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separating our love, but as intended by Providence to be the means of a quicker intercourse, for the exchange of reciprocal blessings.
(Continued from p. 47.) Reflections upon the Conduct of Human Life; with reference to Learning and Knowledge.
Wherein the general conduct of human life is taxed for using undue and irregular methods, in prosecuting what is really perfective of the understanding.
by the substantial wisdom of God.
3. There are three ways of doing this: the first is, by attention; the second, by purity of heart and life; the third, by prayer. The first, attention, Malebranche calls the natural prayer of the soul to God for farther illumination. For indeed it is a silent address and application of the soul to the fountain of light and truth; 'tis an interrogation of the Divine oracle, the eternal word of God, and a pa1. In the preceding Reflection, the tient waiting upon him for an answer. conduct of human life was censured 'Tis in a word, an act of intellectual for placing learning in what is not devotion to the Father of lights, and perfective of the understanding. In such as, if unfolded, bespeaks him in the present, it is charged with pursu- the words of the royal supplicant, ing what is so, in an undue and irre-Give me wisdom that sitteth by thy gular manner. The other was an error about the end; this is an error about the means; which are the two hinges upon which all prudence and imprudence turns.
2. That the truth of this charge may appear, we are first to determine, what is the right method of prosecuting that learning which is really perfective of our understand ing. And this, no doubt, must be an application to Him 'from whom every good and perfect gift descendeth. This is the right and the only right method of enquiry after that truth which is perfective of our understanding. For God is the region of truth, and in him are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.' This is that great and universal oracle lodged in every man's breast, whereof the ancient Urim and Thummim was an expressive emblem. This we all may and must consult, if we would enrich our minds with such knowledge as is perfective of the understanding. This is the true method of being truly wise. And it is no other method than what we are advised to,
4. This is the same with thinking or meditating; and as it is the first, so it is the directest and most compendious method of science. For this is to go directly to the spring-head, to the lucid fountain of good. 'Tis to fix the eye of the mind upon the intellectual sun, which must needs be the most ready way to be enlightened. The more heedfully we attend to this, we shall not only discover the more, but also more clearly see what we do discover. So a man that casts only a short careless glance upon the milky way, sees only a confused whiteness. But when he fixes his eye upon it, with steadiness and delay of application, he begins to discern it more distinctly, a new star every moment rises under his inspection; and still the harder he looks, the more he discerns, till he is satiated with the brightness and multitude of light.
5. This was the method of the inventors of arts and sciences: They made their way by mere dint of thinking. This is the method that has been used ever since, by the greatest
improvers of them; such as Bacon, Boyle, Harvey, Malebranche, &c. And we may safely prophesy, if ever any extraordinary advancement be made in them hereafter, it will be done by thinking.
6. The second way is, by purity of heart and life: For as vice not only proceeds from ignorance, but also causes it, by besotting and clouding the understanding, so purity not only proceeds from knowledge, but also produces it, making the soul see more clearly and distinctly. And the same method is recommended in scripture, 'Wisdom (says the wise man) will not enter into a polluted spirit.' So the angel to Daniel, Many shall be purified and made white, and none of the wicked shall understand, but the wise shall understand.' To this purpose too, is that of our Lord, above repeated: He that followeth me, walk eth not in darkness;' the purity of his heart is a light to his understanding.
7. But to represent this more clearly: there are two ways whereby purity of heart serves to the acquirement of knowledge; by natural efficacy, and by the Divine blessing. And first, by natural efficacy, either by clearing the medium, or by assisting the faculty. As to the former, we are assured, not only that the soul now sees through a medium, and that this medium is the body, but likewise that the grossness of this medium hinders the sight of the soul. Whence it follows, that whatever helps this medium helps the sight of the soul. And this purity does; especially that eminent part of it which consists in chastity and temperance. For, first, it composes the passions especially that of lust, by that the animal spirits, and by that the blood. For the motion of the passions ferments the spirits, and the fermentation of the spirits agitates the blood, and by that agitation raises all the feculent and drossy parts of it, and makes it like a troubled fountain, thick and muddy. And therefore it is, that men in any passion camot reason so clearly, as
when they are in more quiet and silence of spirit. But by purity all this disturbance is allayed, the passions are becalmed, the spirits fixed, the fountain of the blood cleared up, and so all the inner part of the glass, through which we see, becomes more bright and transparent, more apt to transmit the rays of light to the soul, which consequently sees more clearly through it.
