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HAVE here given the public a brief, but faithful abstract of this most excellent Essay; wherein I have all along religiously adhered to our author's notions, and generally to his words, without any other addition than that of explaining a few necessary consequences, for the sake of ignorant readers; for, to those who have the least degree of learning, I own, they will be wholly useless. I hope I have not, in any single instance, misrepresented the thoughts of this admirable writer. If I have happened to mistake through inadvertency, I entreat he will condescend to inform me, and point out the place; upon which, I will immediately beg pardon both of him and the world. The design of his piece is to recommend freethinking; and one chief motive is the example of many excellent men who were of that sect. He produces as the principal points of their freethinking, that they denied the being of a God, the torments of hell, the immortality of the soul, the Trinity, incarnation, the history of the creation by Moses, with many other such“ fabulous and blasphemous stories," as he judiciously calls them: and he asserts, that whoever denies, the most of these, is the completest freethinker, and consequently the wisest and most virtuous man.
The author, sensible of the prejudices of the age, does not directly affirm himself an atheist; he goes no farther than to pronounce that atheism
is the most perfect degree of freethinking; and leaves the reader to form the conclusion. However, he seems to allow, that a man may be a tolerable freethinker, though he does believe a God; provided he utterly rejects “ providence, revelation, the Old and New Testament, future rewards and punishments, the immortality of the soul," and other the like impossible absurdities. Which mark of superabundant caution, sacrificing truth to the superstition of priests, may perhaps
be forgiven, but ought not to be imitated by any who would arrive (even in this author's judgment) at the true perfection of freethinking.
WRITTEN IN ENGLAND, BUT LEFT UNFINISHED.
DISCOURSING One day with a prelate of the kingdom of Ireland, who is a person of excellent wit and learning, he offered a notion applicable to the subject we were then upon, which I took to be altogether new and right. He said, that the difference betwixt a madman and one in his wits, in what related to speech, consisted in this; that the former spoke out whatever came into his mind, and just in the confused manner as his imagination presented the ideas: the latter only expressed such thoughts as his judgment directed him to choose, leaving the rest to die away in his memory; and that, if the wisest man would, at any time, utter his thoughts in the crude indigested manner as they come into his head, he would be looked upon as raving mad. And, indeed, when we consider our thoughts, as they are the seeds of words and actions, we cannot but
agree that they ought to be kept under the strict: est regulation; and that in the great multiplicity of ideas which one's mind is apt to form, there is nothing more difficult than to select those which are most proper for the conduct of life. So that I cannot imagine what is meant by the mighty zeal in some people for asserting the freedom of thinking; because, if such thinkers keep their thoughts within their own breasts, they can be of no consequence, farther than to themselves. If they publish them to the world, they ought to be answerable for the effects their thoughts produce upon others. There are thousands in this king. dom, who, in their thoughts, prefer a republic, or absolute power of a prince, before a limited monarchy; yet, if any of these should publish their opinions, and go about, by writing or discourse, to persuade the people to innovations in government, they would be liable to the severest punishments the law can inflict; and therefore they are usually so wise as to keep their sentiments to themselves. But, with respect to religion, the matter is quite otherwise: and the public, at least here in England, seems to be of opinion with Tiberius, that Deorum injuriæ diis curæ. They leave it to God Almighty to vindicate the injuries done to himself, who is no doubt sufficiently able, by perpetual miracles, to revenge the affronts of impious men. And, it should seem, is what princes expect from him, though I cannot readily conceive the grounds they go upon; nor why, since they are God's vicegerents, they do not think themselves at least equally obliged to preserve their master's honour as their own; since this is what they expect from those they depute, and since they never fail to represent
the disobedience of their subjects, as offences against
God. It is true, the visible reason of this neglect is obvious enough: the consequences of atheistical opinions, published to the world, are not so immediate, or so sensible, as doctrines of rebellion and sedition, spread in a proper season. However, I cannot but think the same consequences are as natural and probable from the former, though more remote: and whether these have not been in view among our great planters of infidelity in England, I shall hereafter examine.