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and literary improvements. In the present age, our country is in a medium between barbarity and refine
a ment. In such an age, the minds of men are strong and vigorous, being neither enfeebled by luxury, nor shackled by authority. At such an happy period, we come upon the stage, with the fields of science before us opened but not explored. This should rouse our dormant faculties, and call up all our latent powers in the vigorous pursuit of knowledge. Those, who have gone before us in these pursuits, have only set us an example, and facilitated our progress, without damping our hopes, or forbidding our success.
Again, we live under that form of government, which has always been the friend of the Muses, and parent and nurse of Arts. It was while Greece and Rome were free, republican States, that learning there sprang up, flourished, and rose to its height; and enrolled their names in the annals of fame. Liberty, which is the birth-right of man, and congenial with his nature, ennobles and exalts the mind; inspires it with great and sublime sentiinents; and, at the same time invites and encourages its highest exertions, with hopes of success and the promises of reward. For, in free Republics, were liberty is equally enjoyed, every man has weight and influence in proportion to his abilities, and a fair opportunity of rising by the dint of merit, to the first offices and honors of the state.
Another motive to improvement, you will allow me to say, may be taken from your past singular and laudable efforts to cultivate and diffuse useful knowledge in this place. It is now more than thirty years, since this single and then small congregation collected a very considerable Parish-Library, in order to improve their minds in useful and divine knowledge. This
was such an effort to promote mental improvements as, I imagine, cannot be easily found in this country. The benefit of this Library you have all perhaps more or less experienced; and, to its happy influence owe, in a measure, your general character as a religious and intelligent people. May this consideration have all its weight upon you, since our Lord hath said in the parable of the talents, “Whosover hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance."
In this respect, how wonderful the smiles of Providence upon you! Whose heart doth not glow with gratitude for the auspicious occasion which hath now brought us together! How great our obligations to God for the unmerited and unexpected favor of a rich collection of books now received, as a mark of respect from the first literary character in America, his Excellency President FRANKLIN! This well.chosen and very valuable Library, while it sets the divine kindness in a high and engaging light, lays you under the strongest ties of gratitude to improve the means of cultivating your minds for the service of God and of fellow-men. Should you second the views of that great man, and build upon the broad foundation which he has generously laid, you may enjoy ample advantages, in point of books, to improve your mental powers, and furnish yourselves for usefulness in all your various stations and employments of life. Nor can you neglect or abuse such advantages, without drawing upon yourselves the reproach of the world, and what is infinitely more, the reproach of your own consciences. Be entreated then to improve to the best advantage, every price put into your hands to get wisdom.
There are three grand sources of knowledge before you, nature, men, and books. Attentively read each of these great volumes.
Read nature, which is truly an original author. King David, studying this large and instructive vol. ume, which filled his mind with the noblest views and sentiments, broke forth in a rapture of praise, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handy work. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge.”
Read men, “for as in water face answereth to face, so the heart of man to man.” This volume David perused and digested in the court and camp of Saul, where human nature, with, and without a veil, was very visible to his critical and discerning eye.
But the design of this discourse more directly leads me to urge the reading of books in particular. These are a grand magazine of knowledge, and contain the learning and wisdom of ages. But, you must know, that books are a peculiar fountain, from whence may be drawn either sweet waters or bitter, the waters of life, or the waters of death. For this reason, you will allow me here to advise you, to take heed how you read.
And, in the first place, read with caution. son may be undone by a single volume.
ingle volume. Nothing contains such secret and fatal poison as books. Though they profess a kind and friendly intention, yet they often bite like a serpent and sting like an adder. Be careful what books you read. There are many, which the young and inexperienced at least, should totally avoid. In this particular, if you are ivise, and faithful to yourselves, you will endeavor to obtain and follow good advice.
Read with judgment. This is, in every view, indispensably necessary, in order to read to advantage. This will enable you to discover and ascertain the main object of your author, which will be a key to all he says in the various parts and branches of his sub. ject. This will help you to distinguish truth from error, good sentiments from bad, and sound reasoning and strict demonstration, from mere conjectures and bold assertions. But if you read without judgment, you will be in danger of imbibing error as well as truth, of always believing the last author you read, and of never having any fixed and settled sentiment of your own.
Read for use and not for amusement. The time is worse than thrown away, which is spent in reading for amusement, without any particular end or object in view. We should be careful how we take up a book, especially, if it be an entertaining one, with which we have no particular concern; for it will require a considerable effort of the mind to throw it aside, and if we do not throw it aside it will steal away our time, and prevent our being better employed. Almost
any book, if read for use, may be of advantage. We may read amusing, and, even corrupting books to advantage, if we read them in order to make a good use of them. The bee can suck honey from the same flowers, from which other insects suck poison. But we may read all our lives to very little purpose, if we read every book which happens to fall in our way for amusement and not for use. We should always read with reference, either to our own particular profession, or to the particular state and situation of our own minds. When we read with either of these objects in view, we shall be apt both to understand and digest what we read. There is great and singular advantage
in reading proper books at a proper time, when we really stand in need of them. This is of the same happy tendency, as eating and drinking at the proper seasons, when it serves to nourish and strengthen, in. stead of clogging and surfeiting the body.
Read with patience. Many authors are both prolix and obscure in conveying their ideas; and after all, have much more chaff than wheat in their writings. In reading such, we must go over a great deal of ground in order to reap a small harvest of ideas. It is difficult, however, for any man to treat any subject in a method entirely new. We must expect therefore to find many common and familiar thoughts in every author, which we must patiently read, if we would properly come at those which are more new, entertaining, and instructive. And for this reason it is generally best perhaps, if authors are of any tolerable size, to read them through, with patience and attention, This is but justice to them, and prudence to ourselves.
Read with confidence. In our first essays after knowledge, we are obliged, by the laws of our nature to depend upon the assistance and instruction of oth: ers, and in consequence of this, we are apt to feel, through life, too great a sense of our own weakness and imbecilily, and to despair of going a step further than we are led. This, however is very unfriendly to all improvement by reading. We ought therefore to feel that we are men, and place a proper degree of confidence in our own strength and judgment. We ought to fix it in our minds that we are capable of inprovement. Such a confidence in ourselves as this, will embolden us to read with a view not only of understanding, but of improving upon the authors we l'ead. Very few authors have exhausted the subjects upon which they have treated, and therefore have gen.