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the Writer has a certain Fire and Alacrity inspired into him by a Consciousness, that let it fare how it will with the Subject, his Ingenuity will be sure of Applause and this Alacrity becomes much greater if he acts upon the offensive, by the Impetuosity that always accompanies an Attack, and the unfortunate Propensity which Mankind have to the finding and exaggerating Faults. The Editor is satisfied that a Mind which has no Restraint from a Sense of its own Weakness, of its subordinate Rank in the Creation, and of the extreme Danger of letting the Imagination loose upon some Subjects, may very plausibly attack every thing the most excellent and venerable; that it would not be difficult to criticise the Creation itself; and that if we were to examine die divine Fabricks by our Ideas of Reason and Fitness, and to use the fame Method of Attack by which some Men have assaulted Revealed Religion, we might, with as good Colour, and with the fame Success, make the Wisdom and Power of God in his Creation appear to many no better than Foolishness. There is an air of Plausibility which accompanies vulgar Reasonings and Notions taken from the beaten circle of ordinary Experience, that is admirably suited to the nari row row Capacities of some, and to the Laziness of others. But this Advantage is in great measure lost, when a painful, comprehensive Survey of a very complicated Matter, and which requires a great Variety of Considerations, is to be made; when we must seek in a profound Subject, not only for Arguments, but for new Materials of Argument, their Measures and their Method of Arrangement; when we must go out of the Sphere of our ordinary Ideas, and when we can never walk sure but by being sensible of our Blindness. And this we must do, or we do nothing, whenever we examine the Result of a Reason which is not our own. Even in Matters which are, as it were, just within our Reach, what would become of the World if the Practice of all moral Duties, and the Foundations of Society, rested upon having their Reasons made clear and demonstrative to every Individual?
The Editor knows that the Subject of this Letter is not so fully handled as obviously it might: it was not his Design to fay all that could possibly be said. It had been inexcusable to filla large Volume with the Abuse of Reason; nor would such an Abuse have been
tolerable tolerable even for a few Pages, if some underplot, of more Consequence than the apparent Design, had not been carried on*
Some Persons have thought that the Advantages of the State of Nature ought to have been more fully displayed. This had undoubtedly been a very ample Subject for Declamation but they do not consider the Character of the Piece. The Writers against Religion, whilst they oppose every System, are wisely careful never to set up any of their own. If some Inaccuracies in Calculation, in Reasoning, or in Method be found, perhaps these will not be looked upon as Faults by the Admirers of Lord Boiingbrokewho will, the Editor is afraid, observe much more of his Lordship's Character in such Particulars of the following Letter, than they are like to find of that rapid Torrent of an impetuous and overbearing Eloquence, and the Variety of rich Imagery for which that Writer is justly admired.
LORD * * * *
SHALL I venture to say, my Lord, that in our late Conversation, you were inclined to the Party which you adopted rather by the Feelings of your good Nature, than by the Conviction of your Judgment? We laid open the Foundations of Society; and you feared, that the Curiosity of this Search might endanger the Ruin of the whole Fabrick. You would readily have allowed my Principle, but you dreaded the Consequences; you thought, that having once entered upon these Reasonings, we might be carried insensibly and irresistibly farther than at first we could either have imagined or wished. But for my Part, my Lord, I then thought, an am still of the same Opinion, that Error, and not Truth of any kind, is dangerous j that ill Conclusions can only flow from false Propositions; and that, to know-whether any Proposition be true