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fail, and his ardour abate; his powers would remain unemployed and unimproved, and his capacities undeveloped.
Had man the knowledge of futurity, he would have no scope for his contrivance, skill, and sagacity, and would be little superior to the beasts of the field. The impenetrable darkness that shrouds futurity, impels us to reflect on the internal nature and quality of our actions, and to decide according to their general tendency. As all future events are uncertain, we are impelled to adhere to safe rules of prudence, and seek, in our temper and judgment, that stability and repose, which we should in vain look for from external things. We learn to submit to the decrees and dispensations of Providence, even when they seem adverse to our dearest hopes, and to trust in our Maker in the most trying scenes of human existence. If we foresaw the prosperity that would fall to our lot, our present joys would lose all their value; we should become peevishly impatient for the future, and even the arrival of future good would fail, to satisfy our anxious expectations.
And did we foresee the loss of present good, it would much diminish our joy in the possession of it. Whereas, ignorance of futurity enables us to enjoy all our present possessions, all the delights of love and friendship, all the charms of agreeable and hopeful prospects, all the pleasure of promising speculations, and laudable enterprises happily begun.
Did we previously know the misfortunes and disappointments we are to experience, we should be harassed with the most distressing anxieties; we should anticipate, multiply, and aggravate all our sufferings, and torment ourselves in vain. Whereas, ignorance of futurity enables us boldly to encounter the misfortunes of life, and even death itself, frequently enjoying the last moment of terrestrial life, and still plucking the last flower that grows on the brink of the grave.
Ignorance of futurity is also of great advantage to man, as a social being. Could he clearly foresee the consequences of his labours, undertakings, and exertions, the events, and the period, of his earthly career,—he would, most probably, be wholly engrossed by selfish principles, and act only for himself. He would feel little interested in general events, little zeal for the public good, and less sympathy in the joys and sorrows of his fellow men. Pity would give place to moroseness; congratulation would be dumb; the bonds of brotherhood would be broken; and society would be scarcely able to subsist. Thus it is certain that Ignorance of future events is a great benefit to mankind, and adds much to the pleasures of human life.
Won from neglected wastes of time,
The provinces of mind;
From Louis to mankind.
To quench the ethereal flame:
In varied paths to fame.
NotWITHSTANDING ignorance has its pleasures, and Knowledge its pains, we are not to conclude that it is prudent to give up the pursuit of wisdom, and sit down contented in the lap of ignorance and folly.
This would be the worst of all resolutions.
The wildest and most chimerical pursuits of the imagination will produce more pleasure, and are more agreeable to the ends of our being, than a life slept away in languor and inactivity. Just sentiments, liberal views, refined taste, improving conversation, and dignity of action, are the fruits of Knowledge. Our understanding is a noble distinction of our nature, and the desire of knowledge is a natural propensity, which we ought to improve. Science supplies a numerous and rich variety of objects for the gratification of this passion. It is as much our duty to employ our mental faculties as our corporeal ones, therefore we should early cultivate a love of Knowledge and a taste for reading, and thus lay up a stock of useful knowledge for future days.
While it is wrong to consider Knowledge as the only aim and chief happiness of man, we must not forget that it is the means of improving our faculties, moderating our passions, directing us in the discharge of our duties, and qualifying us for every station of our being, in this or in a future world.
The desire of Knowledge is implanted in the soul of man. The gratification of this desire yields the most refined and complete satisfaction. The rising sun gives not more pleasure to the traveller, who in the darkness of the night has lost his way, than the light of Knowledge imparts to the soul that is deviously wandering in the shades of ignorance: because, what light is to the eye, Knowledge is to the mind. Ignorance envelops the soul in darkness, and sinks it to a condition, alas! but little superior to the animal that grazes in the field. Knowledge sheds a lustre on the human faculties, and raises them to a participation in the divine omniscience.
Every step we advance in the pursuit of Knowledge; every new truth we discover, every new refinement to which we attain, communicates a fresh accession of pleasure to the faculties, and pours a new stream of joy into the soul: for the path of Knowledge is like the path of the just ; which, as the dawning light, shines more and more unto the perfect day.
The man who has made deep researches into the secret powers of nature and of reason, and whose soul is dignified with the bright refinements of science and philosophy, when he compares himself with him whose rude and uncultivated mind is destitute of every embellishment, and whose soul is fettered by the lamentable shackles of ignorance, exults in the consciousness of superior perfection, looks back with triumph on those sacred hours which he has devoted to contemplation and study, and feels his most strenuous labours amply rewarded by those exquisite, refined, and manly pleasures, which perpetually accrue to his expanding mind.
O heavenly born ! in deepest cells,
Beneath the mossy cave;
And flow'ry carpets lave.
with scientific light;
Though wrapt from mortal sight.
Obstructed and depress'd;
By reason's power redress'd.
Of mad opinion's maze,
That blends congenial rays.
To hecatomb the year ;
Without thy aid, in vain the poles,
In vain the lunar sphere.
In metaphysic dreams;
In Heliconian streams.
It was evidently the Divine intention that man should acquire Knowledge. This divine intention will strike our minds with a more lively conviction, if we attend to the gradual process by which men arrive at that portion of Knowledge which they are severally possessed of; if we observe the gentle steps, the measured proportions, the skilful methods, the insinuating advances, by which the faculties are distended, and Knowledge introduced into the mind, by which the instructions of the all-wise Creator distil by little and little, and are imbibed through various avenues by the growing appetites and capacities of the mind, by which his parent hand leads us from infant ignorance to maturity of understanding. In the beginning of life, the human mind subsists with few ideas, according to its minute capacity. But they multiply fast, every thing is then new, and conse quently an object of wonder; and the inquisitive curiosity is adapted to, and gratified with, a continual accession of new objects. And when the stock of ideas is sufficiently increased, the comparing and judging faculty begins to operate upon the materials which sense has furnished." It orders and disposes, unites and separates, divides and compounds, distinguishes like and unlike, equal and unequal, fit and unfit, beautiful and deformed, good and evil. Here reason commences, and is henceforward continually employed in disposing the intellectual furniture of the mind, arranging every thing in due place and order, reviewing its internal fund of Knowledge, and by new images and new reflections still adding to the number, variety, forms, and order of the whole; rising conti