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king, their imprisoned Messiah, who, though in irons, retained all his dignity, and made them kiss his feet.
Meanwhile the sultan, who was holding his court at Adrianople, resolved to put an end to this farce: he. sent for Sevi, and told him that if he was the Messiah he must be invulnerable; to which Sevi assented. The Grand Signor then had him placed as a mark for the arrows of his icoglans. The Messiah confessed that he was not invulnerable, and protested that God sent him only to bear testimony to the holy Mussulman religion. Being beaten by the ministers of the law he turned Mahoinetan; he lived and died equally despised by the Jews and Mussulmans; which cast such discredit on the profession of false Messiah, that Sevi was the last that appeared.*
METAMORPHOSIS, It may very naturally be supposed, that the metamorphoses with which our earth abounds, suggested the imagination to the orientals, (who have imagined everything,) that the souls of men passed from one body to another. An almost imperceptible point becomes a grub, and that grub becomes a butterfly; an acorn is transformed into an oak; an egg into a bird; water becomes cloud and thunder; wood is changed into fire and ashes; everything, in short, in nature appears to be metamorphosed. What was thus obviously and distinctly perceivable in grosser bodies, was soon conceived to take place with respect to souls, which were considered slight, shadowy, and scarcely material figures. The idea of metempsychosis is perhaps the most ancient dogma of the known world, and prevails still in a great part of India and of China.
It is highly probable again, that the various metamorphoses which we witness in nature, produced those ancient fables which Ovid has collected and embellished in his admirable work. Even the Jews had their
See the “ Essai sur les Meurs et l'Esprit des Nations,” tom. iv. p. 196, where Sevi's history is given more in detail.
metamorphoses. If Niobe was changed into a stone, Edith, the wife of Lot, was changed into a statue of salt. If Euridyce remained in hell for having looked behind her, it was for precisely the same indiseretion that this wife of Lot was deprived of her human nature. The village in which Baucis and Philemon resided in Phrygia, is changed into a lake; the same event occurs to Sodom. The daughters of Anius converted water into oil; we have in scripture a metamorphosis very similar, but more true and more sacred. Cadmus was changed into a serpent; the rod of Aaron becomes a serpent also.
The gods frequently change themselves into men; the Jews never saw angels but in the form of men; angels ate with Abraham. Paul, in his second epistle to the Corinthians, says that an angel of Satan has buffetted him: “ Angelus Satanæ me colaphizet."
“ TRANS naturam,"_beyond nature. But what is that which is beyond nature? By nature it is to be presumed, is meant matter, and metaphysics relate to that which is not matter.
For example; to your reasoning, which is neither long, nor wide, nor high, nor solid, nor pointed.
Your soul, to yourself unknown, which produces your reasoning
Spirits, which the world has always talked of, and to which mankind appropriated, for a long period, a body so attenuated and shadowy, that it could scarcely be called body; but from which, at length, they have removed every shadow of body, without knowing what it was that was left.
The manner in which these spirits perceive, without any embarrassment, from the five senses; in which they think, without a head; and in which they communicate their thoughts, without words and signs.
Finally, God, whom we know by his works, but whom our pride impels us to define; God, whose power we feel to be immense; God, between whom and ourselves exists the abyss of infinity, and yet whose nature we dare attempt to fathom.
These are the objects of metaphysics.
We might further add to these the principles of pure mathematics, points without extension, lines without width, superficies without thickness, units infinitely divisible, &c.
Bayle himself considered these objects as those which were denominated “ entia rationis,” beings of reason; they are however, in fact, only material things considered in their masses, their superficies, their simple lengths and breadths, and the extremities of these simple lengths and breadths. All measures are precise and demonstrated. Metaphysics have nothing to do with geometry.
Thusa ma n may be a metaphysician without being a geometrician. Metaphysics are more entertaining: they constitute often the romance of the mind. In geometry, on the contrary, we must calculate and measure; this is a perpetual trouble, and most minds had rather dream pleasantly than fatigue themselves with hard work.
MIND (LIMITS OF THE HUMAN). Newton was one day asked, why he stepped forward when he was so inclined ; and from what cause his arm and his hand obeyed his will? He honestly replied, that he knew nothing about the matter. But at least, said they to him, you who are so well acquainted with the gravitation of planets, will tell us why they turn one way sooner than another? Newton still avowed his ignorance.
Those who teach, that the ocean was salted for fear it should corrupt, and that the tides were created to conduct our ships into port, were a little ashamed when told that the Mediterranean has ports and no tide. Muschembrock himself has fallen into this error.
Who has ever been able to determine precisely how
a billet of wood is changed into red hot charcoal, and by what mechanism lime is heated by cold water?
The first motion of the heart in animals-is that accounted for? Has it been exactly discovered how the business of generation is arranged? Has any one divined the cause of sensation, ideas, and memory? We know no more of the essence of matter than the children who touch its superficies.
Who will instruct us in the mechanism by which the grain of corn, which we cast into the earth, disposes itself to produce a stalk surmounted with an ear; or why the sun produces an apple on one tree and a chesnut on the next to it? Many doctors have said, what know I not? Montaigne said, what know I?
Unbending decider! pedagogue in phrases! furred reasoner! thou inquirest after the limits of the human mind: they are at the end of thy nose.
A MIRACLE, according to the true meaning of the word, is something admirable; and agreeably to this, all is miracle. The stupendous order of nature, the volution of a hundred millions of worlds round a million of suns, the activity of light, the life of animals, all are grand and perpetual miracles.
According to common acceptation, we call a miracle the violation of these divine and eternal laws. A solar eclipse at the time of the full moon, or a dead man walking two leagues and carrying his head in his arms, we denominate a miracle.
Many natural philosophers maintain, that in this sense there are no miracles; and advance the following arguments.
A miracle is the violation of mathematical, divine, immutable, eternal laws. By the very exposition itself, a miracle is a contradiction in terms: a law cannot at the same time be immutable and violated.
But they are asked, cannot a law, established by God himself, be suspended by its author?
They have the hardihood to reply, that it cannot; and that it is impossible a being infinitely wise can have made laws to violate them. He could not, they say, derange the machine but with a view of making it work better; but it is evident that God, all-wise and omnipotent, originally made this immense machine, the universe, as good and perfect as he was able ; if he saw that some imperfections would arise from the nature of matter, he provided for that in the beginning; and, accordingly, he will never change anything in it.
Moreover, God can do nothing without reason; but what reason could induce him to disfigure for a time his own work?
It is done, they are told, in favour of mankind. They reply, we must presume then, that it is in favour of all mankind; for it is impossible to conceive, that the divine nature should occupy itself only about a few men in particular, and not for the whole human race; and even the whole human race itself is a very small concern; it is less than a small ant. hill, in comparison with all the beings inhabiting immensity. But is it not the most absurd of all extravagances to imagine, that the Infinite Supreme should, in favour of three or four hundred emmets on their little heap of earth, derange the operation of the vast machinery that moves the universe ?
But admitting that God chose to distinguish a small number of men by particular favours, is there any necessity that, in order to accomplish this object, he should change what he established for all periods and for all places? He certainly can have no need of this inconstancy in order to bestow favours on any of his creatures : his favours consist in his laws themselves : he has foreseen all and arranged all, with a view to them. All invariably obey the force which he has impressed for ever on nature.
For what purpose would God perform a miracle? To accomplish some particular design upon living