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PREFACE

TO
« THE IMPROVEMENT OF THE MIND.”

In the last page of the Treatise of Logic which I published many years go, it is observed, that there are several other things which might assist the cultivation of the mind, and its improvement in knowledge, which are not usually represented among the principles or precepts of that art or science. These are the subjects which compose this book; these are the sentiments and rules, many of which I had then in view, and wbich I now venture into public light.

The present treatise, if it may assume the honour of that name, is made op of a variety of remarks and directions for the improvement of the mind in oseful knowledge. It was collected from the observations which I had made on my own studies, and on the temper and sentiments, the humour and conduct of other men in their pursuit of learning, or in the affairs of life; and it has been considerably assisted by occasional collections in the course of my reading, from many authors and on different subjects. I contess, in far the greatest part, I stand bound to answer for the weaknesses or defects that will be found in these papers, not being able to point to other writers, whence the twentieth part of them is derived.

The work was composed at different times, and by slow degrees. Now and then, indeed, it spread itself into branches and leaves like a plant in April, and advanced seven or eight pages in a week; and sometimes it lay by without growth, like a vegetable in the winter, and did not increase half so much in the revolution of a year.

As these thoughts occurred to me in reading or meditation, or in my notices of the various appearances of things among mankind, they were thrown under those heads which make the present titles of the chapters, and were by degrees reduced to something like a method, such as the subject would admit.

On these accounts it is not to be expected that the same accurate order should be observed either in the whole book, or in the particular chapters thereof, which is necessary in the system of any science, whose scheme is projected at once. A book which has been twenty years in writing, may be indulged in some variety of style and manner, though I hope there will not be found any great difference of sentiment ; for wherein I had improved in later years beyond what I had first written, a few dashes and alterations have corrected the mistakes : And if the candour of the reader will but allow what is defective in one place, to be supplied by allditions from another, I hope there will be found a sufficient reconciliation of what might seem at first to be scarcely consistent.

The language and dress of these sentiments is such as the present temper of mind dictated, whether it were grave or pleasant, severe or smiling. If there has beed any thing expressed with too much severity, I suspect it will be found to fall upon those sneering or daring writers of the age against religion, and against the Christian scheme, who seemed to have left reason, or decency, or both, behind then in some of their writings.

The same apology of the length of years in composing this book, may serve also to excuse a repetition of the same sentiments which may happen to be found in different places, without the author's design ; but in other pages it was intended, so that those rules for the conduct of the understanding which are most necessary, should be set in several ligbts, that they might with more frequent and more force impress the soul. I shall be sufficiently satisfied with the good humour and lenity of my readers, if they will please to regard these papers as parcels of imperfect sketches, which were designed by a sudden pencil, and in a thousand leisure moments, to be one day collected into landscapes of some little prospects in the regions of learning, and in the world of common life, pointing out the fairest and most fruitful spots, as well as the rocks and wildernesses, and faithless morasses of the country. But I feel age advancing upon me, and my health is insufficient to perfect what I had designed, to increase and amplify these remarks, to confirm and improve these rules, and to illuminate the several pages with a richer and more beautiful variety of examples. The subject is almost endless, and new writers in the present and in following ages may still find suffi. cient follies, weakpesses and dangers among mankind, to be represented in such a mapner as to guard youth against them.

These bints, such as they are, I hope may be rendered some way use. ful to persons in younger years, wbo will favour them with a perusal, and who would seek the cultivation of their own understandings in the early days of life, Perhaps they may find something here which may awake a latent genius, and direct the studies of a willing mind. Perhaps it may point out to a student now and then, what way employ the most useful labours of his thoughts, and accelerate his diligence in the most momentous inquiries. Per haps a sprightly youth may here meet with something to guard or warn him against mistakes, and withhold bim at other times from those pursuits which are like to be fruitless and disappointing.

Let it be observed also, that in our age several of the ladies pursue science with success; and others of them are desirous of improving their reason even in common affairs of life, as well as the men : yet the characters which are here drawn occasionally, are almost universally applied to one sex ; but if any of the other shall find a character which suits them, they may by a small change of the termination, apply and assume it to themselves, and accept the instruction, the admonition, or the applause which is designed in it.

There is yet another thing which it is necessary my reader should be informed of; but whether he will call it fortunate or unhappy, I know not. It is sufficiently evident that the book consists of two parts: The first lays down remarks and rules how we may attain useful knowledge ourselves; and the second, how we may best communicate it to others. These were both designed to be printed in this volume : but a manuscript which hath been pear twenty years in band, may be easily supposed to allow of such difference in tbe hand-writing, so many lines altered, so many things interlined, and so many paragraphs and pages here and there inserted, that it was not easy to compute the number of sheets that it would make in print: and it now apPears, that the remarks and rules about the communication of knowledge be. ing excluded here, they must be left to another volume : wherein will be con . tained various observations relating to methods of instruction, the style and manner of it, the way of convincing other persons, of guarding youth against prejudices, of treating and managing the prejudices of men, of the use and abuse of authority, of education, and of the various things in which children and youth should be instructed, of their proper business and diversions, and of the degrees of liberty and restraint thereia, &c. Of all which I had once designed a more complete treatise; but my years advancing, I pow despair to finish it :

The essays or chapters on these subjects being already written, if I am favoured with a tolerable degree of lealth, will be put to the press, when the favourable acceptance of this first part shall give sufficient encouragement to proceed.

THE IMPROVEMENT OF THE MIND ,

CONTAINING
A variety of Remarks and Rules for the Attainment and

Communication of Useful Knowledge, in Religion, in the
Sciences, and in Common Life.

THE FIRST PART.

