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two different kinds of scanty knowledge—the rudimentary and the superficial ; though it seems the more strictly to belong to the latter. Now, as it is evident that no one can learn all things perfectly, it seems best for a man to make some pursuit his main object, according to, first, his calling ; secondly, his natural bent ; or thirdly, his opportunities: then, let him get a slight knowledge of what else is worth it, regulated in his choice by the same three circumstances; which should also determine, in great measure, where an elementary, and where a superficial knowledge is the more desirable. Such as are of the most dignified and philosophical nature are most proper for elementary study; and such as we are the most likely to be called upon to practise for ourselves, the most proper for superficial. E.g., it would be to most men of no practical use, and, consequently, not worth while, to learn by heart the meaning of some of the Chinese characters; but it might be very well worth while to study the principles on which that most singular language is constructed: on the other hand, there is nothing very curious or interesting in the structure of the Portuguese language; but if one were going to travel in Portugal, it would be worth while to pick up some words and phrases. If both circumstances conspire, then, both kinds of information are to be sought for; and such things should be learned a little at both ends ; that is, to understand the elementary and fundamental principles, and also to know some of the most remarkable results—a little of the rudiments, and a little of what is most called for in practice. E.g., a man who has not made any of the physical or mathematical sciences his favourite pursuit, ought yet to know the principles of geometrical reasoning, and the elements of mechanics; and also know, by rote, something of the magnitude, distances, and motions of the heavenly bodies, though without having gone over the intermediate course of scientific demonstration.
Grammar, Logic, Rhetoric, and Metaphysics, (or the philosophy of Mind,) are manifestly studies of an elementary nature, being concerned about the instruments which we employ in effecting our purposes; and Ethics, which is, in fact, a branch of metaphysics, may be called the elements of conduct. Such knowledge is far from showy. Elements do not much come into sight; they are like that part of a bridge which is under water, and is therefore least admired, though it is not the work of least art and difficulty. On this ground it is suitable to females, as least leading to that pedantry which learned ladies must ever be peculiarly liable to, as well as least exciting that jealousy to which they must ever be exposed, while learning in them continues to be a distinction. A woman might, in this way, be very learned without any one's finding it out.
It may be worth while to suggest, that any student who is conscious of some indolence, and a disposition to procrastinate, will do well to task himself; laying down some rules—not hard ones—which he resolves to conform to, strictly. If, for instance, he has a mind to master some science or language, or to read through some book, or to write one, let him resolve to sit down to this work and do something of it, however little, every day, or on certain fixed days in every week, as the case may be. And it will often happen, that when, in compliance with his rule, he does thus set himself, perhaps reluctantly, to the task, he will, on some days, go beyond his resolution, and make a sensible progress. But if he had allowed himself to wait for the humour, it might, perhaps, have never come at all.
But the rule should be, as I have said, not a severe one ; lest, like over-severe laws, (and a resolution is a 'self-imposed law,) it should be violated; according to the Proverb, that • Wide will wear, but tight will tear.''
A. B. was a young man of respectable ability, who was making such encouraging progress in studying at college for his Degree, that he was in a fair way to gain a high Honour. He was obliged, however, to go, for his health, to pass a winter in another country, where he had many relatives. A friend advised him to form a resolution to sit down to his studies happen what might--for one hour every day, and to let nothing divert him from this; never allowing any extra work on one day to compensate for a departure from the rule, the next. You will thus, said he, make sure of at least retaining what you have acquired ; which, otherwise, you will, in the present stage, be liable rapidly to lose.
Oh, he replied, I mean to study hard : I shall read eight hours a day during the whole of my absence. Well, said his friend,
I See Proverbs and Precepts.
your resolve to read at least one hour, will be no impediment to your doing more. But I fear that numerous invitations to parties, &c., will call you off ; and if you calculate on doing much, it may end in your doing nothing.
He was deaf, however, to this reasoning, and went off, designing,—and continuing to design, for nearly a year,—to begin to-morrow, or next week, reading eight hours a-day. And he came home without having once opened his books; and was so disheartened at finding that he had forgotten as much as it would cost him several months' hard work to recover, so as to put himself just where he had been before his departure, that he abandoned his studies in disgust, and never did anything to signify for the rest of his life.
