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VINDICATION

OF

NATURAL SOCIETY:

OR, A VIEW OF

THE MISERIES AND EVILS ARISING TO MANKIND

FROM EVERY SPECIES OF

ARTIFICIAL SOCIETY.

IN A LETTER TO LORD

BY A LATE NOBLE WRITER.

1756.

PREFACE.

BIFRE the philosophical works of Lord are the doctrines which, sometimes concealed, BOLINGBROKE had appeared, great things sometimes openly and fully avowed, are found were expected from the leisure of a man, who to prevail throughout the writings of Lord from the splendid scene of action, in which his BOLINGBROKE ; and such are the reasonings. talents had enabled him to make so conspicu- which this noble writer and several others have ous a figure, had retired to employ those talents been pleased to dignify with the name of phiin the investigation of truth." Philosophy be- losophy. If these are delivered in a specious gan to congratulate herself upon such a prose- manner, and in a style above the common, they lyte from the world of business, and hoped to cannot want a number of admirers of as much have extended her power under the auspices of docility as can be wished for in disciples. To such a leader. In the midst of these pleasing these the editor of the following little piece has expectatiuns, the works themselves at last ap- addressed it: there is no reason to conceal the peared in full body, and with great pomp. design of it any longer. Those who searched in them for new discover- The design was, to shew that, without the ies in the mysteries of nature; those who ex- exertion of any considerable forces, the same pected something which might explain or direct engines which were employed for the destructhe operations of the mind; those who hoped tion of religion, might be employed with equal to see morality illustrated and enforced; those success for the subversion of government; and who looked for new helps to society and go that specious arguments might be used against vernment; those who desired to see the cha- those things which they, who doubt of every racters and passions of mankind delineated; thing else, will never permit to be questioned. in short, all who consider such things as phi- It is an observation which I think Isocrates losophy, and require some of them at least, in makes in one his orations against the every philosophical work, all these were cer- sophists, that it is far more easy to maintain a tainly disappointed; they found the landmarks wrong cause, and to support paradoxical opiof science precisely in their former places. nions to the satisfaction of a common auditory, and they thought they received but a poor re- than to establish a doubtful truth by solid and compense for this disappointment, in seeing conclusive arguments. When men find that every mode of religion attacked in a lively something can be said in favour of what, on manner, and the foundation of every virtue, the very proposal, they have thought utterly end of all government, sapped with great art indefensible, they grow doubtful of their own and much ingenuity. What advantage do wo reason; they are thrown into a sort of pleasing derive from such writings? What delight can surprize; they run along with the speaker, a man find in employing a capacity which charmed and captivated to find such a plentiful might be usefully exerted for the noblest pur- harvest of reasoning, where all seemed barren poses, in a sort of sullen labour, in which, if and unpromising. This is the fairy land of the author could succeed, he is obliged to own, philosophy. And it very frequently happens, that nothing could be more fatal to mankind that those pleasing impressions on the imaginathan his success?

tion, subsist and produce their effect, even I cannot conceive how this sort of writers after the understanding has been satisfied of propose to compass the designs they pretend to their unsubstantial nature. There is a sort of have in view, by the instruments which they gloss upon ingenious falsehoods, that dazzles employ. Do they pretend to exalt the mind of the imagination, but which neither belongs to, man, by proving him no better than a beast? nor becomes the sober aspect of truth. I have Do they think to enforce the practice of virtue, met with a quotation in Lord Coke's reports by denying that vice and virtue are distin- that pleased me very much, though I do not guished by good or ill fortune here, or by hap- know from whence he has taken it: “ Interdum piness or misery hereafter? Do they imagine fucata falsitas, (says he,) in multis est probathey shall increase our piety, and our reliance bilior, et sæpe rationibus vincit nudam veritatem." on God, by exploding his providence, and in- In such cases, the writer has a certain fire and risting that he is neither just nor good ? Su alacrity inspired into him by a consciousness

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that let it fare how it will with the subject, his sensible of our blindness. And this we must ingenuity will be sure of applause ; and this do, or we do nothing, whenever we examine alacrity becomes much greater if he acts upon the result of a reason which is not our own. the offensive, by the impetuosity that always Even in matters which are, as it were, just accompanies an attack, and the unfortunate within our reach, what would become of the propensity which mankind have to the finding world, if the practice of all moral duties, and and exaggerating faults. The editor is satis- the foundations of society, rested upon having fied that a mind, which has no restraint from a their reasons made clear and demonstrative to sense of its own weakness, of its subordinate every individual ? rank in the creation, and of the extreme danger The editor knows that the subject of this of letting the imagination loose upon some letter is no! so fully handled as obviously it subjects, may very plausibly attack every thing might ; it was not his design to say all ihat the most excellent and venerable; that it would could possibly be said. It had been inexcusnot be difficult to criticise the creation itself; able to fill a large volume with the abuse of and that if we were to examine the divine

reason; nor would such an abuse have been fabrics by our ideas of reason and fitness, tolerable even for a few pages, if some underand to use the same method of attack by which plot of more consequence than the apparent some men have assaulted revealed religion, we design, had not been carried on. might with as good colour, and with the same Some persons have thought that the adransuccess, make the wisdom and power of God tages of the state of nature ought to have been in his creation appear to many no better than more fully displayed. This had undoubtedly foolishness. There is an air of plausibility been a very ample subject for declamation; which accompanies vulgar reasonings and no- but they do not consider the character of the tions taken from the beaten circle of ordinary piece. The writers against religion, whilst experience, that is admirably suited to the they oppose every system, are wisely careful narrow capacities of some, and to the laziness never to set up any of their own. If some inof others. But this advantage is in great accuracies in calculation, in reasoning, or in measure lost, when a painful, comprehensive method, be found, perhaps these will not bo survey of a very complicated matter, and looked upon as faults by the admirers of Lord which requires a great variety of considera- BOLINGBROKE; who will, the editor is afraid, tions, is to be made ; when we must seek in a observe much more of his Lordship's characprofound subject, not only for arguments, butter in such particulars of the following lotter, for new materials of argument, their measures than they are like to find of that rapid torreni and their method of arrangement; when we of an impetuous and overbearing eloquence, must go out of the sphere of our ordinary ideas, and the variety of rich imagery for which that and when we can never walk sure, but by being writer is justly admirod.

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