Beacon Lights of History, Volume 3, Part 2
John Lord

Part 5 out of 6

Moses and the prophets saw and recognized, and who by his special
providence rules the destinies of men. The most intellectual of
the reformers abhorred the deification of the reason, and clung to
that exalted supernaturalism which was the life and hope of blessed
saints and martyrs in bygone ages, and which in "their contests
with mail-clad infidelity was like the pebble which the shepherd of
Israel hurled against the disdainful boaster who defied the power
of Israel's God." And he was thus brought into close sympathy with
the realism of the Fathers, who felt that all that is valuable in
theology must radiate from the recognition of Almighty power in the
renovation of society, and displayed, not according to our human
notions of law and progress and free-will, but supernaturally and
mysteriously, according to his sovereign will, which is above law,
since God is the author of law. He simply erred in enforcing a
certain class of truths which must follow from the majesty of the
one great First Cause, lofty as these truths are, to the exclusion
of another class of truths of great importance; which gives to his
system incompleteness and one-sidedness. Thus he was led to
undervalue the power of truth itself in its contest with error. He
was led into a seeming recognition of two wills in God,--that which
wills the salvation of all men, and that which wills the salvation
of the elect alone. He is accused of a leaning to fatalism, which
he heartily denied, but which seems to follow from his logical
conclusions. He entered into an arena of metaphysical controversy
which can never be settled. The doctrines of free-will and
necessity can never be reconciled by mortal reason. Consciousness
reveals the freedom of the will as well as the slavery to sin. Men
are conscious of both; they waste their time in attempting to
reconcile two apparently opposing facts,--like our pious fathers at
their New England fire-sides, who were compelled to shelter
themselves behind mystery.

The tendency of Calvin's system, it is maintained by many, is to
ascribe to God attributes which according to natural justice would
be injustice and cruelty, such as no father would exercise on his
own children, however guilty. Even good men will not accept in
their hearts doctrines which tend to make God less compassionate
than man. There are not two kinds of justice. The intellect is
appalled when it is affirmed that one man JUSTLY suffers the
penalty of another man's sin,--although the world is full of
instances of men suffering from the carelessness or wickedness of
others, as in a wicked war or an unnecessary railway disaster. The
Scripture law of retribution, as brought out in the Bible and
sustained by consciousness, is the penalty a man pays for personal
and voluntary transgression. Nor will consciousness accept the
doctrine that the sin of a mortal--especially under strong
temptation and with all the bias of a sinful nature--is infinite.
Nothing which a created mortal can do is infinite; it is only
finite: the infinite belongs to God alone. Hence an infinite
penalty for a finite sin conflicts with consciousness and is
nowhere asserted in the Bible, which is transcendently more
merciful and comforting than many theological systems of belief,
however powerfully sustained by dialectical reasoning and by the
most excellent men. Human judgments or reasonings are fallible on
moral questions which have two sides; and reasonings from texts
which present different meanings when studied by the lights of
learning and science are still more liable to be untrustworthy. It
would seem to be the supremest necessity for theological schools to
unravel the meaning of divine declarations, and present doctrines
in their relation with apparently conflicting texts, rather than
draw out a perfect and consistent system, philosophically
considered, from any one class of texts. Of all things in this
wicked and perplexing world the science of theology should be the
most cheerful and inspiring, for it involves inquiries on the
loftiest subjects which can interest a thoughtful mind.

But whatever defects the system of doctrines which Calvin
elaborated with such transcendent ability may have, there is no
question as to its vast influence on the thinking of the sixteenth
and seventeenth centuries. The schools of France and Holland and
Scotland and England and America were animated by his genius and
authority. He was a burning and a shining light, if not for all
ages, at least for the unsettled times in which he lived. No
theologian ever had a greater posthumous power than he for nearly
three hundred years, and he is still one of the great authorities
of the church universal. John Knox sought his counsel and was
influenced by his advice in the great reform he made in Scotland.
In France the words Calvinist and Huguenot are synonymous.
Cranmer, too, listened to his counsels, and had great respect for
his learning and sanctity. Among the Puritans he has reigned like
an oracle. Oliver Cromwell embraced his doctrines, as also did Sir
Matthew Hale. Ridicule or abuse of Calvin is as absurd as the
ridicule or abuse with which Protestants so long assailed
Hildebrand or Innocent III. No one abuses Pascal or Augustine, and
yet the theological views of all these are substantially the same.

In one respect I think that Calvin has received more credit than he
deserves. Some have maintained that he was a sort of father of
republicanism and democratic liberty. In truth he had no popular
sympathies, and leaned towards an aristocracy which was little
short of an oligarchy. He had no hand in establishing the
political system of Geneva; it was established before he went
there. He was not even one of those thinkers who sympathized with
true liberty of conscience. He persecuted heretics like a
mediaeval Catholic divine. He would have burned a Galileo as he
caused the death of Servetus, which need not have happened but for
him. Calvin could have saved Servetus if he had pleased; but he
complained of him to the magistrates, knowing that his condemnation
and death would necessarily follow. He had neither the humanity of
Luther nor the toleration of Saint Augustine. He was the
impersonation of intellect,--like Newton, Leibnitz, Spinoza, and
Kant,--which overbore the impulses of his heart. He had no
passions except zeal for orthodoxy. So pre-eminently did intellect
tower above the passions that he seemed to lack sympathy; and yet,
such was his exalted character, he was capable of friendship. He
was remarkable for every faculty of the mind except wit and
imagination. His memory was almost incredible; he remembered
everything he ever read or heard; he would, after long intervals,
recognize persons whom he had never seen but once or twice. When
employed in dictation, he would resume the thread of his discourse
without being prompted, after the most vexatious interruptions.
His judgment was as sound as his memory was retentive; it was
almost infallible,--no one was ever known to have been misled by
it. He had a remarkable analytical power, and also the power of
generalization. He was a very learned man, and his Commentaries
are among the most useful and valued of his writings, showing both
learning and judgment; his exegetical works have scarcely been
improved. He had no sceptical or rationalistic tendencies, and
therefore his Commentaries may not be admired by men of "advanced
thought;" but his annotations will live when those of Ewald shall
be forgotten; they still hold their place in the libraries of
biblical critics. For his age he was a transcendent critic; his
various writings fill five folio volumes. He was not so voluminous
a writer as Thomas Aquinas, but less diffuse; his style is lucid,
like that of Voltaire.

Considering the weakness of his body Calvin's labors were
prodigious. There was never a more industrious man, finding time
for everything,--for an amazing correspondence, for pastoral
labors, for treatises and essays, for commentaries and official
duties. No man ever accomplished more in the same space of time.
He preached daily every alternate week; he attended meetings of the
Consistory and of the Court of Morals; he interested himself in the
great affairs of his age; he wrote letters to all parts of

Reigning as a religious dictator, and with more influence than any
man of his age, next to Luther, Calvin was content to remain poor,
and was disdainful of money and all praises and rewards. This was
not an affectation, not the desire to imitate the great saints of
Christian antiquity to whom poverty was a cardinal virtue; but real
indifference, looking upon money as impedimenta, as camp equipage
is to successful generals. He was not conscious of being poor with
his small salary of fifty dollars a year, feeling that he had
inexhaustible riches within him; and hence he calmly and naturally
took his seat among the great men of the world as their peer and
equal, without envy of the accidents of fortune and birth. He was
as indifferent to money and luxuries as Socrates when he walked
barefooted among the Athenian aristocracy, or Basil when he retired
to the wilderness; he rarely gave vent to extravagant grief or joy,
seldom laughed, and cared little for hilarities; he knew no games
or sports; he rarely played with children or gossiped with women;
he loved without romance, and suffered bereavement without outward
sorrow. He had no toleration for human infirmities, and was
neither social nor genial; he sought a wife, not so much for
communion of feeling as to ease him of his burdens,--not to share
his confidence, but to take care of his house. Nor was he fond,
like Luther, of music and poetry. He had no taste for the fine
arts; he never had a poet or an artist for his friend or companion.
He could not look out of his window without seeing the glaciers of
the Alps, but seemed to be unmoved by their unspeakable grandeur;
he did not revel in the glories of nature or art, but gave his mind
to abstract ideas and stern practical duties. He was sparing of
language, simple, direct, and precise, using neither sarcasm, nor
ridicule, nor exaggeration. He was far from being eloquent
according to popular notions of oratory, and despised the jingle of
words and phrases and tricks of rhetoric; he appealed to reason
rather than the passions, to the conscience rather than the

Though mild, Calvin was also intolerant. Castillo, once his
friend, assailed his doctrine of Decrees, and was obliged to quit
Geneva, and was so persecuted that he died of actual starvation;
Perrin, captain-general of the republic, danced at a wedding, and
was thrown into prison; Bolsec, an eminent physician, opposed the
doctrine of Predestination, and was sentenced to perpetual
imprisonment; Gruet spoke lightly of the ordinances of religion,
and was beheaded; Servetus was a moral and learned and honest man,
but could not escape the flames. Had he been willing to say, as
the flames consumed his body, "Jesus, thou eternal Son of God, have
mercy on me!" instead of, "Jesus, thou son of the eternal God!" he
might have been spared. Calvin was as severe on those who refused
to accept his logical deductions from acknowledged truths as he was
on those who denied the fundamental truths themselves. But
toleration was rare in his age, and he was not beyond it. He was
not even beyond the ideas of the Middle Ages in some important
points, such as those which pertained to divine justice,--the wrath
rather than the love of God. He lived too near the Middle Ages to
be emancipated from the ideas which enslaved such a man as Thomas
Aquinas. He had very little patience with frivolous amusements or
degrading pursuits. He attached great dignity to the ministerial
office, and set a severe example of decorum and propriety in all
his public ministrations. He was a type of the early evangelical
divines, and was the father of the old Puritan strictness and
narrowness and fidelity to trusts. His very faults grew out of
virtues pushed to extremes. In our times such a man would not be
selected as a travelling companion, or a man at whose house we
would wish to keep the Christmas holidays. His unattractive
austerity perhaps has been made too much of by his enemies, and
grew out of his unimpulsive temperament,--call it cold if we must,--
and also out of his stern theology, which marked the ascetics of
the Middle Ages. Few would now approve of his severity of
discipline any more than they would feel inclined to accept some of
his theological deductions.

I question whether Calvin lived in the hearts of his countrymen, or
they would have erected some monument to his memory. In our times
a statue has been erected to Rousseau in Geneva; but Calvin was
buried without ceremony and with exceeding simplicity. He was a
warrior who cared nothing for glory or honor, absorbed in devotion
to his Invisible King, not indifferent to the exercise of power,
but only as he felt he was the delegated messenger of Divine
Omnipotence scattering to the winds the dust of all mortal
grandeur. With all his faults, which were on the surface, he was
the accepted idol and oracle of a great party, and stamped his
genius on his own and succeeding ages. Whatever the Presbyterians
have done for civilization, he comes in for a share of the honor.
Whatever foundations the Puritans laid for national greatness in
this country, it must be confessed that they caught inspiration
from his decrees. Such a great master of exegetical learning and
theological inquiry and legislative wisdom will be forever held in
reverence by lofty characters, although he may be no favorite with
the mass of mankind. If many great men and good men have failed to
comprehend either his character or his system, how can a pleasure-
loving and material generation, seeking to combine the glories of
this world with the promises of the next, see much in him to
admire, except as a great intellectual dialectician and system-
maker in an age with which it has no sympathy? How can it
appreciate his deep spiritual life, his profound communion with
God, his burning zeal for the defence of Christian doctrine, his
sublime self-sacrifice, his holy resignation, his entire
consecration to a great cause? Nobody can do justice to Calvin who
does not know the history of his times, the circumstances which
surrounded him, and the enemies he was required to fight. No one
can comprehend his character or mission who does not feel it to be
supremely necessary to have a definite, positive system of
religious belief, based on the authority of the Scriptures as a
divine inspiration, both as an anchor amid the storms and a star of
promise and hope.

