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PURSUIT OF KNOWLEDGE.
THE culture which we receive in early life is regulated, very properly, not only by the circumstances of our parents, but by the designs they form with respect to our future station. Our education, therefore, is very often partial and limited; not adapted to give full exercise to the mental por cis, nor to inspire the love of knowledge.
The period of youth is generally given to learn a trade, and is spent in the labours of an apprenticeship. Thus, when young men enter upon the world, there is too frequent reason to lament the raw, unfurnished state of their minds. Where we wish for just sentiments, liberal views, and a refined taste, error, ignorance, and prejudice prevail. The solitary hours of such persons are a burthen to themselves; their social intercourses can not instruct or edify. They are not prepared to receive improvement from the conversation of the enlightened, nor to act their part in life with wisdom and dignity.
The remedy of these evils is, at the beginning of manly years, to cultivate the love of knowledge and a taste for reading. Our understanding is a valuable and noble distinction of our nature; and the desire of knowledge is as natural as any other propensity. Science furnishes an endless variety of objects to gratify and excite it.
• Some persons neglect this natural propensity, and suffer it to be in a manner extin
guished; which certainly is a great misbeha“ viour; for God doth not put passions in our “minds, to be extirpated, but to be improved; “ and hath not endued us with understanding “ to no purpose. We should have some em
ployment for our faculties as well as for our hands and feet, and we must not let our
thoughts run to waste, any more than our 66 time *." It becomes us, as rational agents, to acquire knowledge, and in particular, religious knowledge. Since the foundation of
attainment is laid, with the greatest facility and advantage, in the youthful period of life, I would recommend to young men, in particular, the pursuit of knowledge, and, as a means to it, the love of reading
Each sex, indeed, hath an interest in this acquisition; it is the ornament and perfection of the human mind. But, where there are claims to superior powers, it is peculiarly preposterous and blameable to suffer these powers to rust through disuse, or to degrade them through ignorance. Men, in the scenes of active life, find greater occasion for the strength of judgment, the comprehension of thought, and the sagacity of mind, which are the consequences of an improved and cultivated state of the rational faculties. Men likewise have more opportunity of converting the knowledge which they acquire to the public benefit.
* Jortin's Sermons, v. 5. P: 378.
On you then, my friends, who are arrived at that period when the powers have most vigour and vivacity, and the heart is most disengaged from the objects and pursuits of life; on you let 'me urge such an employment of your leisure, as may improve the mind, enrich the memory with a store of just and useful ideas, correct and refine the taste, and invigorate and strengthen the understanding.
It is advisable, that your leisure hours only should be given to these attainments. For it is not to be supposed, that every youth should aim at the character of a complete scholar, phi'losopher, or divine. This requires the employment of all our time, and the whole bent of our thoughts. This would be incompatible with the duties and business of most stations in life. But the lot of few is so laborious and busy as not to leave an hour or two every day, and one whole day in the week, unoccupied by the peculiar engagements of their calling. The question is, how may these hours, and this day, be most usefully and agreeably filled up? Those hours, it is answered, by the acquisition of knowledge,
and that day by the attainment of divine knowledge in particular. The necessities of life, and of your respective ranks, will not permit reading to be more than a subordinate employment of
time. But even, as a subordinate object; much may be done this way. In a course of
may be richly furnished and adorned.
With this view, let your reading be solid and select. Indiscriminate reading will divide and perplex the thoughts. Light and trifling reading, though it amuse, will relax and ener, vate the mind. Some kind of reading will corrupt and debauch the heart. A taste for reading is the fashion of the day. But it inay
admit dispute, whether the fashion be the ornament or reproach, the felicity or evil of the day. For it is generally directed, even by the grave, to such compositions as are superficial; and by many, to such only as address the passons, or please the fancy.
Some of our novels, as works of genius and pictures of human life and manners, deserve a perusal. But even such are commonly sought after must eagerly by those who have neither