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Sect. 1. Details of the poets-Homer-His Shades-Their charac-
THE Author entreats the Reader will refer to, and forgive,
Sceptics-The nature, the object, and the value of their discussions —
to seduce the ignorant or unwary from the creed, which, through so many centuries, has been thought to promote the edification of mankind, and has been adopted alike by the zeal of the martyr, and the wisdom of the sage.
As men are often more tenacious of error than zealous for truth, and tenacious in proportion as the error is pernicious and absurd, they who are engaged in this warfare of infidelity, persevere in their labours with a vanity and an obstinacy worthy of their cause and of their sect*. In their own estimate, they alone are the philosophers, whose opinions deserve to be embraced by mankind. Yet, however bold and arrogant their pretence, they are indebted, for whatever name they may have acquired, to the objections which they have pilfered from the funds of antient scepticism; and they have done little more than given a new form to the sophistries of their predecessors, and varied, in terms, the fallacies and misrepresentations, which, advanced many centuries ago by the fathers of the school, have been since, on innumerable occasions, detected and exposed by the advocates of truth.
In the cause which these men so strenuously maintain, they think it not enough to employ every means of bold denial and authoritative assumption. While they themselves pretend to the monopoly of genius and of erudition, they toil to disparage the learning of their opponents, talk of monks with more than the spirit of a monk, and pursue with inquisitorial malignity, those whom they arraign as persecutors and inquisitors. But with what justice the enemies of the
The imputation is admitted by the candour of Bayle. Dict. Art. des Barreaux,