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PART I.-CHAP. I.
Thus we see,
The nature and importance of the Subject. A DESIRE of knowledge is natural to all human minds. And nothing discovers the true quality and disposition of the mind more than the particular kind of knowledge it is most fond of.
that low and little minds are most delighted with the knowledge of trifles, as in children; an indolent mind, with that which serves only for amusement, or the entertainment of the fancy; a curious mind is best pleased with facts ; a judicious, penetrating mind, with demonstration and mathematical science; a worldly mind esteems no knowledge like that of the world; but a wise and pious man, before all other kinds of knowledge, prefers that of God and his own soul.
But some kind of knowledge or other the mind is continually craving after, and after, a farther proficiency in. And, by considering what kind of knowledge it most of all desires, its prevailing turn and temper may easily be known.
This desire of knowledge, like other affections planted in our nature, will be very apt to lead us wrong, if it be not well regulated. When it is directed to improper objects,
or pursued in an improper manner, it degenerates into a vain and criminal curiosity. A fatal instance of this in our first parents we have upon sacred record, the unhappy effects of which are but too visible in all.
Self-knowledge is the subject of the ensuing treatise ; a subject, which the more I think of, the more important and extensive it appears : so important, that every branch of it seems absolutely necessary to the right government of the life and temper; and so extensive, that the nearer view we take of the several branches of it, more are still opening to the view, as necessarily connected with it as the other, like what we find in microscopical observations on natural objects. The better the glasses, and the nearer the scrutiny, the more wonders we explore; and the more surprising discoveries we make of certain properties, parts, or affections belonging to them, which were never before thought of. For, in order to a true selfknowledge, the human mind, with its various powers and operations, must be narrowly inspected, all its secret bendings and doublings displayed ; otherwise our self-acquaintance will be but very partial and defective, and the heart, after all, will deceive us. So that, in treating this subject, there is no small danger, either of doing injury to it, by a slight and superficial inquest, on the one hand, or of running into a research too minute and philosophical for common use, on the other. These two extremes I shall keep in my eye, and endeavour to keep a middle course between them.
*Know thyself,' is one of the most useful and comprehensive precepts in the whole moral system,