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ARGUMENT OF EPISTLE II.
Of the Nature and State of Man, with respect to
Himself, as an Individual.
1. THE business of Man not to pry into God, but to study
himself. His Middle Nature; his Powers and Frailties, Ver. I to 19. The Limits of his Capacity, Ver. 19, &c. II. The two Principles of Man, Self-love and Reason, both necessary, Ver. 53, &c. Self-love the stronger, and why, Ver. 67, &c. Their end the fame, Ver. 81, &c. III. The Passions, and their use, Ver. 93 to 130. The Predominant Passion, and its force, Ver. 132 to 160. Its Necefhty, in directing Men to different purposes, Ver. 165, &c. Its providential Use, in fixing our Principle, and ascertaining our Virtue, Ver. 177. IV. Virtue and Vice joined in our mixed Nature; the limits near, yet the things feparate and evident: What is the Office of Reason, Ver. 202 to 216. V. How odious Vice in itself, and how we deceive ourselves in it, Ver. 217. VI. That, however, the Ends of Providence and general Good are answered in our Pasions and Imperfections, Ver. 238, &c. How usefully' these are diftributed to all Orders of Men, Ver. 241. How useful they are to Society, Ver. 251. And to Individuals, Ver. 263. In every state, and every age of life, Ver. 273, &c.
The proper study of Mankind is Man.
Ver. 2. Ed. itt,
The only science of Mankind is Man.
Ver. 2. The proper study, &c.] The Poet having shewn, in the firfi epiftle, that the ways of God are too high for our comprehension, rightly draws this conclusion ; and methodically makes it the subject of his Introduction to the second, which treats of the Nature of Man.
But here presently the accusers of Providence would be apt to object, and say, “ Admit that we ran into an excess, when we pretended to censure or penetrate the designs of Providence, a matter, perhaps, too high for us ; yet have not you gone as far into the opposite extreme, while you only send us to the knowledge of OURSELVES. You mult mock us when you talk of this as a ftudy; for who can doubt but we are intimately acquainted with our own Nature ? The proper conclusion, therefore, from your proof of our inability to comprehend the ways of God, is, that we should turn ourselves to the study of the frame of general Nature.” Thus, I say, would they be apt to object ; for, of all Men, those who ca! themselves Freethinkers are most given up to Pride ; especially to that kind which consists in a boasted knowledge of Man, the effects of which pride are so well exposed
Ver. 3. on this isthmus] From Cowley, in the Ode on Life and Fame. As also line 205. in the 4th Epiftle,
To Kings, or to the Favourites of Kings. WARTOX.
With too much knowledge for the Sceptic fide, 5
in the first Epiftle. The Poet, therefore, to convince them that this study is less casy than they imagine, replies (from ver. 2 to 19.) to the first part of the objection, by describing the dark and feeble state of the human Understanding, with regard to the knowledge of ourselves. And further to strengthen this argument, he shews, in answer to the second part of the objection (from ver. 18 to 31.), that the highest advances in natural knowledge may be easily acquired, and yet we, all the while, continue very ignorant of ourselves. For that neither the clearest science, which results from the Newtonian philosophy, nor the most sublime, which is taught by the Platonic, will at all assist us in this selfftudy; nay, what is more, that Religion itself, when grown fanatical and enthusiastic, will be equally useless : though pure and sober Religion will best instruct us in Man's Nature; that knowledge being necessary to Religion ; whose subject is Man considered in all his relations, and, consequently, whose object is God.
Ver. II. Alike in ignorance, &c.] i.e. The proper sphere of his Reason is so narrow, and the exercise of it so nice, that the too immoderate use of it is attended with the same ignorance that proceeds from the not ufing it at all. Yet, though in both these cases he is abused by himself, he has it still in his own power to difabufe himself, in making his Paffions subservient to the means, and regulating his Reason by the end of life.
WARBURTON. VER. 12. Whether he thinks too little,] It was obferved by Bayle, above an hundred years ago, " that philosophy might be com
Chaos of Thought and Passion, all confus’d;
For more perfection than this state can bear
pared to certain powders, so very corrofive, that, having consumed the proud and spongy flesh of a wound, they would corrode even the quick and found flesh, rot the bones, and penetrate to the very marrow. Philosophy is proper at first to confute errors, but if she be not stopped there, the attacks truth itself; and, when she has her full scope, she generally goes so far that she loses her self, and knows not where to stop.” What would Bayle have said if he had seen the uses to which Philosophy has been applied in the present times ?