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men, who, instead of adorning their sacred character, made human nature itself detestable: a truth by many catholic writers acknowledged and lamented. Several popes were by their successors excommunicated, their acts abrogated, and the sacraments administered by them pronounced invalid. No less Idem, l. 7. than six were expelled by others who usurped their seat; two were assassinated : and the infamous Theodora, infamous even in that age, by her credit in the holy city obtained the triple crown for the most avowed of her gallants, who assumed the name of John the tenth. Another of the same name was John XI. called to govern the Christian world at the age of twenty one; a bastard son of pope Sergius who died eighteen years before. If such were the men who arrogated to themselves titles and attributes peculiar to the Deity, can we wonder at the greatest enormities among lay-men? Their stupidity kept pace with the dissolution of their manners, which was extreme; they still preserved, for the very clergy we have been speaking of, a reverence they no longer had for their God. The most abandoned among them, miscreants, familiar with crimes that humanity startles at, would yet, at the hazard of their lives, defend the immunities of a church, a consecrated utensil, or a donation made to a convent. In such times as those, it were in vain to look for useful learning and philosophy. Not only the light of science, but of reason, seems to have been well-nigh extinguished.

It was not till late, after the sack of Constantinople An. 1453. by the Turks, that the writings of Aristotle began to be universally known and studied. They were then, by certain fugitive Greeks, who had escaped the fury of the Ottoman arms, brought away and dispersed through the Western parts of Europe. Some particular treatises of his, it is true, had been long * intra et extra septa monasterii, cum rehabilitate ad dignitates

illius ordinis, etiam abbatialem, turon. 36, duc. 9.” In the edition of Bois-le-duc, there is “ Absolutio pro eo, qui interfecit patrem, matrem, sororem, uxorem ...g. 5, vel 7.” Vide Bayle, art. BANCK.


made public; but chiefly in translations from the Arabic, done by men who, far from rendering faithfully the author's sense, hardly understood his language. These however gave birth to the scholastic philosophy; that motley offspring of error and ingenuity : and to speak freely, the features of both parents were all along equally blended in the complexion of the daughter. To trace at length the rise, progress, and variations of this philosophy, would be an undertaking not only curious but instructive, as it would unfold to us all the mazes in which the force, and subtlety, the extravagance of human wit can lose themselves : till not only profane learning but divinity itself was at last, by the refined frenzy of those who taught both, subtilized into mere notion and air.

Their philosophy was neither that of Aristotle entirely, nor altogether differing from his. Whatever opinions the first founders of it had been able to draw, from Boëtius his Latin commentator, or from the wretched translations above mentioned, these they methodized and illustrated, each according to his several talent, and the genius of the age he lived in. But this, instead of producing one regular and consistent body of science, even from wrong principles, ended in a monster, made up of parts every where misshapen and dissimilar. Add to this, that they left natural knowledge wholly uncultivated ; to hunt after occult qualities, abstract notions, and questions of impertinent curiosity, by which they rendered the very logic their labours chiefly turned upon intricate, useless, unintelligible.

Alstedius, in his chronology of the schoolmen, has

divided their history into three principal periods or An. 1050. successions: the first beginning with Lanfranc, arch

bishop of Canterbury, who flourished about the middle

of the eleventh century; and ending with Albert the An. 1320. Great two ages later: the second, that commences

from him, determining in Durand; as the third and Polyliistor. last end in Luther, at the reformation. Morhoff, p. 73, etc. however, strenuously contends, that Rucelinus, an Englishman, was properly the father of the schoolmen: and that to him the sect of the Nominalists owed its rise and credit. He adds, that it revived afterwards in the person of Occam, another of our countrymen, and the perpetual antagonist of Duns Scotus, who had declared for the Realists, and was reckoned their ablest champion. The learned reader needs not be told, that the scholastic doctors were all distinguished into these two sects; formidable party-names, which are now as little known or mentioned as the controversies that once occasioned them. It is sufficient to say, that, like all other parties, they hated each other heartily; treated each other as heretics in logic: and that their disputes were often sharp and bloody; ending not only in the metaphorical destruction of common sense and language, but in the real mutilation and death of the combatants. For, to the disgrace of human reason, mankind in all their controversies, whether about a notion or a thing, a predicament or a province, have made their last appeal to brute force and violence. The titles* with which these leaders were honoured by their followers on account of the sublime reveries they taught, are at once magnificent and absurd : and prove rather the superlative ignorance of those times, than any transcendent merit in the men to whom they were applied. From this censure we ought nevertheless to except one, who was a prodigy of knowledge for the age he lived in, and is acknowledged as such by the age to which I am writing. I mean the renowned friar Bacon, who shone forth singly through the profound darkness of those times; but rather dazzled than enlightened the weaker eyes of his contemporaries. As if the name of Bacon were auspicious to philosophy, this man, not only without assistance or encouragement, but insulted and persecuted, by the unconquerable force of his genius