And, after all, what is the head and front of Calvin's offending?--
that he was cold, unsocial, and ungenial in character; and that, as
a theologian, he fearlessly and inexorably pushed out his
deductions to their remotest logical sequences. But he was no more
austere than Chrysostom, no more ascetic than Basil, not even
sterner in character than Michael Angelo, or more unsocial than
Pascal or Cromwell or William the Silent. We lose sight of his
defects in the greatness of his services and the exalted dignity of
his character. If he was severe to adversaries, he was kind to
friends; and when his feeble body was worn out by his protracted
labors, at the age of fifty-three, and he felt that the hand of
death was upon him, he called together his friends and fellow-
laborers in reform,--the magistrates and ministers of Geneva,--
imparted his last lessons, and expressed his last wishes, with the
placidity of a Christian sage. Amid tears and sobs and stifled
groans he discoursed calmly on his approaching departure, gave his
affectionate benedictions, and commended them and his cause to
Christ; lingering longer than was expected, but dying in the
highest triumphs of Christian faith, May 27, 1564, in the, arms of
his faithful and admiring Beza, as the rays of the setting-sun
gilded with their glory his humble chamber of toil and spiritual

No man who knows anything will ever sneer at Calvin. He is not to
be measured by common standards. He was universally regarded as
the greatest light of the theological world. When we remember his
transcendent abilities, his matchless labors, his unrivalled
influence, his unblemished morality, his lofty piety, and soaring
soul, all flippant criticism is contemptible and mean. He ranks
with immortal benefactors, and needs least of all any apologies for
his defects. A man who stamped his opinions on his own age and
succeeding ages can be regarded only as a very extraordinary
genius. A frivolous and pleasure-seeking generation may not be
attracted by such an impersonation of cold intellect, and may rear
no costly monument to his memory; but his work remains as the
leader of the loftiest class of Christian enthusiasts that the
modern world has known, and the founder of a theological system
which still numbers, in spite of all the changes of human thought,
some of the greatest thinkers and ablest expounders of Christian
doctrine in both Europe and America. To have been the spiritual
father of the Puritans for three hundred years is itself a great
evidence of moral and intellectual excellence, and will link his
name with some of the greatest movements that have marked our
modern civilization. From Plymouth Rock to the shores of the
Pacific Ocean we still see the traces of his marvellous genius, and
his still more wonderful influence on the minds of men and on the
schools of Christian theology; so that he will ever be regarded as
the great doctor of the Protestant Church.


Henry's Life of Calvin, translated by Stebbings; Dyer's Life of
Calvin; Beza's Life of Calvin; Drelincourt's Defence of Calvin;
Bayle; Maimbourg's Histoire du Calvinisme; Calvin's Works; Ruchat;
D'Aubigne's History of the Reformation; Burnet's Reformation;
Mosheim; Biographie Universelle, article on Servetus; Schlosser's
Leben Bezas; McCrie's Life of Knox; Original Letters (Parker


A. D. 1561-1626.


It is not easy to present the life and labors of

"The wisest, brightest, meanest of mankind."

So Pope sums up the character of the great Lord Bacon, as he is
generally but improperly called; and this verdict, in the main, has
been confirmed by Lords Macaulay and Campbell, who seem to delight
in keeping him in that niche of the temple of fame where the poet
has placed him,--contemptible as a man, but venerable as the
philosopher, radiant with all the wisdom of his age and of all
preceding ages, the miner and sapper of ancient falsehoods, the
pioneer of all true knowledge, the author of that inductive and
experimental philosophy on which is based the glory of our age.
Macaulay especially, in that long and brilliant article which
appeared in the "Edinburgh Review" in 1837, has represented him as
a remarkably worldly man, cold, calculating, selfish a sycophant
and a flatterer, bent on self-exaltation; greedy, careless, false;
climbing to power by base subserviency; betraying friends and
courting enemies; with no animosities he does not suppress from
policy, and with no affections which he openly manifests when it
does not suit his interests: so that we read with shame of his
extraordinary shamelessness, from the time he first felt the
cravings of a vulgar ambition to the consummation of a disgraceful
crime; from the base desertion of his greatest benefactor to the
public selling of justice as Lord High Chancellor of the realm;
resorting to all the arts of a courtier to win the favor of his
sovereign and of his minions and favorites; reckless as to honest
debts; torturing on the rack an honest parson for a sermon he never
preached; and, when obliged to confess his corruption, meanly
supplicating mercy from the nation he had outraged, and favors from
the monarch whose cause he had betrayed. The defects and
delinquencies of this great man are bluntly and harshly put by
Macaulay, without any attempt to soften or palliate them: as if he
would consign his name and memory not "to men's charitable
speeches, to foreign nations, and to the next ages," but to an
infamy as lasting and deep as that of Scroggs and of Jeffreys, or
any of those hideous tyrants and monsters that disgraced the reigns
of the Stuart kings.

And yet while the man is made to appear in such hideous colors, his
philosophy is exalted to the highest pinnacle of praise, as the
greatest boon which any philosopher ever rendered to the world, and
the chief cause of all subsequent progress in scientific discovery.
And thus in brilliant rhetoric we have a painting of a man whose
life was in striking contrast with his teachings,--a Judas
Iscariot, uttering divine philosophy; a Seneca, accumulating
millions as the tool of Nero; a fallen angel, pointing with rapture
to the realms of eternal light. We have the most startling
contradiction in all history,--glory in debasement, and debasement
in glory; the most selfish and worldly man in England, the "meanest
of mankind," conferring on the race one of the greatest blessings
it ever received,--not accidentally, not in repentance and shame,
but in exalted and persistent labors, amid public cares and
physical infirmities, from youth to advanced old age; living in the
highest regions of thought, studious and patient all his days, even
when neglected and unrewarded for the transcendent services he
rendered, not as a philosopher merely, but as a man of affairs and
as a responsible officer of the Crown. Has there ever been, before
or since, such an anomaly in human history,--so infamous in action,
so glorious in thought; such a contradiction between life and
teachings,--so that many are found to utter indignant protests
against such a representation of humanity, justly feeling that such
a portrait, however much it may be admired for its brilliant
colors, and however difficult to be proved false, is nevertheless
an insult to the human understanding? The heart of the world will
not accept the strange and singular belief that so bad a man could
confer so great a boon, especially when he seemed bent on bestowing
it during his whole life, amid the most harassing duties. If it
accepts the boon, it will strive to do justice to the benefactor,
as he himself appealed to future ages; and if it cannot deny the
charges which have been arrayed against him,--especially if it
cannot exculpate him,--it will soar beyond technical proofs to take
into consideration the circumstances of the times, the temptations
of a corrupt age, and the splendid traits which can with equal
authority be adduced to set off against the mistakes and faults
which proceeded from inadvertence and weakness rather than a
debased moral sense,--even as the defects and weaknesses of Cicero
are lost sight of in the acknowledged virtues of his ordinary life,
and the honest and noble services he rendered to his country and

Bacon was a favored man; he belonged to the upper ranks of society.
His father, Sir Nicholas Bacon, was a great lawyer, and reached the
highest dignities, being Lord Keeper of the Great Seal. His
mother's sister was the wife of William Cecil, the great Lord
Burleigh, the most able and influential of Queen Elizabeth's
ministers. Francis Bacon was the youngest son of the Lord Keeper,
and was born in London, Jan. 22, 1561. He had a sickly and feeble
constitution, but intellectually was a youthful prodigy; and at
nine years of age, by his gravity and knowledge, attracted the
admiring attention of the Queen, who called him her young Lord
Keeper. At the age of ten we find him stealing away from his
companions to discover the cause of a singular echo in the brick
conduit near his father's house in the Strand. At twelve he
entered the University of Cambridge; at fifteen he quitted it,
already disgusted with its pedantries and sophistries; at sixteen
he rebelled against the authority of Aristotle, and took up his
residence at Gray's Inn; the same year, 1576, he was sent to Paris
in the suite of Sir Amias Paulet, ambassador to the court of
France, and delighted the salons of the capital by his wit and
profound inquiries; at nineteen he returned to England, having won
golden opinions from the doctors of the French Sanhedrim, who saw
in him a second Daniel; and in 1582 he was admitted as a barrister
of Gray's Inn, and the following year composed an essay on the
Instauration of Philosophy. Thus, at an age when young men now
leave the university, he had attacked the existing systems of
science and philosophy, proudly taking in all science and knowledge
for his realm.

About this time his father died, without leaving him, a younger
son, a competence. Nor would his great relatives give him an
office or sinecure by which he might be supported while he sought
truth, and he was forced to plod at the law, which he never liked,
resisting the blandishments and follies by which he was surrounded;
and at intervals, when other young men of his age and rank were
seeking pleasure, he was studying Nature, science, history,
philosophy, poetry,--everything, even the whole domain of truth,--
and with such success that his varied attainments were rather a
hindrance to an appreciation of his merits as a lawyer and his
preferment in his profession.

In 1586 he entered parliament, sitting for Taunton, and also became
a bencher at Gray's Inn; so that at twenty-six he was in full
practice in the courts of Westminster, also a politician, speaking
on almost every question of importance which agitated the House of
Commons for twenty years, distinguished for eloquence as well as
learning, and for a manly independence which did not entirely
please the Queen, from whom all honors came.

In 1591, at the age of thirty-one, he formed the acquaintance of
Essex, about his own age, who, as the favorite of the Queen, was
regarded as the most influential man in the country. The
acquaintance ripened into friendship; and to the solicitation of
this powerful patron, who urged the Queen to give Bacon a high
office, she is said to have replied: "He has indeed great wit and
much learning, but in law, my lord, he is not deeply read," an
opinion perhaps put into her head by his rival Coke, who did indeed
know law but scarcely anything else, or by that class of old-
fashioned functionaries who could not conceive how a man could
master more than one thing. We should however remember that Bacon
had not reached the age when great offices were usually conferred
in the professions, and that his efforts to be made solicitor-
general at the age of thirty-one, and even earlier, would now seem
unreasonable and importunate, whatever might be his attainments.
Disappointed in not receiving high office, he meditated a retreat
to Cambridge; but his friend Essex gave him a villa in Twickenham,
which he soon mortgaged, for he was in debt all his life, although
in receipt of sums which would have supported him in comfort and
dignity were it not for his habits of extravagance,--the greatest
flaw in his character, and which was the indirect cause of his
disgrace and fall. He was even arrested for debt when he enjoyed a
lucrative practice at the courts. But nothing prevented him from
pursuing his literary and scientific studies, amid great
distractions,--for he was both a leader at the bar and a leader of
the House of Commons; and if he did not receive the rewards to
which he felt entitled, he was always consulted by Elizabeth in
great legal difficulties.

It was not until the Queen died, and Bacon was forty-seven years
old, that he became solicitor-general (1607), in the fourth year of
the reign of James, one year after his marriage with Alice Barnham,
an alderman s daughter, "a handsome maiden," and "to his liking."
Besides this office, which brought him L1000 a year, he about this
time had a windfall as clerk of the Star Chamber, which added L2000
to his income, at that time from all sources about L4500 a year,--a
very large sum for those times, and making him really a rich man.
Six years afterward he was made attorney-general, and in the year
1617 he was made Lord Keeper, and the following year he was raised
to the highest position in the realm, next to that of Archbishop of
Canterbury, as Lord Chancellor, at the age of fifty-seven, and soon
after was created Lord Verulam. That is his title, but the world
persists in calling him Lord Bacon. In 1620, two years after the
execution of Sir Walter Raleigh, which Bacon advised, he was in the
zenith of his fortunes and fame, having been lately created
Viscount St. Albans, and having published the "Novum Organum," the
first instalment of the "Instauratio Magna," at which he had been
working the best part of his life,--some thirty years,--"A New
Logic, to judge or invent by induction, and thereby to make
philosophy and science both more true and more active."

Then began to gather the storms which were to wreck his fortunes.
The nation now was clamorous for reform; and Coke, the enemy of
Bacon, who was then the leader of the Reform party in the House of
Commons, stimulated the movement. The House began its scrutiny
with the administration of justice; and Bacon could not stand
before it, for as the highest judge in England he was accused of
taking bribes before rendering decisions, and of many cases of
corruption so glaring that no defence was undertaken; and the House
of Lords had no alternative but to sentence him to the Tower and
fine him, to degrade him from his office, and banish him from the
precincts of the court,--a fall so great, and the impression of it
on the civilized world so tremendous, that the case of a judge
accepting bribes has rarely since been known.

