תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

The works of Bishop Wilkins were numerous, ingenious, and learned. His first publication, and perhaps his most ingenious performance, appeared in 1638, and is entitled, The Discovery of a New World : or a Discour se tending to prove that it is probable there may be another Habitable World in the Moon ; with a Discourse concerning the Probability of a Passage thither. In this ingenious but fantastical treatise, he supports the proposition, “That it is possible for some of our posterity to find out a conveyance to this other world, and if there be inhabitants there, to have commerce with them. Besides this singular work, Wilkins published several other essays of a similar nature; such as, A Discourse concerning a New Planet, Mercury, or, The Secret and Swift Messenger, and Mathematical Magic; or, The Wonders that may be performed by Mechanical Geometry. Of his theological works, the first that made its appearance was Ecclesiastes : or, A Discourse of the Gift of Preaching, as it falls under the Rules of Art. The design of this publication was to reform the prevailing cant of the times, which, to every clergyman of well-regulated taste, was extremely offensive. His next publication was A Discourse concerning the Beauty of Providence, in all the Rugged Passages of it; and this was soon followed by A Discourse concerning the Gift of Prayer, showing what it is, wherein it consists, and how far it is attainable by industry. After the death of Bishop Wilkins, Dr. Tillotson published two volumes that the bishop had left unfinished; the first of which was, Sermons preached on Several Occasions, and the other, Of the Principles and Duties of Natural Religion. We shall conclude our notice of this interesting writer with the following brief extract from his earliest production

HOW A MAN MAY FLY TO THE MOON. If it be here inquired, what means there may be conjectured for our ascending beyond the sphere of the earth's magnetical vigour, I answer, 1. It is not perhaps impossible that a man may be able to fly, by the application of wings to his own body; as angels are pictured, as Mercury and Dædalus are feigned, and as hath been attempted by divers, particularly by a Turk in Constantinople, as Busbequius relates.

2. If there be such a great ruck in Madagascar as Marcus Polus, the Venetian, mentions, the feathers in whose wings are twelve feet long, which can soop up a horse and his rider, or an elephant, as our kites do a mouse ; why, then, it is but teaching one of these to carry a man, and he may ride up thither, as Ganymede does upon an eagle.

Or if neither of these ways will serve, yet I do seriously, and upon good grounds, affirm it possible to make a flying chariot, in which a man may sit, and give such a motion unto it, as shall convey him through the air. And this, perhaps, might be made large enough to carry divers men at the same time, together with food for their viaticum, and commodities for traffic. It is not the bigness of any thing in this kind that can hinder its motion, if the motive faculty be answerable thereunto. We see a great ship swims as well as a small cork, and an eagle flies in the air as well as a little gnat.

This engine may be contrived from the same principles by which Archytas made a wooden dove, and Regio-montanus a wooden eagle.

I conceive it were no difficult matter (if a man had leisure), to show more particularly the means of composing it.

Bishop Wilkins was succeeded in the see of Chester by another very learned and estimable divine, Dr. Pearson.

John PEARSON was the son of Robert Pearson, rector of Creak and Snoring, in Norfolk, and was born at Snoring, on the twelfth of February, 1612. In May, 1623, he was sent to Eton school, and nine years afterwards was elected to King's College, Cambridge, where he remained to take both his bachelor's and his master's degree. In 1640, he took orders, and was immediately after appointed chaplain to Lord John Finch, Lord Keeper of the Great Seal of England, by whom he was presented to the living of Torrington, in Suffolk. Upon the breaking out of the civil wars, Pearson became chaplain to Lord Goring, whom he attended in the army; and afterwards to Sir Robert Cook, in London. In 1650, he became the minister of St. Clement's Church. From St. Clement's he passed to the divinity chair in Cambridge, and thence to the presidency of Trinity College, in the same university. The latter situation he held until he became bishop of Chester, in 1672, where he remained until his death, which occurred on the sixteenth of July, 1686.

