תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

tain person called Lucas, count Boulainvilliers, and some others, equally contemptible on account of their sentiments and morals.

endeavours to prove, that the doctrine of Spinoza differs in nothing from tbat of the Gospel. Meier is also the autbor of a well known treatise, thus entitled, Philosophia Scriptura Iterpres, Eleutheropoli, 1666, in 4to. in which the merit and authority of the sacred writings are examined by the dictates of philosophy, that is to say, of the philosophy of Mr. Meier.

x Lucas was a physician at the Hague, and was as famous for what he called his quintessences, as he was infamous on account of the profligacy of his morals. He left bebind him a Life of Spinoza, from whence Lenglet du Fresnoy took all the additions that he made to the life of that Atheist written by Colerus. He also composed a work which is still handed about and bought, at an extravagant price, by those in whose judgment rarity and impiety are equivalent to merit. This work is entitled L'Esprit de Spinoza, and surpasses infinitely, in Atheistical profaneness, even those productions of Spinoza that are looked upon as the most pernicious ; so far has this miserable writer lost sight of every dictate of prudence, and triumphed even over the restraints of shame.

y This fertile and copious, but paradoxical and inconsiderate writer, is abundantly known by his various productions relating to the History and Political State of the French Nation by a certain prolix fable, entitled The Life of Mahomet, and by the adverse turns of fortune that pursued him. His character was so made up of inconsistencies and contradictions, that he was almost equally chargeable with superstition and Atheism ; for though he acknowledged no other deity than the universe, or nature, yet he looked upon Mahomet as authorized, by a divine commission, to instruct mankind; and he was of opinion, that the fate of nations, and the destiny of individuals, could be foreknown by an; attentive observation of the stars. Thus the man was, at the same time an Atheist and an astrologer. Now this inedley of a man was greatly concerned in consequence, forsooth, of bis ardent zeal for the public good, to seo the admirable doctrine of Spinoza so generally misunderstood, and therefore he formed the laudable design of expounding, illustrating, and accommodating it, as is done with respect to the doctrines of the Gospel in books of piety to ordinary capacities. This design indeed he executed, but not so fortunately for his master as he might fondly imagine, since it appeared most evidently, from his own account of the system of Spinoza, that Bayle, and the other writers who had represented his doetrine as repugnant to the plainest dictates of reason, and utterly destructive of all religion, had judged rightly, and were neither misled by ignorance nor temerity. In short, the book of Boulainvilliers set the Atheism and impiety of Spinoza in a much more clear and striking light than ever they had appeared before. This infamous book, which was worthy of eternal oblivion, was pubjished by Lenglet du Fresnoy, who, that it might be bought with avidity, and read without reluctance, prefixed to it the attracting, but perfidious title, of "A Refutation of the Errors of Spinoza ;' adding indeed to it some separate pieces, to which this title may, in some measure, be thought applicable; the whole title runs thus ; 'Refutation des Erreurs de Benoit de Spinoza, par M. de Fenelon, Acheveque de Cambray, per le Pere Lami benedictin, et par M. le Compte de Boulainvilliers, avec la Vie de Spinosa, ecrite par Jean Colerus, ministre de l'Eglise Lutherienne de la Haye, augmentee de beaucoup de particularites tirees d'une Vie Manuscripte de ce Philosophe, fait par un de ses Amis,' this friend was Lucas, the Atheistical physician, mentioned in the preceding note, 'a Bruxelles, chez Francois Foppens,' 1731, in 12mo. Here we see the poison and the antidote joined together, but the latter perfidiously distributed in a manner and measure every way insufficient to remove the noxious effects of the former ; in a word, the wolf is shut up with the sheep. The account and desence of the philosophy of Spinoza, given by Boulainvilliers under the insidious title of a Refutation, takes up the greatest part of this book, and is placed first, and not last in order, as the title would insinuate. Beside, the whole contents of this motley collection are not enumerated in the title ; for at the end of it we find a Latin treatise, entitled 'Certamen Philosophie cum propugnatæ Veritatis divinæ et naturalis, adversus Jo. Bredenburgii principia, in fine annexa. This philosophical controversy contains a Defence of the Doctrine om Spinoza, by Bredenburg ; and a Refutation of that Defence by Isaac Orobio, a learned Jewish physician at Amsterdam, and was first published in 8vo. in the year 1703.

