But his knowledge, however uncommon, holds, in his character, but the second place; his virtue was yet much more uncommon than his learning. He was an admirable example of temperance, fortitude, humility, and devotion. His piety, and a religious sense of his dependance on God, was the basis of all his virtues, and the principle of his whole conduct. He was too sensible of his weakness to ascribe any thing to himself, or to conceive that he could subdue passion, or withstand temptation, by his own natural power; he attributed every good thought, and every laudable action, to the father of goodness. Being once asked by a friend, who had often admired his patience under great provocations, whether he knew what it was to be angry, and by what means he had so entirely suppressed that impetuous and ungovernable passion, he answered, with the utmost frankness and sincerity, that he was naturally quick of resentment, but that he had, by daily prayer and meditation, at length attained to this mastery over himself.
As soon as he arose in the morning, it was, throughout his whole life, his daily practice to retire for an hour to private prayer and meditation; this, he often told his friends, gave him spirit and vigour in the business of the day, and this he, therefore, commended, as the best rule of life; for nothing, he knew, could support the soul, in all distresses, but a confidence in the supreme being; nor can a steady and rational magnanimity flow from any other source than a consciousness of the divine favour.
He asserted, on all occasions, the divine authority and sacred efficacy of the holy scriptures; and maintained that they alone taught the way of salvation, and that they only could give peace of mind. The excellency of the christian religion was the frequent subject of his conversation. A strict obedience to the doctrine, and a diligent imitation of the example of our blessed saviour, he often declared to be the foundation of true tranquility. He recommended to his friends a careful observation of the precept of Moses, concerning the love of God and man. He worshipped God as he is in himself, without attempting to inquire into his nature. He desired only to think of God, what God knows of himself. There he stopped, lest, by indulging his own ideas, he should form a deity from his own imagination, and sin by falling down before him. To the will of God he paid an absolute submission, without endeavouring to discover the reason of his determinations; and this he accounted the first and most inviolable duty of a christian. When he heard of a criminal condemned to die, he used to think : Who can tell whether this man is not better than I? or, if I am better, it is not to be ascribed to myself, but to the goodness of God.
Such were the sentiments of Boerhaave, whose words we have added in this note. So far was this man from being made impious by philosophy, or vain by knowledge, or by virtue, that he ascribed all his abilities to the bounty, and all his goodness to the grace of God. May his example extend its influence to his admirers and followers! May those who study his writings imitate his life! and those who endeavour after his knowledge, aspire likewise to his piety!