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1559, aged sixty-three years ; leaving behind him this character among the Roman catholics, that, “ as he was a learned man, so might he have been promoted according to his deserts, if he had been constant to his principles.” The work abovementioned is a defence of the king's supremacy against the claims of the church of Rome, and is dedicated by the author to king Henry VIII. He did not venture to publish it, till he saw that the pope's power was wholly exterminated in England. It was printed at London in 1546, in 8vo, and afterwards in the first volume of “ Monarchia Romani Imperii,” &c. by Melchior Goldast Hamensfeldius, at Francfort, 1621, fol.'

BEKKER (BALTHASAR), a once celebrated Dutch divine, was born in 1634, at Warthuisen, a village in the province of Groningen. He learned the Latin tongue at home under his father, and at sixteen years of age was entered at the university of Groningen, where he applied bimself to the study of the Greek and Hebrew languages, and made also a considerable proficiency in history and philosophy. He went afterwards to Franeker, where he studied divinity for four years and a half, when he was chosen minister at Oosterlingen, a village about six miles from Franeker. He discharged his duty with great diligence, and found time to read and examine the writings of the most eminent philosophers and divines. He kept a constant correspondence with James Alting, under whom he had studied the Hebrew tongue, and with the famous Cocceius. In 1665 he took his degree of doctor of divinity, at Franeker, and the next year was chosen one of the ministers of that city. When he was minister at Oosterlingen, he composed a short catechism for children, and in 1670 he published another for persons of a more advanced

age. This last being strongly objected to by several divines, the author was prosecuted before the ecclesiastical assemblies; and notwithstanding many learned divines gave their testimonies in favour of this catechism, yet in the synod held in 1671, at Bolswart in Friezland, it was voted there, to contain several strange expressions, unscriptural positions, and dangerous opinions, which ought not to be printed, or, being printed, not to be published, but that if revised and corrected, it might be printed. Bekker appealed to the next synod, which met at Franeker, in July 1672, who 1 Biog. Brit.--Wood's Ath. vol. I.--Dodd's Church Hist.---Leland's Encomia.

chose a committee of twelve deputies, to inquire into this affair, and to finish it in six weeks. They examined Bekker's catechism very carefully, and at last subscribed an act in which were the following words : “ That they had altered all such expressions as seemed to be offensive, strange, or uncommon : that they had examined, secundum fidei analogiam, what had been observed by the several classes.as unscriptural; and that they judged Dr. Bekker's book, with their corrections, might, for the edification of God's church, be printed and published, as it contained several wbolsome and useful instructions." This judgement was approved of by the synod held at Harlingen next year; but such is the constitution of synods in the seven provinces, that one can annul what another has established, and Bekker suffered for two years longer much trouble and vexation.

In 1674 he was chosen minister at Loenen, a village near Utrecht; but he did not continue here long, being about two years after called to Wesop, and in 1679 chosen minister at Amsterdam. The comet which appeared in 1680 and 1681, gave him an opportunity of publishing a small book in Low Dutch, entitled “ Ondersock over de Kometei," that is, " An inquiry concerning Comets," wherein he endeavoured to shew, that comets are not the presages or forerunners of any evil. This piece gained him great reputation, as did likewise his Exposition on the prophet Daniel, wherein he gave many proofs of his learning and sound judgment; but the work which rendered him most famous, is his “ De betover Wereld,” or the “World bewitched,” published in 1691, 4to and 8vo. In this work he took occasion, from the Cartesian definition of spirit, to deny boldly, all the accounts we have in scripture of the seduction, influence, and operations of the devil and his infernal emissaries, and combines with this, the denial of all that has been said in favour of the existence of ghosts, spectres, and magicians. He modifies and perverts, with the greatest ingenuity, but also with equal temerity and presumption, the accounts given by the sacred writers of the power of Satan, and wicked angels, and of persons possessed by evil spirits: he affnıms, likewise, that the unhappy and malignant being, who is called in scripture, Satan, or the devil, is chained down with his infernal mi nisters in hell: so that he can never conie forth from this eternal prison to terrify mortals, or to seduce the righteous


from the paths of virtue. The substance of his argument, as far as it is founded on the Cartesian definition of mind or spirit, is this : “ The essence of mind is thought, and the essence of matter extension. Now, since there is no sort of conformity or connection between thought and extension, mind cannot act upon matter, unless these two substances be united, as soul and body are in man; therefore no separate spirits, either good or evil, can act upon mankind. Such acting is miraculous, and miracles can be performed by God alone. It follows, of consequence, that the scriptural accounts of the actions and operations of good and evil spirits must be understood in an allegorical sense.”—Such an argument does little honour to Bekker's acuteness and sagacity. By proving too much, it proves nothing at all : for if the want of a connection or conformity between thought and extension renders the mind incapable of acting upon matter, it is difficult to see how their union should remove this incapacity, since the want of conformity and of connection remains, notwithstanding this union. Besides, according to this reasoning, the supreme being cannot act upon material beings. In vain does Bekker maintain the affirmative, by having recourse to a miracle : for this would imply, that the whole course of nature is a series of miracles, that is to say, that there are no miracles at all.

