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Of treating and managing the Pre

judices of Men.*


F 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 ano. ther Person of common Mistakes, or to perswade him to assent to plain and obvious Truths. But alas! Mankind stands wrapt round in Errors, and intrenched in Prejudices; and every one of their Opinions is supported and guarded by something else beside Reafon. A young bright Genius, who has furnished himself with a Variety of Truths and strong Arguments, but is yet unacquainted



• For the Nature and Causes of Prejudices, and for the preventing or curing them in ourselves ; See the Doctor's exceilent System of Logic, Part II. Chap. III. Of the Springs of falle Judgment, or the Doctrine of Prejudices.

with tht World, goes forth from the Schools like a Knight-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 inchanted Carles, strong Prepossessions of Mind, Habits, Customs, Educations, Authority, Intereft, together with all the various Passions of Men, 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 his Arm, but he muft manage the Weapons of his Reafon 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 dire&t Attack upon it: And this is done, by choosing all the slow, soit and distant Methods of proposing your own Sentiments and your Arguments for them, 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 Neighbour is under the İnfluence of Superstition and Bigottry in the Simplicity of bis Soul ; you must not immediately run upon him with Violence, and Thew him the Absurdity or Folly of his own Opinions, tho' you might be able to set them in a glaring Light : But you must rather begin at a Distance, and establish his Afient to some familiar and easy Propositions, which have a Tendency to refute his Mistakes, and to confirm the Truth ; and then filently observe what Impression this makes upon him, and proceed by flow Degrees as lie 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.

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 Perfons we converse with; and thus manage our reasoning, as the Nurse gives a Child drink by Now Degrees, left the Infant should be choked, or return it all back again, if poured in too hastily. If your

Wine be never so good, and you are never so liberal in bestowing it on your Neighbour, yet if his Bottle into which you attempt to pour it with Freedom has a narrow Mouth, you

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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 Do&trine of Transubstantiation, and



the consecrated Bread before him and say, “ you may fee, and “ taft, and feel, This is nothing but Bread; " therefore whilft you assert that God com“ mands you to believe it is not Bread, you “ most wickedly accuse God of com

manding you to tell a Lye.” This Sort of Language would only raise the Indignation of the Person against you, instead of making any Impressions upon him. He will not so much as think at all on the Argugument you have brought, but he rages at you as a profane Wretch, fetting 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 Manangement, and the unfeasonable Use of it.

II. We may expressly allow and indulge those Prejudices for a Season which seem to fand against the Truth, and endeavour to introduce the Truth by Degrees while those Prejudices are expressly allowed, till by Degrees ile advancing Truth may of itself wear


out the Prejudice. Thus God himself dealt with his own People the Jews after the Resurrection of Christ; for though from the following Days of Pentecost, when the Gofpel was proclaimed and confirmed at Jerufalem, the Jewis Ceremonies began to be yoid and ineffectual for any divine Purpose, yet the Jews who received Christ the Messiah were permitted to circumcise their Children, and to practice 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 Arms against the Evidence of Truth, there 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 imbib'd the Principles of Peripatetics, and imagines certain immaterial Beings, called substantial 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 Universal Soul of the World to pervade all Bodies, to act in and by them according to their Nature, and indeed to give them


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