• Read not to contradict and confute; nor to believe and take for
With respect to the deference due to the opinions (written or spoken) of intelligent and well-informed men, it may be remarked, that before a question has been fully argued, there is a presumption that they are in the right; but afterwards, if objections have been brought which they have failed to answer, the presumption is the other way. The wiser, and the more learned, and the more numerous, are those opposed to you, and the more strenuous and persevering their opposition, the greater is the probability that if there were any flaw in your argument they would have refuted you. And therefore your adhering to an opposite opinion from theirs, so far from being a mark of arrogant contempt, is, in reality, the strongest proof of a high respect for them. For example—The strongest confirmation of the fidelity of the translations of Scripture, published by the Irish School-Commissioners, is to be found in the many futile attempts, made by many able and learned men, to detect errors in them.
This important distinction is often overlooked.
Every well-educated person must be aware that objections at least equally numerous and equally plausible, or even more so, have been raised against the Authorized Version, and also against Holy Scripture itself.
Some of my readers may need to be informed, that the publication alluded to was put forth a good many years ago, for the use of the Irish National Schools, under the unanimous sanction and recommendation of all the Commissioners, Protestant and Roman Catholic. It comprised, besides a large portion of the Old Testament, the entire Gospel of Luke, and the Book of the Acts. And thus a great amount of Scripture knowledge was diffused amongst thousands of the Irish population of all denominations; and would have been amongst many thousands more, but for the opposition of Protestants. For, strange to say, the publication was vehemently and pertinaciously opposed by a majority of the Protestant clergy. And after a struggle of above twenty years, the Scripture extracts, and also a tract on Christian Evidences, were virtually suppressed: this is what never could have taken place but for the efforts made by Protestants.
Of all the wonders, and they have been many and great, which the present century has exhibited, the one which will probably most astonish our posterity, is, that an opportunity so unexpected and so precious should have been offered, and that it should have been rejected, and the prospect blasted, through the unwise conduct of persons desirous to circulate Scripture knowledge, but who have thus consigned to unscriptural darkness, the present, and probably all future generations of the Irish Roman Catholics : for the opportunity will probably never recur.
Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some
few to be chewed and digested.' It would have been well if Bacon had added some hints as to the mode of study: how books are to be chewed, and swallowed, and digested. For, besides inattentive readers, who measure their proficiency by the pages they have gone over, it is quite possible, and not uncommon, to read most laboriously, even so as to get by heart the words of a book, without really studying it at all; that is, without employing the thoughts on the subject.
In particular, there is, in reference to Scripture,' 'a habit
See Essays on the Difficulties of St. Paul's Epistles, Essay x. p. 233.
cherished by some persons, of reading—assiduously, indeed, but without any attentive reflection and studious endeavour to ascertain the real sense of what they read-concluding that whatever impression is found to be left on the mind after a bare perusal of the words, must be what the Sacred Writers designed. They use, in short, little or none of that care which is employed on any other subject in which we are much interested, to read through each treatise consecutively as a whole,—to compare one passage with others that may throw light on it, and to consider what was the general drift of the author, and what were the occasions, and the persons he had in view.
'In fact, the real students of Scripture, properly so called, are, I fear, fewer than is commonly supposed. The theological student is often a student chiefly of some human system of divinity, fortified by references to Scripture, introduced from time to time as there is occasion. He proceeds—often unconsciously-by setting himself to ascertain, not what is the information or instruction to be derived from a certain narrative or discourse of one of the sacred Writers, but what aid can be derived from them towards establishing or refuting this or that point of dogmatic theology. Such a mode of study surely ought at least not to be exclusively pursued. At any rate, it cannot properly be called a study of Scripture.
There is, in fact, a danger of its proving a great hindrance to the profitable study of Scripture ; for, so strong an association is apt to be established in the mind between certain expressions, and the technical sense to which they have been confined in some theological system, that when the student meets with them in Scripture, he at once understands them in that sense, in passages where perhaps an unbiassed examination of the context would plainly show that such was not the author's meaning. And such a student one may often find expressing the most unfeigned wonder at the blindness of those who cannot find in Scripture such and such doctrines, which appear to him to be as clearly set forth there as words can express; which perhaps they are, on the (often gratuitous) supposition, that those words are everywhere to be understood exactly in the sense which he has previously derived from some human system,-a system through which, as through a discoloured medium, he views Scripture. But this is not to take Scripture