William Van Mildert (1765 – 1836) over Spinoza als grote bedrieger

Was de laatste prins-bisschop van het Anglicaanse bisdom Durham, en een van de stichters van de Universiteit van Durham. Hij studeerde aan de Universiteit van Oxford en werd in 1789 priester. In 1792 maakte hij zijn enige buitenlandse reis, naar de Lage Landen. In Amsterdam bezocht hij de Duitse Komedie, het Binnengasthuis, het Spinhuis en het Rasphuis. In 1813 werd hij hoogleraar theologie (Regius Professor of Divinity) aan de Universiteit van Oxford en seculier kanunnik van Christ Church in Oxford. In 1826 werd Van Mildert bisschop van Durham. Hij was een van de voornaamste drijfkrachten achter de vestiging van de Universiteit van Durham als derde universiteit van Engeland (na Oxford en Cambridge). Van Mildert wist het Britse parlement ervan te overtuigen om in 1832 een wet aan te nemen waarmee de universiteit gevestigd werd. Diverse van de bisschoppelijke bezittingen schonk hij aan de universiteit. Hij was de laatste die de titel paltsgraaf droeg.

Na zijn dood werden zijn verzamelde geschriften en preken in zes delen uitgegeven

William Van Mildert, The Theological Works of William Van Mildert, D.D., Late Lord Bishop of Durham, S. Collingwood for John Henry Parker, 1839, Volume 1. [books.google], Volume 2. [books.google] Dit tweede deel bevat zijn Boyle Lectures, die al eerder in 1807 waren uitgegeven.

In Sermon IX, ”Origin and Progress of Deism, Herbert, Hobbes, Spinosa. New Sect of Sceptics in the Seventeenth Century”, geeft hij een scherpe schets van wat vanuit gelovig oogpunt Spinoza te verwijten is. Uit zijn tekst blijkt dat eind 18e, begin 19e eeuw een duidelijk beeld over Spinoza bestaat. Uit de aantekeningen blijkt dat hij zich sterk op Buddaeus baseerde.
Ik neem dat deel van die preek, annex Boyle Lecture hier over. 

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The apostate Jew, Spinosa, with extraordinary endowments of mind and most persevering industry, laboured to subvert the foundations of the Gospel. He, like the others, makes an ostentatious profession of his desire to promote Religion and Virtue, and occasionally affects some degree of veneration for the Holy Scriptures.

But the evident design of his works is to deny the Creator of the Universe, and to treat the whole of the Christian creed as fiction and absurdity.

His system appears to be, for the most part, compounded of the two former; but carried to greater extremes and maintained with greater audacity. Prophecy he regards as merely the effusions of melancholy or fanatical men, varying in its character according to the peculiar temperaments and dispositions of the persons whose imaginations are thus affected. He insists that no doctrines delivered by such persons ought to be received as of Divine inspiration, or regarded with the least degree of reverence either as articles of belief or rules of practice. The whole of the Sacred Canon being according to these maxims, excluded from having any claims to be considered as the word of God, we may the less wonder at the blasphemies which the Author has uttered against it in various parts of his writings; charging it with falsehoods, fables, inconsistencies, and contradictions; and endeavouring to shew, that it abounds with so many errors and adulterations that it cannot be considered even as the genuine production of the Authors whose names it bears.- Having thus shaken the authority of Holy Writ, he is willing nevertheless, to permit men to have recourse to it for religious instruction; provided they hold it in no veneration as the word of God, and agree to interpret it each man for himself, according to his own preconceived and natural notions of Religion, or, rather according to the tenets of this sage Interpreter himself, who is careful to admit into his creed nothing that is reconcilable with any of the distinguishing doctrines of Revelation.

But the impiety of this Writer proceeds to greater lengths than these; even to a virtual denial of the Being of God, whom (though he sometimes may speak of him as personally existent) he systematically confounds with the material Universe, and ascribes to him no agency but that of an involuntary or physical energy; making all things to be derived from him, not as of his own good will and pleasure or as the Creator of the world, but by necessary emanation from him as the passive fountain of existence. He inveighs against those who deem it necessary to acknowledge any Creation of the world, in the proper sense of the word Creation. As the natural consequence of these Pantheistic, or rather, Atheistic principles, he denies a Providence; scoffs at the doctrine of Heaven, of Hell, and of Evil Spirits; represents all Divine worship as nugatory; and ridicules as vain superstition the expectation of rewards or punishments in a future state.

His opinions, however, he undertakes to vindicate as by no means hostile to Religion or Virtue, nor even irreconcilable with Christianity. He pretends to consider the love of God as the chief duty and the chief good of man; although he inculcates no other notion of God than that of the material Universe; which is in effect, (as has been justly observed,) to resolve the love of God into a love of this present world. With equal consistency he represents virtue and even repentance as necessary to Salvation; when it is evident that upon his theory there can be no inducement to virtue, no need of repentance, nor any possibility of Salvation, in the true acceptation of the terms: since he acknowledges not the essential distinction between virtue and vice, destroys every moral, if not physical attribute of the Deity, and by inculcating the dreary expectation of non-existence in a future state makes Salvation an empty name.

Similar observations might be made upon his manner of urging the great duties of justice and charity; which as well as every other moral duty, he maintains (with his predecessor Hobbes) to be only binding when enjoined by the Civil Power, and to depend upon no higher authority. In no instance indeed, does he appear to attach any weight or importance to the Christian Revelation, except when he can perversely wrest any part of it to a seeming confirmation of his own system; expressly declaring his general disbelief of its principal facts as well as of its doctrines, and reviving every cavil of Celsus and other ancient Adversaries of the Faith, respecting our Lord's Resurrection and Ascension, and the credibility of the testimony delivered by the Apostles.

It were disgusting as well as superfluous to pursue any farther the misrepresentations, sophisms, and perverse "contradictions" of this subtle yet bold impugner of Truth; who after all has scarcely advanced any opinions, which were not maintained by some of his precursors in the cause of Infidelity; and whose abilities are chiefly displayed in combining their scattered tenets and forming them into a more coherent system. Nevertheless, with all this hostility to our holy Religion, he so successfully played the dissembler in his outward conduct and conversation as to be thought not unfriendly to its interests; and wore the mask of respect and veneration for it, while he was exerting the whole force of his talents to effect its overthrow.

The principal tenets of these three great Impostors (as they have justly been called) have been thus detailed, that we may be the better enabled to form a general comprehensive notion of modern Deism; ...etc.

Vanaf hier behandelt hij de drie bedriegers tezamen: Herbert van Cherbury, Hobbes en Spinoza.



E. A. Varley, The Last of the Prince Bishops: William Van Mildert and the High Church Movement of the Early Nineteenth Century. Cambridge University Press (11 april 2002) – Amazon