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C.D. Warner, et al., comp. The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

Of the Authority of Reason

By Jeremy Taylor (1613–1667)

From the ‘Liberty of Prophesying’

HERE then I consider, that although no man may be trusted to judge for all others, unless this person were infallible and authorized so to do,—which no man nor no company of men is,—yet every man may be trusted to judge for himself;—I say, every man that can judge at all: as for others, they are to be saved as it pleaseth God;—but those that can judge at all must either choose their guides who shall judge for them,—and then they oftentimes do the wisest, and always save themselves a labor, but then they choose too: or if they be persons of great understanding, then they are to choose for themselves in particular what the others do in general, and by choosing their guide. And for this, any man may be better trusted for himself than any man can be for another: for in this case his own interest is most concerned; and ability is not so necessary as honesty, which certainly every man will best preserve in his own case, and to himself,—and if he does not, it is he that must smart for ’t: and it is not required of us not to be in error, but that we endeavor to avoid it.

He that follows his guide so far as his reason goes along with him, or—which is all one—he that follows his own reason (not guided only by natural arguments, but by divine revelation and all other good means), hath great advantages over him that gives himself wholly to follow any human guide whatsoever; because he follows all their reasons, and his own too: he follows them till reason leaves them, or till it seems so to him,—which is all one to his particular; for by the confession of all sides, an erroneous conscience binds him when a right guide does not bind him. But he that gives himself up wholly to a guide is oftentimes (I mean if he be a discerning person) forced to do violence to his own understanding, and to lose all the benefit of his own discretion, that he may reconcile his reason to his guide….

So that Scripture, traditions, councils, and fathers are the evidence in a question, but reason is the judge: that is, we being the persons that are to be persuaded, we must see that we be persuaded reasonably; and it is unreasonable to assent to a lesser evidence when a greater and clearer is propounded.