« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »
thought it beneath the public care to promote and reward the improvement of their own language. Polishing and enriching their tongue, is no small business amongst them: it hath colleges and stipends appointed it, and there is raised amongst them a great ambition and emulation of writing correctly: and we see what they are come to by it, and how far they have spread one of the worst languages, possibly, in this part of the world, if we look upon it as it was in some few reigns backwards, whatever it be now. The great men amongst
the Romans were daily exercising themselves in their - own language; and we find yet upon record the names
of orators, who taught some of their emperors Latin, though it were their mother-tongue.
It is plain the Greeks were yet more nice in theirs; all other speech was barbarous to them but their own, and no foreign language appears to have been studied or valued amongst that learned and acute people; though it be past doubt, that they borrowed their learning and philosophy from abroad.
I am not here speaking against Greek and Latin; I think they ought to be studied, and the Latin, at least, understood well, by every gentleman. But whatever foreign languages a young man meddles with, (and the more he knows, the better, that which he should critically study, and labour to get a facility, clearness, and elegancy to express himself in, should be his own, and to this purpose he should daily be exercised in it.
1 § 190. Natural philosophy, as a speculaNatural Philosophy.
tive science, I imagine, we have none; and .perhaps I may think I have reason to say, we never shall be able to make a science of it. The works of nature are contrived by a wisdom, and operate by ways, too far surpassing our faculties to discover, or capacities to conceive, for us ever to be able to reduce them into a science. Natural philosophy being the knowledge of the principles, properties, and operations of things, as they are in themselves, I imagine there are two parts of it, one comprehending spirits, with their nature and qualities; and the other bodies. The first of these is usually referred to metaphysics: but under what title soever the consideration of spirits comes, I think it ought to go before the study of matter and body, not as a science that can be methodized into a system, and treated of, upon principles of knowledge; but as an enlargement of our minds towards a truer and fuller comprehension of the intellectual world, to which we are led both by reason and revelation. And since the clearest and largest discoveries we have of other spirits, besides God and our own souls, is imparted to us from heaven by revelation, I think the information, that at least young people should have of them, should be taken from that revelation. To this purpose, I conclude, it would be well, if there were made a good history of the Bible for young people to read; wherein if every thing that is fit to be put into, it, were laid down in its due order of time, and several things omitted, which are suited only to riper age; that confusion, which is usually produced by promiscuous reading of the scripture, as it lies now bound up in our Bibles, would be avoided; and also this other good obtained, that by reading of it constantly, there would be instilled into the minds of children a notion and belief of spirits, they having so much to do, in all the transactions of that history, which will be a good preparation to the study of bodies. For, without the notion and allowance of spirit, our philosophy will be, lame and defective in one main part of it, when it leaves out the contemplation of the most excellent and power-, ful part of the creation.
§ 191. Of this history of the Bible, I think too it would be well, if there were a short and plain epitome made, containing the chief and most material heads for; children to be conversant in, as soon as they can read. This, though it will lead them early into some notion, of spirits, yet is not contrary to what I said above, that I would not have children troubled, whilst young, with notions of spirits; whereby my meaning was, that I think it inconvenient, that their yet tender minds should receive early impressions of goblins, spectres, and appa., ritions, wherewith their maids, and those about them,
are apt to fright them intoʻa compliance of their orders; which often proves a great inconvenience to them all their lives after, by subjecting their minds to frights, fearful apprehensions, weakness, and superstition; which, when coming abroad into the world and conversation, they grow weary and ashamed of; it not seldom happens, that to make, as they think, a thorough cure, and ease themselves of a load, which has sat so heavy on them, they throw away the thoughts of all spirits together, and so run into the other, but worse extreme.
