תמונות בעמוד

surnish out any better Excuses for Vanity and Pride: These are either the Excellencies of the Body, or the Mind. Of the first Sort, are Beauty and Strength: Of the second, Knowledge or Learning. That on the former of these there is no Dependence, is the melancholy Object of every Day's Experience. Sickness or Sorrow, Pain or Gries (from which the fairest and the strongest have no Exemption, no Protection) will quickly desace the finest Beauty, wither the most blooming Face into Paleness, Wrinkles, and Desormity, and break the Strength of the stoutest and strongest Man in the World; so that these, at first Sight, appear too weak and insufficient to support that Superstructure of Vanity that the Weak and Silly are too apt to raise upon it. If there be any thing that can support or excuse this Presumption, it must be the Talents of the Mind; these seem to be immediately our own, and intirely peculiar to us, and give a Man a Superiority much more agreeable to a spiritual and rational Being, than all the Advantages of Beauty, Birth, Titles, Riches, and Fortune, which are alL external, and foreign to the Man; whereas the Mind is properly our own, or rather is ourselves, and constitutes our very Essence.

That the most exalted Improvements of human Understanding are no sufficient Foundation for Vanity or Boasting, might easily be made appear from numberless Considerations. Were I to consider particularly the Tediousness and Difficulty of attaining to any tolerable Degree of Knowledge in any Art or Science, the Obscurity and Shortness of our Conjectures upon the most concerning Questions, the little Dependence we have upon the Strength or Confirm-. ance of our intellectual Abilities, the slender Partition 3 there there is betwixt Wisdom and Madnese, Learning and Folly, how small an Accident or Disorder in the animal Oeconomy, the Ferment of the Fluids, or the Heat of the Brain, would confound and destroy the finest Understanding; it would be sufficient to mortify the proudest Heart into a sober and religious Degree of Humility, Gratitude, and Devotion; it would convince every serious considerate Man, that the highest Pitch of Knowledge he can attain, cannot furnish him with a tolerable Excuse for Vanity or Self-conceit; that there is really in .the Nature of Things no Foundation to support it; that all the Appearances of it are founded in the weak and partial Comparisons we make between ourselves and others; and that this comparative Superiority is only betwixt Ignorance and Impersection, and arises purely from Self-love, and a narrow Understanding. If the most learned Man in the World would go out of himself, and survey the numberless Works of God, and Wonders of Nature, where no Certainty can be obtained by the strongest human Genius, and most comprehensive Understanding, it would dissolve the Charm, break the Bubble, and remove the Illusion, which swell the Hearts of the Silly and the Vain into an Opinion of superior Wisdom or Greatness, and shew them the Impersection of the xnost exalted human Knowledge.

All our Knowledge is either of Words or Things. The Knowledge of Words or Languages is the Gate of Science, the Path of Knowledge, but so long and so tedious, that it takes up a good deal of the short Span of Lise to be able to attain to a competent Knowledge of them, insomuch that many are so J 3 . weary weary as to stop there, to sit down contented with their present Attainments, and proceed no further. Numbers of these are to be found in the learned World, who consider themselves and each other as Prodigies of Learning, Men of profound Erudition, only for being able to express their Ignorance in Variety of Languages. Their Converfation and Writings are embellished with Scraps of Foreign Languages, which they think much more valuable and instructive than plain good Sense and found Reason, expressed in their own native Language. I had once the Honour of being acquainted with one of those learned Gentlemen, who directly answered the Character that Boileau gives of a Pedant, Tout herijse de Grec & bouffi d' Ignorance. Who could never be persuaded that Norn's and Locke were Men of Learning, because there was hardly a Quotation of Greek or Latin to be found in their Writings.

Our Knowledge of Things is at best short and impersect, full of Obscurity and Uncertainty; the little the wisest of us knows extends ho further than our own System of the Parts, of which we have only a general and superficial Knowledge; we see no further than the Surface and Outside of Things, as directed by the general Law of Motion; all beyond this is mere Guess-work, Conjecture, and Uncertainty. And the Vanity of our superior Knowledge can only proceed from superior Ignorance, the Ignorance of ourselves, our Souls, our Bodies, their Union, their mutual Affections, their several Relations to the rest of the System, and the Impressions they receive from them. Let the wisest Man but go out of himself, and survey the immense Extent of Nature, the Va

rrety of its Works, the Regularity of its Motions, and the Harmony of Providence; and let him seriously pronounce how little is his real Knowledge, how great his Ignorance. Let him take a Prospect of the vast Dimensions of those astonishing Heaps of Matter that lie within the Reach of his Senses; let him consider the stupendous Motions that agitate the vast Mass of Matter, and whirl about the numberless immense Bodies that take their Courses through the unmeasurable Space; and carry his Thoughts into that Immensity, where Imagination itself can find no Limits: Let him consider that infinite Duration which is before and aster him, and, finding his own Lise included in it, let him observe the little Scantling of it that falls to his Share. Let him thence carry his Thoughts into the intellectual World, that infinite Number of good and evil Spirits, with all their several Orders, Ranks, and Clasles, who have their distinct Ossices and Habitations in the several Centers of Light an4 Darkness; let him consider the vast Multitude of the Dead in their several Receptacles and Mansions, who, though dead to us, are now more alive and active than when they were united to these mortal Bodies: Let him add to these all the living Inhabitants of this earthly Globe, how sew there be that know him, that think of him, or have any thing to do with him, and then return to himself, and consider what Rank he holds in the univerfal System, what is his Strength, his Power, his Knowledge; above all, let him contemplate the incomprehensible Attributes of him who made all those Creatures; who is always present to every one of them, supports and governs them; sees at once into the Minds of such an infinite Variety I 4 of

of free Agents, and directs their Thoughts and Passions to carry on his Designs in the Management of the Whole, yet without offering any Violence to their free Agency; instead of dwelling upon his own scanty. Portion of Knowledge, Wisdom, and Power, and comparing it with some of his inserior Fellow Creatures, let him draw the Comparison between himself and his Creator; and if, after this Survey, he can find any Occasion for Vanity, Boasting, or Self-conceit, he must be either an obstinately blind, or a contemptibly silly, Creature.

But supposing the most that can be supposed, that our Knowledge were as persect as our Rank and Nature can require, there would still be as little Room for Vanity and Boasting. The Persection of our Nature consists not in the Soundness or Extent of our Understanding; all the Knowledge and Learning in the World, if it tends not to humble the natural Pride of our Hearts, to teach us the Knowledge of ourselves, to purify our Affections, to mend the Heart, and make us better Men, if it does not tend to promote in us, Humility, Devotion, and Charity, though we could tali with the Tongues of Men and of Angels, we should be but as sounding Brass and tinkling Cymbals. The Devil, doubtless, knows more than the most learned, or perhaps, than all the learned Men in the World, and yet is the most miserable of all Beings. The immense Capacity, the mighty Powers, the extensive Views, and fiery Perceptions of his angelic Nature, whilst separate from the meek Light and Love of God, are to him an infinite Fund of Anguish, an Abyss of Misery and Despair. No; the Persection of our Nature is a pure Heart en..


« הקודםהמשך »