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who have maintained different and contrary sentiments : but all these can never be true, and therefore the more name or reputation that any of them poffeffes is not a fufficient evidence for truth. - Shall we believe the ancients in philosophy! But fome of the ancients were stoics, some peripatetics, fome platonics, and fome epicureans, some cynics, and some sceptics. Shall we judge of matters of the Chriftian faith by the fathers or primitive writers for three or four hundred years after Chrift? But they often contradicted one another, and themselves too ; and, what is worse, they sometimes contradicted the scripture itself. Now among all these different and contrary sentiments in philosophy and religion, which of the ancients must we believe, for we cannot believe them all? · Again; to believe all things as our predecessors did, is the ready way to keep mankind in an everlasting state of infancy, and to lay an eternal bar against all the improveinents of our reason and our happiness. Had the present age of philosophers satisfied themfelves with the substantial forms and occult qualities of Aristotle, with the folid spheres, eccentrics, and epicyles of Ptolomy, and the ancient astronomers; then the great lord Bacon, Copernicus, and Discartes, with the greater Sir Isaac Newton, Mr Locke, and Mr Boyle, had risen in our world in vain. We must have blundered on still in successive generations amongst absurdities and thick darkness, and a hundred useful inventions for the happiness of human life had never been known,
Thus it is in matters of philosophy and science. But, you will say, shall not our own ancestors determine our judgments in matters of civil or religious concernment ? If they must, then the child of a Heathen muit believe that heathenism is true ; the son of a Papist must believe all the absurdities of popery; the potterity of the Jews and Socinians must for ever be Socinians and Jews; and a man whose father was of repuba lican principles must make a fucceflion of republicans in his family to the end of the world. If we ought always to believe whatíoever our parents, or our prieita, Ok our princes believe, the inhabitants of China ought to worship their own idols, and the favages of Africa ought to believe all the nonsense, and practise the idolatry of their Negro fathers and kings. The Britith nation, when it was heathen, could never have become Christian : and when it was a llave to Rome, it could never have been reformed.
Besides, let us consider that the great God, our common maker, has never given one man's underitanding a legal and rightful sovereignty to determine truths for others, at least after they are past the state of childhood or minority. No fingle person, how learned and wile, and great foever, or whatsoever natural, or civil, or ecclesiastical relation he may have to us, can claim this dominion over our faith. St Paul the apostle, in his private capacity, would not do it; nor hath an inspired man any such authority, until he makes his dis vine commission appear. Our faviour himself tells the Tews, that if he had not done such wondrous works 2mong them, they had not finned in disbelieving his doctrines, and refusing him for the Messiah. No bishop or presbyter, no. synod or council, no church or assembly of men, (since the days of inspiration) hath power derived to them from God to make creeds or articles of faith for us, and impose them upon our understande ings. We must all act according to the beft of our own light, and the judgment of our own consciences, uling the best advantages which providence hath given us, with an honest and impartial diligence to inquire and search out the truth : for every one of us must give an account of himself to God. To believe as the church, or the court believes, is but a sorry and a dangerous. faith; this principle would make more Heathens than Christians, and more Papifts than Protestants; and perhaps lead more fouls to Hell than to Heaven ; for our Saviour himself has plainly told us, that if the blind will be led by the blind, they must both fall into the ditch.
Though there be so much danger of error arising from the three prejudices lait mentioned, yet before I dismiss this head, I think it proper to take notice, that as education, custom and authority, are no sure evia dences of truth, la neither are they certain marks of falsehood ; for reason and scripture may join to dictate the same things which our parents, our nurses, our tue tors, our friends, and our country believe and profess. Yet there appears sometimes in our age a pride and petulancy in youth, zealous to cast off the sentiments of their fathers and teachers, on purpose to thew that: they carry none of the prejudices of education and authority about them. They indulge all manner of licentious opinions and practices, from a vain pretenceof afferting their liberty. But alas ! this is but changing one prejudice for another; and sometimes it happens: by this means, that they make a sacrifice both of truth and virtue to the vile prejudices of their pride and sene(uality
IV. There is another tribe of prejudices which are near a-kin to those of authority, and chat is, when we receive a doctrine because of the manner in which it is proposed to us by others. I have already mentioned the powerful influence that oratory and fine words have: to insinuate a false opinion, and sometimes truth is refused, and suffers contempt in the lips of a wise man, for want of the charms of language : But there are several other manners of proposals whereby mistaken. sentiments are powerfully conveyed into the mind.
