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sequences, from what it builds on, are evident and certain; but that which it oftenest, if not only, misleads us in, is, that the principles from which we conclude, the grounds upon which we bottom our reasoning, are but a part, something is left out, which should go into the reckoning, to make it just and exact. Here we may imagine a vast and almost infinite advantage, that angels and separate spirits may have over us; who, in their several degrees of elevation above us, may be endowed with more comprehensive faculties : and some of them, perhaps, having perfect and exact views of all finite beings, that come under their consideration, çan, as it were, in the twinkling of an eye, collect together all their scattered and almost boundless relations. A mind so furnished, what reason has it to acquiesce in the certainty of its conclusions !
In this we may see the reason, why some men of study and thought, that reason right, and are lovers of truth, do make no great advances in their discoveries of it. Errour and truth are uncertainly blended in their minds; their decisions are lame and defective, and they are very often mistaken in their judgments: the reason whereof is, they converse but with one sort of men, they read but one sort of books, they will not come in the hearing but of one sort of notions : the truth is they canton out to themselves a little Goshen, in the intellectual world, where light shines, and as they conclude, day blesses them ; but the rest of that vast expansum they give up to night and darkness, and so avoid coming near it. They have a pretty traffic with known correspondents, in some little creek; within that they confine themselves, and are dexterous managers enough of the wares and products of that corner, with which they content themselves, but will not venture out into the great ocean of knowledge, to survey the riches that nature hath stored other parts with, ng less genuine, no less solid, no less useful, than what has fallen to their lot, in the admired plenty and sufficiency of their own little spot, which to them contains whatsoever is good in the universe, Those who live thus mewed up, within their own contracted territories, and will not look abroad
beyond the boundaries that chance, conceit, or laziness, has set to their inquiries; but live separate from the notions, discourses, and attainments of the rest of mankind ; may not amiss be represented by the inhabitants of the Marian islands; who, being separated, by a large tract of sea, from all communion with the habitable parts of the earth, thought themselves the only people of the world. And though the straitness of the conveniencies of life amongst them, had never reached so far as to the use of fire, till the Spaniards, not many years since, in their voyages from Acapulco to Manilla, brought it amongst them; yet, in the want and ignorance of almost all things, they looked upon
themselves, even after that the Spaniards had brought, amongst them, the notice of variety of nations, abounding in sciences, arts, and conveniencies of life, of which they knew nothing; they looked upon themselves, I say, as the happiest and wisest people of the universe. But, for all that, nobody, I think, will imagine them deep naturalists, or solid metaphysicians; nobody will deem the quickest-sighted amongst them to have very enlarged views in ethics, or politics; nor can any one allow the most capable amongst them to be advanced so far in his understanding, as to have any other knowledge, but of the few little things of his and the neighbouring islands, within his commerce; but far enough from that comprehensive enlargement of mind, which adorns a soul devoted to truth, assisted with letters, and a free gener ration of the several views and sentiments of thinking men of all sides. Let not men, therefore, that would have a sight of what every one pretends to be desirous to have a sight of, truth, in its full extent, narrow and blind their own prospect. Let not men think there is no truth, but in the sciences that they study, or books that they read. To prejudge other men's notions, before we have looked into them, is not to show their darkness, but to put out our own eyes. “ Try all things, hold fast that which is good,” is a divine rule, coming from the Father of light and truth; and it is hard to know, what other way men can come at truth, to lay hold of it, if they do not dig and search for it as for gold and hid treasure; but he that does so, must have much earth and rubbish, before he gets the pure metal ; sand, and pebbles, and dross usually lie blended with it, but the gold is never the less gold, and will enrich the man that employs his pains to seek and separate it. Neither is there any danger he should be deceived by the mixture. Every man carries about him a touchstone, if he will make use of it, to distinguish substantial gold from superficial glitterings, truth from appear
