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Horace affirms of the mind or passions may be said also of the memory
Segnius irritant animos demissa per aurum
Applied thus in English:
Sounds which address the ear are lost, and die
For t'e assistance of weak memories, the first letters or words of every period, in every page, may be written in distinct colours ; yellow, green, red, black, &c. and if you observe the same order of colours in the following sentences, it may be still the better. This will make a great impression, and may much aid the memory.
Under this head we may take notice of the advantage which the memory gains, by having the several objects of our learning drawn out into schemes and tables ; matters of mathematical science and natural philosophy are not only let into the understanding, but preserved in the memory by figures and diagrams. The situation of the several parts of the earth are better learnt by one day's conversing with a map or a sea-chart, than by mere reading the description of their situation a hundred times over in books of geography. So the constellations in astronomy, and their position in the heavens, are more easily remembered by hemispheres of the stars well drawn. It is by having such sort of memorials, figures, and tables hung round our studies, or places of residence or resort, that our memory of these things will be greatly assisted and improved, as I have shewn at large in the twentieth chapter of the Use of the Sciences,
I might add here also, that once writing over what we design to remember, and giving due attention to what we write, will fix it more in the mind than reading it five times. And in the same manner, if we had a plan of the naked lines of longitude and latitude, projected on the meridian printed for this use, a learner might much more speedily advance himself in the knowledge of geography by his own drawing the figures of all the parts of the world upon it by imitation, than by many days survey of a map of the world so printed. The same also may be said concerning the constellations of heaven, drawn by the learner on a naked projection of the circles of the sphere upon the plane of the equator.
io. It has sometimes been the practice of men to imprint aames or sentences on their memory, by taking the first letters of every word of that sentence, or of those names, and making a new word out of them. So the name of the Maccabees is borrowed from the first letters of the Hebrew words which make that sentence, Mi Camoka Baelim Jehovah, i.e. Who is like thee among the gods? which was written on their banners. Jesus Christ, our Saviour, hath been called a fish, in Greek Ixora, by the fathers, because these are the first letters of those Greek words, Jesus Christ, God's Son, the Saviour. So the word vibgyor teaches us to remember the order of the seven original colours, as they appear by the sun-beams cast through a prism on white paper, or formed by the sun in a rainbow, according to the different refrangibility of the rays, viz. . violet, indigo, blue, green, yellow, orange, and red.
In this manner the Hebrew grammarians teach their students to remember the letters which change their natural pronunciation by the inscription of a dagesh, by gathering these six letters, beth, gimel, daleth, caph, pe, and thau, into the word begadchephat ; and that they might not forget the letters named quiescent, viz. a, b, v, and i, they are joined in the word abevi. So the universal and particular
propositions in logic, are remembered by the words, barbara, celarent, Darii, &c.
Other artificial helps to memory may be just mentioned here.
Dr Grey, in his book called Memoria Technica, has exchanged the figures, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, for some consonants, b, d, t, f, 1, y, p, k, n, and some vowels, a, e, i, o, u, and several diphthongs, and thereby formed words that denote numbers which may be more easily remembered ; and Mr Lowe has improved his scheme, in a small pamphlet called Mnemonics delineated, whereby, in seven leaves, he has comprized almost an infinity of things in science and in common life, and reduced them to a sort of measure like Latin verse; though the words may be supposed to be very barbarous, being such a mixture of vowels and consonants as are very unfit for harmony.
But after all, the very writers on this subject have confessed that several of these artificial helps of memory are so cumbersome as not to be suitable to every temper or person; nor are they of any use for the delivery of a discourse by memory, nor of much service in learning the sciences : but they may be sometimes practised for the assisting our remembrance of certain sentences, numbers, or names.
I. When a subject is proposed to your thoughts, consider whether it be knowable at all, or not; and then whether it be not above the reach of your inquiry and knowledge in the present state ; and remember that it is a great waste of time to busy yourselves too much amongst unsearchables : the chief use of these studies is to keep the mind humble, by finding its own ignorance and weakness.
II. CONSIDER again whether the matter be worthy of your inquiry at all ; and then how far it may be worthy
of your present search and labour according to your age, your time of life, your station in the world, your capacity, your profession, your chief design and end. There are many things worth inquiry to one man, which are not so to another; and there are things that may deserve the study of the same person in one part of life, which would be improper or impertinent at another. To read books of the art of preaching, or disputes about church-discipline, are proper for a theological student in the end of his academical studies, but not at the beginning of them. To pursue mathematical studies very largely may be useful for a professor of philosophy, but not for a divine.
III. CONSIDER whether the subject of your inquiry be easy or difficult ; whether you have sufficient foundation or skill, furniture and advantages, for the pursuit of it. It would be madness for a young statuary to attempt at first to carve a Venus or a Mercury, and especially without proper
tools. And it is equal folly for a man to pretend to make great improvements in natural philosophy without due experiments.
IV. CONSIDER whether the subject be any ways useful or not before you engage in the study of it; often put this question to yourselves, Cui bono? to what purpose ? What end will it attain? Is it for the glory of God, for the good of men, for your own advantage, for the temoval of any natural or moral evil, for the attainment of any natural or moral good? Will the profit be equal to the labour ? There are many subtle impertinences learnt in the schools, many painful trifles even among the mathematical theorems and problems, many difficiles unge, or laborious follies of various kinds, which some ingenious men have been engaged in. A due reflection upon these things will call the mind away from vain amusements, and save much time.
V. CONSIDER what tendency it has to make you wiser and better, as well as to make
you more learned ; and those questions, which tend to wisdom and prudence in our conduct among men, as well as piety toward God, are doubt
less more important and preferable beyond all those inquiries which only improve our knowledge in mere speculations.
VI. IF the question appear to be well worth your diligent application, and you are furnished with the necessary requisites to pursue it, then consider whether it be drest up and entangled in more words than is needful, and contain or include more complicated ideas than is necessary; and if so, endeavour to reduce it to a greater simplicity and plainness, which will make the inquiry and argument easier and plainer all the way.
VII. IF it be stated in an improper, obscure, or irregular form, it may be meliorated by changing the phrase, or transporting the parts of it: but be careful always to keep the grand and important point of inquiry the same in your new stating the question. Little tricks and deceits of sophistry, by sliding in, or leaving out such words as entirely change the question, should be abandoned and renounced by all fair disputants and honest searchers after truth.
The stating a question with clearness and justice goes a great way many times toward the answering it. The greatest part of true knowledge lies in a distinct perception of things which are in themselves distinct ; and some men give more light and knowledge by the bare stating of the question with perspicuity and justice, than others by talking of it in gross confusion for whole hours together. To state a question is but to separate and disentangle the parts of it from one another, as well from every thing which doth not concern the question, and then to lay the disentangled parts of the question in due order and method : oftentimes without more ado this fully resolves the doubt, and shews the mind where the truth lies, without argument or dispute.
VIII. IF the question relate to an axiom or first principle of truth, remember that a long train of consequences may depend upon it, therefore it should not be suddenly admitted or received. It is not enough to determine the truth of a proposition,