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and laughed at; and the means instituted by its Founder for obtaining it, as impiously as sophistically, explained away. Yet without human freedom Religion in general is a farce; and but on the truth of human weakness, the Religion of Jesus, a falsehood.
With regard then to free-will, what need we more than the declaration of Religion? The simple-minded man naturally supposes it; the good man feels it; the thinking man understands it; and nothing but vain philosophy holds out both against Nature and Grace: Not so openly indeed as formerly; but still as obstinately. The ablest advocates of necessity now inveloping it in systems; and insinuating it in all the artful detours of what they call a sufficient reason.
None have gone farther, or with more success, into this contrivance, than the famous Leibnitz; who, with great parts and application of mind, had an immoderate ambition of becoming founder of a sect. He first attempted to raise a name, like the heroes of old, by the invasion of another's property: But being detected and repulsed, he turned himself to invention; and framed an hypothesis in direct opposition to that theory which he before seemed willing to have made his own. This hypothesis, founded in a refined Fatalism, he chose to deliver by hints only, and in piecemeal; which, at the same time that it gave his scheme an air of depth and mystery, kept its absurdities from being observed. So that it soon made its fortune amongst the German wits; who were not out of their way when they took the same deep and cloudy road with their master. It was no wonder then, that this should raise a jealousy in the advocates of Religion, and make the warmer sort of them (not the best at a charitable distinction, though great logicians) to mistake their friends for their enemies.
Amongst other follies of this kind, it brought down a storm of calumny on the ESSAY ON MAN; and, in its turn, occasioned this vindication of our inimitable Poet. A short, and an easy task. For my point, you know, Sir, was not to expose the absurdity of fate; but to prove the Essay free from a doctrine, which my Adversary and I agreed to be an absurdity. But if any one, confiding in the tricks of sophistry under the cloudy conveyance of metaphysics,
metaphysics, would dispute this point with us; I shall give up my share of him to my Adversary, and leave him entirely to the mercy of his logic. All the answer he must expect from me, is of that kind with the Philosopher's, who, disputing with one who denied local motion, only used his legs, and walked out of his company: That is to say, I shall decline his challenge merely for the exercise of my freedom. And indeed, what other answer does he deserve, who refuses to acquiesce in that CONSCIOUSNESS of freedom which every plain man has, on reflecting upon what passes in his mind when he thinks and acts?
But yet, it may be worth while to remark the nature of this consciousness; from which alone (as I think, Sir, I have had the pleasure to observe to you in our conversation on these subjects) freedom of will may be demonstrated to all but the downright atheist. It will, I suppose, be allowed to be an impression on the mind, made by reflexion, as strong as any of those made by sensation. And sure he must be as blind as even blind fate can make him, who does not see thus far at least. So that the only question is, whether it be, like them, subject to deception? I answer, No. And first, for a natural reason, As the organs of sense are not employed to convey the intelligence: But secondly and principally, for a moral one, As there would be nothing left to redress the wrong representation. For, reason, which performs this office in the false impressions of sense, is the very faculty employed in making the impressions of reflexion. Were these therefore liable to the same kind of deception, we should be unavoidably led into and kept in error by the natural frame and constitution of things. But as this would reflect on the Author of Nature, no Theist, I presume, will be inclined to admit the consequence. If the Fatalist should reply, that reason, when well exercised and refined, does here, as in the false impressions of sense, lay open the delusion; this, I must tell him, is the very folly we complain of: That, when things are submitted to the arbitrement of Reason, her award should be rejected while standing in the road of Nature, with all her powers and faculties entire; and not thought worthy to be heard, till made giddy in the
airy heights of metaphysics, and racked and tortured by all the engines of sophistry: In a word, when Reason is no more herself; but speaks as her keepers and tormentors dictate.
However, it is not the looking within only, that assures the Theist of his freedom. What he may observe abroad of the horrid mischiefs and absurdities arising from the Doctrine of Fate, will fully convince him of this truth. It subverts and annihilates all Religion: For the belief of rewards and punishments, without which no Religion can subsist, is founded on the principle of Man's being an accountable creature; but when freedom of will is wanting, Man is no more so than a Clock or Organ. It is likewise highly injurious to Society: For whoever thinks himself no longer in his own power, will be naturally inclined to give the reins to his passions, as it is submitting to that fate which must at last absolutely turn and direct them.
But, after all, the most powerful argument for Freedom, I confess, Sir, is such a life as yours. Of which, though I could say much, and with pleasure, I will only say that it has made me, in common with every one who knows
and your faithful servant,
May 18, 1742.
THERE are two sorts of Writers, I mean the Broor and the FREE-THINKER, that every honest man in his heart esteems no better than the pests of society; as they are manifestly the bane of Literature and Religion. And whoever effectually endeavours to serve either of these, is sure immediately to offend both of those. For, the advancement of literature is as favourable to true piety, as it is fatal to superstition; and the advancement of religion as propitious to real knowledge as discrediting to vain science.
The Author of the following Letters, who hath aimed at least to do this service, by his writings, regarding these two sorts of men, as the irreconcileable enemies of his design, began without any ceremony (for he was not disposed, for their sake, to go about) to break through those lumpish impediments they had thrown across the road of Truth; and laboured to clear the way, not only for himself, but for all who were disposed to follow him. In which it fared with him as it sometimes happens to those who undertake to remove a public nuisance for the benefit of their neighbourhood, where the nicer noses hold themselves offended even in the service thus undeservedly rendered to them. For notwithstanding our Author hath taken all opportunities, and even sought out occasions to celebrate every Writer, living or dead, who was any way respectable for knowledge, virtue, or piety, in whatever party, sect, or religion, he was found, especially such as he had the misfortune to dissent from, and this sometimes with so liberal a hand as to give offence on that side likewise; though he hath done this, I say, yet having, for the reasons above, declared eternal war with Bigotry and Free-thinking, the strong, yet sincere colours in which he hath drawn the learning, sense, candour, and truth of those subjects in which these noble qualities are most eminent, have been censured as insolence
insolence and satire, and a transgression of all the bounds of civility and decorum. But he will not be easily induced, by the clamours of the falsely delicate, to betray the interests of all that is good and valuable amongst men, in complaisance to their notions of politeness. Tis no time to stand upon ceremony when Religion is struggling for life; when the whole Head is sick, and the whole Heart faint.
The Bigot, who, between a corrupt will, and a narrow understanding, imputes odious designs to his adversaries, and impious consequences to their opinions, is not, I suppose, to be complimented, either into sense or honesty. The Writer here contuted is amongst the chief of them. And it is not impossible but the recent memory of the like usage our Author himself met with from others of the same leaven, might give him a quicker sense and stronger resentment of the injury done his neighbour.
As for the tribe of Free-thinkers, Toland, Tindal, Collins, Coward, Blount, Strutt, Chub, Dudgeon, Morgan, Tillard, and their fellows, the mortal foes both of reason and religion, injured wit as well as virtue, by the mouth of their happiest advocate and favourite, long ago called out for vengeance on them:
-The Licence of a following reign
Did all the dregs of bold Socinus drain;