And indeed the use and benefit of this touchstone, which is natural reason, is spoiled and lost only by assuming prejudices, overweening presumption, and narrowing our minds. The want of exercising it, in the full extent of things intelligible, is that which weakens and extinguishes this noble faculty in us. Trace it, and see whether it be not so. The day-labourer in a country-village has commonly but a small pittance of knowledge, because his ideas and notions have been confined to the narrow bounds of a poor conversation and employment: the low mechanic of a country-town does somewhat out-do him: porters and coblers of great cities surpass them. A country gentleman who, leaving Latin and learning in the university, removes thence to his mansion-house, and associates with neighbours of the same strain, who relish nothing but hunting and a bottle; with those alone he spends his time, with those alone he converses, and can away with no company, whose discourse goes beyond what claret and dissoluteness inspire. Such a patriot, formed in this happy way of improvement, cannot fail, as we see, to give notable decisions upon the bench, at quarter-sessions, and eminent proofs of his skill in politics, when the strength of his purse and party have advanced him to a more conspicuous station. To such a one, truly, an ordinary coffee-house gleaner of the city is an arrant statesman, and as much superior to, as a man conversant about Whitehall and the court, is to an ordinary shop-keeper. To carry this a little farther : Here is one muffled up in the zeal and infallibility of his own sect, and will not touch a book, or enter into debate with a person that will question any of those things, which to him are sacred. Another surveys our differences in religion with an equitable and fair indifference, and so finds, probably, that none of them are in every thing unexceptionable. These divisions and systems were made by men, and carry the mark of fallible on them; and in those, whom he differs from, and till he opened his eyes, had a general prejudice against, he meets with more to be said for a great many things, than before he was aware of, or could have imagined. Which of these two, now, is most likely to judge right, in our religious' controversies, and to be most stored with truth, the mark all pretend to aim at? All these men, that I have instanced in, thus unequally furnished with truth, and advanced in knowledge, I suppose of equal natural parts; all the odds between them has been the different scope that has been given to their understandings to range in, for the gathering up of information, and furnishing their heads with ideas, and notions and observations, whereon to employ their mind, and form their understandings.
It will, possibly, be objected, “who is sufficient for all this?” I answer, more than can be imagined. Every one knows what his proper business is, and what, according to the character he makes of himself, the world may justly expect of him; and to answer that, he will find he will have time and opportunity enough to fur. nish himself, if he will not deprive himself, by a narrowness of spirit, of those helps that are at hand. I do not say, to be a good geographer, that a man should visit every mountain, river, promontory, and creek, upon the face of the earth, view the buildings, and survey the land every where, as if he were going to make a purchase; but yet every one must allow that he shall know a country better, that makes often sallies into it, and traverses up and down, than he that, like a mill-horse, goes still round in the same track, or keeps within the narrow bounds of a field or two that delight him. He that will inquire out the best books, in every science, and inform himself of the most material authors of the several sects of philosophy and religion, will not find it an infinite work to acquaint himself with the sentiments of mankind, concerning the most weighty and compre
hensive subjects. Let him exercise the freedom of his reason and understanding in such a latitude as this, and his mind will be strengthened, his capacity enlarged, his faculties improved; and the light, which the remote and scattered parts of truths will give to one another, will so assist his judgment, that he will seldom be widely out, or miss giving proof of a clear head, and a comprehensive knowledge. At least, this is the only way I know, to give the understanding its due improvement to the full extent of its capacity, and to distinguish the two most different things I know in the world, a logical chicaner from a man of reason. Only he, that would thus give the mind its flight, and send abroad his inquiries into all parts after truth, must be sure to settle in his head determined ideas of all that he employs his thoughts about, and never fail to judge himself, and judge unbiassedly, of all that he receives from others, either in their writings or discourses. Reverence, or prejudice, must not be suffered to give beauty, or deformity, to any of their opinions.
4. We are born with faculties and powers capable almost of any thing, such and habits.
Of practice at least as would carry us farther than can easily be imagined: but it is only the exercise of those powers, which gives us ability and skill in any thing, and leads us towards perfection.
A middle-aged ploughman will scarce ever be brought to the carriage and language of a gentleman, though his body be as well proportioned, and his joints as supple, and his natural parts not any way inferior. The legs of a dancing-master, and the fingers of a musician, fall as it were naturally, without thought, or pains, into regular and admirable motions. Bid them change their parts, and they will in vain endeavour to produce like motions in the members not used to them, and it will require length of time and long practice to attain but some de. grees of a like ability. What incredible and astonishing actions do we find rope-dancers and tumblers bring their bodies to! Not but that sundry, in almost all manual arts, are as wonderful; but I name those which the world takes notice of for such, because, on that very