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on myself? If others love cataracts in their eyes, should that hinder me from couching of mine as foon as I can? Every one declares against blindness, and yet who almost is not fond of that which dims his fight, and keeps the clear light out of his mind, which fhould lead him into truth and knowledge? Falfe or doubtful pofitions, relied upon as unquestionable maxims, keep thofe in the dark from truth who build on them. Such are usually the prejudices imbibed from education, party, reverence, fashion, intereft, &c. This is the mote which every one' fees 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 fee whether they are fuch as will bear the trial? But yet this fhould be one of the first things every one should fet about, and be fcrupulous 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 hindrance of knowledge, (for to fuch only I write) to those who would shake off this great and dangerous impoftor, prejudice, who dreffes up falfhood in the likeness of truth, and fo 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 fee with their eyes; I fhall offer this one mark whereby prejudice may be known. He that is ftrongly of any opinion, muft fuppofe (unless he be felf-condemned) that his perfuafion is built upon good grounds; and that his affent 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 fo confident and pofitive in his tenets. Now if, after all his profeffion, he cannot bear any oppofition to his opinion, if he cannot fo much as give a patient hearing, much less examine and weigh the arguments on the other fide, does he not plainly confefs it is prejudice governs him? and it is not the evidence of truth, but fome lazy anticipation, fome beloved prefumption, that he defires to reft undisturbed in. For, if what he holds be, as he gives out, well fenced with evidence, and he fees it to be true, what need he fear to put it to the proof? If his opinion be
fettled upon a firm foundation, if the arguments that support it, and have obtained his affent, be clear, good, and convincing, why fhould he be thy to have it tried whether they be proof or not? He whofe affent goes beyond this evidence, owes this excess of his adherence only to prejudice, and does in effect own it, when he refufes to hear what is offered against it; declaring thereby, that it is not evidence he feeks, but the quiet enjoyment of the opinion he is fond of, with a forward condemnation of all that may stand in oppofition to it,. unheard and unexamined; which, what is it but prejudice?" qui æquum ftatuerit, parte inauditâ alterâ, eti"amfi æquum ftatuerit, haud æquus fuerit." He that would acquit himself in this cafe as a lover of truth, not giving way to any pre-occupation, or biass, that may miflead him, muft do two things that are not very common, nor very easy.
§. 11. Firft, he must not be in love with
any opinion, or wish it to be true, till he knows it to be fo, and then he will not need to with it : for nothing that is falfe can deferve our good wishes, nor a defire that it should have the place and force of truth; and yet nothing is more frequent than this. Men are fond of certain tenets upon no other evidence but respect and custom, and think they must maintain them, or all is gone; though they have never examined the ground they stand on, nor have ever made them out to themfelves, or can make them out to others: we should contend earnestly for the truth, but we fhould first be sure that it is truth, or else we fight against God, who is the God of truth, and do the work of the devil, who is the father and propagator of lyes; and our zeal, though ever fo warm, will not excufe us, for this is plainly prejudice.
§. 12. Secondly, he muft do that which. he will find himself very averfe to, as judging the thing unneceffary, or himself incapable of doing it. He must try whether his principles be certainly true, or not, and how far he may fafely rely upon them. This, whether fewer have the heart or the kill to do, I shall not determine; but this, I am sure, is that
which every one ought to do, who profeffes to love truth, and would not impofe upon himself; which is a furer way to be made a fool of, than by being exposed to the fophiftry of others. The difpofition to put any cheat upon ourselves works conftantly, and we are pleased with it, but are impatient of being bantered or misled by others. The inability I here speak of, is not any natural defect that makes men incapable of examining their own principles. To fuch, rules of conducting their understandings are ufelefs; and that is the cafe of very few. The great number is of those whom the ill habit of never exerting their thoughts has disabled; the powers of their minds are starved by difufe, and have loft that reach and strength which nature fitted them to receive from exercise. Those who are in a condition to learn the first rules of plain arithmetic, and could be brought to caft up an ordinary fum, are capable of this, if they had but accustomed their minds to reasoning: but they that have wholly neglected the exercise of their understandings in this way, will be very far, at first, from being able to do it, and as unfit for it as one unpractifed in figures to caft up a fhop-book, and, perhaps, think it as ftrange to be fet about it. And yet it must nevertheless be confeffed to be a wrong use of our understandings, to build our tenets (in things where we are concerned to hold the truth) upon principles that may lead us into errour. We take our principles at hap-hazard, upon truft, and without ever having examined them, and then believe a whole fyftem, upon a prefumption that they are true and folid; and what is all this, but childifh, shameful, fenfeless credulity?
