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standing, and quickness of penetration, were no less conspicuous than his total want of virtue and of principle, might, with more propriety than almost any man, as the whole tenor of his conduct demonstrates, adopt the declaration of the unhappy MEDEA :
“ Video meliora proboq. deteriora sequor."
On the CHARACTER and WRITINGS Of
ENOUNCE St. Evremond, and read St.
Paul,” says a celebrated Christian Divine and Poet; but I am of opinion that St. Paul may be read to very good purpose, without renouncing St. Evremond. There are many authors who, without directly intending, or perhaps without being even conscious of it, delineate in their writings the features of their own character in colours so lively, that it is impossible not to regard them with the same sentiments of partiality or dislike, as usually result from a personal and intimate acquaintance. The character of St. Evremond, viewed through this medium, has always appeared to me in a light peculiarly interesting and amiable; and the favourable impression made by a perusal of his Works, is confirmed by all the traditional and biographical accounts remaining of this accomplished Frenchman. He appears to have been a man of excellent capacity, intimately acquainted with the
world, world, and perfectly conversant with the secretsprings of human conduct, and the genuine movements of the human heart. Hewas the man of fashion, the man of wit, and the man of pleasure; but as his love of pleasure was regulated by a refined taste and cultivated understanding, it never betrayed him into any disgraceful exceles; and he preserved his gaiety of heart and his vigour of intellect unimpaired to the age of ninety; palling his days in a delightful kind of philofophic indolence, not less beloved for the virtues of his heart than admired for the charms. of his wit and conversation. His libertine principles respecting religion are well known. Educated in the bofom of the Romish Church, his superior discernment enabled him, with little effort, to emancipate himself from vulgar prejudices, and to reject without hesitation that enormous mass of absurdity and superstition which aflumes the appellation of the catholic faith. Unhappily he appears, like the majority of infidels in Romnish countries, to have taken it for granted that the doctrines of Popery were the genuine doctrines of Christianity, or, at least, they presume that Chriftianity must be in part chargeable with those absurdities, which fo justly excite their ridicule and contempt, and therefore they think it fuperfluous to examine into the evidences of it.
With respect to the principles of natural religion, St. Evremond is far from denying their reality and importance; but he doubts, as every philosopher
who is ingenuous and impartial must be constrained to do, of the strength and sufficiency of the evidence by which they are supported. Ja" mais homme,” says he, “ n'a été bien persuadé
par sa raison ou que l'ame fut certainement im“ mortelle, ou qu'elle s'anéantit effectivement avec « le corps.-On ne doute point que Socrate n'ait " crû l'Immortalité de l'Ame; fon histoire le dit, & " les sentiments que Platon attribuë semble nous en affûrer. Mais Socrate ne nous en affûre
pas “ lui-meme; car quand il est devant les juges, il
en parle comme un homme qui la fouhaite, & 6 traite l'Anéantissement comme un philosophe
qui ne le craint point. Qu'a fait Descartes par fa demonstration prètenduë d'une substance
purement spirituelle, d'une substance qui doit “ penser éternellement? Qu'a-t'il fait par des Spé“ culations fi épurées? Il a fait croire que la Reli- .
gion ne le persuadoit pas, sans pouvoir persuader “i ni lui ni les autres par les Raisons.”
St. Evremond has been frequently stiled a superficial writer, and his biographers, Sylvestre and Des Maizeaux have given some countenance to the accusation by their own acknowledgment." II “ n'avoit pas," say they, “un grand savoir-En
il s'attachoit plus aetudier le genie, & le “ caractere d'un Auteur qu'a charger sa memoire « d'une erudition fastueuse & souvent inutile.” I do not think there are any words by which mankind are more frequently deceived, than by the
terms superficial and profound. Nothing can properly be stiled superficial, which discovers just and comprehensive views of a subject, though it may not suit the writer's purpose or inclination to compose an elaborate differtation, or to enter much into detail. On the other hand, many very volu
. minous, and what the world calls very profound treatises, have been written on various subjects, which to intelligent readers exhibit nothing more than the profound ignorance or absurdity of the authors. Thus we abound in profound systems of ancient Mythology, profound criticisms on ancient Poetry, profound researches into ancient Hiftory, and profound commentaries upon ancient Metaphysics. But writers of the class to which St. Evremond belongs, are not superficial, though neceffarily concise, from that fuperiority of judgment and understanding, which will not suffer them to introduce what is foreign and inapplicable to the subject; and that justness of taste and happy skill in the art of composition, which enables them to express every sentiment in the simplest and most perspicuous language. His “ Reflexions sur les divers
genies du peuple Romains dans les divers tems “ de la Republique,” are written in the true spirit of philofophy; they are bold, fagacious, and just. I cannot but extremely regret, that through an unfortunate accident we are deprived of the seven chapters which comprized the important period, commencing at the Jugurthine war, and termi