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tented to lose not only their best Friend, but Heaven it self for a Jest, which perhaps, after all, would be little taken notice of on another Subject, and has nothing to recommend it but Profaneness, and that alone which should make it abhorr'd, causeth it to be admired.
As there is nothing so bad but some may pretend to speak for it, (as a Panegyrick has been written upon Busiris, and another upon Nero ) so nothing is so excellent but it may be spoken against ; and if no Right or Title must be allow'd as true or certain, which may be question’d or disputed, it is hard to say what any Man can have that he may call his own. But let it be consider'd that there is little Learning or Judgment required in advancing or maintaining new and strange Doctrines, and in rejecting the old. Things may be so plain, as for that very Reason to be hard to prove, because there is nothing plainer to prove them by. A bold Denial of the Truth of our Senses and Faculties may seem to promise something of more than ordinary Subtilty; thoʻthere be no more in it than this, that he who resolves to deny the very Grounds and Foundations of all Reasoning, has taken effectual care not to be confuted. It is a Mistake to think that it is eaGest to speak upon a common Subject ; a Man indeed can never want something to say upon such a Subject, but he is prevented in what he should say, it is known before-hand, and expected from him: The nicest thing of all is to enforce and improve known Arguments, and to
give new Life, and a better Genius, as it were, to that which has been said a thousand times before. It is usually easiest to discourse on the wrong side of a Question, because there never is so little scope for Fancy and Invention, as when a Man is confined to strict Truth
Error will admit of all Extravagancies, but Truth is a severe and uniform thing, and there are those whom any Extravagancy almost will please, for the Novelty of it. There may be some Art required to make a known Story delightful in the relating, but News is commonly welcome, tho' it be never so ill told; and the most beautiful and useful Creatures are little regarded, when the worst of Monsters are the more gazed at the more they be deform'd. Let those who make such a Noise with their Singularity, but change the Subject , and try how it will succeed with them, they will soon find the Difference, and perceive that they will cease to be in vogue, when they have no longer the Vanity and illnature, and Vices of Men on their Gde.
It is with our Minds in this respect, as it is with our Bodies , when once they arë well supply'd with all that is necessary or convenient , they begin to loath wholsome Food, and to seek out for Varieties of Luxury, and are fond of any thing that may please them to their Hurt. It is thus in every Art and Science, especially in such as all Men think themselves more or less concern'd to know. Men first were contented to speak so as to be understood, and to express their Meaning plainly and naturally with Truth
and Simplicity to one another; afterwards speaking became an Art, and at last in the best and most elegant Languages, it degenerated into nothing but Affe&ation, and all the Ridiculousness of a false Eloquence. The same thing happen'd in Philosophy; the Scepticks carry'd this innovating Humour to the utmost Extravagancy, for the Primitive Traditions being obscured and corrupted, and every Succession of Philosophers striving to set up for themselves, and to outgo each other, they had brought it to that pass, that Tully, who knew as well as any Man, Tays, that nothing can be more absurd than what some of the Philosophers held. But the Author of the Leviathan proceeds farther, and observes, that h no Living Creature is subject to the Privilege of Absurdity but Man only, and of Men, those are of all most subject to it that profess Philosophy. And if we will not believe him upon his word, he has given us his Example for it; few Men, I think, having written more extravagant things than he has done in every part of Philosophy ; if Religion were set aside, he would never have escapęd among the Philosophers and Mathematicians of any Age ; he disputed the Principles of Geometry, as well as the Foundations of all Religion, and both with a like Success. He calls Absurdity the Privilege of Mankind; a
за strange Privilege ! which he has made the most of. But since with a little time the Novelty and
Varnish of his odd Opinions are worn off, they are not now, that I have perceiv’d, so much regarded, but have been forced to give way to other Notions which are as bad, and have nothing more to recommend them, but that they are of a later Date and a newer Fashion.
There is little Reason why any one should value himself for talking against receiv'd Do&trines, and perfuading others to what they are already but too much inclin'd. But to rescue antient and despised Truths, and bring them into Reputation; to convince the Judgments,
j and gain the Affections of Men; to make the fame Truths always please and always appear with a new and amiable Lustre ; this is indeed a difficult Task. For a Man to cultivate the Principles of Vertue, and improve the Growth of it, to make every Subject which he treats of, to become the better for him, and to thrive and flourish under his Hands, is an Argument of true Learning and substantial Knowledge ; but there is no Skill required to make the Weeds of Vice grow apace; all the Art is in destroying them, and it is a sign of a little Mind when one is able to distinguish himself only by Singularity, by an odd Dress, or a new Mode, when his Wit borders upon Madness and Prophaneness, and his Learning is all out of the way. Many who are neither Heterodox in Religion, nor fond of being singular in any thing else, have shewn an extraordinary Sagacity, and a surprizing Variety of excellent Learning upon
Subjects which are unusual and in themselves but little considerable. And I will not deny but that some of the Men of Singularity have no worse Design than to gratify a little Vanity, and to appear like Somebody in the Commonwealth of Learning, as if Learning were a mere Trifle, a very Play-thing, to be employ'd to no serious and useful purpose, but would serve only to give Men occasion to talk, and to be talk'd of. This is calld Pedantry, and I know not why that should go under a better Name, which
, is of a worse Nature, and joins the Trifling of Pedantry to the Mischief of Irreligion. If this sort of Men would but busy themselves no worse than Tiberius did, when he examin'd, who was the Mother of Hecuba , what Name Achilles went by, whilst he hid himself in Wo. mans Apparel, and what Songs those were, which the Syrens were wont to sing ; those indeed are profound Enquiries, and so worthy of them, that it were pity they should be disturb'd in such ingenious Disquisitions. But if Men will be for removing Foundations, and rejecting establish'd Doctrines, and denying the Principles of Religion ; it is fic they should be told that there is neither Wisdom nor Learning in this; and those who are acted themselves by a Spirit of Contradiction, have the least Reason of any Men to take it amiss to be contradicted, tho'it be in never so plain a manner. In short, it is possible that some may be well skilld in Tricks and Artifices, who know little of the subLantial and useful Part of the Law, and it is