Degree in Philosophy ; and on that Occasion discussed the important and arduous Question of the distinct Natures of the Soul and Body, with such Accuracy, Perspicuity, and Subtilty, that he entirely confuted all the Sophistry of Epicurus, Hobbes, and Spinosa, and equally raised the Character of his Piety and Erudition.

Divinity was still his great Employment, and the chief Aim of all his Studies. He read the Scriptures in their original Languages; and when Difficulties occurred, consulted the Interpretations of the most ancient Fathers, whom he read in order of Time, beginning with Clemens Romanus.

In the Perufal of those early Writers, he was struck with the profoundest Veneration for the Simplicity and Purity of their Doctrine, the Holiness of their Lives, and the Sanctity of the Discipline practised by them ; but as he descended to the lower Ages, he found the Peace of Christianity broken by useless Controversies, and its Doctrines sophisticated by the Subtilties of the Schools. He found the Holy Writers interpreted according to the Notions of Philosophers, and the Chimeras of Metaphysicians adopted as Articles of Faith. He found Difficulties raised by idle Curiosity, and fomented to Bitterness and Ran

He saw the Simplicity of the Christian Doctrine corrupted by the private Notions of particular Parties, of which each adhered to its own Philosophy, and Orthodoxy was confined to the Sect in Power.

Having now exhausted his Fortune in the Pursuit. of his Studies, he found the Necessity of applying to some Profession, that, without engrofsing all his Time, might enable him to support himself: and having obtained a very uncommon Knowledge of the Mathematicks, he read Lectures in those Sciences to a select Number of young Gentlemen in the University


At length his Propension to the Study of Phyfic grew too violent to be rested ; and though he still intended to make Divinity the great Employment of his Life, he could not deny himself the Satisfaction of spending some Time upon the medicinal Writers, for the perusal of which he was so well qualified by his Acquaintance with the Mathematics and Philosophy.

But this Science corresponded so much with his natural Genius, that he could not forbear making that his Business, which he intended only as his Diversion ; and still growing more eager, as he advanced further, he at length determined wholly to master that Profession, and to take his Degree in Phyfic, before he engaged in the Duties of the Ministry.

It is, I believe, a very just Observation, that Mens Ambition is generally proportioned to their Capacity. Providence seldom sends any into the World with an Inclination to attempt great Things, who have not Abilities likewise to perform them. To have formed the Design of gaining a competent Knowledge in Medicine by way of Digression from theological Studies, would have been little less than Madness in most Men, and would have exposed them to Ridicule and Contempt: But Boerhaave was one of those mighty Capacities to whom scarce any Thing appears impoflible, and who think nothing worthy of their Efforts but what appears insurmountable to common Understandings.

He began this new Course of Study by a diligent Perusal of Versalius, Bartholine, and Fallopius ; and to acquaint himself more fully with the Structure of Bodies, was a constant Attendant upon Nuck’s public Dissections in the Theatre, and himself very accurately inspected the Bodies of different Animals.

Having furnished himself with this preparatory Knowledge, he began to read the ancient Physicians in the Order of Time, pursuing his Inquiries down



wards from Hippocrates through all the Greek and Latin Writers.

Finding, as he tells himself, that Hippocrates was the original Source of all medicinal Knowledge, and that all the later Writers were little more than Tranfcribers from him, he returned to him with more Atten, tion, and spent much Time in making Extracts from him, digesting his Treatises into Method, and fixing them in his Memory.

He then descended to the Moderns, among whom none engaged him longer, or improved him more, than Sydenham, to whole Merits he has left this Attestation ; that he frequently perused him; and always with greater Eagerness.

His infatiable Curiosity after Knowledge engaged him now in the Pradlice of Chymistry, which he profecuted with all the Ardor of a l'hilosopher, whole Iuduitry was not to be wcaries, and whole Love of Truth was too strong to fuffer him to acquiesce in the Reports of others.

