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Colour or Confequences upon that Error from which you would fain deliver him. There are in Life fome Molliffima tempora fundi, fome very agreeable Moments of addreffing a Perfon, which if rightly managed, may render your Attempts more fuccefsful, and his Conviction eafy and pleasant.
II. MAKE it appear by your whole Condust, to the Perfon you would teach that you mean him well, that your Defign is not to triumph over bis Opinion, nor to expofe his Ignorance, or his Incapacity of defending what he afferts. Let him fee that 'tis not your Aim to advance your own Character as a Difputant, nor to fet yourself up for an Inftructor to Mankind; but that you love him, and feck his true Intereft, and do not only affure him of this in Words, when you are entering on an Argument with him, but let the whole of your Conduct to him at all times demonstrate your real Friendship for him. Truth and Argument come with particular Force from the Mouth of one whom we trust and love.
III. THE fofteft and gentleft Addrefs to the erroneous, is the beft Way to convince them of their Miftake. Sometimes 'tis neceffary to represent to your Opponent, that he is not far off from the Truth, and that you would fain draw him a little nearer to it; commend and establish whatever he fays that is juft and true, as our bleffed Saviour treated the young Scribe when he answered well concerning the two great Commandments;
Thou art not far, fays our Lord, from the Kingdom of Heaven, Mar. xii. 34. Imitate the Mildness and Conduct of the Bleffed Jefus.
COME as near to your Opponent as you can in all your Propofitions, and yield to him as much as you dare in a Confistence with Truth and Juftice.
'Tis a very great and fatal Mistake in Perfons who attempt to convince or reconcile others to their Party, when they make the Difference appear as wide as poffible: This is fhocking to any Perfon who is to be convinced, he will choose rather to keep and maintain his own Opinions, if he cannot come into yours without renouncing and abandoning every Thing that he believed before. Human Nature must be flattered a little as well as reafon'd with, that fo the Argument may be able to come at his Understanding, which otherwife will be thruft off at a Distance. If you charge a Man with Nonfenfe and Abfurdities, with Herefy and Self-Contradiction, you take a very wrong Step toward convincing him.
REMEMBER that Error is not to be rooted out of the Mind of Man by Reproaches and Railings, by Flafhes of Wit and biting Jefts, by loud Exclamations or sharp Ridicule: long Declamatious and Triumph over our Neighbour's Milake, will not prove the Way to convince him; thefe are Siges either of
of a bad Caufe, or of want of Arguments or Capacities for the Defence of a good
IV. SET therefore a conftant Watch over yourself, leaft you grow warm in Difpute before you are aware. The Paffions never clear the Understanding, but raise Darkness, Clouds and Confufion in the Soul: Human Nature is like Water which has Mud at the Bottom of it, it may be clear while it is calm and undisturbed, and the Ideas like Pebbles appear bright at the Bottom; but when once it is stirred and moved by Paffion, the Mud rifes uppermoft, and fpreads Confufion and Darkness over all the Ideas; you cannot fet Things in fo juft and fo clear a Light before the Eyes of your Neighbour, while your own Conceptions are clouded with Heat and Paffion.
BESIDES when your own Spirits are a little disturbed, and your Wrath is awaken'd, this naturally kindles the fame Fire in your Correfpondent, and prevents him from taking in your Ideas were they never fo clear; for his Paffions are engaged all on a fudden, for the Defence of his own Miftakes, and they combat as fiercely as yours do, which perhaps may be awakened on the Side of Truth.
To provoke a Perfon whom you would convince, not only roufes his Anger, and fets it against your Doctrine; but it directs
its Refentment against your Perfon, as well as against all your Inftructions and Arguments. You must treat an Opponent like a Friend, if you would perfwade him to learn any thing from you; and this is one great Reason why there is fo little Success on either Side between two Difputants or controverfial Writers, because they are fo ready to interest their Paffions in the Subject of Contest, and prevent the mutual Light that might be given and received on either Side: Ambition, Indignation and a profeffed Zeal, reign on both Sides: Victory is the Point defigned, while Truth is pretended, and Truth oftentimes perishes in the Fray, or retires from the Field of Battle: The Combatants end juft where they began, their Understandings hold fast the fame Opinions; perhaps with this Disadvantage, that they are a little more obftinate, and rooted in them without fresh Reason, and they generally come off with the Lofs of Temper and Charity.
V. NEITHER attempt nor hope to convince a Perfon of his Miftake, by any penal Methods or fevere Ufage: There is no Light brought into the Mind by all the Fire and Sword and bloody Perfecutions that were ever introduced into the World. One would think both the Princes, the Priests, and the People, the learned and the unlearned, great and the mean, should have all by this Time, feen the Folly and Madness of
seeking to propagate the Truth by the Laws of Cruelty: We compel a Beast to the Yoke by Blows, because the Ox and the Afs have no Understanding; but intellectual Powers are not to be fettered and compelled at this Rate; Men cannot believe what they will, nor change their Religion and their Sentiments as they pleafe; they may be made Hypocrites by the Forms of Severity, and constrained to profess what they don't believe, they may be forced to comply with external Practices and Ceremonies contrary to their own Confciences, but this can never please God, nor profit Men.
VI. IN Order to convince another, you fhould always make choice of thofe Arguments that are best fuited to his Understanding and Capacity, his Genius and Temper, his State, Station and Circumftances. If I were to per-, fuade a Plowman of the Truth of any Form of Church-Covernment, it should not be attempted by the Ufe of the Greek and Latin Fathers; but from the Word of God, the Light of Nature, and the common Reason of Things.
VII. ARGUMENTS fhould always be propofed in fuch a Manner as may lead the Mind onward to perceive the Truth in a clear and agreeable Light, as well as to constrain the Affent by the Power of Reasoning. Clear Ideas in many Cafes, are as useful toward Con