In 1659, Bishop Pearson published An Exposition on the Creed, which Bishop Burnet pronounces to be among the best books that our church has produced.' This work has been much admired for the melody of its language, and the clear and methodical way in which the subjects are treated. The following illustration of the Resurrection is particularly happy :

THE RESURRECTION. Besides the principles of which we consist, and the actions which flow from us, the consideration of the things without us, and the natural course of variations in the creature, will render the resurrection yet more highly probable. Every space of twenty-four hours teacheth thus much, in which there is always a revolution amounting to a resurrection. The day dies into a night, and is buried in silence and in darkness; in the next morning it appeareth again and reviveth, opening the grave of darkness, rising from the dead of night; this is a diurnal resurrection. As the day dies into night, so doth the summer into winter: the sap is said to descend into the root, and there it lies buried in the ground; the earth is covered with snow, or crusted with frost, and becomes a general sepulchre ; when the spring appeareth, all begin to rise; the plants and flowers peep out of their graves, revive, and grow, and flourish; this is the annual resurrection. The corn by which we live, and for want of which we perish with famine, is notwithstanding cast upon the earth, and buried in the ground, with a design that it may corrupt, and being corrupted, may revive and multiply: our bodies are fed by this constant experiment, and we continue this present life by succession of resurrections. Thus all things are repaired by corrupting, and preserved by perishing, and revive by dying; and can we think that man, the lord of all these things, which thus die and revive for him, should be detained in death as never to live again? Is it imaginable that God should thus restore all things to man, and not restore man to himself? If there were no other consideration, but of the principles of human nature, of the liberty and remunerability of human actions, and of the natural revolutions and resurrections of other creatures, it were abundantly sufficient to render the resurrection of our bodies highly probable.

We must not rest in this school of nature, nor settle our persuasions upon likelihoods; but as we passed from an apparent possibility into a high presumption and probability, so must we pass from thence into a full assurance of an infallible certainty. And of this, indeed, we can not be assured but by the revelation of the will of God; upon his power we must conclude that we may, from his will that we shall, rise from the dead. Now, the power of God is known unto all men, and therefore all men may infer from thence a possibility ; but the will of God is not revealed unto all men, and therefore all have not an infallible certainty of the resurrection. For the grounding of which assurance I shall show that God hath revealed the determination of his will to raise the dead, and that he hath not only delivered that intention in his Word, but hath also several ways confirmed the same.

Dr. Henry MORE, another divine of the established church, to be classed with the last two noticed, was born at Grantham, in Lincolnshire, on the twelfth of October, 1614. His parents being devoted Calvinists, took especial pains to bring him up in the same faith ; and with this view they placed him under the care of a private teacher of their own persuasion, with whom he remained till he was fourteen years of age. At that period, he was sent, at the instigation of his uncle, who discovered in him very uncommon genius, to Eton school, there to perfect himself in the Latin and Greek languages, in which he had already made very considerable proficiency. In 1631, after he had passed three years at Eton, he entered Christ's College, Cambridge, and having previously renounced the Calvinistic doctrines, was placed, at his own request, under the care of a tutor who did not hold those principles. In 1639 he took the degree of master of arts; and being soon after chosen fellow of his college, he resolved to take up his abode in the university, and accordingly became tutor to several persons of eminence. He devoted the whole of the remainder of his life to study and religious meditation at Cambridge, and strenuously refused to accept any preferment in the church which would render it necessary to leave what he called his paradise. The friends of this recluse philosopher once attempted to decoy him into a bishopric, and with this view they beguiled him as far as Whitehall, that he might kiss the king's hand on the occasion; but when told for what purpose they had brought him thither, he refused to go any farther, but returned at once to the university, where he continued to reside until his death, which occurred on the first of September, 1687, in the seventy-third year of his age.

The principal works of Dr. More are, The Mystery of Godliness, The Mystery of Iniquity, A Discourse on the Immortality of the Soul, and Ethical and Metaphysical Manuals. His moral doctrines are pure and elevated, but some of his views are strongly tinged with mysticism, and grounded on a philosophy which, though considerable attention was paid to it at the time when he lived, has now fallen into general neglect as visionary and absurd. He was an enthusiastic and disinterested inquirer after truth, and is celebrated by his contemporaries as a man of uncommon benevolence, purity, and devotion. He once observed to a friend, that he was thought by some to have a soft head, but he thanked God he had a soft heart.' Among

his visionary notions was the idea that supernatural communications were made to him, under the direction of God, by a particular genius or demon like that of Socrates ; that he was unusually gifted with the power of explaining the prophecies of Scripture ; and that when writing on that subject, he was under the guidance of a special providence. He was also credulous as to apparitions and witchcraft; but in this particular he differed very little from many of his intelligent and learned contemporaries. His works, though now little read, were extremely popular during the latter part of the seventeenth century. The following extract from his 'Mystery of Godliness? is a fair specimen of his style

