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certaincy of human wit? where the boaster of human reason? this fickleness of the mortal frame, this instability of human wisdom, should teach us humility, and abase our pride. There is surely no passion whatsoever so universal in the human species as pride, yet none so unreasonable; it is, indeed, the very foundation of folly; and he that has ihe greatest share of it, must of consequence bave the least reason.
If we look through the whole race of man, we shall see them all complaining of some want or other; but where shall we find one who has sense enough to complain of the want of reason? we all complain of the want of something which we do not really need, yet the only thing which we do truly want, we all think we have not only enough ot, but to spare ; for who is there that is not satisfied with his own share of sense, or does not think himself able to direct others? our pride of reason is indeed so great, that we are more ambitious of being esteemed wise than good; yet what can more plainly prove our folly? for, who was ever at once both wicked, and wise? wisdom and wickedness can be no more united than truth and falsehood; when one .enters, the other must retire.
Of all human excellences, reason is undoubtedly the greatest; but there are some whom nature has indeed favoured with superior powers, who are too apt to look down with a sort of contempt on their fellow-creatures of inferior parts; yet, if they would but impartially look into and consider themselves, they would surely confess they can have nothing in vature to boast of as really their own'; they that have most wisdom, will ever be most humble; they will acknowledge, that whatsoever qualifications they may he blessed with, the honour of them is only due to their Creator: if my watch goes well, shall it buast itself; or is. the maker to be praised? how much more the Creator, who not only put this human machinery together, but made all the materials also! he that arrogates to himself honour on account of any excellence whatsoever, is a thief, and robs his Creator. The royal Psalmist, when he blessed and praised the Lord for his people's offering so'willingly towards erecting the temple, most truly says, “But whe am I, and what is my people, that we should be able to offer, so willingly after this sort for things come of thee, and of thine own have we given thee. There is indeed nothing that mankind are so prone to be proud of, as theit reason; we look upon that as our own intrinsic jewel, not liable to be lost, like wealth, or fortune's other external favours, but fixed to ourselves, and permanent as our existence; yet how often do we see this boasted excellence totally perish by the most trivial means? a tile falling shal disorder some slender vessel of the brain, when, like a flame cxtinguished, it yanishes, never to be rekindled. How often, like the shrivelled branches of a tree, whose vessels being obstructed wither for want of their nutritive sap, is this vaunted jewel lose by a paralytic blow? nay, indeed, how often has the vain pride of reason, and the selfassumed honour of it, degraded human nature to a brute, and procured the just punishment of Nebuchadnezzar? pride is the parent of evil, andof all the passions is the most odious to our Creator and most hurtful 10 ourselves; it makes us rob him of his due praise, and ourselves of all content; for a proud man will ever meet with some poor Mor decai. Pride makes men look at their own merits thro' a magnifying optic, at others through a contracting glass; and though it blinds us to our own follies, yet it makes us pry out the frailties of others with eagles' eyes; and, according to the word of perfect wisdom, it makes us the mote in another's eye, but not the beain in our own.' -Pride and reason can never accord; they are in nature opposite, and as contrary as love and hatred, and as incompatible as light and darkness.
There is, however, a just, necessary, and well-founded ambition, which we should ever carefully distinguish from pride,
To delight in, and take every opportunity of exerting all the powers we are possessed of towards honouring our Creator, and serving our fellow-creatures, is not only reasonable, but the highest and noblest use to which human reason can be applied; it is indeed the very end for which it was given. When we see a man exerting his power lo these purposes, nothing can be more unjust to him, or more detrimental to society, than to attribute them to his pride. We are too apt to judge of others by ourselves; when we see another possess such qualifications as would make us proud, we, without further evidence, conclude him to be 80; superior excellence always attracts envious eyes, and what virtue will not envy construe into vice? that amb tion can never be justly blamed, that produces, or endea
vours to produce, public good; but some are so envious, ihat they cannot see any shining talent in another without snarling at it, like dogs barking at the moon.
To curb our pride, and check our unjust censures, we should all look into, and study that living and most instructive book, our own hearts; for nothing will so effectually suppress our pride, or correct our censures, as to know our. selves. He that most clearly perceives his own imperfections, will be the last to seek out and condemn those of others; he will be, like those who brought the woman taken in adultery, self-convicted, and steal away
in silence. Man's only true way to wisdom is to know himself
. He that would be esteemed truly wise, must first find out and amend his own faults; fur, what regard will be paid to the lips of him, who contradicts them by his life? who will mind the praises of freedom from the mouth of one who chooses to be himself a slave? or, who will be directed in his way by one that cannot see his own? it is certain, that beside the various external impulsions of the elements, which man can no ways avoid, he has within himself so many false friends, so many flattering courtiers called passions, who paint in his mind such pleasing delusive images, and draw such an artful shade over his reason, that renders it very difa ficult for him to see himself in an impartial light; yet, however difficult it is, it may be done ; this mist of the mind may be cleared up; these false friends may be unmasked, and these mental datterersdetected and condemned, by resolute
y exerting our reason, and trying them at her unbiassed bar. The best of marikind will, by a thorough and impartial inspection into themselves, by carefully viewing the mirror of their minds, find failings sufficient to abate their pride.
