And he spoke a parable to them, Can the blind lead the blind? shall they not both fall into the ditch?
Many a paraphrase of the proverb, and of a perishing people where there is no vision, might be cited from the histories and miscellanies of Mr. Carlyle. It is a trite theme with him — the need of what he calls men with an eye, to lead those who need guidance. We might apply what Shakespere's Gloster, in King Lear, says, after his eyes have been barbarously put out, and he seeks a guide in Mad Tom, and is warned, "Alack, sir, he's mad!" "'Tis the time's plague, when madmen lead the blind." Ill fare the people that take up with blind guides. Like Elymas, when there fell upon him a mist and a darkness, they go about seeking some one to lead them by the hand. Some one, any one. Who will show us any good — who will deliver us from this hour and power of darkness? And sometimes he that is struck blind takes for guide him that is born blind. And straightway they make for the ditch. St. , in his treatise on the pastoral care, vigorously censures those who, without proper qualifications, undertake the care of souls, which he calls the art of all arts. Who does not know, he says, that the wounds of the mind are more difficult to be understood than those of the body! And yet men unacquainted with the spiritual precepts will profess themselves physicians of the heart, while those who are ignorant of the effects of drugs would blush to set up for physicians of the body. And anon he quotes the proverb of the blind-led blind. In no such connection, and in no such spirit, Shelley quotes it, when describing priests and princes pale with terror, whose faith "fell, like a shaft loosed by the bowman's error, on their own hearts."
"They sought and they could find
o refuge — 'twas the blind who led the blind."
But, after all, there may be something worse than even a blind guide; for, as South observes in his sermon on the fatal imposture of words, "A blind guide is certainly a great mischief: but a guide that blinds those whom he should lead, is certainly a greater." The proverb was full in South's eye when, in another sermon, discussing the case of a man who exerts all the faculties of his soul, and plies all means and opportunities in the search of truth which God has vouchsafed him, the preacher concludes that such a man may rest upon the judgment of his conscience so informed, as a warrantable guide of those actions which he must account to God for: "and if by following such a guide he fall into the ditch, the ditch shall never drown him." But the same vigorous divine elsewhere deprecates a blind watchman as "equally a nuisance and an impertinence" — and such a paradox, both in reason and in practice, he contends, is a deluded conscience, namely a counsellor who cannot advise, and a guide not able to direct. The will and the affections are made to follow and obey, not to lead and direct; and therefore, he goes on to say, if error has perverted the order, and disturbed the original economy of our faculties, and a blind will thereupon comes to be led by a blind understanding, "there is no remedy, but it must trip and stumble, and sometimes fall into the noisome ditch of the foulest enormities and immoralities.
Parallel VersesKJV: And he spake a parable unto them, Can the blind lead the blind? shall they not both fall into the ditch?