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The Progress of Natural Religion and Science,
The continual Improvement of the
World in general.
Antiquitas Seculi, Juventus Mundi.
Bacon de Aug. Scient. L.1. c.5. Antiquity I unfeignedly honour and reverence; but
why I should be bound to reverence the Ruft and Refuse, the Dross and Dregs, the Warts and Wens thereof, I am yet to seek.— As in the little, so in the great World, reason will tell
you that Old Age or Antiquity is to be accounted by the farther distance from the Beginning, and the nearer approach to the End: and as grey Beards are for Wisdom and Judgement to be preferred before young green Heads, because they have more Experience in Affairs : so likewise for the same Cause, the present Times are to be preferred before the Infancy or Youth of the World, having the History and Practise of former Ages to inform us, which they wanted. In disgracing the present Times therefore, you disgrace Antiquity properly so calld.
HAKEWILL, Apol. B.V.p.133.
ECCLES. vii. 10. Say not thou, What is the Cause that the former Days were better than these? for thou dost not enquire wisely concern
SHE badness of the Times has been a comTH
mon Topic of Complaint in every Age, and that they are growing worse and worse continu. ally, is what some Persons think themselves oba liged to infift upon, with no less vehemence ; how hard soever they find it to account for this in any respect. The former of these arguments, if urged only to expose and give a check to some particular predominant Vices, (for which indeed all Ages have afforded too much room) may be of constant use, and often necessary. But when the latter is added to it, and both carried so far as to make us discontented, and uneasy with ourselves, and troublesome to one another; to set us a quarrelling with the Station, and Society in which we are placed ; a murmuring at, and speaking evil of the Government we live under ; despising every human Dominion, and even repining at the Conduct of Divine Providence, and mistaking the Issue of its Dispensations to such a degree as must confound our Judgment, and unhinge our Faith in the unlimited Goodness, Power, and Wisdom of their Author; then, 'tis high time to correct an Error of this kind, and enquire into the true
State, and History of the World, in the abovemention'd particular.
In order to which, so far as the compass of fuch a Discourse will allow, I purpose in the firfe place,
I. To thew the Fallity of this Complaint in several respects.
II. Secondly, to point out some of its ill Consequences; which may be sufficient to justify the Preacher's observation in the Text, vix that this way of judging is no very wife one.
The Defign of the Book from which thesd words are taken, is to examine into the Course of this World in general; to confider the Nature of its Enjoyments, and the Ends proposed in our pursuit of them. No one faw farther into these things, or better understood their real value; none perhaps had a mind more elevated, and refined above them, or could, in a more lively manner, display the Vanity and Emptiness thereof on some occafions, than King Solomon; yet, where he meets with those who treat the Subject so very injudiciousy, as both to disparage the Works of God, by Fepresenting them to be ever going backward and on the decline; and to distract the Minds of Men, by teaching them to undervalue, and grow weary of the present Benefits, through an invidious retrospect to former Days:- when things are placed in such a light as this, we find him abso. Jutely disapproving of the view, and all those QueKions which arise from thence; intimating that the very
Foundation of them is not true in fact, i To make this appear more fuły, let us confader fome of the Advantages of Life, both na