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merit in these three respects is indeed generally allowed: and if my suffrage could add any thing to the lustre of his reputation, I should here, with great sincerity and pleasure, join my voice to that of the public, and make such an encomium on the author of The History of England as would not offend any of his rational admirers. But why is this author's character so replete with inconsistency! why should his principles and his talents extort at once our esteem and detestation, our applause and contempt! That he, whose manners in private life are said to be so agreeable to many of his acquaintance, should yet in the public capacity of an author, have given so much cause of just offence to all the friends of virtue and mankind, is to me matter of astonishment and sorrow, as well as of indignation. That he, who succeeds so well in describing the fates of nations, should yet have failed so egregiously in explaining the operations of the mind, is one of those incongruities in human genius, for which, perhaps, philosophy will never be able fully to account. That he, who has so impartially stated the opposite pleas and principles of our political factions, should yet have adopted the most illiberal prejudices against natural and revealed religion that he, who on some occasions has displayed even a profound erudition, should at other times, when intoxicated with a favourite theory, have suffered affirmations to escape him, which would have fixed the opprobrious name of Sciolist on a less celebrated author: and finally, that a moral philosopher, who seems to have exerted his utmost ingenuity in searching after paradoxes, should yet happen to light on none, but such as are all, without exception, on the side of licentiousness and scepticism :-there are inconsistencies perhaps equally inexplicable; at least

they are such as I do not at present chuse to explain. And yet, that this author is chargeable with all these inconsistencies, will not, I think, be denied by any person of sense and candour, who has read his writings with attention. His philosophy has done great harm. Its admirers, I know, are very numerous; but I have not as yet met with one person, who both admired and understood it. We are prone to believe what we wish to be true: and most of this author's philosophical tenets are so well adapted to what I fear I may call the fashionable notions of the times, that those who are ambitious to conform to the latter, will hardly be disposed to examine scrupulously the evidence of the former.Having made this declaration, which I do in the spirit of an honest man, I must take the liberty to treat this author with that plainness, which the cause of truth, the interests of society, and my own conscience require. The same candour that prompts me to praise, will also oblige me to blame. The inconsistency is not in me, but in him. Had I done but half as much as he, in labouring to subvert principles which ought ever to be held sacred, I know not whether the friends of truth would have granted me any indulgence: I am sure they ought not. Let me be treated with the lenity due to a good citizen, no longer than I act as becomes

one.

If it shall be acknowledged by the candid and intelligent reader, that I have in this book contributed something to the establishment of old truths, I shall not be much offended, though others should pretend to discover that I have advanced nothing new. deed I would not wish to say any thing on these subjects, that has not often occurred to the common sense of mankind. In Logic and Morals, we may have new

In

treatises, and new theories; but we are not now to expect new discoveries. The principles of moral duty have long been understood in these enlightened parts of the world; and mankind, in the time that is pást, have had more truth under their consideration, than they will probably have in the time to come. Yet he who makes these sciences the study of his life, may perhaps collect particulars concerning their evidence, which, though known to a few, are unknown to many; may set some principles in a more striking light than that in which they have been formerly viewed; may devise methods of confuting new errors, and exposing new paradoxes; and may hit upon a more popular way of displaying what has hitherto been exhibited in too dark and mysterious a form.

It is commonly allowed, that the science of human nature is of all human sciences the most curious and important. To know ourselves, is a precept which the wise in all ages have recommended, and which is enjoined by the authority of revelation itself. Can any thing be of more consequence to man, than to know what is his duty, and how he may arrive at happiness? It is from the examination of his own heart that he receives the first intimations of the one, and the only sure criterion of the other.-What can be more useful, more delightful, and more sublime, than to contemplate the Deity? It is in the works of nature, particularly in the constitution of the human soul, that we discern the first and most conspicuous traces of the Almighty; for without some previous acquaintance with our own moral nature we could not have any certain knowledge of His.-Destitute of the hope of immortality, and a future retribution, how contemptible, how miserable is man! And yet, did not our moral feelings, in concert with what reason discovers of the B

Deity, evidence the necessity of a future state, in vain should we pretend to judge rationally of that revelation by which life and immortality have been brought to light.

How then is this science to be learned? In what manner are we to study human nature? Doubtless by examining our own hearts and feelings, and by attending to the conduct of other men. But are not the writings of philosophers useful towards the attainment. of this science? Most certainly they are; for whatever improves the sagacity of judgment, the sensibility of moral perception, or the delicacy of taste; whatever renders our knowledge of moral and intellectual facts more extensive; whatever impresses our minds with more enlarged and more powerful sentiments of duty, with more affecting views of God and Providence, and with greater energy of belief in the doctrines of natural religion;-every thing of this sort either makes us more thoroughly acquainted, or prepares us for becoming more thoroughly acquainted with our own nature, and with that of other beings, and with the relations which they and we bear to one another. But I fear we shall not be able to improve ourselves in any one of these respects, by reading the modern systems of scepticism. What account then are we to make of those systems and their authors? The following Dissertation is partly designed as an answer to this question. But it has a further view; which is, to examine the foundations of this scepticism, and see whether these be consistent with what all mankind must acknowledge to be the foundations of truth; to inquire, whether the cultivation of scepticism be salutary or pernicious to science and mankind; and whether it may not be possible to devise certain criteria, by which the absurdity of its conclusions

may be detected, even by those who may not have leisure or subtilty, or metaphysical knowledge, sufficient to qualify them for a logical confutation of all its premises. If it be confessed, that the present age has some tendency to licentiousness, both in principle and practice, and that the works of sceptical writers have some tendency to favour that licentiousness; it will also be confessed, that this design is neither absurd nor unseasonable.

A celebrated writer on human nature has observed, that if truth be at all within the reach of human "capacity, it is certain it must lie very deep and ab"struse:" and a little after he adds, "that he would "esteem it a strong presumption against the philoso

phy he is going to unfold, were it so very easy and "obvious." I am so far from adopting this opinion, that I declare, in regard to the few things I have to say of human nature, that I should esteem it a very strong presumption against them, if they were not easy and obvious. Physical and mathematical truths are often abstruse; but facts and experiments relating to the human mind, when expressed in proper words, ought to be obvious to all. I find that those poets, historians, and novelists, who have given the most lively displays of human nature, and who abound most in sentiments easily comprehended, and readily admitted as true, are the most entertaining, as well as the most useful. How then should the philosophy of the human mind be so difficult and obscure? Indeed, if it be an author's determinate purpose to advance paradoxes, some of which are incredible, and others beyond comprehension; if he be willing to avail himself all he can of the natural ambiguity of lan. guage in supporting those paradoxes; or if he enter

*Treatise of Human Nature, vol. 1. p. 3, 4.

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