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The Nature and Importance of the Subječt. A DESIRE of knowledge is natural to
all human minds. And nothing difcovers the true quality and disposition of the mind more than the particular kind of knowledge it is most fond of. . Thus we see that low and little minds are most delighted with the knowledge of trifles, as in children; an indolent mind, with that which serves only for amusement, or the entertainment of the fancy; a curious mind is best pleased with facts; a judicious, penetrating mind, with dem monstration and mathematical science; a worldly mind esteems no knowledge like
s on natural oble glasses, and the
more wonders we e surprising difcocertain properties, - longing to the re thought of. For knowledge, the h ious powers and o "Owly inspected, a - doublings display,
-acquaintance w i defective, and the ceive us. So that -, there is no ima
injury to it, by 2 request on the one nto a research too cal for common use two extremes I shall ndeavour to steer 22 I them. is one of the moít ive precepts in the Ind it is well know IZ ion this maxim was , and in how high elf-examination, as
that of the world; but a wife and pious man, before all other kinds of knowledge, prefers that of God and his own soul.
But some kind of knowledge or other the mind is continually craving after, and after a further proficiency in. And by considering what kind of knowledge it most of all desires, its prevailing turn and temper may easily be known.
This desire of knowledge, like other affections planted in our natures, will be very apt to lead us wrong, if it be not well regulated. When it is directed to improper objects, or pursued in an improper manner, it degenerates into a vain and criminal curiofity. A fatal instance of this in our first parents we have upon sacred record, the unhappy effects of which are but too visible in all..
Self-knowledge is the subject of the ensuing treatise ;-a subject which, the more I think of, the more important and extensive it appears ;. fo important, that every branch of it seems absolutely necessary to the right government of the life and temper; and so extenfive, that the nearer view we take of the several branches of it, the more are still opening to the view, as necessarily connected with it as the other, like what we find in mi
croscopica! ic croscopical observations on natural obdr. jects. The better the glasses, and the
nearer the scrutiny, the more wonders we explore ; and the more surprising discoveries we make of certain properties, parts, or affections belonging to them, which were never before thought of. For in order to a true self-knowledge, the hu
man mind, with its various powers and ohe perations, must be narrowly inspected, all
its secret bendings and doublings displayed; otherwise our self-acquaintance will be but very partial and defective, and the heart after all will deceive us. So that, in treating this subject, there is no small danger, either of doing injury to it, by a slight and superficial inquest on the one hand, or of running into a research too minute and philosophical for common use on the other. These two extremes I shall keep in my eye, and endeavour to steer a middle course between them.
" Know thyself," is one of the most useful and comprehensive precepts in the whole moral system. And it is well known in how great a veneration this maxim was held by the ancients; and in how high esteem the duty of self-examination, as necessary to it. Thales the Milesian is said to be the A 2