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Progress of the Nation. page 8


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How bright wert thou when Shem's admiring eye
Thy burning, flaming arch did first descry!
When Zerah, Nahor, Haran, Abram, Lot,
The youthful world's gray fathers in one knot,
Did with attentive looks watch every hour
For thy new light.
And so Campbell; -
When on the green, undeluged earth,
Heaven's covenant, thou didst shine;
How came the world's gray fathers forth
To watch thy sacred sign.

Altogether, no age - not even our own - has produced such a constellation of poets, nor such a mass of exquisite, superb, and imperishable poetry. Whilst Shakespeare was fast departing, Milton was rising, and during this period wrote many of his inimitable smaller poems. Even the honest Andrew Marvel, when freed from his labours in the great struggle for the commonwealth, solaced himself with writing poetry, English and Latin, and some of it of no contemptible order - as in his boat-song of the exiles of the Bermudas: -

Thus they sang in the English boat
A holy and a cheerful note,
And all the way, to guide the chime,
They with the falling oars kept time.

So he forgot occasionally polemics and politics in "a holy and a cheerful note" of his own. Even the saturnine Sir Thomas Overbury, whom Somerset and his wife had murdered in the Tower, could brighten up in poetry as in his "Choice of a Wife:" -

If I were to chose a woman,
As who knows but I may marry,
I would trust the eye of no man,
Nor a tongue that may miscarry;
For in way of love and glory
Each tongue best tells his own story.

The prose of the age, was equally remarkable. First and foremost stands Francis Bacon with his "Novum Organum," a new instrument of discovery in philosophy, and other works of a kindred character. He tells us that in his youth, whilst he was only sixteen, he took a great aversion to the philosophy of Aristotle; being, he said, a philosophy only strong for disputations and contentions, but barren of the production of works for the life of man; and in this mind he continued through life. Besides other works of less note, in 1605 he published one of great importance on "The Advancement of Learning;" soon after he published the outline or groundwork of his Organum, under the title of "Cogitata et Visa; or, Things Thought Out and Seen," and proudly boasted of it as the greatest birth of time. He afterwards published the "Wisdom of the Ancients," and it was not till 1621, and when he had reached the summit of his profession, and been made Viscount of St. Albans, that he brought out his great work, "The Instauration of the Sciences," of which the "Novum Organum" is the second part. No work was so little understood at the time or has occasioned such a variety of opinions since. Bacon was well aware that such would be the case, for in his will he says that he leaves his name and memory to foreign nations, and to his own countrymen after some time be passed over. Bacon asserted that he had superseded the Aristotelian philosophy, and introduced a new and accurate method of inquiry, both into mind and matter, by experiment and induction. By one party he is declared to be the great renovator of true knowledge, and the father of the modern sciences by this method; by another, that he did nothing of the kind, and that modern discovery would have progressed as well without his new instrument; that Aristotle pursued this method of induction himself, and that Galileo discovered the motion of the earth by the same means that Bacon taught at the same time. But whoever has acquainted himself with the system of Aristotle, and, still more, with the loose and absurd method by which it was taught in the schools before Bacon's time, must see that Bacon, if he did not altogether introduce the system, reduced it to precision and accuracy, and thus put an end to the windy logic and abortive practice of the schools. They were accustomed to assume false and visionary premises, and reason from them by syllogisms which, of course, proved nothing. Bacon, by proceeding by analysis and synthesis - by first extracting from a substance, or a topic, everything that did not really belong to it, and then bringing these expurgated matters into contrast, drew sure conclusions, and advanced towards positive discovery. True, Galileo worked by the same method; but Bacon taught it, and made it clear to all understandings. To say, therefore, that modern science owes nothing to Bacon is to utter a self-evident falsity. Both in experimental philosophy and in metaphysical inquiry, it is Bacon's light, and not Aristotle's, which is followed. That Bacon himself made no great discoveries in prosecuting his own method, proves nothing; because, though he was not sufficiently advanced in the actual knowledge of the properties of matter, he saw and taught clearly how such knowledge was to be acquired, and applied to the legitimate development of science. How completely ignorant was the age in which he appeared of real experimental philosophy, is shown by the ridicule and contempt which was cast on the "Novum Organum." Such men as Ben Jonson and Sir Henry Wotton expressed their profound admiration of it, but by the wits of the time Bacon was laughed at as little better than a maniac. Bishop Andrews, in allusion to his title of "St. Albans," said he was on the highway to Dunce-table. King James said, in his almost blasphemous way, that it was like the peace of God - passing all understanding; and lord Coke said -

It deserveth not to be read in schools,
But to be freighted in the ship of fools.

