Page images

the machine or the animal may ever be of the least use to yourself practically; for, in all probability, you may never see them again. But you have a curiosity to learn all about them, because they are new and unknown. You accordingly make inquiries; you feel a gratification in getting answers to your questions, that is, in receiving information, and in knowing more,-in being better informed than you were before. If you ever happen again so see the same instrument or animal, you find it agreeable to recollect having seen it formerly, and to think that you know something about it. If you see another instrument or animal, in some respects like, but differing in other particulars, you find it pleasing to compare them together, and to note in what they agree, and in what they differ. Now, all this kind of gratification is of a pure and disinterested nature, and has no reference to any of the common purposes of life; yet it is a pleasure-an enjoyment. You are nothing the richer for it; you do not gratify your palate or any other bodily appetite ; and yet it is so pleasing, that you would give something out of your pocket to obtain it, and would forego some bodily enjoyment for its sake. The pleasure derived from Science is exactly of the like nature, or, rather, it is the very same. For what has just been referred to is, in fact, Science,

which in its most comprehensive sense only means Knowledge, and in its ordinary sense means Knowledge reduced to a System; that is, arranged in a regular order, so as to be conveniently taught, easily remembered, and readily applied.

The practical uses of any science or branch of knowledge are undoubtedly of the highest importance; and there is hardly any man who may not gain some positive advantage in his worldly wealth and comforts, by increasing his stock of information. But there is also a pleasure in seeing the uses to which knowledge may be applied, wholly independent of the share we ourselves may have in those practical benefits. It is pleasing to examine the nature of a new instrument, or the habits of an unknown animal, without considering whether or not they may ever be of use to ourselves or to any body. It is another gratification to extend our inquiries, and find that the instrument or animal is useful to man, even although we have no chance ourselves of ever benefiting by the information : as, to find that the natives of some distant country employ the animal in travelling: -nay, though we have no desire of benefiting by the knowledge; as for example, to find that the instrument is useful in performing some

dangerous surgical operation. The mere gratification of curiosity; the knowing more to-day than we knew yesterday; the understanding clearly what before seemed obscure and puzzling; the contemplation of general truths, and the comparing together of different things-is an agreeable occupation of the mind; and, beside the present enjoyment, elevates the faculties above low pursuits, purifies and refines the passions, and helps our reason to assuage their violence.

Man is composed of two parts, body and mind, connected indeed together, but wholly different from one another. The nature of the union--the part of our outward and visible frame in which it is peculiarly formed-or whether the soul be indeed connected or not with any particular portion of the body, so as to reside there are points as yet wholly hid from our knowledge, and which are likely to remain for ever concealed. But this we know, as certainly as we can know any truth, that there is such a thing as the mind; and that we have, at the least, as good proof of its existence, independent of the body, as we have of the existence of the body itself. Each has its uses, and each has its peculiar gratifications.

The bounty of Providence has given us outward senses to be employed, and has furnished the means of gratifying them in various kind, and in ample measure. As long as we only taste those pleasures, according to the rules of prudence and of our duty, that is, in moderation for our own sakes, and in harmlessness towards our neighbours, we fulfil rather than thwart the purpose of our being. But the same bountiful Providence has endowed us with the higher nature also with understandings as well as with senses-with faculties that are of a more exalted order, and admit of more refined enjoyments, than any the bodily frame can minister; and by pursuing such gratifications, rather than those of mere sense, we fulfil the most exalted ends of our creation, and obtain both a present and a future reward. These things are often said, but they are not, therefore, the less true, or the less worthy of deep attention. Let us mark their practical application to the occupations and enjoyments of all branches of society, beginning with those who form the great bulk of every community, the working classes, by what names soever their vocations may be called-professions, arts, trades, handicrafts, or common labour.

The first object of every man who has to

depend upon his own exertions, must needs be to provide for his daily wants. This is a high and important office; it deserves his utmost attention; it includes some of his most sacred duties, both to himself, his kindred, and his country; and, although, in performing this task, he is only influenced by a regard to his own interest, or by his necessities, yet it is an employment which renders him truly the best benefactor of the community to which he belongs. All other pursuits must give way to this; the hours which he devotes to learning must be after he has done his work; his independence, without which he is not fit to be called a man, requires first of all that he should have ensured for himself, and those dependent on him, a comfortable subsistence, before he can have a right to taste any indulgence, either of his senses or of his mind; and the more he learns--the greater progress he makes in the sciences the more will he value that independence, and the more will he prize the industry, the habits of regular labour, whereby he is enabled to secure so prime a blessing.

In one view, it is true, the progress which he makes in science may help his ordinary exertions, the main business of every man's life. There is hardly any trade or occupation in

« PreviousContinue »