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Where two or three sciences are pursued at the same time, if one of them be dry, abstracted, and unpleasant, as logic, metaphysics, law, languages, let another be more entertaining and agreeable, to secure the mind from weariness and aversion to study. Delight should be intermingled with labour as far as possible, to allure us to bear the fatigue of dry studies the better. Poetry, practical mathematics, history, &c. are generally esteemed entertaining studies, and may be happily used for this purpose. Thus while we relieve a dull and heavy hour by some alluring employments of the mind, our very diversions enrich our understandings, and our pleasure is turned into profit.
VII. In the pursuit of every valuable subject of knowledge, keep the end always in your eye, and be not diverted from it by every pretty trifle you meet with in the way. Some persons have such a wandering genius that they are ready to pursue every incidental theme, or occasional idea, till they have lost sight of their original subject. These are the men who, when they are engaged in conversation, prolong their story by dwelling on every incident, and swell their narrative with long parentheses, till they have lost their first design ; like a man who is sent in
quest great treasure, but he steps aside to gather every flower he finds, or stands still to dig 'up every shining pebble he meets with in his way, till the treasure is forgotten, and never found.
VIII. EXERT your care, skill, and diligence about every subject, and every question, in a just proportion to the importance of it, together with the danger and bad consequences of ignorance or error therein. Many excellent advantages flow from this one direction.
1. This rule will teach you to be very careful in gaining some general and fundamental truths both in philosophy, in religion, and in human life ; because they are of the highest moment, and conduct our thoughts with ease into a thousand inferior and particular propositions. Such is that great principle in natural, philosophy, the doctrine of gravi
tation, or mutual tendency of all bodies toward each other, which Sir Isaac Newton has so well established, and from which he has drawn the solution of a multitude of appearances in the heavenly bodies as well as on earth.
Such is that golden principle of morality which our blessed Lord has given us,“ Do that to others which you think just and reasonable that others should do to you,” which is almost sufficient in itself to solve all cases of conscience which relate to our neighbour.
Such are those principles in religion, that a rational creature is accountable to his Maker for all his actions; that the soul of man is immortal ; that there is a future state of happiness and of misery depending on our behaviour in the present life, on which all our religious practices are built or supported.
We should be very curious in examining all propositions that pretend to this honour of being general principles : and we should not without just evidence admit into this rank mere matters of common fame, or commonly received opinions; no, nor the general determinations of the learned, or the established articles of any church or nation, &c. for there are many learned presumptions, many synodical and national mistakes, many established falsehoods, as well as many vulgar errors, wherein multitudes of men have followed one another for whole
great importance for every man to be careful that these general principles are just and true ; for one error may lead us into thousands, which will naturally follow, if once a leading falsehood be admitted.
2. This rule will direct us to be more careful about practical points than mere speculations, since they are commonly of much greater use and consequence; therefore the speculations of algebra, the doctrine of infinities, and the quadrature of curves in mathematical learning, together with all the train of theorems in natural philosophy, should by no means intrench upon our studies of morality and virtue. Even in the science of divinity itself, the sublimest specuI 3
lations of it are not of that worth and value, as the rules of duty towards God and towards men.
3. In matters of practice we should be most careful to fix our end right, and wisely determine the scope at which we aim ; because that to direct us in the choice and use of all the means to attain it. If our end be wrong,
all our labour in the means will be vain, or perhaps so much the more pernicious, as they are better suited to attain that mistaken end. If mere sensible pleasure, or human grandeur, or wealth, be our chief end, we shall choose means contrary to piety and virtue, and proceed apace toward real misery.
4. This rule will engage our best powers and deepest at. tention in the affairs of religion, and things that relate to a future world ; for those propositions, which extend only to the interest of the present life, are but of small importance when compared with those that have influence upon our everlasting concernments.
