Imatges de pÓgina
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great fundamental principles of morality and religion, against the infidel, the bigot, the mystic, and the trifler in philosophy, I know of no person to whose patronage this volume can with greater propriety be recommended than to yours; because I am satisfied that its merits and motives, such as they are, could not be more warmly appreciated, nor its faults, such as they are, be more easily pardoned by another.

I, therefore, do not hesitate to prefix your name to these sheets, soliciting for them that perusal which cannot but be candid and careful, and claiming for them that patronage which cannot but be proportioned to their deserts. From those, indeed, whose fastidious. indolence disdains the labour of abstruse investigation, and who, without deliberation, venture to decide upon the most difficult questions, -from the indolent; the self-opinioned, and the captious-I could expect only censure of the following work; were not the task of critical examination pressed upon some candid and competent judge, to whose opinion ignorance must defer, and petulance submit. To you, Sir, I therefore dedicate these sheets, convinced that, should they have the good fortune to obtain your approbation, they cannot fail of a favourable reception from the public; at least, that they will receive a strict and fair exami

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nation; and that no unmerited or hasty censures will be hazarded against a work, towards which shall have extended that JUST PATRONAGE, which alone is solicited by the author, or can with propriety be expected from Dr. O'BRIEN.

I have the honour to be,

Sir,

With much respect and esteem,
Your most obedient Servant,

THE AUTHOR.

November, 1837.

PREFACE TO THE READER.

I GIVE this book to the public, not without some doubts of the reception which it will meet, yet not without encouragement when I consider the cause, to which chiefly, even if it shall prove unsuccessful, its failure may, I think, be attributed. I should not, even if the time were now arrived when such complaints might be just, inveigh against the malignity of critics, or add mine to the multitude of pens which have been employed in deploring the ignorance, and the bad taste of readers: censures, such as these, I would leave for some other historian to record, having observed that they fall with a peculiarly ill grace from neglected authors. But, with the utmost deference for the judgment of an enlightened public, I may be permitted to express some apprehensions, lest, among the numerous defects of the following work, its slight merits may be overlooked, by careless readers, upon a hasty perusal.

Nothing, however, can be more unfair, than to judge of the general force of an argument,

without the fullest examination of all its parts. In criticizing works of taste, we may often form a tolerably correct estimate of their merits from a partial survey. A few stanzas, selected at random from a poem, may be sufficient to satisfy us, whether the author is, or is not, a master of his art; and from one or two strokes in the corner of a drawing, we may, without further examination, be enabled to form some estimate of the artist's genius, and of the execution of the whole piece. But, when an argumentative treatise is to be considered, we must proceed more leisurely to applaud, or to condemn; we must pursue its investigations with greater minuteness than might enable us to pronounce upon the merits of the painting or the verse; since, if these offend or please, no reasonings can, in general, materially affect our first impressions, though mature reflection will often convince us of the truth of propositions, which, upon a hasty glance, may have seemed absurd enough even to confute.the system into which they could be admitted.

From all, therefore, who may find in the ensuing sheets some opinion which they are inclined thus promptly to disapprove, the author claims a patient hearing, ex debito justitiæ, not as a boon. They must be patient towards him if they would be just, and must either run some risk of disappointment from a misapplication of labour, or at once resign the ardour of science, and the love of truth.

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