Bacon was imprisoned but a few days, his ruinous fine of L40,000
was remitted, and he was even soon after received at court; but he
never again held office. He was hopelessly disgraced; he was a
ruined man; and he bitterly felt the humiliation, and acknowledged
the justice of his punishment. He had now no further object in
life than to pursue his studies, and live comfortably in his
retirement, and do what he could for future ages.

But before we consider his immortal legacy to the world, let us
take one more view of the man, in order that we may do him justice,
and remove some of the cruel charges against him as "the meanest of

It must be borne in mind that, from the beginning of his career
until his fall, only four or five serious charges have been made
against him,--that he was extravagant in his mode of life; that he
was a sycophant and office-seeker; that he deserted his patron
Essex; that he tortured Peacham, a Puritan clergyman, when tried
for high-treason; that he himself was guilty of corruption as a

In regard to the first charge, it is unfortunately too true; he
lived beyond his means, and was in debt most of his life. This
defect, as has been said, was the root of much evil; it destroyed
his independence, detracted from the dignity of his character,
created enemies, and led to a laxity of the moral sense which
prepared the way for corruption,--thereby furnishing another
illustration of that fatal weakness which degrades any man when he
runs races with the rich, and indulges in a luxury and ostentation
which he cannot afford. It was the curse of Cicero, of William
Pitt, and of Daniel Webster. The first lesson which every public
man should learn, especially if honored with important trusts, is
to live within his income. However inconvenient and galling, a
stringent economy is necessary. But this defect is a very common
one, particularly when men are luxurious, or brought into
intercourse with the rich, or inclined to be hospitable and
generous, or have a great imagination and a sanguine temperament.
So that those who are most liable to fall into this folly have many
noble qualities to offset it, and it is not a stain which marks the
"meanest of mankind." Who would call Webster the meanest of
mankind because he had an absurd desire to live like an English
country gentleman?

In regard to sycophancy, a disgusting trait, I admit,--we should
consider the age, when everybody cringed to sovereigns and their
favorites. Bacon never made such an abject speech as Omer Talon,
the greatest lawyer in France, did to Louis XIII., in the
Parliament of Paris. Three hundred years ago everybody bowed down
to exalted rank: witness the obsequious language which all authors
addressed to patrons in the dedication of their books. How small
the chance of any man rising in the world, who did not court favors
from those who had favors to bestow! Is that the meanest or the
most uncommon thing in this world? If so, how ignominious are all
politicians who flatter the people and solicit their votes? Is it
not natural to be obsequious to those who have offices to bestow?
This trait is not commendable, but is it the meanest thing we see?

In regard to Essex, nobody can approve of the ingratitude which
Bacon showed to his noble patron. But, on the other hand, remember
the good advice which Bacon ever gave him, and his constant efforts
to keep him out of scrapes. How often did he excuse him to his
royal mistress, at the risk of incurring her displeasure? And
when Essex was guilty of a thousand times worse crime than ever
Bacon committed,--even high-treason, in a time of tumult and
insurrection,--and it became Bacon's task as prosecuting officer of
the Crown to bring this great culprit to justice, was he required
by a former friendship to sacrifice his duty and his allegiance to
his sovereign, to screen a man who had perverted the affection of
the noblest woman who ever wore a crown, and came near involving
his country in a civil war? Grant that Essex had bestowed favors,
and was an accomplished and interesting man,--was Bacon to ignore
his official duties? He may have been too harsh in his procedure;
but in that age all criminal proceedings were harsh and
inexorable,--there was but little mercy shown to culprits,
especially to traitors. If Elizabeth could bring herself, out of
respect to her wounded honor and slighted kindness and the dignity
of the realm and the majesty of the law, to surrender into the
hands of justice one whom she so tenderly loved and magnificently
rewarded, even when the sacrifice cost her both peace and life,
snapped the last cord which bound her to this world,--may we not
forgive Bacon for the part he played? Does this fidelity to an
official and professional duty, even if he were harsh, make him
"the meanest of mankind"?

In regard to Peacham, it is true he was tortured, according to the
practice of that cruel age; but Bacon had no hand in the issuing of
the warrant against him for high-treason, although in accordance
with custom he, as prosecuting officer of the Crown, examined
Peacham under torture before his trial. The parson was convicted;
but the sentence of death was not executed upon him, and he died in

And in regard to corruption,--the sin which cast Bacon from his
high estate, though fortunately he did not fall like Lucifer, never
to rise again,--may not the verdict of the poet and the historian
be rather exaggerated? Nobody has ever attempted to acquit Bacon
for taking bribes. Nobody has ever excused him. He did commit a
crime; but in palliation it might be said that he never decided
against justice, and that it was customary for great public
functionaries to accept presents. Had he taken them after he had
rendered judgment instead of before, he might have been acquitted;
for out of the seven thousand cases which he decided as Lord-
Chancellor, not one of them has been reversed: so that he said of
himself, "I was the justest judge that England has had for fifty
years; and I suffered the justest sentence that had been inflicted
for two hundred years." He did not excuse himself. His
ingenuousness of confession astonished everybody, and moved the
hearts of his judges. It was his misfortune to be in debt; he had
pressing creditors; and in two cases he accepted presents before
the decision was made, but was brave enough to decide against those
who bribed him,--hinc illae lacrymae. A modern corrupt official
generally covers his tracks; and many a modern judge has been
bribed to decide against justice, and has escaped ignominy, even in
a country which claims the greatest purity and the loftiest moral
standard. We admit that Bacon was a sinner; but was he a sinner
above all others who cast stones at Jerusalem?

In reference to these admitted defects and crimes, I only wish to
show that even these do not make him "the meanest of mankind."
What crimes have sullied many of those benefactors whom all ages
will admire and honor, and whom, in spite of their defects, we call
good men,--not bad men to be forgiven for their services, but
excellent and righteous on the whole! See Abraham telling lies to
the King of Egypt; and Jacob robbing his brother of his birthright;
and David murdering his bravest soldier to screen himself from
adultery; and Solomon selling himself to false idols to please the
wicked women who ensnared him; and Peter denying his Master; and
Marcus Aurelius persecuting the Christians; and Constantine putting
to death his own son; and Theodosius slaughtering the citizens of
Thessalonica; and Isabella establishing the Inquisition; and Sir
Mathew Hale burning witches; and Cromwell stealing a sceptre; and
Calvin murdering Servetus; and Queen Elizabeth lying and cheating
and swearing in the midst of her patriotic labors for her country
and civilization. Even the sun passes through eclipses. Have the
spots upon the career of Bacon hidden the brightness of his general
beneficence? Is he the meanest of men because he had great faults?
When we speak of mean men, it is those whose general character is

Now, see Bacon pursuing his honorable career amid rebuffs and
enmities and jealousies, toiling in Herculean tasks without
complaint, and waiting his time; always accessible, affable,
gentle, with no vulgar pride, if he aped vulgar ostentation; calm,
beneficent, studious, without envy or bitterness; interesting in
his home, courted as a friend, admired as a philosopher, generous
to the poor, kind to the servants who cheated him, with an
unsubdued love of Nature as well as of books; not negligent of
religious duties, a believer in God and immortality; and though
broken in spirit, like a bruised reed, yet soaring beyond all his
misfortunes to study the highest problems, and bequeathing his
knowledge for the benefit of future ages! Can such a man be
stigmatized as "the meanest of mankind"? Is it candid and just for
a great historian to indorse such a verdict, to gloss over Bacon's
virtues, and make like an advocate at the bar, or an ancient
sophist, a special plea to magnify his defects, and stain his noble
name with an infamy as deep as would be inflicted upon an enemy of
the human race? And all for what?--just to make a rhetorical
point, and show the writer's brilliancy and genius in making a
telling contrast between the man and the philosopher. A man who
habitually dwelt in the highest regions of thought during his whole
life, absorbed in lofty contemplations, all from love of truth
itself and to benefit the world, could not have had a mean or
sordid soul. "As a man thinketh, so is he." We admit that he was
a man of the world, politic, self-seeking, extravagant, careless
about his debts and how he raised money to pay them; but we deny
that he was a bad judge on the whole, or was unpatriotic, or
immoral in his private life, or mean in his ordinary dealings, or
more cruel and harsh in his judicial transactions than most of the
public functionaries of his rough and venal age. We admit it is
difficult to controvert the charges which Macaulay arrays against
him, for so accurate and painstaking an historian is not likely to
be wrong in his facts; but we believe that they are uncandidly
stated, and so ingeniously and sophistically put as to give on the
whole a wrong impression of the man,--making him out worse than he
was, considering his age and circumstances. Bacon's character,
like that of most great men, has two sides; and while we are
compelled painfully to admit that he had many faults, we shrink
from classing him among bad men, as is implied in Pope's
characterization of him as "the meanest of mankind."

We now take leave of the man, to consider his legacy to the world.
And here again we are compelled to take issue with Macaulay, not in
regard to the great fact that Bacon's inquiries tended to a new
revelation of Nature, and by means of the method called induction,
by which he sought to establish fixed principles of science that
could not be controverted, but in reference to the ends for which
he labored. "The aim of Bacon," says Macaulay, "was utility,--
fruit; the multiplication of human enjoyments, . . . the mitigation
of human sufferings, . . . the prolongation of life by new
inventions,"--dotare vitam humanum novis inventis et copiis; "the
conquest of Nature,"--dominion over the beasts of the field and the
fowls of the air; the application of science to the subjection of
the outward world; progress in useful arts,--in those arts which
enable us to become strong, comfortable, and rich in houses, shops,
fabrics, tools, merchandise, new vegetables, fruits, and animals:
in short, a philosophy which will "not raise us above vulgar wants,
but will supply those wants." "And as an acre in Middlesex is
worth more than a principality in Utopia, so the smallest practical
good is better than any magnificent effort to realize an
impossibility;" and "hence the first shoemaker has rendered more
substantial service to mankind than all the sages of Greece. All
they could do was to fill the world with long beards and long
words; whereas Bacon's philosophy has lengthened life, mitigated
pain, extinguished disease, built bridges, guided the thunderbolts,
lightened the night with the splendor of the day, accelerated
motion, annihilated distance, facilitated intercourse; enabled men
to descend to the depths of the earth, to traverse the land in cars
which whirl without horses, and the ocean in ships which sail
against the wind." In other words, it was his aim to stimulate
mankind, not to seek unattainable truth, but useful truth; that is,
the science which produces railroads, canals, cultivated farms,
ships, rich returns for labor, silver and gold from the mines,--all
that purchase the joys of material life and fit us for dominion
over the world in which we live. Hence anything which will curtail
our sufferings and add to our pleasures or our powers, should be
sought as the highest good. Geometry is desirable, not as a noble
intellectual exercise, but as a handmaid to natural philosophy.
Astronomy is not to assist the mind to lofty contemplation, but to
enable mariners to verify degrees of latitude and regulate clocks.
A college is not designed to train and discipline the mind, but to
utilize science, and become a school of technology. Greek and
Latin exercises are comparatively worthless, and even mathematics,
unless they can be converted into practical use. Philosophy, as
ordinarily understood,--that is, metaphysics,--is most idle of all,
since it does not pertain to mundane wants. Hence the old Grecian
philosopher labored in vain; and still more profitless were the
disquisitions of the scholastics of the Middle Ages, since they
were chiefly used to prop up unintelligible creeds. Theology is
not of much account, since it pertains to mysteries we cannot
solve. It is not with heaven or hell, or abstract inquiries, or
divine certitudes, that we have to do, but the things of earth,--
things that advance our material and outward condition. To be rich
and comfortable is the end of life,--not meditations on abstract
and eternal truth, such as elevate the soul or prepare it for a
future and endless life. The certitudes of faith, of love, of
friendship, are of small value when compared with the blessings of
outward prosperity. Utilitarianism is the true philosophy, for
this confines us to the world where we are born to labor, and
enables us to make acquisitions which promote our comfort and ease.
The chemist and the manufacturer are our greatest benefactors, for
they make for us oils and gases and paints,--things we must have.
The philosophy of Bacon is an immense improvement on all previous
systems, since it heralds the jubilee of trades, the millennium of
merchants, the schools of thrift, the apostles of physical
progress, the pioneers of enterprise,--the Franklins and
Stephensons and Tyndalls and Morses of our glorious era. Its
watchword is progress. All hail, then, to the electric telegraph
and telephones and Thames tunnels and Crystal Palaces and Niagara
bridges and railways over the Rocky Mountains! The day of our
deliverance is come; the nations are saved; the Brunels and the
Fieldses are our victors and leaders! Crown them with Olympic
leaves, as the heroes of our great games of life. And thou, O
England! exalted art thou among the nations,--not for thy Oxfords
and Westminsters; not for thy divines and saints and martyrs and
poets; not for thy Hookers and Leightons and Cranmers and Miltons
and Burkes and Lockes; not for thy Reformation; not for thy
struggles for liberty,--but for thy Manchesters and Birminghams,
thy Portsmouth shipyards, thy London docks, thy Liverpool
warehouses, thy mines of coal and iron, thy countless mechanisms by
which thou bringest the wealth of nations into thy banks, and art
enabled to buy the toil of foreigners and to raise thy standards on
the farthest battlements of India and China. These conquests and
acquisitions are real, are practical; machinery over life, the
triumph of physical forces, dominion over waves and winds,--these
are the great victories which consummate the happiness of man; and
these are they which flow from the philosophy which Bacon taught.

