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RALPH ALLEN, Esq;
less under the Idea of a Patron, than of a joint Labourer with me in the Service of Mankind. For while I attempt to explain the Theory of this divine Philosophy of Universal Benevolence, you illustrate it by your Practice. At most therefore I can but offer you the Essay on Man, set in a juft Light, as a Mirrour for your Cabinet; where you may behold the perfect Image of your own Mind: And the Works of this Artist, who is beholden only to Truth for their Polish and
their Lustre, you are too well acquainted with to suspect them of Flattery. To preserve the Lustre of this Mirrour was the sole Purpose of the following Letters. For the dull Breath of Malice had attempted to defile its Purity; and, by staining it with the black Imputation of Fatalism, to tarnish every Virtue it reflected.
It hath been observed in Physics, that Nature never gave an Excellence, but she at the same time produced its contrary, withQualities peculiarly adapted to its Destruction. As we see how this serves the wise Ends of Providence, by keeping us in that State of Imperfection and Dependence in which it hath pleased the Author of all Things to place us, we need not be much surprised to find the same Phænomenon in the moral World: In no Instance more apparent than in the Doctrine of Fate, which, almost coæval with the Praçtice of Virtue, is yet altogether the Destruction of it.
But as there is not that Decay, nor Degeneracy of Good, in the natural as in the moral World; so neither is there that Increase of Evil. I say this chiefly with regard to the Doctrine of Fate, which hath been still growing, from Age to Age, in Absurdity and Impiety: And therefore no Wonder, that Virtue, whose specific Bane it is, thould proportionably ficken and decline.
Indeed, it stopped not till it became like the Tree in the Chaldæan's Vision, which reached to Heaven, and extended over the whole Earth; and received all the irrational and impure Creation, Birds, Beasts, and Insects, toits Shade and Shelter.
To consider Fate in its Growth and Progress, it divides itself into four principal Branches.
The first and earliest is that which arose from the strange and prodigious Events in the Life of Man: Where the amazed Beholder observing the Ends of human Wisdom fo perpetually defeated, even when supported by the
likeliest Means, concluded that nothing less than an over-ruling Fate had traversed his well-conducted Designs. This early Conclusion concerning God's Government bere, from Observations on Civil Events, was again inferred in After-ages, by another Set of Men, with regard to his Government hereafter, from their Contemplations on Religious; while, from an utter Inability to penetrate the Designs of Providence in its partial Revelations to Mankind, they concluded that Fate or Predestination had determined of our fu. ture, as well as present Happiness. These, which are only different Modifications of the same imaginary Power, may
be called the POPULAR and RELI
The second kind arose from a supposed moral Influence of the heavenly Bodies; founded in an early Superstition that the Hero-Gods had migrated into Stars. It was first understood to be confined to Communities, as such