Frames /sing


The Life of Spinoza, Colerus (1705) Part II

[continued from Part I]

His Writings, and his Opinions.

As for his works, there are some, which are ascribed to him, but it is not certain that he is the Author of ‘em: Some are lost, or at least are not to be found, others are Printed and exposed to every Body’s view.

Monsieur Bayle tells us in his Historical and Critical Dictionary, that Spinosa writ an Apology in Spanish for his leaving the Synagogue; but that it was never Printed. He adds, that Spinosa inserted several things in it, which were found afterwards in his Tractatus Theologico Politicus: But I have not been able to hear any thing concerning that
Apology; tho in my enquiries about it I have consulted some Persons, who were familiarly acquainted with him, and who are alive still. He published in the year 1664, Descartes’s Principles of Philosophy GeomeTrically demonstrated: Renati Descartes prinipiorum Philosophiœ pars prima et secunda more Geometrico demonstratœ; which were soon followed by his Metaphysical Meditations, Cogitata Metaphysica: and had he gone no farther, he might have preserved to this day, the deserved Reputation of a Wise and Learned Philosopher. In the year 1665 there came out a little Book in Twelves entituled, Lcii Antistii Constantis de Jure Ecclesiasticorum. Alethopoli apud Caium Valerium pennatum. The Author of that Book endeavours to prove that the Spiritual and Political Right, which the Clergy ascribe to themselves, and which is ascribed to them by others, does not belong to them in the least; that Clergy-men abuse it in a Profane manner, and that all their Authority depends upon that of the Magistrates or Soveraigns, who are in the place of God, in the Cities and Commonwealths wherein the Clergy have established themselves: And therefore, that the Ecclesiasticks ought not to take upon themselves to teach their own Religion, but that which the Magistrates order ‘em to Preach. All that Doctrine is built upon the Principles, which Hobbes made use of in his Leviathan.

Monsieur Bayle tells us, that the Style, Principles and Design of Antistius’s Book were like that of Spinosa, which is entituled, Tractatus Theologico-Politicus; but this does not prove that Spinosa was the Author of it. Tho’ the first Book came out just at the same time that Spinosa began to write his; and tho’ the Trartatus Theologico Politicus was published soon after; yet it is not a proof neither, that the one was the fore-runner of the other. It may very well be, that two Men will undertake to write and advance the same impious things; and tho’ their Writings shou’d come out much about the same time, it cou’d not be inferred from thence, that they were written by one and the same Author. Spinosa himself being asked by a Person of great Consideration, whether he was the Author of the first Treatise, denied it positively; I have it from very good Hands. The Latin of those two Books, the Style, and the Expressions are not so like neither, as “tis pretended: The former expresses himself with a profound respect, when
he speaks of God: he calls him often Deam ter Optimum Maximum. But I find no such Expressions in any part of the writings of Spinosa. Several Learned Men have assured me, that the impious Book Printed in 1666 in Quarto, and entituled, The Holy Scripture explained by Philosophy: Philosophia Sacrœ Scipturœ interpres, and the above-men
tioned Treatise were both written by one and the same Author, viz. L. M. and tho the thing seems to me very likely, yet I leave it to the judgment of those who may be better informed.

It was in the year 1670 that Spinosa published his Tractatus Theologico-Politicus. He who translated it into Dutch, thought fit to entitle it, The judicious and political Divine; De Regtzenninge Theologant, of Godgeleerde Staatkunde. Spinosa does plainly say, that he is the Author of it in his 19th Letter, directed to Mr. Oldenburgh: He desires him in that same Letter, to send him the Objections, which Learned Men raised against his Book; for he design’d then to get it Reprinted, and to add some remarks to it. If we believe the Title Page of that Book, it was printed at Hamburg, by Henry Conrad. But it is certain, that the Magistrates, and the Reverend Ministers of Hamburg had never permitted, that so many impious things shou’d have been Printed and publickly sold in their City.

There is no doubt but that Book was Printed at Amsterdam by Christopher Conrad. Being sent for to Amsterdam in 1679 for some Business, Conrad himself brought me some Copies of that Treatise, and presented me with them, not knowing that it was a very pernicious Book.

The Dutch Translator was also pleased to honour the City of Bremen with so noble a Production: as if his ranslation had come from the Press of Hans Jurgel Vander Weyl, in the year 1694. But what is said of those Impressions of Bremen and Hamburg is equally false: and they would have met with the same difficulties in either of those Towns, if they had undertaken to Print and Publish such Books therein. Philopater, whom we have already mentioned, does openly say in the continuation of his Life, pag. 231, that old John-Hendrikzen, Glammaker, whom I knew very well, was the Translator of that Book: and he assures us at the same time, that he had likewise Translated into Dutch
the Posthumous Works of Spinosa, Published in 1677. He values and extols so much that Treatise of Spinosa, that one would think the World never saw the like. The Author, or at least the Printer, of the continuation of Philopater’s Life, Aard Wolsgryk, heretofore a Bookseller at Amsterdam, in the corner of Rosmaryn-Steeg, was punish’d for his
Insolence, as he deserv’d, and confin’d to the House of Correction, to which he was condemn’d for some years. I wish, with all my heart, he may have repented of his fault during the stay he made in that place; I hope he came out of it with a better mind, and that he was in such a disposition, when I saw him here (at the Hague) last Summer, whither he came to be paid for some Books, which he had Printed heretofore, and deliver’d to the Booksellers of this Town.

