網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

Choose well

your

instruments.
Apply them rightly.
Prefer attraction to force.

Employ personal application. My uncle sometimes made his remarks on very trifling things, which, nevertheless, served to fix on our minds, lessons of practical wisdom that were applicable to greater matters.

One day, when I was a very little boy, there were green peas on the table. I was helped to some peas, but being furnished only with a two-pronged fork, as fast as I loaded my fork, and attempted to raise it to my mouth, the peas slipped through, thus tantalizing my expectations, and, moreover, rolling on the damask table-cloth, or the Turkey carpet. My uncle observing my embarrassment, kindly desired the footman to supply me with a more suitable article for bringing the favourite vegetable into contact with the palate. He said it was “ like eating hasty pudding with a knittingneedle.” The reader is most likely aware, that hasty pudding is of a consistence similar to that of thick gruel. Judge, then, kind reader, how long it would take for a hungry man or boy to satisfy himself, if he had no more convenient means for bearing it to his mouth than a knitting-needle. My uncle's homely, but correct illustration, has often recurred to my mind, when I have attempted, or seen other people attempting, to effect any purpose with a very unsuitable instrument.

The remark applies to the employment of intelligent agents, and to the pursuit of knowledge. Every rational creature is fit for something, but not fit for every thing. It is the part of wisdom to ascertain for what we are best adapted, and to employ

our energies accordingly. Knowledge is in itself valuable, but there are some kinds of knowledge better adapted than others to fit us for the station we have to fill, and the duties we have to perform; and that is best which is most suitable to us. Parents sometimes make a great mistake in the education of their children ; bestowing a great deal of time, property, and labour, on the attainment of knowledge, which, in all probability, will be of little or no use to them in future life; while such knowledge as is really essential to their respectability, success, and usefulness, is comparatively, if not altogether, neglected. Is not this the case when the farmer's or tradesman's daughter, who will, in all probability, be one day a farmer's or a tradesman's wife, spends years in learning French, music, and embroidery, while she grows up ignorant of arithmetic, domestic business, and needlework? And is it not much the same with the classical studies, as they are called, of lads designed to stand behind the counter? A thorough acquaintance with their own language—with practical arithmetic—with men and things—and with the book, and works, and ways of God, would have been ten times more valuable in fitting them for future life, than all the Greek, and Latin, and heathen mythology to which the attention of boys is often exclusively directed.

My uncle once mentioned having heard an excellent, but somewhat eccentric minister, in his counsels to a young brother, urge upon him to regulate his studies with reference to his great work, and the character of his preaching, to the capacity and character of his flock. By way of illustrating his argument, he spoke of going into a cutler's shop

[ocr errors]

to purchase a knife, and supposed the cutler inquiring of his customer what sort of knife he wanted—for, says he, we have pen-knives and pruning-knives, and butcher's knives, and currier's knives—it is not every knife that will suit every purpose. “The knowledge required for your purpose, my young brother,” said the aged minister, “is a knowledge of the Bible and of human nature: any other kind of knowledge that you may attempt to substitute for these, will be as unsuitable and useless in your work, as if the schoolmaster should attempt to make pens with a hatchet, or the woodman to fell timber with a penknife.” So, whatever work we undertake, it is wise to furnish ourselves with suitable instruments.

We may sometimes be called to take the lead of others. In that case, it is no mean evidence of practical wisdom, to assign to each the part which he is best qualified to fill. Without this discrimination and division of labour according to individual fitness, a whole concern is often thrown into confusion-one department of labour is crowded, and another deserted. Persons who might have been very useful in their own sphere, become positively mischievous when meddling with matters which they do not understand, while they neglect others for which they were qualified : and thus the undertaking is either left unfinished and altogether abandoned, or, if persevered in, the results are of a very imperfect and unsatisfactory kind. Much labour and expense are needlessly bestowed, and very little real advantage and usefulness obtained. A gentleman about to engage in an important enterprise, applied to three friends, and inquired what co-operation he might expect from them.

The reply was, “T. N. will give advice, T. P. will give money, J. B. will give personal assistance.” Thus, each contributed according to his own order. The assistance of each was valuable of its kind, and the work was happily effected. So it was in the rearing of the tabernacle of old. All could not give gold or silver ; but some who had not these costly metals at command, had skill, and wrought willingly with their hands : and their ingenuity and industry were as usefully employed, and as acceptably consecrated, as the costly gifts of the wealthy. Thus the great Proprietor of all adapts his instruments to the work which he has appointed for them to perform.

“ God gives to every man
The virtue, temper, understanding, taste,
That lifts him into life, and lets him fall

Just in the niche he was ordain'd to fill.” My uncle's second rule was, “ Apply them rightly.” It is not merely bringing in contact the fit instrument with the material to be wrought upon; there are generally two ways of handling a tool, a right way and a wrong. He that attempts to cut with the back of a knife will fail in his object, and cut his fingers. He that has a heavy body to move, may knock and push till he wearies himself, and breaks the stick with which he makes the vain attempt ; but which, had he slid it under as a lever, would have easily raised the body, and made its own weight subservient to its removal. The same strength and patience, that, rightly applied, would suffice to loosen a knot, if misdirected, only tighten it. Thus, too, rational beings may be laid hold of the wrong way; and those who might have been useful are rendered mis

chievous, by calling into exercise their bad feelings and passions, instead of their best. Thus, an appeal to the vanity, self-love, or emulation of children, though it may lead them to perform an action right in itself, entirely alters the property of that action, both in its influence on themselves, and its tendency to usefulness.

My uncle's third rule was, “Attraction is better than force.I remember the occasion on which he made this remark. My cousin, Mrs. Mortimer, was visiting there with her first baby, a lively little creature, who used to be laid on the carpet or hearth-rug to kick and crawl about. The nursemaid stood by to watch him, with her needlework in her hand. She happened to break her needle, and let it fall on the rug where the child was playing. My cousin caught up the child, and carefully inspected his clothes, lest the needle should be lodged in them; meanwhile the servant was hunting the rug and carpet. One end of the needle was found, but the other still escaped detection. The baby struggled again to get down to his playthings, but his mother would by no means consent to put him down, until the broken needle was found. The rug was taken out of the room, and beaten ; but as the needle had not been actually found, my cousin could not be satisfied, although most of the persons present said there was no doubt it had been shaken out. At length a happy thought occurred to Frank. He took from his pocket a magnet, and drew it a few times across the

rug

The obedient steel acknowledged the attractive power, and started up from its woolly labyrinth, to the great satisfaction of my cousin, as well as that of her son, who was safely and

« 上一頁繼續 »