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alive, during so many centuries, those scattered sparks of truth and of science, which were afterwards to kindle into so bright a flame. I mention this particularly, because, in our zeal against the vices and corruptions of the Romish church, we are too apt to forget, how deeply we are indebted to its superstitious and apparently useless foundations, for the most precious advantages that we now enjoy.
The study of the Roman Law, which, from a variety of causes, natural as well as accidental, became, in the course of the twelfth century, an object of general pursuit, shot a strong and auspicious ray of intellectual light across the surrounding darkness. No study could then have been presented to the curiosity of men, more happily adapted to improve their taste, to enlarge their views, or to invigorate their reasoning powers; and although, in the first instance, prosecuted merely as the object of a weak and undistinguishing idolatry, it nevertheless conducted the student to the very confines of ethical as well as of political speculation; and served, in the meantime, as a substitute of no inconsiderable value for both these sciences. Accordingly we find that, while in its immediate effects, it powerfully contributed, wherever it struck its roots, by meliorating and systematizing the administration of justice, to accelerate the progress of order and of civilization, it afterwards furnished, in the farther career of human advancement, the parent stock on which were grafted the first rudiments of pure ethics and of liberal politics taught in modern times. I need scarcely add, that I allude to the systems of natural jurisprudence compiled by Grotius and his successors; systems which, for a hundred and fifty years, engrossed all the learned industry of the most enlightened part of Europe ; and which, however unpromising in their first aspect, were destined, in the last result, to prepare the way for that never to be forgotten change in the literary taste of the eighteenth century, “ which has every where turned the spirit of philosophical inquiry from frivolous or abstruse speculations, to the business and affairs of men."*
• Dr. Robertson from whom I quote these words, has mentioned this change as
The revival of letters may be considered as coëval with the fall of the Eastern empire, towards the close of the fifteenth century. In consequence of this event, a number of learned Greeks took refuge in Italy, where the taste for literature already introduced by Dante, Petrarch, and Boccacio, together with the liberal patronage of the illustrious House of Medicis, secured them a welcome reception. A knowledge of the Greek tongue soon became fashionable; and the learned, encouraged by the rapid diffusion which the art of printing now gave to their labors, vied with each other in rendering the Greek authors accessible, by means of Latin translations, to a still wider circle of readers.
For a long time, indeed, after the era just mentioned, the progress of useful knowledge was extremely slow. The passion for logical disputation was succeeded by an unbounded admiration for the wisdom of antiquity; and in proportion as the pedantry of the schools disappeared in the universities, that of erudition and philology occupied its place.
Meanwhile, an important advantage was gained in the immense stock of materials which the ancient authors
supplied to the reflections of speculative men; and which, although frequently accumulated with little discrimination or profit, were much more favorable to the developement of taste andofgenius than the unsubstantial subtleties of ontologyor of dialectics. By such studies were formed Erasmus,* Ludovicus Vives,* Sir Thomas More,t and many other accomplished scholars of a similar character, who, if they do not rank in the same line with the daring reformers by whom the errors of the Catholic church were openly assailed, certainly exhibit a very striking contrast to the barbarous and unenlightened writers of the preceding age.
the glory of the present age, eaning, I presume, the period which has elapsed since the time of Montesquieu. By what steps the philosophy to which he alludes took its rise from the systems of jurisprudence previously in fashion, will appear in the sequel of this discourse.
• The writings of Erasinus probably contributed still more than those of Luther birself to the progress of the Reformation among men of education and taste ; but, witbout the cooperation of bolder and more decided characters than his, little would to this day have been effected in Europe among the lower orders. “ Erasmus imagined," as is observed by his biographer,“ that at length, by training up youth in learniog and useful knowledge, those religious improvements would gradually be brought about, which the Princes, the Prelates, and the Divines of his days could Dot be persuaded to admit or to tolerate.” (Jortin, p. 279.) In yielding, however, to this pleasing expectation, Erasmus must have flattered himself with the hope, not only of a perfect freedom of literary discussion, but of such reforms in the prevailing modes of instruction, as would give complete scope to the energies of the human tind;-for, where books and teachers are subjected to the censorship of those who are hostile to the dissemination of truth, they become the most powerful of all auxiliaries to the authority of established errors.
