صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

guide us in other things if rightly pursued, is not yet known. Our Saviour's great rule, that " we should love our neighbour as ourselves," is such a fundamental truth for the regulating human society, that, I think, by that alone, one might without difficulty determine all the cases and doubts in social morality. These and such as these are the truths we should endeavour to find out, and store our minds with. Which leads me to another thing in the conduct of the understanding that is no less necessary, viz.

§ 44. Bottoming.

To accustom ourselves, in any question proposed, to examine and find out upon what it bottoms. Most of the difficulties that come in our way, when well considered and traced, lead us to some proposition, which, known to be true, clears the doubt, and gives an easy solution of the question; whilst topical and superficial arguments, of which there is store to be found on both sides, filling the head with variety of thoughts, and the mouth with copious discourse, serve only to amuse the understanding, and entertain company, without coming to the bottom of the question, the only place of rest and stability for an inquisi

tive mind. whose tendency is only to truth and knowledge.

For example, if it be demanded, whether the Grand Seignor can lawfully take what he will from any of his people? This question cannot be resolved without coming to a certainty, whether all men are naturally equal; for upon that it turns; and that truth well settled in the understanding, and carried in the mind through the various debates concerning the various rights of men in society, will go a great way in putting an end to them, and showing on which side the truth is.

§ 45. Transfering of thoughts.

THERE is scarce any thing more for the improvement of knowledge, for the ease of life, and for the dispatch of business, than for a man to be able to dispose of his own thoughts; and there is scarce any thing harder in the whole conduct of the understanding than to get a full mastery over it. The mind, in a waking man, has always some object that it applies itself to; which, when we are lazy or unconcerned, we can easily change, and at pleasure transfer our thoughts to another, and from thence to a third, which has no relation to either of the former. Hence men forwardly conclude, and frequently say, nothing is so free as thought, and it were well it were so; but

the contrary will be found true in several instances; and there are many cases wherein there is nothing more resty and ungovernable than our thoughts: they will not be directed what objects to pursue, nor be taken off from those they have once fixed on; but run away with a man in pursuit of those ideas they have in view, let him do what he can.

I will not here mention again what I have above taken notice of, how hard it is to get the mind, narrowed by a custom of thirty or forty years' standing to a scanty collection of obvious and common ideas, to enlarge itself to a more copious stock, and grow into an acquaintance with those that would afford niore abundant matter of useful contemplation; it is not of this I am here speaking. The inconveniency I would here represent, and find a remedy for, is the difficulty there is sometimes to transfer our minds from one subject to another in cases where the ideas are equally familiar to us.

Matters, that are recommended to our thoughts by any of our passions, take possession of our minds with a kind of authority, and will not be kept out or dislodged; but, as if the passion that rules were, for the time, the sheriff of the place, and came with all the posse, the understanding is seized and taken with the object it introduces, as if it had a legal right to be alone considered there. There is scarce any body, I think, of so calm a temper who

ஆம்

hath not some time found this tyranny on his understanding, and suffered under the inconvenience of it. Who is there almost, whose mind, some time or other, love or anger, fear or grief, has not so fastened to some clog, that it could not turn itself to any other object? I call it a clog, for it hangs upon the mind so as to hinder its vigour and activity in the pursuit of other contemplations; and advances itself little or not at all in the knowledge of the thing which it so closely hugs and constantly pores on. Men thus possessed are sometimes as if they were so in the worst sense, and lay under the power of an enchantment. They see not what passes before their eyes; hear not the audible discourse of the company; and when by any strong application to them they are roused a little, they are like men brought to themselves from some remote region; whereas in truth they come no farther than their secret cabinet within, where they have been wholly taken up with the puppet, which is for that time appointed for their entertainment. The shame that such dumps cause to well-bred people, hen it carries them away from the company, where they should bear a part in the conversation, is a sufficient argument that it is a fault in the conduct of our understanding, not to have that power over it as to make use of it to those purposes, and on those occasions, wherein we have need of its assistance

The mind should be always free and ready to turn itself to the variety of objects that occur, and allow them as much consideration as shall for that time be thought fit. To be engrossed so by one object, as not to be prevailed on to leave it for another that we judge fitter for our contemplation, is to make it of no use to us. Did this state of mind remain always so, every one would, without scruple, give it the name of perfect madness; and whilst it does last, at whatever intervals it returns, such a rotation of thoughts about the same object no more carries us forward towards the attainment of knowledge, than getting upon a mill horse whilst he jogs on in his circular track would carry a man a journey.

I grant something must be allowed to legitimate passions, and to natural inclinations. Every man, besides occasional affections, has beloved studies, and those the mind will more closely stick to; but yet it is best that it should be always at liberty, and under the free disposal of the man, and to act how and upon what he directs. This we should endeavour to obtain, unless we would be content with such a flaw in our understanding, that sometimes we should be as it were without it; for it is very little better than so in cases where we cannot make use of it to those purposes we would, and which stand in present need of it.

But before fit remedies can be thought no

« السابقةمتابعة »