תמונות בעמוד

The prosperous events that happened to the Lutheran cburch.

to unite the disciples of the same master in the amiable bonds of charity, concord, and mutual forbearance; and whose opinions and designs excited warm contests in the Lutheran church. VIII. The external state of the Lutheran church at this pe

riod was attended with various circunistances of

as prosperity, among which we may reckon its standleverenberan ing firm against the assaults of Rome, whose ar

tifice and violence were in vain employed to bring on its destruction. It is well known, that a very considerable number of Lutherans resided in those provinces where the public exercise of their religion was prohibited. It has more especially been shown, by the late memorable emigration of the Salzburgers, that still greater numbers of them lay concealed in that land of despotism and bigotry, where the smallest dissent from popery, with whatever secrecy and circumspection it may be disguised, is considered as an enormous and capital crime; and that they preserved their religious sentiments, and doctrines pure and uncorrupted amidst the contagion of Romish superstition, which they always beheld with aversion and horror. In those countries which are inhabited by persons of different communions, and whose sovereigns are members of the Romish church, we have numberless instances of the cruelty and injustice practised by the papists against those that dissent from them; and these cruelties are exercised under a pretext suggested by the most malevolent bigotry, which represents these dissenters as seditious subjects, and consequently as worthy of the most rigorous treatment. And yet it is certain, that, amidst all these vexations, the Lutheran church has stood its ground; nor has either the craft or fury of its enemies been able, any where, to deprive it entirely of its rights and privileges. It may further be observed, that the doctrine of Luther was carried into Asia, Africa, and America, by several persons, who fixed their habitations in those distant regions, and was also introduced into some parts of Europe, where it had hitherto been unknown.

bop For an account of the persecuted Lutherans in the archbishopric of Salzburg, see Burnet's Travels. See more especially a famous Latin discourse, published at Tubingen, in the year 1732, under the following title ; Commentariolus Theologicus de

non tolerandis in Religione Dissentientibus, quam Præside Christ. Matth. Pfaffio defendet • Wolf. Lud. Letsching.

The progress

IX. When we turn our view to the internal state of the Lutheran church during this century, we shall find , it improved in various respects; though several of learning blemishes yet remained that clouded its lustre. It Lutherams. must be acknowledged, to the honour of the Lutherans, that they cultivated all the various branches of literature, both sacred and profane, with uncommon industry and success, and made several improvements in the sciences, which are too well known to stand in need of a particular mention; and of which a circumstantial enumeration would be inconsistent with the brevity we propose to observe in this history. But if it cannot be denied, on the one hand, that the cause of religion gained by these improvements in learning, it must be owned on the other, that some branches of science were perverted by injudicious or illdesigning men, to corrupt the pure simplicity of genuine Christianity, and to render its doctrines abstruse and intricate. Thus it too often happens in life, that the best things are the most egregiously abused.

About the commencement of this century, the sciences chiefly cultivated in the schools were logic and metaphysics; though the manner of treating them was almost entirely destitute of elegance, simplicity, and precision. But, in process of time, the scene changed in the seminaries of learning; and the more entertaining and agreeable branches of literature, that polish wit, excite taste, exercise judgment, and enrich memory, such as civil and natural history, philology, antiquities, criticism, and eloquence, gained the ascendant. Both these kinds of knowledge acquired also a more graceful, consistent, and regular form than that under which they had hitherto appeared. But it happened most unluckily, that while the boundaries of science were extended from day to day, and new discoveries and improvements were constantly enriching the republic of letters, the credit of learning began sensibly to decrease, and learned men seemed gradually to lose those peculiar marks of veneration and distinction that the novelty of their character, as well as the excellence and importance of their labours, had hitherto drawn from the public. Among the various circumstances that contributed to this decline of literary glory, we may particularly reckon the multitude of those, who, without natural capacity, taste, or inclination, were led, by authority or a desire of applause, to

literary pursuits; and by their ignorance or their pedantry,
cast a reproach upon the republic of letters.
X. The only kind of philosophy that was taught in the

of Lutheran schools, during the greatest part of this !! philosophisce century, was that of Aristotle, dressed up in that lians triumph. scholastic form that increased its native intricacy and subtilty. And such was the devout and excessive veneration entertained by many for this abstruse system, that any attempt to reject the Grecian oracle, or to correct its decisions, was looked upon as the most dangerous consequence to the interests of the church, and as equally criminal with a like attempt upon the sacred writings. Those who distinguished themselves in the most extraordinary manner by their zealous and invincible attachment to the peripatetic philosophy, were the divines of Leipsic, Tubin- . gen, Helmstadt, and Altorf. The enchantment however was not universal; and there were many who, withdrawing their private judgment from the yoke of authority, were bold enough to see with their own eyes; and of consequence discerned the blemishes that were indeed suffi- ciently visible in the pretended wisdom of the Grecian sage. The first attempt to reduce his authority within narrow bounds was made by certain pious and prudent divines, who, though they did not pretend to discourage all philosophical inquiries, yet were desirous of confining them to à few select subjects; and complained, that the pompous denomination of philosophy was too frequently prostituted, 9 by being applied to unintelligible distinctions, and words, or rather sounds, destitute of sense. These were succeeded in their dislike of the peripatetic philosophy by the disciples of Ramus, who had credit enough to banish it from several seminaries of learning, and to substitute in its place the system of their master, which was of a more practical kind, and better adapted to the purposes of life." But if the philosophy of Aristotle met with adversaries who opposed it upon solid and rational principles, it had also enemies of a very different character, who imprudently declaimed against philosophy in general, as highly detrimental to the cause of religion and the interests of society,

