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Scriptures of God. The trees hide the forest. Some men are so snagged on a single point of doctrine that the whole river of truth runs by them.
Thus, too, we have had reformers with one idea, reasoners with but one sound premise, scientists with a single hobby, literary men piping on one note, until what physiologists would call the rudimentary organs of humanity seem to be more numerous than the developed, and the mind of quaternary man to revert to some miocene type. One grows weary of fractional thinkers - trees with one branch, blades keen, but so thin. He longs for the large thinkers, the broad reasoners, the wide observers, the many-sided souls. He almost pines for the return of the Butlers and Cudworths and Barrowses and Taylors and Browns and Leightons, the Bacons and the Johnsons, the Chaucers and Spensers and Miltons, the Keplers, Cuviers, Newtons, Herschels, and Humboldts; if not these, yet others in their spirit and power, their robustness and strength, their reach and their grasp.
II. Another element naturally connected with that largeness of heart is range of knowledge. This is the food on which thought feeds and grows. A man may indeed have knowledge without wisdom, but hardly much wisdom without knowledge. Even the powers of intuition seem to develop only in the presence of act and fact. Judgment is trained in the weighing of events, and wisdom rounded out by observation and experience. Seclusion and isolation dull and darken humanity; but communication and contact strike out mutual sparks from hard Aints. And so nature spreads out her panorama that the researches of the race may imprint it on the retina of one mind; and the voices of the past come down through a thousand channels to reverberate in the individual ear. History and biography pour their treasures into his coffers. Foreign lands invite him to view their works and ways, that he may return a larger soul. He learns other tongues, and each vibrates with new strains of humanity.
The more of all these influences we can concentrate in one well-compacted whole the grander is the total. It is as when all the divergent sounds of the outer world, as we are told, gather into one musical note. Accordingly the great thinkers have been wide observers, readers of nature, of men, or of books, or of all. The writer of the Homeric poems had eyes for all that was then to be seen or heard ; and fortunate beyond compare was Greece if she had a whole brood of Homers. Dante, the great poet of the middle ages, had the whole contemporary world before his eye. Our Shakespeare was not a scholastic man, but what did he not know? But why specify individuals when, in general, the epoch makers, whether in science, art, literature, politics, or even theology, have almost invariably been men of large range, for the good reason that they only who know what has been done can know well what remains to be done. The most learned explorer but adds his mite to the accumulations of the past, and the greatest inventor comes into sight only as he stands on others' shoulders.
Our predecessors had an advantage in the matter of range and roundness, in that the circle of knowledge seemed less infinite, and men might in a sense be said to have traversed the circle. We cannot talk so now. Therefore perhaps we too despondingly subside into our small corners of study; and perhaps the broad strong men, though by no means wanting, may be fewer than once. Men longingly say, “There were giants in those days,” whereas the inducement is now to live in a specialty. But he is a wise man who in some degree breaks the chain and asserts his freedom. It did not hurt but help Isaac Barrow, the transcendent master of English, that as a mathematician and philosopher he was fit to be Newton's predecessor and teacher. Sir William Hamilton but for the vastness of his general learning would have failed to be the first metaphysician of his age. The brilliant preacher Robertson lost no power in the pulpit by his side pursuit of physical geography, German metaphysics, history, and political economy, and even his six months' hard work on Fowne's chemistry and the commitment of all Dante's Inferno to memory in
season. Goethe was the greater writer and poet for his multifarious learning and culture. Wordsworth might have wrought higher had he wrought wider. Macaulay might have done better even for his great fame and influence, perhaps, had he substituted more of other themes for his perpetual rereading of the ancient classics. Had Carlyle in his manhood familiarized himself more with those practical sciences and pursuits
which he despised he might have put forth more of such teaching as formed his early strength and spared us some of the Jeremiads of his later days and the posthumous wails of his biography. Choate's legal career coruscated with his literary taste, and was fed .by daily translations from the Latin and Greek. His characteristic advice to a young law student was : “Cicero and Burke I would know by heart; both superlatively great, both knew everything."
Now though, alas ! we cannot literally “know everything,” and must even learn rigidly to limit ourselves, we must never forget that common bond of all the sciences, nor fail, while standing firmly within our own territory, to keep a keen and friendly outlook over all the adjacent region. To know only one thing is not to know that thing aright; for all finite knowledge is related knowledge. We must know things in their applications and connections. How much knowledge is rendered well-nigh useless by this defect! What mistakes have been made because men have lived in their cell! Men of the several callings — the theorist and the practical or business man, the skeptic and the theologian
- fail to reach and comprehend each other. Controversialists fight their own shadows. Ignorant speculators revive exploded theories. Much new truth is but old error. Half-educated men are the chief originators and victims of hobbies. The old proverb, “Beware of the man of one book," has a double edge: it may mean, beware of his accuracy and certainty; or, more often, keep clear of his narrowness, pertinacity, and conceit. Largeness of intelligence is thus an important condition of largeness of heart; and the two qualities, breadth of intellect and range of knowledge, are, next to right affections, the guaranty of true freedom of opinion.
There is the utmost difference, however, between free thought and what is called free-thinking. Free thought ranges boldly but reverently through every theme in the universe, from God, its soul and center, to the minutest atom and the remotest corner. It explores, analyzes, compares, tests the nature of things, the nature of man, the nature of God. It inspects the deepest facts, the highest relations, their fitness and fittings, the what, the how, the why, the whence, the whither. It proves and holds fast the good. Freethinking, in its extreme, if not its normal, type, ranges the nooks and inspects the corners and finds all but Him who fills all. It explores all relations except the highest, all facts except the most momentous, all fitnesses except the most fit. It investigates the what and the how, but omits the why, the whence, and the whither. It tends sooner or later to disprove all things and hold fast nothing. Free thought moves in right lines ; free-thinking largely in zigzag. The one revels in the clear white light; the other can take all the hues of the chameleon. The one is essentially constructive ; the other destructive. Free thought is modest, calm, quiet ; free-thinking too often loud, boastful, defiant.
In that range of knowledge which ministers to largeness of heart it is becoming more and more impossible