« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
injudicious mind, so that they judged inconsistently, and practised mere absurdities, Tu yen amxorta, Rom. i. 28.
And it is the character of the slaves to Antichrist, 2 Thess. ii. 10. &c. that those who receive not the love “ of the truth were exposed to the power of diabolical “ slights and lying wonders.” When divine revelation shines and blazes in the face of men with glorious evidence, and they wink their eyes against it, the god of this world is suffered to blind them even in the most obvious, common, and sensible things. The great God of heaven, for this cause, sends them strong delusions, that they should believe a lie; and the nonsense of transubstantiation in the popish world is a most glaring accomplishment of this prophecy, beyond ever what could have been thought of or expected among creatures who pretend to reason.
XV. Watch against the pride of your own reason, and a vain conceit of your intellectual powers, with the neglect of divine aid and blessing. Presume not upon great attainments in knowledge by your own self-sufficiency: those who trust to their own understanding entirely are pronounced fools in the word of God: and the wisest of men gives them this character, “ he that trusteth in his own ¢ heart is a fool,” Prov. xxviii. 26. And the same divine writer advises us to “ trust in the Lord with all our heart, “ and not to lean to our own understandings, nor to be wise “ in our own eyes,” chap. iii. 5. 7.
Those who, with a neglect of religion, and dependence upon God, apply themselves to search out every article in the things of God by the mere dint of their own reason, have been suffered to run into wild excesses of foolery, and strange extravagance of opinions. Every one who pursues this vain course, and will not ask for the conduct of God in the study of religion, has just reason to fear he shall be left of God, and given up a prey to a thousand prejudices: that he shall be consigned over to the follies of his own heart, and pursue his own temporal and eternal ruin. And even
in common studies we should, by humility and dependence, engage the God of truth on our side.
XVI. OFFER up, therefore, your daily requests to God, the Father of lights, that he would bless all your attempts and labours in reading, study, and conversation. Think with yourself how easily and how insensibly, by one turn of thought, he can lead you into a large scene of useful ideas : he can teach you to lay hold on a clue which may guide your thoughts with safety and ease through all the difficulties of an intricate subject. Think how easily the Author of your beings can direct your motions by his providence, so that the glance of an eye, or a word striking the ear, or a sudden turn of the fancy, shall conduct you to a train of happy sentiments. By his secret and supreme method of government, he can draw you to read such a treatise, or to converse with such a person who may give you more light into some deep subject in an hour, than you could obtain by a month of your own solitary labour.
Think with yourself with how much ease the God of spirits can cast into your mind some useful suggestion, and give a happy turn to your own thoughts, or the thoughts of those with whom you converse, whence you may derive unspeakable light and satisfaction in a matter that has long puzzled and entangled you: he can shew you a“ path which the vulture's eye
has not seen,” and lead you by some unknown gate, or portal, out of a wilderness and labyrinth of difficulties wherein you have been long wandering.
Implore constantly his divine grace to point your inclinations to proper studies, and to fix your heart there. He can keep off temptations on the right hand and on the left, both by the course of his providence, and by the secret and insensible intimations of his Spirit. He can guard your understanding from every evil influence of error, and secure ỳou from the danger of evil books and men, which might otherwise have a fatal effect, and lead you into pernicious mistakes. Nor let this sort of advice fall under the censure of the B 4
godless and profane, as a mere piece of bigotry or enthusiasm derived from faith and the Bible: for the reasons, which I have given to support this pious practice of invoking the blessing of God on our studies, are derived from the light of nature as well as revelation. He that made our souls, and is the Father of spirits, shall he not be supposed to have a most friendly influence towards the instruction and government of them? The Author of our rational powers can involve them in darkness when he pleases by a sudden distemper, or he can abandon them to wander into dark and foolish opinions, when they are filled with a vain conceit of their own light. He expects to be acknowledged in the common affairs of life, and he does as certainly expect it in the superior operations of the mind, and in the search of knowledge and truth. The very Greek heathens, by the light of reason, were taught to say, Ex Acos agxouerbo, and the Latins, A Pove principium, musa. In the works of learning they thought it necessary to begin with God. Even the poets call upon the muse as a goddess to assist them in their compositions,
The first lines of Homer in his Iliad and his Odyssey, the first line of Musæus in his song of Hero and Leander, the beginning of Hesiod in his poem of Weeks and Days, and several others, furnish us with sufficient examples of this kind ; nor does Ovid leave out this piece of devotion as he begins his stories of the Metamorphosis. Christianity so much the more obliges us by the precepts of scripture to invoke the assistance of the true God in all our labours of the mind, for the improvement of ourselves and others. Bishop Saunderson says, that study without prayer is atheism, and that prayer without study is presumption. And we are still more abundantly encouraged by the testimony of those who have acknowledged, from their own experience, that sincere prayer was no hindrance to their duties; they have gotten more knowledge sometimes upon their knees, than by their labour in perusing a variety of authors; and they have left this observation for such as
follow, Bene orasse est bene studuisse. Praying is the best studying
To conclude, let industry and devotion join together, and you need not doubt the happy success, Prov. ii. 2. “cline thine ear to wisdom, apply thine heart to under
standing: cry after knowledge, and lift up thy voice ; 6s seek her as silver, and search for her as for hidden “ treasures : then shalt thou understand the fear of the “ Lord, &c. which is the beginning of wisdom. It is the “ Lord who gives wisdom even to the simple, and out of 6 his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding."
Observation, Reading, Instruction by Lectures, Conversation,
and Study compared. There are five eminent means or methods whereby the mind is improved in the knowledge of things, and these are observation, reading, instruction by lectures, conversation, and meditation ; which last, in a most peculiar manner, is called study.
Let us survey the general definitions or descriptions of them all.
I. OBSERVATION is the notice that we take of all occurrences in human life, whether they are sensible or intellectual, whether relating to persons or things, to ourselves or others. It is this that furnishes us, even from our infancy, with a rich variety of ideas and propositions, words and phrases : it is by this we know that fire will burn, that the sun gives light, that a horse eats grass, that an acorn.produces an oak, that man is a being capable of reasoning and discourse, that our judgement is weak, that our mistakes are many, that our sorrows are great, that our bodies die and are carried to the grave, and that one generation succeeds another. All those things which we see, which we hear or feel, which we perceive by sense or consciousness, or which we know in a direct manner,
with scarce any exercise of our reflecting faculties, or our reasoning powers, may be included under the general name of observation.
When this observation relates to any thing that immediately concerns ourselves, and of which we are conscious, it may be called experience. So I am said to know or experience that I have in myself a power of thinking, fearing, loving, &c. that I have appetites and passions working in me, and many personal occurrences have attended me in this life.
Observation therefore includes all that Mr Locke means by sensation and reflection.
When we are searching out the nature or properties of any being by various methods of trial, or when we apply some active powers, or set some causes at work, to observe what effects they would produce, this sort of observation is called experiment. So when I throw a bullet into water, I find it sinks: and when I throw the same bullet into quicksilver, I see it swims : but if I beat out this bullet into a thin hollow shape like a dish, then it will swim in the wa..
So when I strike two flints together, I find they produce fire; when I throw a seed into the earth, it grows up into a plant.
All these belong to the first method of knowledge, which I call observation.
II. READING is that means or method of knowledge whereby “ we acquaint ourselves with what other men “ bave written or published to the world in their writings." These arts of reading and writing are of infinite advantage; for by them we are made partakers of the sentiments, observations, reasonings, and improvements of all the learned world, in the most remote nations, and in former ages,
almost from the beginning of mankind. III. PUBLIC or private lectures are such “ verbal in