« IndietroContinua »
he says of himself is, that he is an “ obscure* ;* One, I suppose, he means, that is in the dark, and thinks it proper to continue so, that he may take advantage from thence to attack the reputation of others, without hazarding his own., There may be somewhat of wisdom, perhaps; but sure there is little of goodness, or fairness, in this conduct. Several fuch obscurë perfons as these we have had of late, who have infülted men of great abilities and worth, and taken pleasure to pelt them, from their coverts, with little objections. The ill fuccefs of their åttempts hath justified their prudence in concealing themfelves.
Whoever my unknown correfpondent be, lie preffes hard for an anfwer +, and is fo earnest in that point, that he would, I perceive, be not a little disappointed, if he should mifs of it. NameJess authors have no right to make such demands. However, the importance of the argument itfelf, the serious air with which he hath treated of it, and the solemn profeffion he makes of being acted Þy ro other principle but a concern for truthļ, foon determined me to comply with his exhortations. And what follows, therefore, was drawn up not long after his letter appeared ; though the publication of it hath been delayed by fome arcidirts, with an account of which it is not necessary to trouble the reader. After all, I shall be looked upon, perhaps, as writing rather too foon, than too late ; and as paying too great a regard to an attempt, which was to fur fighted, that the worthy dean of Cmterkury, not long afterwards, preached the doctrine, there oppor t Let. p. 5. 449 45.
ed, before her majesty, and printed it by her or. der * And in truth there never was a charge maintained with such a shew of gravity and ear. neftness, which had a slighter foundation to fupport it. However, it may be of some use, carefully to examine what this writer bath taid, in order, by a remarkable instance, to thew how little credit is due to accusations of this kind, when they come from suspected (that is, from na meless) pents; and how artfully the mask of religion may sometimes be put on, to cover designs which cannot be decently owned. Thae part of my
fermon to which the letterwriter hath confined his reflections, contains the explication of an argument, which I suppose employed by the apostle, in the text, for the proof of a future state. And I had reason therefore to hope, that what I offered on this head, would be favourably received, and candidly interpreted, by all fuch as did in good earnest believe such a state, And yet, to my suprize, I have found one, who would be thought seriously to entertain this belief, endeavouring all he can to weaken an argument (and indeed the chief argument drawn from reafon alone) by which it is upheld. I might have expected this treatment indeed from the pen of fome libertine, or disguised unbeliever; it being an ufual piece of art, with that sort of men, to undermine the authority of fundamental truths, by pretending to thew, how weak and improper the proofs are, which their affertors employ in the defence of them. But I did not, and could
* See his sermon at St James's, Nov. 3. 1906. on Matth. si. 21. p. 11, 12, 13.
c e not expect fuch usage from a writer, who every where infinuates, and in one place
I think, pretty plainly profefes, himself to be a fincere Christian. His concern for the cause of religion + would have appeared to far greater advantage, had he employed himself rather in vindicating some of its great principles, which are every day openly and daringly attacked from the press, than in lessening the force of what I'have urged in behalf of one of them. Had I erred in this case, it had been a well-meant mistake; and might have passed unobserved, at a time, when infidelity finds so much employment of another kind for all those, who have a real concern for the cause of rolig 0".
Besides, discourses on such occasions, as that on which I then preached, are feldom the productions of leisure; and should always therefore be read with those favourable allowances, which are made to hasty composures. So the doctrine contained in them be but wholesome and edifying, though there should be a want of exactness, here and there, either in the manner of speaking or reasoning, it may be overlooked, or pardoned.
When any argument of great importance is managed with that warmth and earneftness, which a serious conviction of it generally inspires, fomewhat may easily escape, even from a wary pen, which will not bear the test of a fevere scrutiny. Facile eft verhum aliquod ardens riotare, idque, reAinelis (ut ita dicain) animorum incendiis, irri. dere; faid one of the best writers in the world,
who himself needed this excuse as seldom as any man.
In particular, what I offered on that occafion towards the proof of a future state, deserved to be the less rigorously examined, because it was only by way of introduction to some practical points, which I chiefly designed to infift on. I had not room in a few pages, at the entrance of a short discourse, to conßder all things on all sides *, to balance the feveral advantages and disadvantages that attend the pleasures of men and beasts good men and bad. I pretended not fully to state t much less demonstrate, the truth contained in the text, as I am falfly represented to have done. Those are words which I never once used; nor would the task itself have been proper at such a time, and before such an auditory. My declared intention was only to explain the apostle's argument II, to enlarge on it *, to few, by several instances, the undouhted truth of it t, to open and apply it †; and this, by such considerations chiefly as were in some measure applicable to the perfon then to be interred. For whoever gives himself the trouble of reviewing that mean discourse, will ind, that, as it confifts of three parts, a speculative point of doctrine, fome praštical reflections, and an account of the person deceafed; fo the two former of these points are handled with a regard to the latter; the practical reflections being all of them such as are suited to the character of the person, which follows; and the preceding doctrine
Let. p. 23. $ p, 23' I p. 11, 13, 40, 51. Ser.
being illustrated in such a manner, and by lucha instances, as naturally lead both to the one and to the other : that part of the doctrine I particularly mean, which is profeffedly built on the letter of the text *, and the express authority of the ar poftie.
It is no wonder, if, in an argument handled thus briefly, and with such views as these, every thing thould not be said, which may be thought requisite, to clear it. Thạt, as it was no part of my intention, fo neither was it neceffary, proper, or possible, on that occafion to be done: and therefore, for omiflions of this kind, I need make no excuse. As to the other parts of the charge, which, if true, would really blemish what I have written; I shall, as I promised, reply to them wery disti aetly and fully.
The acculation of my doctrine turns, I find, sapon three heads; That it is altogethe. S new, ut terly foreign from the intention of the apostle, "of whose words I build it, “ and false in jtself.” A very heavy.charge ! nor is the first part of it to be poglected. For in matters of inorality and religion, which are every one's concern, and which have, therefore, been often and thoroughly examined, new doctrines or arguments are deserved ly suspected. And when one, who is by his funcxiun, a preacher of virtue, doth, by advancing fuch new doctrines or arguments," make conceffions to the cause of vice 7" (as I am faid to have done) he is doubly criminal. Let us fee, therefore, what I have laid down in that Sermon, how