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SERMON XXXVI.

The Value of Learning.

O GOD, from thee proceed intelligence and

wisdom; from thee proceed all the knowledge and sciences which lead and conduct mankind; which bless and rejoice them in numberless ways. From thee, who dwellest in inaccessible light, and art thyself pure light, pure truth and perfection, from thee flow light and truth and happiness on us and on all intelligent beings! Thou hast planted in us all an ever active curiosity, a burning thirst after the knowledge of truth; given us all capacities and powers for seeking and investigating it; opened to us all various sources for assuaging our thirst. And how many benefits, how many recreations, how many satisfactions, how many blessings, have not thy children of mankind, already drawn from these fources; and how much blessing and delight do they not daily and hourly draw from them! Thanks, and praise be to thee, the father of all beings, of all spirits, for having made us rational, intelligent creatures, capable of knowledge and wifdom, and afforded us so many incentives and means for constantly more unfolding these our noblest capacities, and for proceeding ever farther in knowledge and wisdom! Still indeed, in various respects, vailed and oppressed by night and darkness ; still often deceived by sensuality and error; still only lifping children, still only feeble beginners in the school of wisdom'; yet capable of an incessant progress, of an ever advancing perfection! And what does not this allow us to hope! What prospects does it not open to us in all future times and eternities! Yes, the truth that comes from thee and leads to thee, should be ever dearer to us, its investigation and its knowledge be ever more important; and nothing should render us dispirited and flothful in our pursuits after higher attainments in wisdom and perfection! And the more perfect here our knowledge is, the less we here can quench our thirst for truth and our longing after thee, its eternal source :: so much the more should we rejoice in the hope of immortality to which thou hast raised us through Jesus Christ; so much the more zealously ought we to strive, by the best, the most faithful use of the light thou hast now caused to shine upon us, to render ourselves capable and worthy of a far greater and brighter light in the future

world.

VOL. II.

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world. Teach us thyself, o gracious God, ever to value more justly the worth of the advantages thou hast at present in this respect vouchsafed to us, ever to prize them higher, and ever to apply them more to the greatest poffible promotion of human happiness. Bless to this end the confiderations we purpose now to begin upon this subject, and let our prayer be well-pleasing in thy fight, through Jesus Christ our Lord, in whose blessed name and words we fum up all our petitions, saying: Our father, &c.

I KINGS, x. 8.

Happy are thy men, happy are these thy fervants, which ftand

continually before thee, and that hear thy wisdom.

L

EARNING, like the other prerogatives and

advantages of mankind, is seldom judged of with strict propriety, is seldom taken for what it actually is. It has its panegyrists, who exaggerate its value, as well as its ignorant or haughty despisers, who refuse it the importance it deserves. Considered in its universal extent, to speak impartially, it has occasioned as much harm as good; has so free quently appeared under the most venerable aspect, and so frequently in the most ridiculous figure;

and

and is compounded, in fact, of fuch a curious mix, ture of important and unimportant matters ; that, as well in regard to the various fides it has, and the various effects it produces, as in respect to the various persons that profess it, it must necessarily undergo various and opposite sentences, one while deserving applause and admiration, and at another reproach and contempt. - Taken at large, it seems to have been more highly prized, and more honoured, in the early ages of antiquity, than in modern times. Probably because it was less common; probably because the necessity and utility of it were in many respects more readily felt, and the helps it afforded were more indispensable; or, perhaps, bea cause it wore a more venerable or more mysterious countenance, and was attributed to a sublimer ori. gin. Accordingly, the queen that we read of in our text, as coming from the wealthy Arabia to converse with Solomon, had a very high opinion of its value. She left her throne and her people, to hear and to improve by the wisdom, or, which in the language of those times is just the same, the learning of that monarch. Report having brought the fame of it into those distant regions, it at once excited her appetite for novelty and instruction, and now, on finding the truth of the matter to exceed even what report had made it, she exclaims in admiration, “ Happy are thy men, happy are these thy servants, which stand continually before thee, and that hear thy wisdom!" Thus fhewing that

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she preferred the erudition of Solomon before all his treasures, before all the splendour and magnificence of his court. And this judgment does her the more honour, as it is so very feldom that the great and mighty of the earth are impartial enough to do juftice to eminent endowments of the mind, and to esteem them more than their own dazzling diftinctions.

Let us, then, my pious hearers, endeavour also to settle our judgment on this matter. Many of my audience are learned themselves, or make literature their principal employment; and most of the rest have much connection and intercourse with that description of men. For both the one and the other it is highly important to acquire a due estimation of learning; and though I may possess but a small share of it myself, yet its properties, nature and quality, and its influence on human happiness, can, not be utterly unknown to me; and it is more than possible that I may be able to pronounce the more impartially upon it, by renouncing, on that score, all pretensions to fame. Let us, therefore, investi. gate the value of learning; and to this end, first, make some remarks for properly stating its worth ; then set that value in its proper light; and, lastly, thence draw fome rules for our conduct towards it.

By erudition or learning, I here understand the whole circle of human sciences and knowledge, that do not immediately relate to the satisfying the first wants of nature; all knowledge and sciences that

are

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