Now Macaulay does not directly say all these things, but these are
the spirit and gist of the interpretation which he puts upon
Bacon's writings. The philosophy of Bacon leads directly to these
blessings; and these constitute its great peculiarity. And it
cannot be denied that the new era which Bacon heralded was fruitful
in these very things,--that his philosophy encouraged this new
development of material forces; but it may be questioned whether he
had not something else in view than mere utility and physical
progress, and whether his method could not equally be applied to
metaphysical subjects; whether it did not pertain to the whole
domain of truth, and take in the whole realm of human inquiry. I
believe that Bacon was interested, not merely in the world of
matter, but in the world of mind; that he sought to establish
principles from which sound deductions might be made, as well as to
establish reliable inductions. Lord Campbell thinks that a perfect
system of ethics could be made out of his writings, and that his
method is equally well adapted to examine and classify the
phenomena of the mind. He separated the legitimate paths of human
inquiry, giving his attention to poetry and politics and
metaphysics, as well as to physics. Bacon does not sneer as
Macaulay does at the ancient philosophers; he bears testimony to
their genius and their unrivalled dialectical powers, even if he
regards their speculations as frequently barren. He does not
flippantly ridicule the homoousian and the homoiousian as mere
words, but the expression and exponent of profound theological
distinctions, as every theologian knows them to be. He does not
throw dirt on metaphysical science if properly directed, still less
on noble inquiries after God and the mysteries of life. He is
subjective as well as objective. He treats of philosophy in its
broadest meaning, as it takes in the province of the understanding,
the memory, and the will, as well as of man in society. He speaks
of the principles of government and of the fountains of law; of
universal justice, of eternal spiritual truth. So that Playfair
judiciously observes (and he was a scientist) "that it was not by
sagacious anticipations of science, afterwards to be made in
physics, that his writings have had so powerful an influence,
as in his knowledge of the limits and resources of the human
understanding. It would be difficult to find another writer, prior
to Locke, whose works are enriched with so many just observations
on mere intellectual phenomena. What he says of the laws of
memory, or imagination, has never been surpassed in subtlety. No
man ever more carefully studied the operation of his own mind and
the intellectual character of others." Nor did Bacon despise
metaphysical science, only the frivolous questions that the old
scholastics associated with it, and the general barrenness of their
speculations. He surely would not have disdained the subsequent
inquiries of Locke, or Berkeley, or Leibnitz, or Kant. True, he
sought definite knowledge,--something firm to stand upon, and which
could not be controverted. No philosophy can be sound when the
principle from which deductions are made is not itself certain or
very highly probable, or when this principle, pushed to its utmost
logical sequence, would lead to absurdity, or even to a conflict
with human consciousness. To Bacon the old methods were wrong, and
it was his primal aim to reform the scientific methods in order to
arrive at truth; not truth for utilitarian ends chiefly, but truth
for its own sake. He loved truth as Palestrina loved music, or
Raphael loved painting, or Socrates loved virtue.

Now the method which was almost exclusively employed until Bacon's
time is commonly called the deductive method; that is, some
principle or premise was assumed to be true, and reasoning was made
from this assumption. No especial fault was found with the
reasoning of the great masters of logic like Aristotle and Thomas
Aquinas, for it never has been surpassed in acuteness and severity.
If their premises were admitted, their conclusions would follow as
a certainty. What was wanted was to establish the truth of
premises, or general propositions. This Bacon affirmed could be
arrived at only by induction; that is, the ascending from
ascertained individual facts to general principles, by extending
what is true of particulars to the whole class in which they
belong. Bacon has been called the father of inductive science,
since he would employ the inductive method. Yet he is not truly
the father of induction, since it is as old as the beginnings of
science. Hippocrates, when he ridiculed the quacks of his day, and
collected the facts and phenomena of disease, and inferred from
them the proper treatment of it, was as much the father of
induction as Bacon himself. The error the ancients made was in not
collecting a sufficient number of facts to warrant a sound
induction. And the ancients looked out for facts to support some
preconceived theory, from which they reasoned syllogistically. The
theory could not be substantiated by any syllogistic reasonings,
since conclusions could never go beyond assumptions; if the
assumptions were wrong, no ingenious or elaborate reasoning would
avail anything towards the discovery of truth, but could only
uphold what was assumed. This applied to theology as well as to
science. In the Dark Ages it was well for the teachers of mankind
to uphold the dogmas of the Church, which they did with masterly
dialectical skill. Those were ages of Faith, and not of Inquiry.
It was all-important to ground believers in a firm faith of the
dogmas which were deemed necessary to support the church and the
cause of religion. They were regarded as absolute certainties.
There was no dispute about the premises of the scholastic's
arguments; and hence his dialectics strengthened the mind by the
exercise of logical sports, and at the same time confirmed the

The world never saw a more complete system of dogmatic theology
than that elaborated by Thomas Aquinas. When the knowledge of the
Greek and Hebrew was rare and imperfect, and it was impossible to
throw light by means of learning and science on the texts of
Scripture, it was well to follow the interpretation of such a great
light as Augustine, and assume his dogmas as certainties, since
they could not then be controverted; and thus from them construct a
system of belief which would confirm the faith. But Aquinas, with
his Aristotelian method of syllogism and definitions, could not go
beyond Augustine. Augustine was the fountain, and the water that
flowed from it in ten thousand channels could not rise above the
spring; and as everybody appealed to and believed in Saint
Augustine, it was well to construct a system from him to confute
the heretical, and which the heretical would respect. The
scholastic philosophy which some ridicule, in spite of its
puerilities and sophistries and syllogisms, preserved the theology
of the Middle Ages, perhaps of the Fathers. It was a mighty
bulwark of the faith which was then accepted. No honors could be
conferred on its great architects that were deemed extravagant.
The Pope and the clergy saw in Thomas Aquinas the great defender of
the Church,--not of its abuses, but of its doctrines. And if no
new light can be shed on the Scripture text from which assumptions
were made; if these assumptions cannot be assailed, if they are
certitudes,--then we can scarcely have better text-books than those
furnished to the theologians of the Middle Ages, for no modern
dialetician can excel them in severity of logic. The great object
of modern theologians should be to establish the authenticity and
meaning of the Scripture texts on which their assumptions rest; and
this can be done only by the method which Bacon laid down, which is
virtually a collation and collection of facts,--that is, divine
declarations. Establish the meaning of these without question, and
we have principia from which we may deduce creeds and systems, the
usefulness of which cannot be exaggerated, especially in an age of
agnosticism. Having fundamental principles which cannot be
gainsaid, we may philosophically draw deductions. Bacon did not
make war on deduction, when its fundamental truths are established.
Deduction is as much a necessary part of philosophy as induction:
it is the peculiarity of the Scotch metaphysicians, who have ever
deduced truths from those previously established. Deduction even
enters into modern science as well as induction. When Cuvier
deduced from a bone the form and habits of the mastodon; when
Kepler deduced his great laws, all from the primary thought that
there must be some numerical or geographical relation between the
times, distances, and velocities of the revolving bodies of the
solar system; when Newton deduced, as is said, the principle of
gravitation from the fall of an apple; when Leverrier sought for a
new planet from the perturbations of the heavenly bodies in their
orbits,--we feel that deduction is as much a legitimate process as
induction itself.

But deductive logic is the creation of Aristotle; and it was the
authority of Aristotle that Bacon sought to subvert. The inductive
process is also old, of which Bacon is called the father. How are
these things to be reconciled and explained? Wherein and how did
Bacon adapt his method to the discovery of truth, which was his
principal aim,--that method which is the great cause of modern
progress in science, the way to it being indicated by him pre-

The whole thing consists in this, that Bacon pointed out the right
road to truth,--as a board where two roads meet or diverge
indicates the one which is to be followed. He did not make a
system, like Descartes or Spinoza or Newton: he showed the way to
make it on sound principles. "He laid down a systematic analysis
and arrangement of inductive evidence." The syllogism, the great
instrument used by Aristotle and the Schoolmen, "is, from its very
nature, incompetent to prove the ultimate premises from which it
proceeds; and when the truth of these remains doubtful, we can
place no confidence in the conclusions drawn from them." Hence,
the first step in the reform of science is to review its ultimate
principles; and the first condition of a scientific method is that
it shall be competent to conduct such an inquiry; and this method
is applicable, not to physical science merely, but to the whole
realm of knowledge. This, of course, includes poetry, art,
intellectual philosophy, and theology, as well as geology and

And it is this breadth of inquiry--directed to subjective as well
as objective knowledge--which made Bacon so great a benefactor.
The defect in Macaulay's criticism is that he makes Bacon
interested in mere outward phenomena, or matters of practical
utility,--a worldly utilitarian of whom Epicureans may be proud.
In reality he soared to the realm of Plato as well as of Aristotle.
Take, for instance, his Idola Mentis Humanae, or "Phantoms of the
Human Mind," which compose the best-known part of the "Novum
Organum." "The Idols of the Tribe" would show the folly of
attempting to penetrate further than the limits of the human
faculties permit, as also "the liability of the intellect to be
warped by the will and affections, and the like." The "Idols of
the Den" have reference to "the tendency to notice differences
rather than resemblances, or resemblances rather than differences,
in the attachment to antiquity or novelty, in the partiality to
minute or comprehensive investigations." "The Idols of the Market-
Place" have reference to the tendency to confound words with
things, which has ever marked controversialists in their learned
disputatious. In what he here says about the necessity for
accurate definitions, he reminds us of Socrates rather than a
modern scientist; this necessity for accuracy applies to
metaphysics as much as it does to physics. "The Idols of the
Theatre" have reference to perverse laws of demonstration which are
the strongholds of error. This school deals in speculations and
experiments confined to a narrow compass, like those of the
alchemists,--too imperfect to elicit the light which should guide.

Bacon having completed his discussion of the Idola, then proceeds,
to point out the weakness of the old philosophies, which produced
leaves rather than fruit, and were stationary in their character.
Here he would seem to lean towards utilitarianism, were it not that
he is as severe on men of experiment as on men of dogma. "The men
of experiment are," says he, "like ants,--they only collect and
use; the reasoners resemble spiders, who make cobwebs out of their
own substance. But the bee takes a middle course; it gathers the
material from the flowers, but digests it by a power of its own. . . .
So true philosophy neither chiefly relies on the powers of the
mind, nor takes the matter which it gathers and lays it up in the
memory, whole as it finds it, but lays it up in the understanding,
to be transformed and digested." Here he simply points out the
laws by which true knowledge is to be attained. He does not extol
physical science alone, though doubtless he had a preference for it
over metaphysical inquiries. He was an Englishman, and the English
mind is objective rather than subjective, and is prone to over-
value the outward and the seen, above the inward and unseen; and
perhaps for the same reason that the Old Testament seems to make
prosperity the greatest blessing, while adversity seems to be the
blessing of the New Testament.

