« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »
twenty years; and pray now their favourable dismission of me, for the reasons above mentioned. I have enclosed half-a-dozen funeral sermons on Dr. Mather, and one occasioned by the death of Madame Usher, who has left a good name behind her as a gentlewoman and as a Christian ; as also twelve of Mr. Stodard's discourses, which he sent me of his own mere accord, for the propagation of the gospel, which I hope will be useful and acceptable.
“Praying God to keep your Honour and the Honourable Company, I take leave, who am your Honour's most humble and obedient servant,
“ SAMUEL SEWALL.” *
* New England Company's M8S.
The discoveries of Sir Jsaac Newton at this period, hailed with wonder in the scientific world, gave a powerful impulse to investigation of every Effect of kind. His methods were imperfectly Newton'. understood, and most difficult to follow. Of his own countrymen, Maclaurin was the only mathematician apparently capable of entering into his profound calculations, but the results of his enquiries were sufficiently palpable to convince intelligent observers that his theory of gravitation, in particular, was correct, and that confidence might be placed in the exactness of his statements in relation to the order of the solar system and the mechanism of the universe.
The impression was produced on the minds of many, excited by the grandeur and sublimity of the facts demonstrated in astronomy, that all truth might be ascertained by a similar process.
Continental philosophers, by simpler calculations, arrived at certain conclusions confirmatory of the Newtonian theory, and were so satisfied and elated with their success that they seemed inclined to accept no light from divine revelation, but to trust entirely to their own observation and the deductions
of reason in the higher problems affecting the condition and final destiny of the human race.
To meet the demand for evidence more direct and certain than that required for moral conviction, the attempt was made to apply mathematical reasoning in questions of morality and religion. Dr. Francis Hutcheson showed the method of stating the importance of a character, rather than the degree of virtue in any particular action, by the following formula :
“Let M signify the moment, or degree of good produced by the person whose character is under consideration ; B, the benevolence
of bis temper, and A, his ability ; then, M = Bx A, Mathematical Morale.
i.e., in a compound ratio of his benevolence and
ability; when in any two beings their abilities are the same, M = B; when their benevolence is equal, M = A. On the other hand, it appears from the former view, that M
i.e., directly as the moment of good, and inversely as the
M + I
A He adds, that is the perfection of goodness when M = A, for then the virtue of any two beings compared will be equal, i.e., =1:1, whatever their abilities are.
“ To express the degree of moral evil in any character, let M signify the degree of evil produced, and I hatred or ill-will; and the former canon (mut. mutand.) may be applied.” *
Dr. SAMUEL CLARKE, in his “Boyle Lecture at St. Paul's Cathedral, entitled, “A Demonstration of
the Being and Attributes of God,” per
suaded himself that he had laid the most solid ground of proof in defence of the truth against
• Hutcheson's Enquiry, pp. 168, 174—177, 178.
Hobbes, Spinoza, and their followers. “I have confined myself,” he says, “to one only method or continued thread of arguing, which I have endeavoured should be as near to mathematical as the nature of such a discourse would allow."
WILLIAM WHISTON, successor to Newton in the Mathematical Chair at Cambridge, greatly
Whiston. distinguished himself in the new line of thought. He hoped everything from the amazing progress made in his special department.
“The wonderful Newtonian Philosophy," he says, “I look apon as an eminent prelude and preparation to those happy times of the restitution of all things which God has spoken of by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began (Acts iii. 21). Nor can I forbear to wish that my own important discoveries concerning true religion and primitive Christianity may succeed in the second place to his surprising discoveries, and may together have such a divine blessing upon them that the kingdoms of this world, as I firmly expect they will, may become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of His Christ, and He may reign for ever and ever. Amen and Amen."
On some points Whiston claimed pre-eminence, and hinted that Newton was jealous of his superiority, and on this account he kept back the most wonderful of his own discoveries until his precursor in the field of investigation was removed from the world.
In his “ Astronomical Principles of Religion," Whiston flattered himself that he had settled the most difficult questions of chronology, and
Astronomical determined the final abode of departed Principles
of Religion. souls. The air is invisible, and therefore he concluded that, as spirits are also unseen, they must float in the atmosphere. A cavity in the centre of the earth, he was convinced, was the abode of the
impenitent prior to restoration, and that in the tail of a comet would be found the place of final punishment. He contended that both heaven and hell would terminate in annibilation, and that Christ Himself would cease to exist.
discovery ” filled him with more delight than that of the real date of the Deluge.
“I cannot,” he says, “but look on the solution of the Deluge by that very comet which I myself saw, A.D. 1680–1681, to be
in a manner certain ; and, by consequence, I cannot Real Date of the Deluge.
but esteem the evidence thepce arising for the truth
of the sacred history in this important case exceeding strong and satisfactory. Nor do I think that so unexpected an attestation (as that of the circumstances and period of this comet for solving the Deluge lately discovered most certainly is) has ever been by any so strange an hypothesis before since the world began, which thing cannot but be highly pleasing to myself, and I think it is highly worthy of the observation of others also." By a still more extraordinary “hypothesis,” Whiston anticipated the “conflagration of the world by the approach of a comet after broiling in the sun.” *
Finding some difficulty with respect to the doctrine of the Trinity, in order to broader views, Whiston, for reasons not clearly explained, transferred his confidence from the New Testament to the patristic work called “
Apostolical Constitutions," and on the basis of that peculiar production projected a scheme for promoting primitive Christianity. Societies for this purpose were
to be formed, with certain rules, of which the twelfth is to this effect:
“ To examine, in particular, the authority of the Apostolical Constitutions, the only remaining system that claims to deliver
• Whiston's Astronomical Frinciples of Religion, p. 148.