Page:A Compendium of the Theological Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg.djvu/41

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MATHEMATICAL STUDIES.

had a right to neglect; not from contempt of them (we do not fear to say that such a contempt would be a stain upon the memory of the great Bossuet), but because such knowledge did not appear to him of any utility to religion. We might be accused of being at once judges and parties if we dared to appeal from this rigorous proscription. Nevertheless it should be permitted us to observe, all individual interest apart, that the growing theologian did not treat with adequate justice or information a science which is not so useless as he thinks, to the theologian; a science in effect so suitable,—not to correct those who are indifferent to the truth (les esprits faux), condemned to remain what nature made them, but to fortify, in better natures, that justness so much the more necessary as the subject of their meditation is more important or more sublime. Could Bossuet be ignorant that the habit of demonstration, in leading us to recognize and seize evidence in everything which is susceptible of proof, teaches us also not to call that demonstration which is not, and to discern the limits which, in the narrow circle of human knowledge, separate daylight from twilight, and twilight from darkness?

"Shall we have the courage to avow here also that the indulgent Fenelon, so unlike Bossuet in other respects, treated mathematics yet more rigorously than he? He wrote in so many words to a young man, whom he directed not to allow himself to be bewitched by the diabolical attractions of geometry, which should extinguish in him the spirit of grace. Without doubt the arid and severe speculations of this science, which Bossuet accused only of being useless to theology, appeared, to the tender and exalted soul of Fenelon, a poison to those mystic contemplations for which he had but too marked a weakness. But if that was all of geometry's crime, in the eyes of the Archbishop of Cambray, it is difficult to pronounce her guilty."

Whether less mathematics in Swedenborg or more in Bossuet would have modified, to any important extent, their opinions or their influence as religious teachers, is a question about which the greatest diversity of opinion might exist; but it will scarcely be questioned, that