Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

first pages: but Subito changes his opinions of men, and books, and things so often, that nobody regards him.

As for those sciences, or those parts of knowledge, which either your profession, your leisure, your inclination, or your incapacity, forbid you to pursue with much application, or to search far into them, you must be contented with an historical and superficial knowledge of them, and not pretend to form many judgements of your own on those subjects which you understand very imperfectly.

IX. Once a-day, especially in the early years of life and study, call yourselves to an account what new ideas, what new proposition or truth you have gained, what further confirmation of known truths, and what advances you have made in any part of knowledge; and let no day, if possible, pass away without some intellectual gain : such a course, well pursued, must certainly advance us in useful knowledge. It is a wise proverb among the learned, borrowed from the lips and practice of a celebrated painter, nulla dies sine linea ; let no day pass without one line at least : and it was a sacred rule among the Pythagoreans, that they should every evening thrice run over the actions and affairs of the day, and examine what their conduct hath been, what they had done, or what they have neglected; and they assured their pupils, that by this method they would make a noble progress in the path of virtue.

.

Μηδ' υπνον μαλακόισιν επ' ομμασι προσδεξασθαι
Πριν των ημερινων εργων τρις εκασον επελθειν. .
Πη παρεβην και τι δ' ερεξα ; τι μοι δεον ουκ ετελεσθη και
Ταυτα σε της θειης αρετης εις ιχνια θησει. .

[ocr errors]

Nor let soft slumber close your eyes
Before you've recollected thrice
The train of actions through the day:
Where have my feet chose out the way. ?
What have I learnt, where'er I've been,
From all I've heard, from all I've seen?

[blocks in formation]

What know I more that's worth the knowing ?
What have I done that's worth the doing?
What have I sought that I should shun?
W bat duty bave I left undone ;
Or into what new follies run?
These self-inquiries are the road
That leads to virtue, and to God.

}

I would be glad, among a nation of Christians, to find young men heartily engaged in the practice of what this heathen writer teaches.

X. MAINTAIN a constant watch at all times against a dogmatical spirit: fix not your assent to any proposition in a firm and unalterable manner,

till

you have some firm and unalterable ground for it, and till you have arrived. at some clear and sure evidence; till you have turned the propos sition on all sides, and searched the matter through and through, so that you cannot be mistaken. And even where you may think you have full grounds of assurance, be not too early nor too frequent in expressing this assurance in too peremptory and positive a manner, remembering that human nature is always liable to mistake in this corrupt and feeble state. A dogmatical spirit has

A dogmatical spirit has many inconveniences attending it: as,.

1. It stops the ear against all further reasoning upon that subject, and shuts up the mind from all further improvements of knowledge. If you have resolutely fixed your opinion, though it be upon too slight and insufficient grounds, yet you will stand determined to renounce the strongest reason brought for the contrary opinion, and grow obstinate against the force of the clearest argument.

Positivo is a man of this character, and has often pronounced his assurance of the Cartesian vortexes : last year some further light broke in upon his understanding, with uncontrolable force; by reading something of mathematical philosophy; yet having asserted his former opinions in a most confident manner, he is tempted now to wink a little against the truth,

or

or to prevaricate in his discourse upon that subject, lest, by admitting conviction, he should expose himself to the necessity of confessing his former folly and mistake; and he has not humility enough for that.

2. A dogmatical spirit naturally leads us to arrogance of mind, and gives a man some airs in conversation, which are too haughty and assuming. Audens is a man of learning, and very good company, but his infallible assurance renders his carriage sometimes insupportable.

3. A dogmatical spirit iuclines a man to be censorious of his neighbours. Every one of his opinions appears to him written, as it were, with sun-beams, and he grows angry that his neighbour does not see it in the same light. He is tempted to disdain his correspondents as inen.of a low and dark understanding, because they will not believe what he does. Furio goes farther in this wild track, and charges those who refuse his notions with wilful obstinacy, and vile hypocrisy; he tells them boldly that they resist the truth, and sin against their consciences.

