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ARGUMENT. Of the Nature and State of Man, with respect to Himself,
as an Individual. The business of Man not to pry into God, but to study himself....His middle nature; powers
and frailties.... The limits of his capacity.... The two principles of Man, Self-love and Reason, both necessary.... Self-love the stronger, and why.... Their end the same.... The Passions, and their use....
.The predominant passion, and its force .... Its necessity, in directing men to different purposes... Its providential use, in fixing our principle, and ascertaining our virtue.... Virtue and vice joined in our mixed nature; the limits near, yet the things separate and evident: what is the office of Reason.... How odious Vice is in itseit, and how we deceive ourselves into it.... That, however, the ends of Providence and general good are answered in our passions and imperfections....How usefully these are distributed to all orders of Men.... How useful they are to Society, and to Individuals, in every state and every age of life.
Know then thyself, presume not God to scan;
The proper study of mankind is Man.
Plac'd on this isthmus of a middle state,
A Being darkly wise, and rudely great:
He hangs between; in doubt to act, or rest;
Whether he thinks too little or too much ;
Chaos of thought and passion, all confus’d;
Go, wond'rous creature! mount where science
guides; Go, measure earth, weigh air, and state the tides;
Instruct the planets in what orbs to run,
And turn their heads to imitate the sun.
Go, teach Eternal Wisdom how to rule--
Then drop into thyself, and be a fool!
Superior beings, when of late they saw
A mortal man unfold all nature's law,
Admir'd such wisdom in an earthly shape,
And shew'd a Newton as we shew an ape.
Could he, whose rules the rapid comet bind,
Describe or fix one movement of his mind?
Who saw its fires here rise and there descend,
Explain his own beginning or his end?
Trace science then with modesty thy guide;
Of all our vices have created arts;
Then see how little the remaining sum,
Which sery'd the past, and must the times to come.
2. Two principles in human nature reign,
Self-love, the spring of motion, acts the soul;
And, but for this, were active to no end :
Fix'd like a plant on his peculiar spot,
Or, meteor-like, flame lawless thro' the void,
Destroying others, by himself destroy’d.
Most strength the moving principle requires; Active its task, it prompts, impels, inspires: