« הקודםהמשך »
CHAP. IX. Self-knowledge discovers the secret Prejudice's
of the heart. VIII. ANOTHER important branch of
- felf-knowledge is, for a man to be acquainted with his own prejudices, or those secret prepossessions of his heart, which, though so deep and latent that he may not be sensible of them, are often so frong and prevalent, as to give a mighty, but imperceptible bias to the mind.
And in this the great art of self-knowledge confifts, more than in any one thing again. It being therefore a matter of such mighty consequence, and at the same time a point to which men in general are too inattentive, it deserves a more particular discussion.
These prejudices of the human mind may be considered with regard to opinions, perfons, and things. i (1.). With regard to opinions. · It is a common observation, but well expressed by a late celebrated writer, “that
we set out in life with such poor begin“ nings of knowledge, and grow up un66 der such remains of superstition and ig.
“ norance, such influences of company 66 and fashion, such insinuations of plea“ sure, &c. that it is no wonder if men “ get habits of thinking only in one way, “ that these habits in time grow rigid and « confirmed, and so their minds come to “ be overcast with thick prejudices, scarce ço penetrable by any ray of truth, or light « of reason *."
There is no man but is more fond of one particular set or scheme of opinions in philosophy, politics, and religion, than he is of another, if he hath employed his thoughts at all about them. The question we should examine then is, How come we by these attachments? whence are we so fond of these particular notions ? did we come fairly by them? or were they imposed upon us, and dictated to our easy belief, before we were able to judge of them? This is most likely. For the impressions we early receive generally grow up with us, and are those we least care to part with. However, which way foever we came by them, they must be re-examined, and brought to the touch-stone of sound sense, solid reason, and plain scripture. If they will not bear this after hard
F3 rubbing, * See Religion of Nature Delin. pag. 129.
rubbing, they must be discarded as no genuine principles of truth, but only cours terfeits of it.
And as reason and fcripture must discover our prejudices to us, so they only car help us to get rid of them. By these are we to rectify, and to these are we to conform all our opinions and sentiments in religion, as our only standard, exclusive of all other rules, light, or authority whatfoever:
And care must further be taken that we do not make fcripture and reason bend and buckle to our notions, which will rather confirm our prejudices than cure them. For whatever cannot evidently be . . made out, without the help of overstrained metaphors, and the arts of fophiftry, is much to be suspected, which used to make Archbishop Tillotfon fay, Non ama argutias in theologia, " I do not love sub“ tilties in divinity.". But, . (2.) The human mind is very apt to be prejudiced either for or against certain perfons, as well as certain sentiments. And as prejudice will lead a man to talk very unreasonably with regard to the latter, so it will lead him to net very unreasonably with regard to the former. : What is the reason, for instance, that
we cannot help having a more hearty affection for some persons than others? Is it from a similarity of taste and temper? or something in their address, that Matters our vanity? or fomething in their humour, that hits our fancy? or something in their conversation, that improves our understanding ? or a certain sweetness of dispofition, and agreeableness of manner, that is, naturally engaging? or from benefits received or expected from them? or from fome eminent and distinguished excellency in them? or from none of these, but something else, we cannot tell what? Such fort of inquiries will show us whether our esteem and affections be rightly placed, or flow from mere instinct, blind prejudice, or something worse.
And so, on the other hand, with regard to our diflaffection towards any one, or the disgust we have taken against him ; if we would know ourselves, we must examine · into the bottom of this, and see not only what is the pretended, but true cause of it; whether it be a justifiable one, and our resentments duly proportioned to it. Is his manner of thinking, talking, and acting,' quite different from mine, 'and therefore what I cannot approve? or have I received some real affront or injury from
him? him? Be it fo; my continued refentment against him, on either of these accounts, may be owing, notwithstanding, more to some unreasonable prejudice in me, than any real fault in him.
For as to the former, his way of thinking, talking, and acting, may possibly be juster than my own, which the mere force of custom and habit only makes me prefer to his. However, be his ever fo wrong, he may not have had the same advantage of improving his understand. ing, address, and conduct, as I have had, and therefore his defects herein are more excufable. And he may have many other kind of excellencies which I have not. " But he is not only ignorant and un“ mannered, but unsufferably vain, con“ ceited, and overbearing at the same 6 time.” Why, that perhaps he cannot help; it is the fault of his nature. He is the object of pity rather than resentment. And had I such a temper by nature, I should perhaps, with all my self-improvement, find it a difficult thing to manage : and therefore, though I can never choose such a one for an agreeable companion, yet I ought not to harbour a dislike to him, but love, and pity, and pray for him, as a person under a great misfortune, and