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That he might, on this occasion, obtain the assistance of surgeons with less inconvenience and expense, he was brought, by his father, at fourteen, to Leyden, and placed in the fourth class of the publick school, after being examined by the master: here his application and abilities were equally conspicuous. In six months, by gaining the first prize in the fourth class, he was raised to the fifth; and, in six months more, upon the same proof of the superiority of his genius, rewarded with another prize, and translated to the sixth; from whence it is usual, in six months more, to be removed to the university.

Thus did our young student advance in learning and reputation, when, as he was within view of the university, a sudden and unexpected blow threatened to defeat all his expectations.

On the 12th of November, in 1682, his father died, and left behind him a very slender provision for his widow, and nine children, of which the eldest was not yet seventeen years old.

This was a most afflicting loss to the young scholar, whose fortune was by no means sufficient to bear the expenses of a learned education, and who, therefore, seemed to be now summoned, by necessity, to some way of life more immediately and certainly lucrative; but, with a resolution equal to his abilities, and a spirit not so depressed and shaken, he determined to break through the obstacles of poverty, and supply, by diligence, the want of fortune.

He, therefore, asked, and obtained the consent of his guardians, to prosecute his studies, so long as his patrimony would support him; and, continuing his wonted industry, gained another prize.

He was now to quit the school for the university, but on account of the weakness yet remaining in his thigh, was, at his own entreaty, continued six months longer under the care of his master, the learned Winschotan, where he was once more honoured with the prize.

At his removal to the university, the same genius and industry met with the same encouragement and applause. The learned Triglandius, one of his father’s friends, made soon after professor of divinity at Leyden, distinguished him in a particular manner, and recommended him to the friendship of Mr. Van Apphen, in whom he found a generous and constant patron.

He became now a diligent hearer of the most celebrated professors, and made great advances in all the sciences, still regulating his studies with a view, principally, to divinity, for which he was originally intended by his father; and, for that reason, exerted his utmost application to attain an exact knowledge of the Hebrew tongue.

Being convinced of the necessity of mathematical learning, he began to study those sciences in 1687, but without that intense industry with which the pleasure he found in that kind of knowledge, induced him afterwards to cultivate them.

In 1690, having performed the exercises of the university with uncommon reputation, he took his degree in philosophy; and, on that occasion, discussed the important and arduous subject of the distinct natures of the soul and body, with such-accuracy, perspicuity, and subtilty, that he entirely confuted all the sophistry of Epicurus, Hobbes, and Spinosa, and equally raised the characters of his piety and erudition.

Divinity was still his great employment, and the chief aim of all his studies. He read the scriptures in their original languages; and when difficulties occurred, consulted the interpretations of the most ancient fathers, whom he read in order of time, beginning with Clemens Romanus.

In the perusal of those early writers [35], he was struck with the profoundest veneration of the simplicity and purity of their doctrines, the holiness of their lives, and the sanctity of the discipline practised by them; but, as he descended to the lower ages, found the peace of Christianity broken by useless controversies, and its doctrines sophisticated by the subtilties of the schools: he found the holy writers interpreted according to the notions of philosophers, and the chimeras of metaphysicians adopted as articles of faith: he found difficulties raised by niceties, and fomented to bitterness and rancour: he saw the simplicity of the christian doctrine corrupted by the private fancies of particular parties, while each adhered to its own philosophy, and orthodoxy was confined to the sect in power.