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clination to one subject of inquiry, and some to another. Some seek after knowledge for gain; some for estimation in the world; some from a restless and unprofitable spirit of curiosity without limit, and almost without object; some that they may become expert in disputation; some from pride and ostentation; few, as is well observed by Lord Bacon, that they may employ the gift of reason for the benefit of the human family, and for the glory of Him who gave it." As if," adds the same illustrious author, in that strong and figurative language for which his writings are so remarkable, adapting his metaphor to the different motives and characters of men-" as if there was sought in knowledge a couch whereon to rest a searching and restless spirit; or a terrace for a wandering and variable mind to walk up and down with a fair prospect; or a tower of state for a proud mind to raise itself upon; or a fort or commanding ground for strife and contention; or a shop for profit and sale; and not a rich storehouse for the glory of the Creator, and the relief of man's estate."*
But, as knowledge is thus various, and may be received into minds so variously constituted and affected; how important is it that we duly consider the objects of intellectual improvement we may individually propose to ourselves, and the motives by which we are actuated in the search!
We may admit the saying of Locke, that "this life is a scene of vanity," and perhaps may bring our
* Advancement of Learning, book, i.
selves to comprehend the acknowledgment of Grotius, one of the most illustrious scholars of his age, and a man of exemplary piety, that "he had consumed much of his life in laboriously doing nothing."We may have dipped so far into philosophy as to be persuaded of this truth, that the greatest attainments in natural knowledge are immeasureably insignificant, when compared with the proper business of life; and unspeakably vain, when inflating the proud mind to search into the counsels of omniscience.-We may have been instructed, also, by the experience of the wisest and best, how little, after all our inquiries, can be known. Yet the advances which have been made in the sciences, strictly so called, viewed abstractedly as evidences of the unassisted powers of Man, of his superiority to the Brute, and his relation to some higher sphere of existence, while they ennoble human genius, urge us to lament its misapplication.
But even in the sciences, (where demonstration, as in Mathematics, and analysis and synthesis, as in Chemistry, prove the proposition and the law,) we must still come to something which is not revealed,some link in the chain of natural causes, where the philosophic inquirer must rest, and infer an agency whose mode of working is unknown.
When Sir Isaac Newton had discovered that it was by the law of gravitation the planetary motions were to be explained, he doubtless saw it would be a vain speculation to inquire in what manner this gravitating principle or law acted; whether by an electrical
æther, or impalpable aerial fluid, or by some other subtile medium. And, in the same way, we may reasonably conclude that it will ever be fruitless to inquire whether, in the human body, a nervous fluid or a mere vibration conveys the impulse of the will to the voluntary muscles, or the impression of the senses to the brain. The profoundest researches of the physiologist cannot explain how a man performs the simple act of raising his arm, nor how the eye and ear transmit their respective sensations to the mind.
In every department of human knowledge, therefore, there is a point where inquiry must rest; and where it becomes the true philosopher to contemplate in awful humility the wonders of Almighty Power, adoring in silent reverence that infinite wisdom, which has only unlocked, as it were, to man, the vestibule of the great Temple, that contains thousands of Nature's secrets yet unopened, and thousands more, perhaps, never to be revealed.
Now, in this view, it must be considered highly incumbent upon all, who prosecute physical or moral inquiries, to direct them in the plain and simple path of observation, which may lead to profitable results; and equally incumbent to avoid the giddy heights of speculation, where the mind is too much disposed to look down upon the laborious inquirer, and to indulge in vain conceits of superior intelligence. For, hence arise the evils of a wild untutored imagination, -that roving faculty of the mind, which is to be found
any where but at home. It is ready to grasp at the notions of others, calling them its own; and to grasp at its own phantoms, calling them realities. How necessary that it should be bridled, and brought within the limits of sober and legitimate investigation! We may take it for granted, that knowledge, which is so readily gleaned from others, does not properly constitute mental improvement. The cultivation of the mind, in order that it may bring forth good fruit, requires a steady persevering labour. It is true, indeed, that some soils, from a kind of native luxuriance, produce abundantly, with but little outward aid; but, in these as much labour is often required to check an extravagant growth, and to root up the weed, as in ground which is less fertile, to manure and water in its season.
Knowledge must be conveyed to the mind, as food to the body, if it be intended for profit, by healthy digestion and assimilation of the materials to our actual substance. It is by reflection and meditation upon the truths afforded by others, that we make them our own; and this observation applies to our moral and religious, as it does to our intellectual, advance
Hence it is that the man who can boast little else than a capacious memory, though his mind may be stored with the records of past ages, is often extremely deficient in the faculty of Reason, and in common discretion, when placed in the embarrassing concerns of life: while he who may want this prompt
recollection of the past, but is notwithstanding pos sessed of a sound discriminating judgment, and can recur in every emergency to a counsellor placed in his own bosom,-who troubles himself little in considering how others would act in similar circum. stances, will frequently extricate himself from difficulties, by which the other would be overwhelmed. So much, therefore, does it behove every one to labour for his own supplies, whether physical or moral; and so great is the distinction between that which is received from without, and that which is produced within,-between the observations of others and our own,-between that which makes the heart better, and that which only fills the head, in a word, between wisdom and knowledge.
Cowper has very accurately marked the distinction.
"Knowledge and wisdom, far from being one,
The mere material with which Wisdom builds,
Does but encumber whom it seems to enrich :
Knowledge is proud that he has learned so much,
Task, Book 6.