« EelmineJätka »
the angels," said d'Effiat to him, "whom we always hear spoken of, and believe to be superior to men, but never have the consolation of seeing them."
It is known that Bacon was accused of a crime very unworthy of a philosopher, that of allowing himself to be corrupted by money. It is recorded, that he was condemned by the House of Peers to pay about four hundred thousand livres of our money and to lose his office. Now the English so reverence his memory, that they will hardly confess that he was guilty. If my opinion was asked, I should make use of a speech which I have heard given to Lord Bolingbroke. Some one, speaking in his presence of the avarice of the Duke of Marlborough, quoted instances of it, for the truth of which he appealed to the testimony of Lord Bolingbroke, who, being of a contrary party, could have mentioned the Duke's bad qualities with a good grace. "He was so great a man," answered Lord B. significantly, "I have forgotten his vices."-In the like manner I will confine myself to speaking of that which has gained Chancellor Bacon the esteem of Europe.
The most singular and the best of his works, is that which is at present the least read, and the most useful; I speak of his "Novum Organum Scientiarum." It was the scaffold by means of which experimental philosophy has been built, and now the edifice has been so far raised, the scaffold is no longer useful. Chancellor Bacon did not know nature, but he knew and indicated all the paths which led to her. He despised in good time what was taught by square-capped fools, under the name of philosophy, in houses called colleges; and he did all that depended upon him, whilst these societies, instituted for the acquirement of the perfection of human reason, continued to corrupt it by their quiddities, their horror of a vacuum, their substantial forms, and all those phrases, that ignorance had not only made respectable, but which a ridiculous involvement with religion had rendered sacred.
Bacon is the father of experimental philosophy. It is very true, that before his time astonishing secrets had been discovered; the compass, printing, plate-engrav
ing, oil painting, glass, the art of assisting the sight of aged people by spectacles, gunpowder, &c. had all been previously invented, and a new world had been sought, found, and conquered. Who would not think. that these sublime discoveries had been made by great philosophers, and in much more enlightened times than our own? Not at all, it was in times of scholastic barbarity, that these great changes were made on the earth. Chance only has produced almost all these inventions; it is even pretended that what is called chance had a great part in the discovery of America; at least it has been believed that Christopher Columbus only undertook his voyage on the word of a captain of a ship, whom a tempest had thrown within sight of the Carribee islands.* Be that as it may, men knew how to go round the world; they knew how to destroy towns with artificial thunder more terrible than the real; but they knew not the circulation of the blood, the weight of the air, the laws of motion and of light, the number of our planets, &c.-while a man who sustained a thesis on the categories of Aristotle, on the universal a parte rei, or some other folly, was regarded as a prodigy.
The most useful and astonishing inventions are not those which do the most honour to the human mind. It is to a mechanical instinet, possessed by most men, that we owe the greater proportion of the arts, and not
This reasoning may be questioned in reference to such men as Columbus. Chance must naturally lead to scientific discovery, for all such discovery must be founded on matter of fact, the occurrence of which is usually casual, and the due observance of it more so. The story told by the sea captain to Columbus, might stimulate his imagination to the formation of a correct theory; but the theory he certainly formed. In fact, imagination in its wildest exercise is only a power of capriciously combining things existent in themselves, although not in such a combination. The distinction between poetical imagination and scientific discovery or invention, is only in object and degree. The former is careless of reality, and therefore altogether unconfined in its compounds; whilst the object of the latter being compatibility, the composition is necessarily more restrained. An useful illustrative work might be written on the powers, uses, and extent of the faculty of imagination.-T.
to sound philosophy. The discoveries of fire, of the art of making bread, of melting and preparing metals, of building houses, and the invention of the shuttle, are all necessary before printing and the compass, yet all these were discovered by men while still savages. What a prodigious use of the mechanics did the Greeks and Romans make. Yet they believed, in their time, that the heavens were of chrystal; and that the stars were little lamps which sometimes fell into the sea: and one of their greatest philosophers, after many researches, discovered that the said stars were flints which had been detached from the earth.
