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has passed a few hours in going through the proofs, by facts and reasoning, of some of the great doctrines in Natural Science, learning truths wholly new to him, and satisfying himself by careful examination of the grounds on which known truths rest, so as to be not only acquainted with the doctrines themselves, but able to show why he believes them, and to prove before others that they are true ;-he will find as great a difference as can exist in the same being, -the difference between looking back upon time unprofitably wasted, and time spent in self-improvement: he will feel himself in the one case listless and dissatisfied, in the other comfortable and happy: in the one case, if he do not appear to himself humbled, at least he will not have earned any claim to his own respect; in the other case, he will enjoy a proud consciousness of having, by his own exertions, become a wiser and therefore a more exalted
To pass our time in the study of the sciences, in learning what others have discovered, and in extending the bounds of human knowledge, has, in all ages, been reckoned the most dignified and happy of human occupations; and the name of Philosopher, or Lover of Wisdom, is given to those who lead such a life. But it is
by no means necessary that a man should do nothing else than study known truths, and explore new, in order to earn this high title. Some of the greatest Philosophers, in all ages, have been engaged in the pursuits of active life; and an assiduous devotion of the bulk of our time to the work which our condition requires, is an important duty, and indicates the possession of practical wisdom. This, however, does by no means hinder us from applying the rest of our time, beside what nature requires for meals and rest, to the study of science; and he who, in whatever station his lot may be cast, works his day's work, and improves his mind in the evening, as well as he who, placed above such necessity, prefers the refined and elevating pleasures of knowledge, to the low gratification of the senses, richly deserves the name of a True Philosopher.
One of the most delightful treats which science affords us is the knowledge of the extraordinary powers with which the human mind is endowed. No man, until he has studied philosophy, can have a just idea of the great things for which Providence has fitted his understanding—the extraordinary disproportion which there is between his natural strength, and the powers of his mind, and the force he
derives from them. When we survey the marvellous truths of Astronomy, we are first of all lost in the feeling of immense space, and of the comparative insignificance of this globe and its inhabitants. But there soon arises a sense of gratification and of new wonder, at perceiving how so insignificant a creature has been able to reach such a knowledge of the unbounded system of the universe—to penetrate, as it were, through all space, and become familiar with the laws of nature at distances so enormous as baffle our imagination—to be able to say, not merely that the Sun has 329,630 times the quantity of matter which our globe has, Jupiter 3081, and Saturn 931 times; but that a pound of lead weighs at the Sun 22 lbs. 15 ozs. 16 dwts. 8 grs. and of a grain! at Jupiter 2 lbs. 1 oz. 19 dwts. 1 gr.if ; and at Saturn 1 lb. 3 ozs. 8 dwts. 20 grs. 1 part of a grain! And what is far more wonderful, to discover the laws by which the whole of this vast system is held together, and maintained through countless ages in perfect security and order. It is surely no mean reward of our labour to become acquainted with the prodigious genius of those who have almost exalted the nature of man above its destined sphere, when, admitted to a fellowship with these loftier minds, we discover how it comes to pass that, by universal consent,
they hold a station apart, rising over all the Great Teachers of mankind, and spoken of reverently, as if Newton and LAPLACE were not the names of mortal men.
The highest of all our gratifications in the contemplations of science remains : we are raised by them to an understanding of the infinite wisdom and goodness which the Creator has displayed in his works. Not a step can we take in any direction, without perceiving the most extraordinary traces of design; and the skill everywhere conspicuous, is calculated, in so vast a proportion of instances, to promote the happiness of living creatures, and especially of our own kind, that we can feel no hesitation in concluding that, if we knew the whole scheme of Providence, every part would be found in harmony with a plan of absolute benevolence. Independently, however, of this most consoling inference, the delight is inexpressible of being able to follow, as it were, with our eyes, the marvellous works of the Great Architect of Nature—to trace the unbounded power and exquisite skill which are exhibited in the most minute, as well as the mightiest parts of his system. The pleasure derived from this study is unceasing, and so various, that it never tires the appetite. But it is unlike the low gratifi
cations of sense in another respect : while those hurt the health, debase the understanding, and corrupt the feelings, this elevates and refines our nature, teaching us to look upon all earthly objects as insignificant and below our notice, except the pursuit of knowledge and the cultivation of virtue; and giving a dignity and importance to the enjoyment of life, which the frivolous and the grovelling cannot even comprehend.
Let us, then, conclude, that the Pleasures of Science go hand in hand with the solid benefits derived from it; that they tend, unlike other gratifications, not only to make our lives more agreeable, but better ; and that a rational being is bound, by every motive of interest and of duty, to direct his mind towards pursuits which are found to be the sure path of Virtue as well as of happiness.