One of Bacon's longest works is the "Silva Sylvarum,"--a sort of
natural history, in which he treats of the various forces and
productions of Nature,--the air the sea, the winds, the clouds,
plants and animals, fire and water, sounds and discords, colors and
smells, heat and cold, disease and health; but which varied
subjects he presents to communicate knowledge, with no especial
utilitarian end.

"The Advancement of Learning" is one of Bacon's most famous
productions, but I fail to see in it an objective purpose to
enable men to become powerful or rich or comfortable; it is
rather an abstract treatise, as dry to most people as legal
disquisitions, and with no more reference to rising in the world
than "Blackstone's Commentaries" or "Coke upon Littleton." It
is a profound dissertation on the excellence of learning; its
great divisions treating of history, poetry, and philosophy,--of
metaphysical as well as physical philosophy; of the province
of understanding, the memory, the will, the reason, and the
imagination; and of man in society,--of government, of universal
justice, of the fountains of law, of revealed religion.

And if we turn from the new method by which he would advance all
knowledge, and on which his fame as a philosopher chiefly rests,--
that method which has led to discoveries that even Bacon never
dreamed of, not thinking of the fruit he was to bestow, but only
the way to secure it,--even as a great inventor thinks more of his
invention than of the money he himself may reap from it, as a work
of creation to benefit the world rather than his own family, and in
the work of which his mind revels in a sort of intoxicated delight,
like a true poet when he constructs his lines, or a great artist
when he paints his picture,--a pure subjective joy, not an
anticipated gain;--if we turn from this "method" to most of his
other writings, what do we find? Simply the lucubrations of a man
of letters, the moral wisdom of the moralist, the historian, the
biographer, the essayist. In these writings we discover no more
worldliness than in Macaulay when he wrote his "Milton," or Carlyle
when he penned his "Burns,"--even less, for Bacon did not write to
gain a living, but to please himself and give vent to his burning
thoughts. In these he had no worldly aim to reach, except perhaps
an imperishable fame. He wrote as Michael Angelo sculptured his
Moses; and he wrote not merely amid the cares and duties of a great
public office, with other labors which might be called Herculean,
but even amid pains of disease and the infirmities of age,--when
rest, to most people, is the greatest boon and solace of their

Take his Essays,--these are among his best-known works,--so
brilliant and forcible, suggestive and rich, that even Archbishop
Whately's commentaries upon them are scarcely an addition. Surely
these are not on material subjects, and indicate anything but a
worldly or sordid nature. In these famous Essays, so luminous with
the gems of genius, we read not such worldly-wise exhortations as
Lord Chesterfield impressed upon his son, not the gossiping
frivolities of Horace Walpole, not the cynical wit of Montaigne,
but those great certitudes which console in affliction, which
kindle hope, which inspire lofty resolutions,--anchors of the soul,
pillars of faith, sources of immeasurable joy, the glorious ideals
of true objects of desire, the eternal unities of truth and love
and beauty; all of which reveal the varied experiences of life and
the riches of deeply-pondered meditation on God and Christianity,
as well as knowledge of the world and the desirableness of its
valued gifts. How beautiful are his thoughts on death, on
adversity, on glory, on anger, on friendship, on fame, on ambition,
on envy, on riches, on youth and old age, and divers other subjects
of moral import, which show the elevation of his soul, and the
subjective as well as the objective turn of his mind; not dwelling
on what he should eat and what he should drink and wherewithal he
should be clothed, but on the truths which appeal to our higher
nature, and which raise the thoughts of men from earth to heaven,
or at least to the realms of intellectual life and joy.

And then, it is necessary that we should take in view other labors
which dignified Bacon's retirement, as well as those which marked
his more active career as a lawyer and statesman,--his histories
and biographies, as well as learned treatises to improve the laws
of England; his political discourses, his judicial charges, his
theological tracts, his speeches and letters and prayers; all of
which had relation to benefit others rather than himself. Who has
ever done more to instruct the world,--to enable men to rise not in
fortune merely, but in virtue and patriotism, in those things which
are of themselves the only reward? We should consider these
labors, as well as the new method he taught to arrive at knowledge,
in our estimate of the sage as well as of the man. He was a moral
philosopher, like Socrates. He even soared into the realm of
supposititious truth, like Plato. He observed Nature, like
Aristotle. He took away the syllogism from Thomas Aquinas,--not to
throw contempt on metaphysical inquiry or dialectical reasoning,
but to arrive by a better method at the knowledge of first
principles; which once established, he allowed deductions to be
drawn from them, leading to other truths as certainly as induction
itself. Yea, he was also a Moses on the mount of Pisgah, from
which with prophetic eye he could survey the promised land of
indefinite wealth and boundless material prosperity, which
he was not permitted to enter, but which he had bequeathed to
civilization. This may have been his greatest gift in the view of
scientific men,--this inductive process of reasoning, by which
great discoveries have been made after he was dead. But this was
not his only legacy, for other things which he taught were as
valuable, not merely in his sight, but to the eye of enlightened
reason. There are other truths besides those of physical science;
there is greatness in deduction as well as in induction. Geometry--
whose successive and progressive revelations are so inspiring, and
which have come down to us from a remote antiquity, which are even
now taught in our modern schools as Euclid demonstrated them, since
they cannot be improved--is a purely deductive science. The
scholastic philosophy, even if it was barren and unfruitful in
leading to new truths, yet confirmed what was valuable in the old
systems, and by the severity of its logic and its dialectical
subtleties trained the European mind for the reception of the
message of Luther and Bacon; and this was based on deductions,
never wrong unless the premises are unsound. Theology is deductive
reasoning from truths assumed to be fundamental, and is inductive
only so far as it collates Scripture declarations, and interprets
their meaning by the aid which learning brings. Is not this
science worthy of some regard? Will it not live when all the
speculations of evolutionists are forgotten, and occupy the
thoughts of the greatest and profoundest minds so long as anything
shall be studied, so long as the Bible shall be the guide of life?
Is it not by deduction that we ascend from Nature herself to the
God of Nature? What is more certain than deduction when the
principles from which it reasons are indisputably established?

Is induction, great as it is, especially in the explorations of
Nature and science, always certain? Are not most of the sciences
which are based upon it progressive? Have we yet learned the
ultimate principles of political economy, or of geology, or of
government, or even of art? The theory of induction, though
supposed by Dr. Whewell to lead to certain results, is regarded by
Professor Jevons as leading to results only "almost certain." "All
inductive inference is merely probable," says the present professor
of logic, Thomas Fowler, in the University of Oxford.

And although it is supposed that the inductive method of Bacon has
led to the noblest discoveries of modern times, is this strictly
true? Galileo made his discoveries in the heavens before Bacon
died. Physical improvements must need follow such inventions as
gunpowder and the mariners' compass, and printing and the pictures
of Italy, and the discovery of mines and the revived arts of the
Romans and Greeks, and the glorious emancipation which the
Reformation produced. Why should not the modern races follow in
the track of Carthage and Alexandria and Rome, with the progress of
wealth, and carry out inventions as those cities did, and all other
civilized peoples since Babel towered above the plains of Babylon?
Physical developments arise from the developments of man, whatever
method may be recommended by philosophers. What philosophical
teachings led to the machinery of the mines of California, or to
that of the mills of Lowell? Some think that our modern
improvements would have come whether Bacon had lived or not. But I
would not disparage the labors of Bacon in pointing out the method
which leads to scientific discoveries. Granting that he sought
merely utility, an improvement in the outward condition of society,
which is the view that Macaulay takes, I would not underrate his
legacy. And even supposing that the blessings of material life--
"the acre of Middlesex"--are as much to be desired as Macaulay,
with the complacency of an eminently practical and prosperous man,
seems to argue, I would not sneer at them. Who does not value
them? Who will not value them so long as our mortal bodies are to
be cared for? It is a pleasant thing to ride in "cars without
horses," to feel in winter the genial warmth of grates and
furnaces, to receive messages from distant friends in a moment of
time, to cross the ocean without discomfort, with the "almost
certainty" of safety, and save our wives and daughters from the
ancient drudgeries of the loom and the knitting-needle. Who ever
tires in gazing at a locomotive as it whirls along with the power
of destiny? Who is not astonished at the triumphs of the engineer,
the wonders of an ocean-steamer, the marvellous tunnels under lofty
mountains? We feel that Titans have been sent to ease us of our

But great and beneficent as are these blessings, they are not the
only certitudes, nor are they the greatest. An outward life of
ease and comfort is not the chief end of man. The interests of the
soul are more important than any comforts of the body. The higher
life is only reached by lofty contemplation on the true, the
beautiful, and the good. Subjective wisdom is worth more than
objective knowledge. What are the great realities,--machinery, new
breeds of horses, carpets, diamonds, mirrors, gas? or are they
affections, friendships, generous impulses, inspiring thoughts?
Look to Socrates: what raised that barefooted, ugly-looking,
impecunious, persecuted, cross-questioning, self-constituted
teacher, without pay, to the loftiest pedestal of Athenian fame?
What was the spirit of the truths HE taught? Was it objective or
subjective truth; the way to become rich and comfortable, or the
search for the indefinite, the infinite, the eternal,--Utopia, not
Middlesex,--that which fed the wants of the immaterial soul, and
enabled it to rise above temptation and vulgar rewards? What
raised Plato to the highest pinnacle of intellectual life? Was it
definite and practical knowledge of outward phenomena; or was it "a
longing after love, in the contemplation of which the mortal soul
sustains itself, and becomes participant in the glories of
immortality"? What were realities to Anselm, Bernard, and
Bonaventura? What gave beauty and placidity to Descartes and
Leibnitz and Kant? It may be very dignified for a modern savant to
sit serenely on his tower of observation, indifferent to all the
lofty speculations of the great men of bygone ages; yet those
profound questions pertaining to the [Greek text omitted] and the
[Greek text omitted], which had such attractions for Augustine and
Pascal and Calvin, did have as real bearing on human life and on
what is best worth knowing, as the scales of a leuciscus cephalus
or the limbs of a magnified animalculus, or any of the facts of
which physical science can boast. The wonders of science are
great, but so also are the secrets of the soul, the mysteries of
the spiritual life, the truths which come from divine revelation.
Whatever most dignifies humanity, and makes our labors sweet,
and causes us to forget our pains, and kindles us to lofty
contemplations, and prompts us to heroic sacrifice, is the most
real and the most useful. Even the leaves of a barren and
neglected philosophy may be in some important respects of more
value than all the boasted fruit of utilitarian science. Is that
which is most useful always the most valuable,--that, I mean, which
gives the highest pleasure? Do we not plant our grounds with the
acacia, the oak, the cedar, the elm, as well as with the apple, the
pear, and the cherry? Are not flowers and shrubs which beautify
the lawn as desirable as beans and turnips and cabbages? Is not
the rose or tulip as great an addition to even a poor man's cottage
as his bed of onions or patch of potatoes? What is the scale to
measure even mortal happiness? What is the marketable value of
friendship or of love? What makes the dinner of herbs sometimes
more refreshing than the stalled ox? What is the material profit
of a first love? What is the value in tangible dollars and cents
of a beautiful landscape, or a speaking picture, or a marble
statue, or a living book, or the voice of eloquence, or the charm
of earliest bird, or the smile of a friend, or the promise of
immortality? In what consisted the real glory of the country we
are never weary of quoting,--the land of Phidias and Pericles and
Demosthenes? Was it not in immaterial ideas, in patriotism, in
heroism, in conceptions of ideal beauty, in speculations on the
infinite and unattainable, in the songs which still inspire the
minds of youth, in the expression which made marble live, in those
conceptions of beauty and harmony which still give shape to the
temples of Christendom? Was Rome more glorious with her fine roads
and tables of thuja-root, and Falernian wines, and oysters from the
Lucrine Lake, and chariots of silver, and robes of purple and rings
of gold,--these useful blessings which are the pride of an
Epicurean civilization? And who gave the last support, who raised
the last barrier, against that inundation of destructive pleasures
in which some see the most valued fruits of human invention, but
which proved a canker that prepared the way to ruin? It was that
pious Emperor who learned his wisdom from a slave, and who set a
haughty defiance to all the grandeur and all the comforts of the
highest position which earth could give, and spent his leisure
hours in the quiet study of those truths which elevate the soul,--
truths not taught by science or nature, but by communication with
invisible powers.

