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so freely to censure it. And I wish there were no other instance of what I have too frequently observed, that many of that reverend body are not always very nice in distinguishing between their enemies and their friends.
Had the author's intentions met with a more candid interpretation from fome, whom out of refpect he forbears to name, he might have been encouraged to an examination of books written by some of those authors above described; whose errors, ignorance, dulness, and villainy, he thinks he could have detected and exposed in such a manner, that the persons who are most conceived to be infected by them, would foon lay them aside and be ashamed. But he has now given over those thoughts; since the weightiest men the weightiest stations, are pleased to think it a more dangerous point, to laugh at those corruptions in religion which they themselves must difapprove, than to endeavour pulling up those very foundations wherein all Christians have agreed.
He thinks it no fair proceeding, that any perfon should offer determinately to fix a name upon the author of this discourse, who hath all along concealed himself from most of his nearest friends: Yet several have gone a farther step, and pronounced another book + to have been the work of the same hand with this; which the author
Alluding to Dr Sharp, the Archbishop of York's represen. tation of the author. Hawkefrorth.
+ Letter concerning Enthusiasm.
directly affirms to be a thorough mistake, he having yet never so much as read that discourse : A plain instance how little truth there often is in general surmises, or in conjectures drawn from a fimilitude of style, or way of thinking.
Had the author written a book to expose the abuses in law, or in physic, he believes the learned professors in either faculty would have been so far from resenting it, as to have given him thanks for his pains; especially if he had made an honourable reservation for the true practice of either science. But religion, they tell us, ought not to be ridiculed ; and they tell us truth: Yet surely the corruptions in it may; for we are taught by the tritest maxim in the world, that religion being the best of things, its corruptions are likely to be the worst.
There is one thing which the judicious reader cannot but have observed, that some of those palfages in this discourse which appear most liable to objection, are what they call parodies, where the author personates the style and manner of other writers, whom he has a mind to expose. I thall produce one instance; it is towards the end of the Introduction. Dryden, L'Estrange, and some others I shall not name, are here leveled at; who, having spent their lives in faction and apoftafies, and all manner of vice, pretended to be sufferers for loyalty and religion. So Dryden tells us, in one of his prefaces, of his merits and sufferings ; thanks God, that he posfeffes his soul in patience; in other places he talks at the same rate; and L'Estrange often uses the like style ; and I believe the reader may find more persons to give that passage an application. But this is enough to direct those who may have overlooked the author's intention.
There are three or four other paffages, which prejudiced or ignorant readers have drawn by great force to hint at ill meanings; as if they glanced at some tenets in religion. In answer to all which, the author solemnly protests he is entirely innocent; and never had it once in his thoughts, that any thing he said would in the least be capable of such interpretations ; which he will engage to deduce fuil as fairly from the most innocent book in the world. And it will be obvious to every reader, that this was not any part of his scheme or design; the abuses he notes, being such as all Church-of-England men agree in : Nor was it proper for his subject to meddle with other points, than such as have been perpetually controverted fince the Reformation.
To instance only in that passage about the three wooden machines mentioned in the introduction : In the original manuscript there was a description of a fourth, which those, who had the papers in their power, blotted out, as having something in it of satire, that, I suppose, they thought was too particular; and therefore they were forced to change it to the number three ;- from whence some have endeavoured to squeeze out a dange
rous meaning, that was never thought on. And indeed the conceit was half spoiled, by changing the numbers ; that of four being much more cabalistic, and therefore better expofing the pretended virtue of numbers ; a superstition there intended to be ridiculed.
Another thing to be observed, is, that there generally runs an irony through the thread of the whole book; which the men of taste will observe and distinguish, and which will render some objections, that have been made, very weak and insignificant.
This apology being chiefly intended for the fatisfaction of future readers, it may be thought unnecessary to take any notice of such treatises as have been written against the ensuing discourse ; which are already sunk into waste-paper and oblivion, after the usual fate of common answerers to books which are allowed to have any merit. They are indeed like annuals, that grow about a young tree, and seem to vie with it for a fummer ; but fall and die with the leaves in autumn, and are never heard of any more. When Dr Echard writ his book about the contempt of the clergy, numbers of those answerers immediately started up, whose memory if he had not kept alive by his replies, it would now be utterly unknown, that he were ever answered at all. There is indeed an exception, when any great genius thinks it worth his while to expose a foolish piece.
So we still read Marvel's answer to Parker * with pleasure, though the book it answers be funk long ago ; fo the Earl of Orrery's remarks will be read with delight, when the disfertation he exposes will neither be fought nor found t. But these are no enterprises for common hands, nor to be hoped for above once or twice in an age. Men would be more cautious of lofing their time in such an undertaking, if they did but consider, that to answer a book effectually, requires more pains and skill, more wit, learning and judgment, than were employed in the writing it. And the author assures those gentlemen, who have given themselves that trouble with him, that his discourse is the product of the study, the observation, and the invention of several years ; that he often blotted out much more than he left ; and, if his papers had not been a long time out of his poffeffion, they must have still undergone more severe corrections. And do they think such a building is to be battered with dirt-pellets, however invenomed the mouths may be that discharge them? He hath seen the productions but of two answerers; one of which at first appeared as from an unknown
* Parker, afterwards Bishop of Oxford, wrote many treatises against the diflenters, with infolence and contempt, says Burnet, that enraged them beyond measure; for which he was chastised by Andrew Marvel, under-secretary to Milton, in a little book called, The Rehearsal transprosed. Hawkes.
+ Boyle's remarks upon Bentley's dissertation on the epistles of Phalaris. Hawkef.