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ideas are joined, while (if we attend to reason) we plainly see and know them to be disjoined.
What could ever have established the nonsense of transubstantiation in the world, if men had been fixed in this great truth, that God gives no revelation contradictory to our own reason ? tbiogs may be above our reason, that is, reason may bave but obscure ideas of them, or reason may not see the connection of these ideas, or may not know at present the certain and exact manner of reconciling such propositions cither with one another, or with other ratiopal truths, as I have explained in some of my logical papers : but when they stand directly and plainly against all sense and reason, as transubstantiation does, no divine anthority can be pretended to enforce their belief, and human authority is impudent to pretend to it. Yet this buman authority, in the popish countries, has prevailed over millions of souls, because they have abandoned their reason, they bave given up the glory of human nature to be trampled upon by knaves, and so reduced themselves to the condition of brutes.
It is by this amusement of authority (says a certain author) that the borse is taught to obey the words of command, a dog to fetch and carry, and a man to believe inconsistencies and impossibilities. Whips and dungeons, fire and the gibbet, and the solemn terrors of eternal misery after this life, will persuade weak minds to believe against their senses, and in direct contra. diction to all their reasoning powers. A parrot is taught to tell lies with much more ease and more gentle usage; but none of all these creatures would serve their masters at the expence of their liberty, bad they but knowledge and the just use of reason.
I have mentioned three cases, wherein mankind must or will be determined in their sentiments by authority; that is, the case of children in their minority, in regard of the commands of their parents ; the case of all inen with regard to universal, complete and sufficient testimony of matter of fact; and the case of every person, with regard to the authority of divine revelation, and of men divinely inspired ; and under each of these I bave given such limitations and cautions as were necessary.
I proceed now to mention soine other cases, wherein we ought to pay a great deference to the authority and sentiments of others, though we are not absolutely concluded and determined by their opinions.
1. When we begin to pass out of our minority, and to judge for ourselves in matters of the civil and religious life, we ought to pay very great deference to the sentiments of our parents, who in the time of our minority were our natural guides and directors in these matters. So in matters of science, an ignorant aud inexperienced youth should pay great deference to the
opinions of his instructors; and though he may justly suspend his judgment in matters which his tutors dictate, till he perceive sufficient evideuce for them; yet neither parents nor tutors should be directly opposed without great apd most évident reasons, such as constrain the understanding or conscience of those concerned.
2. Persons of years and long experience, of human affairs, when they give advice in matters of prudence or civil conduct, ought to have a coosiderable deference paid to their authority by those that are young and have not seen the world, for it is most probable that the elder persons are in the right. :
3. In the affairs of practical godliness, there should be much deference given to persons of long stauding in virtue and piety. I confess in the particular forms and ceremonies of religion, there may be as much bigotry and superstition amongst the old as the young; but in questions of inward religion aod pure de. votion, or virtue, a man who has been long engaged in the sincere practice of those things, is justly presumed to know more than a youth with all his uogoverned passions, appetites and prejudices about him.
4. Men in their several professions and arts, in which they have been educated, and in wbich they have employed themselves all their days, must be supposed to have greater knowledge and skill than others ; and therefore there is due respect to be paid to their judgment in those matters.
5. In matters of fact, where there is not sufficient testimony to constrain our assent, yet there ought to be due deference paid to the narratives of persons wise and sober, according to the degrees of their honesty, skill, and opportunity to acquaint themselves therewith.
I confess in many of these cases, where the proposition is a mere matter of speculation, and doth not necessarily draw practice along with it, we may delay our assent till better evidence appear; but where the matter is of a practical nature, and requires us to act one way or another, we ought to pay much deference to authority or testimony, and follow such probabilities where we have no certainty ; for this is the best light we have, and surely it is better to follow such sort of guidance, where we cao bave po better, than to wander and fluctuate in absolute uncertainty. It is not reasonable to put out our candle, and sit still in the dark, because we have not the light of sun-beams.
CHAP. V.-Of treating and managing the Prejudices of
JF we had nothing but the reason of men to deal with, and that reason were pure and uncorrupted, it would then be a matter of no great skill or labour to convince another person of cominon mistakes, or to persuade him to assent to plain and obvious truths. But alas ! mankind stand wrapt round in errors, and intrenched in prejudices, and every one of their opinions is supported and guarded by something else beside reason. A young bright .genius, who has furnished himself with a variety of truths and strong arguments, but is yet unacquainted with the world, goes forth from the schools like a knighi errant, presuming bravely to vanquish the follies of men, and to scatter light and truth through all his acquaintance. But he meets with huge giants and enchanted castles, strong prepossessions of mind, habits, customs, educations, authority, interest, together with ,all the various passions of inen, armed and obstinate to defend their old opinions; and he is strangely disappointed in his generous attempts. He finds now that he must not trust merely to the sharpness of his steel, and to the strength of liis arm, but he must manage the weapons of his reason with much dexterity and artifice, with skill and address, or he shall never be able to subdue errors and to convince mankind. Where prejudices are strong, there are these several methods to be practised in order to convince persons of their mistakes, and make a way for truth to enter into their minds.