It was long a proverbial saying among the ecclesiastics of the Romish church, that * Erasmus laid the egg, and Luther hatched it;" and there is more truth in the remark, than in most of their sarcasms on the same subject.
The Protestant Reformation, which followed immediately after, was itself one of the natural consequences of the revival of letters, and of the invention of printing. But although, in one point of view, only an effect, it is not, on the present occasion, less entitled to notice than the causes by which it was produced.
The renunciation, in a great part of Europe, of theological opinions so long consecrated by time, and the adoption of a creed more pure in its principles, and more liberal in its spirit, could not fail to encourage, on all other subjects, a congenial freedom of inquiry. These circumstances operated still more directly and powerfully, by their influence in undermining the authority of Aristotle ; an authority, which for many years was scarcely inferior in the schools to that of the Scriptures; and which, in some Universities, was supported by statutes, requiring the teachers to promise upon oath, that, in their public lectures, they would follow no other guide.
Luther, who was perfectly aware of the corruptions which the Romish church had contrived to connect with
* Ludovicus Vives was a learned Spaniard, intimately connected both with Erasmus and More ; with the former of whom he lived for some time at Louvain; “where they both promoted literature as much as they could, though not without great opposition fron some of the divines.” Jortin, p. 255.
“He was invited into England by Wolsey, in 1523 ; and coming to Oxford, he read the Cardinal's lecture of Humanity, and also lectures of Civil Law, which Henry VIII., and his Queen Catharine, did him the honor of attending.” (Ibid. p. 207.) He died at Bruges in 1554.
In point of good sense and acuteness, wherever he treats of philosophical questions, he yields to none of his contemporaries; and in some of his anticipations of the future progress of science, he discovers a mind more comprehensive and sagacious than any of them. Erasmus appears, from a letter of his to Budæus (dated in 1521,) to have foreseen the brilliant career which Vives, then a very young man, was about to run. “ Vives in stadio literario, non minus feliciter quam gnaviter decertat, et si satis ingenium hominis novi, non conquiescet, donec omnes a tergo relinquerit.”—For this letter (the whole of which is peculiarly interesting, as it contains a character of Sir Thomas More, and an account of the extraordinary accomplishments of his daughters,) see Jortin's Life of Erasmus, vol. II. p. 366,
| See Note A.
their veneration for the Stagirite,* not only threw off the yoke himself, but, in various parts of his writings, speaks of Aristotle with most unbecoming asperity and contempt. In one very remarkable passage, he asserts, that the study of Aristotle was wholly useless, not only in Theology, but in Natural Philosophy. 6 What does it contribute,” he asks,“ to the knowledge of things, to trifle and cavil in language conceived and prescribed by Aristotle, concerning matter, form, motion, and time?" I The same freedom of thought on topics not strictly theological, formed a prominent feature in the character of Calvin. A curious instance of it occurs in one of his letters, where he discusses an ethical question of no small moment in the science of political economy ;-" How far it is consistent with morality to accept of interest for a pecuniary loan ??
On this question, which, even in Protestant countries, continued, till a very recent period, to divide the opinions both of divines and lawyers, Calvin treats the authority of Aristotle and that of the church with equal disregard. To the former, he opposes a close and logical argument, not unworthy of Mr. Bentham.
• In one of his letters he writes thus: “Ego simpliciter credo, quod impossibile sit ecclesiam reformari, nisi funditus canones, decretales, scholastica theologia, philosophia, logica, ut nunc habentur, eradicentur, et alia instituantur.” Bruckeri Hist. Crit. Phil. Tom. IV.p. 95.
| For a specimen of Luther's scurrility against Aristotle, see Bayle, Art. Luther, Note HH.
In Luther's Colloquia Mensalia we are told, that “he abhorred the Sclroolmen, and called them sophistical locusts, caterpillars, frogs, and lice.” From the same work we learn, that “ he hated Aristotle, but highly esteemed Cicero, as a wise and good man.” See Jortin's Life of Erasmus, p. 121.
