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LIFE OF ISAAC BARROW, D. D.
(With a Portrait.) Dr. Isaac Barrow, one of the greatest Divines and most eloquent writers of the Church of England, was born in London, in the month of October, 1630; and had the misfortune to lose his mother when he was about four years old. His education was commenced at the Charter-house, where he continued two or three years; and his greatest recreation was in such sports as involved him in quarrels among the boys. He was also very negligent in regard to his dress. Through the whole of his life he retained great personal courage; but he laid aside his propensity to fighting; although his slovenliness remained to the last. At the Charter-house he was very indifferent to his book; and his father had little hope that he would ever excel as a scholar. Indeed his general conduct was so very unpromising, that his father often solemnly wished, if it should please God to take away any of his children, that it might be Isaac.
These gloomy thoughts of the anxious parent were only of short continuance. Isaac removed to Felstead, in Essex, where he made such rapid progress in learning, and in everything praiseworthy, that his master appointed him tutor to Lord Viscount Fairfax, of Emely, in Ireland. While he remained here he was admitted in the College of Peter-house, in the University of Cambridge; but when he actually removed to the University, in Feb., 1645, he was placed in Trinity College. His father, having adhered to the King in the civil wars by which the nation was then afflicted, had lost a considerable part of his property ; so that the pecuniary resources of Isaac were very limited. The father being at Oxford, with the royal party, Isaac had little or no intercourse with him ; yet he abused not the opportunity to negligence in his studies, or licentiousness in his manners; but seasoned his tender years with diligence, learning, and piety, the best preparatives for the succeeding varieties of life. At the University he continued, like his father, a stanch royalist; yet, conducting himself with decorum, he gained the good-will of the chief men in the University. One day, the Master of the College, who was a partisan of the parliamentary cause, laying his hand upon Isaac's head, said, “ Thou art a good lad. It is a pity that thou art a Cavalier.” In an oration upon the Gunpowder Treason, he so extolled the former times as to reflect upon those which were then present; and thus gave great offence to some of the Fellows of the College, who moved for his expulsion. The Master, however, interposed, and silenced them by saying, “ Barrow is a better man than any of us.” Such was his generosity, that he often assisted the junior scholars in their exercises, both in prose and verse ; and yet, poor as he was, he never received for these acts of kindness any reward, except one solitary pair of gloves.
When he was only a young scholar he was not satisfied with the philosophy then generally taught, and in which men of inferior minds contentedly rested; but applied himself to the study of such writers as Lord Bacon, Descartes, Galileo, and other great geniuses of a former age, who seemed to offer something more solid and substantial.
When the time came that he should be chosen Fellow of his College, he obtained that distinction by merit; for nothing else could recommend him to men who were generally opposed to him in their views of civil and ecclesiastical affairs. After his election, which took place in the year 1649, thinking the times not favourable to men of his opinions in the affairs of Church and State, he selected the proanatomy, botany, and chemistry. But afterwards, upon deliberation, and conversation with his uncle, the Bishop of St. Asaph, he quitted medicine, and made divinity the subject of his studies.
Upon all opportunities he was open and communicative to his College friends; for out of College he had few acquaintance. His temper was calm, even in a factious time; considering the smallness of his income, his charity was large; his industry was indefatigable ; his conversation facetious upon suitable occasions; in argument his judgment was clear; and his virtue was steady in all difficulties and temptations. He engaged in the close study of astronomy and chronology; and with these sciences he joined poetry, to which he was always addicted, especially descriptive poetry. To plays he was decidedly opposed; regarding them as a fruitful source of immorality. He wrote no satires ; for his wit was pure and peaceable.
Having resolved to travel, in the year 1654 he sold his books, and went to France. At Paris he found his father attending the English court, then in exile; and out of his small property made him a seasonable present. After some months he went to Italy, and made a stay at Florence, where he availed himself of the favour granted him, of reading many books in the Great Duke's library. His desire next was to visit Rome ; but the plague then raging there, he took ship for Smyrna; and from thence he proceeded to Constantinople. In this city, the See of the great St. Chrysostom, he read over all the works of that Father, whom he much preferred to any other, and remained in Turkey above a year. Returning thence to Venice, as soon as he was landed the ship took fire, and all the goods that were on board perished; but none of the people suffered any harm. He returned home through Germany and Holland ; and on his arrival in England entered into holy orders. In the year 1660 he was chosen Greek Professor in Cambridge; and two years afterwards was chosen to the Geometry lecture at Gresham College. He at length resigned the mathematical chair to his friend Mr. Newton, afterwards the great Sir Isaac, resolvin to