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that before we fet ourfelves upon inquiries of that nature, it was neceffary to examine our own abilities, and fee what objects our understandings were, or were not, fitted to deal with. This I propofed to the company, who all readily affented; and thereupon it was agreed, that this fhould be our firft inquiry. Some hafty and undigefted thoughts on a fubject I had never before confidered, which I fet down against our next meeting, gave the first entrance into this difcourfe; which having been thus begun by chance, was continued by intreaty; written by incoherent parcels; and after long intervals of neglect, refumed again, as my humour or occafions permitted; and at laft, in a retirement, where an attendance on my health gave me leifure, it was brought into that order thou now feeft it.
This difcontinued way of writing may have occafioned, befides others, two contrary faults, viz. that too little and too much may be faid in it. If thou findeft any thing wanting, I fhall be glad, that what I have writ gives thee any defire, that I fhould have gone farther: if it feems too much to thee, thou must blame the fubject; for when I put pen to paper, I thought all I fhould have to fay on this matter, would have been contained in one sheet of paper; but the farther I went, the larger profpect I had; new difcoveries led me ftill on, and fo it grew infenfibly to the bulk it now appears in. I will not deny, but poffibly it might be reduced to a narrower compafs than it is; and that fome 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 fome repetitions. But to confefs the truth, I am now too lazy, or too busy to make it fhorter.
I am not ignorant how little I herein confult my own reputation, when I knowingly let it go with a fault, fo apt to difguft the moft judicious, who are always the niceft readers. But they who know floth is apt to content itself with any excufe, will pardon me, if mine has prevailed on me, where, I think, I have a very good one. I will not therefore allege in my defence, that the fame notion, having different refpects, may
be convenient or neceffary to prove or illuftrate several parts of the fame difcourfe; and that fo it has happened in many parts of this: but waving that, I fhall frankly avow, that I have fometimes dwelt long upon the fame argument, and expreffed it different ways, with a quite different defign. I pretend not to publish this Effay for the information of men of large thoughts, and quick apprehenfions; to fuch masters of knowledge, I profefs myfelf a fcholar, and therefore warn them before-hand not to expect any thing here, but what, being fpun out of my own coarse thoughts, is fitted to men of my own fize; to whom, perhaps, it will not be unacceptable, that I have taken fome pains to make plain and familiar to their thoughts fome truths, which established prejudice, or the abstractednefs of the ideas themfelves, might render difficult. Some objects had need be turned on every fide; and when the notion is new, as I confefs fome of these are to me, or out of the ordinary road, as I fufpect they will appear to others; it is not one fin ple view of it, that will gain it admittance into every understanding, or fix it there with a clear and lafting impreffion. There are few, I believe, who have not obferved in themfelves or others, that what in one way of propofing was very obfcure, another way of expreffing it has made very clear and intelligible: though afterward the mind found little difference in the phrafes, 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 lefs different than our palates; and he that thinks the fame truth fhall be equally relifhed by every one in the fame drefs, may as well hope to feaft every one with the fame fort of cookery: the meat may be the fame, and the nourishment good, yet every one not be able to receive it with that feafoning: and it must be dreffed another way, if you will have it go down with fome, even of ftrong conftitutions. The truth is, thofe who advised me to publifh it, advised me, for this reason, to publifh it as it is and fince I have been brought to let it go abroad, I defire it should be understood by whoever
gives himself the pains to read it; I have fo little affection to be in print, that if I were not flattered this Effay might be of fome ufe to others, as I think it has been to me, I fhould have confined it to the view of fome friends, who gave the first occafion to it. My appearing therefore in print, being on purpose to be as useful as I may, I think it neceffary to make what I have to fay, as eafy and intelligible to all forts of readers, as I can. And I had much rather the fpeculative and quick-fighted fhould complain of my being in fome parts tedious, than that any one, not accustomed to abftract fpeculations, or prepoffeffed with different notions, fhould miftake, or not comprehend my meaning.
