Publisher's Preface

Hanover Historical Texts Project
Scanned by Aaron Gulyas, February, 1998.

WE have republished the work contained in the following pages, not because we deem it perfect, but because we think it useful; not because we subscribe to all the sentiments put forth, or are prepared always to approve the tone employed and the temper evinced, but because we see in the volume much com. mon sense; many just thoughts, boldly conceived, and plainly expressed.

It may be said, that the very minuteness of examination and reiteration of attack which characterizes "Good Sense" invests the misnamed science of theology with an importance which does not belong to it. There is at least excuse for this; in the fact that libraries have been written on the opposite side, that millions have been cheated out of their reason and their senses, even by that which merits not the name of science; and that, at this moment in this republic, theology draws from the pockets of the citizens a tax of Twenty Millions per annum, or more.

True it is, that the subject might have been more simply, and perhaps less dogmatically treated. It were, probably, enough to have reminded us that religion (as distinct from morality) is but a doctrine of "things unseen and causes unknown;" that it presents only hypothesis for proof and possibilities (to place the matter in its most favorablc light) for knowledge. It were, to the unprejudiced mind, perchance, enough to ask, whence man can derive supernatural knowledge; enou~h to ask whether the affirmatory evidence of ancient history could ever be admitted to weigh against the disproving evidence of personal experience and analogy; or it were even enough to put it to man's reason, Whether (on the supposition that thousands of celestial spirits exist,) the natures or conduct of Gods or Angels in heaven, could Become profitable subjects of inquiry or coutemplation, to men upon earth.

It might be enough to bid human beings look around them; to bid them observe the thousand phenomena which ever changing nature offers to thier senses; to bid them remark the prolific causes of evil to which man's ignorance has given birth, and the countless sources of knowledge and happiness, which supineness, or prejudice, tempt him to leave unexplored and untasted. It might be sufficient lo remark, that there is enough-and more than enough-to occupy man's time, to engage man's affections, and to employ man's intellect here, without vainly straining his earthly vision in search of a spiritual hereafter. In a word, it niight suffice to state simple truths, without following out and exposing complicated falsehoods; and to put forth common sense, instead of disproving nonsense.

It might be urged too, that DeHolbach is too much of an Atheist and too little of a Sceptic; that, in ably exposing the absurdities of theologians, he is himself not always free from their dogmatism; and that he imitates the presumption which they display, in determining what is, by himself, in his turn, as positively determining what is not.

We have ever been of opinion, that all that truth permits us, or common sense requires us to admit, regarding doctrinal religion Spiritual existences, an immaterial God, Heaven, Hell, Angels, demons, and all the et cetera of theology, is, that we know nothing about them; and that it is equally a waste of words to assert, as to deny their existence. The assertion of the existence of boings superior to man, presupposes a knowledge which man possesses not; the denial of their existence presupposes an acquaintance with all existing beings.

But, if we can point out a stand more modest and more logical, perhaps, than that which DeHolbach has, at times assumed, let us at the least, confess that his book, if not perfect, is valuable; that his arguments are cogent, his conceptions hardy, and most of his conclusions unanswerable.

This little volume, in its original language, formed one of books in Thomas Jefferson's library. in the blank page at its commencement was written, in Jefferson's own hand, the following: Voltaire to D'Alembert.-"I have just read 'Good Sense.' There is more than good sense in that work; it is terrible. If it be from the same hand as the 'System of Nature,' the author has greatly improved himself."-[57 Voltaire, 237.

D'Alembert to Voltaire.-" I think as you do, in regard to 'Good Sense,' which appears to me a much more terrible book than the ' System of Nature.' If this work could but be abridged, which might be done without injury to it, to as to cost but a trifle, &c."-[Ib. 249.

From the above it will be seen that the work, at the time it appeared, was supposed to be from the pen of DeHolbach, author of the "System of Nature," though published as by the "Cure Meslier." It is unimportant who is the author, nor do we intend here to enter into controversy on the subject. Suffice it, that the evidence we have seen has induced us to attribute the work to Baron DeHolbach; and that, in consequence, we have placed his name, as author, on the title page.

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