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The Growth of Thought as Affecting the Progress of Society   By:

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By William Withington.



Part I. Introductory.

Life Defined. Intellectual Culture and Intellectual Life, Distinguished. Human Life, a Problem. The Evil to be Managed. Self Love Considered under a Three fold Aspect. Three Agencies for meliorating the Human Condition. The Growth of Thought, Slow; and oft most in unexpected quarter.

Part II.

Welfare as dependent on the Social Institutions. Limited Aim of the Received Political Economy. An Enlightened Policy but the Effective Aim at managing Self Love, directed towards Present Goods, vulgarly understood. The Political Fault of the Papacy. Its Substantial Correction by the Reformation. Republicanism carried from Religion into Legislation; still without a clear perception of its Principle. Its Progress accordingly Slow.

Part III.

Philosophy the Second Agency for promoting General Welfare, as the Educator of Self Love; the Corrector of mistaken apprehensions of Temporal Good; the Revealer of the ties which bind the Members of the Human Family to One Lot, to suffer or rejoice together. Progress in estimating Life.

Part IV.

Mightier Influences yet needed, to contend with the Powers of Evil. Supplied by Man's recognizing the whole of his Being; the extent of his Duties; the Duration of his Existence. Religion, supplying the defects of the preceding Agencies; Considered in nine particulars.


Recapitulation. Suggestions to Christian Ministers.


A contemporary thus reveals the state of mind, through which he has come to the persuasion of great insight into the realities, which stand behind the veil: "What more natural, more spontaneous, more imperative, than that the conditions of his future being should press themselves on his anxious thought! Should we not suppose, the 'every third thought would be his grave,' together with the momentous realities that lie beyond it? If man is indeed, as Shakespeare describes him, 'a being of large discourse, looking before and after,' we could scarcely resist the belief, that, when once assured of the possibility of information on his head, he would, as it were, rush to the oracle, to have his absorbing problems solved, and his restless heart relieved of its load of uncertain forebodings." [Bush's Statement of Reasons, &c., p. 12.]

Not less frequently or intensely, the writer's mind has turned to the problem of applying know truth to the present, reconciling self love with justice and benevolence, and vindicating to godliness, the promise of the life that now is. If, meanwhile, he has been "intruding into those things which he hath not seen," like affecting an angelic religion, then it were hardly possible but that he should mistake fancy for fact. But if his inquiries have been into what it is given to know, then he cannot resist the belief, that some may derive profit from the results of many fearfully anxious years, here compressed within a few pages. He might have further compressed, just saying: Mainly, political wisdom is the management of self love; civilization is the cultivation of self love; the excrescenses of civilization are the false refinements of self love; while unselfish love is substantial virtue, the end of the commandments, the fulfilling of the law: Or, he might have enlarged indefinitely; more especially might have been written on practically applying the principles to the advancement of society. He may yet produce something of the kind. Of the substance of the following pages he has only to say, that, if false, the falsehood has probably become too much a part of his nature to be ever separated. As to such minor considerations, as logical arrangement and the niceties of style, he asks only the criticism due to one, whose hands have been necessitated to guide the plough oftener than the pen, through the best years of life.

The Growth of Thought, As Affecting the Progress of Society.

Part I... Continue reading book >>

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