Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 11.djvu/229

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217
SPINOZA: 1677 AND 1877.

solitary of the Pavilioengragt grew to be in the opinion of right-thinking theologians and philosophers!

Portraits were spread abroad exhibiting him as "bearing on his face the signs of reprobation." A distinguished philosopher, bold as he, but less consistent and less completely sincere, called him "a wretch." But Justice was to have her day. The human mind, attaining, in Germany especially, toward the end of the eighteenth century, to a more enlightened theology and a wider philosophy, recognized in Spinoza the precursor of a new gospel. Jacobi took the public into his confidence as to a conversation he had held with Lessing. He had gone to Lessing in hopes of enlisting his aid against Spinoza. What was his astonishment on finding in Lessing an avowed Spinoza! "Ἕν καὶ πᾶν," said Lessing to him—this is the whole of philosophy. Him whom a whole century had declared an atheist, Novalis pronounced a "God-intoxicated man." His forgotten works were published, and eagerly sought after. Schleiermacher, Goethe, Hegel, Schelling, all with one voice proclaim Spinoza the father of modern thought. Perhaps there may have been some exaggeration in this first outburst of tardy reparation; but time, which sets everything in its place, has substantially ratified Lessing's judgment; and in the present day there is no enlightened mind that does not acknowledge Spinoza as the man who possessed the highest God-consciousness of his day. It is this conviction that has made you decree that his pure and lowly tomb should have its anniversary. It is the common assertion of a free faith in the Infinite that on this day gathers together, in the spot that witnessed so much virtue, the most select assembly that a man of genius could group round him after his death. A sovereign, as distinguished by intellectual as by moral gifts, is among us in spirit. A prince who can justly appreciate merit of every kind, by distinguishing this solemnity with his presence, desires to testify that, of the glories of Holland, not one is alien to him, and that no lofty thinking escapes his enlightened judgment and his philosophic admiration.

I.

The illustrious Baruch de Spinoza was born at Amsterdam at the time when your republic was attaining its highest degree of glory and power. He belonged to that great race which, by the influence it has exerted and the services it has rendered, occupies so exceptional a place in the history of civilization. Miraculous in its own way, the development of the Jewish people ranks side by side with that other miracle—the development of the Greek mind; for if Greece, from the first, realized the ideal of poetry, of science, of philosophy, of art, of profane life, if I may so speak, the Jewish people has made the religion of humanity. Its prophets inaugurated in the world the idea of righteousness, the revindication of the rights of the weak—a revindication so much the more violent that, all idea of future recom-