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form wrong conceptions of immaterial things. This practice, therefore, is rather to be used at first, in order to get a fixed habit of attention, and in some cases only; but it can never be our constant way and method of pursuing all moral, abstracted, and spiritual themes.
III. APPLY yourself to those studies, and read those authors who draw out their subjects into a perpetual chain of connected reasonings, wherein the following parts of the discourse are naturally and easily derived from those which go before. Several of the mathematical sciences, if not all, are happily useful for this purpose. This will render the labour of study delightful to a rational mind, and will fix the powers of the understanding with strong attention to their proper operations by the very pleasure of it. Labor ipse voluptas is a happy proposition wheresoever it can be applied.
IV. Do not choose your constant place of study by the finery of the prospects, or the most various and entertaining scenes of sensible things. Too much light, or a variety of objects which strike the eye or the ear, especially while they are ever in motion, or often changing, have a natural and powerful tendency to steal away the mind too often from its steady pursuit of any subject which we contemplate; and thereby the soul gets a habit of silly curiosity and impertinence, of trifling and wandering. Vagerio thought himself furnished with the best closet for his study among the beauties, gaities, and diversions of Kensington or Hampton-court; but after seven years professing to pursue learning, he was a mere novice still.
V. Be not in too much haste to come to the determination of a difficult or important point. Think it worth your waiting to find out truth. Do not give your assent up to either side of a question too soon, merely on this account, that the study of it is long and difficult. Rather be contented with ignorance for a season, and continue in suspense, till your attention, and meditation, and due labour, have found out sufficient evidence on one side. Some are so fond
to know a great deal at once, and love to talk of things with freedom and boldness before they thoroughly understand them, that they scarcely ever allow themselves attention enough to search the matter through and through.
VI. Have a care of indulging the more sensual passions and appetites of animal nature; they are great enemies to attention. Let not the mind of a student be under the influence of any warm affection to things of sense, when he comes to engage in the search of truth, or the improvement of his understanding. A person under the power of love, or fear, or anger, great pain, or deep sorrow, hath so little government of his soul, that he cannot keep it attentive to the proper subject of his meditation. The passions call away the thoughts with incessant opportunity towards the object that excited them; and if we indulge the frequent rise and roving of passions, we shall thereby procure an unsteady and inattentive habit of mind.
Yet this one exception must be admitted, viz. If we can be so happy as to engage any passion of the soul on the side of the particular study which we are pursuing, it may have a great influence to fix the attention more strongly to it.
VII. It is therefore very useful to fix and engage the mind in the pursuit of any study, by a consideration of the . divine pleasures of truth and knowledge, by a sense of our duty to God, by a delight in the exercise of our intellectual faculties, by the hope of future service to our fellow-creatures, and glorious advantage to ourselves, both in this world and that which is to come. These thoughts, though they may move our affections, yet they do it with a proper influence: these will rather assist and promote our attention, than disturb or divert it from the subject of our present and proper meditations. A soul inspired with the fondest love of truth, and the warmest aspirations after sincere felicity and celestial beatitude, will keep all its powers attentive to the incessant pursuit of them: passion is then refined, and consecrated to its divinest purposes.
C H A P. XVI. Of enlarging the Capacity of the Mind. There are three things which in an especial manner go to make up that amplitude or capacity of mind, which is one of the noblest characters belonging to the understanding: (1.) When the mind is ready to take in great and sublime ideas without pain or difficulty. (2.) When the mind is free to receive new and strange ideas, upon just evidence, without great surprise or aversion. (3.) When the mind is able to conceive or survey many ideas at once without confusion, and to form a true judgement derived from that extensive survey. The person who wants either of these characters, may, in that respect, be said to have a narrow genius. Let us diffuse our meditations a little upon this subject.
1. That is an ample and capacious mind which is ready to take in vast and sublime ideas without pain or difficulty. Persons who have never been used to converse with any thing but the common, little, and obvious affairs of life, have acquired such a narrow or contracted habit of soul, that they are not able to stretch their intellects wide enough to admit large and noble thoughts ; they are ready to make their domestic, daily, and familiar images of things, the measure of all that is, and all that can be.