To return to Spinosa and his Tractatus Theologico-Politicus, I shall say what I think of it, after I have set down the judgment, which two farootis Authors made of it, one whereof was of the Confession of Ausburg,1 and the other Reformed. The first is Spitzelius, who speaks of it thus, n his Treatise entituled Infelix Literator2 p. 363. “That impious” author ( Spinosa) blinded by a prodigious presumption, was so impudent “and so full of Impiety, as to maintain that Prophecies were only” grounded upon the fancy of the Prophets; and that the Prophets and the “Apostles wrote naturally according to their own light and knowledge, “without any Revelation or Order from God: That they accommodated” Religion, as well as they cou’d, to the Genius of those who lived at “that time, and established it upon such Principles as were then well” known, and commonly received. Irreliogissimus Author stupenda sui fidentia plane fascinatus, eo progressus impudentiee & impietatis fuit, ut prophetiam dependisse dixerit a fallaci imaginatione prophetarum, eosque pariter ac Apostolos non ex Revelatione & Divino mandato Scripsisse, sed tantum ex ipsorummet naturali judicio; accommodavisse insuper Religionem, quo ad fieri potuit, hominum sui temporis ingenio, illamque fundamentis tum temporis maxime notis & acceptis super ĕ dificasse. Spinosa pretends in his Tractatus Theologico-Politicus, that the same Method may and ought to be observed still for explaining the Holy Scripture; for he maintains, amongst other things, that, as the Scripture, when it was first published, was fitted to the established opinions, and to the capacity of the People, so every Body is free to expound it according to his Knowledge, and make it agree with his own opinions.

If this was true, good Lord! What respect cou’d we have for the Scripture? How cou’d we maintain that it is Divinely inspired? That it is a sure and firm Prophecy; that the holy Men, who are the Authors of it, spoke and wrote by God’s order, and by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit; that the same Scripture is most certainly true, and that it gives a certain Testimony of its Truth to our Consciences; and lastly, that it is a Judge, whose Decisions ought to be the constant and unvariable Rule of our Thoughts, of our Faith, and of our Lives. If what Spinosa affirms were true, one might indeed very well say, that the Bible is a Wax-Nose, which may be turned and shaped at one’s will; a Glass, thro’ which every Body may exactly see what pleases his fancy; a Fool’s Cap, which may be turned and fitted at one’s pleasure a hundred several ways. The Lord confound thee, Satan, and stop thy mouth!

Spitzelius is not contented to say what he thinks of that pernicious Book; but he adds to the judgment he made of it, that of Mr de Manseveld heretofore Professor at Utrecht, who speaks of it thus, in a Book Printed at Amsterdam, in 1674. My opinion is, that that Treatise ought to be buried for ever in an œternal oblivion: Tractatum hunc aaœternas dannandum tenebras, &c. Which is very judiciously said; seeing that Wicked Book does altogether overthrow the Christian Religion, by depriving the Sacred Writings of the Authority, on which it is solely
grounded and established.

The second Testimony I shall produce is, that of Mr. William van Blyenbarg of Dordreet, who kept a long correspondence with Spihosa, and who in his 31 st Letter to him, (See Spinosa’s Posthumous Works pag. 476) says, speaking of himself, that he had embraced no Profession, and that he lived by an honest Trade, Liber sum nulli adstrictus professioni, honestis mercaturis me alo. That Merchant, who is a learned Man, in the Preface of a Book entituled, The truth of the Christian Religion, Printed at Leyden, in 1674, gives his judgment about the Treatise of’
Spinosa in these words. It is a Book, says he, full of curious, but abominable discoveries, the Learning and Inquiries whereof must needs have been fetched from Hell. Every Christian, nay, every Man of Sense, ought to abhor such a Book. The Author endeavours to overthrow the Christian Religion, and baffle all our hopes, which are grounded upon it: In the room where of he introduces Atheism, or at most, a Natural Religion forged according to the humour or interests of the Soveraigns. The wicked shall be restrained only by thefear of Punishment; but a Man of no Conscience, who neither fears the Executioner nor the Laws, may attempt anything to satisfy
himself, &c.

I must add, that I have read that Book of Spinosa with application from the beginning to the end; but I protest at the same time before God, that I have found no solid arguments in it, nor anything that cou’d shake, in the least, my belief of the Gospel. Instead of solid reasoas, it contains meer suppositions, and what we call in the School, petitiones principii. The things which the Author advances, are given for Proofs, which being denied and rejected, the remaining part of his Treatise will be found to containnothing but Lies and Blasphemies. Did he think that the World wou’d believe him blindly upon his word, and that he was not obliged to give good reasons and good proofs for what he advanced?

Lastly, several Writings, which Spinosa left after his death were Printed in 1677, in which year he also died. They are called his Posthumous Works, Opera Posthuma. These three Letters B. D. S. are to be found in the Title of the Book, which contains five several works. The first, is a Treatise of Morals demonstrated Geometrically, Ethica more Geometrico demonstrata. The second, is about Politicks. The third, treats of the Understanding, and of the means of rectifying it, De emendatione Intellectus. The fourth, is a Collection of Letters, and Answers to them, Epistolœ & Responsiones. The fifth, is an Abridgement of the Hebrew Grammar, Compendium Grammatices Linguœ Hebrææ. The Printer’s name and the place wherein that Book was Printed, are not mention’d in the Title-page; which shews that the Person who published it, did not care to be known. But Mr. Vander Spyck, Spinosa’s Landlord, who is alive still, tells me that Spinosa ordered, that immediately after his death, his Desk, which contained his Letters and Papers, shou’d be sent to John Rieuwertzen, a Printer at Amsterdam: Which Vander Spyck did not fail to perform
according to his Will. And John Rieuwertzen acknowledged that he had received that Desk, as it appears by his Answer dated from Amsterdam the 25th of March, 1677. He adds towards the latter part of his Letter, that The Relations of Spinosawou’d fain know to whom it was directed, because they fancied that it was full of Money, and that they wou’d not fail to enjuire about it of the Waterman, who had been intrustea with it. But, says he, if the Packets, that are sent hither by water, are not registred at the Hague, I don’t fee how they can be informed about it,
ana indeed it is better they shou’d know nothing of it, &c. He ends his Letter with those words, and it does clearly appear by that Letter, to whom we are beholden for so abominable a Production.

