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erally left us ample room to improve upon what they have written. And by reading with this view, if we fail of improving upon those we read, we shall, however, more clearly and fully understand their meaning, and more thoroughly make their ideas and sentiments our
Yet at the same time, every one should read with humility. Reading, more than any other method of improvement, is apt to puff up the mind with pride and self-conceit. For, persons of reading are very prone to
: estimate their knowledge more according to the number of books which they have read, than according to the number of ideas which they have collected and digested. And so are ready to imagine, that they have engrossed to themselves all knowledge; though, in reality, they have not read enough to learn their own ignorance. This should teach us to take the Poet's advice.
"A little learning is a dangerous thing:
Nor is pedantry peculiar to those only, who begin to read and study late in life; for it is too often found among those, who have enjoyed a regular and liberal education. Do not physicians and attorneys, by reading a few books in divinity, sometimes fancy themselves masters of that sacred and sublime science? And, on the other extreme, do not divines, by reading a few books in law and physic, sometimes fancy themselves masters of those two learned professions? But this is rank pedantry. It is an easy matter to gain a superficial acquaintance with the general objects of science; but it is a laborious task to acquire a deep and thorough acquaintance with any single
branch of knowledge. It is easy to know something about every thing; but it is difficult to know every thing about any thing. If men of reading would collect the whole stock of their knowledge, and the whole force of their genius more to a point, and aim to be complete masters of their own professions; they would become at once, much less pedantic, and much more useful to the world. Many men of real abilities and learning, have defeated their own usefulness, by attempting to know, and to do too much.
In the last place, read prayerfully. “If any of you lack wisdom, says the apostle, let him ask of God that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him." This Solomon found to be true, by happy experience. “In Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream by night; and God said, ask what I shall give thee. And Solomon said, Thou hast shewed unto thy seryant David my father great mercy according as he walked before thee in truth, and in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart with thee; and thou hast kept for him this great kindness that thou hast given him a son to sit on his throne, as it is this day. And now, O Lord my God, thou hast made thy servant king instead of David my father; and I am but a child; I know not how to go out or come in. And thy servant is in the midst of thy peo. ple which thou hast chosen; a great people that can. not be numbered nor counted for multitude. Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart; to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad: for who is able to judge this thy so great a people? And the speech pleased the Lord, that Solomon had asked this thing. And God said unto him, because thou hast asked this thing, and hast not askOcca,
ed for thyself long life; neither hast asked riches for thyself, nor hast asked the life of thine enemies, but hast asked for thyself understanding to discern judg. ment; behold, I have done according to thy words: lo, I have given thee a wise and understanding heart.” It was Dr. Doddridge, I think, who never used to take up a new book to read, without an ejaculatory pray. er for divine influence and direction. This example is worthy of universal imitation. Let us therefore always accompany our essays after knowledge with a humble and prayerful spirit; and then we may hope to read and study with safety and success.
To all these directions, I might now add diligence and perseverance, which always have had, and always will have, a mighty influence, in all the great things done by mankind. But I shall only add a few words to those,who are very immediately and deeply interested in the things which have been said in this discourse.
This subject calls upon parents in particular, to shew themselves men. You are, my respectable hearers, men in years, be men also in virtue, in religion, and in understanding. Let the dignity of man appear in all your conduct, and especially in your conduct towards your children. Let them see the dignity of human nature exemplified before their young and attentive minds. They are every day, and every hour, watching your conduct, and looking up to you for example and instruction. Take heed, that none of your words, none of your actions, none of your pursuits, be unworthy of men. But let all your conversation and behavior be such as your children may follow with propriety, with safety and dignity. And while you are teaching them by example, teach them also by precept. Give them good instruction; and for this purpose, provide them good instructors, These are of great importance to your children, whose progress in knowledge, will generally bear a very exact proportion to the abilities and fidelity of their teachers. The education of children has always been an object of great attention among all wise nations, and especially among all wise and good parents. Let this then be the object of your attention. Consider the dignity of man.
Consider the worth of the soul. Consider the rich and invaluable treasure put into your hands. Consider how much the dignity and happiness of your children both in time and in eternity, depend upon your care and fidelity. And let the ties of nature, the authority of God, and your own solemn vows, engage you to bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, and to cultivate and embellish their opening minds in every branch of useful and ornaniental knowledge. Admit not the thought, that such little, such weak, and to appearance, such useless creatures, are of small importance; but remember that they are men in miniature, and may, one day, surprise the world with their dignity. When a young Prince is born, all the kingdom feel the importance of his education, and are anxiously concerned to have the ablest instructors employed, to form him for great and noble actions. But you have more than Princes, even young Immortals, committed to your care, whose powers and capacities, whose dignity and importance, will astonish
you, at the great day, if not before. How happy will that parent be, who shall then be found to have been faithful to his children! “He will then join," as a celebrated writer observes, “his virtuous offspring in the habitations of the just, and there seė them rise up and call him blessed. But if a parent neglects his duty to his children; if he sets before them an example of irreligion, and suffers them to grow up loose and unprincipled, he may expect that their blood will be required at his hands, and he should tremble to think of that period of retribution, when probably they will curse him for that negligence which has ruined them.”
Finally, Let this subject awaken the attention of the youth, to the dignity of their nature and the end of their being. My dear young friends, you will soon be called to act your various parts upon the stage of life. You are now the hope of your parents, of your pastors, and of your country. The eyes of the world are upon you. Be entreated then to cultivate all your noble powers, and to shew yourselves men, in whatever departments of life, divine Providence shall place you. Piety and knowledge will prepare you for a useful and honorable life, and for a peaceful and triumphant death. Let these then be the supreme objects of your pursuit. Early consecrate all your time and all your talents to the service of God, and of your fellow-men Seek for knowledge, as for silver, and search for it, as for hid treasures; and sacrifice every object which obstructs your pursuit of it. “Through desire a man having separated himself, says Solomon, seeketh and intermeddleth with all wisdom.” If you would make progress in learning, and rise to any dis. tinguishing degrees of knowledge, you must separate yourselves from the vanities of youth, and devote those vacant hours to mental improvements, which, too many of your age trifle away in folly and vice. In particular, flee youthful lusts, which war against both the body and the mind. Shun that all-devouring monster, intemperance, by which so many strong minds have been cast down and destroyed. Avoid bad company and unmanly diversions, which are an