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for the dinner of the family, desired earnestly to eat of them; and suppose he became impatient because his physician did not permit him, and he insisted upon it, that it could do him po hurt ; surely rathes than let him persist in that fancy and that desire, to the danger of his life, I would tell him that these animals were strangled, which sort of food was forbidden by the Jewish law, though I myself may believe that law is now abolished.
In the same manner was Tenerilla persuaded to let Damon her husband prosecute a thief, who broke open their house on a Sunday. At first she abhorred the thoughts of it, and refused it utterly, because if the thief were condemned, according to the English law, he must be hanged; whereas (said she) the law of God, in the writings of Moses, does not appoint death to be the punishment of such criminals, but tells us, that a thief shall be sold for his theft, Exod. xxii. 3. But when Damon could no otherwise convince her that the thief ought to be prosecuted, he put her in mind that the theft was committed on a Sunday morning ; now the same law of Moses requires that the Sabbathbreaker shall surely be put to death, Exod. xxxi. 15. Numb. xv. 35. This argument prevailed with Tenerilla, and she consented to the prosecution.
Encrates used the same means of conviction when he saw a Mahometan drink wine to excess, and heard him maintain the lawfulness and pleasure of drunkenness : Encrates reminded him that his own prophet Mahomet had utterly forbidden all wine to his followers ; and the good man restrained his vicious appetite by his superstition, when he could no otherwise convince him that drunkenness was un. lawful, nor withhold him from excess.
Where we find any person obstinately persisting in a mistake in opposition to all reason, especially if the mistake be very injurious or pernicious, and we know this person will hearken to the sentiment or authority of some favourite name, it is needful sometimes to urge the opinion and authority of that favourite person, since that is likely
to be regarded much more than reason. I confess I am almost ashamed to speak of using any influence of authority, while I would teach the art of reasoning. But in some cases it is better that poor, silly, perverse, obstinate creatures, should be persuaded to judge and act right, by a veneration for the sense of others, than to be left to wander in pernicious errors, and continue deaf to all argument, and blind to all evidence. They are but children of a larger size ; and since they persist all their lives in their minority, and reject all true reasoning, surely we may try to persuade them to practise what is for their own interest by such childish reasons as they will hearken to: we may overawe them from pursuing their own ruin by the terrors of a solemn shadow, or allure them by a sugar-plum to their own happiness.
But after all, we must conclude, that wheresoever it can be done, it is best to remove and root out those prejudices which obstruct the entrance of truth into the mind, rather than to palliate, humour, or indulge them; and sometimes this must necessarily be done, before you can make a per. son part with some beloved error, and lead him into better sentiments.
Suppose you would convince a gamester that “ gaming is not a lawful calling, or business of life, to maintain one's self by it,” and you make use of this argument, namely, " That which doth not admit us to ask the blessing of God, that we may get gain by it, cannot be a lawful employment; but we cannot ask the blessing of God on gaming, therefore,” &c. The minor is proved thus : “ We cannot pray that our neighbour may lose ; this is contrary to the rule of seeking our neighbour's welfare, and loving him as ourselves; this is wishing mischief to our neighbour. But in gaming, we can gain but just so much as our neighbour loses; therefore in gaming we cannot pray for the blessing of God that we may gain by it.”
Perhaps the gamester shrugs and winces, turns and twists the argument every way, but he cannot fairly answer it ;
yet yet he will patch up an answer to satisfy himself, and will never yield to the conviction, because he feels so much of the sweet influence of gaming, either towards the gratification of his avarice, or the support of his expences. Thus he is under a strong prejudice in favour of it, and is not easily convinced.
Your first work, therefore, must be to lead him by degrees to separate the thoughts of his own interest from the argument, and shew him that our own temporal interests, our livelihood, or our loss, hath nothing to do to determine this point in opposition to the plain reason of things, and that he ought to put these considerations quite out of the question, if he would be honest and sincere in his search after truth or duty: and that he must be contented to hearken to the voice of reason and truth, even though it should run counter to his secular interest. When this is done, then an argument may carry some weight or force with it toward his conviction.
