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talking, or to qualify themselves for the world, or some such kind of reasons; there are, even of the few who read for their own entertainment, and have a real curiosity to see what is said, several, which is prodigious, who have no sort of curiosity to see what is true : I say, curiosity; because it is too obvious to be mentioned, how much that religious and facred attention, which is due to truth, and to the important question, What is the rule of life? is loft out of the world.

For the sake of this whole class of readers, for they are of different capacities, different kinds, and get into this way from different occasions, I have often wished, that it had been the custom to lay before people nothing in matters of argument but premises, and leave them to draw conclusions themselves; which, though it could not be done in all cases, might

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in many.

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The great number of books and papers of amusement, which, of one kind or another, daily come in one's way, have in part occafioned, and most perfectly fall in with and humour, this idle way of reading and considering things. By this means, time even in solitude is happily got rid of, without the pain of attention : neither is any part of it more put to the account of idleness, one can scarce forbear saying, is spent with less thought,


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than great part of that which is spent in reading

Thus people. habituate themselves to let things pass through their minds, as one may speak, rather than to think of them. Thus by use they become satisfied merely with seeing what is faid, without going any further. Review and attention, and even forming a judgment, becomes fatigue; and to lay any thing before them that requires it, is putting them quite out of their way.

There are also persons, and there are at least more of them than have a right to claim such superiority, who take for granted, that they are acquainted with every thing ; and that no subject, if treated in the manner it should be, can be treated in any manner but what is familiar and easy to them.

It is true indeed, that few persons have a right to demand attention ; but it is also true, that nothing can be understood without that degree of it, which the very nature of the thing requires. Now morals, considered as a science, concerning which speculative difficulties are daily raised, and treated with regard to those difficulties, plainly require a very peculiar attention. For here ideas never are in themselves determinate, but become so by the train of reasoning and the place they stand in; Gince it is impossible that words can always b 2


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stand for the same ideas, even in the same author, much less in different ones. Hence an argument may not readily be apprehended, which is different from its being mistaken ; and even caution to avoid being mistaken may, in some cases, render it less readily apprehended. It is very unallowable for a work of imagination or entertainment not to be of easy comprehension, but may be unavoidable in a work of another kind, where a man is not to form or accommodate, but to state things as he finds them.

It must be acknowledged, that some of the following Discourses are very abstruse and difficult ; or, if you please, obscure : but I must take leave to add, that those alone are judges, whether or no and how far this is a fault, who are judges, whether or no and how far it might have been avoided—those only who will be at the trouble to understand what is here said, and to see how far the things here insisted upon, and not other things, might have been put in a plainer manner; which yet I am very far from afferting that they could not.

Thus much however will be allowed, that general criticisins concerning obscurity considered as a distinct thing from confusion and perplexity of thought, as in some cases there may be ground for them ; so in others, they



may be nothing more at the bottom than complaints, that every thing is not to be understood with the same ease that some things

Confusion and perplexity in writing is indeed without excuse, because any one may, if he pleases, know whether he understands and sees through what he is about : and it is unpardonable for a man to lay his thoughts before others, when he is conscious that he himself does not know whereabouts he is, or how the matter before him stands. It is coming abroad in disorder, which he ought to be dissatisfied to find himself in at home.

But even obscurities arising from other causes than the abstruseness of the argument may not be always inexcusable. Thus a subject may be treated in a manner, which all along supposes the reader acquainted with what has been said upon it, both by ancient and modern writers; and with what is the present state of opinion in the world concerning such subject. This will create a difficulty of a very peculiar kind, and even throw an obscurity over the whole before those who are not thus informed; but those who are will be disposed to excuse such a manner, and other things of the like kind, as a saving of their patience. However

upon the whole, as the title of Sermons gives some right to expect what is b 3


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plain and of easy comprehension, and as the best auditories are mixed, I shall not fet about to justify the propriety of preaching, or under that title publishing, Discourses fo abstruse as some of these are : neither is it worth while to trouble the reader with the account of my doing either. He must not however impute to me, as a repetition of the impropriety, this second edition a, but to the demand for it.

Whether he will think he has any amends made him by the following illustrations of what seemed moft to require them, I myself am by no means a proper judge.

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There are two ways in which the subject of morals may be treated. One begins from inquiring into the abstract relations of things : the other from a matter of fact, namely, what the particular nature of man is, its several parts, their æconomy or constitution ; from whence it proceeds to determine what course of life it is, which is correspondent to this whole nature. In the former method the conclusion is expressed thus, that vice is contrary to the nature and reason of things : in the latter, that it is a violation or breaking in upon our own nature. Thus they both lead

a The Preface stands exactly as it did before the second edition of the Sermons.


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