Previous to this publication the editor sent the following Letter to Dr. Priestley.
Had you thought it impossible for man to hold different sentiments respecting Natural religion and the proof of the existence of a God than you do, the Letters to a Philosophical Unbeliever would not have appeared, much less would you have invited an answer by promising a reply to every objection. Differing from you in sentiment I am the man who enter with you in the lists; but I find myself upon consultation with my friends under more difficulties than you were, and more to stand in need of courage in taking up the glove, than you needed to have in throwing it down. For this dispute is not like others in philosophy, where the vanquished can only dread ridicule, contempt and disappointment; here, whether victor or vanquished, your opponent has to dread, beside ecclesiastical censure, the scourges, chains and pillories of the courts of Law.
I accuse you not of laying a trap for an unguarded author, but I ask your friendly opinion, whether I can, with temporal safety at least, maintain the contrary of your arguments in proof of a Deity and his attributes. If I cannot, no wonder the Theist cries Victoria! but then it is a little ungenerous to ask for objections. Of you, I may certainly expect, that you will promise to use your influence, as well with lawyers as ecclesiastics, not to stir up a persecution against a poor atheist in case there should be one found in the kingdom, which people in general will not admit to be possible; or, if a persecution could ensue, that you and your friends, favourers of free enquiry, will at least bear the expences of it.
Your most humble obedient servant,
Oct. 23. 1781.
To the Reverend Dr. Priestley.
To this letter Dr. Priestley sent no answer; or no answer ever came to hand.