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LITERARY AND SCIENTIFIC
Evolv'ed, unfolded, unrolled, thrown out,
Transcen'dent, excellent, surpassing others. WHEN we think of what man is, not in his faculties only, but in his intellectual acquisitions, and of what he must have been, on his entrance into the world, it is difficult for us to regard this knowledge and absolute ignorance as states of the same mind. - It seems to us alniost as if we had to consider a spiritual creation or transformation, as wondrous as if, in contemplating the material universe, we were to strive to think of the whole system of suns and planets, as evolved from a mere particle of matter, or rising from nothing, as when originally created. We believe that they were so created, and we know that man, comprehensive as his acquirements are, must have set out in his intellectual career from absolute ignorance; but how difficult is it for us to form any accurate conception of what we thus undoubtingly believe! The mind, which is enriched with as many sciences as there are classes of existing things in the universe, which our organs are able to discern-the mind, which is skilled in all the languages of all the civilized nations of the globe, and which has fixed and treasured in its own remembrance, the beauties of every work of transcendent genius, which age afier age
has added to the stores of antiquity--this mind, we know well, was once as ignorant as the dullest and feeblest of those minds, which scarcely know enough, even to wondur at its superiority.
That pleasure attends the sublime operations of intellect in the disco very of truth, or the splendid creations of faney,
or the various arts to which science and imagination are subservient, every one will readily admit, to whom these operations are familiar. But the great masters in science and art are few, and the pleasure which they feel in their noblest inventions, therefore, would be but a slight element in the sum of human happiness. The joy, however, is not confined to those, who have the pride of contemplating these great results as their own. It exists to all who have the humbler capacity of contemplating them merely as results of human genius. It is delightful to learn, though another may have been the discoverer; and perhaps the pleasure which a mind truly ardent for knowledge, feels in those early years, in which the new world of science is opened, as it were to its view, and every step, and almost every glance affords some new accession of admiration and power, may not be surpassed even by the pleasure which it is afterwards to feel, when it is not to be the receiver of the wisdom of others, but itself the enlightener of the wise.—BROWN.
Call now to mind what high, capacious powers
astonishment; the sober zeal
Di'agram, delineation of a geometrical figure. I No man is obliged to learn and know every thing, for it is utterly impossible; yet all persons are under some obligation to improve their own understanding. Universal ignorance or infinite errors will overspread the mind which is neglected, and lies without cultivation. Skill in the sciences is indeed the business and profession but of a small part of mankind; but there are many others placed in such a rank in the world, as allows them much leisure and large opportunities to cultivate their reason, and enrich their minds with various knowledge.
The common duties and benefits of society, which belong to every man living, and even our necessary relations to a family, a neighbourhood, or government, oblige all persons whatsoever to use their reasoning powers, upon a thousand occasions; every hour of life calls for some regular exercise of our judgment as to times and things, persons and actions; without a prudent and discreet determination in matters before us, we shall be plunged into perpetual errors in our conduct. Now that which should always be practised, must at some time be learned.
Besides, every son and daughter of Adam has a most important concern in the affairs of a life to come, and therefore it is a matter of the lrighest moment for every one to understand, to judge, and to reason right about the things of religion. It is vain for any to say, we have no leisure or time for it. The daily intervals of time, and vacancies from necessary labour, together with the one day in seven in the Christian world, allow sufficient opportunity for this, if men would but apply themselves to it with half so much zeal and diligence as they do to the trifles and amusements of this life; and it would turn to infinitely better account.
There are five eminent means or methods whereby the mind is improved in the knowledge of things; and these are observation, reading, instruction by lectures, conversation, and meditation, which last, in a peculiar manner, is called study.
Observation is the notice that we take of all accurrences in human life, whether they are sensible or intellectual, whether relating to persons or things, to ourselves or others. It is this that furnishes us, even from our infancy, with a rich variety of ideas and propositions, words and phrases. All those things which we see, hear or feel, which we perceive by sense or consciousness, or which we know in a direct manner, with scarce exercise of our reflecting faculties or our reasoning powers, may be included under the general name of observation. There is no time or place, no transactions, occurrences, or engagements in life, which exclude us from this method of improving the mind.
Reading is that means of knowledge, whereby we acquaint ourselves with the affairs, actions, and thoughts of the living and the dead, in the most remote nations, and most distant ages. By reading, we learn not only the actions and sentiments of different nations and ages, but transfer to ourselves the knowledge and improvements of the most learned men, the wisest and best of mankind. It is another advantage of reading, that we may review what we have read; we may consult the page again and again, and meditate on it at successive periods in our retired hours. Unless a reader has an uncommon and most retentive memory, there is scarcely any book or chapter worth reading once that is not worthy of second perusal.
Public or private lectures are such verbal instructions as are given by a teacher while the learners attend in silence. An instructer, when he paraphrases and explains other authors, can mark out the precise point of difficulty or controversy, and unfold it. When he teaches us natural philosophy, or most parts of mathematical learning, he can convey to our senses those notions, with which he would furnish our minds. He can make the experiments before our eyes. He can describe figures and diagrams, point to the lines and angles, and by sensible means make out the demonstration in a more intelligible manner.
Conversation is that method of improving our minds, wherein by mutual discourse and inquiry we learn the sentiments of others, as well as communicate our own. By friendly conference, not only the doubts which arise in the mind upon any subject of discourse are easily proposed and solved, but the very difficulties we meet with in books and