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But in youth, there are circumstances which make it produetive of higher enjoyment. It is then that every thing has the charm of novelty; that curiosity and fancy are awake; and that the heart swells with the anticipations of future eminence and utility. Even in those lower branches of instruction which we call mere accomplishments, there is something always pleasing to the young in their acquisition.
2. They seem to become every well educated person; they adorn, if they do not dignify humanity; and what is far more, while they give an elegant employment to hours of leisure and relaxation, they afford a means of contributing to the purity and innocence of domestic life. But in the acquisition of knowledge of the higher kind,—in the hours when the young gradually begin the study of the laws of nature, and of the faculties of the human mind, or of the magnificent revelations of the Gospel,-there is a pleasure of a sublimer nature.
3. The cloud, which in their infant years seemed to cover nature from their view, begins gradually to resolve. The world in which they are placed, opens with all its wonders upon their eye; their powers of attention and observation seem to expand with the scene before them; and while they see, for the first time, the immensity of the universe of God, and mark the majestic simplicity of those laws by which its operations are conducted, they feel as if they were awakened to a higher species of being, and admitted into nearer intercourse with the Author of Nature.
4. It is this period, accordingly, more than all others, that determines our hopes or fears of the future fate of the young. To feel no joy in such pursuits,-to listen carelessly to the voice which brings such magnificent instruction,-to see the veil raised which conceals the counsels of the Deity, and to show no emotion at the discovery,-are symptoms of a weak and torpida spirit of a mind unworthy of the advantages it possesses, and fitted only for the humility of sensual and ignoble pleasure.
5. Of those, on the contrary, who distinguish themselves by the love of knowledge,-who follow with ardor the career that is open to them,-we are apt to form the most honorable presages. It is the character which is natural to youth, and which, therefore, promises well of their maturity. We foresee for them, at least a life of pure and virtuous enjoyment; and we are willing to anticipate no common share of future usefulness and splendor.
a Nov'-el-ty, newness, recentness.
b An-tic-i-pa'-tions, foretastes.
e Re-solve', dissolve, determine in mind.
d Tor'-pid, destitute of feeling, dull.
6. In the second place, the pursuits of knowledge lead not only to happiness, but to honor. "Length of days is in her right hand, and in her left are riches and honor." It is honorable to excel, even in the most trifling species of knowledge-in those which can amuse only the passing hour. It is more honorable to excel in those different branches of science, which are connected with the liberal professions of life, and which tend so much to the dignity and well-being of humanity.
7. It is the means of raising the most obscure to esteem and attention; it opens to the just ambition of youth some of the most distinguished and respected situations in society; and it places them there, with the consoling reflection, that it is to their own industry and labor, in the providence of God, that they are alone indebted for them. But, to excel in the higher attainments of knowledge, to be distinguished in those greater pursuits which have commanded the attention, and exhausted the abilities of the wise in every former age,is, perhaps, of all the distinctions of human understanding, the most honorable and grateful.
8. When we look back upon the great men who have gone before us in every path of glory, we feel our eye turned from the career of war and of ambition, and involuntarily rest upon those who have displayed the great truths of religion,who have investigated the laws of social welfare, or extended the sphere of human knowledge. These are honors, we feel, which have been gained without a crime, and which can be enjoyed without remorse. They are honors also which can never die, which can shed lustre even upon the humblest head, and to which the young of every succeeding age will look up, as their brightest incentive to the pursuit of virtuous fame. Alison.
On the uses of knowledge.
1. THE first end to which all wisdom or knowledge ought to be employed, is, to illustrate the wisdom or goodness of the Father of Nature. Every science that is cultivated by men leads naturally to religious thought-from the study of the plant that grows beneath our feet, to that of the Host of Heaven above us, who perform their stated revolutions in majestic silence, amid the expanse of infinity. When in the youth of Moses, "The Lord appeared to him in Horeb," a
c Il-lus'-trate, to explain, make clear.
a Ca-reer', a course, a race. b In-cen'-tives, incitements.
voice was heard, saying, “draw nigh hither, and put off thy shoes from thy feet; for the place where thou standest is holy ground."
2. It is with such reverential awe that every great or elevated mind will approach to the study of nature; and with such feelings of adoration and gratitude, that he will receive the illumination that gradually opens upon his soul. It is not the lifeless mass of matter, he will then feel, that he is examining; it is the mighty machine of Eternal Wisdom,— the workmanship of Him," in whom every thing lives, and moves, and has its being."
3. Under an aspect of this kind, it is impossible to pursue knowledge without mingling with it the most elevated sentiments of devotion; it is impossible to perceive the laws of nature, without perceiving, at the same time, the presence and the Providence of the Lawgiver;-and thus it is, that, in every age, the evidences of religion have advanced with the progress of true philosophy; and that science, in erecting a monument to herself, has at the same time erected an altar to the Deity.
