has pointed out her true and only legitimate province, her advancement has been triumphant and glorious.
Generally, the effects of superstition are, to give the supremacy to passion, to contract the intellect, and corrupt the heart to engender prejudice, produce illiberality of mind, and exhibit erroneous conceptions of the character of God.
But light breaks in upon the gloom. Christianity has brought life and immortality to our view. Where its reign is established, superstition is abolished, reason ennobled, imagination purified, and man exists in the noble image of his Maker: while the unseen world, contemplated in the pages of revelation, is radiant with ineffable glory.
The spirit which pervades the following lines would recommend them to favor, even were they without other attraction :
METhinks it should have been impossible,
Yes! who could this lovely carth e'er tread,
And look below - on high - around -
To the humblest flower that decks the ground
As, robed in beauty, he surveyed it
Whose bounteous hand arrayed it?
The wood – the plain the hill and dale -
The deep, low wail of the Autumn blast,
That seems to mourn its own sad deed
Its waters on their glad way speed
Brighit earth! - to thee, they all belong :
Thine, thine their beauty and their song!
Nor feel the beauties that pervade it?
It ever pours to Him who made it?
We deem it proper to state, that should there be a rejoinder to the following, it must form the closing paper upon the subject, so far as this Magazine is concerned. A farther continuation would assume the form of a polemical controversy, which we little affect. Moreover, it would doubtless lead to metaphysical, hair-splitting differences, which tend still less to edification. Metaphysics - judging from some specimens with which we have recently been favored — can hardly conduce to strengthen the intellect, how great soever may be the claims of its advocates in this respect. The strength thus gained, as some one has well said, is like that obtained by the ancient archers, who gave vigor to their sinews by shooting their arrows into the air. In this age of utility, such intellectual gymnastics are not needed.
TO DR. BEASLEY. Sir: Avoiding as much as possible a multitude of words, I will endeavor briefly to reply to so much of your note as I have seen, being that published in a late number of the Knickerbocker.
I am ready to concede the point, that testimony may, in some cases, amount to certainty, provided the word certainty admits of degrees or qualification. This you seem to admit, and even to explain in the latter part of your communication. 'That it may be made so strong as to amount to positive certainty, you endeavor to illustrate by the anecdote of the bundle of faggots. The force of the illustration appears to me to be just this, and no more: as a number of sticks are stronger than one stick, so is the testimony of a number of witnesses stronger than that of one witness. That it is so, no one can disphite; but the question then recurs, can testimony be so accumulated as to out-weigh invariable experience ? Mr. Hume thinks not, because the ignorance, prejudices, passions, and falsehood of mankind render testimony variable and uncertain in its character.
The father evidently tricked his children, and changed the nature of the proposition, by taking a latitude in the performance, which latitude he did not propose to his children. This is allowable enough, when used as a playful wit, but in serious matters, a play upon words of double meaning, or phrases of doubtful import, or mental reservation, or deception of any kind, becomes falsehood. I would not say, with Dr. Johnson, that a punster is as bad as a pick-pocket, but I would as readily enter into trade with one as into an argument with the other.
The instances you bring (that Cicero lived, etc.,) to prove the certainty of testimony, do not appear to me to militate at all against Mr. Hume's argument, because these facts are not opposed by experience ; on the contrary, experience is in favor of the credibility of the facts.
A few witnesses have convinced the reading public of the existence of the city of Timbuctoo; stronger testimony has satisfied many, (and myself among the number,) of the existence of the sea-serpent on our eastern shores; but what testimony would be sufficient to convince them that a river flowed up hill, or that a ponderous body gravitated horizontally?
If miracles, as you seem to suggest, were a result of the laws of nature, which laws were obscure, or unknown, the events in question cease to be miracles, but are natural and necessary consequences : if so, the argument of Mr. Hume is not directed against them. But miracles are not only rare and extraordinary events, but are 'violations of the established laws of nature.'
If the revival of the dead arose from natural causes, then the dead might, and may rise, at any other time, whether there be the like occasion or not.' And if the flood was a natural consequence, and not a miracle, then it would have occurred, and overwhelmed mankind, whether every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually,' or not. These events, therefore, claim to be miracles, in the fullest sense of the word.