Several Learned Men have already sufficiently discovered the impious Doctrines contained in those Posthumous Works, and have given notice to every Body to beware of ‘em. I shall only add some few things to what has been said by them. The Treatise of Morals begins with some Difinitions or Descriptions of the Deity. Who would not think at first, considering so fine a beginning, that he is reading a Christian Philosopher? All those Difinitions are fine, especially the sixth, wherein Spinosa says, that God is an infinite Being; that if, a Substance, Which Contains in it self infinity of Attributes, every one whereof represents and expresses an Eternal and infinite Substance. But when we enquire more narrowly into his Opinions, we find that the God of Spinosa is a meet Phantom, an imaginary God, who is nothing less than God. And therefore the words of the Apostle, Tit. 1. 16. concerning impious Men, may be very well applied to that Philosopher: They profess that they know God, but in Works they deny him. What David says of ungodly Men Psalm 14. 1. does likewise suit him: The Fool has said in his Heart, there is no God. This is the true Opinion of Spinosa, whatever he might say. He takes the liberty to use the word God, and to take it in a sense unknown to all Christians. This he confesses himself in his 21st Letter to Mr. Oldenburg: I acknowledge, says he, that I have a notion of God and Nature, very different from that of the Modern Christians. I believe that God is the Immanent, and not the Transient Cause of all things:Deum rerum omnium Causam immanentem, non vero transtuntem statuo. And to confirm his Opinion, he alledges these Words of St Paul;In him we live, and move, and have our Being. Act. 17. 28.

In order to understand him, we must consider that a Transient Cause is, that1 the Productions whereof are external, or out of itself, as a Man, who throws a Stone into the Air, or a Carpenter, who builds a House: Whereas the Immanent Cause acts inwardly, and is confined within itself, without acting outwardly. Thus when a Man’s
Soul thinks of, or desires something, it is or remains in that thought or desire, without going out of it, and is the immanent Cause thereof. In the same manner, the God of Spinosa is the Cause of the Universe wherein he is, and he is not beyond it. But because the Universe has some bounds, it wou’d follow that God is a limited and finite Being.
And tho he says that God is infinite, and comprehends an infinity of Perfections; he must needs play with the words Eternal and Infinite, seeing he cannot understand by them a Being, which did subsist before Time was, and before any other Being was created, but he calls that infinite, wherein the Humane Understanding can neither find an End,
nor any Bounds: For he thinks the Productions of God are so numerous, that Man, with all the strength of his Mind, cannot conceive any Bounds in them. Besides, they are so solid, and so well settled and connected one with another, that they shall last for ever. Nevertheless, he says, in his 21st Letter, that they were in the wrong, who charged him with asserting that God and Matter, wherein God Acts, are but one and the same thing. But after all, he can’t forbear confessing, that Matter is a thing essential to the Deity, who is and works only in Matter, that is, in the Universe. The God of Spinosa is therefore nothing else but Nature, infinite, but yet corporeal and material, taken in general, and with all its Modifications. For he supposes that there are two Eternal Properties in God, cogitatio &
extensio, Thinking and Extension: By the first of those Properties, God is contain’d in the Universe; by the second, he is the Universe itself, and both joyn’d together make up what he calls God.

