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the truth, which will naturally lead us into the best methods to promote it. And here the followiog directions may be useful :
I. If you would convince a person of bis mistake, choose a proper place, a happy hour, and the fittest concurrent circumstances for this purpose. Do not unseasonably set upon him when he is engaged in the midst of other affairs, but when his soul is at liberty, and at leisure to hear and attend. Accost him not upon that subject, when is spirit is ruffled or discomposed with any occurrences of life, and especially when he has beated his passions in the defence of a contrary opinion ; but rather seize a golden opportunity, when some occurrences of life may cast a favourablc aspect upon the truth of which you would convince him, or which may throw some dark and unhappy colour or consequences upon that error from which you would lain deliver him. There are in life 'soine Mollissima tempora fandi, some very agrecable moments of addressing a person, wbich if rightly managed, may render your attempts more successful, and his conviciion easy and pleasant.
JI. Make it appear by your whole conduct to the person you would teach, that you mean him well, that your design is not to triumph over his opinion, not to expose his ignorance, or bis incapacity of defending what he asserts. Let himn see that it is not your aim to advance your own character as a disputant, nor to set yourself up for an instructor to mankind; but that you love bim, and seek his true interest; and not only assure him of this in words, when you are entering on an argu:nent with bim, but let the whole of your conduct_to bim at all times demonstate your real friendship for him. Truth and argument conie with particular force from the mouth of one whom we trust and love.
III. The sofiest and gentlest address to the erroneous, is the best way to convince them of their mistake. Sometimes it is necessary to represent to your opponent, that he is not far off from the truth, and that you would fain draw him a little nearer to it; commend and establish whatever he says that is just and true, as our blessed Saviour treated the young scribe, when he answered well concerning the two great commandments :“ Thou art not far, says our Lord, from the kingdom of heaven ;' Mark xii. 34. Imitate the mildness and conduct of the blessed Jesus.
Come as near to your opponent as you can in all your propositions, and yield to him as much as you dare, in a consistence with truth and justice. It is a very great and fatal mistake in persons who attempt to convince or reconcile others to their party when they make the difference appear as wide as possible; this is shocking to any person who is to be convinced, he will choose
rather to keep and maintain his own opinions, if he cannot come into yours without renouncing and abandoning every thing that be believed before. Human nature must be flattered a little as well as reasoned with, that so the argument may be able to come at his understanding, which otherwise will be thrust off at a distance. If you charge a man with nonsense and absurdities, with heresy and self-contradiction, you take a very wrong step towards convincing him.
Remember that error is not to be rooted out of the mind. of man by reproaches and railings, by flashes of wit and biting jests, by loud exclamations or sharp ridicule ; long declamations and triumph over our neighbour's mistake, will not prove the way to convince him; these are signs either of a bad cause, or of want of arguments or capacity for the defence of a good one.
IV. Sel therefore a constant watch over yourself, lest you grow warm in dispute before you are aware. The passions never clear the understanding, but raise darkness, clouds and confusion in the soul; buman nature is like water which has mud at the bottom of it, it may be clear while it is calm and undisturbed, and the ideas like pebbles appear bright at the bottom; but when once it is stirred and moved by passion, the mud rises uppermost and spreads confusion and darkness over all the ideas ; you cannot set things in so just and so clear a light before the eyes of your neighbour, while your own conceptions are clouded with heat and passion.
Besides, when your own spirits are a little disturbed, and your wrath is awakened, this naturally kindles the same fire in your correspondent, and prevents him from taking in your ideas, were they ever so clear ; for his passions are engaged all ou a sudden for the defence of his own mistakes, and they combat as fiercely as yours do, which perhaps may be awakened on the side of truth.
To provoke a person whom you would convince, not only rouses bis anger, and sets it against your doctrine ; but directs its resentment against your person as well as against all your instructions and arguments. You must treat an opponent like friend, if you would persuade him to learn any thing from yo and this is one great reason why there is so little suco either side between two disputants or controversial wrid cause they are so ready 10 interest their passions in received on either side ; ambition, inde of contest, and prevent the mutual light that wigby fray, zeal, reign on both sides; victory is the truth is pretended, and truth oftentimes peat opinions; per retires from the field of battle; the cor they began, the understandings hold
or just where
haps with this disadvantage, that they are a little more obstinate, and rooted in them without fresh reason, and they generally come off with the loss of temper and charity.
V. Neither attempt nor hope to convince a person of his mistake, by any penal methods or severe usage ; there is no light brought into the mind by all the fire and sword, and bloody persecutions that were ever introduced into the world. One would think that the princes, the priests, and the people, the learned and the unlearned, the great and the mean, should have all, by this time, seen the folly and madness of seeking to propagate the truth by the laws of cruelty; we compel a beast to the yoke by blows, because the ox and the ass bave no understanding; but intellectual powers are not to be fettered and compelled at this rate; men cannot believe what they will, nor change their religion and their sentiments as they please ; they may be made hypocrites by the forms of severity, and constrained to confess what they do not believe ; they may be forced to comply with external practices and ceremonies, contrary to their own consciences; but this can never please God, nor profit men.
VI. In order to convince another, you should always make choice of those arguments that are best suited to his understanding and capacity, his genius and temper, his state, station, and circumstance. If I were to persuade a plowman of the truth of any form of church government, it should not be attempted by the use of the Greek and Latin fathers, but from the word of God, the light of nature, and the common reason of things.
