« السابقةمتابعة »
cerely searching for truth, find out. He that proceeds on other principles in his inquiry into any sciences, though he be resolved to examine them and judge of them freely, does yet at least put himself on that side, and post himself in a party which he will not quit till he be beaten out; by which the mind is insensibly engaged to make what defence it can, and so is unawares biassed. I do not say but a man should embrace some opinion when he has examined, else he examines to no purpose; but the surest and safest way is to have no opinion at all till he has examined, and that without any the least regard to the opinions or systems of other men about it. For example, were it my business to understand physic, would not the safe and readier way be to consult nature herself, and inform myself in the history of diseases and their cures, than espousing the principles of the dogmatists, methodists, or chymists, to engage in all the disputes concerning either of those systems, and suppose it to be true, till I have tried what they can say to beat me out of it? Or supposing that Hippocrates, or any other book, infallibly contains the whole art of physic, would not the direct way be to study, read, and consider that book, weigh and compare the parts of it to find the truth, rather than espouse the doctrines of any party? who, though they acknowledge his authority, have
already interpreted and wiredrawn all his text to their own sense; the tincture whereof, when I have imbibed, I am more in danger to misunderstand his true meaning, than if I had come to him with a mind unprepossessed by doctors and commentators of my sect; whose reasonings, interpretation, and language, which I have been used to, will of course make all chime that way, and make another, and perhaps the genuine meaning of the author seem harsh, strained, and uncouth to me. For words having naturally none of their own, carry that signification to the hearer that he is used to put upon them, whatever be the sense of him that uses them. This, I think, is visbly so; and if it be, he that begins to have any doubt of any of his tenets, which he received without examination, ought, as much as he can, to put himself wholly into this state of ignorance in reference to that question; and throwing wholly by all his former notions, and the opinions of others, examine, with a perfect indifferency, the question in its source; without any inclination to either side, or any regard to his or others' unexamined opinions. This I own is no easy thing to do; but I am not enquiring the easy way to opinion, but the right way to truth; which they must follow who will deal fairly with their own understandings and their own souls.
§ 36. Question.
THE indifferency that I here propose will also enable them to state the question right, which they are in doubt about, without which they can never come to a fair and clear decision of it.
§ 37. Perseverance.
ANOTHER fruit from this indifferency, and the considering things in themselves abstract from our own opinions and other men's notions and discourses on them, will be, that each man will pursue his thoughts in that method which will be most agreeable to the nature of the thing, and to his apprehension of what it suggests to him; in which he ought to proceed with regularity and constancy, until he come to a well-grounded resolution wherein he may acquiesce. If it be objected that this will require every man to be a scholar, and quit all his other business, and betake himself wholly to study; I answer, I propose no more to any one than he has time for. Some men's state and condition requires no great extent of knowledge; the necessary provision for life swallows the greatest part of their time. But one man's want of leisure is no excuse for the ositancy and ignorance of those who have time to spare; and every one
has enough to get as much knowledge as is required and expected of him, and he that does not that, is in love with ignorance, and is accountable for it.
THE variety of distempers in men's minds is as great as of those in their bodies; some are epidemic, few escape them; and every one too, if he would look into himself, would find some defect of his particular genius. There is scarce any one without some idiosyncrasy that he suffers by. This man presumes upon his parts, that they will not fail him at time of need; and so thinks it superfluous labour to make any provision beforehand. His understanding is to him like Fortunatus's purse, which is always to furnish him, without ever putting any thing into it before-hand; and so he sits still satisfied, without endeavouring to store his understanding with knowledge. It is the spontaneous product of the country, and what need of labour in tillage? Such men may spread their native riches before the ignorant; but they were best not come to stress and trial with the skilful. We are born ignorant of every thing. The superficies of things that surround them make impressions on the negligent, but nobody penetrates into the inside without labour, attention, and indus
try. Stones and timber grow of themselves, but yet there is no uniform pile with symmetry and convenience to lodge in without toil and pains. God has made the intellectual world harmonious and beautiful without us; but it will never come into our heads all at once; we must bring it home peice-meal, and there set it up by our own industry, or else we shall have nothing but darkness and a chaos within, whatever order and light there be in things without us.
§ 39. Despondency.
On the other side, there are others that depress their own minds, despond at the first difficulty, and conclude that the getting an insight in any of the sciences, or making any progress in knowledge farther than serves their ordinary buisiness, is above their capacities. These sit still, because they think they have not legs to go as the others I last mentioned do, because they think they have wings to fly, and can soar on high when they please. To these latter one may for answer apply the proverb, "Use legs and have legs." Nobody knows what strength of parts he has till he has tried them. And of the understanding one may most truly say, that its force is greater generally than it thinks, till it is put to it. Viresque acquirit eundo.