Directions for the Attainment of useful Knowledge.

....: INTRODUCTION. ..ir, ili O man is obliged to learn and know every thing; this can neither be sought por required, for it is utterly impossible; yet all persons are under some obligation to improve their own un. derstanding, otherwise it will be à barren desart, or a forest overgrown with weeds and brambles. Universal 'ignorance or infipite errors will overspread the mind, which is utterly nega. lected and lies without any cultivation. Skill in the sciences is indeed the business and profession but of a small part of man. kind; but there are many others placed in such an 'exalted rank in the world, as allows them much leisure and large opportunities to cultivate their reason, and to beautify and enrich their mind with various knowledge. Even the lower orders of men have particular callings in life, wherein they ought to acquire a just degree of skill, and this is not to be done well without thinking and reasoning about them. ' .! .

The common duties and benefits of society, which belong to every man living, as we are social creatures, and even our bative and necessary relations to a family, a neighbourhood, or å government, oblige all persons whatsoever to use their reasons. ing powers upon a thousand occasions; every hour of life calls for some regular exercise of our judgment as to times and things persons and actions ; without a prudent and discreet determinacon in matters before us, we shall be plunged into perpetual errors in our 'conduct. Now that which should always be practised, must at some time be learnt.

Besides every son and daughter of Adam has a most im. portant concern in the affairs of a life to come, and therefore it is a matter of the bigliest moment for every one to understand, to judge, and to reason right about the things of religion. It is in vain for any to say, we have no leisure or time for it. The daily intervals of time, and vacancies from necessary labonr,

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together with the one day in seven in the Christian world, allows sufficient time for this, if men would but apply themselves to it with half as much zeal and diligence, as they do to the trifles and amusements of this life ; and it would turn to infinitely better account.

Thus it appears to be the necessary duty and the interest of every person living to improve bis understanding, to inform his judgment, to treasure up useful knowledge, and to acquire the skill of good reasoning, as far as his station, capacity and circumstances furnish him with proper means for it.' Our inistakes in judgment may plunge us into inuch folly and guilt in practice, By acting without thought or reason, we dishonour the God that made us reasonable creatures, we often become injurious to our peighbours, kindred or friends, and we bring sin and misery upon ourselves : For we are accountable to God our judge for every part of our irregular and mistaken conduct, where he hath given us sufficient advantages to guard against those mistakes.

It is the design of Logic to give this improvement to the mind, and to teach us the right use of reason in the acquirement and communication of all useful knowledge ; though the greatest part of writers on that subject have turned it into a composition of hard words, trifles and subtleties for the mere use of the schools, aîd that only to amuse the minds and the ears of men with empty sounds, which flatter their vanity, and puff up their pride with a pompous and glittering shew of falsa learning; and thus they have perverted the great and valuable design of that science,

A few modern writers have endeayoured to recover the honour of Logic, since that excellent author of the Art of Thinking led the way: Among the rest I have presumed to make an atteppt of the same kind, in a treatise published several years ago, wherein it was my constant aim to assist the reasoning powers of every rank and order of men, as well as to keep an eye to the best interest of the schools and the candidates of true learning. There Į have endeavoured to shew the misa takes we are exposed to in our conception, judgment and reasoning; and pointed to the various springs of them. I have also laid down many general and particular rules how to escape error, and attain truth in matters of the civil and religious life, as well as in the sciences. But there are several other observations very pertinent to this purpose, which bave not fallen so directly under any of those heads of discourse, or at least they would have swelled that treatise to an improper size ; and therefore I have made a distinct collection of them here out of various authors, as well as from my osyn obseryation, and set them down under the following beads,

The learned world who has done so much unmerited honour to that logical treatise, as to receive it into our two flourishing universities, may possibly admit this as a second part or supplement to that treatise. And I may venture to persuade myself, that if the common and the busy ranks of mankind, as well as the scbolar and the gentleman, would but trapscribe such rules into their understanding, and practise them upon all occasions, there would be much more truth and knowledge found among men : And it is reasonable to hope that justice, virtue and goodness would attend as the happy consequents.

CHAP. I.-General Rules for the Improvement of Know

ledge*.

I. DEEPLY possess your mind with the vast importance of a good judgment, and the rich and inestimable advantage of right reasoning. Review the instances of your own misconduct in life; think seriously with yourselves how many follies and sorrows you had escaped, and how inuch guilt and misery you had prevented, if from your early years you had but taken due pains to judge aright concerning persons, times and things. This will awaken you with lively vigour to address yourselves to the work of improving your reasoning powers, and seizing every opportunity and advantage for that end.

II. Consider the weaknesses, frailties and mistakes of human nature in general, which arise from the very constitution of a soul united to an animal body, and subjected to many inconveniences thereby. Consider the many additional weaknesses, mistakes and frailties which are derived from our original apostacy and fall from a state of innocence; how much our powers of understanding are yet more darkened, enfeebled, and imposed upon by our senses, our fancies, and our upruly passions, &c. Consider the depth and difficulty of many truths, and the flattering apnearances of falsehood, whence arises an infinite variety of dangers to which we are exposed in our judgment of things. Read with greediness those authors that treat of the doctrine of prejudices, prepossessions and spriągs of error, on parpose to make your soul watchful on all sides, that it sufser not itself as far as possible to be imposed upon by any of them. See more on this subject, Logic Part II. Chap. 3. and Part IļI. Chap. 3

# Though the most of these following rules are chiefly addressed to those whom their fortune or their station require to addict themselves to the peculiar improvement of their minds in greater degrees of knowledge, yet every one who bas leisure and opportunity to be acquainted with such writings as these, may find something among them for their own use.

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