Scepsis Scientifica - The Dedicatory Epistle

The Dedicatory Epistle

            To the reverend my ever honoured friend, Mr. JOSEPH MYNARD, B.D.

            I dare not approach so much knowledge, as you are owner of, but in the dress of an humble ignorance. The lesser Sporades must veil their light in the presence of the Monarch Luminary; and to appear before you with any confidence of science, were an unpardonable piece of dogmatizing. Therefore whatever be thought of the discourse itself, it cannot be censured in this application; and though the pedant may be angry with me, for shaking his endeared opinions; yet be cannot but approve of this appeal to one, whose very name would reduce a sceptick. If you give your vote against dogmatizing: 'tis time for the opinionative world, to lay down their proud pretensions: and if such known accomplishments acknowledge ignorance; confidence will be out of countenance; and the sciolist will write on his most presumed certainty; this is also vanity. Whatever in this discourse is less consonant to your severer apprehensions, I beg it may be the object of your charity, and candour. I Betake my self to the protection of your ingenuity, from the pursuits of your judicious censure. And were there not a benign warmth, as well ss light attended you, 'twere a bold venture to come within your beams. Could I divine wherein you differ from me; I should be strongly indeced to note that with a deleatur; and revenge the presumption, by differing from my present self. If anything seem to favour too much of the Pyrrhonian: I hope you'll consider, that Scepticism is less reprehensible in enquiring years, and no crime in a juvenile exercitation. But I have no design against science: my endeavour is to promote it. Confidence in uncertainties, is the greatest enemy to what is certain; and were I a sceptick, I'd plead for dogmatizing: for the way to bring men to stick to nothing, is confidently to persuade them to swallow all things.

            The treatise in your hands is a fortuitous, undesigned abortive; and an equivocal eject of a very diverse intention: for having writ a discourse, which formerly I let you know of, of the soul's immortality: I designed a preface to it, as a corrective of enthusiasm, in a vindication of the use of reason in matters of religion: and my considerations on that subject, which I thought a sheet would have comprised, grew so voluminous, as to fill fourteen: which, being too much for a preface; I was advised to print apart. And therefore reassuming my pen, to annex some additional enlargements to the beginning; where I had been most curt and paring: my thoughts ran out into this discourse, which now begs your patronage: while the two former were remanded into the obscurity of my private papers: the latter being rendered less necessary by his majesty's much desired, and seasonable arrival; and the former by the maturer undertakings of the accomplished Dr. H. More.

            I have no apology to make for my lapses, but what would need a new one. To say they are the erratas of one that hath not by some years reached his fourth climacterical, would excuse indeed the poverty of my judgement, but criminate the boldness of this address. Nor can I avoid this latter imputation, but by being more criminal: and to than this respectful presumption, I must do violence to my gratitude. Since therefore your obligations have made my fault, my duty; I hope the same goodness, that gave birth to my crime, will remit it. Hereby you'll further endear your other favours and make me as much an admirer of your virtues, as I am a debtor to your civilities: which time I cannot do them right in an acknowledgement; I'll acknowledge, by signifying that the greatness of them hath disabled me from doing so: an impotence, which a little charity will render venial; since it speaks yourself its author. These your endearments necessitate me to a self-contradiction; and I must profess my self dogmatical in

this, that I am,

Your most obliged and affectionate servant
Cecil-house, in the Strand,
March 1, 1660


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