صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

Dark, because we have not the Light of Sun-beams.


Of treating and managing the Prejudices of Men.

F we had nothing but the Reafon of Men


to deal with, and that Reafon were pure and uncorrupted, it would then be a Matter of no great Skill or Labour to convince ano. ther Perfon of common Mistakes, or to perfwade him to affent to plain and obvious Truths. But alas! Mankind ftands wrapt round in Errors, and intrenched in Prejudices; and every one of their Opinions is fupported and guarded by fomething elfe befide Reafon. A young bright Genius, who has furnifhed himself with a Variety of Truths and ftrong Arguments, but is yet unacquainted with


For the Nature and Caufes of Prejudices, and for the preventing or curing them in ourfelves; See the Doctor's excellent Syftem of Logic, Part II. Chap. III. Of the Springs of falfe Judgment, or the Doctrine of Prejudices.

with the World, goes forth from the Schools like a Knight-Errant, prefuming bravely to vanquish the Follies of Men, and to scatter Light and Truth through all his Acquaintance. But he meets with huge Giants and inchanted Caftles, ftrong Prepoffeffions of Mind, Habits, Cuftoms, Educations, Authority, Intereft, together with all the various Paffions of Men, armed and obftinate to defend their old Opinions; and he is ftrangely disappointed in his generous Attempts. He finds now that he must not truft merely to the Sharpnefs of his Steel, and to the Strength of his Arm, but he muft manage the Weapons of his Reafon with much Dexterity and Artifice, with Skill and Addrefs, or he fhall never be able to fubdue Errors and to convince Mankind.

WHERE Prejudices are ftrong, there are these several Methods to be practised in order to convince Perfons of their Miftakes, 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 flow, soft and diftant Methods of propofing your own Sentiments and your Arguments for them, and by Degrees leading the Perfon Step by Step into thofe Truths which his Prejudices would not bear if they were propofed all at once.


PERHAPS your Neighbour is under the Influence of Superftition and Bigottry in the Simplicity of bis Soul; you must not immediately run upon him with Violence, and fhew him the Abfurdity or Folly of his own Opinions, tho' you might be able to fet them in a glaring Light: But you must rather begin at a Distance, and establish his Affent to fome familiar and easy Propofitions, which have a Tendency to refute his Miftakes, and to confirm the Truth; and then filently obferve what Impreffion this makes upon him, and proceed by flow Degrees as lie is able to bear, and you muft carry on the Work, perhaps at diftant Seasons of Converfation. The tender or diseased Eye cannot bear a Deluge of Light at once.

THEREFORE we are not to confider 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 Perfons we converfe with; and thus manage our reasoning, as the Nurfe gives a Child drink by flow Degrees, left the Infant should be choked, or return it all back again, if poured in too haftily. If your Wine be never fo good, and you are never fo liberal in beftowing it on your Neighbour, yet if his Bottle into which you attempt to pour it with Freedom has a narrow Mouth, you E 2 will

will fooner overfet 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 difappoints the End. If you were to convince a Perfon of the Falfehood of the Doctrine of Tranfubftantiation, and you take up the confecrated Bread before him and fay, "you may fee, and

taft, and feel, This is nothing but Bread; "therefore whilft you affert that God com"mands you to believe it is not Bread, you "moft wickedly accufe God of com

manding you to tell a Lye." This Sort of Language would only raife the Indignation of the Perfon against you, instead of making any Impreffions upon him. He will not fo much as think at all on the Argugument you have brought, but he rages at you as a profane Wretch, fetting up your own Senfe and Reafon above facred Authority; fo that though what you affirm is a Truth. of great Evidence, yet you lofe the Benefit of your whole Argument by an ill Manangement, and the unfeafonable Use of it.

II. We may expressly allow and indulge thofe Prejudices for a Seafon which feem to fand against the Truth, and endeavour to introduce the Truth by Degrees while thofe Prejudices are exprefsly allowed, till by Degrees the advancing Truth may of itself wear


out the Prejudice. Thus God himself dealt with his own People the Jews after the Refurrection of Christ; for though from the following Days of Pentecoft, when the Gofpel was proclaimed and confirmed at Ferufalem, the Jewish Ceremonies began to be void and ineffectual for any divine Purpose, yet the Jews who received Chrift the Meffiah were permitted to circumcife their Children, and to practice many Levitical Forms, till that Constitution which then waxed old fhould in Time vanish away,

WHERE the Prejudices of Mankind cannot be conquered at once, but they will rife up in Arms against the Evidence of Truth, there we must make fome Allowances, and yield to them for the prefent, as far as we can fafely do it without real Injury to Truth: And if we would have any Succefs in our endeavours to convince the World, we muft practise this Complaifance for the Benefit of Mankind,

TAKE a Student who has deeply imbib'd the Principles of Peripatetics, and imagines certain immaterial Beings, called fubftantial Forms, to inhabit every Herb, Flower, 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 Univerfal Soul of the World to pervade all Bodies, to act in and by them according to their Nature, and indeed to give them E 3 their

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