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still without Knowledge, and the prophane Sinners are prophane still. O that divine Grace would descend and reform what is amiss in all the Sanctuaries of the Nation. *
Ć H A P. VII.
Of Writing Books for the Public
Words and Things by Definition and Description, in the Divifion of Things into their several Parts, and in the Distribution of Things into their several Kinds, be sure to observe a just Medium. We must not always explain and distinguish, define, divide and distribute, nor must we always omit it: Sometimes it is useless and impertinent, some
* It appears by the Date, 1718, at the Bottom of this Paper in the MSS. that it was written more than thirty Years ago. The first and perIraps the second Section of it may seem now to be grown in a great Measure out of Date; but whether the third is not at least as seasonable now as ever, may deserve serious Conlideration. The Author has since this was drawn up, delivered his Sentiments more fully in the first part of that excellene Piece entitled, An humble Attempt for the Revival of Religion, &c.
times it is proper and necessary. There is Confusion brought into our Argument and Discourse by too many, or by too few of these. One Author plunges his Reader into the Midst of Things without due Explication of them; another jumbles together without Distinction all those Ideas which have any Likeness; a third is fond of explaining every Word, and coining Distinctions between Ideas which have little or no Diffcrence; but each of these runs into Extreams, for all these Practices are equal Hindrances to clear, just and useful Knowledge. It is not a long Train of Rules, but Observation and good Judgment can teach us when to explain, define and divide, and where to omit it.
In the Beginning of a Treatise it is proper and necessary sometimes to premise some Precognita, or general Principles which may serve for an Introduction to the Subject in Hand, and give Light or Strength to the following Discourse: But it is ridiculous under a Pretence of such Introductions or Prefaces to wander to the most remote or distant Themes, which have no near or neceffary Connection with the Thing in Hand; this serves for no other Purpose but to make a gaudy Shew of Learning. There was a Professor of Divinity who began an Analytical Expo. fition of the Epistle to the Romanis with such Præcognita as these: First he shewed the
Excellence of Man above other Creatures, who was able to declare the Sense of his Mind by a: bitrary Signs; then he harangued upon the Origin of Speech ; after that he told of the wonderful Invention of Writing, and enquired into the Author of that Art which taught us to paint Sounds: When he had given us the various Opinions of the Learned on this point, and distributed Writing into its several Kinds, and laid down Definitions of them all, at last he came to speak of Epistolary Writing, and distinguished Epif. tles into familiar, private, public, recommendatory, Credentials, and what not? Thence he descended to speak of the Superscription, Sube Scription, &c. And some Lectures were finiched before he came to the first Verse of St. Paul's Epistle, the Auditors, being half stary'd and tired with Expectation, dropped away opo
so that the Professor had scarce any Hearer to attend the College or Lectures which he had promised on that Part of Scrip
The Rules which Horace has given in his Art of Poetry would instruct many a Preacher and Professor of Theology, if they would but attend to them. He informs us that a wise Author such as Homer, who writes a Poem of the Trojan War, would not begin a long and far distant Story of Jupiter in the Form of a Swan impregnating Leda with a double Egg; from one Part whereof
Helen was hatched, who was married to Menelaus a Greek General, and then stolen from him by Paris, Son of Priam King of Troy, which awakened the Resenımentofthe Greeks against the Trojans,
Nec gemino Bellum Trojanum orditur ab Ovo.
But the Writer, says he, makes all
proper hast to the Event of Things, and does not drag on lowly, perpetually turning aside from bis Point, and catching at every Incident to prolong his Story, as though he wanted Matter to furnish out his Tale.
Semper ad Eventum festinat.
Though Imust I confess, I cannot think Homer has always followed this Rule in either of his two famous Epic Poems: But, Horace does not hear what I say. There is also another Rule near a-kin to the former.
As a Writer or a Speaker should not wander from his Subject to fetch in foreign Matter from a-far, so neither thould he amass together and drag in all that can be said, even on his appointed Theme of Discourse ; but he should consider what is his chicf Defign, what is the End he hath in View, and then to make every Part of his Discourse subserve that Design. If he keep his great
End always in his Eye, he will pass hastily over
those Parts or Appendages of his Subject which have no evident Connexion with his Delign, or he will entirely omit them and haften continually towards his intended Mark, employing his Time, his Study and Labour chiefly on the Part of his Subject which is most necessary to attain his present
This might be illustrated by a Muliitude of Examples, but an author who should heap them together on such an Occasion, might be in Danger of becoming himself an Example of the Impertinence he is cautioning others to avoid.
AFTER you have finished any Discourse which you design for the Publick, it would be always beft, if other Circumstances would permit, to let it sleep some Time before you expose it to the World, that so you may have Opportunity to review it with the Indifference of a Stranger, and to make the whole of it pass under a new and just Examination: For no Man can judge so justly of his own Work, while the Pleasure of his Invention and Performance is fresh, and has engaged his Self-love too much on the Side of what he has newly finished.
If an Author would send a Discourse into the World, which should be most universally approved, he should consult Perfons of very different Genius, Sentiment and Party, and endeavour to learn their Opinions