If courts of law make up their decisions upon testimony directly at variance with the known laws of nature, fully established by invariable experience, then they decide against justice. I recollect, at this moment, two cases of such testimony in our country, which are in point. The payment of rent was resisted, in this city, on the plea that the house was untenable, by reason of being haunted. It was testified on the stand, as I was informed, that it was impossible to make lights burn with their usual lustre, in that house; that, from the moment the candles or lamps were lighted, they burned with a diminished blue flame; and that frequently the inmates of the house were suddenly seized by an unseen hand, and twirled around several times. What effect this testimony had upon the jury, I do not recollect, but with the audience it produced much mirth.
The other instance is that given at the trial of the Salem witches, where it was testified that witness was 'strangely carried about by demons, wherein they hurried him along through the air ;' that one afflicted young woman was, by her invisible tormentors, 'pulled up to the top ceiling, and held there before a numerous company of spectators, who found it as much as they could do to pull her down again; and much other stuff; of a similar character. In this instance, the jury were weak or wicked enough to decide in favor of the testimony, though that testimony was in direct contravention of the known laws of nature; and the consequences were fatal and wretched in the extreme, and disgraceful to thinking and reasoning beings.
It appears to me, therefore, from every view of the subject, that this argument of Mr. Hume remains unshaken; and that in addition to Campbell, Watson, Paley, Dwight, Smith and others, who, as you observe, have written a multitude of unavailing volumes against it, as many more would avail as little to disturb ils simplicity and force.
SOUTH-SEA EXPLORING EXPEDITION. -- Our American readers will learn, with pleaure, we are sure, that this expedition is to be fitted out at once, by order of the President of the United States. The appropriation made by Congress for each department is in all respects ample for the prosecution of the enterprise in such a manner as to reflect honor and dignity upon the country. The fine frigate Macedonian is now being put in complete order for the expedition, which, together with iwo brigs of the larger class, as tenders, and a capacious store-ship, will form the naval force. The Macedonian will be commanded by Capt. Thomas A. C. Jones, a gentleman of whom we hear the best report, both as a man and as an officer. J. N. Reynolds, Esq., whose 'Voyage of the Potomac' has made so favorably known to his countrymen - will be the Corresponding Secretary to the expedition. A better selection, in our judgment, could not have been made. His entire ability to do honor to the station is undoubted, and we rejoice that this important office has fallen into such competent hands. The readers of this Magazine will be enabled to partake largely of the romance and adventure of the expedition, as we are promised such occasional sketches as may with propriety be given, and which cannot fail to prove both novel and interesting, in an eminent degree.
THE DISCOVERY OF AMERICA. — The reputation of Columbus, as the discoverer of the new world, is in great danger. The 'Royal Society of Northern Antiquaries,' al Copenhagan, Denmark, assert in a recent antiquarian document, that it is established beyond a doubt, that America was discovered by the Scandinavians, who made voyages hither, at a period long antecedent to the era of Christopher Colon -- and that it was a knowledge of these facts - obtained during a visit paid by the Great Discoverer to Iceland, in 1477 — which prompted his memorable expedition. Who is sure of permanent fame, in this prying age? Flamstead's biographer has but lately stripped many leaves from the laurel that graced the brow of Newton, and now comes us up a company of antiques, to prove that the great Genoese was 'not what he is cracked up to be.' However, we have little faith in the researches of these learned Northmen. It was an antiquary of Sweden, if we remember aright, who ascribed an ancient temple in that country to one of Noah's sons, but was willing, after cross-examination, to concede, that it probably belonged to the youngest boy of that first navigator!
MR. SIMMS' NEW ROMANCE. — The author of "The Yemasee,' etc., has in press a novel, entitled 'Mellichampe, a Legend of the Santce. It is a partial continuation of "The Partisan,' although comprising an independent story, with the addition of new characters, in conjunction with several of the old. The scene is mainly laid on the banks of the Santee River, the great theatre of Marion's operations. The story is chiefly domestic, yet mingled with many incidents of a general and public nature. Tarleton appears again upon the stage, and Barsfield, a fierce and bloody tory, well known at the period selected, is a conspicuous character. More use is made of the negro in this than in the other works of the author - with how much success, the volumes will abundantly show. A chief peculiarity of the story is the vindictive pursuit of his enemy hy a well-known character of “The Partisan. The hero is a head-strong, fiëry youth, and the heroine a whole-souled, devoted, and gentle creation. A few glimpses are also afforded of Major Singleton, in the progress of some spirited adventures.
