« PreviousContinue »
Written for the universal improvement of mankind.
Diu multumque defideratum.
To which are added,
CIENT. and MODERN Books in St. James's
A Discourse concerning the MECHANICAL OPE
RATION of the SPIRIT..
With the Author's APOLOGY; and
Basyma cacabafa, eanaa irraum ifta diarbada caeota
bafohor camelanthi. Iren. lib. I. cap. 18.
Juvatque novas decerpere flores, Infignemque meo capiti petere inde coronani, , Unde prius nulli velarunt tempora mufa.
The AUTHOR'S A POLOGY. F good and ill nature equally operated upon man.
kind, I might have saved myfelf the trouble of this apology; for it is manifest, by the reception the following discourse has met with, that those who approve it, are a great majority among the men of taste. Yet there have been two or three treatises written expressly against it; besides many others that have flirted at it occasionally, without one syllable having been ever published in its defence, or even quotation to its advantage, that I can remember; except by the polite author of a late discourse between a Deift and a Socinian,
Therefore, since the book seems calculated to live at least as long as our language and our taste adinit no great alterations, I am conient to convey fome apology along with it. The greatest part of that book was finished about
thirteen years since, 1696; which is eight years before it was published. The author was then young, his invention at the height, and his reading freih in his head, By the assistance of some thinking, and much conversation, he had endeavoured to strip himself of as many real prejudices as he could : I say, real ones; because under the notion of prejudices, he knew to what dan. gerous heights fome men have proceeded. Thus prepared, he thought the numerous and gross corruptions in religion and learning might furnith matter for a fa. tire, that would be useful and diverting. He resolved to proceed in a manner that should be altogether new; the world having been already too long nauseated with endless repetitions upon every subject. The abuses in religion he proposed to set forth in the allegory of the coats, and the three brothers: which was to make up the body of the discourse; those in learning he chose to introduce by way of digressions. then a young gentleman much in the world; and wrote to the taste of those who were like himself; therefore, in order to allure them, he give a liberty to his pen, which might not suit with maturer years ,or graver characters; and which he could not easily have corrected with a very few blots, had he been master of his papers for a year or two before their publication.
Not that he would have governed his judgement by the ill-placed cavils of the four, the envious, the stu. pid, and the tasteless; which he mentions with dis. dain. He acknowledges there are several youthful fal. lies, which, from the grave and the wife, may deserve a rebuke. But he desires to be answerable no farther than he is guilty; and that his faults may not be multiplied by the ignorant, the unnatural, and charitable applications of those who have neither candor to fuppofe good meanings, nor palate to distinguish true ones. After which, he will forfeit his life, if any one opinion can be fairly deduced from that book, which is contrary to religion or morality.
Why should any clergyman of our church be angry to fee the follics of Fanaticifin and Superstition exposed, tho' in the most ridiculous manner? fince that is
pers haps the inost probable way to cure them, or at lealt to
hinder them from farther spreading. Besides, though it was not intended for their perufal, it rallies nothing but what they preach against. It contains nothing to provoke them by the least fcurrility upon their persons or their functions. It celebrates the church of England as the most perfect of all others in discipline and doctrine 3 it advances no opinion they rejest, nor condenins any they receive. If the clergy's resentments lay upon their hands, in my humble opinion, they might have found more proper objects to employ them on. Nondum tibi defuit hoftis; I mean those heavy, illiterate scribblers, prostitute in their reputations, vicious in their lives, and ruined in their fortunes ; who, to the shame of good fense, as we!l as piety, are greedily read, merely upon the strength of bold, false, impious assertions, mixed with unmannerly reflexions upon the priesthood, and openly intended against all religion ; in mort, full of such principles as are kindly received, because they are levelled to remove those terrors, that religion tells men will be the consequence of immoral lives. Nothing like which is to be met with in this discourse, though some of them are pleased so freely to censure it. And I wish there were no other instance of what I have too free quently observed, that many of that Reverend body are not always very nice in distinguishing between their ene. mies and their friends.
