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best and most valuable kind of knowledge, that is most subservient to the best ends; i.e. which tends to make a man wiser and better, or more agreeable and useful, both to himself and others.' For knowledge is but a means that relates to some end. And as all means are to be judged of by the excellency of the end, and their expediency to produce it ; so that must be the best knowledge that hath the directest tendency to promote the best ends : viz. a man's own true happiness, and that of others ; in which the glory of God, the ultimate end, is ever necessarily comprised.
Now, if we were to judge of the several kinds of science by this rule, we should find, 1. Some of them to be very hurtful and pernicious ; as tending to pervert the true end of knowledge ; to ruin a man's own happiness, and make him more injurious to society. Such is the knowledge of vice, the various temptations to it, and the secret ways of practising it ; especially the arts of dissimulation, fraud, and dishonesty. 2. Others will be found unprofitable and useless. As those parts of knowledge, which, though they may take up much time and pains to acquire, yet answer no valuable purpose ; and serve only for amusement, and the entertainment of the imagination. For instance, an acquaintance with plays, novels, games, and modes, in which a man may be very critical and expert, and yet not a whit the wiser or more useful man, 3. Other kinds of
knowledge are good only relatively, or conditionally, “and may be more useful to one than to another ; viz. a skill in a man's particular occupation or calling, on which his credit, livelihood, or usefulness in the world depends. And as this kind of knowledge is valuable in proportion to its end, so it ought to be cultivated with a diligence and esteem answerable to that. Lastly, other kinds of knowledge are good, absolutely and universally ; viz. the knowledge of God and ourselves. The nature of our final happiness and the way to it. This is equally necessary to all. And how thankful should we be, that we, who live under the light of the gospel, and enjoy that light in its perfection and purity, have so many happy means and opportunities of attaining this most useful and necessary kind of knowledge.
A man can never understand himself then, till he makes a right estimate of his knowledge ; till he examines what kind of knowledge he values himself most upon, and most diligently cultivates ; how high a value he sets upon it; what good it does him ; what effect it hath upon him ; what he is the better for it; what end it answers now; or what it is like to answer hereafter.
There is nothing in which a man's self ignorance discovers itself more, than in the esteem he hath for his understanding, or for himself on the account of it. It is a trite and true observation, that empty things make the most
sound.' Men of the least knowledge are most apt to make a show of it, and to value themselves upon it; which is very visible in forward confident youth, raw conceited academicks, and those who, uneducated in their childhood, betake themselves in later life to reading, without taste or judgment, only as an accomplishment, and to make a show of scholarship ; who have just learned enough to spoil company, and render themselves ridiculous, but not enough to make either themselves or others at all the wiser.
But beside the forementioned kinds of knowl. edge, there is another, which is commonly called false knowledge ; which, though it often imposes upon men under the show and semblance of true knowledge, is really worse than ignorance. Some men have learned a great many things, and have taken a great deal of pains to learn them, and stand very high in their own opinion on account of them, which yet they must unlearn before they are truly wise. They have been at a vast expense of tiine, and pains, and patience, to heap together, and to confirm themselves in a set of wrong notions, which they lay up in their minds as a fund of valuable knowledge ; which if they try by the forementioned rules, viz. the tendency they have to make them wiser and better, or more useful and beneficial to others,' will be found to be worth just nothing at all.
Beware of this false knowledge. For as there is nothing of which men are more obstinately
tenacious, so there is nothing that renders them more vain, or more averse to self knowledge. Of all things, men are most fond of their wrong notions.
The apostle Paul often speaks of these men, and their self sufficiency, in very poignant terms ; who, though they seem wise, yet (says he) must become fools before they are wise."* Though they think they know a great deal, “know nothing yet as they ought to know.'t But deceive themselves, by thinking themselves something when they are nothing.'! And whilst they desire to be teachers of others, understand not what they say, nor whereof they affirm.'s And want themselves to be taught what are the first rudiments and principles of wisdom.'
Concerning the knowledge, guard, and government of
XIII. ANOTHER part of self knowledge consists in a due acquaintance with our own thoughts, and the inward workings of the imagination. * 1 Cor. iii, 18.
f1 Cor. viii. 2. I Gal. vi. 3.
$1 Tim. i. 7. Heb. v. 12.
The right government of the thoughts requires no small art, vigilance, and resolution. But it is a matter of such vast importance to the peace and improvement of the mind, that it is worth while to be at some pains about it. A man that hath so numerous and turbulent a family to govern as his own thoughts, which are too apt to be at the command of his passions and appetites, ought not to be long from home. If he be, they will soon grow mutinous and disorderly under the conduct of those two headstrong guides, and raise great clamours and disturbances, and sometimes on the slightest occasions. And a more dreadful scene of misery can hardly be imagined, than that which is occasioned by such a tumult and uproar within, when a raging conscience or inflamed passions are let loose without check or controul. A city in flames, or the mutiny of a drunken crew abroad, who have murdered the captain, and are butchering one another, are but faint . emblems of it. Torment of tiie mind, under such an insurrection and ravage of the passions, is not easy to be conceived. The most revenge. ful man cannot wish his enemy a greater.
Of what vast importance then is it for a man to watch over his thoughts, in order to a right government of them: To consider what kind of thoughts find the easiest admission, in what manner they insinuate themselves, and upon what occasions !