As far as I am able to understand Spinosa, the dispute between us Christians and him runs upon this, viz. Whether the true God be an Eternal Substance, different and distinct from the Universe, and from the whole Nature, and whether by a free Act of his Will he produc’d the World, and all Creatures out of nothing;  or whether the Universe, and all the Beings it comprehends, do essensually1 belong to the Nature of God, being considered as
a Substance, whose Thought and Extension are infinite? Spinosa
maintains the last proposition. The Antispinosa of L.2 Vittichius,
pag. 18. and seq. may be consulted. Thus he owns indeed, that God
is the general Cause of all things; but he pretends, that God produces
‘em necessarily without freedom and choice, and without consulting
his Will. In like manner, everything that happens in the World,
Good or Evil, Virtue or Vice, Sin or good Works, does necessarily
proceed from him; and consequently there ought to be no Judgment,
no Punishment, no Resurrection, no Salvation, no Damnation. For if
it were so, that imaginary God wou’d Punish and Reward his own
Work, as a Child does his Baby. Is it not the most pernicious Atheism
that ever was seen in the World? And therefore Mr. Burmanus,4 a
Reformed Minister, at Enkhuysen calls Spinosa, with great Reason, the
most impious Atheist, that ever liv’d upon the Face of the Earth.
I don’t design to examine here all the impious and absurd Doctrines
of Spinosa; I have mention’d some of the most important, only to
inspire the Christian Reader with the aversion and horror he ought to
have for such pernicious Opinions. But I must not forget to say, that
it does plainly appear by the second part of his Ethicks, that he makes
the Soul and Body but one Being, the Properties whereof are, as he
expresses it, Thinking and Extension; for he explains himself in that
Manner pag. 40. “When I speak of the Body, I mean only a Mode,
“which expresses the Essence of God in a certain and precise manner,
“as he is considered under the notion of an extended thing. Per corpus
intelligo modum qui Dei essentiam, quatenus ut res extensa consideratur,
certo & determinato modo exprimit
. As for the Soul, which is and acts
in the Body, it is only another Modification or manner of being, pro
duced by Nature, or manifested by Thought: It is not a Spirit, or a
particular Substance no more than the Body, but a Modification,
which expresses the Essence of God, as he manifests himself, Acts and
Works by Thought. Did ever any Body hear any such abominations
among Christians! At that rate God cou’d neither Punish the
Soul nor the Body, unless he would Punish and Destroy himself.
Towards the latter part of his 21st Letter, he overthrows the great
Mystory of Godliness, as we find it expressed 1 Tim. 3. 16. by main
taining, that the Incarnation of the Son of God is nothing else but the
Eternal Wisdom, which having appeared in all things, particularly in our
Hearts and Souls, was at last manifested in an extraordinary manner in
Jesus Christ: he says a little lower, that some Churches indeed add to
it, that God made himself a Man; but says he, I have declared in
express terms, that I don’t know what they mean by it. Quod quœdam
Ecclesiœ his addant, quod Deus naturam humanam assumpserit, monui
expresse me quid dicant nescrie
, &c. He goes on, and says, That
Doctrine seems to me to be as strange, as if any one shou’d teach that a
Circle has taken the nature of a Triangle or of a Square. Which
gives him occasion towards the latter part of his 23rd Letter, to ex
plain the famous passage of St John The Word was made Flesh
Chap. i. 14. by a way of speaking very common amongst the Eastern
Nations, and to render it thus, God has manifested himself in Jesus
Christ, in a most particular manner.

I have shewn plainly, and in a few words, in my Sermon, how in
his 23rd and 24th Letters, he endeavours to destroy the Mystery of the
Resurrection of Jesus Christ, which is a Capital Doctrine amongst us,
and the ground of our Hopes and Comfort. I need not spend more
time in setting down the other impious Doctrines, which he teaches.
Some Writings of Spinosa, which have not been Printed.

HE, who took care to publish the Posthumous Works of Spinosa, reckons
amongst the Writings of that Author, which have not been Printed, a
Treatise concerning the Rain-Bow. I know some Men of great note
in this Town, (at the Hague) who have seen and read that Treatise;
but they did not advise Spinosa to publish it: Which perhaps gave him
some trouble, and made him resolve to burn it half a year before he
died, as I have been informed by the people of the House, where he
lived.1 He had also begun a Translation of the Old Testament into
Dutch, about which, he often discoursed with some Men learned in the
Languages, and enquired into the Explications which the Christians
give to several Passages. He had finished the five Books of Moses, a
great while ago, when some few days before he died he burnt the whole
Work in his Chamber.

Several Authors con te his Works.

His works were scarce published, but God raised to his Glory, and for
the defence of the Christian Religion, several Champions who confuted
them with all the Success they cou’d hope for. Dr. Theoph. Spitzelius
names two of ‘em in his Book entituled Infelix Literator, viz. Francis
Kuyper of Rotterdam, whose Book printed in the same Town, in the
year 1676, is entituled Arcana Atheismi revelata, &c.The profound
Misteries of Atheism discovered.1 The second is, Regnier de Mansveld
Professor, at Utrecht, who in the year 1674. Printed in the same place
a Book upon the same Subject.

The next year 1675, a Confutation of the same Treatise of Spinosa,
entituled, Enervatio Tractatus Theologico-Politici, came out of the Press
of Isaac Nœranus: It was written by John Bredenburg, whose Father
had been Elder of the Lutheran Church at Rotterdam. George Mathias
Konig was pleased in his Bibliotheque of ancient and modern Authors,
pag. 770, to call him a certain Weaver of Rotterdam,Textorem quendam
Rotterodamensem. If he exercised such a Mechanical Art, I am sure
that no Man of his Profession did ever shew so much ability, or pro
duced such a Work; for he does Geometrically demonstrate in that
Book, and in a clear and unanswerable manner, that Nature neither is,
nor can be God himself, as Spinosa pretends. Being not very well
skill’d in the Latin Tongue, he was obliged to write his Book in Dutch,
and to make use of another Man’s hand to Translate it into Latin.
Which he did, as he himself says in the Preface to his Book, to the
end, that Spinosa, who was still alive, might have no excuse or pretence,
in case he made no reply to it.

Nevertheless, I don’t find that all the Arguments of that Learned
Man are convincing. Besides, he seems to incline to Socinianism in
some parts of his Book. This is at least the judgment I make of it,
and I believe it does not differ in that respect from the judgment of
knowing Men, to whom I leave the decision of it. However, it is
certain, that Francis Kuyper and Bredenburg published several Writings
one against another, and that Kuyper in his accusations against hi
Adversary, pretended to no less than to convince him of Atheism.
In the year 1676, Lambert Veldhuis of Utrecht, published a Book,
entiuled, Tractatus Moralis de Naturali pudore, & dignitate hominis.1
He overthrows, in that Treatise, the Principles whereby Spinosa pre
tends to prove, that all the Good or Evil, which Men do, is produc’d
by a Superior and necessary operation of God or Nature. I have
already mention’d William Van Bleyenburg, a Merchant of Dordrecht,
who enter’d into the List in the year 1674,2 and refuted the impious
Book of Spinosa, entitul’d, Tractatus Theologico-Politicus. I cannot for
bear comparing him with the Merchant, whom our Saviour speaks of,
Mat. XIII. 45, 46. Seeing he does not present us with worldly and
perishable Riches, by the publishing of his Book, but with a Treasure
of an infinite value, and which shall never perish. It were to be wish’d,
that there were many such Merchants upon the Exchanges of Amster
dam and Rotterdam.

