Path of Happiness. Like a traveller in a strange country, he will, therefore, be glad to inquire his way of others; and make all possible use of the Experience of those who, with honour and success, have travelled the path of life before him. He will endeavour to avail himself equally of the good and bad fortune of those whose course is finished, and strive to bring all Antiquity under Contribution to him for wisdom.

But how could this be done, if there were not some method of preserving, and possessing ourselves of, the experience of others? And here we see the use of Languages and Writing. Nevertheless, an acquaintance with all sorts of languages would be almost as difficult an acquisition, as the particular examination of all sorts of things. Hence then, it became necessary for the learned to fix on some Universal Language or Languages, as the grand channel or instrument of conveying their experiences, obser. vations and conclusions, concerning the Conduct of Life and the Truth of Things.

Now Greek and Latin have been chosen for these purposes, on several substantial accounts. For, not to mention that many of the noblest productions of ancient genius were originally written in these languages, it is to be observed that dead languages are more durable, and less fluctuating, than living ones; and, besides this, living nations, jealous of each other, would think it too great a mark of distinction to chuse the language of any particular nation among them, as the grand channel of knowledge and experience.

We see, then, that an acquaintance with what is called the Learned Languages, is still justly considered as a part of liberal education, and a necessary introduction to the Sciences. For though words, abstractly considered, cannot in themselves add to our knowledge, yet as the means of conveying and acquiring knowledge, they will be studied by all those who, to their own experience, would add the experience of those who have lived in former ages; or, living in the present, can no otherwise render the fruits of their inquiries useful to mankind, than by Language and Writing*

Nevertheless, a person, who knows himself endued with reason and understanding, will not be content to take his knowledge entirely at second hand. On subjects so important as the nature and fitness of things, and the Summum Bonum of man, he will not rely wholly on a historical knowledge, founded on the Experience and Testimony of others; however much his labours may be shortened thereby. He will think it his duty to examine for himself, and to acquire a Moral and Physical knowledge; founded on his own Experience and Observation.

This is what we call Philosophy in general; comprehending in it the knowledge of all things Human and Divine, so far as they can be made the objects of our present inquiries. Now, the genuine branches of this Philosophy, or great system of practical Wisdom, together with the necessary instrumental parts thereof, may be included under the following general heads; it appearing to me that the nature of things admits of no more.

* The author found it necessary to be thus particular in explaining the use of the Learned Languages; some regarding them as a needless part of education, and others considering them as all the education necessary to a scholar- Opinions equally prejudicial to the advancement of Sound Knowledge. Under this head, it is obvious that he means to include His. tory, both natural and civil; i. e. whatever can be obtained from the Es. perience of others.

1. Languages, &c. which have been already inentioned, rather as an Instrument or Means of Science, than a Branch thereof.

2. Logic and Metaphysics, or the Science of the Human mind; unfolding its powers and directing its operations and reasonings.

3. Natural Philosophy, Mathematics, and the rest of her beautiful train of subservient arts; investi. gating the Physical properties of Body, explaining the various phænomena of Nature; and teaching us to render her subservient to the ease and ornament of Life.

4. Moral Philosophy; applying all the above to the business and bosoms of men; deducing the laws of our conduct from our situation in life and connections with the Beings around us; settling the whole Oeconomy of the Will and affections; establishing the predominancy of Reason and Conscience; and guiding us to Happiness, through the practice of Virtue.

5. Rhetoric, or the art of masterly Composition, just Elocution, and sound Criticism; teaching us how to cloath our wisdom in the most amiable and . inviting garb; how to give life and spirit to our ideas; and to make our knowledge of the greatest benefit to ourselves and others.

This last mentioned part of literary accomplishment, like the first, I grant, is to be considered rather

as an Instrument, than a Branch of Science. But, if the above definition be just, you will not wonder that we separate it from Languages, as being of a much higher nature than they; and even place the study of it after all the other Sciences, seeing they are necessary and subservient to its perfection.

These are the capital branches of Human Science, as taught in every liberal institution; and were there no connection between them and the knowledge of Christ's religion, or did we stop short at the former without bringing them home to the latter; we should then indeed be building up to ourselves structures of emptiness, on foundations of rottenness. But it is impossible that ever Sciences, so liberal as those mentioned above, tending so directly to elevate and enlarge the mind, should be at enmity with the divine Science of Christianity, and the great mystery of Godliness; that sublimest system of Philosophy, into which even the Angels themselves desire to be further initiated! A little learning, may possibly have the Effects which a great * genius ascribes to it. But such an acquaintance with the sciences, as is described above, will be so far from damping the ardour of religious knowledge, that it will be more and more inflamed thereby; which is a most convincing argument of the strong and immediate connection between them,

Were it necessary to be particular on this head, I might mention the example of the greatest and best

Bacon. To this may be added what Pope beautifully says

“ A little learning is a dangerous thing;
" Drink deep, or touch not the Pierian Spring."

Philosophers of every age; who have always been the most devout men. Far from being puffed up with the pride of human Learning, or “ashamed of the Gospel of Christ,” they have made it their glory, and acknowledge it to contain the only infallible rules of their conduct in this life, and the only foundation of their hope in that which is to come. It is said of the great Sir Isaac Newton, that, though he entered further into the depths of Philosophy than ever mor. tal before him, yet he accounted the Scriptures of God to be the most sublime Philosophy; and never mentioned his Creator's name without an awful pause of adoration, wonder and self-abasement!

The further we push our inquiries into nature, the more we shall be convinced of the greatness of its author, and the insufficiency of unenlightened Rea.

We shall find many things of the utmost importance for us to know, which yet will baffle all our efforts, and elude our most eager researches. The creation and various revolutions of the world, the fall and redemption of man, the last judgment and an immortality to come, are subjects in which no human wisdom could instruct us, unless the Lord had been pleased to reveal himself concerning them.

And yet what is all the Philosophy in the world compared to a knowledge in these points? Where is its sublimity, or what is its significancy to us, if it affords us no infallible rule of duty at present, and no ground of hope hereafter? If it leaves us in the dark concerning our own original, the means of salvation from sin and misery, and the immortal state of our souls in the untried periods of eternity?

Y y



« VorigeDoorgaan »