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content ourfelves with

the remembrance that we once faw ground for fuch a degree

of affent.

any probable truth, and that too in the fame order, and regular deduction of confequences in which they have formerly placed or feen them; which fometimes is enough to fill a large volume on one fingle queftion: or elfe they must require a man, for every opinion that he embraces, every day to examine the proofs: both which are impoffible. It is unavoidable therefore that the memory be relied on in the cafe, and that men be perfuaded of feveral opinions, whereof the proofs are not actually in their thoughts; nay, which perhaps they are not able actually to recal. Without this the greateft part of men must be either very sceptics, or change every moment, and yield themfelves up to whoever, having lately ftudied the queftion, offers them arguments; which, for want of memory, they are not able prefently to answer.

The ill confequence of this, if our former judg

ments were

not rightly made.

§. 3. I cannot but own, that men's fticking to their paft judgment, and adhering firmly to conclufions formerly made, is often the caufe of great obftinacy in errour and mistake. But the fault is not that they rely on their memories for what they have. before well judged; but because they judged before they had well examined. May we not find a great number (not to fay the greateft part) of men that think they have formed right judgments of feveral matters; and that for no other reafon, but because they never thought otherwife? who imagine themfelves to have judged right, only because they never queftioned, never examined their own opinions? Which is indeed to think they judged right, becaufe they never judged at all: and yet thefe of all men hold their opinions with the greatest stiffness; thofe being generally the most fierce and firm in their tenets, who have leaft examined them. What we once know, we are certain is fo: and we may be fecure, that there are no latent proofs undifcovered, which may overturn our knowledge, or bring it in doubt. But, in matters of probability, it is not in every cafe we can be fure that we have all the particulars before us, that any way concern the queftion; and that



there is no evidence behind, and yet unseen, which may caft the probability on the other fide, and outweigh all that at present feems to preponderate with us. Who almoft is there that hath the leifure, patience, and means, to collect together all the proofs concerning moft of the opinions he has, fo as fafely to conclude that he hath a clear and full view; and that there is no more to be alledged for his better information? And yet we are forced to determine ourselves on the one fide or other. The conduct of our lives, and the management of our great concerns, will not bear delay: for thofe depend, for the most part, on the determination of our judgment in points wherein we are not capable of certain and demonstrative knowledge, and wherein it is neceffary for us to embrace the one fide or the other.

The right ufe of it, is mutual charity and for


§. 4. Since therefore it is unavoidable to the greatest part of men, if not all, to have feveral opinions, without certain and indubitable proofs of their truth; and it carries too great an imputation of ignorance, lightnefs, or folly, for men to quit and renounce their former tenets presently upon the offer of an argument, which they cannot immediately anfwer, and fhow the infufficiency of: it would methinks become all men to maintain peace, and the common offices of humanity and friendship, in the diverfity of opinions; fince we cannot reasonably expect, that any one fhould readily and obfequiously quit his own opinion, and embrace ours with a blind refignation to an authority, which the understanding of man acknowledges not. For however it may often mistake, it can own no other guide but reafon, nor blindly fubmit to the will and dictates of another. If he, you would bring over to your fentiments, be one that examines before he affents, you must give him leave at his leifure to go over the account again, and, recalling what is out of his mind, examine all the particulars, to fee on which fide the advantage lies: and if he will not think our arguments of weight enough to engage him a-new in fo much pains, it is but what we often do ourselves in the like cafe; and we fhould take it amifs if others fhould prefcribe to us what points we

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fhould ftudy. And if he be one who takes his opinions upon truft, how can we imagine that he fhould renounce those tenets which time and cuftom have fo fettled in his mind, that he thinks them felf-evident, and of an unquestionable certainty; or which he takes to be impreffions he has received from God himself, or from men fent by him? How can we expect, I fay, that opinions thus fettled fhould be given up to the arguments or authority of a stranger, or adverfary; efpecially if there be any fufpicion of intereft or defign, as there never fails to be, where men find themselves ill treated? We should do well to commiferate our mutual ignorance, and endeavour to remove it in all the gentle and fair ways of information; and not inftantly treat others ill, as obftinate and perverse, because they will not renounce their own, and receive our opinions, or at least thofe we would force upon them, when it is more than probable, that we are no less obftinate in not embracing fome of theirs. For where is the man that has inconteftable evidence of ` the truth of all that he holds, or of the falfhood of all he condemns; or can fay, that he has examined to the bottom all his own, or other men's opinions? The neceffity of believing, without knowledge, nay often upon very flight grounds, in this fleeting ftate of action and blindness we are in, fhould make us more bufy and careful to inform ourselves, than constrain others. At leaft thofe, who have not thoroughly examined to the bottom all their own tenets, muft confefs they are unfit to prescribe to others; and are unreafonable in impofing that as truth on other men's belief, which they themTelves have not fearched into, nor weighed the arguments of probability, on which they fhould receive or reject it. Thofe who have fairly and truly examined, and are thereby got past doubt in all the doctrines they profefs and govern themfelves by, would have a jufter pretence to require others to follow them: but these are To few in number, and find fo little reafon to be magifterial in their opinions, that nothing infolent and imperious is to be expected from them: and there is reafon to think, that, if men were better inftructed themTelves, they would be lefs impofing on others. 5