It will poffibly be cenfured as a great piece of vanity or infolence in me, to pretend to inftruct this our knowing age; it amounting to little lefs, when I own, that I publish this Effay with hopes it may be useful to others. But if it may be permitted to speak freely of those, who with a feigned modefty condemn as ufelefs, what they themselves write, methinks it favours much more of vanity or infolence, to publifh a book for any other end; and he fails very much of that refpect he owes the public, who prints, and confequently expects men fhould read that, wherein he intends not they fhould meet with any thing of ufe to themfelves or others: and fhould nothing else be found allowable in this treatise, yet my defign will not ceafe to be fo; and the goodness of my intention ought to be fome excuse for the worthleffnefs of my prefent. It is that chiefly which fecures me from the fear of cenfure, which I expect not to efcape more than better writers. Men's principles, notions, and relifhes are fo different, that it is hard to find a book which plcafes or difpleases all
I acknowledge the age we live in is not the least knowing, and therefore not the most eafy to be fatisfied. If I have not the good luck to please, yet nobody ought to be offended with me. I plainly tell all my readers, except half a dozen, this treatife was not at first intended for them; and therefore they need not be at the trouble to be of that number. But y
if any one thinks fit to be angry, and rail at it, he may do it fecurely: for I fhall find fome better way of fpending my time, than in fuch kind of converfation. I fhall always have the fatisfaction to have aimed fincerely at truth and ufefulness, though in one of the meaneft ways. The commonwealth of learning is not at this time without mafter-builders, whofe mighty defigns, in advancing the fciences, will leave lafting monuments to the admiration of pofterity: but every one muft not hope to be a Boyle, or a Sydenham: and in an age that produces fuch mafters, as the great— Huygenius, and the incomparable Mr. Newton, with fome others of that ftrain; it is ambition enough to be employed as an under-labourer in clearing the ground a little, and removing fome of the rubbish that lies in the way to knowledge; which certainly had been very much more advanced in the world, if the endeavours of ingenious and induftrious men had not been much cumbered with the learned but frivolous use of uncouth, affected, or unintelligible terms, introduced into the fciences, and there made an art of, to that degree, that philofophy, which is nothing but the true knowledge of things, was thought unfit, or uncapable to be brought into well-bred company, and polite converfation. Vague and infignificant forms of fpeech, and abuse of language, have fo long paffed for myfteries of fcience; and hard and mifapplied words, with little or no meaning, have, by prefcription, such a right to be mistaken for deep learning, and height of fpeculation, that it will not be easy to perfuade, either those who speak, or those who hear them, that they are but the covers of ignorance, and hindrance of true knowledge. To break in upon the fanctuary of vanity and ignorance, will be, I fuppofe, fome fervice to human understanding: though fo few are apt to think they deceive or are deceived in the use of words; or that the language of the fect they are of, has any faults in it, which ought to be examined or corrected; that I hope I fhall be pardoned, if I haye in the third book dwelt long on this fubject, and endeavoured to make it fo plain, that neither the inveterateness
terateness of the mischief, nor the prevalence of the fashion, fhall be any excufe for thofe, who will not take care about the meaning of their own words, and will not fuffer the fignificancy of their expreffions to be inquired into.
I have been told, that a fhort epitome of this treatife, which was printed 1688, was by fome condemned without reading, because innate ideas were denied in it; they too hastily concluding, that if innate ideas were not fuppofed, there would be little left, either of the notion or proof of fpirits. If any one take the like offence at the entrance of this treatife, I fhall defire him to read it through; and then I hope he will be convinced, that the taking away false foundations, is not to the prejudice, but advantage of truth; which is never injured or endangered fo much, as when mixed with, or built on falfhood. In the fecond edition, I added as followeth :
The bookfeller will not forgive me, if I fay nothing. of this fecond edition, which he has promifed, by the correctnefs of it, fhall make amends for the many faults committed in the former. He defires too, that it fhould be known, that it has one whole new chapter concerning identity, and many additions and amendments in other places. These I must inform my reader are not all new matter, but most of them either farther confirmations of what I had faid, or explications, to prevent others being mistaken in the fenfe of what was formerly printed, and not any variation in me from it; I muft only except the alterations I have made in Book II. Chap. 21.
What I had there writ concerning liberty and the will, I thought deferved as accurate a view, as I was capable of; thofe fubjects having in all ages exercised the learned part of the world, with questions and difficulties, that have not a little perplexed morality and divinity; thofe parts of knowledge, that men are moft concerned to be clear in. Upon a clofer infpection into the working of men's minds, and a stricter examination of those motives and views they are turned by, I have found reafon fomewhat to alter the thoughts I formerly