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“structions as are given by a teacher while the learners at“ tend in silence.” This is the way of learning religion from the pulpit, or of philosophy or theology from the professor's chair, or of mathematics by a teacher shewing us various theorems or problems, i. e. speculations or practices, by demonstration and operation, with all the instruments of art necessary to those operations.
IV, CONVERSATION is another method of improving our minds, wherein, “ by mutual discourse and inquiry, we “ learn the sentiments of others, as well as communicate
our sentiments to others in the same manner.” Sometimes indeed, though both parties speak by turns, yet the advantage is only on one side ; as when a teacher and a learner meet and discourse together : but frequently the profit is mutual. Under this head of conversation, we may also rank disputes of various kinds.
V. MEDITATION or study includes all those “ exercises “ of the mind whereby we render all the former methods “ useful for our increase in true knowledge and wisdom." It is by meditation we come to confirm our memory of things that pass through our thoughts in the occurrences of life, in our own experiences, and in the observations we make: it is by meditation that we draw various inferences, and establish in our minds general principles of knowledge. It is by meditation that we compare the various ideas which we derive from our senses, or from the operations of our souls, and join them in propositions. It is by meditation that we fix in our memory whatsoever we learn, and form our own judgement of the truth or falsehood, the strength or weakness of what others speak or write. It is meditation, or study, that draws out long chains of argument, and searches and finds deep and difficult truths, which before lay concealed in darkness.
It would be a needless thing to prove that our own solitary meditations, together with the few observations that the most part of mankind are capable of making, are not sufficient of themselves to lead us into the attainment of
any considerable proportion of knowledge, at least in an age so much improved as ours is, without the assistance of conversation and reading, and other proper instructions that are to be attained in our days. Yet each of these five methods have their peculiar advantages, whereby they assist each other; and their peculier defects, which have need to be supplied by the other's assistance. Let us trace over some of the particular advantages of each.
1. One method of improving the mind is observation, and the advantages of it are these.
1. It is owing to observation that our “ mind is furnish“ed with the first, simple, and complex ideas.” It is this lays the ground-work and foundation of all knowledge, and makes us capable of using any of the other methods for improving the mind: for if we did not attain a variety of sensible and intellectual ideas by the sensation of outward objects, by the consciousness of our own appetites and passions, pleasures, and pains, and by inward experience of the actings of our own spirits, it would be impossible either for men or books to teach us any thing. It is observation that must give us our first ideas of things, as it includes in it sense and consciousness.
2. All our knowledge derived from observation, whether it be of single ideas or of propositions, is knowledge gotten at first hand. Hereby we see and know things as they are, or as they appear to us ; we take the impressions of them on our minds from the original objects themselves, which give a clearer and stronger conception of things; these ideas are more lively, and the propositions (at least in many cases) are much more evident. Whereas what knowledge we derive from lectures, reading, and conversation, is but the copy of other men's ideas, that is, the picture of a picture; and it is one remove further from the original.
3. Another advantage of observation is, that we may gain knowledge all the day long, and every moment of our lives, and every moment of our existence, we may be adding something to our intellectual treasures thereby, except only
while we are asleep; and even then the remembrance of our dreaming will teach us some truths, and lay a foundation for a better acquaintance with human nature, both in the powers and in the frailties of it.
II. The next way of improving the mind is by reading, and the advantages of it are such as these.
1. By reading we acquaint ourselves in a very extensive manner“ with the affairs, actions, and thoughts of the living " and the dead in the most remote nations, and in most “ distant ages,” and that with as inuch ease as though they lived in our own age and nation. By reading of books we may learn something from all parts of mankind; whereas by observation we learn all from ourselves, and only what comes within our own direct cognizance; by conversation we can only enjoy the assistance of a very few persons, viz. those who are near us, and live at the same time when we do, that is, our neighbours and contemporaries : but our knowledge is much more narrowed still, if we confine ourselves merely to our own solitary reasonings, without much observation or reading : For then all our improvement must arise only from our own inward powers and meditations.