The sciences cultivated and improved.

xxv. The progressive and flourishing state of the arts

and sciences in the seventeenth century is abundd antly known; and we see the effects, and enjoy

. the fruits, of the efforts then made for the advancement of learning. No branch of literature seemed to be neglected. Logic, philosophy, history, poetry, and rhetoric; in a word, all the sciences that belong to the respective provinces of reason, experience, observation, genius, memory, and imagination, were cultivated and improved with remarkable success throughout the Christian world. While the learned men of this happy period discovered such zeal for the improvement of science, their zeal was both inflamed and directed by one of the greatest and rarest geniuses that ever arose for the instruction of mankind. This was Francis Bacon, lord Verulam, who, toward the commencement of this century, opened the paths that lead to true philosophy in his admirable works.” It must be acknowledged indeed, that the rules he prescribes, to direct the researches of the studious, are not all practicable, amidst the numerous prejudices and impediments to which the most zealous inquirers are exposed in the pursuit of truth; and it appears plainly that this great man, to whose elevated and comprehensive genius all things seemed easy, was at certain times so far carried away by the vastness of his conceptions, as to require from the application and abilities of men more than they were capable of performing, and to desire the end without always examining whether the means of attaining it were possible. At the same time it must be confessed, that a great part of the improvements in learning, and of the progress in science that were made in Europe, during this century, was owing to the counsels and directions of this extraordinary man. This is more especially true of the improvements that were made in natural philosophy, to which noble science Bacon did such important service, as is alone sufficient to render his name immortal. He opened the eyes of those who had been led blindfold by the du

z More especially in his treatise, De Dignitate et Augmentis Scientiarum, and in his Novum Organum. "See the Life of that great man that is prefixed to the last edition of his Works, published by Millar, in four volumes in folio. Bibliotheque Britannique, tom. xv. p. 128. In Mr. Mallet's Life of Bacon, there is a particular and interesting account of his noble attempt to reform the miserable philosophy that prevailed before his time. See also Voltaire, Melanges de Literalure, &c. in the fourth volume of his Works, chap. xiv, p. 225.

bious authority of traditionary systems, and the uncertain directory of hypothesis and conjecture. He led them to nature, that they might consult that oracle directly and near at hand, and receive her answers; and, by the introduction of experimental inquiry, he placed philosophy upon a new and solid basis. It was thus undoubtedly that le removed the prejudices of former times, which led men to consider ali human knowledge as circumscribed within the bounds of Greek and Latin erudition, and an acquaintance with the more elegant and liberal arts; and thus, in thejvast regions of nature, he opened scenes of instruction and science, which, although hitherto unknown or disregarded, were infinitely more noble and sublime, and much more productive of solid nourishment to the minds of the wise, than that kind of learning that was in vogue before his time.

xxvi. It is remarkable, in general, that the sciences of natural philosophy, mathematics, and astronomy, were carried in this century, in all the nations of More Europe, to such a high degree of perfection, that tics. they seemed to rise, all of a sudden, from the puny weakness of infancy to a state of full maturity. There is certainly no sort of comparison between the philosophers, mathematicians, and astronomers of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The former look like pigmies, when compared with the gigantic stature of the latter. At the head of these latter appears Galilei, the ornament of natural science in Italy, who was encouraged, in his astronomical researches and discoveries, by the munificence and protection of the grand dukes of Tuscany. After this arose in France Des Cartes and Gassendi, who left behind them a great number of eminent disciples; in Denmark Tycho Brahe; in England Boyle and Newton; in Germany Kepler, Hevelius, and Leibnitz ; and in Switzerland the two Bernoulli. These philosophers of the first magnitude, if I may use that expression, excited such a spirit of emulation in Europe, and were followed by such a multitude of admirers and rivals, that, if we except those countries that had not yet emerged from a state of ignorance and barbarism, there was scarcely any nation that could not boast of possessing a profound mathematician, a

