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ESSAY

F O R T H E

Better Regulation and Improvement O F

FREE-THINKING.

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Dear SIR,

/ H E Pleasure I received from your last 'obliging Letter, demands a better Acknowledgment than at present I am able to make. The Success of your Labours in the glorious Cause of Truth and Liberty, which you modestly call surprizing, is by no means so to your Friends, who know and admire the shining Talents, the indesatigable Application, the engaging Address, and extensive Benevolence, by which you stand eminently distinguished among all true Lovers of Mankind. Who can wonder that Wit and Learning should triumph over the glaring Absurdities of Priestcraft and Superstition, when we see them daily Vol. I. B become become the Scorn and Contempt of the silliest Part off the People? The visible Superiority of our Numbers,. and Zeal for the Cause, the Indolence, or rather Diffidence, of our Adverfaries, and the impartial Neutrality of some, who might, if they pleased, easily turn the Scale against us, are a comfortable Prefage, that the Days of reverend. Dulness and Superstition are growing to a Period, and that we (or our Posterity, however) shall live to see this happy Island,. in every Sense of the Word, a Land of Liberty, a Nation of Philosophers, and fine Gentlemen, delivered from the Tyranny of Priests and Priest-ridden Politicians, and directed solely by the infallible Light of Nature, the Rules of Right Reason, and the Laws of Honour, and suffered to think,. and speak, i^and act with that unlimited Freedom, which is the distinguishing Privilege and Honour of rational Creatures and free Agents; for which, I trust, neither your Endeavours nor mine shall ever be wanting.

Though we cannot boast of the fame Success in our Neighbourhood, yet we may venture to fay, in the main, that we are in a very hopesul Way, and improve as fast- as the Nature of our Situation, and.' the Genius of the Country will admit. The lower Part of the People, with which, you. know,. we mostly abound, are of slender Talents and slow Capacities, bred up from their Infancy to Superstition. and Labour, and are not easily cured of their early Prejudices; they cannot enter into abstracted Notions and fine Reasonings; and' theresore, still persist in. having a sort of Reverence for. the Parson (except when he comes to talk upon the Article of Tythes); . Shey think it very convenient to. have a Holiday once

• a Week $

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a Week; and that the Church is a very convenient Place to meet in, and mew their best Cloaths, especially in rainy Weather, when they cannot so conveniently walk about the Fields, or travel about the Neighbourhood; and theresore are startled at any thing that looks like an Attempt to unsettle the Religion of their Grandmothers. And though many of them, by conversing with their Betters, have made great Improvements, have attempted to break their Chains, and give into the Liberties of the polite World, yet can they not entirely conquer the inveterate Prejudices of Education and Custom; insomuch that, after they have been regaling all their Senses in the best Company and the most exquisite Enjoyments; yet, when they come to Retirement and cool Reflections {as they call them) they grow splenetic and low-spirited, are terrified with dismal Apprehensions of a suture Judgment, eternal Punishments, and I know not what, and fall to snivelling, repenting, and praying, after breaking a Commandment, as if they had been guilty of breaking a Hedge, or the Peace, and were in danger of being sent to the House of Correction. But however, there is great Hope that frequent Practice, and the Influence and Example of their Superiors, will, by degrees, so far enlighten their Understandings, as to convince them, that it is neither Policy nor good Manners, for any Tenant to pretend to be wiser or better than his Landlord, especially than the Lord of the Manor; and that it is impossible for a poor Rascal that rents 20 or 30 /. per annum, to think and judge as properly of such intricate Subjects as the 'Squire, whp is, perhaps, in the Commission of the Peace, or the MiB 2 Ma, litia, rides in his Coach, and laughs at the Parson and his Preachments every Day of his Lise.

And this has produced another lucky Consequence, which cannot fail, one time or other, of turning out greatly to our Advantage. Several of the younger and more polite Clergy, who are Candidates for Fame or Promotion, or both, and find that very little of either is to be obtained by a stiff, sullen Adherence to the old-fashioned Schemes of Orthodoxy and Morality, think it their Interest to be more complaifant to those who have it in their Power to distinguish and preser them; they•find there is more to be got by being good Companions, than good Christians, and consider it as a Point of Policy, as well as good Breeding, not to interrupt Converfation. when they are in Company with their Superiors; and whatever Subject happens to be started, or Liberties of Speech taken, by those who may have it in their Power to mend or marr their Fortunes, they think it their best Way to ear their Puddings and hold their Tongues, without pretending to be wiser than the rest of the Company.. This has already had a good Effect, and has convinced Numbers of People, that either those Gentlemen do not really believe, or are not able to desend, the Doctrines they pretend to teach, and therefore are already, or at least, in a fair Way to be of our Side of the Question. Our Friend, the 'Squire, made a Party the other Night to

meet at Parson G 's, who, you know, has long

had an Eye to his great Living at Bre. After the first Bottle, we naturally sell upon Politics, with an easy Transition to Religion; we quickly grew warm, roasted Athanafiust and the whole Company of Creedmakers, with all the Patrons and Desenders of Revelation, Nation, Miracles, Mysteries, &c. The well-bred .Doctor gave us no Interruption, offered at no Reply, -but put about the Glass, which he never baulked when .it came to his Turn. When the Company broke up, he made us a handsome Compliment, by assuring us, .that his Silence was purely the Effect of his good Breeding. Gentlemen, (faid he) you may possibly be surprized that I have given no Interruption to this Conversation 5 you had not escaped sa, had it happened in any other •Place; but I hold it to be an essential Point of good Breeding not to contradict any Gentleman in my own House.

But notwithstanding all this, I cannot fay that our Success has hitherto been such as we might reasonably expect from the apparent Goodness of our Cause, the Number, Weight, and Zeal of its Advocates, and the seeble Opposition of our Adverfaries. And it has cost me many an anxious Thought to discover, if possible, to what evil Fate or Misconduct we may charge our ill Success, that we may be better able to guard against it for the suture, and lay a solid and lasting Foundation for the Peace and Liberty of the next, if not of the present, Generation.—And the first great Reason that occurs to me, is, our irregular, immethodical Way ef Proceeding. Method and Order are known and consessed .to be the Lise and Spirit of all regular Societies and great Designs, without which they can neither prosper nor subsist; their Prosperity, nay, their very Being, depends upon certain regular Dispositions of Persons, Times, and Places, for the better Execution of their Designs, and answering the Ends of their Institution ; some are to command, others to obey; some to direct, others to submit to Direction. And it is the great Duty and Business of Directors, to judge of

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