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pressions from the Remarks of their Opponent, in which Expressions or Remarks the original.Truth has no Concern.
Ănd sometimes again you shall find even Writers of good Sense, who have happened to exprefs ihemselves in an improper and indefensible Manner, led away by the Fond. ness of Self-love to justify those Expresfions, and vindicate those little Lapses they were guilty of, rather than they will condefcend to correct those little Mistakes, or recall those improper Expressions. O that we could put off our Pride, our Self-sufficiency, and our Infallibility, when we enter into a Debate of Truth. But if the Writer is guilty of mingling these Things with his grand Argument, happy will that Reader be that has Judgment enough to distinguish them, and to neglect every Thing that does not belong to the original Theme proposed and disputed.
YET here it may be proper to put in one Exception to this general Observation or Remark, viz. when the second Writer attacks only a particular or collateral Opinion which was maintained by the first, then the fourth Writing may be supposed to contain à necessary Part of the coinpleat Force of the Argument, as well as the Second and Third, because the first Writing only occasionally or collaterally mentioned that Sentiment which the Second attacks and opposes ;
and in such a Case the Second may be esteemed as the first Treatise on that Controversy. It would take up too much Time should we mention Instances of this Kind which might be pointed to: in most of our Cona troversial Writers, and it might be invidious to enter into the Detail *.
S E C T. ỞI.
Of Reading Controverfies. W H EN we take a Book into our
! Hands wherein any Doctrine of Opinion is printed in a way of Argument,
* Upon this it may be remarked farther, that there is a certain Spirit of Modesty and of Benevolence which never fails to adorn a Writer on such Occasions, and which generally does him much more Service in the Judgment of wise and sensible Men, than any Poignancy of Sarire with which he might be able to animate his Productions; and as this always appears amiable, so is it peculiarly charming when the Opponent shews that Pertness and Petulency which is so very compion on such Occaswns. When a Writer instead of pursu. ing with eager Resentment the Antagonist that has given such Provocation, calmly attends to the main Question in Debate, with a noble Negligence of those little Advantages which Ill-nature and 11-manners al. ways give, he acquires a Glory far superior to any Tro. phies which Wic can raise. And it is highly probable, that the solid Instruction his Pages may contain will give a Continuance to his Writings far beyond what Tracts of peevish Controversy are to expect, of which the much greater Part are born away into Oblivion by the Wind they raise, or burned in their own Flames.
we are too often fatisfied and determined before-hand whether it be right or wrong; and if we are on the Writer's Side, we are generally tempted to take his Arguments for solid and substantial: And thus our own former Sentiment is established more pow. erfully, without a fincere Search after Truth.
If we are on the other side of the Queltion, we then take it for granted that there is nothing of Force in these Arguments, and we are satisfied with a short Survey of the Book, and are soon persuaded to pronounce Mistake, Weakness and Insufficiency concerning it. Multitudes of conimon Read. ers, who are fallen into any Error, when they are directed and advised to read a Treatise that would set them right, read it with a sort of Disgust which they have before entertained ; they skim lightly over the Arguments, they neglect or despise the Force of them, and keep their own Conclusion firm in their Aflent, and thus they maintain their Error in the midst of Light, and grow incapable of Conviction.
But if we would indeed act like fincere Searcbers of the Truth, we should survey every Argument with a careful and unbiaffed Mind, whether it agree with our former Opinion, or no: We should give every Reasoning its full Force, and weigh it in our sedatest Judgment. Now the best way to try what Force there is in the Argumen: 9 which are brought against our own Opinis ons is, to sit down and endeavour to give a solid Answer, one by one, to every Argument that the Author brings to support his own Doctrine: And in this Attempt if we find there some Arguments which we are not able to answer fairly to our own Minds, we should then begin to bethink ourselves, whether we have not been hitherto in a Mistake, and whether the Defender of the contrary Sentiments may not be in the Right. Such a Method as this will effectually forbid us to pronounce at once against those Doctrines, and those Writers, which are contrary to our Sentiments, and we shall endeavour to find solid Arguments to refute their Positions, before we entirely establish ourselves in a contrary Opinion.
VOLATILIS had given himself up to the Conversation of the Free-Thinkers of our Age, upon all Subjects, and being pleafed with the Wit, and Appearance of Ara gument, in some of our modern Deists; had too easily deserted the Christian Faith, and gone over to the Camp of the Infidels. Among other Books which were recommended to him, to reduce hiin to the Faith of the Gospel, he had Mr. John Reynolds's three Letters to a Deilt put into his Hand; and was particularly desired to peruse the
third of them with the utmost Care, as · being an unanswerable Defence of the Truth
of Christianity. He took it in Hand, and after having given it a short survey, he told his Friend he saw nothing in it but the common Arguments which we all use to support the Religion in which we had been educated, but they wrought no Conviction in him; nor did he see sufficient Reason to believe that the Gospel of Christ was not a Piece of Enthupasm, or a mere Imposture.
Upon this the Friend who recommended Mr. Reynolds's three Letters' to his Study, being confident of the Force of Truth which lay there, entreated of Volatilis that he would set himself down with Diligence, and try to answer Mr. Reynolds's third Letter in Vindication of the Gospel ; and that he would show under every Head how the several Steps which were taken in the Propagation of the Christian Religion might be the natural Effects of Imposture or Enthusiasm ; and consequently that it deserves no Credit amongst Men,
VOLATILIS undertook the Work, and after he had entered a little Way into it found himself so bewildered, and his Arguments to prove the Apostles either Enthufiasts or Impostors so muddled, so perplexed and so inconclusive, that by a diligent Review of this Letter to the Deist, at last he acknowledged himself fully convinced that the Religion of Jesus was Divine ; for that Christian Author had made it appear it