This work excited great tumults and divisions, not only in the United Provinces, but also in some parts of Germany, where several divines of the Lutheran church were alarmed at its progress, and arose to oppose it. Bekker, however, although successfully refuted, and publicly deposed from his pastoral charge, obstinately adhered to his opinions until his death, which happened June 11, 1698. Accord ing to his biographer in the Gen. Dict. “ he was a laborious, learned, and ingenious man, always desiring to improve in knowledge. As he was inclined to think freely, he would never admit any one's opinion implicitly, but used to examine every thing according to the strictest rules of reason, or what appeared reason to him. He was of a very obliging temper, and knew how to make himself acceptable to those who conversed with him. He had a quick genius, and when he had once imbibed any opinion, it was very difficult to make him change it, and sometimes he trusted too‘much to his own judgment. He was, like men who use to meditate deeply, more able to raise doubts and difficulties, than VOL. IV.


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to solve them. He was not endowed with the external gifts of preaching, and though he was skilled in mathematics, the best logic in the world, yet his sermons were not very methodical; but then they were suited to the capacity of the vulgar, and he was always ready to preach extempore, without preparation. He was of a very facetious temper, and sometimes could not forbear to jest even in the pulpit. It seems he had the vanity of becoming the head of a sect; and has had the pleasure to see that his followers were called from his name Bekkerians. Mr. Bayle calls him a rank rationalist, who, preferring philosophical arguments before the authority of the scripture, put such a sense upon the words and expressions of the holy writers, as favoured his hypothesis.' The reader will readily perceive much in this character that applies to free-thinkers of all nations

and ages.

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BEL (JOHN JAMES), counsellor of the parliament of Bourdeaux, was born there March 21, 1693, and at the age of nine was sent for education to the college of the Oratory at Juilly, in the diocese of Meaux. Although of a weakly habit, he made great progress in his early studies, and was liberally encouraged by one of the regent masters, father de Vizé. In 1711 he returned to his family, where he continued his studies, deriving some assistance from his father, a man of talents, but austere and somewhat unsocial. Here, likewise, he found many young men of his own age who like himself were intended for the bar or for offices of the magistracy. After five or six years application, M. Bel employed his pen on various subjects of metaphysics and morals, and amused himself occasionally with perusing the best poets. In 1720, he was received as a counsellor of parliament, and conducted himself in the causes entrusted to him, with strict probity and impartiality. In 1731, on the death of his father, he succeeded him in the office of treasurer of France. During his residence at Paris, he formed an intimacy with the literati of the metropolis, and projected two considerable works, for which he had collected materials : the one on taste, its history, progress and decline; the other on French poetry. On his return to Bourdeaux in 1736, he was elected a member of the Bourdeaux academy, and the following year chosen director, on which occasion he made a speech

Gen, Dict-Mosheim's Eccl. History.Moreri in Bekker.---Saxii Onomasticon.

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which included some part of the work on taste above-mentioned. Some time afterwards he resigned his office of counsellor, and obtained letters of superannuation (lettres de veteran). In 1737, the academy having proposed “muscular motion" as the subject of the prize of that year, which was won by Mr. Alexander Stuart, a Scotchman, and physician to the queen of England, M. Bel, after examining the various dissertations sent in on this occasion, read one of his own on the same subject before the academy; and in order to study this and similar subjects more fully, with a view to his situation in the academy, he determined to make another visit to Paris. But from the moment of his arrival there, he gave himself up so unremittingly to study, as to bring on a dangerous illness, of which he died August 15, 1738. He left to the academy of Bourdeaux, his house and a fine and well-chosen library, with a fund for the maintenance of two librarians. His principal publications were, 1. “ Apologie de M. Houdart de la Motte, de l'academie Françoise, Paris, 1724," 8vo, a satirical attack on M. de la Motte's works, especially his dramas. 2.“ Dictionnaire Neologique,” since considerably augmented by the abbé Fontaines, a work intended to ridicule the use of new and affected words. He wrote also a criticism on the Mariamne of Voltaire, and some similar criticisms inserted in the Literary Memoirs published by father Moletz of the oratory."

BEL, or BELIUS (MATTHIAS), born at Otsova in Hungary, in 1684, studied with great diligence at Halle, where he made uncommon proficiency in the learned languages. Being returned to his native country, he excited a love for the belles-lettres among the students of several protestant colleges, and applied himself with success to the history of Hungary. Nicholas Palfi, viceroy of that country, was of great assistance to him in his inquiries, by granting him access to a variety of archives. He spent the major part of his life in this study, and died in the year 1749. His principal works are, 1.“ De vetere Literatura Hunno-scythica exercitatio,” Leipsic, 1718, 4to, a learned work. 2.“ Hungariæ antiquæ et novæ prodromus," Nuremberg, 1723, folio. In this he gives the plan of a great work he was meditating, but which he had not leisure to publish. . 3. « De peregrinatione linguæ Hungaricæ in Europam.” 4.“ Adpa

1 Moreri.-Dict. Hist.

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