Boyle, Robert

Boyle, Robert one of the most eminent philosophers and Christians of modern times, was the seventh son and fourteenth child of the " Great Earl of Cork," and was born at his father's seat, Lismore Castle, in the province of Munster, Ireland, January 25, 1627. After studying for four years at Eton, and subsequently at Geneva, he travelled over various parts of the Continent, and finally settled in England, and devoted himself to science, especially to natural philosophy and to chemistry. After the accession of Charles II, in 1660, he was urged to enter the Church, but he declined on the ground that he had no divine call to the ministry. He was one of the first members of the Royal Society, but he declined the office of provost of Eton College. "In 1666 his name appears as attesting the miraculous cures (as they were called by many) of Valentine Greatraks, an Irishman, who, by a sort of animal magnetism, made his own hands the medium of giving many patients almost instantaneous relief. At the same time, in illustration of what we shall presently have to say on the distinction between Boyle as an eye-witness and Boyle as a judge of evidence, we find him in 1669 not indisposed to receive, and that upon the hypothesis implied in the words, the true relation of the things which an unclean spirit did and said at Mascon in Burgundy, etc. That he should have been inclined to prosecute inquiries about the transmutation of metals needs no excuse, considering the state of chemical knowledge in his day." Much of his leisure was given to theological studies and to the advancement of religion, for which latter ol ject he expended very considerable sums. He had been for years a director of the East India Company, and we find a letter of his in 1676 pressing upon that body the duty of promoting Christianity in the East. He caused the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles to be translated into Malay, at his own cost, by Dr. Thomas Hyde, and he promoted an Irish version. He also gave a large reward to the translator of Grotius's ' De Veritate,' etc., into Arabic; and would have been at the whole expense of a Turkish Testament had not the East India Company relieved him of a part. In the year 1680 he was elected president of the Royal Society, a post which he declined, as appears by a letter to Hooke (Works, i, p. 74), from scruples of conscience about the religious tests and oaths required. In 1688 he advertised the public that some of his manuscripts had been lost or stolen, and others mutilated by accident; and in 1689, finding his health declining, he refused most visits, and set himself to repair the loss." In his critical and theological studies he had the assistance of Pocock, Hyde, and Clark, all eminent Orientalists. In view of the poverty to which Sanderson had been reduced by his attachment to the royal cause, Boyle gave him a stipend of 50 a year. This stipend was given as an encouragement to that excellent master of reasoning to apply himself to the writing of " Cases of Conscience;" and accordingly he printed his lectures " De Obligatione Conscientie," which he read at Oxford 1647, and dedicated them to his friend and patron. Among his pious acts was the founding of a lecture for the defence of natural and revealed religion. SEE BOYLE LECTURES. The characteristics of Boyle as a theological writer are much the same as those which appertain to him as a philosopher. He does not enter at all into disputed articles of faith, and preserves a quiet and argumentative tone throughout; but the very great prolixity into which he falls renders him almost unreadable. The treatises On Seraphic Love, Considerations on the Style of the Scriptures, and On the great Veneration that Man's Intellect

owes to God, have a place in the Index librorum prohibitorum of the Roman Church. Boyle was never married. He died on the 30th of December, 1691. Bishop Burnet, in his funeral sermon on Boyle, declares that " his knowledge was of so vast an extent that, if it were not for the variety of vouchers in their several sorts, I should be afraid to say all I know. He carried the study of Hebrew very far into the rabbinical writings and the other Oriental tongues. He had read so much of the fathers that he had formed out of it a clear judgment of all the eminent ones. He had read a vast deal on the Scriptures, had gone very nicely through the various controversies in religion, and was a true master of the whole body of divinity. He read the whole compass of the mathematical sciences; and, though he did not set himself to spring any new game, yet he knew even the abstrusest parts of geometry. Geography, in the several parts of it that related to navigation or travelling, history, and books of novels, were his diversions. He went very nicely through all the parts of physic; only the tenderness of his nature made him less able to endure the exactness of anatomical dissections, especially of living animals, though he knew these to be most instructing. But for the history of nature, ancient and modern, of the productions of all countries, of the virtues and improvements of plants, of ores and minerals, and all the varieties that are in them in different climates, he was by much-by very much-the readiest and the perfectest I ever knew." The best edition of his works is that of 1772 (Lond. 6 vols. 4to), the first volume of which contains his Life by Birch. - Jones, Relig. Biography; English Cyclopcedia, s.v.; New General Dictionary, ii. 374.

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