DEVOUT CONTEMPLATION OF THE WORKS OF GOD. Whether, therefore, our eyes be struck with that more radiant lustre of the sun, or whether we behold the more placid and calm beauty of the moon, or be refreshed with the sweet breathings of the open air, or be taken up with the contemplation of those pure sparkling lights of the stars, or stand astonished at the gushing downfalls of some mighty river, as that of Nile, or admire the height of some insuperable and inaccessible rock or mountain: or with a pleasant horror and chillness look upon some silent wood, or solemn shady grove; whether the face of heaven smile upon us, with a cheerful bright azure, or look upon us with a more sad and minacious countenance, dark pitchy clouds being charged with thunder and lightning to let fly against the earth; whether the air be cool, fresh, and healthful: or whether it be sultry, contagious, and pestilential, so that, while we gasp for life, we are forced to draw in a sudden and inevitable death ; whether the earth stand firm, and prove favourable to the industry of the artificer; or whether she threaten the very foundations of our buildings with trembling and tottering earthquakes, accompanied with remungient echoes and ghastly murmurs from below; whatever notable emergencies happen from either good or bad to us, these are the Joves and Vejoves that we worship, which to us are not many, but one God, who has the only power to save or destroy. And therefore, from whatever part of this magnificent temple of his—the world-he shall send forth his voice, our hearts and eyes are presently directed thitherward with fear, love, and veneration.

In addition to his prose works, Dr. More produced a poem, under the title of A Platonic Song of the Soul, which, in his day, enjoyed a very considerable degree of popularity. The following stanzas are a fair specimen of the work :

THE SOUL AND BODY.
Like to a light fast lock'd in lanthorn dark,
Whereby by night our wary steps we guide
In slabby streets, and dirty channels mark,
Some weaker rays through the black top do glide,
And flusher streams perhaps from horny side.
But when we've pass'd the peril of the way,
Arriv'd at home, and laid that case aside,
The naked light how clearly doth it ray,
And spread its joyful beams as bright as summer's day.
Even so the soul, in this contracted state,
Confin'd to these strait instruments of sense,

More dull and narrowly doth operate;
At this hole hears, the sight must ray from thence,
Here tastes, there smells: but when she 's gone from hence,
Like naked lamp she is one shining sphere,
And round about has perfect cognoscence
Whate'er in her horizon doth appear :
She is one orb of sense, all eye, all airy ear.

From the ornaments of the established church whom we have just considered, we now pass to notice Baxter and Owen—two divines of no less eminence among the dissenters.

RICHARD BAXTER was born at Rowton, in Shropshire, on the twelfth of November, 1615. His early education was committed to the care of one Wickstead, chaplain to the council of Ludlow, who was entirely unqualified for so important a task as that which he had undertaken; and Baxter, therefore, comparatively sacrificed the entire time that he spent with him. By very unusual application, however, he afterwards nearly made up for the loss of an academic education, and after a few years was appointed master of the Free-school at Dudley, in which situation he remained until 1638, when he received orders, at the hands of the bishop of Winchester.

The two years which followed his ordination, Baxter passed in much perplexity respecting the oath which was proposed by the convention at that time in session; and at length he openly declared his dislike to an unqualified submission, 'to archbishops, bishops, et cætera,' as he knew not what the et cetera comprehended. The result of deep and searching inquiry, was a renunciation of his connection with the established church, and, in 1640, he accepted an invitation to settle in Kidderminster, where his labors were of marked utility in improving the moral character of the inhabitants, and in increasing their respect for religion. Though he sided with the parliament, and acted as one of their chaplains during the civil wars, yet he was a zealous advocate of order and regular government, both in church and state. When Cromwell usurped the supreme power, Baxter openly expressed his disapprobation of his conduct, and, in a conference with the Protector, plainly told him that the people of England considered monarchy a blessing, the loss of which they deeply deplored.

After the Restoration, Baxter was appointed one of the royal chaplains, but when the Lord Chancellor Clarendon offered him the bishopric of Hereford, he declined it, assigning as his reason that, he desired no higher honor than to be permitted to return to Kidderminster, and there pass the remainder of his life with his humble flock. During the persecution of the nonconformists, he was occasionally much molested in the performance of his ministerial duties, particularly while he officiated at Black Friars, in London. In 1685, he was, on the most frivolous grounds, condemned, by the infamous Jeffreys, for sedition ; but through the favor of the king, James the Second, who had just ascended the throne, he obtained a pardon, and release from the heavy fine imposed upon him.

VOL 11.-K

« הקודםהמשך »