I“ Nihil adjumenti ex ipso haberi posse non solum ad theologiam seu sacras literas, verum etiam ad ipsam naturalem philosophiam. Quid enim juvet ad reruin cognitionem, si de materia, formâ, motu, tempore, nugari et cavillari queas verbis ab Aristotele conceptis et præscriptis ?" Bruck. Hist. Phil. Tom. IV. p. 101.
The following passage to the same purpose is quoted by Bayle: “Non mihi per. suadebitis, philosophiaın esse garrulitatem illam de materiâ, motu, infinito, loco, vacuo, tempore, quæ lerè in Aristotele sola discimus, talia quæ nec intellectuin, nec affectum, nec communes hominum mores quidquam juvent; tantum contentionibus serendis seminandisque idonea.” Bayle, Art. Luther, Note HH.
I borrow from Bayle another short extract from Luther : “ Nihil ita ardet animus, quàm histrionem illum, (Aristotelem,) qui tam verè Græcâ larvâ ecclesiam lusit, multis revelare, ignominiamque ejus cunctis ostendere, si otium esset. Habeo in Danus commentariolos in 1, Physicorum, quibus fabulam Aristæi denuò agere statui in meum istum Protea (Aristotelem.) Pars crucis meae vel maxima est, quod videre cogor fratrum optima ingenia, bonis studiis nata, in istis cænis vitam agere, et operam perdere.” Ibid.
That Luther was deeply skilled in the scholastic philosophy we learn from very bugbe authority, that of Melanchthon ; who tells us farther, that he was a strenuous partizan of the sect of Nominalists, or, as they were then generally called, Termi. nisis. Bruck. Tom. IV. pp. 93, 94, et seq.
To the latter he replies, by showing, that the Mosaic law on this point was not a moral but a municipal prohibition ; a prohibition not to be judged of from any particular text of Scripture, but upon the principles of natural equity." The example of these two Fathers of the Reformation, would probably have been followed by consequences still greater and more immediate, if Melanchthon had not unfortunately given the sanction of his name to the doctrines of the Peripatetic school : † but still, among the Reformers in general, the credit of these doctrines gradually declined, and a spirit of research and of improvement prevailed.
The invention of printing, which took place very nearly at the same time with the fall of the Eastern Empire, besides adding greatly to the efficacy of the causes above mentioned, must have been attended with very important effects of its own, on the progress of the human mind. For us, who have been accustomed, from our infancy, to the use of books, it is not easy to form an adequate idea of the disadvantages which those labored under, who had to acquire the whole of their knowledge through the medium of universities and schools ;-blindly devoted as the generality of students must then have been to the peculiar opinions of the teacher, who first unfolded to their curiosity the treasures of literature and the wonders of science. Thus error was perpetuated ; and, instead of yielding to time, acquired additional influence in each successive generation. In modern times, this influence of names
• See Note B.
7" Et Melanchthoni quidem præcipue debetur conservatio philosophiæ Aristotelicæ in Academiis protestantium. Scripsit is compendia plerarumque disciplinarum philosophim Aristotelicæ quæ in Academiis diu regnârunt.” Heineccii Elem. Hist. Phil. Sciii. See also Buyle's Dictionary, Art. Melanchthon.
I It was in consequence of this mode of conducting education by means of oral instruction alone, that the different sects of philosophy arose in ancient Greece; and it seems to have been with a view of counteracting the obvious inconveniencés resulting from them, that Socrates introduced his peculiar method of questioning, with an air of sceptical diffidence, those whom he was anxious to instruci ; so as to allow thom, in forming their conclusions, the complete and unbiassed exercise of their own reason. Such, at least, is the apology offered for the apparent indecision of the Academic school, by one of its wisest, as well as most eloquent adherents. for other sects," says, Cicero," who are bound in fetters, before they are able to form any judgment of what is right or true, and who have been led to yield themselves up, in their tender years, to the guidance of some friend, or to the captivating eloquence of the teacher whom they have first heard, they assume to themselves the right of pronouncing upon questions of which they are completely ignorant; adhering to whatover crood the wind of doctrine may have driven them, as if it were the only rock on which their safety depended.” Cic. Lucullus, 3.