Our Divines of the Confession of Augsburg have also distinguisht themselves amongst those, who have refuted the impious Doctrine of Spinosa. His Tractaus Theologico-Politicus was scarce come out, but they took Pen in hand and wrote against him. We may name first Dr Musœus, Professor of Divinity, at Jena, a Man of a great Genius, and who perhaps had not his like in his time. During the Life of Spinosa,viz. in the year 1704, he publish’d a Dissertation of twelve Sheets, entitul’d, Tractatus Theologico-Politicus ad Veritatis Lumen examinatus. “The Theological and Political Treatise examin’d by “the Light of Reason and Truth. He declares, pag. 2, 3. his aversion and horror for such an impious Production, and expresses it in these words, Jure merito quis dubitet, num ex illis, quos ipse Dœmon ad humana divinaque jura pervertenda magno numero conduxit, repertus fuerit, qui in iis depravandis operosior fuerit yumn hic Impostor, magno Ecclesiœ malo & Reipablicœ detrimento natus. “One may very well doubt, whether, “amongst the many Men, whom the Devi has hir’d to overthrow all “Humane and Divine right, any of ‘em has been more busy about it, “than that Impostor, who was born to the great Mischief of Church “and State. He sets down (pag. 5, 6, 7.) with great clearness the Philosophical Expressions of Spinosa, he explains those which are capable of a double sense, and shews in what sense Spinosa made use of ‘em, that one may the better understand him. He shews (pag. 16. §. 32.) that when Spinosa published that Book, he design’d to teach that every Man has the right and liberty of’ fixing his Belief in point of Religion, and of confining it only to such things as are not above his reach, and which he can comprehend. He had already (pag. 14. §. 28.) very clearly stated the Question, and shewn wherein Spinosa differs from the Christians: And in the same manner he continues to examine that Treatise of Spinosa, and confutes every part of it with good and solid Reasons. There is no doubt but Spinosa himself read that Book of Dr. Musœus, seeing it was found amongst his Papers after his death. Tho’ several Authors writ against the Theological and Political Treatise, as I have already observed; yet none in my Opinion has done it with more Solidity than that Learned Professor; and my judgment of him is confirmed by that of many others. The Author, who, under the name of Theodorus Securus, published a small Treatise, entituled, Origo Atheismi, says in another little Book, entituled, Prudentia Theologica. “I do very much wonder that the Dissertation of “Dr. Musœus shou’d be so scarce, and so little known here in Holland. “That learned Divine, who writ upon so important a Subject, shou’d “have more justice done him; for he has certainly had a better Success “than any other. Mr. Fullerus,(in continuatione Bibliothecœ Universalis &c.) expresses himself thus, speaking of Dr. Musœus: “That most famous Divine of Jena has refuted the pernicious Book of Spinosa with his usual solidity and learning. Celeberrimus ille Jenensium Theologus Joh. Musœus Spinosæ pestilentissimum foetum acutissimis,1 queis solet, telis confodit.

The same Author does also mention Frederic Rapoltus, Professor of Divinity, at Leipsick, who in a Speech which he pronounced when he took Possession of his Professorship, did likewise refute the Doctrine of Spinosa. I have read his Speech, and I find that he has confuted him but indirectly, and without naming him: It is entituled, Oratio contra Naturalistas, habita ipsis Kalendis Junii ann. 1670, and it is to be found in the Theological Works of Rappotues tom. 1. pag. 1386 and Seq. published by Dr. John Benedict Carpzovius, and Printed at Leipsick in 1692. Dr. J. Conrad Durrius, Professor at Altorf, followed the same Plan in a Speech,2 which I have not read, but I have heard it highly commended.

Monsieur Aubert de Verse published in 1681 a Book, entituled, The impious Manconvinced, or a Dissertation against Spinosa, wherein the Grounds of his Atheism are confuted.1 In 1687 Peter Yvon, a Kinsmanan a Disciple of Labadie, and Minister of those of his Sect at Wiewerden in Friseland, writ a Treatise against Spinosa which he published under this Title, Impiety Vanquished, &c. In the Supplement to Moreri’s Dictionary, in the Article of Spinosa, there is a Treatise mentioned, entituled, de concordia Rationis & Fidei, written by Monsieur Huet: That Book was Reprinted at Leipsick in 1692, and the Journalists of that City gave a good Abstract of it, (see Acta Erudit. an. 1695, pag. 395) wherein the Doctrine of Spinosa is set down with great clearness, and refuted with great Force and Learning. The Learned Mr. Simon4 and Mr. de la Motte,3 Minister of the Savoy in London, have both of ‘em writ upon the same subject: I have seen the Works of those two Authors, but I don’t understand French enough. to judge of ‘em. Mr. Peter Poiret who lives now at Reinsburg near Leyden, published a Treatise against Spinosa in the second Edition of’ his Book, De Deo, anima, & malo: That Treatise is entituled, Fundamenta Atheismi eversa, sive specimen absurditatis Spinosianœ. It is a work which very well deserves to be read with attention.