Ah, what indeed is reality; what is the higher good; what is that
which perishes never; what is that which assimilates man to Deity?
Is it houses, is it lands, is it gold and silver, is it luxurious
couches, is it the practical utilitarian comforts that pamper this
mortal body in its brief existence? or is it women's loves and
patriots' struggles, and sages' pious thoughts, affections, noble
aspirations, Bethanies, the serenities of virtuous old age, the
harmonies of unpolluted homes, the existence of art, of truth, of
love; the hopes which last when sun and stars decay? Tell us, ye
women, what are realities to you,--your carpets, your plate, your
jewels, your luxurious banquets; or your husbands' love, your
friends' esteem, your children's reverence? And ye, toiling men of
business, what is really your highest joy,--your piles of gold,
your marble palaces; or the pleasures of your homes, the
approbation of your consciences, your hopes of future bliss? Yes,
you are dreamers, like poets and philosophers, when you call
yourselves pack-horses. Even you are only sustained in labor by
intangible rewards that you can neither see nor feel. The most
practical of men and women can really only live in those ideas
which are deemed indefinite and unreal. For what do the busiest of
you run away from money-making, and ride in cold or heat, in
dreariness or discomfort,--dinners, or greetings of love and
sympathy? On what are such festivals as Christmas and Thanksgiving
Day based?--on consecrated sentiments that have more force than any
material gains or ends. These, after all, are realities to you as
much as ideas were to Plato, or music to Beethoven, or patriotism
to Washington. Deny these as the higher certitudes, and you rob
the soul of its dignity, and life of its consolations.


Bacon's Works, edited by Basil Montagu; Bacon's Life, by Basil
Montagu; Bacon's Life, by James Spedding; Bacon's Life, by Thomas
Fowler; Dr. Abbott's Introduction to Bacon's Essays, in
Contemporary Review, 1876; Macaulay's famous essay in Edinburgh
Review, 1839; Archbishop Whately's annotations of the Essays of
Bacon; the general Histories of England.


A. D. 1564-1642.


Among the wonders of the sixteenth century was the appearance of a
new star in the northern horizon, which, shining at first with a
feeble light, gradually surpassed the brightness of the planet
Jupiter; and then changing its color from white to yellow and from
yellow to red, after seventeen months, faded away from the sight,
and has not since appeared. This celebrated star, first seen by
Tycho Brahe in the constellation Cassiopeia, never changed its
position, or presented the slightest perceptible parallax. It
could not therefore have been a meteor, nor a planet regularly
revolving round the sun, nor a comet blazing with fiery nebulous
light, nor a satellite of one of the planets, but a fixed star, far
beyond our solar system. Such a phenomenon created an immense
sensation, and has never since been satisfactorily explained by
philosophers. In the infancy of astronomical science it was
regarded by astrologers as a sign to portend the birth of an
extraordinary individual.

Though the birth of some great political character was supposed to
be heralded by this mysterious star, its prophetic meaning might
with more propriety apply to the extraordinary man who astonished
his contemporaries by discoveries in the heavens, and who forms the
subject of this lecture; or it poetically might apply to the
brilliancy of the century itself in which it appeared. The
sixteenth century cannot be compared with the nineteenth century in
the variety and scope of scientific discoveries; but, compared with
the ages which had preceded it, it was a memorable epoch, marked by
the simultaneous breaking up of the darkness of mediaeval Europe,
and the bursting forth of new energies in all departments of human
thought and action. In that century arose great artists, poets,
philosophers, theologians, reformers, navigators, jurists,
statesmen, whose genius has scarcely since been surpassed. In
Italy it was marked by the triumphs of scholars and artists; in
Germany and France, by reformers and warriors; in England, by that
splendid constellation that shed glory on the reign of Elizabeth.
Close upon the artists who followed Da Vinci, to Salvator Rosa,
were those scholars of whom Emanuel Chrysoloras, Erasmus, and
Scaliger were the representatives,--going back to the classic
fountains of Greece and Rome, reviving a study for antiquity,
breathing a new spirit into universities, enriching vernacular
tongues, collecting and collating manuscripts, translating the
Scriptures, and stimulating the learned to emancipate themselves
from the trammels of the scholastic philosophers.

Then rose up the reformers, headed by Luther, consigning to
destruction the emblems and ceremonies of mediaeval superstition,
defying popes, burning bulls, ridiculing monks, exposing frauds,
unravelling sophistries, attacking vices and traditions with the
new arms of reason, and asserting before councils and dignitaries
the right of private judgment and the supreme authority of the
Bible in all matters of religious faith.

And then appeared the defenders of their cause, by force of arms
maintaining the great rights of religious liberty in France,
Germany, Switzerland, Holland, and England, until Protestantism was
established in half of the countries that had for more than a
thousand years servilely bowed down to the authority of the popes.
Genius stimulates and enterprise multiplies all the energies and
aims of emancipated millions. Before the close of the sixteenth
century new continents are colonized, new modes of warfare are
introduced, manuscripts are changed into printed books, the
comforts of life are increased, governments are more firmly
established, and learned men are enriched and honored. Feudalism
has succumbed to central power, and barons revolve around their
sovereign at court rather than compose an independent authority.
Before that century had been numbered with the ages past, the
Portuguese had sailed to the East Indies, Sir Francis Drake had
circumnavigated the globe, Pizarro had conquered Peru, Sir Walter
Raleigh had colonized Virginia, Ricci had penetrated to China,
Lescot had planned the palace of the Louvre, Raphael had painted
the Transfiguration, Michael Angelo had raised the dome of St.
Peter's, Giacomo della Porta had ornamented the Vatican with
mosaics, Copernicus had taught the true centre of planetary motion,
Dumoulin had introduced into French jurisprudence the principles of
the Justinian code, Ariosto had published the "Orlando Furioso,"
Cervantes had written "Don Quixote," Spenser had dedicated his
"Fairy Queen," Shakspeare had composed his immortal dramas, Hooker
had devised his "Ecclesiastical Polity," Cranmer had published his
Forty-two Articles, John Calvin had dedicated to Francis I. his
celebrated "Institutes," Luther had translated the Bible, Bacon had
begun the "Instauration of Philosophy," Bellarmine had systematized
the Roman Catholic theology, Henry IV. had signed the Edict of
Nantes, Queen Elizabeth had defeated the Invincible Armada, and
William the Silent had achieved the independence of Holland.

Such were some of the lights and some of the enterprises of that
great age, when the profoundest questions pertaining to philosophy,
religion, law, and government were discussed with the enthusiasm
and freshness of a revolutionary age; when men felt the inspiration
of a new life, and looked back on the Middle Ages with disgust and
hatred, as a period which enslaved the human soul. But what
peculiarly marked that period was the commencement of those
marvellous discoveries in science which have enriched our times and
added to the material blessings of the new civilization. Tycho
Brahe, Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler, and Bacon inaugurated the era
which led to progressive improvements in the physical condition of
society, and to those scientific marvels which have followed in
such quick succession and produced such astonishing changes that we
are fain to boast that we have entered upon the most fortunate and
triumphant epoch in our world's history.

Many men might be taken as the representatives of this new era of
science and material inventions, but I select Galileo Galilei as
one of the most interesting in his life, opinions, and conflicts.

Galileo was born at Pisa, in the year 1564, the year that Calvin
and Michael Angelo died, four years after the birth of Bacon, in
the sixth year of the reign of Elizabeth, and the fourth of Charles
IX., about the time when the Huguenot persecution was at its
height, and the Spanish monarchy was in its most prosperous state,
under Philip II. His parents were of a noble but impoverished
Florentine family; and his father, who was a man of some learning,--
a writer on the science of music,--gave him the best education he
could afford. Like so many of the most illustrious men, he early
gave promise of rare abilities. It was while he was a student in
the university of his native city that his attention was arrested
by the vibrations of a lamp suspended from the ceiling of the
cathedral; and before he had quitted the church, while the choir
was chanting mediaeval anthems, he had compared those vibrations
with his own pulse, which after repeated experiments, ended in the
construction of the first pendulum,--applied not as it was by
Huygens to the measurement of time, but to medical science, to
enable physicians to ascertain the rate of the pulse. But the
pendulum was soon brought into the service of the clockmakers, and
ultimately to the determination of the form of the earth, by its
minute irregularities in diverse latitudes, and finally to the
measurement of differences of longitude by its connection with
electricity and the recording of astronomical observations. Thus
it was that the swinging of a cathedral lamp, before the eye of a
man of genius, has done nearly as much as the telescope itself to
advance science, to say nothing of its practical uses in common

Galileo had been destined by his father to the profession of
medicine, and was ignorant of mathematics. He amused his leisure
hours with painting and music, and in order to study the principles
of drawing he found it necessary to acquire some knowledge of
geometry, much to the annoyance of his father, who did not like to
see his mind diverted from the prescriptions of Hippocrates and
Galen. The certain truths of geometry burst upon him like a
revelation, and after mastering Euclid he turned to Archimedes with
equal enthusiasm. Mathematics now absorbed his mind, and the
father was obliged to yield to the bent of his genius, which seemed
to disdain the regular professions by which social position was
most surely effected. He wrote about this time an essay on the
Hydrostatic Balance, which introduced him to Guido Ubaldo, a famous
mathematician, who induced him to investigate the subject of the
centre of gravity in solid bodies. His treatise on this subject
secured an introduction to the Grand Duke of Tuscany, who perceived
his merits, and by whom he was appointed a lecturer on mathematics
at Pisa, but on the small salary of sixty crowns a year.

This was in 1589, when he was twenty-five, an enthusiastic young
man, full of hope and animal spirits, the charm of every circle for
his intelligence, vivacity, and wit; but bold and sarcastic,
contemptuous of ancient dogmas, defiant of authority, and therefore
no favorite with Jesuit priests and Dominican professors. It is
said that he was a handsome man, with bright golden locks, such as
painters in that age loved to perpetuate upon the canvas; hilarious
and cheerful, fond of good cheer, yet a close student, obnoxious
only to learned dunces and narrow pedants and treadmill professors
and zealous priests,--all of whom sought to molest him, yet to whom
he was either indifferent or sarcastic, holding them and their
formulas up to ridicule. He now directed his inquiries to the
mechanical doctrines of Aristotle, to whose authority the schools
had long bowed down, and whom he too regarded as one of the great
intellectual giants of the world, yet not to be credited without
sufficient reasons. Before the "Novum Organum" was written, he
sought, as Bacon himself pointed out, the way to arrive at truth,--
a foundation to stand upon, a principle tested by experience,
which, when established by experiment, would serve for sure

Now one of the principles assumed by Aristotle, and which had never
been disputed, was, that if different weights of the same material
were let fall from the same height, the heavier would reach the
ground sooner than the lighter, and in proportion to the difference
of weight. This assumption Galileo denied, and asserted that, with
the exception of a small difference owing to the resistance of the
air, both would fall to the ground in the same space of time. To
prove his position by actual experiment, he repaired to the leaning
tower of Pisa, and demonstrated that he was right and Aristotle was
wrong. The Aristotelians would not believe the evidence of their
own senses, and ascribed the effect to some unknown cause. To such
a degree were men enslaved by authority. This provoked Galileo,
and led him to attack authority with still greater vehemence,
adding mockery to sarcasm; which again exasperated his opponents,
and doubtless laid the foundation of that personal hostility which
afterwards pursued him to the prison of the Inquisition. This
blended arrogance and asperity in a young man was offensive to the
whole university, yet natural to one who had overturned one of the
favorite axioms of the greatest master of thought the world had
seen for nearly two thousand years; and the scorn and opposition
with which his discovery was received increased his rancor, so that
he, in his turn, did not render justice to the learned men arrayed
against him, who were not necessarily dull or obstinate because
they would not at once give up the opinions in which they were
educated, and which the learned world still accepted. Nor did they
oppose and hate him for his new opinions, so much as from dislike
of his personal arrogance and bitter sarcasms.