In a word, before Chancellor Bacon, experimental philosophy was not known, and of all the experiments that have been made since, there is scarcely one which is not indicated in his book. He made several himself. He formed pneumatic machines, by which he divined the elasticity of the air; he has turned out to be the discoverer of its gravity. He touched upon it, and the truth was seized by Torricelli. In a little time after, physical experiments suddenly began to be cultivated in almost all parts of Europe. It was a hidden treasure, which Bacon had suspected, and which all the philosophers, encouraged by his suggestions, endeavoured to dig for. We have seen that he describes in express terms the principles of that attraction of which Newton passes for the inventor.
This precursor of philosophy has also been an elegant writer, an historian, and a wit. His Moral Essays are much esteemed, but they are more instructive than amusing, and not being a satire on human nature, like the Maxims of Rochefoucault, nor of the school of scepticism, like those of Montaigne, they are less read than his greater works. His life of Henry VII. has passed for a master-piece; but how is it that some persons dare compare so small a work with the history of our illustrious De Thou? In speaking of the famous impostor Perkins, the son of a converted Jew, who, encouraged by the Duchess of Burgundy, so boldly took the name of Richard IV. and disputed the crown with Henry VII. Chancellor Bacon thus expresses
himself:-" About this time King Henry was beset by malicious spirits, raised by the magic of the Duchess of Burgundy, who conjured up from hell the shade of Edward IV. to come and torment King Henry. When the Duchess had instructed Perkins, she began to deliberate in which region of heaven this comet should appear, and resolved that it should first illuminate the horizon of Ireland." It seems to me, that De Thou deals but little in this style of bombast, which was formerly mistaken for the sublime, but which is now rightly denominated jargon.
BANISHMENT for a term of years, or for life;penalty inflicted on delinquents, or on individuals who are wished to be considered as such.
Not long ago it was the custom to banish from within the limits of the jurisdiction, for petty thefts, forgeries, and assaults; the result of which was, that the offender became a great robber, forger, or murderer, in some other jurisdiction. This is like throwing into a neighbour's field the stones that incommode us in our
Those who have written on the laws of nations, have tormented themselves greatly to determine, whether a man who has been banished from his country can justly be said still to belong to that country. It might almost as well be asked whether a gambler, who has been driven away from a gaming table, is still one of the players at that table.
If by the law of nature a man is permitted to choose his country, still more is the man who has lost the rights of a citizen, at liberty to choose himself a new country. May he bear arms against his former fellow-citizens? Of this we have a thousand examples. How many French protestants, naturalised in England, Holland, or Germany, have served, not only against
* If it is contrary to good sense to banish from one jurisdiction into another, banishment from the realm may be regarded as an infraction of the law of nations.
France, but against armies in which their relatives, their own brothers, have fought? The Greeks in the armies of the King of Persia fought against the Greeks their old fellow-countrymen. The Swiss in the service of Holland have fired upon the Swiss in the service of France. This is even worse than fighting against those who have banished you; for, after all, drawing the sword in revenge does not seem so bad as drawing it for hire.
A Greek word, signifying Immersion.
WE do not speak of baptism as theologians; we are but poor men of letters, who shall never enter the sanctuary.
The Indians plunge, and have from time immemorial plunged, into the Ganges. Mankind, always gui ded by their senses, easily imagined that what purified the body likewise purified the soul. In the subterraneous apartments under the Egyptian temples, there were large tubs for the priests and the initiated.
O nimiùm faciles qui tristia crimina cædis
Old Baudier, when he was eighty, made the following comic translation of these lines:
C'est une drole de maxime,
One can't but think it somewhat droll
Every sign being of itself indifferent, God vouchsafed to consecrate this custom amongst the Hebrew people. All foreigners that came to settle in Palestine were baptised: they were called domiciliary proselytes.
They were not forced to receive circumcision, but only to embrace the seven precepts of the Noachides, and to sacrifice to no strange god. The proselytes of justice were circumcised and baptised: the female proselytes were also baptised, quite naked, in the presence of three men.