Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

the design of which was to reconcile the Dissenters to the Established Church, by shewing the weakness of their scruples, and demonstrating the sin and danger of their fchismatical separation from her communion. The title of Dr. Tenison's discourse is "An Argument for Union, taken from the Interest of those Dissenters in England who profess themselves Protestants."

Besides these performances, he published an excellent treatise on the Origin of Idolatry, and some acute pieces against Hobbes. It was on the occasion of this latter controversy, that the learned Dr. John Wallis wrote to him a remarkable letter, which, as giving a curious picture of the famous philosopher of Malmesbury, we have thought worth incorporating in this memoir. >

Sir, Oxford, Nov. 30. 1.680. 1

I received yours of November 25, and approve the de« sign. The Life you speak of I have not seen; no^ do I know that I ever saw the man*. Of his writings I have read very little, save what relates to mathematics. By that I find him to have been of a bold daring fancy (to venture at any thing); but he wantedjudgment to understand the consequence of an argument, and to speak consistently with himself: whereby his argumentations, which he pretends to be demonstration, are very often but weak and incoherent discourses, and destruction in one part of what is said in another, sometimes within the compass of the fame page or leaf. This is more convincingly evident (and more unpardonable) in mathematics, than in other discourse, which are things capable of cogent demonstrations, and so evident, that (though a good mathematician may be subject to commit an error, yet) one who understands but little of it, cannot but fee a fault, when it is shewed him. "Far (they be his own words, Leviathan, part I. ch. 5, p. 21) who is so stupid as both to mistake in geometry, and also to persist in it when another detects his errors to him?" Now when so many hundred paralogisms and false propositions have been shewed him in his Mathematics, by those who have written against him, and that so evidently that no one mathematician at home or abroad (no not those of his intimate friends) have been found to justify him in anyone of them, which makes him somewhere say of himself, Aut ego solus infanio aut solus non infanio; he hath been yet so Jiupid (to use hot word) as to persist in them, to repeat and defend them; par

* Mr. Hobbes.

T T a Ocularly ticularly he hath first and last given ut near twenty quadratures or the circle, of which some few, though false, have been coincident (which therefore I repute for the fame, only differently disguised) but more than a dozen of them are such, as no two of them are consistent, and yet he would have them thought to be all true. Now either he thought so himself (and then you must take him to be a persohoi a very shallow capacity, and not such*a man of reason as he would be thought to be) or else knowing them to be false was obstinately resolved, notwithstanding, to maintain them as true; and he must then be a person of no faith or honesty. And if he argue at this rate in mathematics, what are we to expect in his other discourses?

Nor am I the first who have taken notice of his incoherent way of discourse and illogical inferences. Mr. Boyle, in his Examen of Mr. Hobbes's Dialogus Physicus de' Nature Aeris, p. 15 , and I think elsewhere, though I do not remember the place, refers to Dr. Ward's Dissertatio in Philosophiam Hobbianam, p. 188, who voucheth Des Cartes to the fame purpose. Nempe hoc eslquod alicubi admiratus eji Magnus Cartefius, nusquam eum Jive verum Jive 'salfum posuerit, rc£lc ahquid ex Juppojitionibus ratiocinando inferre. I think the place in Cartes is in his Responsiones ad Quartas Objectiones-(at least so those objections which are Mr. Hobbes's). All which shew that he was not a man of strong reason; but only of a bold daring fancy, which, with his magnificent way of speaking, did not (convince but) please those who loved to be atheists, and were glad to hear any body dare boldly,to fay what they wished to be true; like people that love to be flattered, who are well pleased to hear themselves commended, even when they know what is said tc be false. At least quod volumus, facile credimus; and in such a case, a weak argument shall pass for a demonstration. 1

in sum, I can hardly believe Mr. Hobbes himself (nor perhaps any pretenders to it) was so much an atheist; as h« woulcLfain have been, but did really dread a future slate; otherwise he would not have been so dreadfully afraid of death, as the concurrent testimony of those who knew him do represent him. In particular, the lady Ranelagh, (or Mr. Boyle in her house, I have forgotten whether), told me, divers years ago, that, a great lady, with whom she had lately been, told her of a discourse which had then, lately, happened, between Mr. Hobbes and that great lady, (l

guess guess it was the old countess of Devonshire, but am not certain). He told her, in commendation of life, that rf he were master of all the world to dispose 6f, he would give it to live one day. She replied with wonder, that a person of his knowledge, who had so many friends to oblige or gratify, would, not' deny himself one day's content of living, if thereby he were able to gratify them with all the world. His answer was " What shall I be the better for that, when I am dead? I fay again, if I had all the world to dispose of, I would give it to live one day," or to that effect. The lady perhaps may remember it better than I, and more things to the fame purpose. I am the more confirmed in this opinion from what is related in the sermon at the funeral of the late ,earl of Rochester, who could talk atheistical things with as much briskness and as much wit as Mr. Hobbes, and with more of fense and reason, yet could not strongly believe it, but was galled cœco vulnere, with a recoiling conscience which did at length fly in his .face with so much fury (I hope through God's mercy to him) that he could bear it no longer. He complained, as is there related, amongst other things, of the mischief *$Ær. Hobbes's principles had done him, and many others ruined by his.principles. The great Selden also, I hear, was sensible of it. Dr. Gerard Langbaine, then provost of Queen's College, Oxon, a great friend of Mr. Selden's, and a good man, who was with him in his sickness and at his death, wrote me a letter on the occasion, containing divers serious and .... things said by Mr. Selden to him in that sickness; and told me particularly, that Mr. Hobbes then coming to give Mr..Selden a visit, Mr. Selden would not admit him, but answered, 'No Hobbes, no atheiji ;' and of ■whom I hear that Mr. Hobbes's censure was, that he (Mr. Selden) lived like a *?ise man, and died like a fool.