At last his enemies made it too hot for him at Pisa. He resigned
his chair (1591), but only to accept a higher position at Padua, on
a salary of one hundred and eighty florins,--not, however, adequate
to his support, so that he was obliged to take pupils in
mathematics. To show the comparative estimate of that age of
science, the fact may be mentioned that the professor of scholastic
philosophy in the same university was paid fourteen hundred
florins. This was in 1592; and the next year Galileo invented the
thermometer, still an imperfect instrument, since air was not
perfectly excluded. At this period his reputation seems to have
been established as a brilliant lecturer rather than as a great
discoverer, or even as a great mathematician; for he was
immeasurably behind Kepler, his contemporary, in the power of
making abstruse calculations and numerical combinations. In this
respect Kepler was inferior only to Copernicus, Newton, and Laplace
in our times, or Hipparchus and Ptolemy among the ancients; and it
is to him that we owe the discovery of those great laws of
planetary motion from which there is no appeal, and which have
never been rivalled in importance except those made by Newton
himself,--laws which connect the mean distance of the planets from
the sun with the times of their revolutions; laws which show that
the orbits of planets are elliptical, not circular; and that the
areas described by lines drawn from the moving planet to the sun
are proportionable to the times employed in the motion. What an
infinity of calculation, in the infancy of science--before the
invention of logarithms,--was necessary to arrive at these truths!
What fertility of invention was displayed in all his hypotheses;
what patience in working them out; what magnanimity in discarding
those which were not true! What power of guessing, even to
hit upon theories which could be established by elaborate
calculations,--all from the primary thought, the grand axiom, which
Kepler was the first to propose, that there must be some numerical
or geometrical relations among the times, distances, and velocities
of the revolving bodies of the solar system! It would seem that
although his science was deductive, he invoked the aid of induction
also: a great original genius, yet modest like Newton; a man who
avoided hostilities, yet given to the most boundless enthusiasm on
the subjects to which he devoted his life. How intense his
raptures! "Nothing holds me," he writes, on discovering his great
laws; "I will indulge in my sacred fury. I will boast of the
golden vessels I have stolen from the Egyptians. If you forgive
me, I rejoice. If you are angry, it is all the same to me. The
die is cast; the book is written,--to be read either now, or by
posterity, I care not which. It may well wait a century for a
reader, as God has waited six thousand years for an observer."

We do not see this sublime repose in the attitude of Galileo,--this
falling back on his own conscious greatness, willing to let things
take their natural course; but rather, on the other hand, an
impatience under contradiction, a vehement scorn of adversaries,
and an intellectual arrogance that gave offence, and impeded his
career, and injured his fame. No matter how great a man may be,
his intellectual pride is always offensive; and when united with
sarcasm and mockery it will make bitter enemies, who will pull him

Galileo, on his transfer to Padua, began to teach the doctrines of
Copernicus,--a much greater genius than he, and yet one who
provoked no enmities, although he made the greatest revolution in
astronomical knowledge that any man ever made, since he was in no
haste to reveal his discoveries, and stated them in a calm and
inoffensive way. I doubt if new discoverers in science meet with
serious opposition when men themselves are not attacked, and they
are made to appeal to calm intelligence, and war is not made on
those Scripture texts which seem to controvert them. Even
theologians receive science when science is not made to undermine
theological declarations, and when the divorce of science from
revelation, reason from faith, as two distinct realms, is
vigorously insisted upon. Pascal incurred no hostilities for his
scientific investigations, nor Newton, nor Laplace. It is only
when scientific men sneer at the Bible because its declarations
cannot always be harmonized with science that the hostilities of
theologians are provoked. And it is only when theologians deny
scientific discoveries that seem to conflict with texts of
Scripture, that opposition arises among scientific men. It would
seem that the doctrines of Copernicus were offensive to churchmen
on this narrow ground. It was hard to believe that the earth
revolved around the sun, when the opinions of the learned for two
thousand years were unanimous that the sun revolved around the
earth. Had both theologian and scientist let the Bible alone,
there would not have been a bitter war between them. But
scientists were accused by theologians of undermining the Bible;
and the theologians were accused of stupid obstinacy, and were
mercilessly exposed to ridicule.

That was the great error of Galileo. He made fun and sport of the
theologians, as Samson did of the Philistines; and the Philistines
of Galileo's day cut off his locks and put out his eyes when the
Pope put him into their power,--those Dominican inquisitors who
made a crusade against human thought. If Galileo had shown more
tact and less arrogance, possibly those Dominican doctors might
have joined the chorus of universal praise; for they were learned
men, although devoted to a bad system, and incapable of seeing
truth when their old authorities were ridiculed and set at nought.
Galileo did not deny the Scriptures, but his spirit was mocking;
and he seemed to prejudiced people to undermine the truths which
were felt to be vital for the preservation of faith in the world.
And as some scientific truths seemed to be adverse to Scripture
declarations, the transition was easy to a denial of the
inspiration which was claimed by nearly all Christian sects, both
Catholic and Protestant.

The intolerance of the Church in every age has driven many
scientists into infidelity; for it cannot be doubted that the
tendency of scientific investigation has been to make scientific
men incredulous of divine inspiration, and hence to undermine their
faith in dogmas which good men have ever received, and which are
supported by evidence that is not merely probable but almost
certain. And all now that seems wanting to harmonize science with
revelation is, on the one hand, the re-examination of the Scripture
texts on which are based the principia from which deductions are
made, and which we call theology; and, on the other hand, the
rejection of indefensible statements which are at war with both
science and consciousness, except in those matters which claim
special supernatural agency, which we can neither prove nor
disprove by reason; for supernaturalism claims to transcend the
realm of reason altogether in what relates to the government of
God,--ways that no searching will ever enable us to find out with
our limited faculties and obscured understanding. When the two
realms of reason and faith are kept distinct, and neither
encroaches on the other, then the discoveries and claims of science
will meet with but little opposition from theologians, and they
will be left to be sifted by men who alone are capable of the task.

Thus far science, outside of pure mathematics, is made up of
theories which are greatly modified by advancing knowledge, so that
they cannot claim in all respects to be eternally established, like
the laws of Kepler and the discoveries of Copernicus,--the latter
of which were only true in the main fact that the earth revolves
around the sun. But even he retained epicycles and excentrics, and
could not explain the unequal orbits of planetary motion. In fact
he retained many of the errors of Hipparchus and Ptolemy. Much,
too, as we are inclined to ridicule the astronomy of the ancients
because they made the earth the centre, we should remember that
they also resolved the orbits of the heavenly bodies into circular
motions, discovered the precession of the equinoxes, and knew also
the apparent motions of the planets and their periods. They could
predict eclipses of the sun and moon, and knew that the orbit of
the sun and planets was through a belt in the heavens, of a few
degrees in width, which they called the Zodiac. They did not know,
indeed, the difference between real and apparent motion, nor the
distance of the sun and stars, nor their relative size and weight,
nor the laws of motion, nor the principles of gravitation, nor the
nature of the Milky Way, nor the existence of nebulae, nor any of
the wonders which the telescope reveals; but in the severity of
their mathematical calculations they were quite equal to modern

If Copernicus revolutionized astronomy by proving the sun to be the
centre of motion to our planetary system, Galileo gave it an
immense impulse by his discoveries with the telescope. These did
not require such marvellous mathematical powers as made Kepler and
Newton immortal,--the equals of Ptolemy and Hipparchus in
mathematical demonstration--but only accuracy and perseverance in
observations. Doubtless he was a great mathematician, but his fame
rests on his observations and the deductions he made from them.
These were more easily comprehended, and had an objective value
which made him popular: and for these discoveries he was indebted
in a great measure to the labors of others,--it was mechanical
invention applied to the advancement of science. The utilization
of science was reserved to our times; and it is this utilization
which makes science such a handmaid to the enrichment of its
votaries, and holds it up to worship in our laboratories and
schools of technology and mines, not merely for itself, but also
for the substantial fruit it yields.

It was when Galileo was writing treatises on the Structure of the
Universe, on Local Motion, on Sound, on Continuous Quantity, on
Light, on Colors, on the Tides, on Dialing,--subjects that also
interested Lord Bacon at the same period,--and when he was giving
lectures on these subjects with immense eclat, frequently to one
thousand persons (scarcely less than what Abelard enjoyed when he
made fun of the more conservative schoolmen with whom he was
brought in contact), that he heard, while on a visit to Venice,
that a Dutch spectacle-maker had invented an instrument which was
said to represent distant objects nearer than they usually
appeared. This was in 1609, when he, at the age of fifty-five, was
the idol of scientific men, and was in the enjoyment of an ample
revenue, giving only sixty half-hours in the year to lectures, and
allowed time to prosecute his studies in that "sweet solitariness"
which all true scholars prize, and without which few great
attainments are made. The rumor of the invention excited in his
mind the intensest interest. He sought for the explanation of the
fact in the doctrine of refraction. He meditated day and night.
At last he himself constructed an instrument,--a leaden organ pipe
with two spectacle glasses, both plain on one side, while one of
them had its opposite side convex, and the other its second side

This crude little instrument, which magnified but three times, he
carries in triumph back to Venice. It is regarded as a scientific
toy, yet everybody wishes to see an instrument by which the human
eye indefinitely multiplies its power. The Doge is delighted, and
the Senate is anxious to secure so great a curiosity. He makes a
present of it to the Senate, after he has spent a month in showing
it round to the principal people of that wealthy city; and he is
rewarded for his ingenuity with an increase of his salary, at
Padua, to one thousand florins, and is made professor for life.

He now only thinks of making discoveries in the heavens; but his
instrument is too small. He makes another and larger telescope,
which magnifies eight times, and then another which magnifies
thirty times; and points it to the moon. And how indescribable his
satisfaction, for he sees what no mortal had ever before seen,--
ranges of mountains, deep hollows, and various inequalities! These
discoveries, it would seem, are not favorably received by the
Aristotelians; however, he continues his labors, and points his
telescope to the planets and fixed stars,--but the magnitude of the
latter remain the same, while the planets appear with disks like
the moon. Then he directs his observations to the Pleiades, and
counts forty stars in the cluster, when only six were visible to
the naked eye; in the Milky Way he descries crowds of minute stars.

Having now reached the limit of discovery with his present
instrument, he makes another of still greater power, and points it
to the planet Jupiter. On the 7th of January, 1610, he observes
three little stars near the body of the planet, all in a straight
line and parallel to the ecliptic, two on the east and one on the
west of Jupiter. On the next observation he finds that they have
changed places, and are all on the west of Jupiter; and the next
time he observes them they have changed again. He also discovers
that there are four of these little stars revolving round the
planet. What is the explanation of this singular phenomenon? They
cannot be fixed stars, or planets; they must then be moons.
Jupiter is attended with satellites like the earth, but has four
instead of one! The importance of this last discovery was of
supreme value, for it confirmed the heliocentric theory. Old
Kepler is filled with agitations of joy; all the friends of Galileo
extol his genius; his fame spreads far and near; he is regarded as
the ablest scientific man in Europe.

His enemies are now dismayed and perplexed. The principal
professor of philosophy at Padua would not even look through the
wonderful instrument. Sissi of Florence ridicules the discovery.
"As," said he, "there are only seven apertures of the head,--two
eyes, two ears, two nostrils, and one mouth,--and as there are only
seven days in the week and seven metals, how can there be seven

But science, discarded by the schools, fortunately finds a refuge
among princes. Cosimo de' Medici prefers the testimony of his
senses to the voice of authority. He observes the new satellites
with Galileo at Pisa, makes him a present of one thousand florins,
and gives him a mere nominal office,--that of lecturing
occasionally to princes, on a salary of one thousand florins for
life. He is now the chosen companion of the great, and the
admiration of Italy. He has rendered an immense service to
astronomy. "His discovery of the satellites of Jupiter," says
Herschel, "gave the holding turn to the opinion of mankind
respecting the Copernican system, and pointed out a connection
between speculative astronomy and practical utility."

But this did not complete the catalogue of his discoveries. In
1610 he perceived that Saturn appeared to be triple, and excited
the curiosity of astronomers by the publication of his first
"Enigma," Altissimam planetam tergeminam observavi. He could not
then perceive the rings; the planet seemed through his telescope to
have the form of three concentric O's. Soon after, in examining
Venus, he saw her in the form of a crescent: Cynthiae figuras
aemulatur mater amorum, "Venus rivals the phases of the moon."

