Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors][merged small]

1. A feeming contradiction in the rule.

2. Partiality in judging of the circumftances of o-. ther mens conditions and our own.

1. A feeming contradiction in the rule ; which you will fee in thefe inftances: If I defire a thing, I would not have another ftand in competition with me for it. If another defire a thing, I would not have him think much that I ftand in competition with him. If I be indebted to another, I would not have him arreft me: If another be indebted to me, I would not have him think much that I arreft him. When we fell, we care. not how dear: When we buy, we care not how cheap. Now if this were a real contradiction in the rule, it were impoffible it fhould be put in practice; but it is only a contradiction in our wills, which must thus be reconciled to the rule.

(1.) We must consider which of these wills is moft reasonable, and the greater reafon and equity muft carry it; and that which is plainly unreasonable, in comparison of the other, is not to be regarded. If we confider the two first instances, this is most reafonable, That where men have an equal right, they fhould be allowed an equal liberty to use that right; another man hath as much right to ftand in competition with me for any thing, as I to ftand in competition with him; and to arrest me in cafe of debt, as I to arreft him and it is plainly unreasonable that I fhould use this right, and another be debarred from it.

:

(2.) If both these contradictory wills be plainly unreasonable, as in the third instance of buying and felling, they must be accommodated by finding out fuch a medium as is equally and mutually good for all buyers and fellers; that is, fuch a proportion of gain may be taken, and must be allowed to be ta ken, as will be equally and mutually good for all buyers and fellers.

2. Another difficulty in the practice of this rule arifeth from mens partiality in judging of the circumftances of other mens conditions and their own.

We are apt to leffen the circumftances of another man's condition, and to over-value our own; ano

ther

I

ther man's concernments feem lefs to us than they are, and our own greater than they are. Now this difficulty will moft eminently appear in cafes of paffion and intereft, and those subordinate relations which are at the greatest distance. Another man provokes me, I revenge myself on him; one asks me, Would you be contented to be thus dealt withal? I am ready to answer, Yea, if I should so provoke another ; aggravate the fault of his provocation, and leffen that of my own revenge; here is paffion. I defire a courtesy of a man which he cannot conveniently do for me; he denies me; I think much at him, becaufe I judge the courtesy lefs, and his obligation to do it greater than indeed it is here is intereft. I think, If I were a father, I fhould not carry myself fo feverely towards my children; if I were a mafter, I fhould give more liberty to fervants, and use them with a greater familiarity; if I were a minister, I fhould not gall the confciences of people by fo free and open a reproof of fin; if I were a magiftrate, I should make other laws, or punish fome crimes more or lefs feverely. Now if men frequently thus mif-judge, how fhall this rule be put in practice?

;

To remove thefe difficulties, as much as may be, and to make the practice of this rule more eafy; obferve these rules:

1. Labour to understand truly every man's condi tion, fo far as you have opportunity. This is eafily faid, but how fhall we come to do it? Thus, when you are in any condition, obferve diligently the motions of your own mind, and how your affections then work, and what apprehenfions you then have of things, and what it is that in fuch a condition you defire, and expect from others; and labour to remember this when you are out of that condition, and to retain the fenfe which you then had of things.

2. In cafes wherein you are unexperienced, and which you cannot reasonably be prefumed to underftand, partly because of your distance from that condition, partly because of the oppofition of your own intereft, and partly because of the mifts and clouds of your own paflion; trust the concurrent experience of others

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

thers who are in that condition, and think that you ought not to do that to another, which the generality of mankind count grievous; and that fit to be done, which the most and wifeft in fuch a condition and relation do ufually expect. If men, when they are under, and ly at the mercy of others, generally defire that clemency and moderation fhould be used towards them, how juft foever thou mayest think thy feverity is, and that thou wouldst be con tented that another fhould deal fo with thee; yet do not trust thy prefent apprehenfions of things, but believe that thou wilt have the fame fenfe of things, when they ly heavy upon thee, with the rest of mankind; and when thou art in their circumftances, thou wilt defire quarter as they do. In like manner, that refpect and obedience which parents, and mafters, and magiftrates do generally expect (even the best and wifeft of them) that do thou pay to them; and though it may have fome appearance of rigour and injuftice, yet believe that when thou comeft to be in the same relation, thou wilt expect the fame things as they do; and that thou doft now judge otherwife, proceeds fromthy inexperience or diftance from that condition, or from paffion and oppofition of interest.

