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E PI S
E I S T T L E

TO THE

R R E A D E R.

READER,

Here put into thy Hands, what has been the Diversion of some of my idle and heavy Hours: If it has the good Luck to prove fo of any of thine, and thou hast but half

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so much Pleasure in reading, as I had in writing it, thou wilt as little think thy Money, as I do my Pains, ill bestowed. Mistake not this, for a Commendation of my Work; nor conclude, because I was pleased with the Doing of ir, that therefore I am fondly taken with it now it is done. He that hawks at Larks and Sparrows, has no less Sport, though a much less considerable Quarry, than he that flies at nobler Game : And he is little acquainted with the Subject of this Treatise, the UNDERSTANDING, who does not know, that as it is the most elevated Faculty of the Soul, so it is employed with a greater and more constant Delight, than any of the other. Its Searches after Truth,

, are a Sort of Hawking and Hunting, wherein the very Pursuit makes a great Part of the Pleasure. Every Scep the Mind takes in its Progress towards Knowledge, makes some Discovery, which is not only new, but the best too, for the Time at least.

For the Understanding, like the Eye, judging of Cb. jects only by its own Sight, cannot but be pleased with what it discovers, having less Regret for what has escapA 4

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ed it, because it is unknown. Thus he who has raifed himself above the Alms-Basket, and not content to live lazily on Scraps of begged Opinions, fets his own Thoughts on work, to find and follow Truth, will (whatever he lights on) not miss the Hunter's Satisfaction; every Moment of his Pursuit will reward his Pains with fome Delight, and he will have Reason to think his Time not ill-spent, even when he cannot much boast of any great Acquisition.

This, Reader, is the Entertainment of those who let loose their own Thoughts, and follow them in writing; which thou oughtest not to envy them, since they afford thee an Opportunity of the like Diversion, if thou wilt make use of thy own Thoughts in reading. 'Tis to them, if they are thy own, that I refer myself: But if they are taken upon Trust from others, 'tis no great Matter what they are, they not following Truth, but some meaner Consideration : And 'tis not worth while to be concerned, what he fays or thinks, who says or thinks only as he is directed by another. If thou judgest for thyself, I know thou wilt judge candidly; and then I shall not be harmed or offended, whatever be thy Censure. For though it be certain, that there is nothing in this Treatise, of the Truth whereof I am not fully persuaded; yet I consider myself as liable to Mistakes, as I can think thee, and know that this Book must stand or fall with thee, nor by any Opinion I have of it, but thy own. If thou findest little in it new or instructive to thee, thou art noț to blame me for it. It was not meant for those that had already mastered this Subject, and made a thorough Acquaintance with their own Understandings; but for my own Information, and the Satisfaction of a few Friends, who acknowledged themfelves not to have sufficiently considered it. Were it fit to trouble thee with the History of this Esay, I should tell thee, that five or six Friends meeting at my Chamber, and discoursing on a Subject very remote from this, found themselves quickly at a Stand, by the Difficulties that rase on every Side. After we had a while puzzled ourselves, without coming any nearer a

Resolution

Resolution of those Doubts which perplexed us, it came into my Thoughts, that

We took a wrong Course; and that before we set ourselves upon Enquiries of that Nacure, it was necessary to examine our own Abilities, and see what Objects our Understandings were, or were not fitted to deal with. This I proposed to the Company, who all readily assented; and thereupon it was agreed, that this thould be our first Enquiry. Some hafty, and undigefted Thoughts on a Subject I had never before considered, which I set down against our next Meeting, gave the first Entrance into this Discourse; which having been thụs begun by Chance, was continued by Intreaty; written by incoherent Parcels; and after long Intervals of Neglect, resumed again, as my Humour or Occasions permitted; and ac laft, in a Retirement, where an Attendance on my Health gave me Leisure, it was brought into that order thou now seeft it.

