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DR. ISAAO WATTS,
BORN, 1674; DIED, 1748. Principal Works. — Logic, Improvement of the Mind, Essays,
Psalms and Hymns, Divine Songs for Children.
THESE emmets, how little they are in our eyes !
Without our regard or concern:
Some lessons of wisdom might learn.
And for winter they lay up their stores;
And so brought their food within doors.
Nor provide against dangers in time;
If I trifle away all their prime!
And pray that my sins be forgiven.
may dwell in a palace in heaven.
CONVERSATION calls to light what has been lodged in the recesses and secret chambers of the soul. By occasional hints and incidents, it brings former useful notions into remembrance; it unfolds and displays the hidden treasures of knowledge, with which reading, observation, and study, had before furnished the mind. By mutual discourse, the soul is awakened, and allured to bring forth its hoards of knowledge, and it learns how to render them most useful to mankind; but a man of vast reading without conversation, is like a miser who lives only for himself.
In free and friendly conversation, our intellectual powers are more animated, and our spirits act with a superior vigour in the pursuit of unknown truths. There is a sharpness and sagacity of thought that attends it, beyond what we find whilst we are shut up in retirement. Often does it happen, that in free discourse new thoughts are strangely struck out, and those seeds of truth sparkle and blaze through the company, which in calm and silent reading would never have been excited. By conversation, we both give and receive this benefit; as flints when put into motion and striking against each other, produce on both sides living fire, which would never have risen from the same materials in a state of rest.
In conversing with ingenious and learned men, we
bring our sentiments to the test, and iearn in a more compendious way, what the world will judge of them ; what objections may be raised against them ; what defects there are in our schemes ; and how to correct our mistakes; which advantages are not easily obtained by our private meditations, for self-love, as well as the narrowness of our views, tempts us all to pass too favourable an opinion on our own schemes ; whereas the variety of genius in our several associates, will give happy notices how our opinion will stand in the view of mankind at large.
Another considerable advantage of conversation is, that it furnishes the student with a knowledge of men and the affairs of life, as reading furnishes him with book-learning. A man who has dwelt all his days among books, may have amassed together a heap of notions, and still be a mere scholar, which is a contemptible sort of character in the world. A hermit, who has been always shut up in his cell in a college, has contracted a sort of mould and rust upon his soul, and all his airs of behaviour have a certain awkwardness in them, but these awkward airs are worn off by degrees in company; the rust and the mould are filed and brushed off by polite conversation. The scholar then becomes a citizen or a gentleman, a neighbour or a friend; he learns how to dress his sentiments in the fairest colours, as well as to set them in the clearest light. Thus, he produces his ideas to public inspection with honour, he makes use of them in the world, and he improves his theories by practice.—Watts.
DR. EDWARD YOUNG.
BORN, 1681; DIED, 1765.
All promise is poor dilatory man,
And why? because he thinks himself immortal. All men think all men mortal, but themselves; Themselves, when some alarming shock of Fate Strikes through their wounded hearts the sudden dread; But their hearts wounded, like the wounded air, Soon close; where past the shaft no trace is found, As from the wing no scar the sky retains, The parted wave no furrow from the keel; So dies in human hearts the thoughts of death.
I HAVE always preferred Cheerfulness to Mirth. The latter I consider as an act, the former as a habit of the mind. Mirth is short and transient, cheerfulness fixed and permanent. Those are often raised into the greatest transports of mirth, who are subject to the greatest depressions of melancholy; on the contrary, cheerfulness, though it does not give the mind such an exquisite gladness, prevents us from falling into any depths of sorrow.
Cheerfulness of mind is not liable to any of these exceptions ; it is of a serious and composed nature ; it does not throw the mind into a condition improper for the present state of humanity, and is very conspicuous in the characters of those who are looked upon as the greatest philosophers among the heathens, as well
among those who have been deservedly esteemed as saints and holy men among Christians.
If we consider Cheerfulness in three lights, with regard to ourselves, to those we converse with, and to the great Author of our being, it will not a little recommend itself on each of these accounts.
The man who is possessed of this excellent frame of mind, is not only easy in his thoughts, but a perfect master of all the powers and faculties of his soul : his imagination is always clear, and his judgment undisturbed :