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Such an attempt—unlike attempts to demonstrate the Being, and certain of the Attributes--had never been made before, or, if made, had certainly failed, since, of a surety, no a priori proof of those attributes is familiar to the world. The attempt was, therefore, a most difficult one.t
The author (labouring as he did under serious disadvantages) availed himself of every help he could command, and he used every precaution. Able friends, known to take a deep interest in the subject, were selected as critical assistants; and they were all asked, as, Proposition by Proposition, almost as page by page, the thing passed into types, What think you? Is this demonstrative? Can you detect any flaw in the reasonings here?
The universal answer, as to all the Demonstrations, was to the effect that the reasonings were perfect. No flaw could be detected. And as the critics were sufficiently numerous, and the decision was unanimous, the result seemed to point to a conclusion of the perfectness of the proof a priori of the Moral and Relative Attributes of GOD.
I speak of the reasonings only. For, sooth to say, my friendly critics—who were, by the bye, scattered up and down the island For instance, the subject of the style of the new treatise provoked hostile criticisms from several of my friends ;—while others (I acknowledge) lauded the same style to the utmost. Again, some objected greatly to the Notes, in part at least. And other faultfindings would come to light if the correspondence were searched. The least which my friends and critics deserved was, that their objections should be weighed, and I hope that I considered them candidly; though, it must be confessed, I did not plead guilty to all that was objected on the score of the style of the new treatise, and the undue inferiority of the Notes.
were far from being at one on other points.
* It is true, that Dr Samuel Clarke, in the 12th and last of the Propositions of his celebrated “ Demonstration,” endeavours to reach the Moral Attributes: but the great Rector of St James's deals with the “ Infinite Goodness, Justice, and Truth, and all other Moral Perfections," in that one Proposition, and, in a great measure, in cumulo. The author of the Demonstration does not treat these Moral Attributes as I have done, namely, by 'making each of them, one by one, in a proper order, the subject of a distinct a priori proof, in a Proposition devoted to itself. What that famous author did was, therefore, quite different from that which I have now attempted. My attempt was of a vastly more difficult nature. -I am not seeking to found anything, distinctively, upon my Scholiums, which contain so many inferences, connecting those Moral Attributes with men, and their deepest and best interests. The Scholiums are distinct considerations, and in more senses than one.
Thus, in submitting this treatise to the public, or at least to certain among the public, I am (so far as my own intentions go) but seeking to do, on a wider field, what I have done already. I am aiming at a valid DEMONSTRATION : and, because I am doing so, I shall be ready to avail myself of the assistance of friend or foe, who will expose a flaw in the reasoning, or an objectionable point in the manner, and who, by so doing, may enable me to make a more rigorous proof, or to remove a defect in the conduct of the piece. I shall, indeed, welcome adverse criticisms, for the use they may be of, as well as friendly notices, for the encouraging aid they may afford.
In writing thus, I do not seek to disarm criticism. Far from it. I invite criticisms, even the most inimical. Indeed, when an author, once in print, courts the attention of the public, the affair is at a stage far too advanced for leaving ground for trust, in timid measures. Any timidity is, by that time, misplaced.