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6. Tho' our natural Reason in a State of Innocence might be sufficient to find out those Duties which were necessary for an innocent Creature, in order to abide in the Favour of his Maker, yet in a fallen State our natural Reason is by no means sufficient to find out all that is necessary to restore a sinful Creature to the divine Favour.
7. Therefore God hath condescended in various Ages of Mankind to reveal to sinful Men what he requires of them in order to their Restoration, and has appointed in his Word some peculiar Matters of Faith and Practice, in order to their Salvation. This is called revealed Religion, as the Things knowable concerning God, and our Duty by the Light of Nature are called natural Religion.
There are also many Parts of Morality, and natural Religion, or many natural Duties relating to God, to ourselves, and to our Neighbours, which would be exceeding difficult and tedious for the Bulk of Mankind to find out and determine by natural Reason; therefore it has pleased God in this sacred Book of Divine Revelation to express the most necessary Duties of this kind in a very plain and easy Manner, and made them intelligible to Souls of the lowest Capacity; or they may be very easily derived thence by the Use of Reason.
9. As there are some Duties much more necessary, and more important than others are, so every Duty requires our Application to understand and practise it in Proportion to its Necessity and Importance.
10. Where two Duties seem to stand in Opposition to each other, and we cannot practise both, the less must give Way to the greater, and the Omission of the less is not sinful. So ceremonial nial Laws give Way to moral: God will have Mercy and not Sacrifice.
I1. In Duties ofnatural Religion, we may judge of the different Degrees of their Necessity and Importance by Reason, according to their greater or more apparent Tendency to the Honour of God and the Good of Men: But in Matters of revealed Religion, it is only divine Revelation can certainly inform us what is most necessary and most important; yet we may be assisted also in that Search by the Exercises of Reason.
12. In Actions wherein there may be some Scruple about the Duty or Lawfulness of them, we should chuse always the safest Side, and abstain as far as we can from the Practice of Things whose Lawfulness we suspect.
13. Points of the greatest Importance in human Life, or in Religion, are generally the most evident, both in the Nature of Things, and in the Word of God; and where Points of Faith or Practice are exceeding difficult to find out, they cannot be exceeding important. This Proposition may be proved by the Goodness and Faithfulness of God, as well as by Experience and Observation.
14. In some of the outward Practices and Forms of Religion, as well as human Affairs, there is frequently a present Necessity of speedy Action one Way or another: In such a Case, having surveyed Arguments on both Sides, as far as our Time and Circumstances admit, we must guide our Practice by those Reasons which appear most probable, and seem at that Time to overbalance the rest; yet always reserving room to admit farther Light and Evidence, when such Occurrences return again. It is a Preponderation of circumstantial
Arguments that must determine our Actions in a thousand Occurrences.
15. We may also determine upon probable Arguments where the Matter is of small Consequence and would not answer the Trouble of seeking after Certainty. Life and Time are more precious than to have a large Share of them laid out in scrupulous Enquiries, whether smoaking Tobacco, or wearing a Periwig be lawful or no.
16. In Affairs of greater Importance, and which may have a long and lasting, and extensive Influence on our future Conduct or Happiness, we should not take up with Probabilities, if Certainty may be attained. Where there is any Doubt on the Mind, in such Cases we should call in the Assistance of all Manner of Circumstances, Reasons, Motives, Consequences on all Sides: We must wait longer and with earnest Request seek human and divine Advice before we fully determine our Judgment and our Practice, according to the old Roman Sentence, Quod statuendum est jimel, deliberandum est diu. We should be long in considering what we must determine once for all.
Principles and Rules of Judgment in Matters of human Prudence.
THE great Design of Prudence, as distinct from Morality and Religion, is to determine and manage every Affair with Decency, and to the best Advantage.
This is decent, which is agreeable to our State, Condition, or Circumstances, whether it be in Behaviour, Discourse, or Action.
That is advantageous which attains the most and best Purposes, and avoids the most and greatest Inconveniencies.
As there is infinite Variety in the Circumstances of Perfims, Things, Actions, Times and Places, so we must be furnished with such general Rules as are accommodable to all this Variety by a wife Judgment and Discretion: For what is an Act of consummate Prudence in some Times, Places and Circumstances, would be consummate Folly in others. Now these Rules may be ranged in the following manner.
1. Our Regard to Persons or Things should be governed by the Degrees of Concernment we have with them, the Relation we have to them, or the Expectation we have from them. These should be the Measures by which we should proportion our Diligence and Application in any thing that relates to them.
2. We should always consider whether the Thing we pursue be attainable; whether it be worthy our Pursuit; whether it be worthy the Degree of Pursuit; whether it be worthy of the Means used in order to attain it. This Rule is necessary both in Matters of Knowledge, and Matters of Practice.
3. When the Advantages and Disadvantages, Conveniences and Inconveniencies of any Action are balanced together, we must finally determine on that Side which has the superior Weight; and the sooner in Things which are necessarily and speedily to be done or determined.
4. If Advantages and Disadvantages in their own Nature are equal, then those which are most certain or likely as to the Event should turn the Scale of our Judgment, and determine our Prac5. Where
5. Where the Improbabilities of Success or Advantage are greater than the Probabilities, it is not Prudence to act or venture. It is proper to enquire whether this be not the Cafe in almost all Lotteries; for they that hold Stakes will certainly secure Part to themselves; and only the Remainder being divided into Prizes must render the Improbability of Gain to each Adventurer greater than the Probability.
6. We should not despise or neglect any real Advantage, and abandon the Pursuit of it, though we cannot attain all the Advantages that we desire. This would be to act like Children, who are fond of something which strikes their Fancy most, and sullen and regardless of every thing else, if they are not humoured in that Fancy.
7. Tho' a general Knowledge of Things be useful in Science and in human Life, yet we should content ourselves with a more superficial Know
.ledge of those Things which have the least Relation to our chief End and Design.
8. This Rule holds good also in Matters of Business and Practice, as well as in Matters of Knowledge; and therefore we should not grasp at every Thing, lest in the End we attain nothing. Persons that either by an Inconstancy of Temper, or by a vain Ambition, will pursue every Sort of Art and Science, Study and Business, seldom grow excellent in any one of them: And Projectors who form twenty Schemes seldom use sufficient Application to finish one of them, or make it turn to good Account.
9. Take heed of delaying and trifling amongst the Means instead of reaching at the End. Take heed of wasting a Life in mere speculative Studies, which is called to Action and Employment: Dwell not too long in philosophical, mathematical, or 3 gramma