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within that they confine themselves, and are dexterous managers enough of the wares and products of that corner with which they content themselves, but will not venture out into the great ocean of knowledge, to survey the riches that nature hath stored other parts with, no less genuine, no less solid, no less useful, than what has fallen to their lot in the admired plenty and sufficiency of their own little spot, which to them contains whatsoever is good in the universe. Those who live thus mewed up within their own contracted territories, and will not look abroad beyond the boundaries that chance, conceit, or laziness, has set to their inquiries, but live separate from the notions, discourses, and attainments of the rest of mankind, may not amiss be represented by the inhabitants of the Marian Islands, which, being separated by a large tract of sea from all communion with the habitable parts of the earth, thought themselves the only people of the world. And though the straitness and conveniences of life amongst them had never reached so far as to the use of fire, till the Spaniards, not many years since, in their voyages from Acapulco to Manilla brought it amongst them, yet, in the want and ignorance of almost all things, they looked upon themselves, even after that the Spaniards had brought amongst them the notice of variety of nations abounding in sciences, arts, and conveniences of life, of which they knew nothing, they looked upon themselves, I say, as the happiest and wisest people in the universe.
. Injudicious Haste in Study. The eagerness and strong bent of the mind after knowledge, if not warily regulated, is often a hindrance to it. It still presses into farther discoveries and new objects, and catches at the variety of knowledge, and therefore often stays not long enough on what is before it, to look into it as it should, for haste to pursue what is yet out of sight. He that rides post through a country may be able, from the transient view, to tell in general how the parts lie, and may be able to give some loose description of here a mountain and there a plain, here a morass and there a river; woodland in one part and savannahs in another. Such superficial ideas and observations as these he may collect in galloping over it; but the more useful observations of the soil, plants, animals, and inhabitants, with their several sorts and properties, must necessarily escape him ; and it is seldom that men ever discover the rich mines without some digging. Nature commonly lodges her treasures and jewels in rocky ground. If the matter be knotty, and the sense lies deep, the mind must stop and buckle to it, and stick upon it with labour and thought, and close contemplation, and not leave it until it has mastered the difficulty and got possession of truth. But here care must be taken to avoid the other extreme: a man must not stick at every useless nicety, and expect mysteries of science in every trivial question or scruple that he may raise. He that will stand to pick up and examine every pebble that comes in his way, is as unlikely to return enriched and laden with jewels, as the other that travelled full speed. Truths are not the better nor the worse for their obviousness or difficulty, but their value is to be measured by their usefulness and tendency. Insignificant observations should not take up any of our minutes; and those that enlarge our view, and give light towards further and useful discoveries, should not be neglected, though they stop our course, and spend some of our time in a fixed attention.
Fading of Ideas from the Mind. Ideas quickly fade, and often vanish quite out of the understanding, leaving no more footsteps or remaining characters of themselves than shadows do flying over a field of corn. The memory of some men is very tenacious, even to a miracle; but yet there seems to be a constant decay of all our ideas, even of those which are struck deepest, and in minds the most retentive; so that if they be not sometimes renewed by repeated exercise of the senses, or reflection on those kind of objects which at first occasioned then, the print wears out, and at last there remains nothing to be seen. Thus the ideas, as well as children of our youth, often die before us; and our minds represent to us those tombs to which we are approaching, where though the brass and marble remain, yet the inscriptions are effaced by time, and the imagery moulders away. Pictures drawn in our minds are laid in fading colours, and, unless sometimes refreshed, vanish and disappear. How much the constitution of our bodies and the make of our animal spirits are concerned in this, and whether the temper of the brain makes this difference, that in
some it retains the characters drawn on it like marble, in others like freestone, and in others little better than sand, I shall not here inquire; though it may seem probable that the constitution of the body does sometimes influence the memory; since we oftentimes find a disease quite strip the mind of all its ideas, and the flames of a fever in a few days calcine all those images to dust and confusion, which seemed to be as lasting as if graved in marble.
(ROBERT BOYLE is generally spoken of in the same connexion with John Locke and Sir Isaac Newton. These three illustrious philosophers, who adorned the latter part of the seventeenth century, were distinguished not only by their various and great contributions to science, but by the simplicity and excellence of their personal character, and their ardent devotion to the interests of virtue and religion. The works of Boyle were very numerous. They form indeed no less than six crowded quarto volumes. Many of his works appeared originally among the Transactions of the Royal Society, in which he was among the most efficient of the early members. The titles of those works of Boyle which are most likely to attract the general reader, are Considerations on the Usefulness of Experimental Philosophy ; Considerations on the style of the Holy Scriptures ; A free discourse against Customary Swearing; Considerations about the Reconcilableness of Reason and Religion, and the Possibility of a Resurrection; A Discourse of Things above Reason ; A Discourse of the High Veneration Man's Intellect owes to God, particular for his Wisdom and Power ; A Disquisition into the Final Causes of Natural Things; The Christian Virtuoso, and A Treatise of Seraphic Love.]
The Study of Natural Philosophy favourable to
Religion. The first advantage that our experimental philosopher, as such, hath towards being a Christian, is, that his course of studies conduceth much to settle in his mind a firm belief of the existence, and divers of the chief attributes of God; which belief is, in the order of things, the first principle of that natural religion which itself is pre-required to revealed religion in general, and consequently to that in particular which is embraced by Christians.
That the consideration of the vastness, beauty, and regular motions of the heavenly bodies, the excellent structure of animals, and plants, besides a multitude of other phenomena of nature, and the subserviency of most of these to man, may justly induce him, as a rational creature, to conclude that this vast, beautiful, orderly, and (in a word) many ways admirable system of things, that we call the world, was framed by an author supremely powerful, wise and good, can scarce be denied by an intelligent and unprejudiced considerer. And this is strongly confirmed by experience, which witnesseth, that in almost all ages and countries the generality of philosophers and contemplative men were persuaded of the existence of a Deity, by the consideration of the phenomena of the universe, whose fabric and conduct, they rationally concluded, could not be deservedly ascribed either to blind chance, or to any other cause than a divine Being.
But though it be true “ that God hath not left himself without witness,” even to perfunctory considerers,