The last Work, I shall mention, is that of Mr Wittichius, Professor at Leyden, which was Printed in 1690, after the death of the Author, with this Title, Christophori Wittichii Professoris Leidensis Anti-Spinosa, sire Examen Ethices B. de Spinosa. It was sometime after translated into Dutch; and Printed at Amsterdam by Wasbergen.6 ‘Tis no Wonder to see that great Man defamed, and his Reputation stained after his death, in such a Book as the Continuation of the Life of Philopater. It is said in that Book, that Mr. Wittichius was an excellent Philosopher, and a great Friend of Spinosa, that he kept correspondence and had a great many private Conversations with him; in a word, that they were both of the same Opinion. That Mr. Wittichius writ against the Ethicks of Spinosa, for fear of being reputed a Spinosist, and that his Confutation was Printed after his death only, that he might not lose his Honour, and the Reputation of an Orthodox Christian. These are the calumnies, which that insolent Author has advanced: I don’t know from whence he had ‘em, nor upon what appearance of truth he can build so many Lies. How came he to know that those two Philosophers kept such a strict Correspondence together that they saw and writ so often to one another? We don’t find any Letter of Spinosa to Wittichius, nor of Wittichius to Spinosa among the Letters of that Author, which have been Printed; and there is none neither among those which remain to be Printed: So that we have all the reason in the World to believe, that this strict Correspondence, and the Letters which they writ to one another, are a meer fiction of that Calumniator. I confess, I never had occasion to speak to Mr. Wittichius; but I am pretty well acquainted with Mr. Zimmerman, his Nephew, who is now Minister of the Church of England, and who lived with his Uncle the latter part of his Life. What he told me upon that Subject, is altogether contrary to what has been Published by the Author of Philopater’s Life:1 Nay, he shew’d me a Writing, which his Uncle had dictated to him, wherein the Opinions of Spinosa are both well explained and confuted. What can one desire more for his justification, than the last Work which he writ? There we see what he believed, and there he makes, as it were, a Confession of his Faith before he died. Will any Man, that has any sense of Religion, be so bold as to think and even to publish, that it was all meet Hypocrisy, that he did it only that he might go to Church, and to salve appearances, and avoid being accounted an Impious Man and a Libertine?

If any such thing cou’d be inferred, when there has been some Correspondence between two Persons; I shou’d not find my self very safe; and few Ministers wou’d be secure from the Tongues of Calumniators, seeing it is sometimes impossible for us to avoid all manner of converse with some Persons, whose Belief is none of the most Orthodox.

I shall willingly mention William Deurhof, of Armsterdam, and I name him with all the distinction he deserves. That Professor has always vigorously assaulted the Opinions of Spinosa in all his Works, but especially in his Lectures of Divinity.2 Mr. Francis Halma does him justice in his Dutch account of Spinosa3 when he says, that he has refuted the Opinions of that Philosopher with so much solidity, that none of his Partisans durst hitherto vye strength with him. He adds, that that subtil Writer, is able still to confute the calumnies of Philopater’s Life, and to stop his mouth.

I shall say but one word of two famous Authors, and I’ll put ‘em together, tho’ they are now set one against the other. The first is Mr Bayle, so well known in the Common-wealth of Learning, that I need not make his Encomium in this place. The second, is Mr Jaquelot heretofore Minister of the French Church at the Hague, and now Chaplain to the King of Prussia. They made both of ‘em learned and solid Remarks on the Life, Writings, and Opinions of Spinosa, which have been Translated into Dutch by Francis Halma, a Bookseller at Amsterdam, and a Scholar. He has added to his Translation, a Preface, and some judicious Remarks upon the Continuation of Philopater’s Life; which deserve to be read.

There is no need to mention here some Writers, who have very lately opposed the Doctrine of Spinosa, upon account of a Book, entitled, Hemel op Aarden, Paradice on Earth, written by Mr van Leenhoff, a Reformed Minister of Zwol, wherein ’tis pretended that he builds upon the same foundations with Spinosa. Those things are too fresh, and too well known to insist upon ‘em: I therefore proceed to mention the Death of that famous Atheist.

Of the last Sickness, and Death of Spinosa.

THERE has been so many various and false Reports about the Death of Spinosa, that ’tis a wonder how some understanding Men came to acquaint the Publick with it upon Hear-says, without taking care to be better informed of what they published. One may find a Pattern of those falsehoods in the Menagiana, Printed at Amsterdam in 1695, where the Author expresses himself thus.

“I have been told that Spinosa died of the fear he was in, of being committed to the Bastille. He came into France at the desire of “two Persons of Quality, who had a mind to see him. Mr. de Pompone “had notice of it, and being a Minister, very zealous for Religion, he did not think fit to permit that Spinosa shou’d live in France, where he might do a great deal of Mischief; and in order to prevent it, he resolv’d to send him to the Bastille. Spinosa having had notice of it, made his escape in a Fryar’s Habit; but I will not warrant this last Circumstance. That which is certain, is, that I have been told by several people, that he was a little Man, and of a yellowish complexion, and that he had an ill Look, and bore a Character of Reprobation in his Face.

There is not one word of truth in this Account; for it is certain, that Spinosa was never in France: And tho some Persons of great note endeavoured to have him there,1 as he himself confest to his Landlords, yet he assured them, at the same time, that he hoped he wou’d never be so great a Fool as to do such a thing. One may also easily judge from what I shall say hereafter, that it is altogether false that he died of Fear. Wherefore I shall set down the Circumstances of his Death without partiality, and I shall advance nothing without proving it; which I can the more easily do, because he died, and was buried here at the Hague.

