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T HE following discourses were originally
1 part of a larger design, tending to shew that arts and sciences, natural and revealed religion, have upon the whole been progressive, from the creation of the world to the present time; as also that they have been suited to each other, as well as to the circumstances of mankind, during each éminent period of this their progression. A theory, which, when fairly represented, might be supposed to give some satisfaction to many thoughtful persons; who being convinced of the existence and attributes of one supreme first cause, yet are so unhappy as to entertain strong prejudices against every kind of Revelation from him; chiefly on account of the circumstances, under which it seems to have been communicated; which they are unable to reconcile with the course and order of Divine Providence in other respects: as well as to assist some serious enquirers, who are perh .ps equally at a loss in their search after any settled order, in either of these Establishments : but yet, if they could once persuade themselves in general, that one of these proceeded in some sort of uniform ratio, and analogy with the other; and that both were in a state of progresion; would probably have patience to wait a while, in hopes of seeing their particular objections gradually removed in each, by the same rules.
Having formerly attempted to clear up some of the chief difficulties that occur in our concep
tions of the Deity, and his Providence, in a commentary on Archbishop King's Essay on the Origin of Evil; I have since had the pleasure of seeing those principles which were originally advanc'd there, adopted by a late celebrated writer; and adorned with all the graces of poetry. This is a continuation of the same design, of justifying the ways of God to man: and from the very nature of that design, however imperfectly executed, there is some ground for hoping that it may still find the same favourable regard, without any more particular apology.
The notes are chiefly calculated for a commonplace, or Index ; to direct the industrious reader to such authors, more especially among the moderns, as might furnish him with as just and proper observations or hints on each head, as I could think myself capable of producing; what character soever some of them may bear among the learned. And indeed, provided the notions were but good and seasonable, I have not been very folicitous under whose name, or in what place, and manner, they appeared. It must be confessed, that even some of the lowest class sometimes have several useful things not to be met with elsewhere; though few would think it worth their while to seek there for them ; which tends (according to the observation of an eminent writer) to sew the benefit of general reading: neither would it be quite fair to borrow any thing from such, without a due acknowledgement; nor can we be understood to answer for any of them,
farther than the point reaches, for which they were expressly cited, or referred to. Where any thing seemed necessary to be added or supplied, it will be found either introducing these; or intermixed among them, as occasion offered: and in pursuance of this humble plan, the inserting all new writers as they came forth, or fell in my way, since the first impression, must occasion most of those alterations and additions that have hitherto been made. For whenever any new observations, relative to the main subject occurred to me; and it is hardly to be supposed, but that in a course of years fome such should occur; the fetting them down seemed a debt due to the publick, and will prove so, if they are really of consequence; if not, the doing it must be deemed less prejudicial to those persons who are possessed of any former edition.
As for the two Discourses annexed; the former ought to be considered as consisting only of a few loose traites, or general reflections, on a subject which can never be too much attended to; and if it contain any valuable observations, either fpeculative, or practical, or of a mixed kind; however obvious they may appear, 'tis hoped they will be no less acceptable for their general use : part of the latter pretends to nothing more, than a brief representation of the Scripture-Doctrine, on a point not yet sufficiently understood; and from the reception that and some other points of the like kind seem lately to have met with, it may be perhaps a part of Christian pru