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ed already; and he that, by often arguing against his own sense, imposes falsehood on others, is not far from believing himself. This takes away the great distance there is betwixt truth and falsehood; it brings them almost together, and makes it no great odds, in things that approach so near, which you take; and when things are brought to that pass, passion or interest, &c. easily and without being perceived, determine which shall be the right.
I have said above, that we should keep a perfect indifferency for all opinions, not wish any of them true, or try to make them appear so; but being indifferent, receive and embrace them according as evidence, and that alone gives the attestation of truth. They that do thus, i. e. keep their minds indifferent to opinions, to be determined only by evidence, will always find the understanding has perception enough to distinguish between evidence and no evidence, betwixt plain and doubtful; and if they neither give nor refuse their assent but by that measure, they will be safe in the opinions they have. Which being perhaps but few, this caution will have also this good in it, that it will put them upon considering, and teach them the necessity of examining more than they do; without which
the mind is but a receptacle of inconsistencies, not the store-house of truths. They that do not keep up this indifferency in themselves for all but truth, not supposed, but evidenced in themselves, put coloured spectacles before their eyes, and look on things through false glasses, and then think themselves excused in following the false appearances which they themselves put upon them. I do not expect that by this way the assent should in every one, be proportioned to the grounds and clearness wherewith every truth is capable to be made out; or that men should be perfectly kept from error that is more than human nature can by any means be advanced to; I aim at no such unattainable privilege; I am only speaking of what they should do, who would deal fairly with their own minds, and make a right use of their faculties in the pursuit of truth; we fail them a great deal more than they fail us. It is mismanagement more than want of abilities that men have reason to complain of, and which they actually do complain of in those that differ from them. He that by an indifferency for all but truth suffers not his assent to go faster than his evidence, nor beyond it, will learn to examine, and examine fairly, instead of presuming, and nobody will be at a loss, or in danger for want of embracing those truths which are necessary in his station and circumstances. In any
other way but this, all the world are born to orthodoxy; they imbibe at first the allowed opinions of their country and party, and so never questioning their truth, not one of a hundred ever examines. They are applauded for presuming they are in the right. He that considers, is a foe to orthodoxy, because possibly he may deviate from some of the received doctrines there. And thus men, without any industry or acquisition of their own, inherit local truths, (for it is not the same every where) and are inured to assent without evidence. This influences farther than is thought; for what one of a hundred of the zealous bigots in all parties ever examined the tenets he is so stiff in, or ever thought it his business or duty so to do? It is suspected of luke-warmness to suppose it necessary, and a tendency to apostacy to go about it. And if a man can bring his mind once to be positive and fierce for positions whose evidence he has never once examined, and that in matters of greatest concernment to him; what shall keep him from this short and easy way of being in the right in cases of les moment? Thus we are taught to clothe our minds as we do our bodies, after the fashion in vogue, and it is accounted fantasticalness, or something worse, not to do SO. This custom (which who dares oppose) makes the short-sighted bigots, and the warier skeptics, as far as it prevails: and those that
break from it are in danger of heresy: for taking the whole world, how much of it doth truth and orthodoxy possess together? Though it is by the last alone (which has the good luck to be every where) that error and heresy are judged of: for argument and evidence signify nothing in the case, and excuse nowhere, but are sure to be borne down in alt societies by the infallible orthodoxy of the place. Whether this be the way to truth and right assent, let the opinions, that take place and prescribe in the several habitable parts of the earth, declare. I never saw any reason yet why truth might not be trusted on its own evidence I am sure if that be not able to support it, there is no fence against error; and then truth and falsehood are but names that stand for the same things. Evidence therefore is that by which alone every man is (and should be) taught to regulate his assent, who is then, and then only, in the right way, when he follows it.
Men deficient in knowledge are usually in one of these three states; either wholly ignorant, or as doubting of some proposition they have either embraced formerly or at present are inclined to; or lastly, they do with assurance hold and profess without ever having examined, and being convinced by well-grounded arguments.
The first of these are in the best state of
the three, by having their minds yet in their perfect freedom and indifferency; the likelier to pursue truth the better, having no bias yet clapped on to mislead them
FOR ignorance, with an indifferency for truth, isnearer to it than opinion with ungrounded inclination, which is the great source of error; and they are more in danger to go out of the way who are marching under the conduct of a guide, that it is a hundred to one will mislead thein, than he that has not yet taken a step, and is likelier to be prevailed on to inquire after the right way. The last of the three sorts are in the worst condition of all; for if a man can be persuaded and fully assured of any thing for a truth, without having examined, what is there that he may not embrace for truth? and if he has given himself up to believe a lie, what means is there left to recover one who can be assured without examining? To the other two this I crave leave to say, that as he that is ignorant is in the best state of the two, so he should pursue truth in a method suitable to that state; i. e. by inquiring directly into the nature of the thing itself, without minding the opinions of others, or troubling himself with their questions or disputes about it; but to see what he himself can, sin