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§. 23. There is, indeed, one fcience (as they are now diftinguished) incomparably above all the reft, where it is not by corruption narrowed into a trade or faction, for mean or ill ends, and fecular interefts; I mean theology, which, containing the knowledge of God and his creatures, our duty to him and our fellow-creatures, and a view of our prefent and future ftate, is the comprehenfion of all other knowledge directed to its true end; i. e. the honour and veneration of the Creator, and the happiness of mankind. This is that noble ftudy which is every man's duty, and every one that can be called a rational creature is capable of. The works of nature, and the words of revelation, difplay it to mankind in characters fo large and vifible, that thofe who are not quite blind may in them read and fee the first principles and moft neceffary parts of it; and from thence, as they have time and industry, may be enabled to go on to the more abftrufe parts of it, and penetrate into thofe infinite depths filled with the treasures of wifdom and knowledge. This is that fcience which would truly enlarge men's minds, were it ftudied, or permitted to be ftudied, every where, with that freedom, love of truth and charity which it teaches, and were not made, contrary to its nature, the occafion of ftrife, faction, malignity, and narrow impofitions. I shall fay no more here of this, but that it is undoubtedly a wrong ufe of my understanding, to make it the rule and measure of another man's; a ufe which it is neither fit for, nor capable of. Partiality. §. 24. This partiality, where. it is not permitted an authority to render all other ftudies infignificant or contemptible, is often indulged fo far as to be relied upon, and made ufe of in other parts of knowledge, to which it does not at all belong, and wherewith it has no manner of affinity. Some men have fo used their heads to mathematical figures; that, giving a preference to the methods of that fcience, they introduce lines and diagrams into their ftudy of divinity, or politic inquiries, as if nothing could be known without them; and others accustomed to retired fpeculations, run natural philofophy into metaphyfical notions,
and the abstract generalities of logic; and how often
There is another partiality very commonly obfervable
truth is always the fame; time alters it not, nor is it the better, or worfe, for being of ancient or modern tradition. Many were eminent in former ages of the world for their difcovery and delivery of it; but though the knowledge they have left us be worth our ftudy, yet they exhaufted not all its treafure; they left a great deal for the industry and fagacity of after-ages, and fo fhall we. That was once new to them, which any one now receives with veneration for its antiquity, nor was it the worfe for appearing as a novelty; and that which is now embraced for its newnefs, will to pofterity be old, but not thereby be lefs true, or lefs genuine. There is no occafion, on this account, to oppofe the ancients and the moderns to one another, or to be fqueamish on either fide. He that wifely conducts his mind in the pursuit of knowledge, will gather what lights, and get what helps he can, from either of them, from whom they are beft to be had, without adoring the errours, or rejecting the truths, which he may find mingled in them.
Another partiality may be obferved, in fome to vulgar, in others, to heterodox tenets: fome are apt to conclude, that what is the common opinion cannot but be true; fo many men's eyes they think cannot but fee right; fo many men's underflandings of all forts cannot be deceived; and, therefore, will not venture to look beyond the received notions of the place and age, nor have fo prefumptuous a thought as to be wifer than their neighbours. They are content to go with the crowd, and fo go eafily, which they think is going right, or at leaft ferves them as well. But however" vox populi vox Dei" has prevailed as a maxim; yet I do not remember where ever God delivered his oracles by the multitude; or nature, truths by the herd. On the other fide, fome fly all common opinions as either false or frivolous. The title of many-headed beaft is a fufficient reason to them to conclude, that no truths of weight or confequence can be lodged there. Vulgar opinions are fuited to vulgar capacities, and adapted to the ends of thofe that govern. He that will know the truth of things, muft leave the common and beaten track, which none but weak and fervile minds are fatisfied
fatisfied to trudge along continually in. Such nice palates relish nothing but ftrange notions quite out of the way: Whatever is commonly received, has the mark of the beast on it; and they think it a leffening to them to hearken to it, or receive it; their mind runs only after paradoxes; these they feek, these they embrace, these alone they vent; and fo, as they think, distinguish themfelves from the vulgar. But common or uncommon are not the marks to distinguish truth or falfhood, and therefore fhould not be any bias to us in our inquiries. We fhould not judge of things by men's opinions, but of opinions by things. The multitude reafon but ill, and therefore may be well fufpected, and cannot be relied on, nor should be followed, as a fure guide; but philofophers, who have quitted the orthodoxy of the community, and the popular doctrines of their countries, have fallen into as extravagant and as abfurd opinions as ever common reception countenanced. It would be madness to refufe to breathe the common air, or quench one's thirft with water, because the rabble use them to these purposes; and if there are conveniences of life which common use reaches not, it is not reason to reject them, because they are not grown into the ordinary fashion of the country, and every villager doth not know them.
Truth, whether in or out of fashion, is the measure of knowledge, and the business of the understanding; whatsoever is befides that, however authorifed by con fent, or recommended by rarity, is nothing but ignorance, or fomething worse.
Another fort of partiality there is, whereby men impose upon themselves, and by it make their reading little ufeful to themfelves; I mean the making ufe of the opinions of writers, and laying ftrefs upon their authorities, wherever they find them to favour their own opinions.
There is nothing almost has done more harm to men dedicated to letters, than giving the name of study to reading, and making a man of great reading to be the fame with a man of great knowledge, or at least to be a
title of honour. All that can be recorded in writing are only facts or reafonings. Facts are of three forts;
1. Merely of natural agents, obfervable in the ordinary operations of bodies one upon another, whether in the vifible courfe of things left to themfelves, or in experiments made by them, applying agents and patients to one another, after a peculiar and artificial manner.
2. Of voluntary agents, more especially the actions of men in fociety, which makes civil and moral history. 3. Of opinions.
In these three confifts, as it feems to me, that which commonly has the name of learning; to which perhaps fome may add a diftinct head of critical writings, which indeed at bottom is nothing but matter of fact; and refolves itself into this, that fuch a man, or fet of men, ufed fuch a word, or phrafe, in fuch a fenfe; i. e. that they made fuch founds the marks of fuch ideas.
Under reafonings I comprehend all the discoveries of general truths made by human reafon, whether found by intuition, demonftration, or probable deductions. And this is that which is, if not alone knowledge, (be-. caufe the truth or probability of particular propofitions may be known too) yet is, as may be fuppofed, most properly the bufinefs of thofe who pretend to improve their understandings, and make themselves knowing by reading.
Books and reading are looked upon to be the great helps of the understanding, and inftruments of knowledge, as it must be allowed that they are; and yet I beg leave to question whether thefe do not prove an hindrance to many, and keep feveral bookish men from attaining to folid and true knowledge. This, I think, I may be permitted to fay, that there is no part wherein the understanding needs a more careful and wary conduct than in the ufe of books; without which they will prove rather innocent amufements, than profitable employments of our time, and bring but fmall additions to our knowledge.
There is not feldom to be found, even amongst thofe who aim at knowledge, who with an unwearied industry employ their whole time in books, who fcarce allow