« הקודםהמשך »
C H A P. I.
DESIRE of knowledge is
natural to the mind of man. A
And nothing discovers the true
quality and disposition of the mind more, than the particular kind of knowledge it is most fond of. Thus we fee that low and little minds are most delighted with the knowledge of trifles ; as may be perceived in children: an indolent mind, with that which ferves only for amusement, or the
entertainment of the fancy: a curious mind is best pleased with facts: a judicious, penetrating mind, with demonstration and mathematical science : a worldly mind esteems no knowledge like that of the world: but a wise and pious man, before all other kinds c knowledge, prefers that of God and his own foul.
Some kind of knowledge the mind is continually craving after : and by considering what that is, its prevailing turn and temper may easily be known.
This desire of knouledge, like other affections planted in our nature, will be apt lead us wrong, if it be not well regulated. When it is directed to improper objects, or pursued in a wrong manner, it degenerates into a vain and criminal curiosity: a fatal instance of this, in our first parents, we have upon facred 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: so important, that every branch of it seems absolutely necessary to the right government of our lives and tempers : and fo extensive, that the nearer view we take of its several branches, the more are still opening to the view, as nearly connected with it as the other, Like what we find in microsco
pical observations on natural objects; the better the glasses, and the nearer the scrutiny, the more wonders we explore ; and the more surprizing 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 human mind, with its various powers and operations, 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. Wherefore, in treating this subject, there is no small danger, either of doing injury to it, by flight and fuperficial inquest on the one hand, or of running into a research too minute and philosophical for common use, on the other. The two extremes I shall avoid, and endeavour to Iteer a middle course between them.
Know thyself, is one of the most useful and comprehensive precepts in the whole moral fystem ; and it is well known in how great a veneration this maxim was held by the antients ; who highly esteemed the duty of selfexamination, as necessary to it.
Thales the Milesian is said to be first author of it (a). He used to say, that for
a man (a) He was the prince of the philosophers, and flourished about A.M. 3330, and was contemporary with Fosiah king of Judah.