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What is learning, but a diligent attendance to instruction of masters, skilled in any knowlege, and conveying their notions. to us in word or writing?
What is study, but an earnest, steady, persevering application of mind to some matter, on which we fix our thoughts, with intent to see through it? What in Solomon's language are these scholastic occupations, but inclining the ear,' and ' applying our heart to understanding? than which commonly there is nothing more laborious, more straining nature, and more tiring our spirits; whence it is well compared to the most painful exercises of body and soul.
The wise man, advising men to seek wisdom, the which is the proper design of our calling, doth intimate that work to be like digging in the mines for silver, and like searching all about for concealed treasure; than which there can hardly be any more difficult and painful task: 'If,' saith he, thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures, then shalt thou understand.' Otherwhere he compareth the same work to assiduous watching and waiting, like that of a guard or a client, which are the greatest instances of diligence: 'Blessed,' saith he, (or Wisdom by him saith, Blessed) is the man that heareth me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors.'
Wherefore, if we will approve ourselves to be what we are called, and what we pretend to be; if we will avoid being impostors, assuming a name not due to us, we must not be slothful. Farther,
2. The matter and extent of our business doth require industry from us the matter of it, which is truth and knowlege; the extent, which is very large and comprehensive, taking in all truth, all knowlege, worthy our study, and useful for the designs of it.
Our business is to find truth; the which, even in matters of high importance, is not easily to be discovered; being as a vein of silver, encompassed with earth and mixed with dross, deeply laid in the obscurity of things, wrapt up in false appearances, entangled with objections, and perplexed with debates; being therefore not readily discoverable, especially by minds clouded with prejudices, lusts, passions, partial affections, appetites of
honor and interest; whence to descry it requireth the most curious observation and solicitous circumspection that can be; together with great pains in the preparation and purgation of our minds toward the inquiry of it.
Our business is to attain knowlege, not concerning obvious and vulgar matters, but about sublime, abstruse, intricate, and knotty subjects, remote from common observation and sense; to get sure and exact notions about which will try the best forces of our mind with their utmost endeavors; in firmly settling principles, in strictly deducing consequences, in orderly digesting conclusions, in faithfully retaining what we learn by our contemplation and study.
And if to get a competent knowlege about a few things, or to be reasonably skilful in any sort of learning, be difficult, how much industry doth it require to be well seen in many, or to have waded through the vast compass of learning, in no part whereof a scholar may conveniently or handsomely be ignorant; seeing there is such a connexion of things, and dependence of notions, that one part of learning doth confer light to another, that a man can hardly well understand any thing without knowing divers other things; that he will be a lame scholar, who hath not an insight into many kinds of knowlege; that he can hardly be a good scholar, who is not a general one.
To understand so many languages, which are the shells of knowlege; to comprehend so many sciences, full of various theorems and problems; to peruse so many histories of ancient and modern times; to know the world, both natural and human; to be acquainted with the various inventions, inquiries, opinions, and controversies of learned men; to skill the arts of expressing our mind, and imparting our conceptions with advantage, so as to instruct or persuade others; these are works indeed, which will exercise and strain all our faculties (our reason, our fancy, our memory) in painful study.
The knowlege of such things is not innate to us; it doth not of itself spring up in our minds; it is not any ways incident by chance, or infused by grace, (except rarely by miracle;) common observation doth not produce it; it cannot be purchased at any rate, except by that, for which it was said of old, the gods sell all things,' that is for pains; without which, the best
wit and greatest capacity may not render a man learned, as the best soil will not yield good fruit or grain, if they be not planted or sown therein.
Consider, if you please, what a scholar Solomon was: beside his skill in politics, which was his principal faculty and profession, whereby he did with admirable dexterity and prudence manage the affairs of that great kingdom, judging his people, and discerning what was good and bad;' accurately dispensing justice; settling his country in a most flourishing state of peace, order, plenty, and wealth; largely extending his territory; so that his wisdom of this kind was famous over the earth: beside, I say, this civil wisdom, he had an exquisite skill in natural philosophy and medicine; for He spake of trees,' or plants, 'from the cedar that is in Lebanon, even unto the hyssop that springeth out of the wall: he spake also of beasts, and of fowl, and of creeping things, and of fishes.'
He was well versed in mathematics; for it is said, Solomon's wisdom excelled the wisdom of all the children of the east-country, and all the wisdom of Egypt;' the wisdom of which nations did consist in those sciences. And of his mechanic skill he left for a monument the most glorious structure that ever stood on earth.