Some persons are easily perfuaded to believe what a-nother dictates with a politive air and a great degree of assurance : they-feel the overbearing force of a confident dictator, especially if he be of a superior rank or charac-ter to themselves.. . . .
Some are quickly convinced of the truth of any.doctrine, when he that proposes it puts on all the airs of: piety, and makes folemn appeals to heaven, and pro-testations of the truth of it : the pious mind of a weaker christian is ready to receive any thing that is pronoun-ced with such an awful solemnity.
It is a prejudice near a-kin to this, when a humble: foul is frighted into any particular sentiments of religion, because a man of great name or character pronounces : heresy upon the contrary sentiments, casts the disbeliever out of the church, and forbids him the gates of heaven. , Others are allured into particular opinions by gentles
practies on the understanding ; Not only the soft tempers of mankind, but even hardy and rugged souls are fometimes led away captives to error by the soft airs of address, and the sweet and engaging methods of perfuafion and kindness.
I grant, where natural and revealed religion plainly dictate to us the infinite and everlasting importance of any sacred doctrine, it cannot be improper to use any of these methods, to persuade men'to receive and obey the truth, after we have given fufficient reason and argument to convince their understandings. Yet all these methods, considered in themselves, have been often used to convey falsehood into the soul, as well as truth; and if we build our faith merely upon these foundations, without regard to the evidence of truth and the strength of argument, our belief is but the effect of prejudice :: For neither the positive, the awful or folemn, the terrie ble or the gentle methods of address carry any certain evidence with them that truth lies on that side.
There is another manner of proposing our own 0pinion, or rather opposing the opinions of others, which demands mention here, and that is, when persons make a jest serve instead of an argument; when they refute what they call an error by a turn of wit, and answer cvery objection against their own sentiments, by casting a sneer upon the objector. These scoffers practise with fuccess upon weak and cowardly spirits: Such as have not been well established in religion or morality have been laughed out of the best principles by a confident buffoon : they have yielded up their opinions to a witty banter, and fold their faith and religion for a jeft.
There is no way to cure these evils in such a dege. nerate world as we live in, but by learning to distinguish well between the substance of any doctrine, and the manner of address, either in propofing, attacking, or defending it ; and then by setting a juft and severe guard of reason and conscience over all the exercises of their judgment, resolving to yield to nothing but the convincing evidence of truth religiously obeying the light of reason in matters of pure reafon, and the dictates of revelation in things that relate to our faith.
Thus we have taken a brief survey of some of the
infinite varieties of prejudices that attend mankind on every side in the present state, and the dangers of error or of rash judgment we are perpetually exposed to in this life : This chapter shall conclude with one re. mark, and one piece of advice.
The remark is this. The same opinion, whether false or true, may be dictated by many prejudices at the same time ; for as I hinted before, prejudice may happen to dictate truth sometimes as well as error. But where two or more prejudices oppose one another, as it often happens, the stronger prevails and gains the affenti Yet how seldom does reason interpose with fufficient power to get the afcendant of them all, as it ought to do!
The advice follows, (viz.) Since we find such a fwarm of prejudices attending us both within and with. out; since we feel the weakness of our reason, the frailty of our natures, and our insufficiency to guard ourselves from error upon this account, it is not at all unbecoming the character of a logician or a philosopher (together with the advice already given to direct every person in search after truth to make his daily addresses to heaven, and implore the God of truth to lead him into all truth, and to ask wisdom of him who giveth liberally to them that ask it, and upbraideth us not with our own follies
Such a devout practice will be an excellent preparative for the best improvement of all the directions and Iules proposed in the two following chapters.
GENERAL DIRECTIONS TO ASSIST US IN JUDGING
THE chief design of the art of logic is to aslift us
i in forming a true judgment of things; a few proper observations for this end have been dropt occa