He was represented by men eminent in the world's opinion as "no great philosopher - a man rather of show than of depth, who wrote philosophy like a lord chancellor." Abroad, as Bacon had foreseen, his work was received in a different manner, and pronounced by the learned one of the most important accessions ever made to philosophy. Our space does not admit of our going into an analysis of his great work; but whoever will carefully study it, will find not merely the exposition of his method, but views stretching into the heights and depths, not only of our own nature but of the nature and life of the universe in which we move, that stamp the mind of Bacon as one of the most capacious, many-sided, and profound that ever appeared.

Next to Bacon we should place the prose writings of Milton in general importance and intellectual greatness. As Bacon's were directed to the advancement of true liberty in philosophy, Milton's were directed to the liberation of the church and state from the tyranny of king and custom. His "Areopagitica," a speech for the liberty of unlicensed printing, is a grand plea for the freedom of the press; his "Civil Power in Ecclesiastical Cases," and the "Best Means of Removing Hirelings out of the Church," go to the root of all hierarchical corruption. Besides these, his "Defence of the People of England" in reply to Salmasius, his "Second Defence" in reply to Peter du Moulin, and his "Eikonoklastes" in refutation of the "Eikon Basilike," attributed to Charles I., but written by Dr. Gauden, and others of his prose works, are written in a somewhat stiff, but lofty and massive style. They foreshow the great national poet of "Paradise Lost;" and cannot be read without a deep veneration for the great puritan champion of the liberties and fame of England.

Next to these we should name the great advocates of protestantism, Hales and Chillingworth. The "Discourse on Schism" is the writing of Hales which brought him into notice, and led to the most important consequences. It struck at the very root of tradition and submission to the authority of the fathers, which Laud and his party in the church had exerted themselves to establish; and this was followed out by Chillingworth in his great work, "The Religion of Protestants a Safe Way to Salvation." In this work, which has since been styled the bulwark of protestantism, Chillingworth endeavoured to prove the divine authority of the Bible on the basis of historic evidence, and having done that to his entire satisfaction, he declared that the religion of protestants was the Bible; and nothing but the Bible. By this rule alone they are, in his opinion, to be judged; the Scriptures alone are to be the standard of their doctrines. He thus cut off all the claims of popery built on tradition, and established the right of private judgment. In this he served not only the established church, to which he belonged, but every body of christians whatever; for they had, according to his reasoning, the same right to interpret the Bible for themselves. ' This gave great scandal to the bigoted party in the church. They declared that he had destroyed faith, by reducing it to simple reason. He was violently attacked by both catholics and puritans. Knott, a jesuit, and Dr. Cheynell, one of the assembly of divines, were his most determined opponents. Cheynell wrote against him, "Chillingworthi Novissima; or, the Sickness, Heresy, Death, and Burial of W. C., with a Profane Catechism selected out of his Works." Not satisfied with this, he attended his funeral, made a violent harangue against him, and flung the "Religion of Protestants" into his grave, crying, "Get thee gone, thou cursed book, which has seduced so many precious souls - get thee gone thou corrupt, rotten book, earth to earth, dust to dust, go and rot with thy author." The Protestant church has fully acknowledged the signal services of Chillingworth. Even those who deem that there are other evidences of Christianity than the historic evidences, or even the deductions of criticism, admit that his arguments alone are sufficient to demonstrate the genuineness of the Bible records, and therefore of the christian religion. The highest encomiums have been paid to the masterly reasoning and convincing eloquence of Chillingworth, by Locke, Clarendon, Gibbon, Dugald Stewart, and all our great theological writers.

