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III. The erterrol comforts of mankind promoted by intelligence and improvements in the arts.
ox. The Utility of KNOWLEDGE IN RELATION TO A FUTURE World.
on THE import ANCE OF CONNECTING SCIENCE WITH RELIGION.
increase of knowledge, of late years. Tendency to irreligion in certain scientific inquirers,
to guard us from similar dangers. Foxtract from Rev. D. Young. Nature of the pro-
GENERAL DIFFUSION OF KNOWLEDGE.
I N T R O DU CTION.
Whrw we take a restrospective view of the state of mankind during the ages that are past, it presents, on the whole, a melancholy scene of intellectual darkness. Although in every age men have possessed all the mental faculties they now or ever will enjoy, yet those noble powers seem either to have lain in a great measure dormant, or, when roused into action, to have been employed chiefly in malignant and destructive operations, Hence the events which the page of history records chiefly present to our view the most revolting scenes of war, rapine, and devastation, as if the earth had been created merely to serve as a theatre for mischief, and its inhabitants for the purpose of dealing destruction and misery to all around them. Such, however, are the natural consequences of the reign of Ignorance over the human mind. For the active powers of man necessarily follow the dictates of his understanding, and when the intellectual faculties are not directed to the pursuit and the contemplation of noble and benevolent objects, they will most frequently be employed in devising and executing schemes subversive of human happiness and improvement.
Amidst the darkness which, in ancient times, so long overspread the world, some rays of intellectual light appeared in Palestine, in Egypt, and in the Greek and Roman empires; but its influence on the nations around was extremely feeble, and, like a few tapers in a dark night, served little more than to render the surrounding darkness visible. The light of science which then shone was, however, doomed to be speedily extinguished. About the fifth century of the Christian era, numerous hordes of barbarians from the northern and the eastern parts of Europe, and the north-western parts of Asia, overran the western part of the Roman empire, at that time the principal seat of knowledge; and, in their progress, overturned and almost annihilated every monument of science and art which then existed. Wherever they marched, their route was marked with devasta
tion and with blood. They made no distinction between what was sacred and what was profane—what was barbarous and what was refined. Amidst the din of war, the burning of cities, the desolation of provinces, the convulsion of nations, the ruin of empires, and the slaughter of millions, the voice of reason and of religion was scarcely heard; science was abandoned; useful knowledge was set at naught; every benevolent feeling and every moral principle was trampled under foot. The earth seemed little else than one great field of battle; and its inhabitants, instead of cultivating the peaceful arts and sciences, and walking hand in hand to a blessed immortality, assumed the character of demons, and gave vent to the most fiend-like and ferocious passions, till they appeared almost on the brink of total extermination. For nearly the space of a thousand years posterior to that period, and prior to the Reformation, a long night of ignorance overspread the nations of Europe, and the adjacent regions of Asia, during which the progress of literature and science, of religion and morality, seems to have been almost at a stand; scarcely a vestige remaining of the efforts of the human mind, during all that period, worthy of the attention or the imitation of succeeding ages. The debasing superstitions of the Romish church, the hoarding of relics, the erection of monasteries and nunneries, the pilgrimages to the tombs of martyrs and other holy places, the mummeries which were introduced into the services of religion, the wild and romantic expeditions of crusaders, the tyranny and ambition of popes and princes, and the wars and insurrections to which they gave rise, usurped the place of every rational pursuit, and completely enslaved the minds of men. So great was the ignorance which then prevailed, that persons of the most distinguished rank could neither read nor write. Even many of the clergy did not understand the breviary, or book of common prayer, which they were daily accustomed to recite, and some of