Page images
PDF
EPUB

C. Baldwin, Printer, New Bridge Street, London.

THE

BRITISH PLUTARCH.

SIR MATTHEW HALE.*

[1609—1676.]

It has been considered as no small argument in favour of Christianity, that it has found among it's ablest defenders those, who cannot be supposed to have been influenced by any other motive than a conviction of it's truth. To the objections of the infidel, founded upon the selfishness of it's general advocates, not only the learning and the genius, but (perhaps, still more) the disinterestedness of Newton, and Boyle, and Locke have invariably supplied a powerful answer. May it not then be esteemed a considerable advantage to the cause, to be able to include the name of Sir Matthew Hale in this illustrious list? His admirable sagacity and strict impartiality in the investigation of truth, and his habitual

* AUTHORITIES. General Biographical Dictionary, Biographia Britannica; Burnet's Life of Hale; and Thirlwall's Edition of his Moral and Religious Works.' VOL. IV.

B

diligence in examining the force of evidence, confer a peculiar and irresistible force upon his testimony. Men, who might peruse the writings of ecclesiastics upon the subject with a prejudiced eye, cannot be insensible to the authority of one, whose natural constitution, profession, and integrity alike raised him above suspicion; and who was not less distinguished by the solidity of his judgement and the acuteness of his discrimination, than by his constant strain of industry, piety, and virtue.*

* I cannot refrain from attaching in a note a most splendid passage from Mr. Erskine's Speech upon · Paine's Age of Reason,” though perhaps familiar to many of my readers : “_But it seems. this is an Age of Reason, and the time and the person are at last arrived, that are to dissipate the errors, which have overspread the past generations of ignorance. The believers in Christianity are many; but it belongs to the few, that are wise, to correct their credulity. Belief is an act of reason; and superior reason may, therefore, dictate to the weak. In running the mind along the list of sincere and devout Christians, I cannot help lamenting that Newton had not lived to this day, to have had his shallowness filled up with this new flood of light. But the subject is too aweful for irony. I will speak plainly, and directly. Newton was a Christian : Newton, whose mind burst forth from the fetters fastened by nature upon our finite conceptions; Newton, whose science was truth, and the foundation of whose knowledge of it was philosophy, not those visionary and arrogant presumptions which too often usurp it's name, but philosophy resting upon the basis of mathematics which like figures cannot lie; Newton, who carried the line and rule to the uttermost barriers of creation, and explored. the principle, by which all created matter exists and is held together.

“ But this extraordinary man, in the mighty reach of his mind, overlooked perhaps the errors, which a minuter examination of the created things on this earth might have taught him. What shall then be said of the great Mr. BOYLE, who looked: into the organic structure of all matter, even to the inanimate

« PreviousContinue »