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readiness to believe, or to deny every thing at first hearing; when you shall bave often seen, that strange and uncommon things, which often seemed incredible, are found to be true; and things very commonly received as true, have been found false.
The way of attaining such an ertensive treasure of ideas, is, with diligence to apply yourself to read the best books; converse with the most knowing and the wisest of men; and endeavour to improve by every person in whose company you are ; suffer no hour to pass away in a lazy idleness, an impertinent chattering or useless trifles : visit other cities and countries when you have seen your own, under the care of one who can teach you to profit by travelling, and to make wise observations ; indulge a just curiosity in seeing the wonders of art and nature: search into things yourselves, as well as learn them from others: be acquainted with men as well as books ; learn all things as much as you can at first hand ; and let as many of your ideas as possible be the representations of things, and not merely the representations of other inen's ideas : thus your soul, like some noble building, shall be riebly furnished with original paintiogs, and not with mere copies.
II. Use the most proper methods to retain that treasure of ideas which you have acquired; for the mind is ready to let many of them slip, unless soine pains and labour be taken to fix them upon the memory.
And more especially let those ideas be laid ap and preserved with the greatest care, which are most directly suited either to your eternul welfare, as a christion, or to your particular station and profession in this life ; for though the former rule recomiends an unisersal acquaintance with things, yet it is but a more general and superficial knowledge that is required or expected of any man, in things which are utterly foreign to his own business: but it is necessary you should have a more particular and accurate acquaintance with those things that refer to your peculiar province and duty in this life, or your happiness in another. .
There are some persons who never arrive at any deep, solid, or valuable knowledge in any science, or any business in life, because they are perpetually Auttering over the surface of things, in a curious and wandering search of infinite variety; ever hearing, reading, or asking after something new, but impatient of any labour to lay up and preserve the ideas they bave gained: their souls may be compared toʻa looking-glass, that wheresoever you turn it, it receives the images of all objects, but retains none.
In order to preserve your treasure of ideas, and the knowledige you have gained, pursue the following advices, especially in your younger years,
1. Recollect every day the things you have seen, or heard, or read, which may have made an addition to your understanding: read the writings of God and men with diligence and perpetual reviews : be not fond of hastening to a new book, or a new chapter, till you have well fixed and established in your miods wliat was useful in the last : make use of your memory in this manner, and you will sensibly experience a gradual im provement of it, while you
take care not to load it to excess. 2. Talk orer the things which you have seen, hard, or learnt, with some proper acquaintance. This will make a fresh impression upon your memory; and if you have no fellowstudent at band, none of equal rank with yourselves, tell it over to any of your acquaintance, where you can do it with propriety and decency; and whether they learn any thing by it or no, your own repetition of it will be an improvement to yourself : and this practice also will furnish you with a variety of words, and copious language to express your thoughts upon all occasions.
3. Commit to writing some of the most considerable improvement which you daily make, at least such hints as may recal them again to your mind, when perhaps they are vanished and Tost. And here I think Mr. Locke's method of adversaria, or common-places, which he describes in the end of the first volume of his Posthumous Works, is the best ; using no learned method at all, setting down things as they occur, leaving a distinct page for each subject, and making an index to the pages.
At the end of every week, or month, or year, you may review your remarks for these reasons ; first, to judge of your own improvement ; when you shall find that many of your younger collections are either weak and trifling: or if they are just and proper, yet they are grown now 80 familiar to you, that you will thereby see your own advancement in knowledge. And in the next place, what remarks you find there worthy of your riper observation, you may note them with a marginal star, instead of transcribing them, as being worthy of your second year's review, when the others are neglected.
To shorten something of this labour, if the books which you read are your own, mark with a pen or pencil the most considerable things in them which you desire to remember. Thus you may read that book the second time over with balf the trouble, by your eye running over the paragraphs which your pencil has noted. It is but a very weak objection against this practice to say, I shall spoil my book ; for I persuade myself, that you did not buy it as a bookseller to sell it again for gain, but as a scholar to improve your mind by it; and if the mind be improved, your
advantage is abundant, though your book yields less money to your executors*.
III. As you proceed both in learning and in life, make a wise observation what are the ideas, what the discourses and the parts of knowledge that have been more or less useful to yourself or others. In your younger years, while we are furnishing our minds with a treasure of ideas, our experience is but small, and our judgment weak; it is therefore impossible at that age to determine aright concerning the real advantage and usefuloess of many things we learn. But when age and experience bave matured your judgment, then you will gradually drop the more useless part of your younger furniture, and be more solicitous to retain that which is most necessary for your
welfare in this life, or a better. Hereby you will come to make the same complaint that almost every learned man has done after long experience in a study, and in the affairs of human life and religion : Alas! how many hours, and days, and months, have I lost in pursuing some parts of learning, and in reading some authors, which have turned to no other account, but to inform me that they were not worth my labour and pursuit ! Happy the man who has a wise tutor to conduct bim through all the sciences in the first years of his study; and who has a prudent friend always at band to point out to bim, from experience, how much of every science is worth bis pursuit ! And happy the student that is so wise as to follow such advice.
