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SERMON III.*

PROVERBS xix. 2. That the soul be without knowledge, it is not good.

AMONG the benefits resulting from a due cultivation of the intellectual

powers,

it

may be questioned, whether those which accrue to the individual possessor, or those which the community at large derive from them, be of the greater value. Certain it is, that the advantages on both sides are reciprocal ; that whatever of good is experienced in the sonal acquisition of knowledge, diffuses itself, more or less perceptibly, through the entire mass of society; while the improvement thence communicated to the public is reflected back upon

the possessor in a proportionate degree. A double motive, therefore, is presented for labouring after those attainments, which not only adorn and dignify our nature, but mul

per

a Preached in the Cathedral Church of St. Paul, June 8, 1820, at the yearly Meeting of the Children educated in the Charity Schools in and about the Cities of London and Westminster.

tiply the sources of rational enjoyment, and lay the surest foundation of social and of personal well-being.

The Royal Preacher largely descants upon the influence of Wisdom and Knowledge in both these respects.

He ascribes to them the true honour of states and of individuals, public welfare and private worth, every thing which gives preeminence to the one, or stability to the other.

The concurrent voice of mankind has confirmed these sentiments. They who have made the largest acquisitions of human knowledge will, indeed, be the most ready to confess its limits and its imperfections : but for such measure of it as they have found to be attainable, they will never cease to be thankful. Like the “ merchant-man seeking goodly

pearls,” they will sell all that they have to purchase it, nor will they exchange it for any other treasure that the world can give.

But, in forming this judgment of the worth of Knowledge, we shall dangerously err, unless we affix to it the same meaning, and assign to it the same modifications, which are attached to it by Solomon himself. In his writings, Knowledge then only becomes the subject of eulogy, when associated with that

a Matt. xiii.

45

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RELIGIOUS PRINCIPLE, which stamps its real value. Separated from this, he affirms, that “ in much wisdom is much grief; and he that “ increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow So invariably does he blend Religion with Knowledge, and Irreligion with Ignorance, as to render them almost convertible terms. Nor is this peculiar to the Royal Preacher. It is common to all the Sacred Penmen; and forms a marked distinction between the writings composed under the influence of Divine Inspiration, and those which have no higher pretensions than human authority.

With this clue to its interpretation, the maxim in the Text offers an important subject of inquiry, not unsuitable to the present occasion. It leads to the consideration of two points immediately connected with the design of such charitable Institutions as those which we are now assembled to promote; the evils of Ignorance,—and the means of removing those evils :-“ That the soul be “ without knowledge, it is not good.”

That Solomon had in contemplation the state of those, whose lowly circumstances in life debar them from the ordinary opportunities of acquiring knowledge, may be inferred from the context. “Better is the poor

b Eccles. i. 18.

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“ that walketh in his integrity, than he that “ is perverse in his lips, and is a fool. Also, " that the soul be without knowledge, it is “ not good; and he that hasteth with his “ feet, sinneth. The foolishness of man per“ verteth his way, and his heart fretteth against the Lord c.

The honest simplicity of the unlettered Poor is here, in the first place, advantageously contrasted with the perverse ingenuity of those, who, possessing better means of improvement, misapply their talents or acquirements to evil purposes ; such men as those, of whom the Apostle affirms, that “profess

ing themselves to be wise, they become “ fools d.” But though uncorrupt Ignorance be thus preferable to perverted Knowledge, yet, says the Preacher, “ that the soul be “ without knowledge, it is not good :and he adds the reason;" he that hasteth with “ his feet, sinneth. The foolishness of man

perverteth his way, and his heart fretteth

against the Lord.” Through want of knowledge, and necessary discernment of what is good or evil for them, men act blindly and precipitately, and fall into destructive errors. And, when they have thus brought misery upon themselves, instead of acknowledging

c Vers. 1-3

d Rom. i. 22.

66

that their own folly has been the cause, their hearts “fret against the Lord;" they become fretful and discontented, arraign the dispensations of Providence, and readily yield to those temptations to evil, with which poverty and distress continually assail the undisciplined mind.

We are taught, then, the necessity of providing against the evils, not of Ignorance only, but also of false Knowledge :-of that Knowledge which “puffeth up,” but doth not

edify;" that which engenders rashness and presumption, but neither improves the judgment to avoid dangers, nor gives strength to overcome them. To combat both these evils is the great object of Christian Education.

Absolute Ignorance, whether or not it be a state of positive misery, is certainly not that state which the Almighty designed for man. The faculties bestowed upon us, the objects presented to our contemplation, the sources of instruction laid open to our view, the enjoyments of which we are made susceptible, all indicate the will of our Creator, that we should progressively advance in mental as in bodily strength, and receive, even in this life, a competency of intellectual and spiritual, as well as of animal gratification. If the means

e I Cor. viii. I.

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