Imatges de pÓgina
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PREFACE.

TH

HE Importance of Education is a Point fo generally understood and confeffed, that it would be of little ufe to attempt any new Proof or Illustration of its Neceffity and Advantages.

At a time when fo many Schemes of Education have been projected, fo many Propofals offered to the Public, fo many Schools opened for general Knowledge, and fo many Lectures in particular Sciences attended; at a time when Mankind seems intent rather upon familiarifing than enlarging the feveral Arts; and every Age, Sex, and Profeffion, is invited to an Acquaintance with those Studies, which were formerly fuppofed acceffible only to fuch as had devoted themselves to literary Leifure, and dedicated their Powers to philofophical Enquiries; it feems rather requifite that an Apology should be made, for any further Attempt to smooth a Path so frequently beaten, or to recommend Attainments fo ardently pursued, and fo officiously directed.

That this general Defire may not be frustrated, our Schools feem yet to want fome Book, which may excite Curiofity by its Variety, encourage Diligence by its Facility, and reward Application by its Usefulness. In examining the Treatifes hitherto offered to the Youth of this Nation, there appeared none that did not fail in one or other of thefe effential Qualities; none that were not either unpleafing, or abftrufe, or crouded with Learning very rarely applicable to the Purposes of common Life.

Every Man, who has been engaged in Teaching, knows with how much Difficulty youthful Minds are confined to clofe Application, and how readily they deviate to any thing, rather than attend to that which is imposed as a Task. That this Difpofition, when it becomes inconfiftent with the Forms of Education, is to be checked, will readily be granted; but fince, though it may be in fome Degree obviated, it cannot wholly be fuppreffed, it is furely rational to turn it to Advantage, by taking care that the Mind fhall never want Objects on which its Faculties may be usefully employed. It is not impoffible, that this restless Defire of Novelty, which gives fo much Trouble to the Teacher, may be often the Struggle of the Understanding starting from that, to which it is not by Nature adapted, and travelling in Search of fomething on which it may fix with greater Satisfaction. For without fuppofing each Man, particularly

particularly marked out by his Genius for particular Performances, it may be easily conceived, that when a numerous Clafs of Boys is confined indifcriminately, to the fame Forms of Compofition, the Repetition of the fame Words, or the Explication of the fame Sentiments, the Employment must, either by Nature or Accident, be lefs fuitable to fome than others; that the Ideas to be contemplated, may be too difficult for the Apprehenfion of one, and too obvious for that of another: they may be such as fome Understandings cannot reach, though others look down upon them as below their Regard. Every Mind in its Progress through the different Stages of fcholaftic Learning, must be often in one of these Conditions, muft either flag with the Labour, or grow wanton with the Facility of the Work affigned; and in either State it naturally turns afide from the Track before it. Wearinefs looks out for Relief, and Leifure for Employment, and furely it is rational to indulge the Wanderings of both. For the Faculties which are too lighty burthen'd with the Business of the Day, may with great Propriety add to it fome other Enquiry; and he that finds himself overwearied by a Task, which perhaps, with all his Efforts, he is not able to perform, is undoubtedly to be justified in addicting himself rather to eafier Studies, and endeavouring to quit that which is above his Attainment, for that which Nature has not made him incapable of purfuing with Advantage.

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That therefore this roving Curiofity may not be unfatisfied, it seems neceffary to scatter in its Way fuch Allurements as may withhold it from an useless and unbounded Diffipation; fuch as may regulate it without Violence, and direct it without Restraint; fuch as may fuit every Inclination, and fit every Capacity; may employ the stronger Genius, by Operations of Reafon, and engage the lefs active or forcible Mind, by fupplying it with eafy Knowledge, and obviating that Defpondence, which quickly prevails, when nothing appears but a Succeffion of Difficulties, and one Labour only ceases that another may be imposed.

A Book intended thus to correfpond with all Difpofitions, and afford Entertainment for Minds of different Powers, is neceffarily to contain Treatises on different Subjects. As it is defigned for Schools, though for the higher Claffes, it is confined wholly to fuch Parts of Knowledge as young Minds may comprehend; and as it is drawn up for Readers yet unexperienced in Life, and unable to diftinguish the useful from the oftentatious or unneceffary Parts of Science, it is requifite that a very nice Diftinction should be made, that nothing unprofitable should be admitted for the fake of Pleasure, nor any Arts of Attraction neglected, that might fix the Attention upon more important Studies.

Thefe Confiderations produced the Book which is here offered to the Public, as better adapted

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