Learning is not without its effect upon the soul; it either lends it wings to bear it up to God, or leaves behind it tiny sparks, which little by little consume the whole being.
If you would ascertain all the good or ill you have derived from all those hours devoted to historians, poets, novelists, or philosophers, put to yourself these questions: Since acquiring this knowledge, am I wiser? am I better? am I happier?
Wiser?—That is to say, more self-controlled, less the slave of my passions, less irritated by small vexations, braver in bearing misfortunes, more careful to live for eternity?
Better?—More forbearing towards others, more forgiving, less uncharitable, more reticent in opposing the faults of others, more solicitous for the happiness of those around me?
Happier?—That would mean more contented with my station in life, striving to derive all possible benefits from it, to beautify rather than to alter it?
Have I more faith in God, and more calmness and resignation in all the events of life?
If you cannot reply in the affirmative, then examine your heart thoroughly, and you will find there, stifling the good that God has implanted, these three tyrants that have obtained dominion over, you: (1.) Pride; (2.) Ambition; (3.) Self-conceit.
From them have sprung: dissatisfaction and contempt of your life and its surroundings, restlessness, a longing for power and dominion over others, malice, habitual discontent, and incessant murmurings. Have you any further doubts? Then inquire of those with whom you live.
Ah! if this be indeed the sad result, then, whatever may be your age, close, oh! close those books, and seek once more those two elements of happiness you ought never to have forsaken, and which, had you made them the companions of your study, would have kept you pure and good.
I refer to prayer and manual labor.