Saturday, October 25, 2008

I went to an antique fair today and ran across a book by Isaac Watts titled “The Improvement of the Mind”. I think the first chapter, in principle, ties in with my previous post on Billy Graham. It is longer than I would like, so if you choose not to read it, at least read the last paragraphs –

General Rules for Mental Improvement.

Deeply possess your mind with the vast importance of a good judgment, and the rich and inestimable advantage of right reasoning. Review the instances of your own misconduct in life; think seriously with yourselves how many follies and sorrow you had escaped, and how much guilt and misery you had prevented, if, from your early years, you had but taken due pains to judge aright concerning persons, times, and things. This will awaken you with lively vigor to address yourselves to the work of improving your reasoning powers, and seizing every opportunity and advantage for that end……..
Remember this, that if, upon some few superficial acquirements, you value, and swell yourself as though you were a man of learning already, you are thereby building a most impassable barrier against all improvement; you will lie down and indulge idleness, and rest yourself contented in the midst of deep and shameful ignorance……..
Let the hope of new discoveries, as well as the satisfaction and pleasure of known truths, animate your daily industry. Do not think learning in general is arrived at its perfection, or that the knowledge of any particular subject in any science cannot be improved, merely because it has lain for five hundred or a thousand years without improvement. The present age, by the blessing of God on the ingenuity and diligence of men, has brought to light such truths in natural philosophy, and such discoveries in the heavens and the earth, as seemed to be beyond the reach of man. ……
Nor should a student of divinity imagine that our age is arrived at a full understanding of everything which can be known by the Scriptures. Every age since the Reformation has thrown some further light on difficult texts and paragraphs of the Bible, which have been long obscured by the early rise of antichrist; and since there are at present many difficulties and darkness’s hanging about certain truths of the Christian religion, and since several of these relate to important doctrines, such as the origin of sin, the fall of Adam, the person of Christ, the blessed Trinity, and the decrees of God, etc. which do still embarrass the minds of honest and inquiring readers, and which make work for noisy controversy, it is certain there are several things in the Bible yet unknown, and not sufficiently explained, and it is certain that there is some way to solve these difficulties, and to reconcile these seeming contradictions. …..

Maintain a constant watch at all times against a dogmatical spirit; fix not your assent to any proposition in a firm and unalterable manner, till you have some firm and unalterable ground for it, and till you have arrived at some clear and sure evidence; till you have turned the proposition on all sides, and searched the matter through and through, so that you cannot be mistaken. And even when you may think you have full grounds of assurance, be not too early nor too frequent in expressing this assurance in too peremptory and positive a manner, remembering that human nature is always liable to mistake in this corrupt and feeble state. A dogmatical spirit has many inconveniences attending it.
It stops the ear against all further reasoning upon that subject, and shuts up the mind from all further improvements of knowledge. If you have resolutely fixed your opinion, though it be upon too slight and insufficient grounds, yet you will stand determined to renounce the strongest reason brought for the contrary opinion, and grow obstinate against the force of the clearest argument.
A dogmatical spirit naturally leads us to arrogance of mind, and gives a man some airs in conversation, which are too haughty and assuming.
A dogmatical spirit inclines a man to be censorious of his neighbors. Every one of his opinions appears to him written, as it were, with sunbeams, and he grows angry that his neighbor does not see it in the same light. He is tempted to disdain his correspondents as men of a low and dark understanding, because they will not believe what he does….
….They cast the imputation of heresy and nonsense plentifully upon their antagonists; and, in matters of sacred importance, they deal out their anathemas in abundance upon Christians better than themselves; they denounce damnation upon their neighbors without either justice or mercy; and when they pronounce sentence of Divine wrath against supposed heretics, they add their own human fire and indignation. A dogmatist in religion is not a great way off from a bigot, and is in high danger of growing up to be a bloody persecutor.”

Painting by Sir William Alma-Tadema


Joseph Pulikotil said...

Hi Fred :)

Excellent post!

A great study and analysis of how people normally behave. It contains plenty of useful lessons to better ourselves in the eyes of God.

Many thanks for sharing.

Best wishes :)

FCB said...

Hi Joseph,
Thanks for your comments. I have already gotten my 15 dollars out of this book. Like you said, "plenty of useful lessons..."
Warmest affections,