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A DISCOURSE, &c.

For T. H. Esquire, at his Chambers in the Aca

demy of the Beaur Esprits in New England.

SIR, It is now a good while since I have had in my head something, not only very material, but absolutely necessary to my health, that the world should be informed in ; for, to tell you a secret, I am able to contain it no longer. However I have been perplexed, for some time, to resolve what would be the most proper form to send it abroad in. To which end I have been three days coursing through Westminster-hall, and St Paul's Church-yard, and Fleet-street, to peruse titles ; and I do not find any which holds so general a vogue, as that of a Letter to a Friend : nothing is

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more common than to meet with long epistles, addressed to persons and places, where, at first thinking, one would be apt to imagine it not altogether so necessary or convenient: such as, a neighbour at next door, a mortal enemy, a perfect stranger, or a person of quality in the clouds; and these upon subjects, in appearance, the least proper for conveyance by the post; as long schemes in philosophy ; dark and wonderful mysteries of state; laborious dissertations in criticism and philosophy; advice to parliaments, and the like.

Now, sir, to proceed after the method in present wear : for, let me say what I will to the contrary, I am afraid you will publish this letter, as soon as ever it comes to your hand. I desire you will be my witness to the world how careless and sudden a scribble it has been; that it was but yesterday when you and I began accidentally to fall into discourse on this matter; that I was not very well when we parted; that the post is in such haste, I have had no manner of time to digest it into order, or correct the style ; and if any other modern excuses for haste and negligence shall occur to you in reading, I beg you to insert them, faithfully promising they shall be thankfully acknowledged.

Pray, sir, in your next letter to the Iroquois virtuosi, do me the favour to present my humble service to that illustrious body, and assure them I shall send an account of those phenomena, as soon as we can determine them at Gresham.

I have not had a line from the literati of Topinambou these three last ordinaries.

And now, sir, having dispatched what I had to say of form, or of business, let me entreat you will suffer me to proceed upon my subject; and to pardon me, if I make no farther use of the epistolary style till I come to conclude.

SECTION I.

It is recorded of Mahomet, that, upon a visit he was going to pay in Paradise, he had an offer of several vehicles to conduct him upwards; as fiery chariots, winged horses, and celestial sedans; but he refused them all, and would be borne to Heaven upon nothing but his ass. Now this inclination of Mahomet, as singular as it seems, has been since taken up by a great number of devout Christians; and doubtless with very good reason. For, since that Arabian is known to have borrowed a moiety of his religious system from the Christian faith, it is but just he should pay reprisals to such as would challenge them ; wherein the good people of England, to do them all right, have not been backward : for, though there is not any other nation in the world so plentifully provided with carriages for that journey, either as to safety or ease, yet there are abundance of us who will not be satisfied with any other machine beside this of Mahomet.

For my own part, I must confess to bear a very singular respect to this animal, by whom I take human nature to be most admirably held forth in all its qualities, as well as operations; and therefore, whatever in my small reading occurs, concerning this our fellow-creature, I do never fail to set it down by way of common-place; and when I have occasion to write upon human reason, politics, eloquence, or knowledge, I lay my memorandums before me, and insert them with a wonderful facility of applications. However,

among all the qualifications ascribed to this distinguished brute, by ancient or modern authors, I cannot remember this talent of bearing his rider to Heaven has been recorded for a part of his character, except in the two examples mentioned already ; therefore I conceive the methods of this art to be a point of useful knowledge in very few hands, and which the learned world would gladly be better informed in: this is what I have undertaken to perform in the following discourse. For, towards the operation already mentioned, many peculiar properties are required both in the rider and the ass; which I shall endeavour to set in as clear a light as I can.

But, because I am resolved, by all means, to avoid giving offence to any party whatever, I will leave off discoursing so closely to the letter as I have hitherto done, and go on for the future by way of allegory; though in such a manner, that the judicious reader may, without much straining, make his applications as often as he shall think fit. Therefore, if you please, from henceforward, instead of the term ass, we shall make use of gifted, or enlightened teacher; and the word rider we will exchange for that of fanatic auditory, or any other denomination of the like import. Having settled this weighty point, the great subject of inquiry before us, is, to examine by what methods this teacher arrives at his gifts, or spirit, or light; and by what intercourse between him and his assembly, it is cultivated and supported.

In all my writings, I have had constant regard to this great end, not to suit and apply them to particular occasions and circumstances of time, of place, or of person; but to calculate them for universal nature and mankind in general. And of such catholic use I esteem this present disquisi

tion; for I do not remember any other temper of body, or quality of mind, wherein all nations and ages

of the world have so unanimously agreed, as that of a fanatic strain, or tincture of enthusiasm; which, improved by certain persons or societies of men, and by them practised upon the rest, has been able to produce revolutions of the greatest figure in history; as will soon appear to those who know any thing of Arabia, Persia, India, or China, of Morocco and Peru. Farther, it has possessed as great a power in the kingdom of knowledge; where it is hard to assign one art or science which has not annexed to it some fanatic branch : such are, the philosopher's stone ; the grand elixir;* the planetary worlds; the squaring of the circle; the summum bonum; Utopian com monwealths; with some others of less or subordinate note: which all serve for nothing else, but to employ or amuse this grain of enthusiasm, dealt into every composition.

But if this plant has found a root, in the fields of empire and of knowledge, it has fixed deeper, and spread yet farther, upon holy ground : wherein, though it has passed under the general name of enthusiasm, and perhaps arisen from the same original, yet has it produced certain branches of a very different nature, however often mistaken for each other. The word, in its universal acceptation, may be defined, a lifting-up of the soul, or its faculties, above matter. This description will hold good in general, but I am only to understand it as applied to religion ; wherein there are three general ways of ejaculating the soul,or transporting it beyond the sphere of matter. The first, is the

* Some writers hold them for the same, others not.

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