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and will inflame our future reckoning, and sink us into the deepest inisery. Let these arguments, my dear sir, teach you to apply your learning, above all things, to practice. We ought indeed to endeavour to increase our knowledge. This properly improved is very desirable and important, but I am shewing you a more excellent way.
Desire knowledge, but desire it in order to practice. Desire knowledge, but turn your main zeal towards real goodness. It is this alone can render you lovely and respectable. It is this alone that can save you from future condemnation, and bring you to everlasting happiness. The practice of virtue is the proper business of life ; it was for this we were stationed in the present world, and not so much for any of the purposes of speculation and literary improvement. The only science worth pursuing with anxiety, is that which leads to the amendment of the heart, and helps us to establish our souls in purity and tranquillity.
If God gives us knowledge enough for this, we need not be very sorry for our ignorance in other respects. It is, without doubt, extremely desirable to be possessed of knowledge ; nor can any person of liberal sentiments avoid wishing he was better satisfied than he is on many points of speculation. A thirst after knowledge is a noble and excellent principle ; and we cannot cherish it too much, if we take care to keep it in a proper subordination to a thirst after moral improvement. We should, however, always remember, that in the present world, we cannot hope to have this principle gratified. He that applies himself now to the practice of moral virtue, shall have all the knowledge he wishes for in another state ; but he that neglects this now, and whose knowledge leaves him a slave to brutal
passions, is more wretched than cau be imagined ; he must fall a sacrifice to divine justice, and his knowledge end in shame and ruin.
It is but little we are capable of knowing in this life ; we are at present necessarily in a state of great ignorance ; we are obliged to contentourselves, in numberless instances, with conjectures instead of knowledge, and to sit down in doubt and darkness with respect to subjects which we cannot help longing to be better acquainted with. Would you acquire real knowledge ? would you have all your present doubts resolved ? would you become acquainted with the constitution of nature, the wisdom, providence, and wonders of the creation ? would you exchange this state of darkness and ignorance, for the regions of light and glory? Then apply yourself to the practice of knowledge. Be virtuous now,
you may be happy hereafter.
Gentleman's Answer. Sir,--Ten ihousand thanks to ny worthy tut and second parent, for his kind instructions. You first taught me to form a prayer, and now you have instructed me how to reduce my knowledge to practice. Your letter came to me at a very seasonable juncture; I had been conversing with some of my fellow-students concerning the utility of studying history. One represented it as dull and insipid, another as only suited to an idie person, who was so mean as to despise the beau monde. For my own part, I am very diffident in deciding dogmatically on an affair of any importance, either real or apparent. But as I would not choose to spend my time in idleness, so neither would I neglect any opportunity of acquiring the knowledge of such sciences as can either enlarge the powers of the human mind, or become useful in common life. I know that we are liable to be swayed by a great number of prejudices, and being well convinced of the depravity of human nature, I am glad to seek for instruction wherever I can find it, but much more so from you. I shall therefore trouble you with the following queries, viz.
I. Is the study of history necessary ? and if so, what are the benefits arising from it ;
II. Whether is it most proper to begin with the Sacred, the Greek, or Roman histories, or those of our own country ?
III. Is biography a part of history, or what are its concomitants ?
As your knowledge can only be exceeded by your urbanity, I doubt not but you will favour me with your answers to the above, and I do assure you I. shall abide by your directions. Let me also beg that you will be pleased to mention in your next, which are the most proper authors to be perused in the above studies. There is such a variety of writers, that the utmost extent of human life will not admit of time to pursue them. In such a wilderness it is no wonder if I look for a guide. Your ipse dixit shall, on all occasions, be the rule of my conduct ; and so far as I obtain your approbation, I shall consider myself in the way
I am, sir, yours with gratitude, &c.
The Clergyman's Answer. My Dear Sir, I received your letter, and am glad that I am in some measure able to comply with your request, having spent many years in the study of
history. To attend unto the events of Providence, to watch the stream of time, and observe its various revolutions, is an exercise as useful as it is pleasing. If we neglect it, we lose the noblest employment of the human understanding, we slight the best friend of virtue, and despise the most faithful advocate for the wisdom and goodness of God. History presents us with a view of the conduct of our fellow-creatures in every age and nation. By it we are led into the secrets of princes thousands of years ago ; we learn what were the causes that the once famous Persian empire became so easy a prey to a handful of Greeks, under the command of that illustrious murderer, Alexander; and why Julius Cæsar, a servant of the republic at Rome, should be able to trample on the rights of his fellow citizens. But above all, by tracing effects up to their original cause, we see and are convinced of the wisdom, equity, and beauty of the Divine Providence, and with the patriarch of old say, “ This hath God done.” For example, when we consider that the effects of the Grecian conquests in Asia, diffused amongst those people the knowledge of the Greek language, and the Roman conquests, on other hand, made the Latin as well known ; at first sight this may appear a trifling observation, but in reality it was attended with very beneficial consequences to mankind. At the time of Christ's appearance, the Roman empire extended over the greatest part of the then known world; and excepting a few dialects, the greatest and most general body of the people spoke only two languages. This, in a great measure, facilitated the propagation of Christianity, and the glad tidings of the gospel were heard through all lands. History, like every other science, becomes useful according to the manner in
which we read it. A chronological series of facts may satisfy an idle curiosity, but the thinking person will deduce rational inferences from every material
A bare narrative of facts is like the materials used in building, but it is only the skilful architect who can complete the edifice. The mind may be stored with facts, while it is altogether uninformed. Voltaire has justly observed, that it is of little concern to us when a tyrant was slain by his injured subjects, and a revolution happened, unless we learn, at the same time, what were the causes from which those effects flowed. There are three ways in which history ought always to be read, viz. First, in a short abstract: second, in a more enlarged manner; and lastly, in a judicious abridgment to refresh the memory. History has likewise three inseparable companions, chronology, geography, and logic. Chronology marks out to us the steps of our journey ; geography points out to us the bounds of that country through which we are travelling ; and logic enables us to form a right judgment of men and their actions. There is not any body of men to whom history is not useful. Would you enter into the church, you would find it absolutely necessary. For how should they be able to understand the different heresies, or the causes which produced them, unless they are wellacquainted with ecclesiastical history, both ancient and modern?
The physician cannot understand the nature of the science which he professes, unless he is conversant with history ; and it is well known, that law is inseparably connected with it.
The senator can never discharge his duty as the representative of the people, unless he knows the history, laws, and constitution of the country wherein he lives. By it the soldier is fired with emulation,