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Self knowledge discovers the secret prejudices of the
VIII. ANOTHER important branch of self 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 strong and prevalent as to give a mighty, but imperceptible bias to the mind.
There is no one particular that I know of wherein self knowledge more eminently consists than it does in this. It being therefore so essential a branch of my subject, and a point to which men seldom pay attention equal to its importance, I beg leave to treat it with a little more precision.
These prejudices of the human mind may be considered with regard to opinions, persons, and things.
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 beginnings of knowledge, and grow up under such remains of superstition and ignorance, such influences of company and fashion, such insinuations of pleasure, &c. that it is no wonder, if men get habits of think
genuine principles of truth, but as counterfeits
ing 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 penetrable by any ray of tryth, or light of reason.'
There is no man but is more attached to one particular set or scheme of opinions in philosophy, politicks, and religion, than he is to another : I mean if he hath employed his thoughts at all about thein. The question we should examine then is, how came 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 soever we came by them, touchstone of sound sense, solid reason, and
re plain scripture. If they will not bear this, after hard rubbing, they must be dismissed, as no imposed upon us under the guise and 1 semblance of it. Itine Santos ydre
And as reason and scripture must discover our prejudices to us, so they only can help us to get rid of them. By these we are to rectify and to these are 'we to conform, all our opinions and sentiments in religion, as our own stand
ard, exclusive of all other rules, light, or authority, whatsoever.
And care must further be taken that we do not make scripture and reason bend and buckle to our notions : which will rather confirm our prejudices than cure them. For wliatever can. not evidently be proved, without the help of overstrained metaphors, and the arts of sophistry, is much to be suspected ; which used to make archbishop Tillotson say-Non amo argutius in Theologia ; I do not love subtilties in divinity. But,
2. The human mind is very apt to be prejudiced either for or against certain persons, 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 act as 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 flatters our vanity ? Or something in their humour, that hits our fancy? Or something in their conversation, that improves our [understanding ? Or a certain sweetness of disposition, and agreeableness of manner, that is naturally engagirg? Or from benefits received or expected from ibem? Or from some eminent and distinguished excellency in them? Or from none of these ; but something else, we cannot tell what?-Such sort of inquiries will
show us whether our esteem and affections be rightly placed ; or flow from mere instinot, blind prejudice, or something worse.
And so on the other hand, with regard to our disaffection 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 justifiable, 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? Be it so; my icontinued resentment against him, on either of these accounts, may be owing, notwithstanding, more to some unreasonable prejudice in me, than to any real fault in him.de
For as to the former, his way of thinking, talking, and aeting, may possibly be juster than my own ; which the mere force of custom and habit only makes me prefer to his. However, be it ever so wrong, he may not have had the same advantage of improving his understanding, address, and conduct, as I have had ; and therefore his defects herein are more excusable. And he may have many other kind of excellences ' which I have not. But he is not only ignorant and unmannered, but insufferably vain, conceited, and overbearing, at the same time.' Why, that perhaps he cannot help. It is the fault of his nature. He is the object of pity
choose such a one
rather than resentment. , And had I such a disposition by nature, I should, perhaps, with all my self improvement, find it a difficult thing to
, 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 be thankful that I am not, under the same.-'But he is quite blind to this fault of his temper, and does not appear to be in the least sensible of it.' Why, that is a greater misfortune still ; and he ought to be the more pitied. And as to the other pretended ground of disgust, he hath often offended and injured me.' Let me consider, 1. Whether any offence was really intended ; whether I do not impute that to ill nature, which was only owing to ill manners ; or that to design, which proceeded only from ignorance. Do I not take offence before it is given ? If so, the fault is mine, and not his. And the resentment I have conceived against him, I ought to turn upon myself.–Again), 2. Did I not provoke him to it, when I knew his temper? The fault is still my own, I did, or might know the pride, passion, or perverseness
of his nature ; why then did I exasperate him ? A man that would needlessly rouse a lion, niust not expect always to come off so favourably as the hero of La Mancha.-But, 3. Suppose I were not the aggressor ; yet, how came I into his company
? Who led me into the tempta