5. And even in the affairs of religion, if we walk by the conduct of this rule, we shall be much more laborious in our inquiries into the necessary and fundamental articles of faith and practice than the lesser appendices of Christianity. The great doctrines of repentance towards God, faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, with love to men, and universal holiness, will employ our best and brightest hours and meditations ; while the mint, annise, and cummin, the gestures, and vestures, and fringes of religion, will be regarded no further than they have a plain and evident connexion with faith and love, with holiness and peace.
6. This rule will make us solicitous not only to avoid such errors, whose influence will spread wide into the whole scheme of our own knowledge and practice, but such mistakes also whose influence would yet be more extensive and injurious to others, as well as to ourselves; perhaps to many persons or many families, to a whole church, a town, a country, or a kingdom. Upon this account, persons who are called to instruct others, who are raised to any eminence either in church or state, ought to be careful in settling their principles in matters relating to the civil, the moral, or the religious life, lest a mistake of theirs should diffuse wide mischief, should draw along with it most pernicious consequences, and perhaps extend to following generations,
These are some of the advantages which arise from the eighth rule, viz. Pursue every inquiry and study in proportion to its real value and importance.
IX. HAVE a care lest some beloved notion, or some darling science, so far prevail over your mind as to give a sovereign tincture to all your other studies, and discolour all your ideas ; like a person in the jaundice, who spreads a yellow scene with his eyes over ail the objects which he meets. I have known a man of peculiar skill in music, and much devoted to that science, who found out a great resemblance of the Athanasian doctrine of the Trinity in every single note, and he thought it carried something of argument in it to prove that doctrine. I have read of another, who accommodated the seven days of the first week of creation to seven notes of music, and thus the whole creation became harmonious.
Under this influence derived from mathematical studies, some have been tempted to cast all their logical, their metaphysical, and their theological and moral learning into the method of mathematicians, and bring every thing relating to those abstracted, or those practical sciences, under theorems, problems, postulates, scholiums, corollaries, &c. whereas the matter ought always to direct the method; for all subjects or matters of thought cannot be moulded or subdued to one form. Neither the rules for the conduct of the understanding, nor the doctrines nor duties of religion and virtue, can be exhibited naturally in figures and diagrams. Things are to be considered as they are in themselves; their natures are inflexible, and their natural relations unalterable; and therefore, in order to conceive them aright, we must
bring our understandings to things, and not pretend to bend and strain things to comport with our fancies and forms.
X. SUFFER not any beloved study to prejudice your mind so far in favour of it as to despise all other learning. This is a fault of some little souls who have got a smạttering of astronomy, chemistry, metaphysics, history, &c. and for want of a due acquaintance with other sciences, make a scoff at them all in comparison of their favourite science. Their understandings are hereby cooped up in narrow bounds, so that they never look abroad into other provinces of the intellectual world, which are more beautiful perhaps, and more fruitful than their own : if they would search a little into other sciences, they might not only find treasures of new knowledge, but might be furnished also with rich hints of thought, and glorious assistances to cultivate that very province to which they have confined themselves.
Here I would always give some grains of allowance to the sacred science of theology, which is incomparably superior to all the rest, as it teaches us the knowledge of God, and the way to his eternal favour. This is that noble study which is every man's duty, and every one who can be called a rational creature is capable of it. This is that science which would truly enlarge the minds of men, were it studied with that freedom, that unbiassed love of truth, and that sacred charity which it teaches; and if it were not made, contrary to its own nature, the occasion of strife, faction, malignity, a narrow spirit, and unreasonable impositions on the mind and practice. Let this therefore stand always chief.
XI. LET every particular study have due and proper time assigned it, and let not a favourite science prevail with you to lay out such hours upon it, as ought to be employed upon the more necessary and more important affairs or studies of your profession. When you have, according to the best of your discretion, and according to the circumştances of your life, fixed proper hours for particular studies, endeavour to keep to those rules, not indeed with a superstitious preciseness, but with some good degrees of a regular