This discontinued Way of Writing may have occasioned, besides others, two contrary Faults, viz. that too little and too much may be said in it. If thou findeit any thing wanting, I shall be glad, that what I have writ gives thee any Desire, that I fould have gone farther: If it feems too much to thee, thou mayft blame the Subject; for when I first put Pen to Paper, I thought all I should have to say on this Matter, would have been contained in one Sheet of Paper; but the farther I went, the larger Prospect I had: New Discoveries led me ftill on, and so it grew insensibly to the Bulk it now appears in. I will not deny, but posibly it might be reduced to a narrower Compass than it is; and that some parts of it might be contracted; the Way it has been writ in, by Catches, and many long Intervals of Interruption, being apt to cause some Repetitions. But to confess the Truth, I am now too lazy, or too buty to make it shorter.

I am not ignorant how little I herein consult my own Reputation, when I knowingly let it go with a Fault, so apt to disgust the most judicious, who are always the nicest Readers. But they who know Sloth is apt to content itself with any Excuse, will pardon me, if mine has prevailed on me, where, I think, I have a very

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good one. I will not therefore alledge in my Defence, that the same Notion, having different Respects, may be convenient or necessary to prove or illustrate several Parts of the same Discourse; and that so it has happened in many Parts of this : But waving that, I shall frankly avow, that I have sometimes dwelt long upon the fame Argument, and expressed it different Ways, with a quite different Design. I pretend not to publish this Essay for the Information of Men of large Thoughts, and quick Apprehensions; to such Masters of Know ledge, I profess myself a Scholar, and therefore warn them before-hand not to expect any Thing here, but what, being spun out of my own coarse Thoughts, is fitted to Men of my own Size, to whom, perhaps, it will not be unacceptable, that I have taken fome Pains to make plain and familiar to their Thoughts some Truths, which established Prejudice, or the Abstractedness of the Ideas themselves, might render difficult. Some Objects had need be turned on every Side: And when the Notion is new, as I confess some of these are to me, or out of the ordinary Road, as I suspect they will appear to others; 'tis not one simple View of it, that will gain it Admittance into every Understanding, or fix it there with a clear and lasting Impression. There are few, I believe, who have not observed in themselves or others, that what in one Way of proposing was very obfcure, another Way of expressing it has made very clear and intelligible : Though afterward the Mind found little Difference in the Phrases, and wondered why one failed to be understood more than the other. But every Thing does not hit alike upon every Man's Imagination. We have our Understandings no less different than our Palates; and he that thinks the same Truth shall be equally relished by every one in the same Dress, may as well hope to feast every one with the same fort of Cookery: The Meat may be the same, and the Nourishment good, yet every one not be able to receive it with that Seasoning; and it must be dressed another Way, if you will have it go down with some, even of Itrong Conftitutions. The Truth is, those who advi

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sed me to publish it, advised me, for this Reason, to publith it as it is: And since I have been brought to let it go

Abroad, I desire it should be understood by whoever gives

himself the Pains to read it. I have so little Af, fectation to be in Print, that if I were not flattered this Elay might be of some Use to others, as I think it has been to me, I should have confined it to the View of some Friends, who gave the first Occasion to it. My appearing therefore in Print, being on Purpose to be as useful as I may, I think it necessary to make what I have to say, as easy and intelligible to all Sorts of Readers, as I can. And I had much rather the Speculative and Quick-lighted should complain of my being in some Parts tedious, than that any one, not accustomed to abstract Speculations, or prepoffeffed with different Notions, should mistake, or not comprehend my Meaning.

It will poflibly be censured as a great Piece of Vanity or Insolence in me, to pretend to instruct this our knowing Age; it amounting to little less, when I own, that I publish this Elay with Hopes it may be useful to others. But if it may be permitted to speak freely of those, who with a feigned Modesty condemn as useless, what they themselves write, methinks it savours much more of Vanity or Insolence, to publish a Book for any ocher End; and he fails very much of that Respect he owes the Publick, who prints, and consequently expects Men Thould read that, wherein he intends not they should meet with any Thing of Use to themselves or others : And should nothing else be found allowable in this Treatise, yet my Design will not cease to be so; and the Goodness of my Intention ought to be some Excuse for the Worthlessness of my Present. 'Tis that chiefly which secures me from the Fear of Censure, which I expect not to escape more than better Writers. Men's Principles, Notions, and Relishes are so different, that it is hard to find a Book which pleases or displeases all Men. I acknowledge the Age we live in is not the least knowing, and therefore not the most easy to be satisfied. If I have not the good Luck to please, yec no-body ought to be offended with me. I plainly tell

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