"INKLINGS OF ADVENTURE.' - Messrs. SAUNDERS and Otley have published, under the above title, a work in two volumes, containing the following papers, which were given to the world originally in an English magazine, and subsequently re-published in the 'Mirror of this city: Pedlar Karl ; Niagara – Lake Ontario — The St. Lawrence; The Cherokee's Threat; F. Smith ; Edith Linsey – I. Frost and Flirtation ; II. Love and Speculation ; III. A Digression; IV. Scenery and a Scene; Scenes of Fear: 1. The Disturbed Vigil; II. The Mad Senior; III. The Lunatic's Skate; Incidents on the Hudson. The Gipsey of Sardis : Tom Fane and I; Larks in Vacation ; A Log in the Archipelago; The Revenge of Signor Basil; Love and Diplomacy; The Mad House of Palermo ; Minute Philosophies. There is a lightness and ease, and a certain charm of ideal coloring, about these sketches, which have made them generally popular, both at home and abroad.
EASTBURN'S LECTURES ON PhiliPIANS. -- Messrs. Carvills, and SWORDS, STANFORD AND COMPANY, have published, in a handsome volume of two hundred and fifty pages, eighteen Lectures, explanatory and practical, on the Epistle of Paul to the Philipians. By MANTON Eastburn, D. D., Rector of the Church of the Ascension, in this city. They are intended for Sunday evening reading, in families; and being well and briefly written, devoted to the practical illustration of the Scriptures, and untinged by sectarianism, are calculated to do good.
Barber's ELOCUTIONIST. Mr. A. H. Maltby, of New-Haven, has published, in a handsome volume of some four hundred pages, a second edition of a work thus entitled, which consists of declamations, and readings in prose and poetry, for the use of colleges and schools. A new edition is substantial praise of the good taste and judgment manifested in the selection and arrangement of the volume.
SURGERY. - A work entitled 'Surgery Illustrated,' by A. SIDNEY DOANE, A. M., M. D., of this city, just issued by the HARPERS, will be found a most valuable aid to the medical practitioners and students of the United States. It is laboriously and carefully translated and compiled from the works of Cutler, Hind, Velpean, and Blasius, and is illustrated by fifty-two plates.
"THE OLD WORLD AND THE New,' by the Rev. Orville Dewey, but recently published by the BROTHERS Harper, has met with the success which this Magazine predicted it could not fail to command. A second edition has already been called for by the public.
ACQUISITION OF THE GREEK LANGUAGE.
The Greek language has been justly described as “the shrine of the genius of the old world.' From our boyhood we are taught to revere it as the dialect of poets, and orators, and heroes now canonized in fame. We think of Greece with wonder
as the land of classic story and song. It is hallowed in our associations by a strange mystery; it is the dwelling-place of a noble by-gone race - a mausoleum consecrated by their ashes a land where · flowers now blossom from the dust of kings.'
However we may account for it, it is certain that the Grecian mind was formed in a mould of surpassing beauty. The fact needs no illustration. That poetic spirit which gave a voice to every object in nature — which animated every existence with a soul — which held converse with spirits, not only in the grove and by the fountain, but among the terrors of the tempest -- that high perception of sublimity, which found its element not alone in the nobler operations of external nature, but also in the high virtues and energies of the human soul — that delicate sense of the beautiful which imparted a grace to every thought — these have ever been the admiration of mankind.
It would be foreign to our present purpose (which has a practical aim) to discuss the merits of Grecian literature, or analyze its characteristics. We would, however, advert in this connection to what we deem a prevailing error; we mean that of regarding the literature of ancient Greece as having arisen at once in its perfection - as having been born in maturity -- as having burst with full orb from chaotic darkness. Reason frowns on such a supposition, and history does not countenance it. To believe that the genius of Homer sprang into existence, like the goddess of Wisdom, full-armed; that in the darkness of a barbarous and unlettered age, the birth of poetry was proclaimed in the Iliad; that its harmonies first woke the slumber of the mind, and that in all its polish, and beauty, and labored numbers, it surprised the world, is to believe against nature, and, if chronology be any thing, against revelation. Without dwelling, however, upon general topics, we proceed to consider the two points which we have particularly in view at the present time, viz: the objects to be gained by the study of the Greek language at the present day, and the best method of acquiring this language.
The doubts and objections which have been raised respecting the study of the dead languages, have resulted from an entire misapprehension of the object of such study. This object is not the acquisition of knowledge, as such, but the cultivation of the mind. We wish that