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[We insert in this number of the Journal, two essays by Rowland G. Hazard, Esq. of Peacedale, in South Kingston ; one a "Lecture on the adaptation of the universe to the cultivation of the mind,” delivored before a Lyceum at Kingston, in 1842; the other an address on Public Schools, delivered before the Washington County Association at Wickford, in 1844.
The author of these Essays has been engaged the greater part of a very active life, in an extensive manufacturing business; and yet, amidst all its multiplied anxieties and cares, has contrived to find leisure to indulge his early cultivated fondness for literary and metaphysical pursuits. He has published several essays. His first one, entitled “ Language," published in 1836, was characterized by the late Dr. Channing, in his Lecture on Self Culture, as a book “of much original thought.” It was written while travelling on business through the Southern States. Besides the foregoing, there have also been published an address of Mr. Hazard's on the subject of Temperance, a Lecture on the Causes of the Decline of Political and National Morality, and an Essay on the Philosophical character of the late Dr. Channing, of whom Mr. Hazard was an intimate friend,
Any one well acquainted with Rhode Island, will readily perceive in reading the writings of Mr. Hazard, many of the traits of character peculiar to the people of Narragansett. While he is a zealous
friend of education, and all sorts of moral improvement, there is still manifested throughout a strong attachment to the Rhode Island doctrines of religious freedom and individual liberty, and a just estimation of the dangers inseparable from all forms of associated action, leading, as it often does, to the concentration of power in the hands of a few, where it is too liable to be abused, and to the total neglect of individual responsibility and duty.
Mr. Hazard, and his brothers Isaac P. Hazard, of Peacedale, and Thomas R. Hazard, of Portsmouth, have been liberal patrons of every thing that could promote the cause of public education, and the general welfa re of the people. Editor of Journal.]
The time has not long passed, when, in the performance of this duty, I should have deemed it proper to have made our physical condition the principle subject; and to press the importance of its improvement, the principal object of my discourse.
That time, happily, has passed away; another and better state of things has succeeded.
Intemperence, once so rife among us, has greatly lessened ; and and with it the waste of time, of property, and of character, has also diminished. On the other hand, industry has increased, labor is more economically administered, and we have acquired more thorough habits of business than those which, having obtained amidst the institutions of slavery, were perpetuated long after its abolition, and continued to exert an influence on our community, the more baleful in its consequences, as the system with which those habits in some measure harmonized, passed away. The effects of the change in opinion which has made voluntary labor honorable, and of practice which has made it active and efficient, are palpable. Look around us where we will, the increase of the products of industry, and of the comforts of life, arrest the attention. Commodious mansions or comfortable cottages are fast taking the places of those squalid hovels, where the brawl of the drunkard so often told the sad tale of the hopeless, spirit-broken, and suffering inmates. It is pleasant to witness a change, which has gladdened so many hearts, brought comfort and cheerfulness to so many firesides, and diffused a general feeling of independence and confidence, of self-respect and security. But a new feeling of delight comes over us, when we contemplate this improvement as but the promise of yet higher advancement ; when we regard this generally diffused feeling of independence, as the surest guarantee of moral character, and the certain indication, the prerequisite and precursor, of moral elevation.
The proper condition of society, as well as of the individual, is continued progression; and so strongly do the infinite tendencies of our nature demand this progression, that a proper provision for our physical wants, seldom fails of being succeeded by a desire for higher and more intellectual pursuits.
As a community, we have made this provision; and have arrived at that point, where the demands of our nature require a new progression. Already does the awakened interest on the subjects of education and religion remind us, that this grand law of intelligence is here working out its problem. Let us aid its influence by vigorous thought, and energetic will—let us press onward. Turning then from the finite cares of organic existence, to the infinite realms of thought, what are the objects which present themselves to the intellect ? To every individual thus circumstanced, who for the first time meditates on this infinity, there is probably presented in some form, the portentous question, what and whence and wherefore this 1, which thinks ; and what and whence and wherefore this universe, in which this 1, which thinks, is placed? And with these questions, he may be said to commence his philosophic existence. In advancing to the consideration of them, he has stepped from the finite to the infinite. The worlds of matter and of mind open to his view. Around him, the fair fields of science and philosophy allure him to tread their pleasant paths; stimulating his curiosity by the exhibition of their partially revealed mysteries, and tempting him to exert his powers to cull the flowers of fancy, or reap the harvest of reason. Above him, the lofty sky of speculation seems rather to lend infinity, than to set bounds to his vision. But with whatever avidity and accuracy he may observe ; with whatever reach and acuteness of reasoning he may extend the results of his observations, and however far the loftiest flights of speculation may carry him into the unknown etherial, still do the great questions with which he commenced, bound his visible horizon. They are the ultimate object, the end as well as the beginning of all philosophy, and recur at every step of his progression. Partaking of the infinity into which he has entered, it were vain to attempt to compass them; and all that the most successful investigator of nature's mysteries can hope, is to advance from truths to truths, and from one combination of them to others more comprehensive.
But how often is he deterred by the difficulties which meet him at the very threshhold of the investigation. He looks around, and is perplexed by the incongruity of what he observes, apparently emanating from the same first cause: he sees good and evil ; beauty and deformity; the creatures of benevolence, full of strife and cruelty ; the very elements marring the universe by their violence. Or turning within himself, he finds that with pure and lofty conceptions, and ardent aspirations for the good, he is still liable to be tempted to evil. All is jarring discord.