The state of

q Such, among others, was Wenseslas Schillingius, of whom a particular account is given by Arnold, in bis Histor. Eccles. et Hæret. p. ii. lib. xvii. cap. vi.

r See Jo. Herman ab Elswick, De varia Aristotelis fortuna, $ xxi. p. 54, and Walchius, Historia Logices, lib. ii. cap. ii. sect. iii, $ v. in Parergis ejus Academicis, p. 613,

The freedom

Such was the fanatical extravagance of Daniel Hoffman, professor at Helmstadt, who discovered, in this controversy, an equal degree of ignorance and animosity; and such also were the followers of Robert Fludd, Jacob Behmen, and the Rosecrucians, who boasted of having struck out, by the assistance of fire and divine illumination, a new, wonderful, and celestial system of philosophy, of which mention has already been made. These adversaries of the stagirite were divided among themselves, and this diminished the strength and vigour of their opposition to the common enemy. But had they been ever so closely united in their sentiments and measures, they would not have been able to overturn the empire of Aristotle, which was deeply rooted in the schools through long possession, and had a powerful support in the multitude of its votaries and defenders.

XI. The peripatetic system had still more formidable adversaries to entcounter in Des Cartes and Gassendi, whose writings were composed with that per- con hilosophispicuity and precision that rendered them singu- gains ground. larly agreeable to many of the Lutheran doctors of this century, and made them look with contempt on that obsolete and barren philosophy of the schools, which was expressed in uncouth terms and barbarous phrases, without taste, elegance, or accuracy. The votaries of Aristotle beheld with envy these new philosophers, used their most zealous endeavours to bring them into discredit, and, for this purpose, represented their researches and principles as highly detrimental to the interests of religion and the growth of true piety. But when they found, by experience, that these methods of attack proved unsuccessful, they changed their manner of proceeding, and, like a prudent general, who, besieged by a superior force, abandons his outworks and retires into the citadel, they relinquished much of their jargon, and defended only the main and essential principles of their system. To render these principles more palatable, they began to adorn them with the graces of elocution, and to mingle with their philosophical tenets the charms of polite literature. They even went so far as to confess that Aristotle, though the prince of philosophers, was chargeable with errors and defects, which it was both lawful and

: :s See above, in the General History of the Church, S xxxi. VOL. IV,

[ocr errors]

expedient to correct. But these concessions only served to render their adversaries more confident and enterprising, since they were interpreted as resulting from a consciousness of their weakness, and were looked upon as a manifest acknowledgment of their defeat. In consequence of this, the enemies of the stagirite renewed their attacks with redoubled impetuosity, and with a full assurance of victory; nor did they confine them to those branches of the peripatetic philosophy which were allowed by its votaries to stand in need of correction, but levelled them, without distinction, at the whole system, and aimed at nothing less than its total dissolution. Grotius, indeed, who marched at the head of these philosophical reformers, proceeded with a certain degree of prudence and moderation. Puffendorf, in treating of the law of nature, and of the duties of morality, threw off, with more boldness and freedom, the peripatetic yoke, and pursued a method entirely different from that which had been hitherto observed in the schools. This freedom drew upon him a multitude of enemies, who loaded him with the bitterest reproaches; his example was nevertheless followed by Thomasius, professor of law in the academy at Leipsic, and afterward at Halle, who attacked the peripatetics with new degrees of vehemence and zeal. This eminent man, though honourably distinguished by the excellence of his genius and the strength of his resolution, was not perhaps the properest person that could be pitched upon to manage the interests of philosophy, His views nevertheless were vast; he aimed at the reformation of philosophy in general, and of the peripatetic system in particular; and he assiduously employed both the power of exhortation and the influence of example, in order to persuade the Saxons to reject the Aristotelian system, which he had never read, and which most certainly he did not understand. The scheme of philosophy. that he substituted in its place, was received with little applause, and soon sunk into oblivion ; but his attempt to overturn the system of the peripatetics, and to restore the freedom of philosophical inquiry, was attended with remarkable success, made, in a little time, the most rapid progress, and produced such admirable effects, that Thomasius is justly looked upon, to this day, as the chief of those bold spirits who pulled down philosophical tyranny from its, throne in Germany, and gave a mortal blow to what

« הקודםהמשך »