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view and knowledge of things, and he will seldom learn how to make that knowledge useful.
These five methods of improvement should be pursued jointly, and go hand in hand, where our circumstances are so happy as to find opportunity and conveniency to enjoy them all : though I must give my opinion that two of them, viz, reading and meditation, should employ much more of our time than public lectures, or conversation and discourse. As for observation, we may be always acquiring knowledge that way,
whether we are alone, or in company. But it will be for our further improvement if we go a over all these five methods of obtaining knowledge more distinctly and more at large, and see what special advances in useful science we may draw from them all..
Rules relating to Observation. Though observation, in the strict sense of the word, and as it is distinguished from meditation and study, is the first means of improvement, and, in its strictest sense, does not include in it any reasonings of the mind upon the things which we observe, or inferences drawn from them, yet the motions of the mind are so exceeding swift, that it is hardly possible for a thinking man to gain experiences or observations, without making some secret and short reflections upon them : and therefore, in giving a few directions concerning this method of improvement, I shall not so narrowly confine myself to the first mere impression of objects on the mind by observation, but include also some bints whiclı relate to the first most easy and obvious reflections, or reasonings which arise from themı.
I,'LET the enlargement of your knowledge be one constant view and design in life, since there is no time or place, no transactions, occurrences, or engagements in life, which exclude us from this method of improving the mind. с 3
When we are alone, even in darkness and silence, we may converse with our own hearts, observe the working of our own spirits, and reflect upon the inward motions of our own passions in some of the latest occurrences in life ; we may acquaint ourselves with the powers and properties, the tendencies and inclinations, both of body and spirit, and gain a more intimate knowledge of ourselves. When we are in company, we may discover something more of human nature, of human passions and follies, and of human affairs, vices, and virtues, by conversing with mankind, and observing their conduct. Nor is there any thing more valuable than the knowledge of ourselves, and the knowledge of men, except it be the knowledge of God who made us, and our relation to him as our Governor,
When we are in the house or the city, wheresoever we turn our eyes, we see the works of men ; when we are abroad in the country, wę behold more of the works of God. The skies and the ground above and beneath us, and the animal and vegetable world round about us, may entertain our observation with ten thousand varieties.
Endeavour, therefore, to derive some instruction or improvement of the mind from every thing which you see or hear, from every thing which occurs in human life, from every thing within you or without you.
Fetch down some knowledge from the clouds, the stars, the sun, the moon, and the revolutions of all the planets : dig and draw up some valuable meditations from the depths of the earth, and search them through the vast oceans of water : extract some intellectual improvements from the minerals and metals, from the wonders of nature among the vegetables and herbs, trees and flowers. Learn some lessons from the birds, and the beasts, and the meanest insect. Read the wisdom of God, and his admisable contrivance in them all. Read his almighty power, his rich and various goodness, in all the works of his hands. From the day and the night, the hours and the flying mi
nutes, learn a wise improvement of time, and be watchful to seize every opportunity to increase in knowledge.
From the vicissitudes and revolutions of nations and families, and from the various occurrences of the world, learn the instability of mortal affairs, the uncertainty of life, the certainty of death. From a coffin and a funeral, learn to meditate upon your own departure.
From the vices and follies of others, observe what is hateful in them ; consider how such a practice looks in another person, and remember that it looks as ill or worse in yourself. From the virtues of others, learn something worthy of your imitation.
From the deformity, the distress, or calamity of others, derive lessons of thankfulness to God, and hymns of grateful praise to your Creator, Governor, and Benefactor, who has formed you in a better mould, and guarded you from those evils. Learn also the sacred lesson of contentment in your own estate, and compassion to your neighbour under his miseries,
From your natural powers, sensations, judgement, memory, hands, feet, &c. make this inference, that they were not given you for nothing, but for some useful employment to the honour of your Maker, and for the good of your fellowcreatures, as well as for your own best interest and final happiness.
From the sorrows, the pains, the sicknesses, and sufferings that attend you, learn the evil of sin, and the imperfection of
your present state. From your own sins and follies, learn the patience of God toward you, and the practice of humility toward God and man.
Thus, from every appearance in nature, and from every occurrence of life, you may derive natural, moral, and religious observations to entertain your minds, as well as rules of conduct in the affairs relating to this life, and that which is to come.
II. In order to furnish the mind with a rich variety of ideas, the laudable curiosity of young people should be inC4
dulged and gratified rather than discouraged. It is a very hopeful sign in young persons, to see them curious in observing, and inquisitive in searching into the greatest part of things that occur ; nor should such an inquiring temper be frowned into silence, nor be rigorously restrained, but should rather be satisfied by proper answers given to all those queries.
For this reason also, where time and fortune allow it, young people should be led into cumpany at proper seasons, should be carried abroad to see the fields, and the woods, and the rivers, the buildings, towns, and cities, distant from their own dwelling; they should be entertained with the sight of strange birds, beasts, fishes, insects, vegetables, and productions both of nature and art of every kind, whether they are the products of their own or foreign nations : and in due time, where Providence gives opportunity, they may travel, under a wise inspector or tutor, to different parts of the world for the same end, that they may bring home treasures of useful knowledge.
III. AMONG all these observations, write down what is more remarkable and uncommon : reserve these remarks in store for proper occasions, and at proper seasons take a review of them. Such a practice will give you a habit of useful thinking: this will secure the workings of your soul from running to waste, and, by this means, even your looser moments will turn to happy account both here and hereafter.
And whatever useful observations have been made, let them be at least some part of the subject of your conver, sation among your friends at next meeting.
Let the circumstances or situations of life be what or where they will, a man should never neglect this improvement which may be derived from observation. Let him travel into the East or West Indies, and fulfil the duties of the military or the mercantile life there; let him rove through the earth or the seas for his own humour as a tram veller, or pursue his diversions in what part of the world he pleases as a gentleman ; let prosperous or adverse for.
tune call him to the most distant parts of the globe ; still let him carry on his knowledge, and the improvement of his soul, by wise observations. In due time, by this means, he may
render himself some way useful to the societies of mankind.
THEOBALDINO, in his younger years, visited the forests of Norway on the account of trade and timber, and besides his proper observations of the growth of trees on those northern mountains, he learnt there was a sort of people called Finns, in those confines which border upon Sweden, whose habitation is in the woods : and he lived afterwards to give a good account of them, and some of their customs, to the Royal Society for the improvement of natural knowledge. PUTEOLI was taken captive into Turkey in his youth, and travelled with his master in their holy pilgrimage to Mecca, whereby he became more intelligent in the forms, ceremonies and fooleries of the Mahometan worship, than perhaps ever any Briton knew before ; and by his manuscripts we are more acquainted in this last century with the Turkish sacreds than any one had ever informed os.
IV. Let us keep our minds as free as possible from passions and prejudices, for these will give a wrong turn to our observations both on persons and things. The eyes of a man in the jaundice make yellow observations on every thing; and the soul tinctured with any passion or prejudice diffuses a false colour over the real appearances of things, and disguises many of the common occurrences of life : it never beholds things in a true light, nor suffers them to appear as they are. Whensoever, therefore, you would make proper observations, let self, with all its influences, stand aside as far as possible ; abstract your own interest and your own concern from them, and bid all friendships and enmities stand aloof, and keep out of the way, in the observations that you make relating to persons and things.
If this rule were well obeyed, we should be much better guarded against those common pieces of misconduct in the observations of men, viz. the false judgements of pride and