IV. Learn to acquire a government over your ideas and your thoughts, that they may come when they are called, and depart when they are bidden. There are soine thoughts that arise and intrude upon us while we shup them; there are others that fly from us, when we would hold and fix them.
If the ideas which you would willingly make the inatter of your present meditation are ready to fly from you, you must be obstinate in the pursuit of them by an habit of fixed ineditation ; you must keep your soul to the work, when it is ready to start aside every moment, unless you will abandon yourself to be a slave to every wild imagination. It is a common, but it is an unhappy and a shameful thing, that every trifle that comes across the senses or fancy should divert us, that a buzzing fly should teaze our spirits and scatter our best ideas : but we must learn to be deaf to and regardless of other things, besides that which we make the present subject of our meditation : and in order to help a wandering and fickle hunour, it is proper to have a book or paper in our hands, which has some proper hints of the subject that we design to pursue. We must be resolute and laborious, and sometimes conflict with ourselves, if we would be wise and learned.
* Note, This adrice of writing, marking, and reviewing your remarks, refers chiefly to those “occasional potions" you meet with either in read og oria con. versation ; but when you are directly aod professedly pursuing aoy subject of koowledge in a good system in your younger years, the system itself is your common-place-book, and must be eotirely reviewed. The same may be said coo. ceroiog any treatise which closely, succiotly, and accurately handles any particle lar theme.
Yet I would not be too severe in this rule : it must be confessed there are seasons when the mind, or rather the brain, is over-tired or jaded with study and thinking; or upon some other accounts animal nature may be languid or cloudy, and unfit to assist the spirit in meditation ; at such seasons (provided that they return not too often) it is better sometimes to yield to the present indisposition: for if nature entirely resist, nothing can be done to the purpose, at least in that subject or science. Then you may think it proper to give yourself up to some hours of leisure and recreation, or useful idleness : or if not, then turn your thoughts to some some other alluring subject, and pore no longer upon the first, till some brighter or more favourable mo. ments arise. A student shall do more in one hour, when all things concur to invite him to any special study, thiab in four hours, at a dull and improper season.
I would also give the same advice, if some rain, or worthless, or foolish idea, will croud itself into your thoughts ; and if you find that all your labour and wrestling cannot defend yourself from it, then divert the importunity of that which offends you by turning your thoughts to some entertaining subject, that inay amuse you a little, and draw you off from the troublesome and imposing guest; and many a time also in such a case, when the impertinent and intruding ideas would divert from the present duty, devotion and prayer have been very successful to overcome such obstinate troubles of the
and profit of the soul.
If the natural genius and temper be too volatile, fickle, and wandering, such persons ought in a more especial manner 10 apply themselves to mathematical learning, and to begin their studies with arithmetic and geometry; wherein new truths cou
tinually arising to the mind, out of the plainest and easiest principles, will allure the thoughts with incredible pleasure in the pursuit: this will give the student such a deliglotful taste of reasoning, as will fix his attention to the single subject which he pursues, and by degrees will cure the habitual tevity of bis spirit ; but let him pot indulge and pursue these so far, as to neg. lect the prime studies of his designed profession,
CHAP. VI.-Special Rules to direct onr Conceptions of Things. ***TH A Great part of what has been already written is designed to lay a foundation for those rules wisich may guide and regulate our conceptions of things; this is our main business and design in the first part of Logic. Now if we can but direct our thoughts to a just and happy manner in forming, our ideas of things the other operations of the mind will not so easily be perverted; because most of our errors in judgment, and the weakness, fallacy and mistakes of our argumentation, proceed from the darkness, confusion, defect, or some other irregularity in our conceptions.
The rules to assist and direct our conceptions are these :
1. Conceive of things clearly and distinctly in their own natures.
2. Conceive of things completely in all their parts,
3. Conceive of things comprehensively in all their properties and relations.
4. Conceive of things extensively in all their kinds.
Sect. I.—Of gaining clear and distinct Ideas.
THE first rule is this, Seek after a clear and distinct conception of things as they are in their own nature, and do not content yourselves with obscure and confused ideas, where clearer are to be attained.
There are some things indeed whereof distinct ideas are scarce attainable, they seem to surpass the capacity of the understanding in our present state ; such are the notions of eternal, immense, infinite, whether this infinity be applied to number, as an infinite multitude ; to quantity, as infinite length, or breadth ; to powers and perfections, as strength, wisdom, or goodness, infaite, &c. Though mathematicians in their way demonstrate several things in the doctrine of infinites, yet there are still some insolvable difficulties that attend the ideas of infinity, when it is applied to mind or body; and while it is in reality but an idea ever growing, we cannot have so clear and distinct a conception of it as to secure us from mistakes in some of our reasonings about it.
There are many other things that belong to the material world, wherein the sharpest philosophers baye never yet arrived at clear and distinct ideas ; such as the particular shape, situation, contexture, and motion of the small particles of minerals, metals, plants, &c. whereby their very patures and essences are distinguished froin each other. Nor have we either senses or instruments sufficiently nice and accurate to find them out. There are other things in the world of spirits wherein our ideas are very dark and confused, such as their union with animal nature, the way of their acting on material beings, and their converse with each other. "And though it is a laudable ambition to search what may be known of these matters, yet it is a past hindrance