4. The knowledge of nature is not exhausted. There are many great discoveries yet awaiting the labors of science; and with them there are also awaiting to humanity, many additional proofs of the wisdom and benevolence of Him that made us." To the hope of these great discoveries, few indeed can pretend; yet let it be ever remembered, that he who can trace any one new fact, or can exemplify any one new instance of divine wisdom or benevolence in the system of nature, has not lived in vain,-that he has added to the sum of human knowledge,-and, what is far more, that he has added to the evidence of those greater truths, upon which the happiness of time and eternity depends.
5. The second great end to which all knowledge ought to be employed, is, to the welfare of humanity. Every science is the foundation of some art, beneficial to men; and while the study of it leads us to see the beneficence of the laws of nature, it calls upon us also to follow the great end of the Father of Nature, in their employment and application. I need not say what a field is thus opened to the benevolence of knowledge: I need not tell you that in every department of learning there is good to be done to mankind: I need not remind you, that the age in which we live has given us the noblest examples of this kind, and that science now finds its highest glory, in improving the condition, or in allaying the miseries of humanity.
a Sci-ence, knowledge depending on spe- b Ex-em'-pli-fy, to illustrate by example. culative principles, rather than practice.
6. But there is one thing of which it is proper ever to remind you, because the modesty of knowledge often leads us to forget it,—and that is, the power of scientific benevolence is far greater than that of all others to the welfare of society. The benevolence of the opulent, however eminent it may be, perishes with themselves. The benevolence, even of sovereigns, is limited to the narrow boundary of hu man life; and not unfrequently is succeeded by different and discordant counsels. But the benevolence of knowledge is of a kind as extensive as the race of man, and as permanent as the existence of society.
7. He, in whatever situation he may be, who in the study of science has discovered a new means of alleviating pain, or of remedying disease,-who has described a wiser method of preventing poverty, or of shielding misfortune,-who has suggested additional means of increasing or improving the beneficent productions of nature, has left a memorial of himself which can never be forgotten,-which will communicate happiness to ages yet unborn, and which, in the emphatic language of scripture, renders him a "fellow-worker" with God himself, in the improvement of his Creation.
8. The third great end of all knowledge is the improvement and exaltation of our own minds. It was the voice of the apostle," What manner of men ought ye to be, to whom the truths of the Gospel have come?"-It is the voice of nature also,-"What manner of men ought ye to be, to whom the treasures of wisdom are opened?"Of all the spectacles, indeed, which life can offer us, there is none more painful, or unnatural, than that of the union of vice with knowledge. It counteracts the great designs of God in the distribution of wisdom; and it assimilates men, not to the usual character of human frailty, but to those dark and malignant spirits who fell from Heaven, and who excel in knowledge only that they may employ it in malevolence.
9. To the wise and virtuous man, on the contrary, to him whose moral attainments have kept pace with his intellectual, and who has employed the great talent with which he is intrusted to the glory of God, and to the good of humanity,are presented the sublimest prospect that mortality can know. "In my father's house," says our Savior," are many mansions;"-mansions, we may dare interpret, fitted to the different powers that life has acquired, and to the uses to which they have been applied.
a Op'-u-lent, very wealthy, rich. As-sim'-i-lates, makes like.
e In-ter'pret, to explain.
Integrity the guide of life.
1. Every one who has begun to make any progress in the world, will be sensible, that to conduct himself in human affairs with wisdom and propriety, is often a matter of no small difficulty. Amidst that variety of characters, of jarring dispositions, and of interfering interests, which take place among those with whom we have intercourse, we are frequently at a stand as to the part most prudent for us to choose. Ignorant of what is passing in the breasts of those around us, we can form no more than doubtful conjectures concerning the events that are likely to happen.
2. They may take some turn altogether different from the course in which we have imagined they were to run, according to which we had formed our plans. The slightest incident often shoots out into important consequences, of which we were not aware. The labyrinth becomes so intricate, that the most sagacious can lay hold of no clue to guide him through it: he finds himself embarrassed, and at a loss how to act. In public and in private life, in managing his own concerns, and in directing those of others, the doubt started by the wise man frequently occurs; Who knoweth what is good for man in this life?
3. While thus fatigued with conjecture, we remain perplexed and undetermined in our choice; we are at the same time pulled to different sides by the various emotions which belong to our nature. On one hand, pleasure allures us to what is agreeable; on the other, interest weighs us down toward what seems gainful. Honor attracts us to what is splendid; and indolence inclines us to what is easy. In the consultations which we hold with our own mind concerning our conduct, how often are we thus divided within ourselves,puzzled by the uncertainty of future events, and distracted by the contest of different inclinations!
4. It is in such situations as these, that the principle of integrity interposes to give light and direction. While worldly men fluctuate in the midst of those perplexities which I have described, the virtuous man has one oracled to which he resorts in every dubious case, and whose decisions he holds to be infallible. He consults his own conscience; he listens to the voice of God. Were it only on a few occasions that this
a In-teg'-ri-ty, uprightness.
c Saga'-cious, wise, discerning.
d Or'-a-cle, a Pagan deity.