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ftill without Knowledge, and the prophane Sinners are prophane ftill. O that divine Grace would defcend and reform what is amifs in all the Sanctuaries of the Nation,*
Of Writing Books for the Public
N the Explication and Distinction of Words and Things by Definition and Defcription, in the Divifion of Things into their feveral Parts, and in the Distribution of Things into their feveral Kinds, be fure to obferve a juft Medium. We must not always explain and diftinguish, define, divide and diftribute, nor must we always omit it: Sometimes it is ufelefs and impertinent, fometimes
*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 The firft and perhaps the fecond Section of it may feem now to be grown in a great Meafure out of Date; but whether the third is not at leaft as feasonable now as ever, may deferve ferious Confideration. The Author has fince this was drawn up, delivered his Sentiments more fully in the firft Part of that excellent Piece entitled, An humble Attempt for the Revival of Religion, &c.
times it is proper and neceffary. There is Confufion brought into our Argument and Difcourfe 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 Diftinction all thofe Ideas which have any Likeness; a third is fond of explaining every Word, and coining Diftinctions between Ideas which have little or no Difference; but each of thefe runs into Extreams, for all thefe Practices are equal Hindrances to clear, juft and ufeful Knowledge. It is ! not a long Train of Rules, but Obfervation and good Judgment can teach us when to explain, define and divide, and where to
In the Beginning of a Treatife it is proper and neceffary fometimes to premife fome Præcognita, or general Principles which may ferve for an Introduction to the Subject in Hand, and give Light or Strength to the following Difcourfe: But it is ridiculous under a Pretence of fuch Introductions or Prefaces to wander to the most remote or diftant Themes, which have no near or neceffary Connection with the Thing in Hand; this ferves for no other Purpofe but to make a gaudy Shew of Learning. There was a Profeffor of Divinity who began an Analytical Expofition of the Epistle to the Romans with fuch Præcognita as thefe: Firft he fhewed the G 3
Excellence of Man above other Creatures, who was able to declare the Senfe of his Mind by arbitrary 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 feveral Kinds, and laid down Definitions of them all, at laft he came to speak of Epiftolary Writing, and diftinguished Epif tles into familiar, private, public, recommendatory, Credentials, and what not? Thence he defcended to speak of the Superfcription, Subfcription, &c. And fome Lectures were finished before he came to the first Verse of St. Paul's Epiftle, the Auditors, being half starv'd and tired with Expectation, dropped away one by one, fo that the Profeffor 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 inftruct many a Preacher and Profeffor of Theology, if they would but attend to them. He informs us that a wife Author fuch as Homer, who writes a Poem of the Trojan War, would not begin a long and far diftant Story of Jupiter in the Form of a Swan impregnating Leda with a double Egg; from one Part whereof Helen
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 Refentment ofthe Greeks against the Trojans.
Nec gemino Bellum Trojanum orditur ab Ovo.
But the Writer, fays he, makes all proper haft to the Event of Things, and does not drag on flowly, perpetually turning afide from his Point, and catching at every Incident to prolong his Story, as though he wanted Matter to furnish out his Tale.
Semper ad Eventum feftinat.
Though Imuft Iconfefs, I cannot think Homer has always followed this Rule in either of his two famous Epic Poems: But, Horace does not hear what I fay. 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, fo neither fhould he amafs together and drag in all that can be faid, even on his appointed Theme of Difcourfe; but he should confider what is his chief Defign, what is the End he hath in View, and then to make every Part of his Difcourfe fubEnd great serve that Defign. If he keep his always in his Eye, he will pafs hastily over G 4
thofe Parts or Appendages of his Subject which have no evident Connexion with his Defign, 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 moft neceffary to attain his present and proper End.
THIS might be illuftrated by a Multitude of Examples, but an author who fhould heap them together on fuch an Occafion, might be in Danger of becoming himself an Example of the Impertinence he is cautioning others to avoid.
AFTER you have finished any Difcourfe which you defign for the Publick, it would be always best, if other Circumftances would permit, to let it fleep fome Time before you expofe it to the World, that fo you may have Opportunity to review it with the Indifference of a Stranger, and to make the whole of it pafs under a new and juft Examination: For no Man can judge fo 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 finifhed.
Ir an Author would fend a Difcourfe into the World, which fhould be most univerfally approved, he should confult Perfons of very different Genius, Sentiment and Party, and endeavour to learn their Opinions of