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Richard Baxter and the Mechanical Philosophers$

David S. Sytsma

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780190274870

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: July 2017

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190274870.001.0001

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(p.263) Appendix B Richard Baxter to Joseph Glanvill, 18 November 1670

(p.263) Appendix B Richard Baxter to Joseph Glanvill, 18 November 1670

Richard Baxter and the Mechanical Philosophers

David S. Sytsma

Oxford University Press

I have two messages to send you by these lines. 1° Some gentlemen of quality and parts coming purposely to me, to heare wt more instances I could give them of Apparitions and witches than I have printed, (telling me of ye very great increase of Sadducees that will beleive no other evidences, & importuning me (in vaine) to print the instances I gave you), where Mr Mompessons story (published by you) was mentioned on ye by, they assured me that it goeth currantly now among the Sadducees (at court and the Innes of Court) that Mr Mompesson hath confessed that it was all his own jugling done onely that he might be taken notice of &c. I intreate you (from ym) to acquaint him with ye report, & wish him if it be false (not for his own honour so much as for their sakes that are hardened by it) to publish some vindication or contradiction.

2° I am requested by ye widdow of Mr Joseph Allein (who hath a friend neere me, yt came lately from her) to intreate you to send either to her or to me a Latine manuscript of his in your possession (for my neighbour is one that had a hand in transcribing it, and on his report I have a desire to see it, and shee also desireth to possesse it.)2 If you send it to me rather than to her, If you send it to Nevil (p.264) Simmons bookseller at ye 3 Crownes neere Holborne Conduit, it is like to come safe to me.

Though these two be all ye busynes I would trouble you wth, yet having got your two late bookes (& received a third not long before as your guift) I may not omit to return you thanks for your very great respects to me therein expressed. And as for yt passage of mine wch you chide me for, I will not enter into an altercation lest it prove troublesome; but only tell you 1° That I no where cast any reflexion of Atheisme on Gassendus or Cartesius. Nor accuse them as excluding all immateriall beings. 2° That ye first objection yt I answer is “That matter and motion may do also that wch we ascribe to soules” not “to God” where I say yt Gassendus writeth for Immateriall humane soules, [“]wtever against Cartesius /fol. 138v/ or elsewhere he writeth wch seemeth injurious to this doctrine”3 3° That I never gave ye least intimation yt Cartes denyeth our soules Im[m]‌ortality, who so copiously defendeth it. 4° Though I never printed any such thing, I may say privately to you, I much feare that Gassendus did in this prevaricate. 1° From Sorberius & Hobbs’s words wch I cited4 2° From ye thinness of his plea for ye soules Immortality, 3° But above all from his principles wch seeme to make agt it. 5° If it could be done wthout any thing like contending between us, I should be glad of your help, particularly to shew me how the passage cited by me pag. 541. & 504. are consistent wth an incorporaall soule in man?5 If no incorporeall being can be so applyed to a body as to impell it or move it? If all physicall actions be corporeal and can be elicite by no other than a corporeall principle? If because an incorporeall being cannot touch a body wthout <for want> of Tactus & Moles, therefore it cannot impell it? If [?] our soules no way move our bodyes at all, but only act Immanently by Intellection, & so no Volitions or executive powers of them move ye corporeall spirits or sense? If our soules as sensitive are bodyes, and also as Motive of ye body? If it be known only by faith that Angels and Devils are at all Incorporeall? judge you of ye Consequencies. And if nothing can move another thing that is not it selfe in motion, nor a spirit move a Body, doth not this inferre that (not only no Angels nor ye soules of men can move a body, but that God himselfe cannot move it, unlesse he be a moving corporeall substance? And therefore when he saith, yt God is here to be excepted, and giveth no reason for it, but because he is “infinitae virtutis, et ubiq[ue] praesens,”6 doth not this Generall assertion so expressely contradict this (God being ye most spirituall of spirits) as plainly to shew that the great wit of Gassendus could speake this but to put off reproach?

(p.265) But this is nothing to my open Controversy with him; But that wch I entreate your helpe in is, to tell me those reasons by wch you will justify him, in his opinion, yt there <are> no spirits in rerum natura which move or actuate bodyes, or can move them? And yt only faith and not reason telleth us that Angels or Daemons are Spirits? And whether I did not justly answer these speeches among those that /fol. 139r/ set up matter and motion as sufficient to all ye visible action in ye world without any incorporeall soules or spirits? 6° You your selfe make it a principle of Sadducisme to deny ye sensitive nature to be Immateriall: But Gassendus and Cartesius do both deny it: And make bruites to be meere corporeall engines; yea and one of them at least, saith ye same of ye sensitive soule of man: Therefore by you they are charged with ye principles of Sadducisme, if I understand you. 7° And why may I not dispute these particulars agt ym (without wch you thinke your selfe that our Immortality cannot be defended), even in ye same papers where I name worse men, as long as I accuse them of no worse?

8° And (wth submission to your greater perspicuity) I confes yt ye very principles of cartes himselfe, in Regius, (Lipstorpius, du Hamel, &c.)7 by wch he would make a first push of ye Deity to serve for ever, & a continued effect to be wthout a continuation of ye true causality, & would make all subservient spirituall movers, needles, yea de facto exclude ym, seemeth to me a very poor childish precarious toy insufficient to prove ye sensitive soule to be a body, or ye Intellectuall created nature, to be uselesse as to ye corporeall motions in ye world; And I thinke yt Plato’s Philosophy wch acknowledgeth ye spirituall nature to be the mover of the corporeall, is so much more manly, as yt there is no comparison. And yet I told you so much of my opinion agt Aristotle’s predicamt of Qualityes, and his doctrine of educted formes, yt you needed <not> have supposed me to have defended them. I judg yt spirits are ye Active Natures yt move ye passive (call ym Atomes or wt you will) under God; & yet yt such spirits incorporale are ye forme of Matter; And yt as simple beings they are (without composition) intellectually distinguishable into substance & forme; And yt this forme is a Virtus Essentialis. But why do I begin to talke to you of these matters, why require so many more words? I have some principles of Philosophy of my own, a scheme of which I was almost going to enclose and send you.8 /fol. 139v/ But I must shorten worke and not make more. Beleive I pray you, that I wrote not this as offended at your publick reprehension, being most offended wth mens touchynes that cannot beare such reproofes. I rest your very much obliged freind

Nov. 18. 1670.

Ri: Baxter.


(1.) DWL BC II.138r–139v.

(2.) Joseph Alleine’s manuscript, Theologia philosophica, described by Baxter as “a body of Natural Theology,” was never printed and is now lost. See Richard Baxter, “Introduction,” in The Life & Death of that Excellent Minister of Christ, Mr. Joseph Allein (London: J. Darby, 1672), 27–28.

(3.) RCR, 495.

(4.) RCR, 495.

(5.) RCR, 541, 504.

(6.) Pierre Gassendi, Opera omnia (Lyon: Laurentius Anisson & Joan. Bapt. Devenet, 1658), 1:334.

(7.) Henricus Regius (1589–1679), Daniel Lipstorp (1631–1684), Jean-Baptiste Du Hamel (1624–1706).

(8.) This “scheme” is almost certainly a reference to a draft of “Cap. 4. Ο‎ν‎τ‎ο‎λ‎ο‎γ‎ί‎α‎ν‎ sive Entium Natura, Ordo, Finis; Totius Philosophiae, &c. compendium,” in MT, I.131–53 (as titled in the table of contents). Cf. Rel. Bax., III.70.