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I expected, I desired nothing, but that they would make the best use they could of their own understandings, from which we were promised great things. I invited them to the utmost freedom, in discussing every point within the compass of the question; only not to exceed the rules of just and regular debate b: that every branch of the cause might have a new hearing, and be reexamined with all possible strictness and severity. In a word, all I required was, to dispute fair, to drop ambiguous terms, or define them, to contemn every thing but truth in the search after truth, and to keep close to the question; at the same time binding myself up to a careful and constant observance of the same rules.
When their Reply appeared, I presently saw how far those gentlemen were gone off from just debate; and how little inclination they had to dispute fairly, or regularly. To prejudice the readers, they began with charges and complaints; all trifling, most false; and some such as they themselves could scarce be weak enough to believe. I need not say what followed. When I found how the case stood, I reminded them of their misconduct, sometimes raised my style, and treated them with some sharpness, (though with less than they had me, with much less reason,) to let them know that I understood what they were doing, and that if I could not be confuted, I would not be contemned. As they had taken the liberty of charging me very often, and very unfairly, with things that they could not prove; I made the less scruple of charging them with what I could prove. And this, I hope, the impartial reader will upon examination find, that all the severity on my side lies in the truth of the things proved upon them; while theirs, on the other, lies mostly in invention, and abusive words, which, for want of evidence to support them, must of course return upon their own heads. They appear, in their last pieces especially,
See my First Defence, vol. i. p. 343, &c. c See my Second Defence, vol. iii. p. 19.
to be no great friends to ceremony: so that I have reason to believe they will expect the less in return. I had hitherto been so tender of Mr. Jackson, as never to name him; though his own friends had done it at full length: particularly the Author of the Catalogue, &c. and Dr. Whitby twice, promising the world something very considerable from "the accurate pen of Mr. Jackson." Accuracy is a thing which I shall not complain of, but shall ever receive, even from an adversary, with the utmost reverence and respect. I wish this gentleman had shown something of it; if not in his account of Scripture or Fathers, (which his hypothesis perhaps would not permit,) yet in his reports and representations, at least, of my words, and my sense; which might have been expected from a man of probity. Whether his writing without a name has been his principal encouragement to take the liberties he has, I will not be positive: but it is highly probable; because common prudence, generally, is a sufficient bar against it, in men that have any character to lose, any reputation to be responsible for it. The just and proper views, or reasons, for a writer's concealing his name are, to relieve his modesty, or to screen himself from public censure; to be frank and open in debate, and to discuss every point of importance (though against the received opinions) with all due freedom and strictness, like a lover of truth. Had the gentlemen I am concerned with gone upon these views, or made use of their concealment for these or the like laudable purposes, I should have been perfectly well satisfied. But while they continue their disguises as before, and regard nothing less than frank, fair, and open debate; while the main use they make of their concealment is only to be less solicitous about what they think or write; pelting us from their coverts with misreports, and slandering in masquerade: when this is the case, it concerns a man in his own defence to intimate to these gentlemen, that they are not
d Whitby's Second Part of his Reply, p. 74, 122.
so entirely under cover as they may imagine; but that it is their prudence still to be a little more upon their guard, and to write with more decency hereafter, at least, for their own credit and reputation.
After all, if any reasonable man is disposed to examine this question, or any part of it, with freedom and plainness, with sincerity and strictness, attending to the argument, and representing every thing in a fair and true light, without misreport or insult; such a person, though nameless, would have a just title to all tender, and candid, and even respectful treatment, from an adversary; and, I am very sure, I would never find any other than such from me. I shall ever think it a much greater disgrace to be outdone in civility, than in matter of argument. The first cannot happen but through a man's own fault : the other may; and when it does, there is no real discredit in yielding to the truth once made clear. Both sides, if they are good men, are victorious in such a case; because both attain the only thing that they aimed at, and both share the prize.
ANCIENTS AND MODERNS CONCERNING IT:
An Account of the Manuscripts, Versions, and Comments, and such other particulars as are of moment for the determining the Age, and Author, and Value of it, and the Time of its Reception in the Christian Churches.