8. But this is not all; for purity clears the outward part of the glass too. First by consequence, because the finer the spirits and blood are, the finer will be the threads of the outward veil also. Then more directly; because temperance refines and subtilizes the texture of the body, and diminishes its bulk and grossness, and unloads the soul of a good part of that burthen, which not only presses down her aspirations, but also hinders her sight.
9. And as purity thus clears the medium, so it also assists the faculty. And that by the same general way, by composing the passions, which otherwise not only trouble and thicken the medium, but also divide and disperse the faculty. For the more things a man desires, the more he will be engaged to think on; and the more he thinks on at once, the more languid and confused will his conceptions be. But purity, by composing the passions, contracts the desires, and by contracting these, it contracts also the thoughts; whereby a man is reduced to a greater unity, simplicity and recollection of mind; and having but few thoughts to divide him, is the better able to think clearly.
10. Purity of heart serves to the acquirement of knowledge, secondly, by the Divine blessing. It invites not only the Holy Spirit, but also the Father and the Son, even the whole godhead, to come and dwell in the soul. This we are assured of from our Lord's own mouth: He that loveth me, shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him and manifest myM
self to him.' And again, If a man love me, my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.' The chaste and good soul shall not only be loved by God, but be also of his council and privacy. This is the beloved disciple, who has the privilege to lean upon the bosom of his Lord, and to be admitted to his most secret communications. And therefore, says the psalmist,The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him.' And of Ananias, Azarias, and Misael, who refused to defile themselves with the king's meat, it is said, That God gave them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom.'
11. The third and last way of consulting God is by prayer. This also is a method which the scripture advises us to. If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, who giveth to every man liberally, and upbraideth not, and it shall be given him.' And this we know was the method whereby the wisest of men obtained his unparalleled wisdom. For as wisdom was his choice, so the method of his seeking and gaining it was by prayer.
12. Thus have I defined, and by scripture and reason proved, what is the right method of prosecuting that truth which is perfective of the understanding. And now I think there need not many words to shew, that as learning is commonly placed in what is not perfective of it, so what is so is generally prosecuted by undue methods. For whereas the first method of acquiring it is by attention or thinking, this is generally so little regarded, that few men think less, for the most part, than they who are engaged in the professed study of knowledge. This they don't reckon any part of study, nor any progress in the stage of learning, but only a graver way of being idle. 'Tis then only they study, when they are hanging their heads over an old musty folio, and stuffing their memories with grey sentences and venerable say
ings. And thus they spend their time and their pains, and having scrambled through a company of books (most of which perhaps were written to as little purpose as they are read) they think themselves learned men, and the world is too often of their opinion, though they have not made themselves master of any sense or notion, nor are able to demonstrate one single truth upon solid principles, and in a consequential process.
13. And this is the method not only of those who misplace learning, but also of the most of those who place it right. Even these do not generally think for it, but read for it; seek it not in their souls, but in books. I deny not that reading is one way to knowledge; but then it is only by accident, as it is a help to thinking. And therefore thinking is the only thing to be regarded even in reading (for reading, as such, is nothing.) And then we read to most purpose, when we are thereby most enabled to think. So that thinking is the immediate end of reading, as understanding is of thinking. And yet this method is generally so much inverted, that the main stress is laid upon reading. Nothing but read, read, as long as eyes and spectacles will hold; no matter whether the head be clear, so it be but full.
14. Again, whereas purity of heart and life is another method of attaining true knowledge, it is a sad as well as just observation, That this is not only neglected by those who sit down contentedly in ignorance, but also by the generality of those few that addict themselves to the improvement of their minds. Nay, these, in proportion to their number, seem more guilty in this respect than the others, and nothing is so common, as to see men of famed learning, who are yet very corrupt in their tempers and lives. Whence some have fancied learning an enemy to religion, and cried up ignorance as the mother of devotion. And though their conclusion be notoriously absurd, yet it must be owned,
the ground on which they build it is too true. Men famed for learning are often as infamous for living; and many that study hard to furnish their heads, are yet very negligent in purifying their hearts: Not considering, that there is a moral as well as a natural communication between them; and that they are concerned to be pure in heart and life, not only upon the common account in order to happiness hereafter, but even in order to their own particular end here.
15. Then, lastly, whereas another method of learning is prayer; the generality of students do not apply themselves to this at all. Pray indeed (it is to be hoped) they do for other things which they think lie more out of their reach; but as for learning, they think they can compass this well enough by their own industry, and the help of good books, without being beholden to the assistance of Heaven. But did they attentively consider, that God is truth, it is not to be imagined they would be so indifferent in using prayer, or any of the preceding methods of consulting God for his own light.
ample. These ideas are offered to the public eye through the medium of your publication, if you think they carry any conviction to the unprejudiced mind.
