صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

ledge where it is thought demonstration has nothing to do, men reason as it were in the lump; and if, upon a summary and confused view, or upon a partial consideration, they can raise the appearance of a probability, they usually rest content; especially if it be in a dispute where every little straw is laid hold on, and every thing that can but be drawn-in any way to give colour to the argument is advanced with ostentation. But that mind is not in a posture to find the truth, that does not distinctly take all the parts asunder, and, omitting what is not at all to the point, draw a conclusion from the result of all the particulars which any way influence it. There is another no less useful habit to be got by an application to mathematical demonstrations, and that is, of using the mind to a long train of consequences; but having mentioned that already, I shall not again here

repeat it.

As to men whose fortunes and time are narrower, what

may suffice them is not of that vast extent as may be imagined, and so comes not within the objection.

Nobody is under an obligation to know every thing. Knowledge and science in general is the business only of those who are at ease and leisure. Those who have particular callings ought to understand them; and it is no unreasonable proposal, nor impossible to be compassed, that they should think and reason right about what is their daily employment. This one cannot think them incapable of, without levelling them with the brutes, and charging them with a stupidity below the rank of rational creatures. $ 8. Besides his particular calling for

Religion. the support of this life, every one has a concern in a future life, which he is bound to look after. This engages his thoughts in religion; and here it mightily lies upon him to understand and reason right. Men, therefore, cannot be excused from understanding the words, and framing the ge

VOL. III.

neral notions relating to religion, right. The one day of seven, besides other days of rest, allows in the christian world time enough for this (had they no other idle hours) if they would but make use of these vacancies from their daily labour, and apply themselves to an improvement of knowledge with as much diligence as they often do to a great many other things that are useless, and had but those that would enter them according to their several capacities in a right way to this knowledge. The original make of their minds is like that of other men, and they would be found not to want understanding fit to receive the knowledge of religion, if they were a little encouraged and helped in it, as they should be. For there are instances of very mean people, who have raised their minds to a great sense and understanding of religion: and though these have not been so frequent as could be wished; yet they are enough to clear that condition of life from a necessity of gross ignorance, and to show that more might be brought to be rational creatures and christians (for they can hardly be thought really to be so, who, wearing the name, know not so much as the very principles of that religion) if due care were taken of them. For, if I mistake not, the peasantry lately in France (a rank of people under a much heavier pressure of want and poverty than the day-labourers in England) of the refromed religion understood it much better, and could say more for it, than those of a higher condition among us.

But if it shall be concluded that the meaner sort of people must give themselves up to brutish stupidity in the things of their nearest concernment, which I see no reason for, this excuses not those of a freer fortune and education, if they neglect their understandings, and take no care to employ them as they ought, and set them right in the knowledge of those things for which principally they were given them. At least those, whose plentiful fortunes allow them the oppor

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

0 t i

tunities and helps of improvements, are not so few,
but that it might be hoped great advancements might
be made in knowledge of all kinds, especially in that
of the greatest concern and largest views, if men
would make a right use of their faculties, and study
their own understandings.
§ 9. Outward corporeal objects, that

Ideas.
constantly importune our senses and cap-
tivate our appetites, fail not to fill our heads with
lively and lasting ideas of that kind. Here the mind
needs not to be set upon getting greater store; they
offer themselves fast enough, and are usually enter-
tained in such plenty, and lodged so carefully, that
the mind wants room or attention for others that it
has more use and need of. To fit the understanding,
therefore, for such reasoning as I have been above
speaking of, care should be taken to fill it with moral
and more abstract ideas; for these not offering them-
selves to the senses, but being to be framed to the
understanding, people are generally so neglectful of
a faculty they are apt to think wants nothing, that I
fear most men's minds are more unfurnished with such
ideas than is imagined. They often use the words,
and how can they be suspected to want the ideas?
What I have said in the third book of my Essay will
excuse me from any other answer to this question.
But to convince people of what moment it is to their
understandings to be furnished with such abstract
ideas, steady and settled in them, give me leave to
ask, how any one shall be able to know whether he
be obliged to be just, if he has not established ideas
in his mind of obligation and of justice, since know-
ledge consists in nothing but the perceived agreement
or disagreement of those ideas ? and so of all others
the like, which concern our lives and manners. And
if men do find a difficulty to see the agreement or
disagreement of two angles, which lie before their
eyes, unalterable in a diagram ; how utterly impos-
sible will it be to perceive it in ideas that have no

own.

other sensible object to represent them to the mind but sounds; with which they have no manner of conformity, and therefore had need to be clearly settled in the mind themselves, if we would make any clear judgment about them. This, therefore, is one of the first things the mind should be employed about, in the right conduct of the understanding, without which it is impossible it should be capable of reasoning right about those matters. But in these, and all other ideas, care must be taken that they harbour no inconsistencies, and that they have a real existence where real existence is supposed ; and are not mere chimeras with a supposed existence.

§ 10. Every one is forward to complain Prejudice.

of the prejudices that mislead other men or parties, as if he were free, and had none of his

This being objected on all sides, it is agreed that it is a fault and an hinderance to knowledge. What now is the cure? No other but this, that every man should let alone others' prejudices, and examine his own. Nobody is convinced of his by the accusation of another ; he recriminates by the same rule, and is clear. The only way to remove this great cause of ignorance and error out of the world is, for every one impartially to examine himself. If others will not deal fairly with their own minds, does that make my errors truths ? or ought it to make me in love with them, and willing to impose on myself? If others love cataracts in their eyes, should that hinder me from couching of mine as soon as I can Every one declares against blindness, and yet who almost is not fond of that which dims his sight, and keeps the clear light out of his mind, which should lead him into truth and knowledge ? False or doubtful positions, relied upon as unquestionable maxims, keep those in the dark from truth who build on them. Such are usually the prejudices imbibed from education, party, reverence, fashion, interest, &c. This is the mote which every one sees in his brother's eye, but never regards the beam in his own. For who is there almost that is ever brought fairly to examine his own principles, and see whether they are such as will bear the trial ? But yet this should be one of the first things every one should set about, and be scrupulous in, who would rightly conduct his understanding in the search of truth and knowledge.

To those who are willing to get rid of this great hinderance of knowledge, (for to such only I write) to those who would shake off this great and dangerous impostor, prejudice, who dresses up falsehood in the likeness of truth, and so dexterously hoodwinks men's minds, as to keep them in the dark, with a belief that they are more in the light than any that do not see with their eyes, I shall offer this one mark whereby prejudice may be known. He that is strongly of any opinion must suppose (unless he be self-condemned) that his persuasion is built upon good grounds; and that his assent is no greater than what the evidence of the truth he holds forces him to; and that they are arguments, and not inclination, or fancy, that make him so confident and positive in his tenets. Now if, after all his profession, he cannot bear any opposition to his opinion, if he cannot so much as give a patient hearing, much less examine and weigh the arguments on the other side, does he not plainly confess it is prejudice governs him ? and it is not the evidence of truth, but some lazy anticipation, some beloved presumption, that he desires to rest undisturbed in. For, if what he holds be, as he gives out, well fenced with evidence, and he sees it to be true, what need he fear to put it to the proof? If his opinion be settled upon a firm foundation, if the arguments that support it, and have obtained his assent, be clear, good, and convincing, why should he be shy to have it tried whether they be proof or not? He whose assent goes beyond this evidence, owes this excess of his adherence only to prejudice, and does in effect own it, when he refuses to hear what is offered against it; declaring

« السابقةمتابعة »