Had the author's intentions met with a more candid interpretation from fome, whom out of respect he forbears to name, he might have been encouraged to an examination of books written by some of those authors above described; whose errors, ignorance, dulness, and villany, he thinks he could have detected and exposed in fuch a manner, that the persons who are most conceived to be infected by them, would soon lay them aside, and be ashamed. But he has now given over those thoughts; since the weightiest men * in the weightie
stations, are pleased to think it a more dangerous point,
Alluding to Dr. Sharp. the Archishop of York's reprefen-
very foundations wherein all Christians have agreed.
He thinks it no fair proceeding, that any person should offer determinately to fix a name upon the author of this discourse, who hath all along concealed himself from most of bis nearest friends : yet several have gone a farther Itep, and pronounced another book * to have been the work of the same 'hand with this; which the author directly affirms to be a thorough miltake, he having yet ne. ver so much as read that discourse : A plain instance how Jittle truth there often is in general surmises, or in conjectures drawn from a similitude of style, or way of thinking.
Had the author written a book to expose the abuses in law, or in physic, he believes the learned professors in either faculty would have been so far from resenting it, as to have given him thanks for his pains; especially if he had made an honourable reservation for the true practice of either science. But religion, they tell us, ought not to be ridiculed; and they tell us truth : yet surely the corruptions in it may ; for we are taught by the tritest maxim in the world, that religion being the best of things, its corruptions are likely to be the worft.
There is one thing which the judicious reader cannot but have observed, that some of those passages in this discourse, which appear most liable to objection, are what they call parodies, where the author personates the style and manner of other writers, whom he has a mind to expose. I shall produce one instance; it is in sect. 1. parag: 3. from the end, p. 47. Dryden, L’Estrange, and some others I shall not name, are here level. led at; who, having spent their lives in faction, and apostasies, and all manner of vice, pretended to be sufferers for loyalty and religion. So Dryden tells us, in one of his prefaces, of his merits and sufferings ; thanks God, that he poseljes his foul in patience ; in other places he talks at the same rate ; and L'Estrange often uses the like style; and I believe the reader may find more perfons to give that paffage an application. But this is enough to direct those who may have overlooked the author's intention. * Letter concerning enthusiasme,
There are three or four other passages, which preju. diced or ignorant readers have drawn, by great force, to bint at ill meanings ; as if they glanced at some tenets in religion. In answer to all which, the author folemnly protests he is entirely innocent ; and never had it once in his thoughts, that any thing he said would in the least be capable of such interpretations ; which he will engage to deduce full as fairly from the most innocent book in the world. And it will be obvious to every reader, that this was not any part of his scheme or design ; the abuses he notes, being such as all church-of-England men agree in : nor was it proper for his subject to meddle with other points, than such as have been perpetually controverted since the reformation.
To inltance only in that passage about the three wooden machines mentioned in the introduction : In the original manuscript there was a description of a fourth, which those who had the papers in their power, blotted out, as having something in it of satire, that, I fuppofe, they thought was too particular ; and therefore they were forced to change it to the number three ; from whence
; some have endeavoured to squeeze out a dangerous meaning, that was never thought on. And indeed the conceit was half spoiled by changing the numbers ; that of four being much more cabalistic, and therefore better exposing the pretended virtue of numbers ; a superstition there intended to be ridiculed.
Another thing to be observed, is, that there generally runs an irony through the thread of the whole book ; which the men of talte will observe and distinguish, and which will render some objections that have been made, very weak and insignificant.
This apology being chiefly intended for the satisfaction of future readers, it may be thought unnecessary to take any notice of such treatises as have been written against the ensuing discourse; which are already sunk into waste paper and oblivion, after the usual fate of common anfwerers to books which are allowed to have any merit,
They are indeed like annuals, that grow about a young tree, and seem to vie with it for a summer ; but fail and die with the leaves in autumn, and are never heard of any When Dr. Eachard writ his book about the conA 2