The Prince of Peace, conversing with his disciples in some of the moments of his last sad night, said, among other things," He that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one. They said unto him, Lord, here are two swords. And he said unto them, It is enough." Luke xxii. 36. Permit me to observe, that at the first sight, this inquiry of our Lord's seems as if he intended to encourage resistance; but the nature of the case forbids such an inference. He was about to yield himself up as a lamb for the slaughter, and passive as a sheep in the hands of the shearer; but, adverting to his remark, as to the paucity of the means of resistance, they were only provided in accordance with his own infinite foreknowledge, and with an intention to permit his disciples to manifest their spirit, and to correct their mistaken notions by a mild reproof and his own example.
Comparing this passage of the Evangelist Luke, with its parallel passage, Matt. xxvi. 52, it appears that Christ intended hereby to illustrate the insufficiency of carnal weapons, and the absolute danger of placing any reliance upon them, and also, the all-sufficiency of his own power to succour and protect those, who, in obedience to his commands, confide in him.
In this instance, our Lord appears to have allowed his disciples (should their fears prevail on them so far) the liberty of making an effort in selfdefence, agreeably to a custom then used by travellers, who frequently went armed with that weapon. But, observe, they were eleven in number, besides their Master, and on making a muster, they find they possess two swords, and one of these was in the custody of Peter. They say, "Lord, here are two swords;" Jesus replies
"It is enough." Enough! what, two awords enough for eleven persons? were these enough in the nature of things to resist a rude multitude? The advocates for defensive War would do well to consider this fact, upon their own principles, and they would be ready instantly to condemn so sparing and unwise a provision on such an occasion, at least they must do so to be consistent; and we may safely affirm, with the vote of reason on our side, that there were surely not enough, if intended for resistance, but enough, well measured, to exhibit the ardent, unchastised temper of Man, and the compassion and power of Christ. The moment of apprehension arrives! Shall we smite? say the disciples; but, without waiting for orders, Peter assumes vengeance to be his, strikes the servant of the High Priest, and cuts off his right ear. This was, in the nature of things, likely to incur retaliation and wrath from the rabble and their leaders. But Christ immediately puts forth his finger-divine power and compassion accompanies the touch, and he restores the organ and heals the man"Suffer thus far," said Jesus, forgive this haste, I came not to destroy men's lives, but to save them.
In the Evangelist Matthew, we have the opinion of Christ expressed on this occasion more fully: "Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword, shall perish with the sword." In which quotation these actions are placed by Christ himself under the ban of that interdict in Genesis ix. 6 : "Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.' Here it is most worthy of remark, that our pious forefathers, who have supplied the marginal references to our Bibles, have been led to adopt that threat as of universal application, and refer this denouncement of Christ to the above eited passage in Genesis; and that passage is again referred to this;
an argument not easily got rid of, why the life of man should not be lightly lavished away, " for (let God's reason apply to every conscience) in the image of God made he man!” Those, then, who thus destroy human life, destroy the Image of God. But so deeply rooted is this prejudice, that the scientific man, who would agonize to see a rude barbarian hammer a watch or any other curious piece of mechanism to pieces; or the man of literature, who would grieve inexpressibly at the destruction of an extensive and well-assorted library, or at the levelling of some antique or celebrated mausoleum or curious erection of art; can calmly hear the report of an action which has plunged forty or fifty thousands of our fellow immortals, each soul of which exceeds the value of all worldly estimate, into eternity, the greater part of whom (it must be admitted) are in that state of moral unfitness which must for ever exclude them from a state of holiness, and the enjoyment of the smiles of that Saviour," in whose presence is fulness of joy, and at whose right hand are pleasures for evermore.'
I cannot close these remarks without noticing the opinion of some good men, who infer that this threat of our Master merely is intended to apply to his followers under persecution, but who act with hostility against the government under which they live, and that such deserve to perish with the sword.-This interpretation appears very forced and far fetched; and such a case would be almost anomalous in the church militant; the weapons of the true follower of Christ under persecution, are not carnal, but "mighty through God"-invincible patience, faith, and fortitude; and it does appear that restricting the pas sage to such a sense, is not preserving that consistency of scripture exposition which the passage demands. I remain, Sir, yours very truly,. Worthing, Feb. 2, 1821.