A man’s judgment is his standard, by which he measures and weighs his own talents, words and actions, and those of other men. By this standard, he may know when his physical powers fail, when his hearing, sight, voice and memory decline; but when his judgment falters, he has no standard to try it by, and therefore never knows its depreciation. His language therefore is, “I know my physical and sensitive powers fail, but thank God, my reason is as good as ever it was.” If a friend suggest to him that he is on a decline, he takes it unkind, and calls his friend an upstart. If his friend appeals to his age to enforce the suggestion, the man concludes that he himself is one of those rare constitution that does not sink with the burthen of seventy years. Let the younger pity the older, but not laugh at them, for we are all in one row.
Nothing appears more fulsome, than the egotism of men in their superannuacy, dilating so proudly of what they have said or done, and what they know, in their now improved station. But is it always a proof of superannuacy, for men of years to speak or write in. the first person? I think not. Moses was taught in all the learning and wisdom of Egypt. When he first began to write, he was meek, to a proverb : most of his writing was in the third person. But after the experience of forty years, as prophet and first magistrate, his addresses were somewhat different. What he had seen and known, he declared with great assurance: but this was not the effect of dotage, for his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated.
That Paul was a polite scholar, equal to any of his day, is not denied by any; yet with all his logical reasoning, there is mixed abundance of detail about himself, what he had said, done and suffered. If it should be objected, that Paul had become the aged before he wrote his epistles, the reply would be, that his pen was governed by an unerring agent, whose dictates are to be preferred above all our notions of diction.
We come into the world ignorant To a child, every thing is new and impressive, and more so to a young man, than to one of a greater age. The-young man of genius, is charmed with the logic of his author, and feels impressed with his own arguments. He lays down his thesis, sup-. ports it with metaphysical arguments, forms his sylogism, and draws his conclusion, with little or no doubt of the reality of the whole. Not having lived long enough to see any broken links in his chain, he has no occasion to advert to what he has seen or known to support or qualify his thesis. But with the man of years, thought and observation, the case is different. He has found that many opinions exist in idea, that will not bear experiment. He knows that he has often been drawn aside from simple truth, by meta-physical arguments. Things which he once felt confident of, he is now obliged to qualify, if not entirely to abandon. The safe road to intellectual light he finds to be difficult. When he considers questions in all their bearings, he finds that much can be said for and against. He has considered opinions, and their tendencies, causes and their effects; and forms his conclusions (with a trembling heart,).from experience. In the speeches and writings of such men, there will be much in the first person: they will advert to what they have seen and known to illustrate and enforce their opinions. Nor do I think this a criminal or indelicate piece of diction; but contrarywise, the most instructive, and the most impressive of any.
Miscellaneous Essays, In Prose and Verse.
Elder John Leland
Published sometime since 1810 (precise year unknown)
The Writings Of The Late Elder John Leland
Pages 419 – 420