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visible aim is not to inform -your judgment, but display their own. You have many things to query and exeept against, but their loquacity gives you no room; and their good sense, set off to so much advantage, strikes a mpdest man dumb. If you insist upon your right to examine, they retreat, either in confusion or equivocation; and, like the scuttle-sisti, throw a large quantity ps ink behind them, that you may not see where to pursue. Whence this foible flows is obvious enough. Self*, knowledge would soon correct it.
But as some ignorantly affect to be more knowing than they are, so others vainly afsect to.be more ignorant than they are; who, to (how they have greater insight and penetration than other men, insist upon the absolute uncertainty of science j will dispute even sirst principles; grant nothing as certain, and so run into downright Pyrrhonism; the too common effect of abstracted debates excessively refined *. I Every
* Socratrs's faying, " Nihil se fare, nisi id ipsum," savoured ot' an affected humility. But they t/iat followed went further; and particularly Arctsilas, " Ne"gabat effe quicquam, quod sciri potest; nc illud "qt^'cm ipsum quod Socrates sibi xeliquissct." Anil thus the abi'urdity grew to a size that was monstrous: iFlr !o kncfM that one htfizi'S netbing, is a coitti qdtflion; id not to inew that he hnoivi even that, is not to tnezu t that he may inru> something. Relig. of Nat. Del. ig.40.
Every one is apt to set the greatest value upon that kind of knowledge in which he imagines he himself most excels, and to undervalue all other kinds of knowledge in comparison of it. There wants some certain rule then, by which every man's knowledge rs to be tried, and the value of it estimated. And set it be this,— "That is the best and most valuable kind "of knowledge that rs most subservient "to the best ends, i. e. which tends to "make a man wiser and better, or more "agreeable and useful both to himself "and others."—For knowledge is but a means that relates to some end. , And as all means are to be judged of by the excellency of their ends, and their expediency to produce them; so that must be the best knowledge that hath the diretlefl tendency to promote the best ends, viz. a man's own true happiness, and that of others ; in which the glory of God, the ultimate end, is ever necessarily comprised.
Now if we were to judge of the several kinds of science by this rule, we ,should sind, i. Some of them to be very hurtful and pernicious; as tending to per
/, vert vert the true end of knowledge; to ruin, a man's own happiness, and make him more injurious to society. Such is the knowledge of vice, the various temptations to it, and the secret ways of practising it; especially the arts of diffimulation, fraud, and dishonesty. 2. Others will be found unprofitable and useless; as those parts of knowledge, which, though they may take up much time and pains to acquire, yet answer no valuable. purpose; and serve only for amusement, and the entertainment of the imagination: For instance, an acquaintance with plays, novels, games, and modes, in which a man may be very critical and expert, an I yet not a whit the wiser or more useful man. 3. Other kinds of knowledge are good only relatively, or conditionally, and may be more useful to one than another; viz. a skill in a man's particular occupation or calling, on which his credit, livelihood, or usefulness in the world depends. And as this kind of knowledge is valuable in proportion to its end, so it ought to be cultivated with a diligence and esteem answerable to that. Lastly, Other kinds of knowledge are good absolutely and universally i viz. the knowledge of God and ourselves, ,the nature os our sinal happiness, and the way to it. This is equally necessary to all. And how thankful should we be, that we, who live under the light of the gospel, and enjoy that light in its persection and purityy have so many happy means and opportunities of attaining this most useful and necessary kind of knowledge!
A man can never understand himself then, till he makes a right estimate of his knowledge ; till he examines what kind of knowledge he values himself most upon, and most diligently cultivates; how high a value he sets upon it: what good it does him ; what effect it hath upon him ; what he is the better for it; what end it answer* now; or what is like to answer hereafter.
There is nothing in which a man's selsignorance discovers itself more, than in the esteem he hath for his understanding, or for himself on account of it. It is a trite and true observation, "That empty "thin; s make the most sound." Men of the least knowledge are most apt to make a fhow of it, and to value themselves upon '• ; which is very visible in forward consident youth, raw conceited acadamics, and those who, uneducated in youth, betake themselves in later lise to reading, without taste ot judgment, only as an accomplifhment, and to make a show of
* scholarscholarfhip; who have just learning enough to spoil company, and render themselves ridiculous, but not enough to make either themselves or others at all the wiser.
But beside the forementioned kinds of knowledge, there is another which is commonly called false knowledge; which, though it often imposes upon men under the show and semblance of true knowledge, is really worse than ignorance. Some men have learned a great many things, and have taken a great deal of pains to learn them, and stand very high in their own opinio.n on account of them, which yet they must unlearn before they are truly wise. They have been at a vast' expence of time, and pains, and patience, to heap together, and to consirm themselves in a set of wrong notions, which they lay up in their minds as a fund of valuable knowledge; which, if they try by the forementioned rules, viz. "The tendency they have to make "them wiser and better, or more useful "and benesicial to others," will be found to be worth just.nothing at all,
Beware of this false knowledge; for as
there is nothing of which men are more
obstinately tenacious, so there is nothing
fhat renders them more vain or more 3
I j verse