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exist, thought would be able to conceive more than nature could furnish, which is a contradiction.

Spinoza did not clearly discern universal progress; the world, as he conceives it, seems as it were crystallized in a matter which is incorruptible extension, in a soul that is immutable thought; the sentiment of God deprives him of the sentiment of man; for ever face to face with the Infinite, he did not sufficiently perceive what of the Divine conceals itself in relative manifestations ; but he, better than any other, saw the eternal identity which constitutes the basis of all transitory evolutions. Whatever is limited seems to him frivolous and unworthy to occupy a philosopher. Bold in flight, he soared straight to the lofty snow-covered summits, without casting a glance on the rich display of life springing up on the mountain's side. At an altitude where every breast but his own pants hard, he lives, he enjoys, he flourishes there as men in general do in mild and temperate regions. What he for his part needs is the glacier air, keen and penetrating. He does not ask to be followed; he is like Moses, to whom secrets unknown to the crowd reveal themselves on the heights; but be sure of thishe was the seer of his age, he was in his own da the one who saw deepest into God.


It might have been supposed that, all alone on those snowy peaks, he would turn out in human affairs wrong-headed, utopian, or scornfully sceptical. Nothing of the kind. He was incessantly occupied with the application of his principles to human society. The pessimism of Hobbes and the dreams of Thomas More were equally repugnant to him. One-half at least of the “TheologicoPolitical Treatise” which appeared in 1670, might be reprinted to-day without losing any of its appropriateness. Listen to its admirable title:-“ Tractatus Theologico-Politicus, continens dissertationes aliquot, quibus ostenditur, libertatem philosophandi non tantum salva pietate et reipublicæ pace posse concedi, sed eamdem nisi cum pace reipublicæ ipsaque pietate tolli non posse.” For centuries past it had been supposed that society rested on metaphysical dogmas. Spinoza discerns profoundly that these dogmas, assumed to be necessary to humanity, yet cannot escape discussion; that revelation itself, if there be one, traversing, in order to reach us, the faculties of the human mind, is no less than all else amenable to criticism. I wish I could quote in its entirety that admirable Chapter XX., in which our great publicist establishes with masterly skill that dogma-new then, and still contested in our own day-which styles itself liberty of conscience. —

. “ The final end of the State,” he says, “ consists not in dominating over men, restraining them by fears, subjecting them to the will of others, but, on the contrary, in permitting each one to live in all possible security; that is to say, in preserving intact the natural right of each to live without injury to himself or others. No, I say, the State has not for its end the transformation of men from reasonable beings into animals or automata ; it has for end so to act that its citizens should in security develop soul and body, and make free use of their reason. Hence the true end of the State is liberty. Whosoever means to respect the rights of a sovereign should never act in opposition to his decrees; but each has the right to think what he will, and to say what he thinks, provided he content himself with speaking and teaching in the name of pure reason, and do not attempt on his private authority to introduce innovations into the State. For example, a citizen who demonstrates that a certain law is repugnant to sound reason, and holds that for that cause it ought to be abrogated—if he submit his opinions to the judgment of the sovereign, to whom alone it belongs to establish and to abolish laws, and if meanwhile he acts in no wise contrary to law—that man certainly deserves well of the State as the best of citizens.

“ Even if we admit the possibility of so stifling men's liberty, and laying such a yoke upon them that they dare not even whisper without the approbation of the sovereign, never most surely can they be prevented from thinking as they will. What then must ensue? That men will think one way and speak another; that consequently good faith—a virtue most necessary to the State—will become corrupted; that adulation—a detestable thing--and perfidy will be had in repute, entailing the decadence of all

— good and healthy morality. What can be more disastrous to a State than to exile honest citizens as evil-doers because they do not share the opinions of the crowd and are ignorant of the art of feigning? What more fatal than to treat as enemies and doom to death men whose only crime is that of thinking independently? The scaffold, which should be the terror of the wicked, is thus turned into the glorious theatre where virtue and toleration shine out in all their lustre, and publicly cover the sovereign majesty with opprobrium. Beyond question there is only one thing to be learnt from such a spectacle—to imitate those noble martyrs; or if one fears death, to become the cowardly flatterers of power. Nothing, then, is so full of peril as to refer and submit to divine rights matters of pure speculation, and to impose laws on opinions which are, or may be, subjects of discussion among men. If the authority of the State limited itself to the repression of actions while allowing impunity to words, controversies would less often turn into seditions."

