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ledge, and very little taste; and it is astonishing that a man so eminently endowed with knowledge could set his heart upon them. The second may more easily impose on an enlightened and generous mind. In the first class I place riches, grandeur and voluptuousness, with all their appendages. If these be, as they certainly are, the most common idols of mankind, it is for a reason inglorious to them, it is because most men have very little knowledge, and very little taste.
The world hath phantoms more specious, life hath charms more capable of seducing a generous heart, and of imposing on a liberal mind. I put these into three classes. In the first I put the advantages of science—in the second the pleasures of friendship in the third the privileges, I mean the temporal privileges, of virtue and heroism. I will endeavor to unmask these three figures, and to prove that the very dispositions, which should contribute most to the pleasures of life, mental abilities, tenderness of heart, rectitude and delicacy of conscience are actually dispositions, which contribute most of all to imbitter life.
1. If ever possessions could make men happy, Solomon must certainly have been the happiest of mankind. Imagine the most proper and the most effectual means of acquiring knowledge, joined to an avidity to obtain it, both were united in the person of this prince. We, individuals, when we have received from heaven abilities for science, we generally want assistance to cultivate them. What individual is able to send emissaries into different climates to make observations to perfect geography, physic, astronomy, botany, navigation? An individual, to make collections, to ascertain reports, to procure materials, must carry on works, which in a word, more properly belong to the
beasts of burden of the learned world than to bimself, whose time should be better employed in exercising, and improving his own natural abilities. An individual seldom hath it in his power to gain access to the museums of great men, and to procure the productions of their pens, or to consult the oracles that proceed from their mouths. An individual is often condemned to turn the studies that naturally employ his liberal mind into a mercenary trade the only means of providing bread for himself and his family. In some protestant states youth are but half educated for want of endowments, and people choose rather to pluck the unripe fruits of the finest genius than to furnish him with the means of bringing them to perfection. A king, a rich king like Solomon, is free from all these difficulties. He hath all the assistance necessary to the cultivation of his mind, and to the full gratification of his avidity for science. He saith, what perhaps you have not sufficiently ob. served, I turned myself to behold wisdom, that is, I applied myself to the sciences, and what can the man do that cometh after the king? chap. ii. 12. That is who will ever have such innumerable means of acquiring and perfecting knowledge as those, with which royal advantages furnish me?
Accordingly the world was filled with the science of this prince, and his science hath given occasion to a great many fabulous histories. . To him hath been attributed a book entitled the contradiction of Solomon, condemned by pope Gelasius, and other works named enchantments, clavicula, necromanci, ideas, neomenia, letters to king Hiram. Some ancient fathers thought, that the pagan philosophers had read his writings, and that Aristotle in particular had taken his history of animals from the works of this prince. Josephus says, that he composed a book of charms to heal the incurable, and that one Eleazar, a Jew, had found in it a secret, by which he freed a person from possession, a reverie mentioned by Origen. The schoolmen have agitated a great many indiscreet questions concerning the science of Solomon, and have inquired, whether he were more learned than the angels and the virgin Mary; and they have persuaded themselves not only that he was a great poet, a great physician, and a great astronomer, but also that he understood all the mysteries of the theology of the schools, and was well acquainted with the doctrine of transubstantiation.
We have better evidence of the science of Solomon than these visionaries. The scripture itself informs us, that God gave him a wise and an understanding heart, so that there was none like him before, neither after him should any arise unto him, 1 Kings iii. 12. that he was wiser, that is a greater philosopher, than all the children of the east country, and all the Egyptians, chap. iv. 30, 31. By the children of the east we understand the Arabian philosophers, Chaldeans and the Persians so famous for their erudition, and particularly for their profound knowledge of astronomy. He was wiser than all the Egyplians, that is, the most consummate doctors of Egypt, a country famous in the time of Moses for its literature, called by the pagans the mother of arts, and who boasted that they first of all men knew how to take dimensions of the stars, and to calculate their motions, as Macrobius, Diodorus of Sicily, and many other authors affirm. The scripture saith that Solomon was wiser than Etham, Heman, Chalcol, and Darda ; names which the Jews understand in a mystical sense, meaning by Ethan Abraham, by Heman Moses, and by Chalcol Joseph. The
scripture saith further, that he composed three thousand proverbs, and a thousand and five songs: that he spake of trees, from the cedar tree that is in Lebanon even unto the hyssop, that springeth out of the wall, also of beasts, and of fowl, and of every creeping things, and of fishes, ver. 32, 33. Some of these works are a part of the canon of scripture, but the rest are lost.
Now what saith this great man concerning science ? He acknowledgeth indeed that it was preferable to ignorance, the wise man's eyes, saith he, are in his head, that is a man of education is in possession of some prudential maxims to regulate his life, whereas an illiterate man walketh in darkness, but yet saith he it happeneth even to me, as it happeneth to the fool, and why was I then wise? ver. 15. And again, the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing ; for in much wisdom is much grief, and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow, chap. i. 8, 18. So again, in another place, after he had proposed some rules for the government of life, he adds, My son be admonished by these, for of making many books there is no end, und much study is a weariness of the flesh, chap. xii. 12. I wish I could weigh every expression." Observe however two imperfections of science.
1. Observe first the little progress made in science by those, who pursue it to the highest pitch. As they advance in this immense field they discover, shall I say new extents, or new abysses, which they can never fathom. The more they nourish themselves with this rich pasture, the more keen do their appetites become. The eye is never satisfied with seeing, nor the ear with hearing, and of making many books there is no end.
2. Remark next the little justice done in the world to such as excel inost in science. He that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow, and it happeneth even to me as it happeneth to a fool. Yes! after you have spent all your youth, after you have impaired your health, after you have spent yourfortune to improve yourown mind, and to enable you to improve those of other men, it will happen even to you as it happeneth to a fool. You will be told, that sciences have nothing in them that deserve the attention of a man of quality. A man of mean extraction, who carries himself like a lord, will tell you that a man of birth ought to aspire at something more noble than meditating on questions of law, studying cases of conscience, and explaining holy scripture. You will be told, that there is not half the knowledge required to sparkle in political bodies, and to decide on a bench, the lives, and fortunes, and honors of mankind. Presumptuous youths will judge, and without appeal condemn your discourses and your publications, and will pronounce with decisive tone, this is not solid, that is superficial ! The superiority of your understanding will raise up against you a world of ignorant people, who will say, that you corrupt the youth, because you would guard them against prejudice; that you stab orthodoxy, because you endeavor to heal the wounds, which pedantry and intolerance have given it ; that you trouble society, because you endeavor to purify morality, and to engage the great as well as the small, magistrates as well as people to submit to its holy laws. They will prefer before you both in the state and in the church novices, who are hardly fit to be your disciples.