Spinosa was a Man of a very weak Constitution, unhealthy and lean, and had been troubled with a Pthysick above twenty years, which oblig’d him to keep a strict course of Dyet, and to be extreamly sober in his Meat and Drink. Nevertheless, his Landlord, and the people of the House did not believe that he was so near his end, even a little while before he died, and they had not the least thought of it. For the 22nd2 of February, which happen’d to be then the Saturday before the last week of the Carnaval, his Landlord and his Wife went to the Sermon which is preach’d in our Church, to dispose every Body to receive the Communion, which is administered the next day according to a Custom established amongst us. The Landlord being come from Church at four a Clock, or thereabouts, Spinosa went down Stairs, and had a pretty long Conversation with him, which did particularly run upon the Sermon; and having taken a Pipe of Tobacco, he retired into his Chamber, which was forwards, and went to Bed betimes. Upon Sunday Morning before Church-time, he went down Stairs again, and discoursed with his Landlord and his Wife. He had sent for a Physitian from Amsterdam, whose Name I shall only express by these two Letters, L. M.3 That Phisitian ordered ‘em to boil an old Cock immediately, that Spinosa might take some Broth about noon, which he did, and eat some of the Meat with a good Stomach, when his Landlord and his Wife came from Church. In the afternoon the Physitian L. M. staid alone with Spinosa, the people of the House being returned to Church. But as they were coming from Church, they were very much surprized to hear, that Spinosa had expired about three a Clock, in the presence of that Physitian, who that very Evening returned to Amsterdam by the Night-boat, without taking any care of the Deceased. He was more willing to dispense himself from that Duty, because immediately after the Death of Spinosa he had taken a Ducatoon and a little Money, which the Deceased had left upon the Table, and a Knife with a Silver Handle; and so retired with his Booty.

The particularities of his Sickness and Death have been variously reported, and have occasioned several Contestations. ‘Tis said, 1st, That during his Sickness he took the necessary Precautions to avoid being visited by those whose Sight wou’d have been troublesome to him. 2dly, That he spoke once and even several times these words, O God have mercy upon me miserable Sinner. 3dly, That they heard him often sigh, when he pronounced the Name of God. Which gave occasion to those, who were present, to ask him, whether he believed, at last, the Existence of a God, whose judgment he had great Reason to fear after his death? And that he answered ‘em, that he had dropt that word out of Custom. ‘Tis said, 4thly, That he kept by him some Juice of Mandrake ready at hand which he made use of, when he perceived he was a dying, that he drew the Curtains of his Bed afterwards, and then lost his Senses, fell into a profound Sleep, and departed this Life in that manner. 5thly, That he had given express orders to let no Body come into his Room, when he shou’d be near his End: And likewise, that finding he was a dying, he call’d for his Landlady, and desired her to suffer no Minister to come to him; because he was willing to die peaceably and without disputing, &c.

I have carefully enquired into the truth of all those things, and ask’d several times his Landlord and his Landlady, who are alive still, what they knew of it: But they answered me, at all times, that they knew nothing of it, and were perswaded that all those Circumstances were meet Lies. For he never forbad them to admit any body into his Room, that had a mind to see him. Besides, when he was a dying, there was no body in his Chamber but the Physitian of Amsterdam, whom I have mentioned. No body heard the words, which ’tis said, he spoke, O God, gave mercy upon me miserable Sinner: Nor is it likely that they shou’d come out of his mouth, seeing he did not think he was so near his Death, and the people of the House had not the least suspicion of it. He did not keep his Bed during his sickness; for the very day that he died, he went down Stairs, as I have observed: He lay forwards1 in a Bed made according to the fashion of the Country, which they call Bedstead. His Landlady, and the people of the House know nothing of his ordering to send away the Ministers, that shou’d come to see him, or of his invocating the Name of God during his Sickness. Nay, they believe the contrary, because ever since he began to be in a languishing condition, he always exprest, in all his sufferings, a truly Stoical constancy; even so as to reprove others, when they happened to complain, and to shew in their Sicknesses little Courage or too great a Sensibility.

Lastly, as for the Juice of Mandrake, which, ’tis said, he made use of when he was a dying, which made him lose his Senses; it is also a circumstance altogether unknown to the people of the House: And yet they us’d to prepare every thing he wanted for his Meat and Drink, and the Remedies which he took from time to time. Nor is that Drug mention’d in the Apothecary’s Bill, who was the same to whom the Physitian of Amsterdam sent for the Remedies, which Spinosa wanted the last days of his Life.

Spinosa being dead, his Landlord took care of his Burial. John Rieuwertz, a Printer at Amsterdam, desired him to do it, and promised him, at the same time, that he shou’d be paid for all the charges he should be at, and past his word for it. The Letter which he wrote to him upon that Subject, is dated from Amsterdam the 6th of March 1678.1 He does not forget to speak of that Friend of Schiedam, whom I have mentioned, who to shew how dear and precious the memory of Spinosa was to him, paid exactly to Vander Spyck, all that he cou’d pretend from his late Lodger. The Money was at the same time remitted to him, as Rieuwertz himself had received it by the order of his Friend. As they were making everything ready for the Burial of Spinosa, one Schroder, an Apothecary, made a Protestation against it, pretending to be paid for some Medicines wherewith he had furnished the Deceased during his Sickness. His Bill amounted to sixteen Florins and two pence. I find in it some Tincture of Saffron, some Balsam, some Powders, &c. but there is no Opium nor Mandrake mentioned therein. The Protestation was immediately taken off, and the Bill paid by Mr. Vander Spyck.