More sagacious than many so-called practical men, our speculator sees perfectly well that the only durable Governments are the reasonable, and that the only reasonable Governments are the constitutional. Far from absorbing the individual in the State, he gives him solid guarantees against the State's omnipotence. He is no revolutionary, but a moderate; he transforms, explains, but does not destroy. His God is not indeed one who takes pleasure in ceremonies, sacrifices, odour of incense, yet Spinoza has no design whatever to overthrow religion ; he entertains a profound veneration for Christianity, a tender and a sincere respect. The supernatural, however, has no meaning in his doctrine. According to his principles anything out of nature would be out of being and therefore inconceivable. Prophets, revealers, have been men like others :

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“It is not thinking but dreaming,” he says, “ to hold that prophets have had a human body and not a human soul, and that consequently their knowledge and their sensations have been of a different nature from ours." “ The prophetic faculty has not been the dowry of one people only, the Jewish people. The quality of Son of God has not been the privilege of one man only.

To state my views openly, I tell you that it is not absolutely necessary to know Christ after the flesh; but it is otherwise when we speak of that Son of God, that is to say, that eternal Wisdom of God, which has manifested itself in all things, and more fully in the human soul, and above all in Jesus Christ. Without this wisdom no one can attain the state of beatitude, since it alone teaches us what is true and what is false, what is right and what is wrong.

As to what certain Churches have added,

I have expressly warned you that I do not know what they mean, and to speak frankly I may confess that they seem to me to be using the same sort of language as if they spoke of a circle assuming the nature of a square.”

Was not this exactly what Schleiermacher said ? and as to Spinoza, the fellow-founder with Richard Simon of Biblical exegesis, was not he the precursor of those liberal theologians who have in our own day shown that Christianity can retain all its glory without supernaturalism ? His letters to Oldenburg on the resurrection of Jesus Christ and of the manner in which St. Paul understood it, are masterpieces which a hundred years later would have served as the manifesto of a whole school of critical theology.

In the eyes of Spinoza it signifies little whether mysteries be understood this way or that, provided they be understood in a pious sense. Religion has one aim only, piety; and we are to appeal to it not for metaphysics but for practical guidance. At bottom there is but one single thing in Scripture as in all revelation: “Love your neighbour.” The fruit of religion is blessedness; each one participating in it according to his capacity and his efforts. The souls that are governed by reason—the philosophic souls that have even in this world their life in Godare safe from death; what death takes from them is of no value; but weak or passionate souls perish almost entirely, and death, instead of being for them a simple accident, involves the foundation of their being. ... The ignorant man who lets himself be swayed by blind passions is agitated in a thousand different directions by external causes, and never enjoys true peace of soul; for him ceasing to suffer means ceasing to be. The soul of the wise man, on the other hand, can scarcely be troubled. Possessing by a kind of eternal necessity the consciousness of itself and of God and of things, he never ceases to be, and ever preserves the soul's

true peace.

Spinoza could not endure his system to be considered irreligious or subversive. The timid Oldenburg did not conceal from him that some of his opinions seemed to certain readers to tend to the overthrow of piety. - Whatever accords with reason,” replied