2. By reading we learn not only the actions and the sentiments of different nations and ages, but we transfer to ourselves the knowledge and improvements of the “most learn“ed men, the wisest and the best of mankind,” when or wheresoever they lived: For though many books have been written by weak and injudicious persons, yet the most of those books, which have obtained great reputation in the world, are the products of great and wise men in their several ages
and nations : whereas we can obtain the conversation and instruction of those only who are within the reach of our dwelling, or our acquaintance, whether they are wise or unwise : and sometimes that narrow sphere scarcely affords any person of great eminence in wisdom or learning, unless our instructor happen to have this character. And as for our own study and meditations, even when we arrive at some good degrees of learning, our advantage for further improvement.in knowledge by them is still far more contracted than what we may derive from reading.
3. When we read good authors we learn “ the best, the « most laboured, and most refined sentiments even of those “ wise and learned men ;" for they have studied hard, and have committed to writing their maturest thoughts, and the result of their long study and experience: whereas by conversation, and in some lectures, we obtain many times only the present thoughts of our tutors or friends, which (though they may be bright and useful) yet, at first perhaps, may be sudden and indigested, and are mere hints, which have risen to no maturity.
4. It is another advantage of reading, that we may “ re« view what we have read ;" we may consult the page again and again, and meditate on it at successive seasons in our serenest and retired hours, having the book always at hand: but what we obtain by conversation, and in lectures, is oftentimes lost again as soon as the company breaks up, or at least when the day vanishes ; unless we happen to have the talent of a good memory, or quickly retire and note down what remarkables we have found in those discourses. And for the same reason, and for want of retiring and writing, many a learned man has lost several useful meditations of his own, and could never recall them again.
III. The advantages of verbal instructions by public or private lectures are these.
1. There is something more sprightly, more delightful and entertaining in the living discourse of a wise, a learned, and well qualified teacher, than there is in the silent and sedentary practice of reading. The very turn of voice, the good pronunciation, and the polite and alluring manner which some teachers have attained, will engage the attention, keep the soul fixed, and convey and insinuate into the mind the ideas of things in a more lively and forcible way, than the mere reading of books in the silence and retirement of the closet. 2. A tutor, or instructor, when he paraphrases and ex
plains other authors, can " mark out the precise point of
difficulty or controversy,” and unfold it. He can shew you which paragraphs are of greatest importance, and which are of less moment. He can teach his hearers what authors, or what parts of an author, are best worth reading on any particular subject; and thus save his disciples much time and pains, by shortening the labours of their closet and private studies. He can shew you what were the doctrines of the ancients in a compendium, which perhaps would cost much labour, and the perusal of many books, to attain. He can inform
what new doctrines or sentiments are rising in the world, before they come to be public; as well as ac. quaint you with his own private thoughts, and his own experiments and observations, which never were, and perhaps never will be published to the world, and yet may be very valuable and useful.
3. A living instructor can convey to our senses those notions with which he would furnish our minds, when he teaches us natural philosophy, or most parts of mathematis cal learning. He can make the experiments before our eyes.
can describe figures and diagrams, point to the lines and angles, and make out the demonstration in a more intelli, gible manner by sensible means, which cannot be done so
mere reading, even though we should have the same figures lying in a book before our eyes. A living teacher, therefore, is a most necessary help in these studies.
I might add also, that even where the subject of discourse is moral, logical, or rhetorical, &c. and which does not die
come under the notice of our senses, a tutor may explain hiş ideas by such familiar examples, and plain or sim ple similitudes, as seldom find place in books and wri.
4. When an instructor in his lectures delivers any matter
or expresses himself in such a manner as seems obscure, so that you do not take up his ideas clearly or fully, you have opportunity, at least when the lecture is finished, of at other proper scasons, to inquire how such a sentence