Self-knowledge is of all attainments whatsoever the most useful to ourselves, and most beneficial to others; it not only teaches us to think humbly of ourselves, and to amend our faults, but, like heaven, to pity and forgive the frailties of others; it teaches us, whatsoever degree of reason we may be blessed with, not to be puffed up with pride, but to consider it as a talent intrusted to us, of which we must render a just account; not to assume the least honour of it 10 ourselves, but toact as becomes reasonable creatures, and to give all the glory to him from whom we received the. power,
I am, sir, your sincere friend.
LETTER CXXIX, From the same, on the utility of studying the sciences.
My dear friend, THÁT wonder is the effect of ignorance, has often been
observed. Theawful stillness of attention, with which the mind is overspread at the first view of an unexpected effect, or an uncommon performance, ceases when we have leisure to disentangle complications, and investigate
Wonder is a pause of reason, a sudden cessation of the mental progress, which lasts only while the understanding is fixed upon some single idea, and is at an end when it recovers force enough to divide the object into its parts, or mark ihe intermediate gradations from the first motive to the last consequence.
It may be remarked with equal truth, that ignorance is often the effect of wonder. It is common for those who have never accustomed themselves to the labour of inquiry, nor invigorated their confidence by any conquests of difficul. ly, to sleep in the gloomy quiescence of astonishment, without any effort to animatelanguor, or dispel obscuriiy. What they cannot immediately conceive, they consider as too high to be reached, or too extensive to be comprehended; they therefore content themselves with the gaze
of ignorance, and, for bearing to attempt what they have no hopes of performing, resign the pleasures of rational contemplation, to find more pertinacious study, or more active faculties,
Many of the productions of mechanic art, are of a form so different from that of their first materials, and consist of parts so numerous and so nicely adapted to each other, that it is not possible to consider them without amazement. But when we enter the shop of artificers, observe the various tools by which every operation is facilitated, and trace the progress of a manufacture through the different hands that, in succession to each other, contribute to its perfec. tion, we soon discover that every single man has an easy task, and that the extremes, however remote, of natural rudeness and artificial elegance, are joined by a regular concatenation of effects, of which every one is introduced by that which precedes in, and equally introduces that which follows.
The same is the state of intellectual and manual performances. A long calculation, or a complex diagram, affrigels
the timorous and unexperienced from a second view; but, if we have skill sufficient to analyze them into simple principles, it will generally be discovered that our fear was groundless. Divide and conquer, is a principle just equally in science, as in policy. Complication is a species of confederacy, which, while it continues united, bids defiance to the most active and vigorous intellect; but of which every member is separately weak, and which may therefore be quickly subdued, if it can once be broken.
The chief art of learning, as Locke has observed, is to attempt but little at a time. The farthest excursions of the mind are made by short flights frequently repeated; the most lofty fabrics ofscience are founded by the continued accumulation of single propositions.
It often happens, whatever be the cause, that this impatience of labour, or dread of miscarriage, seizes those who are most distinguished for quickness of apprehension; and that they who might with great reason promise themselves victory, are least willing to hazard the encounter. This diffidence, where the attention is not laid asleep by laziness or dissipated by pleasures, can rise only from confused and ge.. neral views, such as negligence snatches in haste, or from the disappointment of the first hopes formed by arrogance without reflection. Toexpect that the intricacies ofscience will be pierced by a careless glance, or the eminencies of fameascended without labour, is to expect a peculiar privilege, a power denied to the rest of mankind; but to suppose that the maze is inscrutable to diligence, or the heights inaccessible to perseverance, isto submit tamelyto the tyranny of fancy, and enchain the mind in voluntary shackles.
It is the proper ambition of the heroes in literature, to enlarge the boundaries of knowledge, by discovering and conquering new regions of the intellectual world. To the success of such undertakings, perhaps, some degree of fortuitous happiness is necessary, which no mancan promise of procure to himself; and, therefore, doubt and irresolution may be forgiven in him that ventures into the antrodden abysses of iruth, and attempts to find his way through the fuctuations of uncertainty, and the conflicts of contradiction. But when nothing more is required, than to pursue a path already beaten, and to trample on obstacles which others have demolished; why should any man so much suspect his own intellects, as to imagine himself unequal to the attempt