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living. These men's opportunities of knowledge and inquiry are commonly as narrow as their fortunes; and their understandings are but little instructed, when all their whole time and pains is laid out to still the croaking of their own bellies, or the cries of their children. It is not to be expected that a man, who drudges on all his life in a laborious trade, should be more knowing in the variety of things done in the world than a pack-horse, who is driven constantly forwards and backwards in a narrow lane and dirty road only to market, should be skilled in the geography of the country. Nor is it at all more possible, that he who wants leisure, books, and languages, and the opportunity of conversing with variety of men, should be in a condition to collect those testimonies and observations which are in being, and are necessary to make out many, nay most of the propositions that, in the societies of men, are judged of the greatest moment; or to find out grounds of assurance so great as the belief of the points he would build on them is : thought necessary. So that a great part of mankind are, by the natural and unalterable state of things in this world, and the constitution of human affairs, un- ; avoidably given over to invincible ignorance of those proofs on which others build, and which are necessary to establish those opinions: the greatest part of men, having much to do to get the means of living, are not in a condition to look after those of learned and laborious inquiries.
§ 3. What shall we say then ? Are the Obj. What
greatest part of mankind, by the necessity come of of their condition, subjected to unavoid
able ignorance in those things which are answered.
of greatest importance to them? (for of
these it is obvious to inquire.) Have the bulk of mankind no other guide but accident and blind chance to conduct them to their happiness or misery? Are the current opinions and licensed guides of every country sufficient evidence and security to
those who want them
every man to venture his great concernments on, nay, his everlasting happiness or misery? Or can those be the certain and infallible oracles and standards of truth, which teach one thing in Christendom and another in Turkey? Or shall a poor countryman be eternally happy for having the chance to be born in Italy; or a day-labourer be unavoidably lost, because he had the ill luck to be born in England ? How ready some men may be to say some of these things I will not here examine: but this I am sure, that men must allow one or other of these to be true (let them choose which they please), or else grant that God has furnished men with faculties sufficient to direct them in the way they should take, if they will but seriously employ them that way, when their ordinary vocations allow them the leisure. No man is so wholly taken up with the attendance on the means of living as to have no spare time at all to think of his soul,
and inform himself in matters of religion. Were men as intent upon this as they are on things of lower concernment, there are none so enslaved to the necessities of life who might not find many vacancies that might be husbanded to this advantage of their knowledge.
$ 4. Besides those whose improvements and informations are straitened by the People hinnarrowness of their fortunes, there are inquiry. others whose largèness of fortune would plentifully enough supply books and other requisites for clearing of doubts and discovering of truth: but they are cooped in close by the laws of their countries, and the strict guards of those whose interest it is to keep them ignorant, lest, knowing more, they should believe the less in them. These are as far, nay farther from the liberty and opportunities of a fair inquiry, than these poor and wretched labourers we before spoke of. And, however they may seem high and great, are confined to narrowness of thought, and enslaved in that which should be the freest part of man, their understandings. This is generally the case
skill to use
of all those who live in places where care is taken to propagate truth without knowledge ;
where men are forced, at a venture, to be of the religion of the country; and must therefore swallow down opinions, as silly people do empirics' pills, without knowing what they are made of, or how they will work, and having nothing to do but believe that they will do the cure : but in this are much more miserable than they, in that they are not at liberty to refuse swallowing what perhaps they had rather let alone; or to choose the physician to whose conduct they would trust themselves.
$ 5. Secondly, those who want skill to 2. Want of
use those evidences they have of probathem. bilities, who cannot carry a train of con
sequences in their heads, nor weigh exactly the preponderancy of contrary proofs and testimonies, making every circumstance its due allowance, may be easily misled to assent to positions that are not probable. There are some men of one, some but of two syllogisms, and no more; and others that can but advance one step farther. These cannot always discern that side on which the strongest proofs lie; cannot constantly follow that which in itself is the more probable opinion. Now that there is such a difference between men, in respect of their understandings, I think nobody, who has had any conversation with his neighbours, will question; though he never was at Westminster-hall or the Exchange, on the one hand; or at Alms-houses or Bedlam, on the other : which great difference in men's intellectuals, whether it rises from any defect in the organs ofthe body, particularly adapted to thinking; or, in the dulness or untractableness of those faculties for want of use; or, as some think, in the natural differences of men's souls themselves; or some or all of these together, it matters not here to examine : only this is evident, that there is a difference of degrees in men's understandings, apprehensions, and reasonings, to so great a latitude, that one may,
without doing injury to mankind, affirm, that there is a greater distance between some men and others, in this respect, than between some men and some beasts. But how this comes about is a speculation, though of great consequence, yet not necessary to our present purpose.
$ 6. Thirdly, there are another sort of 3. Want of people that want proofs, not because they will to use are out of their reach, but because they them. will not use them; who, though they have riches and leisure enough, and want neither parts nor other helps, are yet never the better for them. Their hot pursuit of pleasure, or constant drudgery in business, engages some men's thoughts elsewhere: laziness and oscitancy in general, or a particular aversion for books, study, and meditation, keep others from any serious thoughts at all: and some out of fear that an impartial inquiry would not favour those opinions which best suit their prejudices, lives, and designs, content themselves, without examination, to take upon trust what they find convenient and in fashion. Thus most men, even of those that might do otherwise, pass their lives without an acquaintance with, much less a rational assent to, probabilities they are concerned to know, though they lie so much within their view, that to be convinced of them they need but turn their eyes that way. We know some men will not read a letter which is supposed to bring ill news; and many men forbear to cast up their accounts, or so much as think upon their estates, who have reason to fear their affairs are in no very good posture. How men, whose plentiful fortunes allow them leisure to improve their understandings, can satisfy themselves with a lazy ignorance, I cannot tell: but methinks they have a low opinion of their souls, who lay out all their incomes in provisions for the body, and employ none of it to procure the means and helps of knowledge; who take great care to appear always in a neat and splendid outside, and would think themselves miserable in coarse
clothes, or a patched coat, and yet contentedly suffer their minds to appear abroad in a pie-bald livery of coarse patches and borrowed shreds, such as it has pleased chance or their country tailor (I mean the common opinion of those they have conversed with) to clothe them in. I will not here mention how unreasonable this is for men that ever think of a future state, and their concernment in it, which no rational man can avoid to do sometimes ; nor shall I take notice what a shame and confusion it is, to the greatest contemners of knowledge, to be found ignorant in things they are concerned to know. But this at least is worth the consideration of those who call themselves gentlemen, that however they may think credit, respect, power, and authority, the concomitants of their birth and fortune, yet they will find all these still carried away from them by men of lower condition, who surpass them in knowledge. They who are blind will always be led by those that see, or else fall into the ditch: and he is certainly the most subjected, the most enslaved, who is so in his understanding. In the foregoing instances, some of the causes have been shown of wrong assent, and how it comes to pass, that probable doctrines are not always received with an assent proportionable to the reasons which are to be had for their probability: but hitherto we have considered only such probabilities whose proofs do exist, but do not appear to him who embraces the error. 4. Wrong
$7. Fourthly, there remains yet the last measures of sort, who, even where the real probabilities probability; whereof,
appear, and are plainly laid before them,
do not admit of the conviction, nor yield unto manifest reasons, but do either wémely, suspend their assent, or give it to the less probable opinion : and to this danger are those exposed who have taken up wrong measures of probability; which are,
1. Propositions that are not in themselves certain and evident, but doubtful and false, taken up for principles.