These are the men that, when they deal in controversy, delight in reproaches. They abound in tossing about absurdity and stupidity among their brethren: They cast the imputation of heresy and nonsense plentifully upon their antagonists; and, in matters of sacred importance, they deal out their anathemas in abundance upon Christians better than themselves; they denounce damnation upon their neighbours without either justice or mercy; and, when they pronounce sentences of divine wrath against supposed heretics, they add their own human fire and indignation. A dogmatist in religion is not a great way off from a bigot, and is in high danger of growing up to be a bloody perse

cutor.

XI. THOUGH caution and slow assent will guard you against frequent mistakes and retractions, yet you should get hu. mility and courage enough to retract any mistake, and confess an error: frequent changes are tokens of levity in our first determinations ; yet you should never be too proud to

change

B 2

change your opinion, nor frightened at the name of a change. ling. Learn to scorn those vulgar bugbears which confirm foolish man in his old mistakes, for fear of being charged with inconstancy. I confess it is better not to judge, than to judge falsely; and it is wiser to with-hold our assent till we see complete evidence : but if we have too suddenly given our assent, as the wisest man does sometimes, if we have professed what we find afterwards to be false, we should never be ashamed nor afraid to renounce a mistake. That is a noble essay which is found among the occasional papers, to encourage the world to practise retractions; and I would recommend it to the perusal of every scholar and every Christian.

XII. He that would raise his judgement above the vulgar

rank of mankind, and learn to pass a just sentence on persons and things, must take heed of a fanciful temper of mind, and a humorous conduct in his affairs. Fancy and humour, early and constantly indulged, may expect an old age over-run with follies.

The notion of a humourist is, one that is greatly pleased or greatly displeased with little things, who sets his heart much upon niatters of very small importance, who has his will determined every day by trifles, his actions seldom directed by the reason and nature of things, and his passions frequently raised by things of little moment. „Where this practice is allowed, it will insensibly warp the judgement to pronounce little things great, and tempt you to lay a great weight upon them. In short, this temper will incline you to pass an unjust value on almost every thing that occurs ; and every step that you take in this path is just so far out of the way to wisdom.

XIII. For the same feason have a care of trifling with things important and momentous, or of sporting with things awful and sacred: do not indulge a spirit of ridicule, as some witty men do on all occasions and subjects. This will as unhappily bias the judgement on the other side, and incline you to pass a low esteem on the most valuable objects.

Whatsoever

Whatsoever evil habit we indulge in practice, it will insensibly obtain a power over our understanding, and betray us into many errors. Jocander is ready with his jest to answer every thing that he hears ; he reads books in the same jovial humour, and has got the art of turning every thought and sentence into merriment. How many awkward and irregular judgements does this man pass upon solemn subjects, even when he designs to be grave and in earnest? His mirth and laughing humour is formed into habit and temper, and leads his understanding shamefully astray. You will see him wandering in pursuit of a gay flying feather, and he is drawn by a sort of ignis fatuus into bogs and mire almost every day of his life.

XIV. Ever maintain a virtuous and pious frame of spiTit; for an indulgence of vicious inclinations debases the understanding, and perverts the judgement. Whoredom and wine, and new wine, take away the heart and soul and reason of a man. Sensuality ruins the better faculties of the mind : an indulgence to appetite and passion enfeebles the powers of reason, it makes the judgement weak and susceptive of every falsehood, and especially of such mistakes as have a tendency towards the gratification of the animal; and it warps the soul aside strangely from that steadfast honesty and integrity that necessarily belongs to the pursuit of truth. It is the virtuous man who is in a fair way to wisdom.“God gives to those that are good in his sight wisdom, and knowledge, and joy,” Eccl. ii. 26.

Piety towards God, as well as sobriety and virtue, are necessary qualifications to make a truly wise and judicious man. He that abandons religion must act in such a contradiction to his own conscience and best judgement, that he abuses and spoils the faculty itself. It is thus in the nature of things, and it is thus by the righteous judgement of God: even the pretended sages among the heathens, who did not like to retain God in their knowledge, they were given up to reprobate mind, s15 v8v adozivov, an undistinguishing or

injudicious

B 3

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »