Front Page Titles (by Subject) A Letter from Mr. Locke to Mr. Samuel Bold. - The Works of John Locke, vol. 9 (Letters and Misc. Works)
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A Letter from Mr. Locke to Mr. Samuel Bold. - John Locke, The Works of John Locke, vol. 9 (Letters and Misc. Works) 
The Works of John Locke in Nine Volumes, (London: Rivington, 1824 12th ed.). Vol. 9.
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A Letter from Mr. Locke to Mr. Samuel Bold.
Oates, 16 May, 1699.
YOURS of the 11th of April I received not till the last week. I suppose Mr. Churchill staid it till that discourse wherein you have been pleased to defend my Essay was printed, that they might come together, though neither of them need a companion to recommend it to me. Your reasonings are so strong and just, and your friendship to me so visible, that every thing must be welcome to me that comes from your pen, let it be of what kind soever. I promise myself that to all those who are willing to open their eyes and to enlarge their minds to a true knowledge of things, this little treatise of yours will be greatly acceptable and useful; and for those who will shut their eyes for fear they should see more than others have seen before them, or rather for fear they should make use of them, and not blindly and lazily follow the sayings of others; what can be done to them? They are to be let alone to join in the cry of the herd they have placed themselves in, and take that for applause which is nothing but the noise that of course they make to one another, which way ever they are going: so that the greatness of it is no manner of proof that they are in the right.—I say not this because it is a discourse wherein you favour any opinions of mine, (for I take care not to be deceived by the reasonings of my friends,) but I say it from those who are strangers to you, and who own themselves to have received light and conviction from the clearness and closeness of your reasonings, and that in a matter at first sight very abstruse and remote from ordinary conceptions.—There is nothing that would more rejoice me than to have you for my neighbour. The advantages that you promise yourself from mine, I should receive from your conversation. The impartial lovers and searchers of truth are a great deal fewer than one could wish or imagine. It is a rare thing to find any one to whom one can communicate one’s thoughts freely, and from whom one may expect a careful examination and impartial judgment of them. To be learned in the lump by other men’s thoughts, and to be in the right by saying after others, is the much easier and quicker way; but how a rational man that should inquire and know for himself, can content himself with a faith or religion taken upon trust, or with such a servile submission of his understanding, as to admit all and nothing else but what fashion makes at present passable amongst some men, is to me astonishing. I do not wonder that concerning many points you should have different apprehensions from what you meet with in authors; with a free mind, that unbiassedly pursues truth, it cannot be otherwise; 1st, because all authors did not write unbiassedly for truth’s sake; and, 2dly, because there are scarce any two men that have perfectly the same views of the same thing till they come with attention, and perhaps mutual assistance, to examine it. A consideration that makes conversation with the living much more desirable and useful than consulting the dead, would the living but be inquisitive after truth, apply their thoughts with attention to the gaining of it, and be indifferent with whom it was found, so they could but find it. The first requisite to the profiting by books is not to judge of opinions by the authority of the writers. None have the right of dictating but God himself, and that because he is truth itself. All others have a right to be followed as far as I have, and no farther, i. e. as far as the evidence of what they say convinces, and of that my own understanding alone must be judge for me, and nothing else. If we made our own eyes our own guides, admitted or rejected opinions only by the evidence of reason, we should neither embrace nor refuse any tenet, because we find it published by another, of what name or character soever he was.
You say you lose many things because they slip from you. I have had experience of that myself, but for that my lord Bacon has provided a sure remedy. For, as I remember, he advises somewhere never to go without pen and ink, or something to write with, and to be sure not to neglect to write down all thoughts of moment that come into the mind. I must own I have omitted it often, and often repented it. The thoughts that come often unsought, and, as it were, drop into the mind, are commonly the most valuable of any we have, and therefore should be secured, because they seldom return again.
You say also that you lose many things, because your own thoughts are not steady and strong enough to follow and pursue them to a just issue. Give me leave to think that herein you mistake yourself, and your own abilities. Write down your thoughts upon any point as far as you have at any time pursued them, and go on with them again some other time, when you find your mind disposed to it, and so till you have carried them as far as you can, and you will be convinced that, if you have lost any, it has not been for want of strength of mind to bring them to an issue, but for want of memory to retain a long train of reasonings which the mind, having once beat out, is loth to be at the pains to go over again, and so the connexion and train having slipped the memory, the pursuit stops, and the reasoning is neglected before it comes to the last conclusion. If you have not tried it, you cannot imagine the difference there is in studying with and without a pen in your hand. Your ideas, if the connexions of them that you have traced be set down, so that, without the pains of recollecting them in your memory, you can take an easy view of them again, will lead you farther than you could expect. Try, and tell me if it be not so. I say not this that I should not be glad to have any conversation with you, upon any points you shall employ your thoughts about. Propose what you have of this kind freely, and do not suspect it will interfere with any of my affairs. Know that besides the pleasure it is to converse with a thinking man, and a lover of truth, I shall profit by it more than you. This you would see by the frequency of my visits, if you were within the reach of them.
That which I think of Deut. xii. 15. is this, that the reason why it is said, as the roebuck and the hart, is, because, Lev. xvii. to prevent idolatry in offering the blood to other gods, they were commanded to kill all the cattle that they ate at the door of the Tabernacle, as a peace-offering, and sprinkle the blood on the altar. But wild beasts that were clean might be eaten, though their blood were not offered to God, ver. 13, because being commonly killed before they were taken, their blood could not be sprinkled on the altar, and therefore it sufficed in such cases to pour out their blood whereever they were killed, and cover it with dust, and for the same reason, when the camp was broken up, wherein the whole people was in the neighbourhood of the Tabernacle, during their 40 years passage from Egypt to Canaan, and the people were scattered in their habitations through all the Land of Promise, those who were too far off from the Temple were excused (Deut. xii. 21, 22.) from killing their tame cattle at Jerusalem and sprinkling their blood on the altar. No more was required of them than was required in killing a roebuck, or any other clean wild beast: they were only to pour out the blood, and cover it with dust, and so they might eat of the flesh.
These are my thoughts concerning that passage. What you say about critics and critical interpretations, particularly of the holy scriptures, is not only in my opinion very true, but of great use to be observed on reading learned commentators, who not seldom make it their business to show in what sense a word has been used by other authors; whereas the proper business of a commentator is barely to show in what sense it was used by the author in that place; which in the scripture we have reason to conclude was most commonly in the ordinary vulgar sense of that word or phrase known in that time, because the books were writ, as you justly observe, and adapted to the people. If the critics had observed this, we should have had in their works less ostentation, and more truth, and a great deal of the darkness and doubtfulness now spread upon the scriptures had been avoided. I have had a late proof of this in myself, who have lately found in some large passages of scripture a sense quite different from what I understood it in before, and from what I find in commentators; and yet it appears so clear to me, that when I see you next I shall dare to appeal to you in it. But I read the word of God without prepossession or bias, and come to it with a resolution to take my sense from it, and not with a design to bring it to the sense of my system. How much that had made men wind and twist and pull the text in all the several sects of christians, I need not tell you. I desire to take my religion from the scriptures, and then whether it suits or suits not any other denomination, I am not much concerned; for I think at the last day it will not be inquired whether I were of the church of England, or church of Geneva, but whether I sought and embraced the truth in the love of it. The proofs I have set down in my book, of one infinite, independent, eternal Being, satisfied me; and the gentleman that desired others, and pretended that the next proposition to that of the existence of a self-sufficient, independent Being, should be this, that such a Being is but one, and that he could prove it antecedent to his attributes, v. g. of infinity, omnipotence, &c. I am pretty well satisfied, pretended to what he had not, and therefore trouble not myself any farther about that matter. As to what you say upon this occasion, I agree with you, that the ideas of the modes and actions of substances are usually in our minds before the idea of substance itself; but in this I differ from you, that I do not think the ideas of the operations of things are antecedent to the ideas of their existence, for they must exist before they can any way affect us, or make us sensible of their operations, and we must suppose them to be before they operate. My essay is going to be printed again: I wish you were near me, that I might shew you the several alterations and additions I have made, before they go to the press.
The warm weather that begins now with us makes me hope I shall now speedily get to town; if any business draws you thither this summer, I hope you will order it so that I may have a good share of your company. Nobody values it more than I do; and I have a great many things to talk with you. I am, Sir,
Your most affectionate,