I HAVE not much to say to the Reader in this Preface to the Third Part of the Theory: seeing it treats upon a Subject own’d by all, and out of dispute: The Conflagration of the World. The question will be only about the bounds and limits of the Conflagration, the Causes and the Manner of it. These I have fix’d according to the truest measures I could take from Scripture, and from Nature. I differ, I believe, from the common Sentiment in this, that, in following St. Peter's Philosophy, I suppose, that the burning of the Earth will be a true Liquefaction or dissolution of it, as to the exteriour Region. And that this lays a foundation for New Heavens and a New Earth; which seems to me as plain a doctrine in Christian Religion, as the Conflagration it self.
I have endeavour’d to propose an intelligible way, whereby the Earth may be consum’d by Fire. But if any one can propose another, more probable and more consistent, I will be the first man that shall give him thanks for his discovery. He that loves Truth for its own sake, is willing to receive it from any hand: as he that truly loves his Country, is glad of a Victory over the Enemy, whether himself, or any other, has the glory of it. I need not repeat here, what I have already said upon several occasions, That ’tis the substance of this Theory, whether in this part or in other parts, that I mainly regard and depend upon. Being willing to suppose that many single explications and particularities may be rectified, upon further thoughts and clearer light. I know our best writings, in this life, are but Essays, which we leave to Posterity to review and correct.
As to the Style, I always endeavour to express my self, in a plain and perspicuous manner: that the Reader may not lose time, nor wait too long, to know my meaning. To give an Attendant quick dispatch, is a civility, whether you do his business or no. I would not willingly give any one the trouble of reading a period twice over, to know the sence of it: lest when he comes to know it, he should not think it a recompence for his pains. Whereas, on the contrary, if you are easie to your Reader, he will certainly make you an allowance for it, in his censure.
You must not think it strange however, that the Author sometimes, in meditating upon this subject, is warm in his thoughts and expressions. For to see a World perishing in Flames, Rocks melting, the Earth trembling, and an Host of Angels in the clouds, one must be very much a Stoick, to be a cold and unconcerned Spectator of all this. And when we are mov’d our selves, our words
will have a tincture of those passions which we feel. Besides, in moral reflections which are designed for use, there must be some heat, as well as dry reason, to inspire this cold clod of clay, this dull body of earth, which we carry about with us; and you must soften and pierce that crust, before you can come at the Soul. But especially when things future are to be represented, you cannot use too strong Colours, if you would give them life, and make them appear present to the mind. Farewel.