At last he discovers the spots upon the sun's disk, and that they
all revolve with the sun, and therefore that the sun has a
revolution in about twenty-eight days, and may be moving on in a
larger circle, with all its attendant planets, around some distant

Galileo has now attained the highest object of his ambition. He is
at the head, confessedly, of all the scientific men of Europe. He
has an ample revenue; he is independent, and has perfect leisure.
Even the Pope is gracious to him when he makes a visit to Rome;
while cardinals, princes, and ambassadors rival one another in
bestowing upon him attention and honors.

But there is no height of fortune from which a man may not fall;
and it is usually the proud, the ostentatious, and the contemptuous
who do fall, since they create envy, and are apt to make social
mistakes. Galileo continued to exasperate his enemies by his
arrogance and sarcasms. "They refused to be dragged at his
chariot-wheels." "The Aristotelian professors," says Brewster,
"the temporizing Jesuits, the political churchmen, and that timid
but respectable body who at all times dread innovation, whether it
be in legislation or science, entered into an alliance against the
philosophical tyrant who threatened them with the penalties of
knowledge." The church dignitaries were especially hostile, since
they thought the tendency of Galileo's investigations was to
undermine the Bible. Flanked by the logic of the schools and the
popular interpretation of Scripture, and backed by the civil power,
they were eager for war. Galileo wrote a letter to his friend the
Abbe Castelli, the object of which was "to prove that the
Scriptures were not intended to teach science and philosophy," but
to point out the way of salvation. He was indiscreet enough to
write a longer letter of seventy pages, quoting the Fathers in
support of his views, and attempting to show that Nature and
Scripture could not speak a different language. It was this
reasoning which irritated the dignitaries of the Church more than
his discoveries, since it is plain that the literal language of
Scripture upholds the doctrine that the sun revolves around the
earth. He was wrong or foolish in trying to harmonize revelation
and science. He should have advanced his truths of science and
left them to take care of themselves. He should not have meddled
with the dogmas of his enemies: not that he was wrong in doing so,
but it was not politic or wise; and he was not called upon to
harmonize Scripture with science.

So his enemies busily employed themselves in collecting evidence
against him. They laid their complaints before the Inquisition of
Rome, and on the occasion of paying a visit to that city, he was
summoned before that tribunal which has been the shame and the
reproach of the Catholic Church. It was a tribunal utterly
incompetent to sit upon his case, since it was ignorant of science.
In 1615 it was decreed that Galileo should renounce his obnoxious
doctrines, and pledge himself neither to defend nor publish them in
future. And Galileo accordingly, in dread of prison, appeared
before Cardinal Bellarmine and declared that he would renounce the
doctrines he had defended. This cardinal was not an ignorant man.
He was the greatest theologian of the Catholic Church; but his
bitterness and rancor in reference to the new doctrines were as
marked as his scholastic learning. The Pope, supposing that
Galileo would adhere to his promise, was gracious and kind.

But the philosopher could not resist the temptation of ridiculing
the advocates of the old system. He called them "paper
philosophers." In private he made a mockery of his persecutors.
One Saisi undertook to prove from Suidas that the Babylonians used
to cook eggs by whirling them swiftly on a sling; to which he
replied: "If Saisi insists on the authority of Suidas, that the
Babylonians cooked eggs by whirling them on a sling, I will believe
it. But I must add that we have eggs and slings, and strong men to
whirl them, yet they will not become cooked; nay, if they were hot
at first, they more quickly became cool; and as there is nothing
wanting to us but to be Babylonians, it follows that being
Babylonians is the true cause why the eggs became hard." Such was
his prevailing mockery and ridicule. "Your Eminence," writes one
of his friends to the Cardinal D'Este, "would be delighted if you
could hear him hold forth in the midst of fifteen or twenty, all
violently attacking him, sometimes in one house, and sometimes in
another; but he is armed after such a fashion that he laughs them
all to scorn."

Galileo, after his admonition from the Inquisition, and his promise
to hold his tongue, did keep comparatively quiet for a while,
amusing himself with mechanics, and striving to find out a new way
of discovering longitude at sea. But the want of better telescopes
baffled his efforts; and even to-day it is said "that no telescope
has yet been made which is capable of observing at sea the eclipses
of Jupiter's satellites, by which on shore this method of finding
longitude has many advantages."

On the accession of a new Pope (1623), Urban VIII., who had been
his friend as Cardinal Barberini, Galileo, after eight years of
silence, thought that he might now venture to publish his great
work on the Ptolemaic and Copernican systems, especially as the
papal censor also had been his friend. But the publication of the
book was delayed nearly two years, so great were the obstacles to
be surmounted, and so prejudiced and hostile was the Church to the
new views. At last it appeared in Florence in 1632, with a
dedication to the Grand Duke,--not the Cosimo who had rewarded him,
but his son Ferdinand, who was a mere youth. It was an unfortunate
thing for Galileo to do. He had pledged his word not to advocate
the Copernican theory, which was already sufficiently established
in the opinions of philosophers. The form of the book was even
offensive, in the shape of dialogues, where some of the chief
speakers were his enemies. One of them he ridiculed under the name
of Simplicio. This was supposed to mean the Pope himself,--so they
made the Pope believe, and he was furious. Old Cardinal Bellarmine
roared like a lion. The whole Church, as represented by its
dignitaries, seemed to be against him. The Pope seized the old
weapons of the Clements and the Gregories to hurl upon the daring
innovator; but delayed to hurl them, since he dealt with a giant,
covered not only by the shield of the Medici, but that of Minerva.
So he convened a congregation of cardinals, and submitted to them
the examination of the detested book. The author was summoned to
Rome to appear before the Inquisition, and answer at its judgment-
seat the charges against him as a heretic. The Tuscan ambassador
expostulated with his Holiness against such a cruel thing,
considering Galileo's age, infirmities, and fame,--all to no avail,
he was obliged to obey the summons. At the age of seventy this
venerated philosopher, infirm, in precarious health, appeared
before the Inquisition of cardinals, not one of whom had any
familiarity with abstruse speculations, or even with mathematics.

Whether out of regard to his age and infirmities, or to his great
fame and illustrious position as the greatest philosopher of his
day, the cardinals treat Galileo with unusual indulgence. Though a
prisoner of the Inquisition, and completely in its hands, with
power of life and death, it would seem that he is allowed every
personal comfort. His table is provided by the Tuscan ambassador;
a servant obeys his slightest nod; he sleeps in the luxurious
apartment of the fiscal of that dreaded body; he is even liberated
on the responsibility of a cardinal; he is permitted to lodge in
the palace of the ambassador; he is allowed time to make his
defence: those holy Inquisitors would not unnecessarily harm a hair
of his head. Nor was it probably their object to inflict bodily
torments: these would call out sympathy and degrade the tribunal.
It was enough to threaten these torments, to which they did not
wish to resort except in case of necessity. There is no evidence
that Galileo was personally tortured. He was indeed a martyr, but
not a sufferer except in humiliated pride. Probably the object of
his enemies was to silence him, to degrade him, to expose his name
to infamy, to arrest the spread of his doctrines, to bow his old
head in shame, to murder his soul, to make him stab himself, and be
his own executioner, by an act which all posterity should regard as
unworthy of his name and cause.

After a fitting time has elapsed,--four months of dignified
session,--the mind of the Holy Tribunal is made up. Its judgment
is ready. On the 22d of June, 1633, the prisoner appears in
penitential dress at the convent of Minerva, and the presiding
cardinal, in his scarlet robes, delivers the sentence of the
Court,--that Galileo, as a warning to others, and by way of
salutary penance, be condemned to the formal prison of the Holy
Office, and be ordered to recite once a week the seven Penitential
Psalms for the benefit of his soul,--apparently a light sentence,
only to be nominally imprisoned a few days, and to repeat those
Psalms which were the life of blessed saints in mediaeval times.
But this was nothing. He was required to recant, to abjure the
doctrines he had taught; not in private, but publicly before the
world. Will he recant? Will he subscribe himself an imposter?
Will he abjure the doctrines on which his fame rests? Oh, tell it
not in Gath! The timid, infirm, life-loving old patriarch of
science falls. He is not great enough for martyrdom. He chooses
shame. In an evil hour this venerable sage falls down upon his
knees before the assembled cardinals, and reads aloud this
recantation: "I, Galileo Galilei, aged seventy, on my knees before
you most reverend lords, and having my eye on the Holy gospel,
which I do touch with my lips, thus publish and declare, that I
believe, and always have believed, and always will believe every
article which the Holy Catholic Roman Church holds and teaches.
And as I have written a book in which I have maintained that the
sun is the centre, which doctrine is repugnant to the Holy
Scriptures, I, with sincere heart and unfeigned faith, do abjure
and detest, and curse the said error and heresy, and all other
errors contrary to said Holy Church, whose penance I solemnly swear
to observe faithfully, and all other penances which have been or
shall be laid upon me."

It would appear from this confession that he did not declare his
doctrines false, only that they were in opposition to the
Scriptures; and it is also said that as he arose from his knees he
whispered to a friend, "It does move, nevertheless." As some
excuse for him, he acted with the certainty that he would be
tortured if he did not recant; and at the worst he had only
affirmed that his scientific theory was in opposition to the
Scriptures. He had not denied his master, like Peter; he had not
recanted the faith like Cranmer; he had simply yielded for fear of
bodily torments, and therefore was not sincere in the abjuration
which he made to save his life. Nevertheless, his recantation was
a fall, and in the eyes of the scientific world perhaps greater
than that of Bacon. Galileo was false to philosophy and himself.
Why did he suffer himself to be conquered by priests he despised?
Why did so bold and witty and proud a man betray his cause? Why
did he not accept the penalty of intellectual freedom, and die, if
die he must? What was life to him, diseased, infirm, and old?
What had he more to gain? Was it not a good time to die and
consummate his protests? Only one hundred and fifty years before,
one of his countrymen had accepted torture and death rather than
recant his religions opinions. Why could not Galileo have been as
great in martyrdom as Savonarola? He was a renowned philosopher
and brilliant as a man of genius,--but he was a man of the world;
he loved ease and length of days. He could ridicule and deride
opponents, he could not suffer pain. He had a great intellect, but
not a great soul. There were flaws in his morality; he was
anything but a saint or hero. He was great in mind, and yet he was
far from being great in character. We pity him, while we exalt
him. Nor is the world harsh to him; it forgives him for his
services. The worst that can be said, is that he was not willing
to suffer and die for his opinions: and how many philosophers are
there who are willing to be martyrs?

Nevertheless, in the eyes of philosophers he has disgraced himself.
Let him then return to Florence, to his own Arceti. He is a
silenced man. But he is silenced, not because he believed with
Copernicus, but because he ridiculed his enemies and confronted the
Church, and in the eyes of blinded partisans had attacked divine
authority. Why did Copernicus escape persecution? The Church must
have known that there was something in his discoveries, and in
those of Galileo, worthy of attention. About this time Pascal
wrote: "It is vain that you have procured the condemnation of
Galileo. That will never prove the earth to be at rest. If
unerring observation proves that it turns round, not all mankind
together can keep it from turning, or themselves from turning with

But let that persecution pass. It is no worse than other
persecutions, either in Catholic or Protestant ranks. It was no
worse than burning witches. Not only is intolerance in human
nature, but there is a repugnance among the learned to receive new
opinions when these interfere with their ascendancy. The
opposition to Galileo's discoveries was no greater than that of the
Protestant Church, half a century ago, to some of the inductions of
geology. How bitter the hatred, even in our times, to such men as
Huxley and Darwin! True, they have not proved their theories as
Galileo did; but they gave as great a shock as he to the minds of
theologians. All science is progressive, yet there are thousands
who oppose its progress. And if learning and science should
establish a different meaning to certain texts from which
theological deductions are drawn, and these premises be undermined,
there would be the same bitterness among the defenders of the
present system of dogmatic theology. Yet theology will live, and
never lose its dignity and importance; only, some of its present
assumptions may be discarded. God will never be dethroned from the
world he governs; but some of his ways may appear to be different
from what was once supposed. And all science is not only
progressive, but it appears to be bold and scornful and proud,--at
least its advocates are and ever have been contemptuous of all
other departments of knowledge but its own. So narrow and limited
is the human mind in the midst of its triumphs. So full of


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