Saturday, November 01, 2008

I had no idea what a gem I had found in Isaac Watt’s book titled “Improving the Mind”, I have since read up on him and found out he was a prolific writer, not only of Christian hymns, which he wrote over 750, but he also wrote many other books and his book on Logic became the standard text on logic at Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard and Yale; being used at Oxford University for well over 100 years. The following excerpt is so timely with elections so close at hand, but I think every one should take this piece to heart as they engage in conversation, whether it is politics, religion or what ever topic they enter in. I have heard some strange conversations regarding the elections this year, from “Thus saith The Lord” emphatically prophesied by some, to hateful outbursts by those unwilling to entertain a thought outside their opinion. This of course is normal dialogue for some in sharing their faith; so, hopefully this will give us some practical guidelines to consider.

Nor is it every sober person of your acquaintance, no, nor every man of bright talents, or rich in learning, that is fit to engage in free conversation for the inquiry after truth. Let a person have ever so illustrious talents, yet he is not a proper associate for such a purpose, if he lie under any of the following infirmities:

1. If he be haughty and proud of his knowledge, imperious in his airs, and is always fond of imposing his sentiments on all the company.

2. If he be positive and dogmatical in his own opinions, and will dispute to the end; if he will resist the brightest evidence of truth rather than suffer himself to be overcome, or yield to the plainest and strongest reasonings.

3. If he be one who always affects to outshine all the company, and delights to hear himself talk or flourish upon a subject, and make long harangues, while the rest must be all silent and attentive.

4. If he be fretful and peevish, and given to resentment upon all occasions; if he knows not how to bear contradiction, or is ready to take things in a wrong sense; if he is swift to feel a supposed offence, or to imagine himself affronted, and then break out into a sudden passion, or retain silent and sullen wrath.

5. If he affect wit on all occasions, and is full of his conceits and puns, quirks or quibbles, jests and repartees; these may agreeably entertain and animate an hour of mirth, but they have no place in the search after truth.

6. If he carry always about him a sort of craft, and cunning, and disguise, and act rather like a spy than a friend. Have care of such a one as will make an ill use of freedom in conversation, and immediately charge heresy upon you, when you happen to differ from those sentiments which authority or custom has established.

In short, you should avoid the man, in such select conversation, who practices anything that is unbecoming the character of a sincere, free, and open searcher of truth.”

Photo by Jose Miguel Rodriguez


ForHisSake said...

This is both wise counsel and at the same time a discouraging reality that if applied basically means that there are probably few "fit to engage" in free conversation; because there seems to be few who have a sincere, free, and open desire for truth.

I can personally tolerate all personalities and temperaments no matter how strong or immature in their approach, as long as the motivation behind the discussion is a desire for the truth and I am always blessed when others tolerate me for the same reasons.

That is why self examination is so critical. I am only responsible and in control of “why I am engaging”. I can never be certain of the motivations of others. I must always be honest with myself and constantly ask “Why am I doing this?” Watt’s “check-list” is a great tool for “self-examination” and is perhaps best applied to test ourselves instead of others.

Thank you for sharing this.

ForHisSake said...

Fred - The image you choose was so illustrative of "Pride". It reminded me of a quote I recently posted by C.H. Spurgeon. I think you will like it.

"There are some weeds that will grow anywhere; and one of them is Pride. Pride will grow on a rock as well as in a garden. Pride will grow in the heart of a shoe-black as well as in the heart of an alderman. And pride will grow in the pulpit. It is a weed that is dreadfully rampant. It needs cutting down every week, or else we should stand up to our knees in it."

Blessings to you and your family.

Joseph Pulikotil said...

Hi Fred :)

Very interesting and educative post.
He must have carefully studied many obnoxious and detestable people before making these observations.

Many thanks for sharing.

Have a wonderful day :)

FCB said...

Hi D.L.,
I have to say, that quote by Spurgeon sums it up in large part.
God Bless.

Hi Joseph,
I think you're right, he must have carefully studied behaviors to have such keen insight.
Thanks for your comments,