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melancholy; discovering obstacles, securing progress, and making the passages of life clear, open, and pleasant. We are all naturally endowed with a strong appetite to know, to see, to pursue truth; and with a bashful abhorrency from being deceived and entangled in mistake. And as success in enquiry after truth affords matter of joy and triumph ; so being conscious of error and miscarriage therein, is attended with shame and sorrow. These desires wisdom in the most perfect manner satisfies, not by entertaining us with dry, empty, fruitless theories upon mean and vulgar subjects; but by enriching our minds with excellent and useful knowledge, directed to the noblest objects, and serviceable to the highest ends.
Bacon, in enumerating the advantages of knowledge, says, 1. It relieves man's afflictions. 2. It promotes public virtue and order. 3. It promotes private virtues, by humanizing, humbling, nullifying vain admiration, improving.
3. It is power.
4. The pleasure of knowledge far exceedeth all other pleasures; for, shall the pleasures of the affections so exceed the senses, as much as the obtaining of desire or victory exceedeth a song or a dinner; and must not, of consequence, the pleasures of the intellect or understanding exceed the pleasures of the affections ? We see in all other pleasures there is satiety, and after they be used, their verdure departeth ; which sheweth well they be but deceits of pleasure, and not pleasures; and that it was the novelty which pleased, and not the quality; and therefore we see that voluptuous men turn friars, and ambitious princes turn melancholy. But of knowledge there is no satiety, but satisfaction and appetite are perpetually interchangeable; and therefore appeareth to be good in itself simply, without fallacy or accident. Neither is that pleasure of small efficacy
WISDOM SELECTS TRUE PLEASURES.
WISDOM is exceedingly pleasant and peaceable ; in general, by disposing us to acquire and to enjoy all the good delight and happiness we are capable of; and by freeing us from all the inconveniences, mischiefs, and infelicities our condition is subject to. For whatever good from clear understanding, deliberate advice, sagacious foresight, stable resolution, dexterous address, right intention, and orderly proceeding doth naturally result, wisdom confers : whatever evil blind ignorance, false presumption, unwary credulity, precipitate rashness, unsteady purpose, ill contrivance, back wardness, inability, unwieldiness and confusion of thought beget, wisdom prevents. From a thousand snares and treacherous allurements, from innumerable rocks and dangerous surprises, from exceedingly
and contentment to the mind of man, which the poet Lucretius describeth elegantly,
“ Suave mari magno, turbantibus æquora ventis,” &c.
“ It is a view of delight,” saith he, " to stand or walk upon the shore side, and to see a ship tossed with tempest upon the sea: or to be in a fortified tower, and to see two battles join upon a plain ; but it is a pleasure incomparable, for the mind of man to be settled, landed, and fortified in the certainty of truth, and from thence to descry and behold the errors, perturbations, labours, and wanderings up and down of other men.” “So always, that this prospect be with pity, and not with swelling or pride. Certainly, it is heaven upon earth, to have a man's mind move in charity, rest in providence, and turn upon the poles of truth.”
many needless incumbrances and vexatious toils of fruitless endeavours she redeems and secures us. Wisdom instructs us to examine, compare,
and rightly to value the objects that court our affections and challenge our care! and thereby regulates our passions and moderates our endeavours, which begets a pleasant serenity and peaceable tranquillity of mind. For when being deluded with false shows, and relying upon ill-grounded presumptions, we highly esteem, passionately affect, and eagerly pursue things of little worth in themselves or concernment to us;
we unhandsomely prostitute our affections, and prodigally misspend our time, and vainly lose our labour, so the event not answering our expectation, our minds thereby are confounded, disturbed, and distempered. But, when guided by right reason, we conceive great esteem of, and zealously are enamoured with, and vigorously strive to attain things of excellent worth and weighty consequence, the conscience of having well placed our affections and well employed our pains, and the experience of fruits corresponding to our hopes, ravishes our minds with unexpressible content. And so it is : present appearance and vulgar conceit ordinarily impose upon our fancies, disguising things with a deceitful varnish, and representing those that are vainest with the greatest advantage; whilst the noblest objects, being of a more subtle and spiritual nature, like fairest jewels enclosed in a homely box, avoid the notice of gross sense,
pass uns discerned by us. But the light of wisdom, as it
unmasks specious imposture and bereaves it of its false colours, so it penetrates into the retirements of true excellency and reveals its genuine lustre.*
KNOWLEDGE AVOIDS THE MISERY TO
Wisdom makes all the troubles, griefs, and pains incident to life, whether casual adversities, or natural afflictions, easy and supportable, by rightly valuing the importance and moderating the influence of them. It suffers not busy fancy to alter the nature, amplify the degree, or extend the duration of them, by representing them more sad, heavy, and remediless than they truly are. It allows them no force beyond what naturally and necessarily they have, nor contributes nourishment to their increase. It keeps them at a due distance, not permitting them to encroach upon the soul, or to propagate their influence beyond their proper sphere. I
* Wisdom doth balance in her scales those true and false pleasures which do equally invite the senses : and rejecting all such as have no solid value or lasting refreshment, doth select and take to her bosom those delights that, proving immortal, do seem to smell and taste of that paradise from which they sprung. Like the wise husbandman who, taking the rough grain which carries in its heart the bread to sustain life, doth trample under foot the gay and idle Aowers which many times destroy it.-A. M.
+ Serm. i. p. 2. # Ignorance can shake strong sinews with idle thoughts,
HONOURING GOD. *
God is honoured by a willing and careful practice of all piety and virtue for conscience' sake, or an avowed obedience to his holy will. This is the most natural expression of our reverence towards him, and the most effectual way of promoting the
and sink brave hearts with light sorrows, and doth lead innocent feet to impure dens, and haunts the simple rustic with credulous fears, and the swart Indian with that more potent magic, under which spell he pines and dies. And by ignorance is a man fast bound from childhood to the grave, till knowledge, which is the revelation of good and evil, doth set him free.- A.M.
Knowledge mitigates the fear of death and adverse fortune ; for, if a man be deeply imbued with the contemplation of mortality and the corruptible nature of all things, he will easily coocur with Epictetus, who went forth one day and saw a woman weeping for her pitcher of earth that was broken ; and went forth the next day and saw a woman weeping for her son that was dead : and thereupon said, " Heri vidi fragilem frangi ; hodie vidi mortalem mori.” And therefore Virgil did excellently and profoundly couple the knowledge of causes and the conquest of all fears as concomitant :
Felix, qui potuit rerum cognoscere causas,
Near to the Hartz Mountains in Germany, a gigantic figure has from time immemorial occasionally appeared in the heavens. It is indistinct, but always resembles the form of a human being. Its appearance has ever been a certain indication of approaching misfortune. It is called
* Sermon iv. p. 34.