Spinoza, “is in my belief most favourable to the practice of virtue.” The pretended superiority of coarsely positive conceptions as to religion and a future life found him intractable. "Is it, I ask, to cast off religion," he was wont to say, “ to acknowledge God as the Supreme Good, and thence to conclude that he must be loved with a free soul? To maintain that all our felicity and most perfect freedom consists in that love—that the reward of virtue is virtue, and that a blind and impotent soul finds its punishment in its blindness—is this a denial of all religion ?” At the root of all such attacks he traced meanness of soul. According to him any one who felt irritated by a disinterested religion involuntarily confessed reason and virtue to have no charm in his eyes, and that his pleasure would lie in living to indulge his passions if he were not restrained by fear. “ Thus then,” he would add, "such a one only abstains from evil and obeys the Divine commandment regretfully as a slave, and in return for this slavery expects from God rewards which have infinitely more value in his eyes than the Divine law. The more aversion and estrangement from good he may have felt, the more he hopes to be recompensed, and imagines that they who are not restrained by the same fear as himself do what he would do in their case—that is to say, live lawlessly.” Spinoza held with reason that this manner of seeking heaven was contrary to reason, and that there is an absurdity in pretending to gain God's favour by owning to him that, did one not dread him, one would not love.

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He was, however, well aware of the danger of interfering with beliefs in which few admit these subtle distinctions. Cauté was his motto, and, his friends having made him aware of the explosion that the “ Ethica” would infallibly produce, he kept it unpublished till his death. He had no literary vanity, nor did he seek celebrity -possibly, indeed, because he was sure to obtain it without seeking. He was perfectly happy; he has told us so—let us take him at his word. He has done still better; he has bequeathed us his secret. Let all men listen to the recipe of the “Prince of Atheists” for the discovery of happiness—it is the love of God. To love God is to live in God. Life in God is the best and most perfect because it is the reasonablest, happiest, fullest—in a word, because it gives us more being than any other life, and satisfies most completely the fundamental desire that constitutes our essence.

Spinoza’s whole practical life was regulated according to these maxims. That life was a masterpiece of good sense and judgment. It was led with the profound skill of the wise man who desires one thing only, and invariably ends by obtaining it. Never did policy so well combine means and end. Had he been less reticent, he would perhaps have met the same fate as the unfortunate Acosta. Loving truth for its own sake, he was in different to the abuse that his constancy in speaking it entailed, and answered never a word to the attacks made on him. For his part he attacked no one. “ It is foreign to my habits,” he said, “to look out for the errors into which authors have fallen.” Had he desired to be an official personage, his life would no doubt have been traversed by persecution, or at least by disgrace. He was nothing and desired to be nothing. Ama nesciri was his desire as well as that of the author of the De Imitatione. He sacrificed everything to peace of mind, and in so doing there was no selfishness, for his mind was of importance to the world. He frequently refused wealth on its way to him, and desired only what was absolutely necessary. The King of France offered him a pension; he declined. The Elector Palatine offered him a chair at Heidelberg: “Your freedom shall be complete,” he was told, “ for the prince is convinced that you will not abuse it to disturb the established religion.” “I do not very well understand," he replied, “within what limits it would be necessary to confine that philosophical freedom granted me on condition of not disturbing the established religion ; and then again, the instruction I bestowed on youth would hinder my own advance in philosophy. I have only succeeded in procuring for myself a tranquil life by the renunciation of all kinds of public teaching." He felt that his duty was to think; he thought in fact for humanity, whose ideas he forestalled by more than two centuries.

The same instinctive sagacity was carried by him into all the relations of life ; he felt that public opinion never permits a man to be daring in two directions at once; being a free-thinker, he looked upon himself as bound to live like a saint. But I am wrong in saying this; was not this pure and gentle life rather the direct expression of his peaceful and loveable consciousness? At that period the atheist was pictured as a villain armed with daggers. Spinoza was throughout his whole lifetime humble, meek, pious. His enemies were ingenuous enough to object to this : they would have liked him to live conformably to the conventional type, and after the career of a demon incarnate to die in despair. Spinoza smiled at this singular pretension, and refused to oblige his enemies by changing his way of life. He had warm friends, he showed himself courageous at need, he protested against popular indignation wherever he thought it unjust. Many disappointments failed to shake his fidelity to the republican party; the liberality of his opinions was never at the mercy of events. What perhaps does him more honour still, he possessed the esteem and sincere affection of the simple beings among whom he lived. Nothing is equal in value to the esteem of the lowly;

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