« PreviousContinue »
which seeks for information from every source that comes within its reach, whether in reading, conversation, or personal observation. With this state of mental activity ought to be closely connected attention to the authenticity of facts so received ; avoiding the two extremes of credulity and skepticism.
IV. The habit of correct association; that is, connecting facts in the mind according to their true relations, and to the manner in which they tend to illustrate each other. This, as we have formerly seen, is one of the principal means of improving the memory; particularly of the kind of memory which is an essential quality of a cultivated mind; namely, that which is founded not upon incidental connections, but on true and important relations. Nearly allied to this is the habit of reflection, or of tracing carefully the relations of facts, and the conclusions and principles which arise out of them. It is in this manner, as was formerly mentioned, that the philosophical mind often traces remarkable relations, and deduces important conclusions; while to the common understanding the facts appear to be very remote or entirely unconnected.
V. A careful selection of the subjects to which the mind ought to be directed. These are, in some respects, different in different persons, according to their situations in life ; but there are certain objects of attention which are peculiarly adapted to each individual, and there are some which are equally interesting to all. In regard to the latter, an appropriate degree of attention is the part of every wise man ; in regard to the former, a proper selection is the foundation of excellence. One individual may waste his powers in that desultory application of them which leads to an imperfect acquaintance with a variety of subjects; while another allows his life to steal over him in listless inactivity, or application to trifling pursuits. It is equally melancholy to see high powers devoted to unworthy objects; such as the contests of party on matters involving no important principle, or the subtleties of sophistical controversy. For
rising to eminence in any intellectual pursuit, there is not a rule of more essential importance than that of doing one thing at a time; avoiding distracting and desultory occupations; and keeping a leading object habitually before the mind, as one in which it can at all times find an interesting resource when necessary avocations allow the thoughts to recur to it. A subject which is cultivated in this manner, not by regular periods of study merely, but as an habitual object of thought, rises up and expands before the mind in a manner which is altogether astonishing. If along with this habit there be cultivated the practice of constantly writing such views as arise, we perhaps describe that state of mental discipline by which talents of a very moderate order may be applied in a conspicuous and useful manner to any subject to which they are devoted. Such writing need not be made at first with any great attention to method, but merely put aside for future consideration; and in this manner the different departments of a subject will develope and arrange themselves as they advance in a manner equally pleasing and wonderful.
VI. A due regulation and proper control of the imagination; that is, restricting its range to objects which harmonize with truth, and are adapted to the real state of things with which the individual is or may be connected. We have seen how much the character is influenced by this exercise of the mind; that it may be turned to purposes of the greatest moment, both in the pursuits of science and in the cultivation of benevolence and virtue; but that, on the other hand, it may be so employed as to debase both the moral and intellectual character.
VII. The cultivation of calm and correct judgmentapplicable alike to the formation of opinions and the regulation of conduct. This is founded, as we have seen, upon the habit of directing the attention distinctly and steadily to all the facts and considerations bearing upon a subject; and it consists in contemplating them in their true relations, and assigning to each the degree of importance of which it
is worthy. This mental habit tends to guard us against forming conclusions, either with listless inattention to the views by which we ought to be influenced,—or with attention directed to some of these, while we neglect others of equal or greater importance. It is, therefore, opposed to the influence of prejudice and passion,—to the formation of sophistical opinions,—to party spirit,--and to every propensity which leads to the adoption of principles on any other ground than calm and candid examination, guided by sincere desire to discover the truth.
The Grandame.-CHARLES LAMB.
On the green hill top,
Relationship remote or near of kin;
To an Infant.--COLERIDGE.
Ah, cease thy tears and sobs, my little life!
Untaught, yet wise, 'mid all thy brief alarms
Improvement in the Science of Analogy.--PRESIDENT
We may anticipate the greatest improvement in the science of analogy from the progress of our race in the knowledge of the character of God. Besides the works which he has created for our instruction, he has condescended to make himself known to us in a written revelation. Here he has taught us the infinity of his power,
the unsearchableness of his wisdom, the boundlessness of his omnipresence, the tenderness of his compassion, and the purity of his holiness. Now, it is evident that the system of things around us must all have been constructed in accordance with the conceptions of so ineffably glorious an intelligence. But to such a being as this we are infinitely dissimilar. Compared with the attributes of the Eternal,