« הקודםהמשך »
THE subject of the ensuing Treatise is.
of great importance; and yet I do not remember to have seen it cultivated with that exactness, perspicuity, and force, with which many other moral and theological themes have been managed. And indeed it is but rarely that we find it particularly and fully recommended to us, in a set and regular discourse, either from the pulpit or the press. This consideration, together with a full persuasion of its great and extensive usefulness, hath put me upon an endeavour, in this manner, to render it more familiar to the minds of Christians.
Mr. Baxter indeed has a treatise profeffedly upon this subject, entitled, “The Mischief of Self-Ignorance, and the Benefit of Self-Acquaintance; and I freely acknowledge some helps I received from him : but he hath handled it (according to his manner) in so lax and diffuse a way, introducing so many thingsinto it that are
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foreign from it, omitting others that properly belong to it, and skimming over some with a too superficial notice, that I own I found myself much disappointed in what I expected from him, and was convinced that there wanted something more correct, nervous, and methodical, to be written on this subject. .
I am far from having the vanity to think that this, which I now offer to the public, is entirely free from those faults which I have remarked in that pious and excellent author, and am sensīble, that if I do not fall under a much heavier censure myself, it must be owing to the great candour of my reader, which he will be convinced I have some title to, if he but duly consider the nature and extent of the subject. For it is almost impossible to let the thoughts run freely upon so copious and comprehensive a theme, in order to do justice to it, without taking too large a scope in some particulars that have a near affinity to it, as I fear I have done, (Part. I. Chap. XIV.) concerning the knowledge, guard, and government of the thoughts. .. But there is a great difference between a short, occasional, and useful digression, and a wide rambling from the subject by following the impulse of a luxuriant fancy. A judicious taste can hardly excuse the latter, though it may be content the author should gather a few flowers out of the common road, provided he foon returns into it again.
Which brings to my mind another thing which, I am sure, I have great reason to crave the reader's patience and pardon for (the best end I know of prefaces), and that is, the free use I have made of some of the ancient Heathen writers in my marginal quotations, which I own looks like an oftentation of reading, which I always abhorred. But it was conversing with thofe authors that first turned my thoughts to this subject. And the good fenle I met with in most of their aphorisms and sentiments, gave me an esteem for them; which made it difficult for me to resist the temptations of transcribing several of them, which I thought pertinent to the matter in hand. But after all, I am ashamed to see what an old-fashioned figure they make in the margin. However, if the reader thinks they will too much interrupt the course of the subject, he may entirely omit them : though by that means he will perhaps lose the benefit of some of the finest sentiments in the book. I remember a modern writer I have very
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lately read, is grievously offended with Mr. Addison for so much as mentioning the name of Plato, and presuming in one of his Spectators to deliver his notions of humour in a kind of allegory, after the manner of that Greek author; which he calls a “ formal method of trifling, introduced « under a deep oftentation of learning, « which deserves the severeft rebuke * " and, perhaps, a more severe one was never given upon so small a provocation. From gentlemen of fo refined and very nice a taste, I can expect no mercy. But the public is to judge, whether this be not as culpable and nauseous an affectation as the contrary one, which prevailed so much in the last century.
One great view I had in mine eye when I put these thoughts together was the benefit of youth, and especially those of them that are students and candidates for the sacred ministry; for which they will find no science more immediately necessary (next to a good acquaintance with the word of God) than that which is recommended to them in the following Treatise; to which every branch of human literature is subordinate, and ought to be subservient. For
certain See Introduction to an Essay towards fixing the true dard of Wit, &c. p. 20, 21.
certain it is, the great end of philosophy, both natural and moral, is to know ourselves, and to know God. The highest learning is to be wise, and the greatest wisdom is to be good ; as Marcus Antoninus somewhere observes.
It has often occurred to my mind in digesting my thoughts upon this subject, what a pity it is that this most useful science should be so generally neglected in the modern methods of education; and that preceptors and tutors, both in public and private seminaries of learning, should forget, that the forming the manners is more necessary to a finished education than furnishing the minds of youth. Socrates thought so, who made all his philofophy subfervient to morality*; and took more pains to rectify the tempers, than replenish the understaing of his pupils ; and looked upon all knowledge as useless speculation, that was not brought to this end to make the person a wiser or a better man. And without doubt, if in the academy the youth has once happily learned the great art of managing his temper, governing his paffions, and guarding his foibles, he will find a more folid advantage from it in after
life, * Totam philofophiam revocavit ad mores. Sen. Epift. 72