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HAVIN AVING propofed to write fome pieces on Human Life and Manners, such as (to use my Lord Bacon's expreffion) come home to Men's Bufinefs and Bosoms, I thought it more fatisfactory to begin with confidering Man in the abstract, his Nature and his State; fince, to prove any moral duty, to enforce any moral precept, or to examine the perfection or imperfection of any creature whatsoever, it is neceffary first to know what condition and relation it is placed in, and what is the proper end and purpose of its being.
The science of Human Nature is, like all other fciences, reduced to a few clear points: There are not many certain truths in this world. It is therefore in the Anatomy of the Mind as in that of the Body; more good will accrue to mankind by attending to the large, open, and perceptible parts, than by studying too much fuch finer nerves and veffels, the conformations and ufes of which will for ever escape our obfervation. The difputes are all upon these last, and, I will venture to fay, they have lefs fharpened the wits than the hearts of men against each other, and have diminished the practice, more than advanced the theory, of Morality. If I could flatter myself that this Effay has any merit, it is in fteering betwixt the extremes of doctrines feemingly oppofite, in paffing over terms utterly unintelligible, and in forming a temperate, yet not inconfiftent, and a fhort, yet not imperfect, system of Ethics.
This I might have done in profe; but I chofe verfe, and even rhyme, for two reafons. The one will appear obvious; that principles, maxims, or precepts fo written, both strike the reader more strongly at first, and are more
easily retained by him afterwards: The other may feem odd, but is true. I found I could exprefs them more shortly this way than in prose itself; and nothing is more certain, than that much of the force as well as grace of arguments or inftructions depends on their concifenefs. I was unable to treat this part of my subject more in detail, without becoming dry and tedious; or more poetically, without facrificing perfpicuity to ornament, without wandering from the precifion, or breaking the chain of reasoning: If any man can unite all these without diminution of any of them, I freely confefs he will compass a thing above my capacity.
What is now published, is only to be confidered as a general Map of MAN, marking out no more than the greater parts, their extent, their limits, and their connection, but leaving the particular to be more fully delineated in the charts which are now to follow. Confequently these Epistles in their progress (if I have health and leisure to make any progrefs) will be less dry, and more susceptible of poetical ornament. I am here only opening the fountains, and clearing the paffage. To deduce the rivers, to follow them in their course, and to obferve their effects, may be a task more agreeable.
ARGUMENT OF EPISTLE I.
Of the Nature and State of Man, with respect to the UNIVERSE.
OF Man in the abstract.-I. That we can judge only with regard to our own system, being ignorant of the relations of fyftems and things, Ver. 17, &c. II. That Man is not to be deemed imperfect, but a Being fuited to his place and rank in the creation, agreeable to the general Order of things, and conformable to Ends and Relations to him unknown, Ver. 35, &c. III. That it is partly upon his ignorance of future events, and partly upon the hope of a future ftate, that all his happiness in the prefent depends, Ver. 77, &c. IV. The pride of aiming at more knowledge, and pretending to more perfection, the cause of Man's error and mifery. The impiety of putting himself in the place of God, and judging of the fitness or unfitness, perfection or imperfection, justice or injustice, of his dispensations, Ver. 109, &c. V. The abfurdity of conceiting himself the final cause of the creation, or expecting that perfection in the moral world, which is not in the natural, Ver. 131, &c. VI. The unreasonableness of his complaints against Providence, while on the one hand he demands the Perfections of the Angels, and on the other the bodily qualifications of the Brutes; though, to poffefs any of the fenfitive faculties in a higher degree, would render him miferable, Ver. 173, &c. VII. That throughout the whole vifible world, an univerfal order and gradation in the fenfual and mental faculties is obferved, which causes a fubordination of creature to creature, and of all creatures to Man. The gradations of sense, instinct, thought, reflection,