In like manner, if the question were, whether Matrissa ought to expose herself and her other children to poverty and misery, in order to support the extravagancies of a favourite son ? Perhaps the mother can hear no argument against it; she feels no conviction in the most cogent reasonings, so close do her fond prejudices stick to her heart. The first business here is to remove this prejudice, Ask her therefore, whether it is not a parent's duty to love all her children, so as to provide for their welfare? Whether duty to God and her family ought not to regulate her love to a favourite? Whether her neighbour Floris did well in dressing up her daughters with expensive gaudery, and neglecting the education of her son till she saw his ruin? Perhaps by this method she might be brought to see, that particular fondness for one child should have no weight or force in determining the judgement in opposition to plain duty: and she may then give herself up to conviction in her own case, and to the evidence of truth, and thus correct her mistaken practice.
Suppose you would convert Rominda from Popery, and you set all the absurdities, errors, and superstitions of that church before her in the most glaring evidence, she holds them fast still, and cannot part with them, for she hath a most sacred reverence for the faith and the church of her ancestors, and cannot imagine that they were in the wrong. The first labour must be therefore to convince her that our ancestors were fallible creatures ; that we may part with their faith without any dishonour done to them; that all persons must choose their religion for themselves; that we must answer for ourselves in the great day of judgement, and not we for our parents, nor they for us ; that Christianity itself had never been received by her ancestors in this nation, if they had persisted always in the religion of their parents, for they were all Heathens. And when she has by these methods of reasoning been persuaded that she is not bound always to cleave to the religion of her pa
may then receive an easier conviction of the errors of Rome*
C H A P. VI.
counted * But perhaps of all these different methods of curing prejudices, none can be practised with greater pleasure to a wise and good man, or with greater success, where success is most desirable, than attempting to turn the attention of well-meaning people from some point in which prejudice prevails to some other of great importance, and fixing their thoughts and heart on some great truth which they allow, and which leads unto conse, quences contrary to some other notion which they espouse and retain. By this means they may be led to forget their errors, while attentive to oppo, site truth ; and in proportion to the degree in which their minds open, and their tempers grow more generous and virtuous, may be induced to resign it. And surely nothing can give a benevolent mind more satisfaction, than to improve his neighbour in kpowledge, and in goodness at the same time,
counted a smart youngster in the academy for analysing a proposition, and is full, even to the brim, with the terms of his art and learning. When he has read his text, after. a short flourish of introduction, he tells you in how many senses the chief word is taken, first among Greek Heathen writers, and then in the New Testament; he cites all the chapters and the verses exactly, and endeavours to make you understand many a text before he lets you know fully what he means by his own. He finds these things at large in the critics, which he has consulted, where this sort of work is necessary and beautiful, and therefore he imagines it will become his sermon well. Then he informs you very learnedly of the various false expositions which have been given by divines and commentators on this part of scripture, and it may
be the reasons of each of them too ; and he refutes them with much zeal and contempt. Having thus cleared his way, he fixes upon the exposition which his judgement best approves, and dwells generally five or ten minutes up, on the arguments to confirm it; and this he does, not only in texts of darkness and difficulty, but even when scarcely a child could doubt of his meaning.
This grammatical exercise being performed, he applies himself to his logic; the text is divided and subdivided into many little pieces; he points you precisely to the subject and the predicate, brings you acquainted with the agent and the object, shews you all the properties and the accidents that attend it, and would fain make you understand the matter and the form of it as well as he does himself. When he has thus done, two thirds of the hour is spent, and his hearers are quite tired; then he begins to draw near to his doctrine, or grand theme of discourse ; and having told the audience, with great formality and exactness, what it is, and in what method he shall manage it, he names you one or two particulars under the first general head
i and by this time finds it necessary to add, “ He intended indeed to have been larger in the illustration of his subject, and he should have given you some reasons for the doctrine,