The dead Body was carried to the Grave in the New Church upon the Spuy, the 25th of February, being attended by many Illustrious Persons and followed by six Coaches. The Burial being over, the particular Friends or Neighbours, were treated with some Bottles of Wine, according to the Custom of the Country, in the House where the Deceased lodged.

I shall observe by the bye, that the Barber of Spinosa brought in after his Death, a Bill exprest in these words: “Mr Spinosa, of Blessed” Memory,1 owes to Abraham Kervel, for having shaved him the last “Quarter, the summ of one Florin and eighteen Pence. The Man, who invited his Friends to his Burial, two Ironmongers, and the Mercer, who furnished the Mourning Gloves, made him the same Complement in their Bills.

If they had known what were the Principles of Spinosa in point of Religion; ’tis likely that they would not have made use of the word Blessed: Or perhaps they used that word according to Custom, which permits, sometimes, the abuse of such Expressions, even with respect to those, who die in despair, or in a final Impenitence.

Spinosa being buried, his Landlord caused the Inventory of his Goods to be made. The Notary he made use of, brought in a Bill, in this form: William van Hove, Notary, for having made the Inventory of the Goods and Effects of the late Sieur Benedict de Spinosa. His Bill amounts to seventeen Florins and eight pence, which he acknowledges to have received the 14th of November, 1677.

Rebekah of Spinosa, Sister of the Deceased, declared her self his Heir. But because she refused to pay, in the first place, the charges of the Burial, and some Debts wherewith the Succession was clogged; Mr. Vander Spyck sent to her at Amsterdam, and summoned her to do it, by Robert Schmeding, who carried his Letter of Attorny drawn up and signed by Libertus Loef the 30th of March, 1677. But, before she paid any thing, she had a mind to know, whether the Debts and Charges being paid, she might get something by her Brother’s Inheritance. Whilst she was deliberating about it, Vander Spyck was authoriz’d by Law, to make a publick Sale of the Goods in question; which was executed; and the Money arising from the sale being deposited in the usual place, the Sister of Spinosa made an Attachment of it. But perceiving that after the payment of the Charges and Debts, there wou’d be little or nothing at all left, she desisted from her pretentions. The Attorny, John Lukkats, who served Vander Spyck in that Affair, brought him a Bill of thirty three Florins and sixteen pence, for which he gave his Receipt the 1st of June, 1678. The Sale of the said Goods was made here (at the Hague) the 4th of November, 1677, by Rykus van Stralen, a sworn Cryer, as it appears by his Account, bearing the same Date.

One needs only cast one’s Eyes upon that Account, to perceive that it was the Inventory of a true Philosopher: It contains only some small Books, some Cuts, some pieces of polished Glass, some Instruments to polish them, &c.

It appears likewise, by his Cloaths, how good a Husband he was. A Camlet Cloak, and a pair of Breeches were sold for twenty one Florins and fourteen pence, another grey Cloak, twelve Florins and fourteen pence, four Sheets, six Florins and eight pence, seven Shirts, nine Florins and six pence, one Bed fiveteen Florins, nineteen Bands, one Florin and eleven pence, five Handkerchiefs, twelve pence, two red Curtains, a Counter-pain, and a little Blanket, six Florins: And all his Plate, consisted of one Pair of Silver-Buckles, which were sold, two Florins. The whole Sale of the Goods amounted to four hundred Florins and thirteen Pence; and the charges of the Sale being deducted, there remained three hundred ninety Florins and fourteen pence. These are all the particulars I cou’d learn about the Life and Death of Spinosa: He was forty four years, two months and twenty seven days old, when he died; which happen’d the 21st of February, 1677, and he was buried the 25th of the same month.

[This reprint has been newly collated with one of the three copies in the British
Museum, and some minute errors corrected.]

[Back to Part I]

8 responses to “The Life of Spinoza, Colerus (1705) Part II

  1. jan van der brugge May 19, 2009 at 4:04 pm

    Thanks you for this very interesting and important document! You are doing a marvellous job!
    Regards from Vienna
    jan van der Brugge

  2. kvond May 19, 2009 at 4:37 pm


    Thank you for the appreciation. The best to you.


  3. Spoonwood June 2, 2010 at 9:05 pm

    Thank you also for this reprint. Colerus sure does write in such a boring manner adducing fact after fact. I find it amusing that in points he wants to “confutions” of Spinoza’s ideas, but clearly he has utmost respect for the man.

  4. Joseph Mohr December 5, 2011 at 8:30 pm

    Mostl objectors past and present,including Colerus,had direct benefit for themselves in objecting to Spinosa’s philosophy.

  5. hossein December 16, 2011 at 8:36 am

    thank u very much for this useful text. i,m phd student in philosophy and i’m working about spinoza. how can I find the article of spinoza in “historical and critical history” of pierre bayle? the book isn’t available in my country…

  6. Francis Goode August 25, 2012 at 7:22 am


    Many thanks for taking the time to post this and make it available. Much appreciated.

    You don’t mention whose translation it is, or when it was done – I guess it wasn’t recently!

    cheers, Francis

    • Kevin von Duuglas-Ittu August 25, 2012 at 7:54 am

      Sorry Francis,

      Yes this seems quite antique. I’m guessing that it is from Sir Fredrick Pollock’s book circa 1923, but I’m really not sure.



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