VII. Arguments should always be proposed in such a manner, as may lead the mind onward to perceive the truth in a clear and agreeable light, as well as to constrain the assent by the power of reasoning. Clear ideas in many cases, are as useful toward conviction, as a well formed and unanswerable syllogismo.
VIII. Allow the person you desire to instruct a reasonable time to enter into the force of your argument. When you have declared your own sentiments in the brightest manner of illustration, and enforced them with the most convincing arguments, you are not to suppose that your friends should immediately be convinced and receive the truth : habitude in a particular way of thinking, as well as in most other things, obtains the force of ature,
you cannot expect to wean a man from his accustom%errors but by slow degrees, and by his owe assistance; ensim therefore not to judge on the sudden, nor deterimine
jou at once, but that he would please to review your
Policct upon your arguments with all the impartiality he
ould be disposed to hear you speak yet further
ore in an obliging manner; and say, I
am not so fond as to think I bave placed the subject in such lights, as to throw you on a sudden into a new track of thinking, or to make you immediately lay aside your present opinions or designs; all that I hope is, that some lint or other which I have given, is capable of being improved by you to your own conviction, or possibly it may lead you into such a train of reasoning, as in time to effect a change in your thoughts. Which hint leads meto add,
IX. Laborar as much as possible, to make the person you would teach, his own instructor. Human nature may be allowed, by a secret pleasure and pride in its own reasoning, to seem to find out by itself the very thing that you would teach; and there are some persons that have so much of this natural bias towards self rooted in them, that they can never be convinced of a inistake by the plainest and strongest arguments to the contrary, though the demonstration glare in their faces; but they may be tempted by such gentle insinuations to follow a track of thought, which you propose, till they have wound themselves out of their owa error, and led themselves hereby into your opinion ; if you do but let it appear, that they are under their own guidance rather than yours. And perhaps there is nothing which shews more dexterity of address than this secret influence over the minds of others, which they do not discern even while they follow it.
X. If you can gain the main point in question, be not very solicitous about the nicely with which it shall be expressed. Mankind is so vain a thing, that it is not willing to derive froin another, and though it cannot have every thing from itself, yet it would seem at least to mingle something of its own with what it derives elsewhere ; therefore when you have set your own sentiment in the fullest light, and proved it in the most effectual inander, as opponent will bring in some frivolous and useless distinction on purpose to change the form of words in the question, and acknowledge that he receives your proposition in such a sense, and in such a manner of expression, though he cannot receive it in your terms and phrases. Vanillus will confess he is now convinced, that a man who behaves well in the state, onght not to be punished for his religion ; but yet he will not consent to allow an universal toleration of all religions that do not injure the state, which is the proposition I had been Well, let Vanillas therefore nse his own language, I is convinced of the truth; he shall have leave to own way. To these directions I shall add two remar
ulusion of this chapter, which would not so prope
er the preceding directions.
I. When you have laboured to instruct
I some con
troverted truth, and yet he retains some prejudice against it, so that be doth not yield to the convincing force of your arguments, you inay sometimes bave happy success in convincing bim of that irutlı, by setting him to read a weak author, who writes against it: A young reader will find such pleasure in being able to answer the arguments of the opposer, that he will drop his former prejudices against the truth, and yield to the power and evidence of your reasons. I confess this looks like setting up one prejudice to overthrow another; but where prejudices cannot be fairly removed by dint of reason, the wisest and best of teachers will sometimes find it necessary to make a way for reason and truth to take place by this contrast of prejudices.
II. When our design is to convince a whole family, or community of persons of any mistake, or to lead them into any truth, we may justly suppose there are various reigning prejudices among them: and therefore it is not safe to attempt, nor so easy to effect it, by addressing the whole number at once.
Such a method has been often found to raise a sudden alarm, and has produced a violent opposition even to the most fair, pious, and useful proposals ; so that he who made the motion, could never carry his point. We must therefore first make as sure as we can of the most intelligent and learned, at least the most leading persons amongst them, by addressing them apart prudently, and offering proper reasons, till they are convinced and engaged on the side of trutb ; and these may with more success apply themselves to others of the same community; yet the original proposer should not neglect to make a distinct application to all the rest, so far as circumstances admit. Where a thing is to be de. terinined by a number of votes, he should labour to secure a good majority, and then take care that the most proper persons should move and argue the matter in public, lest it be quashed in the very first proposal by some prejudice against the proposer. So unhappily are our circumstances situated in this world, that if truth and justice and goodness could put on human forms, and descend from heaven to propose the most divine and useful doctrines, and bring with them the clearest evidence, and publish them at once to a multitude whose prejudices are engaged against them, the proposal would be vain and fruitless, and would nei.. ther convince nor persuade. So necessary is it to join art and dexterity, together with the force of reason, to convince mankiud of truth, uyless we came furnished with miracles or omnipotence to create a conviction*.
* The cooduct of Christ and 'bis apostles, (armed as they were with supernatural powers) in the gradual openings of truth, against which the minds of their disciples were strongly prejudiced, may not only secure such an address from the imputation of dishonest craft, but may demonstrate the expediency, and io some cases the necessity of attendiog to it.