He was very skilful in poetry and music; for he did himself compose above a thousand songs;' whereof one yet extant declareth the loftiness of his fancy, the richness of his vein, and the elegancy of his style.
He had great ability in rhetoric; according to that in Wisdom, 'God granteth me to speak as I would;' and that in Ecclesiastes, The preacher sought to find out acceptable words;' a great instance of which faculty we have in that admirable prayer of his composure at the dedication of the Temple.
He did wonderfully excel in ethics; concerning which he 'spake three thousand proverbs,' or moral aphorisms; and moreover,' saith Ecclesiastes, because the preacher was wise, he still taught the people knowlege; yea, he gave good heed, and sought out, and set in order many proverbs;' the which did contain a great variety of notable observations, and useful directions for common life, couched in pithy expressions.
As for theology, as the study of that was the chief study to
which he exhorteth others, (as to the head, or principal part, of wisdom,) so questionless he was himself most conversant therein; for proof whereof he did leave so many excellent theorems and precepts of divinity to us.
In fine, there is no sort of knowlege, to which he did not apply his study; witness himself in those words, I gave my heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning all things that are done under heaven.'
Such a scholar was he; and such if we have a noble ambition to be, we must use the course he did; which was first in his heart to prefer wisdom before all worldly things; then to pray to God for it, or for his blessing in our quest of it; then to use the means of attaining it, diligent searching and hard study; for that this was his method he telleth us; 'I,' saith he, applied my heart to know, and to search, and to seek out wisdom, and the reason of things.'
Such considerations show the necessity of industry for a scholar. But,
3. The worth, and excellency, and great utility, together with the pleasantness of his vocation, deserving the highest industry, do superadd much obligation thereto.
We are much bound to be diligent out of ingenuity, and in gratitude to God, who by his gracious providence hath assigned to us a calling so worthy, an employment so comfortable, a way of life no less commodious, beneficial, and delightful to ourselves, than serviceable to God, and useful for the world.
If we had our option and choice, what calling could we desire before this of any whereto men are affixed? How could we better employ our mind, or place our labor, or spend our time, or pass our pilgrimage in this world, than in scholastical occupations?
It were hard to reckon up, or to express, the numberless great advantages of this calling: I shall therefore only touch some, which readily fall under my thought, recommending its value to us.
It is a calling, the design whereof conspireth with the general end of our being; the perfection of our nature in its endowments, and the fruition of it in its best operations.
It is a calling, which doth not employ us in bodily toil, in
worldly care, in pursuit of trivial affairs, in sordid drudgeries; but in those angelical operations of soul, the contemplation of truth, and attainment of wisdom; which are the worthiest exercises of our reason, and sweetest entertainments of our mind; the most precious wealth, and most beautiful ornaments of our soul; whereby our faculties are improved, are polished and refined, are enlarged in their power and use by habitual accessions: the which are conducible to our own greatest profit and benefit, as serving to rectify our wills, to compose our affections, to guide our lives in the ways of virtue, to bring us unto felicity.
It is a calling, which, being duly followed, will most sever us from the vulgar sort of men, and advance us above the common pitch; enduing us with light to see farther than other men, disposing us to affect better things, and to slight those meaner objects of human desire, on which men commonly dote; freeing us from the erroneous conceits and from the perverse affections of common people. It is said, διπλοῦν ὁρῶσιν οἱ μαθόντες γράμματα, 'men of learning are double-sighted:' but it is true that in many cases they see infinitely farther than a vulgar sight doth reach. And if a man by serious study doth acquire a clear and solid judgment of things, so as to assign to each its due weight and price; if he accordingly be inclined in his heart to affect and pursue them; if from clear and right notions of things, a meek and ingenuous temper of mind, a command and moderation of passions, a firm integrity, and a cordial love of goodness do spring, he thereby becometh another kind of thing, much different from those brutish men (beasts of the people) who blindly follow the motions of their sensual appetite, or the suggestions of their fancy, or their mistaken prejudices.
It is a calling, which hath these considerable advantages, that, by virtue of improvement therein, we can see with our own eyes, and guide ourselves by our own reasons, not being led blindfold about, or depending precariously on the conduct of others, in matters of highest concern to us; that we are exempted from giddy credulity, from wavering levity, from fond admiration of persons and things, being able to distinguish of things, and to settle our judgments about them, and to