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AVING proposed to write some pieces on Hu
man Life and Manners, such as (to use my lord Bacon's expreslion) come home to Men's Business and Bofoms, I thought it more satisfactory to begin with considering Man in the abstract, his Nature and his State; since, to prove any moral duty, to enforce any moral precept, or to examine the perfection or imperfection of any creature whatsoever, it is necessary first to know what condition and relation it is placed in, and what is the proper end and purpose of its being.
The science of Human Nature is, like all other sciences, reduced to a few clear points : There are not many certain truths in this world. It is therefore in the Anatomy of the mind as in that of the Body; more good will accrue to mankind by attending to the large, open, and perceptible parts, than by studying too much such finer nerves and veffels, the conformations and uses of which will for ever escape our observation. The disputes are all upon these last, and, I will venture to say, they have less sharpened the wits than the hearts of men against each other, and have diminished the practice, more than advanced the theory, of Morality. If I could flatter myself that this Essay has any merit, it is in steering betwixt the extremes of doctrines seemingly opposite, in passing over terms utterly unintelligible, and in forming a remperate, yet not inconsistent, and a Short, yet not imperfect, system of Ethics
This I might have done in prose; but I chose verse, and even rhyme, for two reasons. The one will appear VOL. III.
obvious; that principles, maxims, or precepts so writ-ten, botla strike the reader more strongly at first, and are more easily retained by him afterwards: The other may seem odd, but is true. I found I could express them more shortly this way than in prose itself; and nothing is more certain, than that much of the force as well as grace of arguments or instructions, depends on their con ifenifs. I was unable to treat this my subject more in detail, without becoming dry and tedious; or more çoetically, witho:it facrificing perfpicuity to ornament, without wandering from the precision, or breaking the chain of reafoning: If any man can unite all these without diminution of any of them, I freely confess he will compass a thing above my capacity.
What is now published, is only to be considered as a gencral Nap of Man, marking out no more than the greater parts, their extent, their limits, and their conne ion, but leaving the particular to be more fully delineated in the charts which are to follow Consequently, these Epistles in their progress (if I have health and leifure to make any progress) will be less dry, and more susceptible of poetical ornament. I am here only opening the fountains, and clearing the passage. To degluce the rivers, to follow them in their course, and to observe their effects, may be a task more agreeable.
ESSAY on M A N,
H. St. John, Lord Bolingbroke.
E P I S T L E I.
Of the Nature and State of Man, with respect to
OF Man in the abstract.-I. That we can judge only with
regard to our own system, being ignorant of the relations of Systems and things, Ver. 17, &c. II. That Man is not to be deemed imperfect, but a Being suited to his place and rank in the creation, agreeable to the general Order of things, and conformable to Ends and Relations to bim unknown, Ver. 35, &c. III. That it is partly upon his ignorance of future events, and partly upon the hope of a future state, that all bis happiness in the present depends, Ver. 77, &c. IV. The pride of diming at more knowledge, and pretending to more persection, the cause of Man's error and misery. The impiety of putting himself in the place of God, and judging of the fitness or unfitness, perfe£tion, or imperfection, justice or injustice, of his dispensations, Ver.109, &c. V. The absurdity of conceiting himself the final cause of the creation, or expecting that perfection in the moral world, which is not in the natural, Ver. 131, &c. VI. The unreasonableness of his complaints against Providence, while on the one hand be demands the Perfections of the Angels, and on the other the bodily qua, lifications of the Brutes; though, to possess any of the sensitive faculties in a bigher degree, would render bim ini serable, Ver. 173, &c. VII. That ibroughout the whole vifible world, an universal order and gradation in the sensual and mental facullies is obseru'd, which causes a subordination of creature to creature, and of all creatures to Man. The gradations of sense, instinct, thought, reflection, reason; that Reafon alone countervai's all the other faculties, Ver. 207. VIII. How much further this order and subordination of living creatures may extend, above and below us ;
were any part of which broken, not that part only, but the whole connected ereation must be destroyed, Ver. 233. IX. The extravagance, madness, and pride of such a defire, Ver. 250. X. I be consequence of all, the absolute submission due to Providence, boib as to our prefent and future state, Ver. 281, &c. to the end.