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A PERFECTLY just and sound mind is a rare and invaluable gift. But it is still much more unusual to see such a mind unbiassed in all its actings. God has given this soundness of mind but to few; and a very small number of those few escape the bias of some predilection, perhaps habitually operating; and none are, at all times and perfectly, free. I once saw this subject forcibly illustrated. A watch-maker told me that a gentleman had put an exquisite watch into his hands, that went irregularly. It was as perfect a. piece of work as was ever made. He took it to pieces and put it together again twenty times. No manner of defect was to be discovered, and yet the watch went intolerably. At last it struck him, that, possibly, the balance-wheel might have been near a magnet. On applying a needle to it, he found his suspicion true. Here was all the mischief. The steel work in the other parts of the watch had a perpetual influence on its motions ; and the watch went as well as possible with a new wheel. If the soundest mind be MAGNETIZED by any predilection, it must act irregularly.
PREJUDICE is often the result of such strong associations, that it acts involuntarily, in spite of conviction and resolution. The first step toward its eradication, is the persevering habit of presenting it to the mind in its true colours.
If a man will look at most of his prejudices, he will find that they arise from his field of view being necessarily narrow, like the eye of the fly. He can have but little better notions of the whole scheme of things, as has been well said, than a fly on the pavement of St. Paul's Cathedral can have of the whole structure. He is offended, therefore, by inequalities, which are lost in the grand design. This persuasion will fortify him against many injurious and troublesome prejudices.
Just judgment depends on the simplicity and the strength of the mind. The eye which conveys a perfect idea of the scene to the mind, must be unclouded and strong. If the mental eye be not single, the judgment will be warped by some little, mean, and selfish interests; and, if it be not capable of a wide and distant range, the decision will be partial and imperfect. For example: a man, with either of these failings, will be likely to blind his eyes from the conviction, that would dart on him, when he places a son or
a friend in any sphere of influence, BECAUSE he is his son or his friend; when a single or a strong eye would shew him, that the interests of Religion and Truth required him to prefer some other person. The mind must be raised above the petty interests and affairs of life, and pursue supremely the glory of God and the Church.
Some minds are so diseased, that they can see an affair only in that light, in which passion or predilection first presented it, or as it appears on the surface. The essence, the truth of the thing, which must give character to the whole, and on which all just decision must depend, may lie beneath the surface, and may be a nice affair. But such minds cannot enter into it. It is as though I should try to convince such persons allowing me that the pineal gland is the seat of the soul—that however fair and perfect the form, the man wanted the essence of his being, in wanting that apparently insignificant part of his body. Such men would say, “ Here is a striking and perfect form-all parts are harmonious-life animates the frame—the machine plays admirablywhat has this little, insignificant member to do with it?” And yet this is the essential and characterizing part of the man.
Every man has a peculiar turn of mind, which gives a colouring and tinge to his thoughts. I have particularly detected this in myself with respect to public affairs. I have such an immediate view of God acting in them, that all the great men, who make such a noise and bustle on 'the scene, seem to me like so many mere puppets. God is moving them all, to effect His own designs. They cannot advance a step, whither. He does not lead; nor stand a moment, where He does not place them. Now this is a view of things, which it is my privilege to take as a Christian. But the evil lies here. I dwell so much on the view of the matter, to which the turn of my mind leads me, that I forget sometimes the natural tendencies of things. God uses all things, but not so as to destroy their natural tendencies. They are good or evil, according to their own nature; not according to the use which He makes of them.
THE mind has a constant tendency to conform itself to the sentiments and cast of thinking with which it is chiefly conversant, either among books
If the influence remain undetected, it grows soon into an inveterate habit of obliquity. Even if it be detected, it is the most difficult thing in the world to bring back the mind to the
standard, especially if there, be anything in its constitution which assimilates itself to the error. I was once much in the habit of reading the mystical writers: a book of Dr. Owen's clearly convinced me that they erred: yet I found my mind ever inclining toward them, and winding round like the biassed bowl. I saw clearly the absurdity of the notions in their view of them, and yet I was ever talking of “self-annihilation” &c.; and am not even now rid of the thing.