I. By avoiding the power and influence of the prejudice, without any direct attack upon it ; and this is done, by choosing all the slow, soft and distant methods of proposing your own sentiments, and your arguments for thein, and by degrees leading the person step by step into those truths which his prejudices would not bear if they were proposed all at once. Perhaps your peighbour is under the influence of superstition and bigotry in the simplicity of his soul; you must not immediately run upon bim with violence, and shew biin the absurdity or folly of his own opinions, though you might be able to set ihem in a glaring light ; but you must rather begin at a distance, and establish his assent to some familiar and easy propositions, which have a ten'dency to refute his mistakes, and to coufirm the truth ; and then silently observe what impression this makes upon him, and proceed by slow degrees as he is able to bear; and you must carry on the work, perhaps at distant seasons of conversation. The tender or diseased eye cannot bear a deluge of light at once.
* For the nature and causes of prejudices, and for the preventiog or euring them in ourselves, see the Doctor's System of Logic, Part II. Chap. III. Of the springs of false judgmcot, or the doctrine of prejudices.
Therefore we are not to consider our arguments merely according to our own notions of their force, and from thence expect the immediate conviction of others; but we should regard how they are likely to be received by the persons we converse with; and thus manage our reasoning, as the nurse gives a child drink by slow degrees, lest the infant should be choked or return it all back again if poured in too hastily. If your wine be ever so good, and you are ever so liberal in bestowing it on your neighboor, yet if bis bottle into which you attempt to pour it with freedom has a narrow mouth, you will sooner overset the bottle, than fill it with wine.
Over-hastiness and vehemence in arguing is oftentimes the effect of pride; it blunts the poignancy of the argument, breaks its force, and disappoints the end. If you were to convince a person of the falsehood of the doctrine of transubstantiation, and you take up the consecrated bread before him and say, You may see, and taste, and feel, this is nothing but bread; therefore whilst you assert that God commands you to believe it is not bread, you most wickedly accuse God of commanding you to tell a lie. This sort of language would only raise the indigoation of the person against you, instead of making any impression upon him. He will not so much as think at all on the argumeut you have brought, but he rages at you as a profane wretch, setting up your own sense and reason above sacred authority; so that though what you affirm is a truth of great evidence, yet you lose the benefit of your whole argument by an ill managernent, and the upseasonable use of it.
II. We may expressly allow and indulge thuse prejudices for a season, which seem to stand against the truth, and endeavour to introduce the truth by degrees while those prejudices are expressly allowed, till by degrees the advancing truth may of itself wear out the prejudice. Thus God himself dealt with his owo people the Jews after the resurrection of Christ ; for though from the following days of Pentecost when the gospel was proclaimed and confirmed at Jerusalem the Jewish ceremonies began to be void and ineffectual for any divine purpose, yet the Jews who received Christ the Messiah were permitted to circumcise their children, and to practise many Levitical forms, till that constitution which then waxed old should in time vanish away. Where the prejudices of mankind cannot be conquered at once, but they will rise up in arins against the evidence of truth, we must make some allowances, and yield to them for the present, as far as we can safely do it without real injury to truth; and if we would have any success in our endeavours to convince the world, we must practise this complaisance for the benefit of mankind. Take a student who has deeply inbibed the principles of the
Peripatetics, and imagines certain immaterial beings, called subslantial forms, to inhabit every herb, fluwer, mineral, metal, fire, water, &c. and to be the spring of all its properties and operations; or take a Platonist who believes an anima mundi, an universal soul of the world to pervade all bodies, to act in and by thein according to their nature, and indeed to give them their nature and their special powers; perhaps it may be very hard to convince these persons by arguments, and constrain them to yield up these fancies. Well then, let the one believe his universal soul, and the other go on with his notion of substantial forms, and at the same time teach them how by certain original laws of motion, and the various sizes, shapes, and situations of the parts of matter, allowing a continued divine concourse in and with all, the several appearances in nature may be solved, and the variety of effects produced, according to the corpuscular philosophy, improved by Des Cartes, Mr. Boyle, and Sir Isaac Newton; and when they have attained a degree of skill in this science, they will see these airy notions of theirs, these imaginary powers, to be so useless and unnecessary, that they will drop them of their own accord ; the Peripatetic forms will vanish from the mind like a dream, and the Platonic soul of the world will expire. • Or suppose a young philosopher under a powerful persuasion, that there is nothing but what has three dimensions, length, breadth, and thickness, and consequently that every finite being has a figure or shape, (for shape' is but the term and boundary of dimensions :) suppose this person, through the long prejudices of sense and imagination, cannot be easily brought to conceive of a spirit, or a thinking being without shape and dimensions ; let him then continue to conceive a spirit with dimensions ; but be sure in all bis conceptions to retain the idea of cogitation or a power of thinking, and thus proceed to philosophize upon the subject. Perhaps in a little time he will find that length, breadth and shape, have no share in any of the actions of a spirit; and that he can manisest all the properties and relations of such a being, with all its operations of sensation, volition, &c. to be as well performed without the use of this supposed shape or these dimensions; and that all these operations and these attributes may be ascribed to a spirit, considered merely as a power of thinking. And when he further conceives that God, the infinite spirit, is an almighty, self-existing, thinking power, wilhout shape and dimensions of length, breadth and depth, he may then sup;vose the human spirit way be an inferior self-subsisting power of thought; and he may be inclined to drop the ideas of dimension and figure by degrees, when he sees and is convinced they do nothing towards thinking, nor are they necessary to assist or explain the operations or properties of a spirit.