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It would be an injury to the memory of Boerhaave not to mention what was related by himself to one of his friends, that when he lay whole days and nights without neep, he found no method of diverting his thoughts so effectual as meditation upon his studies, and that he often relieved and mitigated the sense of his torments by the recollection of what he had read, and by reviewing those stores of knowledge which he had reposited in his memory.
This is perhaps an instance of fortitude and steady compofure of mind, which would have been for ever the boast of the Stoick schools, and increased the reputation of Seneca or Cato. The patience of Boerhaave, as it was more rational, was more lasting than theirs; it was that patientia Christiana which Lipfius, the great master of the Stoical Philosophy, begged of God in his last hours; it was founded on religion, not vanity, not on vain reasonings, but on confidence in God.
In 1727 he was seized with a violent burning fever, which continued so long that he was once more given up by his friends.
From this time he was frequently afflicted with ren turns of his distemper, which yet did not so far subdue him, as to make him lay aside his studies or his lectures, till in 1726 he found himself fo worn out, that it was improper for him to continue any longer the professorships of botany and chemistry, which he therefore resigned April 28, and upon his resignation spoke a “ Sermo Academicus,” or oration, in which ho afferts the power and wisdom of the Creator from the wonderful fabric of the human body; and confutes all
those idle reasoners, who pretend to explain the forma, tion of parts, or the animal operations, to which he proves that Art can produce nothing equal, nor any thing parallel. One instance I shall mention, which is produced by him, of the vanity of any attempt to ri, val the work of God. Nothing is more boasted by the admirers of chemistry, than that they can, by artificial heats and digestion, imitate the productions of Nature. “ Let all these heroes of science meet together," fays Boerhaave; “ let them take bread and wine, the food that forms the blood of man, and by assimilation contributes to the growth of the body: let them try all their arts, they thall not be able from these materials to produce a single drop of blood. So much is the most common act of Nature beyond the utmost efforts of the most extended Science !!!
From this time Boerhaave lived with lefs publick employment indeed, but not an idle or an useless life; for, besides his hours spent in instructing his scholars, a great part of his time was taken up by patients which came, when the distemper would adınit it, from all parts of Europe to consult him, or by letters which, in more urgent cafes, were continually sent, to enquire his opinion, and ask his advice,
Of his fagacity, and the wonderful penetration with which he often discovered and described, at the first fight of a patient, such distempers as betray themselves by no symptoms to common eyes, such wonderful relations have been spread over the world, as, though attested beyond doubt, can scarcely be credited. I mention none of them, because I have no opportunity of collecting testimonies, or diftinguishing between
those accounts which are well proved, and those which owe their rise to fiction and credulity.
Y« I cannot but implore, with the greatest earneftness, such as have been conversant with this great man, that they will not so far neglect the common interest of mankind, as to suffer any of these circumstances to be lost to pofterity. Men are generally idle, and ready to satisfy themselves, and intimidate the industry of others, by calling that impossible which is only difficult. The skill to which Boerhaave attained, by a long and unwearied observation of nature, ought there, fore to be transmitted in all its particulars to future ages, that his succeffors may be ashamed to fall below him, and that none may hereafter excuse his ignorance by pleading the impossibility of clearer knowledge.
Yet so far was this great master from presumptuous confidence in his abilities, that, in his examinations of the fick, he was remarkably circumftantial and particular. He well knew that the originals of distempers are often at a distance froin their visible effects ; that to conjecture, where certainty may be obtained, is either vanity or negligence ; and that life is not to be sacrificed, either to an affectation of quick discernment, or of crowded practice, but may be required, if trifled away, at the hand of the physician.
About the middle of the year 1737, he felt the first approaches of that fatal illness that brought him to the grave, of which we have inserted an account, written by himself Sept. 8, 1738, to a friend at London *
which ** Ætas, labor, corporisque opima pinguetudo, effecerant, ante annum, ut inertibus refertum, grave, hebes, plenitudine turgens
· which deserves not only to be preserved as an historical relation of the disease which deprived us of so great a man, but as a proof of his piety and resignation to the divine will.
In this last illness, which was to the last degree lingering, painful, and afflictive, his constancy and firmness did not forsake him. He neither intermitted the necessary cares of life, nor forgot the proper preparations for death. Though dejection and lowness of fpirit was, as he himself tells us, part of his distemper, yet even this, in some measure, gave way to that vigour which the soul receives from a consciousness of innocence.
About three weeks before his death he received a visit at his country house from the rev. Mr. Schultens, his intimate friend, who found him sitting withoutdoor, with his wife, sister, and daughter: after the compliments of form, the ladies withdrew, and left them to private conversation; when Boerhaave took occasion to tell him what had been, during his illness, the chief subject of his thoughts. He had never
corpus, anhelum ad motus minimnos, cum sensu suffocationis, pulfu mirificè anomalo, ineptum evaderet ad ullum motum. Urgebat præcipuè fubfiftens prorfus & intercepta respiratio ad prima fomni initia: unde fomnus prorsus prohibebatur, cum formidabili ftrangulationis molestia. Hinc hydrops pedum, crurum, femorum, scroti, præputii, & abdominis. Quæ tamen omnia fublata. Sed dolor manet in abdomine, cum anxietate summa, anhelitu fuffocante, & debilitate incredibili: fomno pauco, eoque vago, per fomnia turbatissimo: animus vero rebus agendis impar. Cum his luctor fessus nec emergo: patienter expectans Dei jussa, quibus religno data, quse fola amo, & honoro unice." Orig. Edit,
doubted of the spiritual and immaterial nature of the foul; but declared that he had lately had a kind of experimental certainty of the distinction between corporeal and thinking substances, which mere reason and philosophy cannot afford, and opportunities of contemplating the wonderful and inexplicable union of soul and body, which nothing but long fickness can give. This he illustrated by a description of the effects which the infirmities of his body had upon his faculties, which yet they did not so oppress or vanquish, but his soul was always master of itself, and always resigned to the pleasure of its Maker.
He related with great concern, that once his patience so far gave way to extremity of pain, that, after having lain fifteen hours in exquisite tortures, he prayed to God that he might be set free by death.
Mr. Schultens, by way of consolation, answered, that he thought such wishes, when forced by continued and excessive torments, unavoidable in the present state of human nature; that the best men, even Job himself, were not able to refrain from such starts of impatience. This he did not deny; but said, “He that loves God, ought to think nothing desirable but what is most pleasing to the supreme goodness."
Such were his sentiments, and such his conduct, in this state of weakness and pain: as death approached nearer, he was so far from terror or confusion, that he seemed even less sensible of pain, and more chearful under his torments, which continued till the 23d day of September 1738, on which he died, between four and five in the inorning, in the 70th year of his age.