Talk to them of the vast dimensions of the planetary worlds ; tell them that the star called Jupiter is a solid globe, two hundred and twenty times bigger than our earth; that the sun is a vast globe of fre above a thousand times bigger than Jupiter ; that is, two hundred and twenty thousand times bigger than the earth ; that the distance from the earth to the sun is eighty-one millions of miles ; and that a cannon-bullet, shot from the earth, would not arrive at the nearest of the fixed stars in some hundreds of years; they cannot bear the belief of it, but hear all these glorious labours of astronomy as a mere idle romance. Inform them of the amazing swiftness of the motion of
some of the smallest or the biggest bodies in nature; assure them, according to the best philosophy, that the planet Ve. nus, (i. e. our morning or evening star, which is near as big as our earth), though it seems to move from its place but a few yards in a month, does really fly seventy thousand miles in an hour: tell them that the rays of light shoot from the sun to our earth at the rate of one hundred and eighty thousand miles in the second of a minute; they stand aghast at such sort of talk, and believe it no more than the tales of giants fifty yards high, and the rabbinical fables of leviathan, who every day swallows a fish of three miles long, and is thus preparing himself to be the food and entertainment of the blessed at the feast of Paradise,
These unenlarged souls are in the same manner disgusted with the wonders which the microscope has discovered concerning the shape, the limbs, and motions of ten thousand little animals, whose united bulk would not equal a peppercorn: they are ready to give the lie to all the improvements of our senses by the invention of a variety of glasses, and will scarcely believe any thing beyond the testimony of their naked eye without the assistance of art.
Now if we would attempt, in a learned manner, to relieve the minds that labour under this defect,
(1.) It is useful to begin with some first principles of geometry, and lead them onward, by degrees, to the doctrine of quantities which are incommensurable, or which will admit of no common measure, though it be never so small. By this means they will see the necessity of admitting the infinite divisibility of quantity or matter.
The same doctrine may also be proved to their understandings, and almost to their senses, by some easier arguments in a more obvious manner. As the very opening and closing of a pair of compasses will evidently prove, that if the smallest supposed part of matter or quantity be put between the points, there will be still less and less distances or quantities all the way between the legs, till you come to the head or joint, wherefore there is no such thing possible
as the smallest quantity. But a little acquaintance with true philosophy, and mathematical learning, would soon teach them that there are no limits either as to the extension of space, or to the division of body, and would lead them to believe there are bodies amazingly great or small beyond their present imagination.
(2.) It is proper also to acquaint them with the circumference of our earth, which may be proved by very easy principles of geometry, geography, and astronomy, to be about twenty-four thousand miles round, as it has been actually found to have this dimension by mariners who have sailed round it. Then let them be taught, that in every twenty-four hours either the sun and stars must all move round this earth, or the earth must turn round upon its own axis. If the earth itself revolve thus, then each house or mountain near the equator must move at the rate of a thousand miles in an hour: but if (as they generally suppose) the sun or stars move round the earth, then (the circumference of their several orbits or spheres being vastly greater than this earth) they must have a motion prodigiously swifter than a thousand miles an hour. Such a thought as this will, by degrees, enlarge their minds, and they will be taught, even upon their own principle of the diurnal revolutions of the heavens, to take in some of the vast dimensions of the heavenly bodies, their spaces and motions.
(3.) To this should be added the use of telescopes, to help them to see the distant wonders in the skies, and microscopes, which discover the minutest parts of little animals, and reveal some of the finer and most curious works of nature. They should be acquainted also with some other noble inventions of modern philosophy, which have a great influence to enlarge the human understanding, of which I shall take occasion to speak more under the next inead.
(4.) For the same purpose they may be invited to read those parts of Milton's admirable poem, entitled Paradise Lost, where he describes the armies and powers of angels,