I know of but one mode, which gives any promise of reconciling these seeming contradictions, and that is to suppose the whole universe as intended for the education of the mind; as a school in which to discipline the spirit.
Without now alluding to the many various cases in which the adap, tations of nature to this object are manifest, I will only remark, that on this hypothesis, the necessity of evil, or at least of different degrees of good, is obvious. For otherwise, there will be no choice. Without choice, there would be no exercise of the will; and this, wanting the powers of the mind, would be dormant. Life, under such circum
stances, would hardly assume any higher form than that of vegetable existence. Without evil, there would be no temptation ; and the pleasures of self restraint, with its ennobling influences on the soul, would be lost; there would be no exercise of moral power. From this it is manifest, that we may reason to the conclusion, that evil is not only a necessary condition of the greatest good, but that it is absolutely requisite to the existence of finite moral agents.
But I have introduced the subject here, that I might draw from it an impressive argument in favor of mental cultivation. For if our hypothesis reconciles the various phenomena of creation, we may safely adopt it as true; and if it be true that this universe has been brought into existence for the purpose of improving the spirit, how very important must be the object for which all this creative power and wisdom has been put forth. The question may here arise, Why was man made so imperfect as to require such a vast apparatus for his improvement? As the ratio of the finite to the infinite is always the same, this question might be asked with equal propriety, if man occupied any position in the scale of being, short of perfection ; and is therefore equivalent to asking-why man, or all intelligence, was not made perfect and incapable of improvement. To this it may be replied, that the universal perfection of intelligence is incompatible with its activity, if indeed it be not with its very existence. For intelligence is active only from some motive. The only conceivable motives are, the desires of improving our own condition, or that of others; motives which could not exist, if all were perfect. If we could no longer employ our powers to advance ourselves, or through the medium of benevolence, derive pleasu
sure from their agency in advancing others, there would be an end of all moral activity. Intelligence would have no object, mind no employment; and all the varied modes in which it now manifests itself, would be annihilated. It would, to all practical purposes, cease to exist. That a portion of intelligent beings should possess a susceptibility to improvement, is then a necessary part of the system of creation ; necessary, that they may themselves have motives to action, and necessary, that they may be the objects of that benevolence which must be the motive influence in a being incapable of self-improvement.
But, if this necessity has placed us lower in the scale of creation, and made us less than the angels, a wise Providence has made it the source of our highest happiness; and a just God, as if in farther compensation for our imperfections, has made this universe and adapted it, as one vast apparatus, to facilitate our improvement, and increase the happiness thus derived from the very deficiencies of our nature. This susceptibility to improvement, is thus made the compensation for the imperfection which it presupposes; and so well does it atone for it, that in view of the amount of happiness it affords us, we may even doubt whether the want of such a capacity for improvement would not be the greatest possible defect in an intelligent nature ; and whether, if we consider the perfection of being as meaning the best possible condition of being, we are not imperfect only in proportion as we neglect to avail ourselves of this compensating principle. And from this aspect do we gather a new emphasis to our argument in favor of mental cultivation; an arguinent, which, as derived from the design of creation, addresses itself to all those nobler sentiments, which would induce us to carry out the beneficent intentions of Providence; while it also appeals to the more selfish and narrow feelings, which would lead us to avail ourselves of all the advantages of our position in the universe.
In conformity to this grand design of creation, progression has been made a necessary condition of happiness ; and no one can be happy, or even long satisfied, who does not think he is advancing in something. He may direct his energies to some worthless pursuit, and amuse himself with accomplishing that, which brings with it no real improvement, no substantial good. But he finds his error, and disappointment and disgust punish the attempted fraud on the law of his moral nature. Those changes of matter, which are within the compass of human agency, are evidently of little importance, except as they influence mind; which alone has a sufficient capacity for improvement to gratify desires constantly extending, and aspirations which know no limit.
Progression of the mind, then, being essential to happiness, and this universe having been constructed, by infinite wisdom, to faciliitate that object, it behoves us, as rational beings, to apply ourselves to the investigation of its complicated machinery, and endeavor, as far as possible, to understand its application to the various conditions of humanity. The natural, (of the supernatural I do not now intend to treat,) the natural modes of its operation are, obviously, three-fold. First, the influence of external material causes; second, the influence which we exert upon each other; and, thirdly, the influence of those powers, which we are conscious of possessing, within ourselves. In other words, the influence of the material world on mind, of mind upon mind, and of the mind upon itself. With regard to the first, the observation of material phenomena is so familiar to us, that we almost fail to observe its most important influences. We look upon a gorgeous sunset, or on the rich and varied aspect of a beautiful landscape, and, perhaps, hardly suffer ourselves to be abstracted from the bustle and hurry of customary pursuits; or if, haply, lending a moment to the luxury of the scene, think only of the immediate and agreeable effect of color and form on the eye, nor reflect that the soul is taking from it an impress, which will forever help to modify its thoughts, and mould them in forms of beauty. He who is engrossed with the ordinary physical cares of life, is not prone to observe such influences. But who does not sometimes recur to the period of childhood, when his feelings were in unison with nature—when on the wings of the morning, his spirit mingled with aurora's glow; or in the shades of evening, partook the universal repose_when every breeze came fraught with melody-when the gentle murmur of the sequestered brook, ministered to the poetry of his soul_when the warm sunbeam seemed to pervade and dilate his whole being—when the returning verdure of spring brought freshness to his mind, and the sombre autumn taught its silent lesson of mutability; mellowed the bright