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upon testimony, when testimony of right has nothing to do, because it is easier to believe than to be scientifically instructed: sometimes it contents itself with one argument, and rests satisfied with that, as it were a demonstration; whereas the thing under proof is not capable of demonstration, and therefore must be submitted to the trial of probabilities, and all the material arguments pro and con be examined and brought to a balance. In some cases the mind is determined by probable topics in inquiries, where demonstration may be had. All these and several others, which laziness, impatience, custom, and want of use and attention lead men into, are misapplications of the understanding in the search of truth. In every question the nature and manner of the proof it is capable of should be considered, to make our inquiry such as it should be. This would save a great deal of frequently misemployed pains, and lead us sooner to that discovery and possession of truth we are capable of. The multiplying variety of arguments, especially frivolous ones, such as are all that are merely verbal, is not only lost labour, but cumbers the memory to no purpose, and serves only to hinder it from siezing and holding of the truth in all those cases which are capable of demonstration. In such a way of proof the truth and certainty is seen, and the mind fully possesses itself of it;
when in the other way of assent it only hovers about it, is amused with uncertainties. In this superficial way, indeed, the mind is capable of more variety of plausible talk, but is not enlarged, as it should be, in its knowledge. It is to this same haste and impatience of the mind also, that a not due tracing of the arguments to their true foundation is owing; men see a little, presume a great deal, and so jump to the conclusion. This is a short way to fancy and conceit, and (if firmly embraced) to opinionatry, but is certainly the farthest way about to knowledge. For he that will know, must by the connexion of the proofs see the truth, and the ground it stands on; and therefore, if he has for haste skipped over what he should have examined, he must begin and go over all again, or else he will never come to knowledge.
ANOTHER fault of as ill consequence as this, which proceeds also from laziness, with a mixture of vanity, is the skipping from one sort of knowledge to another. Some men's tempers are quickly weary of any one thing. Constancy and assiduity is what they cannot bear the same study long continued in is as intolerable to them as the appearing long in
the same clothes, or fashion, is to a courtlady.
OTHERS, that they may seem universally knowing, get a little smattering in every thing. Both these may fill their heads with superficial notions of things, but are very much out of the way of attaining truth or knowledge.
I Do not here speak against the taking a taste of every sort of knowledge; it is certainly very useful and necessary to form the mind; but then it must be done in a different way, and to a different end. Not for talk and vanity to fill the head with shreds of all kinds, that. he who is possessed of such a frippery may be able to match the discourses of all he shall meet with, as if nothing could come amiss to him; and his head was so well stored a magazine, that nothing could be proposed which he was not master of, and was readily furnished to entertain any one.This is an excellency, indeed, and a great one too, to have a real and true knowledge all, or most of the objects of contemplation. But it is what the mind of one and the same
man can hardly attain unto; and the instances are so few of those who have, in any measure, approached towards it, that I know not whether they are to be proposed as examples in the ordinary conduct of the understanding. For a man to understand fully the business of his particular calling in the commonwealth, and of religion, which is his calling as he is a man in the world, is usually enough to take up his whole time; and there are few that inform themselves in these, which is every man's proper and peculiar business, so to the bottom as they should do. But though this be so, and there are very few men that extend their thoughts toward universal knowledge; yet I do not doubt, but if the right way were taken, and the methods of inquiry were ordered as they should be, men of little business and great leisure might go a great deal farther in it than is usually done. To return to the business in hand; the end and use of a little insight in those parts of knowledge, which are not a man's proper business, is to accustom our minds to all sorts of ideas, and the proper ways of examining their habitudes and relations. This gives the mind a freedom, and the exercising the understanding in the several ways of inquiry and reasoning, which the most skilful have made use of, teaches the mind sagacity and wariness, and a suppleness to apply itself
more closely and dexterously to the bents and turns of the matter in all its researches. Besides, this universal taste of all the sciences, with an indifferency before the mind is possessed with any one in particular, and grown into love and admiration of what is made its darling, will prevent another evil, very commonly to be observed in those who have from the beginning been_seasoned only by one part of knowledge. Let a man be given up to the contemplation of one sort of knowledge, and that will become every thing. The mind will take such a tincture from a familiarity with that object, that every thing else, how remote soever, will be brought under the same view. A metaphysician will bring ploughing and gardening immediately to abstract notions: the history of nature shall signify nothing to him. An alchymist, on the contrary, shall reduce divinity to the maxims of his laboratory; explain morality by sal, sulphur, and mercury; and allegorize the Scripture itself, and the sacred mysteries thereof, into the philosopher's stone. And I heard once a man, who had a more than ordinary excellency in music, seriously accommodate Moses's seven days of the first week to the notes of music, as if from thence had been taken the measure and method of the creation. It is of no small consequence to keep the mind from such a possession,