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THE BRIEF REMARKER, &c.
Of the Inventions and Improvements of the present age.
THERE are two opposite extremes in sentiment, and both productive of evil in practice: the one, a supercilious contempt of the wisdom of former ages; and the other, a blind veneration for it.
Within the period of the last thirty years, the world has teemed with authors and admiring readers, in whose visionary fancies a new and most sublime order of things was rising out of the chaos of the past, and to be consummated—not through the regenerating influences of christianity, but by the omnipotence of human reason. In their wild conceptions, what had been called the light of antiquity was gross darkness, and its maxims and institutions were to be swept away as vile and cumbrous rubbish. The men of all former ages they regarded as pigmies, rather entitled to scorn than veneration. The world, they imagined, had been all along in swaddling clothes—in the imbecility of puling infancy; that the Age of Reason was now dawning, and men, ere long, would be as gods; that ships and ploughs would be taught to guide themselves, and balloons would supersede the necessity of horses and carriages for travelling. All old things, being the offspring of barbarian ignorance and vile prejudice, were to be done away. An end was fortunately to be put to the partition of property, to the unnatural ties of matrimony, to all peculiar affection for one's own children, to all the narrow partialities arising from kindred blood. Every heart was to
embrace, in its warm affections, nothing less than the whole living world. A system of morals and customs entirely new was to be reared ; a system beautiful, magnificent, lofty-reaching to heaven!
These impious fooleries having had their day, have since, with general consent, been scoffed off the stage.
On the other hand, some are ever lecturing about the superior wisdom of antiquity; as if the world were constantly retrograding rather than advancing. Now this, though not so pernicious an error as the other, is, nevertheless, an error of hurtful consequence, inasmuch as it tends to damp and discourage the laudable spirit of enterprize and improvement.
66 In ancient times the world was by so many ages younger and less experienced than it is in our own times"-observed the great Chancellor Bacon, who left this stage of mortality nearly two centuries ago. And with the like propriety may the same observation be made now, and retorted. In Chancellor Bacon's times (we have a good right to say) the world was so many ages younger and less experienced than it is in our own times. Neither is there wanting the fullest evidence arising out of the progress of civil society. Deeply astonished must have been that wonderful man, could he have foreseen the immense harvest of improvement already yielded from the seed, of which he was kimself, as respects human agency, the principal sower.
The chequered age that we ourselves live in, is, along with all its pernicious follies and heavy iniquities, an age fraught with useful discoveries, with rare inventions, and with grand designs and plans of philanthropy. This terraqueous globe, and the nations and tribes inhabiting it, are much better known now, than at any former period. Through means of new inventions we enjoy very many comforts and conveniences, of which our progenitors of all former times were destitute; while fresh sources of knowledge are opened to us with regard to the customs, manners, and conditions of the various branches of the human family.
I should far exceed my proper limits were I so much as to name even an inconsiderable part of the useful inventions, discoveries, and improvements of the present