In these two things, viz. an equal indifferency for all truth; I mean the receiving it, the love of it, as truth, but not loving it for any other reafon, before we know it to be true; and in the examination of our principles, and not receiving any for fuch, nor building on them, till we are fully convinced, as rational creatures, of their folidity, truth, and certainty; confifts that freedom of the understanding which is neceffary to a rational crea..ture, and without which it is not truly an underftanding. It is conceit, fancy, extravagance, any thing rather
than understanding, if it must be under the constraint of receiving and holding opinions by the authority of any thing but their own, not fancied, but perceived, evidence. This was rightly called impofition, and is of all other the worst and most dangerous fort of it. For we impofe upon ourselves, which is the ftrongest impofition of all others; and we impofe upon ourfelves in that part which ought with the greatest care to be kept free from all impofition. The world is apt to caft great blame on thofe who have an indifferency for opinions, efpecially in religion. I fear this is the foundation of great errour and worfe confequences. To be indifferent which of two opinions is true, is the right temper of the mind that preferves it from being impofed on, and difposes it to examine with that indifferency, till it has done its best to find the truth, and this is the only direct and fafe way to it. But to be indifferent whether we embrace falfhood or truth, is the great road to errour. Those who are not indifferent which opinion is true, are guilty of this; they fuppofe, without examining, that what they hold is true, and then think they ought to be zealous for it. Thofe, it is plain by their warmth and eagerness, are not indifferent for their own opinions, but methinks are very indifferent whether they be true or false; fince they cannot endure to have any doubts raised, or objections made againft them; and it is visible they never have made any themselves, and fo, never having examined them, know not, nor are concerned, as they should be, to know whether they be true or falfe.
These are the common and moft general mifcarriages which I think men fhould avoid, or rectify, in a right conduct of their understandings, and fhould be particularly taken care of in education. The bufinefs whereof, in refpect of knowledge, is not, as I think, to perfect a learner in all or any one of the fciences, but to give his mind that freedom, that disposition, and those habits, that may enable him to attain any part of knowledge he fhall apply himself to, or ftand in need of, in the future course of his life.
This, and this only, is well principling, and not the inftilling a reverence and veneration for certain dogmas, under the fpecious title of principles, which are often fo remote from that truth and evidence which belongs to principles, that they ought to be rejected, as falfe and erroneous; and often caufe men fo educated, when' they come abroad into the world, and find they cannot maintain the principles fo taken up and refted in, to caft off all principles, and turn perfect fceptics, regardless of knowledge and virtue.
There are several weakneffes and defects in the understanding, either from the natural temper of the mind, or ill habits taken up, which hinder it in its progress to knowledge. Of these, there are as many, poffibly, to be found, if the mind were thoroughly studied, as there are diseases of the body, each whereof clogs and disables the understanding to fome degree, and therefore deferves to be looked after and cured. I fhall fet down fome few to excite men, especially those who make knowledge their business, to look into themselves, and obferve whether they do not indulge fome weakneffes, allow fome miscarriages in the management of their intellectual faculty, which is prejudicial to them in the search
$. 13. Particular matters of fact are the undoubted foundations on which our civil and natural knowledge is built: the benefit the understanding makes of them, is to draw from them conclufions, which may be as ftanding rules of knowledge, and confequently of practice. The mind often makes not that benefit it should of the information it reccives from the accounts of civil or natural hiftorians, by being too forward or too flow in making observations on the particular facts recorded in them.
There are those who are very affiduous in reading, and yet do not much advance their knowledge by it. They are delighted with the ftories that are told, and perhaps can tell them again, for they make all they read nothing but history to themselves; but not reflecting on it, not making to themselves obfervations from what they read, they are very little improved by all that crowd of particulars,