§ 192. The reason why I would have this premised to the study of bodies, and the doctrine of the scriptures well imbibed, before young men be entered in natural philosophy, is, because matter being a thing that all our senses are constantly conversant with, it is so apt to possess the mind, and exclude all other beings but matter, that prejudice, grounded on such principles, often leaves no room for the admittance of spirits, or the allowing any such things as immaterial beings, " in « rerum naturâ;" when yet it is evident, that by mere matter and motion, none of the great phænomena of nature can be resolved: to instance but in that common one of gravity, which I think impossible to be explained by any natural operation of matter, or any other law of motion, but the positive will of a superiour Being so ordering it. And therefore since the deluge cannot be well explained, without admitting something out of the ordinary course of nature, I propose it to be considered, whether God's altering the centre of gravity in the earth for a time (a thing as intelligible as gravity itself, which perhaps a little variation of causes, unknown to us, would produce) will not more easily account for Noah's flood, than any hypothesis yet made use of, to solve it. I hear the great objection to this is, that it would produce but a partial deluge. But the alteration of the centre of gravity once allowed, it is no hard matter to conceive, that the divine power might make the centre of gravity, placed at a due distance from the centre of the earth, move round it in a convenient space of time; whereby the flood would become uni. versal, and, as I think, answer all the phænomena of the deluge, as delivered by Moses, at an easier rate than those many hard suppositions that are made use of, to explain it. But this is not a place for that argument, which is here only mentioned by the by, to show the necessity of having recourse to something beyond bare matter, and its motion, in the explication of nature; to which the notions of spirits, and their power, as delivered in the bible, where so much is attributed to their operation, may be a fit preparative; reserving to a fitter opportunity a fuller explication of this hypothesis, and the application of it to all the parts of the deluge, and any difficulties that can be supposed in the history of the flood, as recorded in the scripture.
$ 193. But to return to the study of natural philo. sophy; though the world be full of systems of it, yet I cannot say, I know any one which can be taught a young man as a science, wherein he may be sure to find truth and certainty, which is what all sciences give an expectation of. I do not hence conclude, that none of them are to be read: it is necessary for a gentleman, in this learned age, to look into some of them to fit himself for conversation: but whether that of Des Cartes be put into his hands, as that which is the most in fashion, or it be thought fit to give him a short view of that and several others also; I think the systems of natural philosophy, that have obtained in this part of the world, are to be read more to know the hypotheses, and to understand the terms and ways of talking of the several sects, than with hopes to gain thereby a comprehensive scientifical and satisfactory knowledge of the works of nature: only this may be said, that the modern corpuscularians talk, in most things, more intel. ligibly than the peripatetics, who possessed the schools immediately before them. He that would look farther back, and acquaint himself with the several opinions of the ancients, may consult Dr. Cudworth's Intellectual System : wherein that very learned author hath, with such accurateness and judgment, collected and explained the opinions of the Greek philosophers, that what principles they built on, and what were the chief hypotheses that divided them, is better to be seen in him, than any where else that I know. But I would not deter any one from the study of nature, because all the knowledge we have, or possibly can have of it, cannot be brought into a science. There are very many: things in it, that are convenient and necessary to be known to a gentleman; and a great many other, that will abundantly reward the pains of the curious with delight and advantage. But these, I think, are rather to be found amongst such writers, as have employed themselves in making rational experiments and observations, than in starting barely speculative systems. Such writings, therefore, as many of Mr. Boyle's are, with others that have writ of husbandry, planting, gardening, and the like, may be fit for a gentleman, when he has a little acquainted himself with some of the systems of natural philosophy in fashion.
$ 194. Though the systems of physics, that I have met with, afford little encouragement to look for.certainty, or science, in any treatise, which shall pretend to give us a body of natural philosophy from the first principles of bodies in general; yet the incomparable Mr. Newton has shown, how far mathematics, applied to some parts of nature, may, upon principles that matter of fact justify, carry us in the knowledge of some, as I may so call them, particular provinces of the incomprehensible universe. And if others could give us so good and clear an account of other parts of nature, as he has of this our planetary world, and the most considerable phænomena observable in it, in his admirable book “ Philosophiæ naturalis principia mathematica," we might in time hope to be furnished with more true and certain knowledge in several parts of this stupen. dous machine, than hitherto we could have expected. And though there are very few that have mathematics enough to understand his demonstrations; yet the most accurate mathematicians, who have examined them, allowing them to be such, his book will deserve to be read, and give no small light and, pleasure to those, who, willing to understand the motions, properties,