Page images

Our modern Sceptics and Infidels are great pretenders to reason and philosophy, and are willing to have it thought that none who are really possessed of those talents can easily assent to the truth of Christianity. But it falls out very unfortunately for them and their cause, that those persons within our own memory, who are confessed to have been the most perfect reasoners and philosophers of their time, are also known to have been firm believers, and they laymen; I mean Mr. Boyle, Mr. Locke, Sir Isaac Newton, and Mr. Addison: who, modestly speaking, were as good thinkers and reasoners, as the best among the Sceptics and Infidels at this day. Some of them might have their particular opinions about this or that point in Christianity, which will be the case as long as men are men; but the thing here insisted on is, that they were accurate reasoners, and at the same time firm believers.

Mr. Boyle, the most exact searcher into the works of nature that any age has known, and who saw Atheism and Infidelity beginning to show themselves in the loose and voluptuous reign of King Charles the Second, pursued his philosophical inquiries with religious views, to establish the minds of men in a firm belief and thorough sense of the infinite power and wisdom of the great Creator.

This account we have from 'one who was intimately acquainted with him, and preached his funeral sernion; It’ appeared to those who conversed with him in his inquiries into nature, that his main design in that (on which as he had his own eye most constantly, so he took care to put others often in mind of it) was to raise in himself and others vaster thoughts of the greatness and glory, and of the wisdom and goodness of God. This was so deep in his thoughts, that he concludes the article of his will, which relates to that illustrious body, the Royal Society, in these words, “ wishing thein a happy success in their laudable attempts to discover the true nature of the works of God; and praying that they and all other searchers into physical truths may cordially refer their attainments to the glory of the great Author of Nature, and to the comfort of mankind.” The same person also speaks thus of him: 'He had the profoundest veneration for the great God of heaven and earth, that ever I observed in any person. The very name of God was never mentioned by him without a pause and a visible stop in his discourse.'

And of the strictness and exemplariness of the whole course of his life, he says, 13 might here challenge the whole tribe of liber

1 Dr. Burnet.

Life, p. 22.

3 Life, p. 9.

tines, to come and view the usefulness, as well as the excellence of the Christian religion, in a life that was entirely dedicated to it.'

Against the Atheists he wrote his · Free Inquiry into the received Notion of Nature,'. (to confute the pernicions principle of ascribing effects to nature, which are only produced by the infinite power and wisdom of God ;) and also bis · Essay about final Causes of Things Natural,' to show that all things in nature were made and contrived with great order, and every thing for its proper end and use, by an all-wise Creator.

Against the Deists he wrote a treatise of Things above Reason ;' in which he makes it appear that several things, which we judge to be contrary to reason, because above the reach of our understanding, are not therefore to be thought unreasonable, because we cannot comprehend them, since they may be apparently reasonable to a greater and more comprehensive understanding. And he wrote another treatise to show the possibility of the • Resurrection of the same Body.'

The veneration he had for the Holy Scriptures appears not only from his studying them with great exactness, and exliorting others to do the same; but more particularly from a distinct treatise which he wrote, on purpose to defend the Scripture style, and to answer all the objections which profane and irreligious

persons have made against it. And speaking of Morality, considered as a rule of life, he says, ' [4 have formerly taken pains to peruse books of Morality: yet, since they have only a power to persuade, but not to command, and sin and death do not necessarily attend the disobedience of them, they have the less influence; for since we may take the liberty to question human writers, I find that the methods they take to impose their writings upon us may serve to countenance either truth or falsehood.'

His zeal to propagate Christianity in the world appears by many and large benefactions to that end, which are enumerated in his funeral sermon. • Hes was at the charge of the translation and impression of the New Testament into the Malayan language, which he sent over all the East Indies. He gave a noble reward to him that translated Grotius's incomparable book of the “Truth of the Christian Religion” into Arabic, and was at the charge of a whole impression, which he took care to order to be distributed in all the countries where that language is understood. He was resolved to have carried on the impression of the New Testament in the Turkish language; but the Company thought it became them to bethe doers of it, and so suffered him only to give a

+ Life, p. 17. 5 Ibid. p. 36, 37.

large share towards it. He was at seven hundred pounds charge in the edition of the Irish Bible, which he ordered to be distributed in Ireland, and he contributed largely both to the impressions of the Welsh Bible, and of the Irish Bible in Scotland. He gave during his life three hundred pounds to advance the design of propagating the Christian religion in America; and as soon as he heard that the East India Company were entertaining propositions for the like design in the East, he presently sent an hundred pounds for a beginning, and an example, but intended to carry it much further, when it should be set on foot to purpose. He had designed, though soine accidents did, upon great considerations, divert him from settling it during his life, but not from ordering it by his will, that a liberal provision should be made for one, who should, in a very few well digested sermons every year set forth the truth of the Christian religion in general, without descending to the subdivisions amongst Christians; and who should be changed every third year, that so this noble study and employment might pass through many hands, by which means many might become masters of the argument.'

In his younger years he had thoughts of entering into holy orders, and one reason that determined him against it was, that he be

« PreviousContinue »