HERBERT, EDWARD, LORD HERBERT OF CHERBURY, was born in the year 1581, at Montgomery, in the principality of Wales. After going through the usual course of studies at Oxford, where he was a member of University College, Herbert visited London in 1600, and shortly afterwards proceeded to the Continent with the design of seeing foreign parts, but was induced by an'iuherent love of enterprise and danger to join the English auxiliaries then serving in the Nether lands, where he soon distinguished himself by his reckless daring and intrepidity. Having returned to England, he was, upon the accession of James I., created a knight of the Bath, and was distinguished at the court of that pedantic monarch by his gallantry and his learning. In 1618 Sir Edward was sent ambassador to France. In this situation the bold independence with which he answered a haughty remark of the Conndtable De Luynes brought upon him the displeasure of the French monarch, at whose request he was recalled. The conduct of Herbert met however with the approbation of James, who, upon the death of De Luynes, sent him in a similar capacity to Paris, where he published his first work, entitled Tractatus de Veritate, prout distin guitur b Revelatione, h Verisimili, h Possibili, et h False, 4to, Paris, 1624. The year following he returned to England, and was created a barqn of the kingdom of Ireland. From this date Lord Herbert does not appear to have held any public office, and his time was divided betwoen the gaieties of the court and the pursuits of literature. In 1631 he was elevated to an English peerage, and two years after published an enlarged edition of the • Tractatus; of which another appeared in 1645, accompanied with the treatise De Religions Gen tihum, Errorumque spud cos Camels.' Upon the outbreak of the political troubles under Charles I., Lord Herbert at first tack the side of the parliament, which however he subsequently abandoned. He died in the year 1648. After his death two posthumous works were published, the 'Expeditio Buckinghami Duels in Ream Insulam; and the ' Life and Reign of King Henry VIII.,' with a dedication to the first Charles. It is by the latter work that Lord Herbert is beat known to posterity. His Memoirs, which are the earliest instance of autobiography in our language, remained in manuscript until they were printed, in 1764, by Horace Walpole, at his private press at Strawberry Hill.
Herbert of Cherbury was the contemporary of Hobbes of Malmea bury, to whose principles of philosophising he was directly opposed, notwithstanding the striking coincidence of many of the results at which they respectively arrived. He maintained the theory of innate ideas, and made a certain instinct of the reason (rationalia instinctua) to be the primary source of all human knowledge. Accordingly he did not, with Aristotle and the Stoics, compare the mind to a pure tablet, or to the tabula rasa of the echoolmen, but to a closed volume which opens itself at the solicitation of outward nature acting upon the senses. Thus acted upon, the mind prodncea out of itself certain
general or universal principles (communes notion*, by reference to which all debateable questions in theology and philosophy may be determined, since upon these principles at least all men are unanimous. Consistently with these views, he does not, with Hobbes, snake religion to be founded on revelation or historical tradition, but upon an home diets consciousness of God and of divine things. The religion of reason therefore, resting on such grounds, is, he argues, the criterion of every positive religion which claims a foundation in revelation. No man can appeal to revelation as an immediate evidence of the reasonableness of his faith, except those to whom that revelation has been directly given; for all others, the fact of revelation is a matter of mere tradition or testimony. Even the recipient of a revelation may himself be easily deceived, since he possesses no means of convincing himself of the reality or authenticity of his admitted revelation.
Herbert made his own religion of reason to rest upon the following grounds :—There is a God whom man ought to honour and reverence; a life of holiness is the most acceptable worship that can be offered him; sinners must repent them of their eine, and strive to become better; and after death every one must expect the rewards or penalties befitting tho acts of this life.
Lord ITerbert is one of the numerous instances on record of the little influence which speculative opinions exercise upon the conduct of life.
Maintaining that no revelation is credible which is imparted to a portion only of mankind, he nevertheless claims the belief of his hearers when he tells them that his doubts as to the publication of his work were removed by a direct manifestation of the. ivine will. Not withstanding the little favour which has been shown to his works, which is partly indeed attributable to the obscurity both of his style and diction, but chiefly to the predominant inclination for the empiri cal philosophy of Bacon and Hobbes, the skill and sagacity with which be has pursued his researches on a purely rational method are alone sufficient, even'had we not a Glanvill and a few others to boast of, to refute the objection which has been urged against us of a total absence in the national mind of all pure and reflex reasoning. The doctrine that outward objects are but the occasions of educing all general knowledge is the foundation of the fame of Kant; and there is much also in the writings of Jacobi which reminds the reader of the prin. ciples and method of the philosopher of Cherbury.