More especially ibe mathema

a Sce Henman's Acla Philosoph, part xiv, p. 261, part sy. p. 467, part xvii, p. 803. b The History of the Royal Society of London, was published by Dr. Sprat in 4to. in the year 1722.* See the Biblioth. Ingloise, tom. xi. p. 1. The History of the Academy of Paris has been composed by Fontenelle. The reader will find a comparison between these two learned bodies in the fourth volume of the Works of Voltaire, entitled Melanges de Literature et de Philosophia, cap. xxvi. p. 317.

famous astronomer, or an eminent philosopher. Nor were the dukes of Tuscany, however distinguished by their hereditary zeal for the sciences, and their liberality to the learned, the only patrons of philosophy at this time ; since it is well known that the monarchs of Great Britain and France, Charles II. and Lewis XIV. honoured the sciences, and those that cultivated them, with their protection and encouragement. It is to the munificence of these two princes that the Royal Society of London, and the Academy of Sciences at Paris, owe their origin and establishment, their privileges, honours, and endowments; and that we, of consequence, are indebted for the interesting discoveries that have been made by these two learned bodies, the end of whose institution is the study and investigation of nature, and the culture of all those arts and sciences that lead to truth, and are useful to mankind." These establishments, and the inquiries they were so naturally adapted to encourage and promote, proved not only beneficial, in the highest degree, to the civil interests of mankind, but were also productive of inestimable advantages to the cause of true religion. By these inquiries, the empire of superstition, which is always the bane of genuine piety, and often a source of rebellion and calamity in sovereign states, was greatly shaken; by them the fictitious prodigies, that had so long held miserable mortals in a painful state of servitude and terror, were deprived of their influence; by them natural religion was built upon solid foundations, and illustrated with admirable perspicuity and evidence; as by them the infinite perfections of the Supreme Being were demonstrated with the utmost clearness and force from the frame of the universe in general, and also from the structure of its various parts. XXVII. The improvements made in history, and more

especially the new degrees of light that were istory: thrown upon the ancient history of the church, were of eminent service to the cause of genuine Christianity. For thus the original sources and reasons of many ab

D7 * A much more interesting and ample history of this respectable society has later * been composed and published by Dr. Birch, its learned secretary.

surd opinions and institutions, which antiquity and custom had rendered sacred, were discovered and exposed in their proper colours; and innumerable errors, that had possessed and perplexed the anxious spirits of the credulous and superstitious multitude, were happily deprived of their authority and influence. Thus, of consequence, the cheerful light of truth, and the calm repose and tranquillity that attend it, arose upon the minds of many, and human life was delivered from the crimes that have been sanctified by superstition, and from the tumults and agitations in which it has so often involved unhappy mortals. The advantages that flowed from the improvement of historical knowledge are both innumerable and inestimable. By this many pious and excellent persons, whom ignorance or malice had branded with the ignominious title of heretics, were delivered from reproach, recovered their good fame, and thus were secured against the malignity of superstition. By this it appeared, that many of those religious controversies, which had divided nations, friends, and families, and involved so often sovereign states in bloodshed, rebellion, and crimes of the most horrid kind, were owing to the most trifling and contemptible causes, to the ambi. guity and obscurity of certain theological phrases and terms, to superstition, ignorance, and envy, to ghostly pride and ambition. By this it was demonstrated, with the fullest evidence, that many of those religious rites and ceremonies, which had been long considered as of divine institution, were derived from the most inglorious sources, being either borrowed from the manners and customs of barbarous nations, or invented with a design to deceive the ignorant and credulous, or dictated by the idle visions of senseless enthusiasm. By this the ambitious intrigues of the bishops and other ministers of religion, who, by perfidious arts, had encroached upon the prerogatives of the throne, usurped a considerable part of its authority and revenues, and held princes in subjection to their yoke by terrors of the church, were brought to light. And, to mention no more instances, it was by the lamp of history that those councils, whose decrees had so long been regarded as infallible and sacred, and revered as the dictates of celestial wisdom, were exhibited to the attentive observer as assemblies, where an odious mixture of ignorance and knavery very frequently presided. Our happy VOL. III.

55

es, it was had so ed as the ti

« הקודםהמשך »