What Chillingworth did for protestantism, Cudworth, in his great work, "The True Intellectual System of the Universe," did for religion in general, demolishing most completely the philosophy of atheism and infidelity. Barrow, Henry More, and Jeremy Taylor added much wealth to the theological literature of the age. More and Barrow belong, however, more properly to the next period. Bishop Taylor, who was the son of a barber, became one of the most celebrated preachers of that period, and both his sermons and his other works have received from many of our chief critics and historians the most encomiastic praises. He has been represented as a modern Chrysostom. Much of this praise he undoubtedly deserves, but modern readers coming to him after such extravagant laudation, experience a sensible disappointment. His "Holy Living and Dying" may be taken as the most favourable specimen of his writings; and though grave, pleasing, and consolatory, it does not strike us by any means as highly or brilliantly eloquent. His sermons, especially on the "Marriage Ring" and on the "House of Feasting," are of the same character; they are full of piety, sweetness, and grace, but they are not eloquence of the highest class. His sentences are often wearyingly long, his illustrations do not always appear very pertinent, and his manner is too much that of the father of the fourth century, whom he appears to have greatly formed himself upon. On the whole, however, he is a great ornament to our religious literature, and will be more enjoyed by those who have not expected to be astonished and dazzled.

The writings of archbishop Usher, and the sermons of bishop Andrews deserve mention; but the works of Fuller, the author of the "Worthies of England," "The Church History of Great Britain," and various other histories, "Holy and Prophane States," &c., are undoubtedly the most witty and amusing of the whole period; and, next to Burton's "Anatomie of Melancholie," a work, too, of this time, has furnished to modern authors more original ideas, more frequent and pregnant sentiments and allusions than any others in the language. They have been rivers of thought to men who had very little of their own. Harrington's "Oceana," a political romance, written to illustrate the opinion that the great power of nations consists in its property, has been variously estimated, but has ideas to repay a reader who has leisure and patience. A writer who has always taken a high rank for originality, is Sir Thomas Browne, the author of "Religio Medici," "Urn Burial," "The Garden of Cyrus," &c. Browne ranges freely from the quincunx of the gardens of the ancients, to the highest flights of metaphysical speculation. He is quaint, abrupt, and singular, but at the same time he is extremely suggestive of thought, and extends the sphere of human inquiry and sympathy far beyond the physical limits of most writers of his class. There is also a school of historians of this age of eminent merit, at the head of which stands Sir Walter Raleigh with his " History of the World;" Knowles with his able "History of the Turks;" Daniel with his " History of England" to the reign of Edward III.; and Thomas May, with the "History of the Long Parliament," and his "Breviary of the History of Parliament," two invaluable works. Camden's "Britannia" and "Annals " appeared at this epoch. Various chronicles were also issued at this period - Hall's "Union of the Families of York and Lancaster," Grafton's "Chronicle," Holinshed's, and Baker's. The works of Stow and Speed appeared in the early part of it. Stow's "Summary of the English Chronicles," 1565; his "Annals," 1573; his "Flores Historiarum," an enlarged edition of his chronicle, 1600; his "Survey of London," 1598; Speed's "Theatre of the Empire of Great Britain," 1606; and his "History of Great Britain," in 1614. Besides these appeared the u Memoirs of Rushworth." Thurloe's and Whitelock's were written, but did not appear till a later period. The commencement of the Long Parliament marked also a remarkable era that of the first English newspaper, under the name of "Diurnals," or daily records of parliamentary proceedings. The idea once started, newspapers rapidly spread, so that betwixt the commencement of the civil war and the restoration, nearly two hundred were published, but none more frequently than once a week for some time, nor afterwards oftener than twice or three times a week. It was, moreover, an age of political tracts and pamphlets. In science the discovery of the circulation of the blood by Harvey, and of logarithms by Napier, were the great events of that department. On the whole, the intellectual development of the age was as great and marvellous as was its political advance. To' no other modern nation can we point which in one and the same period has produced three such men as Shakespeare, Milton, and Bacon, amid a host of lesser, but scarcely less precious lights, at the same time that it was working out one of the most stupendous revolutions in human government, and the imperishable principles of it, that the world has seen. On reviewing this period, well might Wordsworth exclaim: -

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Pictures for Progress of the Nation. page 8

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