[ocr errors]

3. Conclude that in cafes betwixt fuperiors and inferiors, the partiality is ufually on the inferior's fide; and it is reasonable thus to conclude, both because inferiors have seldom had experience of the o ther condition, as fuperiors ufually have had ; (A child hath not been a parent, or a fervant ordinarily a master, or a fubject a magiftrate; but all parents have been children, and most masters have been fervants, and many magiftrates fubjects, and fo they have had experience of both conditions) and likewife because inferiors cannot fo well fee the condition, and circumftances of those that are above them, as thofe that are above can of thofe that are below them; they have, the advantage of ground, and better opportunities of knowledge.

4. In judging of your prefent condition and circumftances, always abate fomething for the prefence

of

of them, and for felf-love, and felf-intereft, and o ther paffions. He that doth not confider how apt every man is unequally to favour himself, doth not know the littlenets and narrowness of human nature. We are near to ourselves, and our own interest is near to us, and we see it in its full proportions, and with all poffible advantages; other men and their interefts are at a distance from us, and feem less to us than they are. Now we must make abatements for this, according to that experience which we have had of our own mistakes; which, if we will obferve, as we pafs from one condition into another, we may eafily be convinced how great many times they are.

II. For the Grounds of this: The equity of this rule ftands upon these foundations:

1. All men are equal in many things, and those the greatest things. Now I fhould deal equally with him whom I acknowledge to be mine equal. Have we not all one father? hath not one God created us? Mal. ii. 10. Are we not all made of the fame materials? Is it not appointed for all men once to dy, Heb. ix. 27. and after death to ftand before the impartial judgment of God? We have all the fame notions of right and wrong; we are all obnoxious to one another, and may be all beneficial one to another; we all love ourselves, and ftudy the advancement of our intereft and happiness. Thus far equal.

5/1

2. In most of thofe things wherein we are unequal, the inequality is not confiderable, fo as to be a ground of any unequal dealing with one another. As to Strength of body, whatever the difference be, the in- · equality is not confiderable, because as to the greatest effects of ftrength there is an equality every man that will venture his own life, may take away another man's, either by open force or by furprize *. As to abilities of mind (which we ufually call Parts) there is originally a great equality, especially if that received opinion be true, that fouls are equal: And

as

Dominus eft alterius vite quicunque contemnit fuam.

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

66

as the French Philofopher Des Cartes has ingenioufly
obferved, there is this notable fign of the equality of
mens understandings; Nulla res (faith he) aqua-
biliùs inter homines diftributa eft quàm bona mens,
&c. *
Nothing is more equally divided among
men, than a good understanding. Men will ac
knowledge others to be richer and stronger than
"themselves; few will acknowledge others to be
"wifer, or to have better parts than themselves f.
"Every man thinks himself to have fo good a

66

""

66

64

proportion of parts and wifdom, that even those "who are moft covetous, and have the most infa"tiable defires as to other things, and when nature "could never fatisfy in any thing elfe, yet would not defire to have more wit than they have, or exchange their parts with any man." Now there is no better fign of an equal diftribution of things. than that every man is contented with his fhare. Now because all men generally think thus, it is to be prefumed that all are not deceived; but that there is Some real equality, which is the ground of this conceit. A difference indeed must be granted, but which arifeth ufually from one of these two cafes, either an unequal exercife of our parts, or an unequal temper of body. Now thofe who are fo happy as to exercife their understandings more than others, are very often rather conceited that they are wifer than others, than really fo; for the greatest clerks are not always the wifeft men: Those who are unhappy in the temper of their bodies, are thereby inclined, how weak foever they be, to conceit themselves as wife as others. So that whatever real inequality there be, conceit levels all again. So that whether men be really wife, or only think themselves fo, it makes no difference as to mens dealing one with another; for they that think themfelves equal, will not deal but upon equal terms. So that Äriftotle's pretty notion, That wife men are born to govern, and fools to obey *, fignifies very little in this cafe; for there are but VOL. X.

Ζ

tew

[ocr errors]

* Differtat de methodo. + Qui velit ingenio cedere rarus eft. Politic. c. 3.

« PreviousContinue »