Yet dil he not suffer one Branch of Science to withdraw his Attention from others; Anatomy did not withold him from the Prosecution of Chymistry, nor Chymistry, enchanting as it is, from the Study of Botany. He was not only a careful Examiner of all the Plants in the Garden of the University, but male Excursions, for his further Improvement, into the Woods and Fields, and left no Place un visited where any increase of botanical Knowledge could be reafonably hoped for.

In Conjunction with all these Enquiries, he still pursued his theological Studies ; and still, as we are informed by himself, propoferi, when he had made himfelf Master of the whole Art of Phyfic, and obtained the Honor of a Degree in that Science, to pe. tition regularly for a Licence to preach, and to engage in the Cure of Souls ; and intended, in his theological Exercises, to disculs this Question ; ' Why fo

many many were formerly converted to Christianity by illiterate Persons, and so few at present by Nien of Learning'

In Pursuance of their Plan he went to Hardwick, in order to take the Degree of Decor in Phyfic, which he obtained in July 193, having performed a public Disputation, De Utilitate explorand rum excrementorum in FÊgris, ut Signorum.

Then returning to Leyden full of his pious Design of undertaking the Ministry, he found, to his Surprize unexpected Obstacles thrown in his Way, and an Infinuation dispersed through the University, that made him suspected, not of any ilight Deviation from received Opinions, not of any pertinacious Adherence to his own Notions in doubtful and disputable Matters, but of no less than Spinofilm ; or in plainer Terms, of Atheism itself.

How so injurious a Report came to be raise:!, circulated and credited, will be doubtless very eagerly inquired, and an exact Relation of the Affair will not only satisfy the Curiosity of Mankind, but shew that no Merit, however exalted, is exempt from being not only attacked, but wounded, by the molt contemptible Whispers. Those who cannot strike with Force, can however poison their Weapon, and weak as they are give mortal Wounds, and bring a Hero to the Grave: so true is that Observation, that many are able to do Hurt, but few to do Good.

This detestable Calumny owed its Rise to an Incident from which no Consequence of Importance could be reasonably apprehended. As Boerhaave was sitting in a common Boat, there arose a Conversation among the Passengers upon the impious and pernicious Doctrine of Spinosa, which as they all agreed tends to the utter Overthrow of all Religio Boerhaave fat and filently attended to this Discourse for some Time, till one of the Company, willing to distinguish himself by his Zeal, instead

of confuting the Positions of Spinofa by Arguments began to give a Locle to contumelious Language and virulent Invectives, with wbich Boerhaave was lo little pleased, that at last he could not forbear asking him, " Whether he had ever read the Author against whom he declaimed?"

The Orator not being able to make much An. fwer, was check'd in the Midst of his Invectives, but not without feeling a secret Resentment against him who at once interrupted his Harangue and exposed his Ignorance.

This was observed by a Stranger who was in the Boat with them: be inquired of his Neighbour the Name of the young Nan, whose Question had put an End to the Discourse ; and having learned it, fet it down in his Pocket Book, as it soon appeared with a malicious Design ; for in a few lays, it was the common Conversation at Leyden, that Boerhaave had revolted to Spinosa.

It was in vain that his Advocates and Friends pleaded his learned and unanswerable Confutation of all atheistiçal Opinions, and particularly of the System of Spinofa, in his Discourse of the Distruction between Soul and Body ; such Calumnies are not easily suppressed, when they are once become general : They are kept alive and supported by the Malice of bad, and sometimes by the Zeal of good Men: who, though they do not absolutely believe them, think it yet the fureft Method, to keep not only guilty, but suspected Men out of public Employments, upon this Principle, that the Safety of many is to be preferred before the Advantage of a few.

Boerhaave finding this formidable Opposition raised against his Pretensions to ecclefiaftical Honours and Preferments, and even against his Design of assuming the Character of a Divine, thought it neither neceffary nor prudent to struggle with the Tor


« ElőzőTovább »