S. Austin Allibone, comp. Prose Quotations from Socrates to Macaulay. 1880.
Dr. John Macculloch
We cannot look around us without being struck by the surprising variety and multiplicity of the sources of Beauty of Creation, produced by form, or by colour, or by both united. It is scarcely too much to say, that every object in nature, animate or inanimate, is in some manner beautiful: so largely has the Creator provided for our pleasures through the sense of sight. It is rare to see anything which is in itself distasteful, or disagreeable to the eye, or repulsive: while on this, however, they are alone entitled to pronounce who have cultivated the faculty in question; since, like every other quality of mind as of body, it is left to ourselves to improve that of which the basis has been given to us, as the means of cultivating it have been placed in our power.
May I not also say, that this beauty has been conferred in wisdom, as in beneficence? It is one of the revelations which the Creator has made of Himself to man. He was to be admired and loved: it was through the demonstrations of His character that we could alone see Him and judge of Him: and in thus inducing or compelling us to admire and love the visible works of His hand, He has taught us to love and adore Himself. This is the great lesson which the beauty of Creation teaches, in addition to the pleasure which it affords; but, for this, we must cultivate that simple and surely amiable piety which learns to view the Father of the Universe in all the works of that universe. Such is the lesson taught by that certainly reasonable philosophy which desires to unite what men have too much laboured to dissever; a state of mind which is easily attainable, demands no effort of feeling beyond that of a simple and good heart, and needs not diverge into a weak and censurable enthusiasm. Much therefore is he to be pitied or condemned who has not cultivated this faculty in this manner; who is not forever looking round on creation in feeling and in search of those beauties; that be may thus bend in gratitude and love before the Author of all Beauty.
Fastidiousness, the discernment of defects, and the propensity to seek them, in natural beauty, are not the proofs of taste, but the evidences of its absence; it is, at least, an insensibility to beauty; it is worse than that, since it is a depravity when pleasure is found in the discovery of such defects, real or imaginary. And he who affects this because he considers it an evidence of his taste is, at least, pitiably ignorant; while not seldom punished by the conversion of that affectation into a reality. And it is the same in criticism as applied to works of literature. It is not the eye for faults, but beauties, that constitutes the real critic, in this, as in all else: he who is most discerning in the beauties of poetry is the man of taste, the true judge, the only critic. The critic, as he is currently termed, who is discerning in nothing but faults, may care little to be told that this is the mark of unamiable dispositions or of bad passions; but he might not be equally easy were he convinced that he thus gives the most absolute proofs of ignorance and want of taste.
He who can imagine the universe fortuitous or self-created is not a subject for argument, provided he has the power of thinking, or even the faculty of seeing. He who sees no design cannot claim the character of a philosopher; for philosophy traces means and ends. He who traces no causes must not assume to be a metaphysician; and if he does trace them, he must arrive at a First Cause. And he who perceives no final causes is equally deficient in metaphysics and in natural philosophy; since, without this, he cannot generalize,can discover no plan where there is no purpose. But if he who can see a Creation without seeing a Creator has made small advances in knowledge, so he who can philosophize on it, and not feel the eternal presence of its Great Author, is little to be envied, even as a mere philosopher; since he deprives the universe of all its grandeur, and himself of the pleasure springing from those exalted views which soar beyond the details of tangible forms and common events. And if with that presence around him he can be evil, he is an object of compassion; for he will be rejected by Him whom he opposes or rejects.
Never was a human machine produced without many trials and many failures; whereas the universe, in all its endless complications, was perfect at its production, perfected in the ideas of its great Author, even from eternity.