* The profound, the subtile, the marvellous, the indefatigaable, the irrefragable, the angelic, the seraphic, the fountain of life, light of the world, etc. VOL. I.


penetrated far into the mysteries of nature, and made so many new discoveries in astronomy and perspective, in mechanics and chemistry, that the most sober writers even now cannot mention them without some marks of emotion and wonder. It is Dr. Freind's observation, that he was almost the only astronomer of his age: and the reformation of the calendar, by him attempted and in a manner perfected, is a noble proof of his skill in that science. The construction of spectacles, of telescopes, of all sorts of glasses that magnify or diminish objects, the composition of gunpowder (which Bartholdus Swartz is thought to have first hit upon almost a century later) are some of the many inventions with justice ascribed to him. For all which, he was in his life-time calumniated, imprisoned, oppressed : and after his death wounded in his good name, as a magician who had dealt in arts, infernal and abominable. He tells us, that there were but four persons then in Europe who had made any progress in the mathematics; and in chemistry yet fewer: that those who undertook to translate Aristotle were every way unequal to the task; and that his writings, which, rightly understood, Bacon considered as the fountain of all knowledge, had been lately condemned and burned, in a synod held at Paris.

The works of that celebrated ancient have, in truth, more exercised the hatred and admiration of man. kind, than those of all the other philosophers toge

ther : Launoy enumerates no less than thirty-seven varia Arist. fathers of the Church who have stigmatized his name,

and endeavoured to reprobate his doctrines. Mor

hoff has reckoned up a still greater number of his Polyhistor

. commentators, who were at the same time implicitly

his disciples : and yet both these authors are far from having given a complete list either of his friends or enemies. In his life-time he was suspected of irreligion, and, by the pagan priesthood, marked out for destruction: the successors of those very men were his partisans and admirers. His works met with much the same treatment from the Christian

Lib. de


Tom. II.

clergy: sometimes proscribed for heretical ; sometimes triumphant and acknowledged the great bulwark of orthodoxy. Launoy has written a particular treatise on the subject, and mentioned eight different revolutions in the fortune and reputation of Aristotle's philosophy. To pass over the intermediate changes, I will just mention two, that make a full and ridiculous contrast. In the above-mentioned council held at Paris about the year 1209, the bishops there censured Launoii, his writings, without discrimination, as the pestilent ubi supre. sources of error and heresy; condemned them to the flames, and commanded all persons, on pain of excommunication, not to read, transcribe, or keep any copies of them. They went farther, and delivered over to the secular arm no less than ten persons, who were burned alive, for certain tenets, drawn, as those learned prelates had heard, from the pernicious books in question. In the sixteenth century, those very books were not only read with impunity, but every where taught with applause: and whoever disputed their orthodoxy, I had almost said their infallibility, was persecuted as an infidel and miscreant. Of this the sophister Ramus is a memorable instance. Certain animadversions of his on the peripatetic philosophy occasioned a general commotion in the learned world. The university of Paris took the alarm hotly, and cried out against this attempt as destructive of all good learning, and of fatal tendency to religion itself. The affair was brought before the parliament; Launoii, and appeared of so much consequence to Francis the First, that he would needs take it under his own immediate cognizance. The edict is still extant, which declares Ramus insolent, impudent, and a liar. His 10th of books are thereby for ever condemned, suppressed, 1543. abolished : and, what is a strain of unexampled severity, the miserable author is solemnly interdicted from transcribing, even from reading his own compositions !

We might from hence be led to imagine, that when the authority of an ancient philosopher was held so sacred, philosophy itself must have been thoroughly

tom. IV.

p. 206.

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