Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

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 blefs and rejoice them in numberless ways. From thee, who dwelleft in inacceffible light, and art thyfelf pure light, pure truth and perfection, from thee flow light and truth and happiness on us and on all intelligent beings! Thou haft planted in us all an ever active curiofity, a burning thirst

after the knowledge of truth; given us all capacities and powers for feeking and investigating it; opened to us all various fources for affuaging our thirst. And how many benefits, how many recreations, how many fatisfactions, how many bleffings, have not thy children of mankind, already drawn from these fources; and how much blessing and delight

do

do they not daily and hourly draw from them! Thanks and praise be to thee, the father of all beings, of all fpirits, for having made us rational, intelligent creatures, capable of knowledge and wifdom, and afforded us fo many incentives and means for conftantly more unfolding these our nobleft capacities, and for proceeding ever farther in knowledge and wisdom! Still indeed, in various refpects, vailed and oppreffed by night and darkness; ftill often deceived by fenfuality and error; ftill only lifping children, ftill only feeble beginners in the school of wisdom; yet capable of an inceffant progrefs, of an ever advancing perfection! And what does not this allow us to hope! What profpects does it not open to us in all future times and eternities! Yes, the truth that comes from thee and leads to thee, fhould be ever dearer to us, its investigation and its knowledge be ever more important; and nothing fhould render us difpirited and flothful in our pursuits after higher attainments in wisdom and perfection! And the more perfect here our knowledge is, the lefs we here can quench our thirst for truth and our longing after thee, its eternal fource: fo much the more fhould we rejoice in the hope of immortality to which thou haft raised us through Jefus Chrift; fo much the more zealoufly ought we to strive, by the beft, the most faithful ufe of the light thou haft now caused to fhine upon us, to render ourfelves capable and worthy of a far greater and brighter light in the future

1

VOL. II.

P

world.

world. Teach us thyfelf, o gracious God, ever to value more justly the worth of the advantages thou haft at present in this refpect vouchfafed to us, ever to prize them higher, and ever to apply them more to the greatest poffible promotion of human happinefs. Blefs to this end the confiderations we purpose now to begin upon this fubject, and let our prayer be well-pleafing in thy fight, through Jefus Christ our Lord, in whose blessed name and words we fum up all our petitions, faying: Our father, &c.

I KINGS, X. 8.

Happy are thy men, happy are these thy fervants, which fland continually before thee, and that hear thy wisdom.

LEARNING, like the other prerogatives and

advantages of mankind, is feldom judged of with ftrict propriety, is feldom taken for what it actually is. It has its panegyrifts, who exaggerate its value, as well as its ignorant or haughty despisers, who refuse it the importance it deferves. Confidered in its univerfal extent, to speak impartially, it has occafioned as much harm as good; has fo frequently appeared under the most venerable afpect, and fo 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 refpect to the various perfons that profefs it, it must neceffarily undergo various and oppofite fentences, one while de-. serving applause and admiration, and at another reproach and contempt. Taken at large, it feems to have been more highly prized, and more honoured, in the early ages of antiquity, than in modern times. Probably because it was lefs common; probably because the neceffity and utility of it were in many respects more readily felt, and the helps it af forded were more indifpenfable; or, perhaps, bea cause it wore a more venerable or more myfterious countenance, and was attributed to a fublimer origin. Accordingly, the queen that we read of in our text, as coming from the wealthy Arabia to converfe with Solomon, had a very high opinion of its value. She left her throne and her people, tó hear and to improve by the wisdom, or, which in the language of those times is just the fame, the learning of that monarch. Report having brought the fame of it into those diftant regions, it at once excited her appetite for novelty and inftruction; and now, on finding the truth of the matter to exceed even what report had made it, the exclaims in admiration, “Happy are thy men, happy are these thy fervants, which stand continually before thee, and that hear thy wildom!" Thus fhewing that

P 2

The

-

the 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 fo 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 alfo to fettle our judgment, on this matter. Many of my audience are learned themselves, or make literature their principal employment; and moft 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 fhare of it myself, yet its properties, nature and quality, and its influence on human happiness, cannot be utterly unknown to me; and it is more than poffible that I may be able to pronounce the more impartially upon it, by renouncing, on that score, all pretenfions to fame. Let us, therefore, invefțigate the value of learning; and to this end, first, make fome remarks for properly stating its worth; then fet that value in its proper light; and, laftly, 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 fatisfying the first wants of nature; all knowledge and sciences that

are

« PreviousContinue »