The character I have had of Mr. Hobbes was, that he was morose, supercilious, highly opinionated of himself, and impatient of contradiction, which when he met with, it put him upon great passion and very foul language. Much to that purpose is mentioned in a piece published by Dr. Ward, 'about the year 1664, but without his name* entitled Vindiciæ Academiarum, against one Webster; with some animadversions on Mr. Hobbes. He had in his younger days some little insight in mathematics; and which at that time, (when few had any) passed for a great deal. On the credit ot which he did much bear up himself as a great man, and having somewhat singular, and hereupon despised divines

as

as not being philosophers, and philosophers as not bein£ mathematicians; without which he would haye it thought impossible to do any good in philosophy. De Corpore, cap. vi, sect, vi; And so long as he did but talk and forbear to write, he did, by his own report, pass for a mathematician. But when once he began to write mathematics, he presently fell into those gross absurdities, and discovered in himself such an incapacity for it, as could not have been imagined of him if he had forborne to write. And truly I look upon it as a great providence, that God mould leave him to so great a degree of infatuation in that wherein he did so much pride himself. For whereas in discourses of other subjects mistakes may be shuffled over with a multitude of great words, in mathematics it cannot be so. And hereby he discovered himself, without possibility of palliation, not to be that man of reason that he would be thought to be. For though a man may be rational, who is not a mathematician, (and had he not pretended to it, his ignorance had been excusable); but for so great a pretender, and who had gloried in it for so long a time, and was acquainted with the principles of it, from such principles to infer such absurd conclusions, must needs argue a want of logic, and an incapacity, not only to reason well, but even to understand reason. And I guess it was his affectation of singularity, (as much as any thing), which made him engage in atheistical tenets ; that he might seem to be a man ot greater reach than all the world besides.

I know not what to add more; but if this may contribute any thing to your business, it is at your service.

Your's, to serve you,

John Wallis.

Dr. Tenison was one of the commissioners appointed to prepare matters to be considered of in convocation in 1689. One design of this commission was to review the liturgy, out of which Dr. Tenison collected those words and expressions which had been excepted against, and proposing others in their room, which were more clear«and plain, and less liable to objection. The original of the alterations suggested by himself and the rest of the commissioners, remained in his hands after he was archbissiop, but he was always cautious of trusting any of them out of his own hands. He was also the author of a Discourse concerning that Commission, proving it to be agreeable to the law of the land, useful to the

Convocation,

Convocation, tending to the well being of the Church, and seasonable at this juncture. 4m. 1689. Notwithstanding this, the commission came to an end without effecting any thing.

On the death of bishop Barlow, Dr. Tenison was nominated to the fee of Lincoln, and consecrated January 10. 1691-2. By the last will of Mr. Boyle, who died the same month, he was appointed one of the trustees of the lecture founded by that great man; and according to Dr. Derham, •* it was Dr. Tenison who encouraged that, noble charity in the settlement os it, in the honourable founder's life time; and after his death procured a more certain salary for the lecturers to be paid more constantly and duly than it was before." This was done by obtaining a yearly stipend of fifty pounds, td be paid quarterly for ever, charged upon a farm in the parish of Brill, in the county of Bucks.*

In 1694, he was removed to the archbishoprick of Canterbury, on which occasion, bishop Kennet says, that " he had been exemplary in every station of his life, had restored a neglected large diocese to some discipline and good order; and had before, in the office of a parochial minister, done as much good as perhaps was possible for any one man to do." It was with great importunity, and after the rejecting ofbetter offers, that he was' prevailed with to take the bishoprick of Lincoln; and it was with greater reluctancy tha' he now received their majesties' desire and command for his tranflation to Canterbury, to which he was nominated December 8, soon after elected by the dean and chapter, and that election confirmed in the church of St. Mary-le-Bow, in London, January l6.t

In 1700, the archbishop was placed at the head of a commission for the purpose of recommending proper persons to fill ecclesiastical dignities, and to be presented to crown livings. This commission, however, came to nothing. During the reign of king William, the archbishop was always oneof the lords justices, whenever his majesty went abroad; as he also was in the interval between the death of queen Anne, and the arrival of George the First, both which monarchs he had the honour of crowning at Westminster.

After

* Complete Hist, of England, vol. iii. p, 676. t Dedication to Physieo Theology, 1

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »