« PreviousContinue »
THE editions heretofore published of the Dissertations, the one concerning the end for which God created the world; and the other, on the Nature of Virtue, which has uniformly teen put with it; but is placed in the second volume of this collection, have had prefixed to them the following Preface, which, because it contains several just remarks, applicable as well to the Treatise on Original Sin, as to the Dissertations, it is thought proper here to insert.
"The author had designed these dissertations for the public view; and wrote them out as they now appear: Though it is probable, that if his life had been spared, he would have revised them and rendered them in some respects more complete. Some new sentiments, here and there, might probably have been added; and some passages brightened with farther illustrations. This may be conjectured, from some brief hints, or sentiments minuted down, on loose papers, found in the manuscripts.
"But those sentiments concisely sketched out, which, it is thought, the author intended to enlarge, and digest into the body of the work....cannot be so amplified by any other hand, as to do justice to the author: It is therefore probably best that nothing of this kind should be attempted.
"As these dissertations were more especially designed for the learned and inquisitive, it is expected that the judicious and candid will not be disposed to object that the manner in which these subjects are treated, is something above the level of common readers. For though a superficial way of discourse and loose harangues may well enough suit some subjects, and answer some valuable purposes; yet other subjects demand more closeness and accuracy. And if an author should neglect to do justice to a sub
ject, for fear that the simpler sort should not fully understand him, he might expect to be deemed a trifler by the more intelli- ' gent.
"Our author had a rare talent to penetrate deep in search of truth; to take an extensive survey of a subject, and look through it into remote consequences. Hence many theorems, that appeared hard and barren to others, were to him pleasant and fruitful fields, where his mind would expatiate with peculiar ease, profit and entertainment. Those studies, which to some were too fatiguing to the mind, and wearing to the constitution, were to him but a natural play of genius; and which his mind, without labor, •rode freely and fontaneously perform. A close and conclustve.way of reasoning upon a controversial point was easy and natural to himn.
•“This ntay serve, it is conceived, to account for his usual manner of treating abstruse and controverted subjects, which some have thought has been too metaphysical. But the truth is, that his critical method of looking through the nature of his subject; his accuracy and precision in canvassing truth, comparing ideas, drawing consequences, pointing out and exposing absurdities....naturally led him to reduce the evidence in favor of truth into the form of demonstration. Which doubtless, where it can be obtained, is the most eligible, and by far the most satisfying to great and noble minds. And though some readers may find the labor hard, to keep pace with the writer, in the advances he makes, where the ascent is arduous; yet in general all was easy to him : Such was his peculiar love and discernment of truth, and natural propensity to search after it. His own ideas were clear to him, where some readers have thought them obscure. Thus many things in the works of Newton and Locke, which appear either quite unintelligible, or very obscure to the illiterate, were clear and bright to those illustrious authors, and their learned readers.
"The subjects here handled are sublime and important. The end which God had in view in creating the world, was doubtless worthy of him; and consequently the most excellent and glorious possible. This, therefore, must be worthy to be known by all the intelligent creation, as excellent in itself, and worthy of their pursuit. And as true virtue distinguishes the inhabitants of heaven