All who betake themselves to meditation upon human affairs will find occasion to note how much of crude misjudgement is born of the careless assumption which presumptuously leaps to conclusions that, perchance, result in a cruel injury. With loving urgency the Master said, "Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgement;" and yet, how illy have his disciples remembered these words "to do them" ! Though the seeds of unfair criticism which men have sown may not be gathered up, the offense may be greatly reduced by that increase of knowledge which in the commerce of life is sure to come to all inquiring thought. When, however, ignorance assumes that wilful phase which is known as prejudice, misjudgment seems to fatten upon experience, and, sad to say, its rankest growths have always appeared in the fallow ground of religious belief. How gladly would one forget the persecutions and pain with which pharisaism has marred every page of Christian history since the day when it adjudged humanity's noblest and best friend worthy of death and stood by to taunt the sufferer while its behests were brutally fulfilled !

Prejudice once meant and may still be made to mean foresight, the expression of that intuitive right judgment which gets at the truth of things without logical process and without delay. As such it has the highest value and is greatly to be desired. The word as now generally understood, however, expresses the mental bias of education, environment, and selfish interest, that obdurate solicitude lest some honored belief or established order be disturbed, some present possession be imperiled. It is an advocate of the past, and commits to it the mace of authority. This has often led men to think of it as a real conservator of values, as the necessary ballast of progressive thought. Even so great a man as Burke argued that prejudice "previously engages the mind in a steady course of wisdom and virtue;" that it does not leave one hesitating, skeptical, and unresolved, but "renders his virtue his habit, and not a series of unconnected acts."

Letter and Spirit
September 6, 1913

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