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The Reader cannot be more displeased at the inconveniences which attend the publishing of an extensive work, in a detached manner, and at different periods, than the Author of these disquisitions. This mode holds the one in a disagreeable state of suspense, and it may prevent the other from making that accurate and acceptable arrangement of the various parts of his subject, which would have been more practicable, had the whole been completed before the publication. But the Author was ignorant, when he began to apply the analytic method of reasoning, to moral and religious subjects, to what an extent it might lead him ; nor could he conjecture to what a degree the
attempt would meet with an encouraging acceptance.
It is twelve years since the introductory treatise was sent to the press. · This tedious delay has been extremely unpleasant, and obviously injurious to the work. But various circumstances conspired to render it inevitable. Minute investigations of a moral and religious nature are not calculated for popularity. Nor is the attention or approbation of the contemplative few to be speedily procured. It was these considerations which held the author for some time in suspense,
whether he should venture to prosecute his ethical enquiries.
The disquisitions which are now submitted to the candour of the public, were printed two years ago, with a view to an early publication : but they were composed under so many unfavourable circumstances, arising from personal indispositions, and family afflictions, that he was compelled to suppress that copy entirely, and submit to the expence incurred, rather than to expose the many errors obvious to himself, to the public eye.
that he might not again ' trespass upon the patience of his readers, he resolved also not to publish this more correct edition, until the final volume, on the characteristic excellencies of Christianity, should be in such a state of forwardness, as would enable him to announce that it will be published early in the ensuing spring. With that volume will be delivered, to those who
may honour the whole set with a place in their library, an appropriate title-page, denoting the connection of the different parts with each other.
He may farther urge, as an apology for the extent of this work, that from the analytic method, brevity cannot be commanded. Whoever undertakes to defend or confute a particular hypothesis, is, in a considerable degree, master of his own operations. He has it in his power to limit the boundaries of his subject; to bring forward the choicest of his arguments, and to suppress those which he deems to be of an inferior importance. The analyzer is deprived of these privileges. He must continue his researches until his own investigations are exhausted, or the analysis will be incomplete; and those principles which are requisite to form the solid basis of speculative opinions, will,' even in his own conceptions, remain imperfectly explored. But the analyzer has the prospect of being indemnified, for the superior trouble which he has taken, by escaping many errors to which a partial view of subjects must be exposed ; and by the discovery of some important facts, which systematic writers are prone to overlook.
Notwithstanding his expectations of being somewhat prolix, the author confesses that his researches have conducted him much farther than he could have imagined. He did not conceive that the theological part would have required so much attention. Although the subject of natural religion did not demand particular enlargement in the present work, it could not be omitted with propriety. It was introduced in order to maintain a kind of unity in his plan; and it furnishes an opportunity of making some observations which appear of considerable importance.