§. 5.


is either of matter of fact or fpecu


$. 5. But to return to the grounds of affent, and the feveral degrees of it, we are to take notice, that the propofitions we receive upon inducements of probability, are of two forts; either concerning fome particular existence, or, as it is ufually termed, matter of fact, which falling under obfervation, is capable of human teftimony; or elfe concerning things, which being beyond the discovery of our fenfes, are not capable of any fuch teftimony.

§. 6. Concerning the first of thefe, viz. particular matter of fact.

The concur

rent experience of all other men with ours

produces affurance approaching to knowledge.

First, where any particular thing, confonant to the conftant obfervation of ourfelves and others in the like cafe, comes attefted by the concurrent reports of all that mention it, we receive it as eafily, and build as firmly upon it, as if it were certain know ledge; and we reafon and act thereupon with as little doubt, as if it were perfect demonftration. Thus, if all Englifhmen, who have occafion to mention it, fhould affirm that it froze in England the laft winter, or that there were fwallows feen there in the fummer; I think a man could almoft as little doubt of it, as that seven and four are eleven. The firft therefore, and higheft --degree of probability, is, when the general confent of all men, in all ages, as far as it can be known, concurs with a man's conftant and never-failing experience in like cafes, to confirm the truth of any particular matter of fact attefted by fair witneffes: fuch are all the stated conftitutions and properties of bodies, and the regular proceedings of caufes and effects in the ordinary courfe of nature. This we call an argument from the nature of things themselves. For what our own and other men's conftant obfervation has found always to be after the fame manner, that we with reafon conclude to be the effect of fteady and regular caufes, though they ⚫come not within the reach of our knowledge. Thus, 'that fire warmed a man, made lead fluid, and changed the colour or confiftency in wood or charcoal; that iron funk in water, and fwam in quickfilver: thefe and the

like propofitions about particular facts, being agreeable to our conftant experience, as often as we have to do with these matters; and being generally spoke of (when mentioned by others) as things found conftantly to be fo, and therefore not fo much as controverted by any body; we are put past doubt, that a relation affirming any fuch thing to have been, or any predication that it will happen again in the fame manner, is very true. These probabilities rife so near to certainty, that they govern our thoughts as abfolutely, and influence all our actions as fully, as the most evident demonstration; and in what concerns us, we make little or no difference between them and certain knowledge. Our belief, thus grounded, rifes to affurance.


able teftimo

rience for the most part produce confidence.

§. 7. Secondly, the next degree of probability is, when I find by my own expeny and experience, and the agreement of all others that mention it, a thing to be, for the most part, fo; and that the particular inftance of it is attested by many and undoubted witnesses, v. g. hiftory giving us fuch an account of men in all ages; and my own experience, as far as I had an opportunity to obferve, confirming it, that most men prefer their private advantage to the public: if all hiftorians that write of Tiberius fay that Tiberius did so, it is extremely probable. And in this cafe, our affent has a fufficient foundation to raise itself to a degree which we may call confidence.

Fair teftimony, and the nature of the thing indifferent, produce alfo

§. 8. Thirdly, in things that happen indifferently, as that a bird fhould fly this or that way; that it should thunder on a man's right or left hand, &c. when any particular matter of fact is vouched by the concurrent confident be- teftimony of unfufpected witneffes, there our affent is alfo unavoidable. Thus, that


there is fuch a city in Italy as Rome; that, about one thousand seven hundred years ago, there lived in it a man, called Julius Cæfar; that he was a general, and that he won a battle against another, called Pompey: this, though in the nature of the thing there be nothing for nor against it, yet being related by hiftorians of


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