Note: I have omitted the accent over the "a" in the phrase "a la volee" on line 28 of page 80; I have also omitted Greek words or phrases, substituting [Greek omitted] in their place; in addition, I have made the following changes to the text: PAGE LINE ORIGINAL CHANGED TO 56 11 comtemplations. contemplations. 93 34 that si that is 117 14 Egyptains Egyptians 120 1 Egyptains Egyptians 148 13 aprehension apprehension 151 15 where where- 162 5 viii 809 viii. 809 176 16 limped limpid 187 30 things.' things." Footnote symbols in the text include the asterisk, the dagger, the double dagger, and the section, for which I have substituted, respectively, the *, the +, the #, and the $. Endnote numbers within the text are indicated by Arabic numerals enclosed within pointed brackets, e.g., .
HYDRIOTAPHIA, AND THE LETTER TO A FRIEND.
SIR THOMAS BROWNE, KNT.
WITH AN INTRODUCTION AND NOTES BY
J. W. WILLIS BUND, M.A., LL.B., GONVILLE AND CAIUS COLLEGE, CAMBRIDGE, OF LINCOLN'S INN, BARRISTER-AT-LAW.
SIR THOMAS BROWNE (whose works occupy so prominent a position in the literary his- tory of the seventeenth century) is an author who is now little known and less read. This com- parative oblivion to which he has been consigned is the more remarkable, as, if for nothing else, his writings deserve to be studied as an example of the English language in what may be termed a transition state. The prose of the Elizabethan age was begin- ning to pass away and give place to a more inflated style of writing—a style which, after passing through various stages of development, culminated in that of Johnson.
Browne is one of the best early examples of this school; his style, to quote Johnson himself, "is vigorous but rugged, it is learned but pedantick, it is deep but obscure, it strikes but does not please, it commands but does not allure. . . . It is a tissue of many languages, a mixture of heterogeneous words brought together from distant regions."
Yet in spite of this qualified censure, there are passages in Browne's works not inferior to any in the English language; and though his writings may not be "a well of English undefiled," yet it is the very defilements that add to the beauty of the work.
But it is not only as an example of literary style that Browne deserves to be studied. The matter of his works, the grandeur of his ideas, the originality of his thoughts, the greatness of his charity, amply make up for the deficiencies (if deficiencies there be) in his style. An author who combined the wit of Montaigne with the learning of Erasmus, and of whom even Hallam could say that "his varied talents wanted nothing but the controlling supremacy of good sense to place him in the highest rank of our litera- ture," should not be suffered to remain in obscurity.
A short account of his life will form the best introduction to his works.
Sir Thomas Browne was born in London, in the parish of St Michael le Quern, on the 19th of October 1605. His father was a London merchant, of a good Cheshire family; and his mother a Sussex lady, daughter of Mr Paul Garraway of Lewis. His father died when he was very young, and his mother marrying again shortly afterwards, Browne was left to the care of his guardians, one of whom is said to have defrauded him out of some of his property. He was educated at Winchester, and afterwards sent to Oxford, to what is now Pembroke College, where he took his degree of M.A. in 1629. Thereupon he commenced for a short time to practise as a physician in Oxfordshire. But we soon find him growing tired of this, and accompanying his father-in-law, Sir Thomas Dutton, on a tour of inspection of the castles and forts in Ireland. We next hear of Browne in the south of France, at Montpellier, then a celebrated school of medicine, where he seems to have studied some little time. From there he proceeded to Padua, one of the most famous of the Italian universities, and noted for the views some of its members held on the subjects of astronomy and necromancy. During his residence here, Browne doubtless acquired some of his peculiar ideas on the science of the heavens and the black art, and, what was more im- portant, he learnt to regard the Romanists with that abundant charity we find throughout his works. From Padua, Browne went to Leyden, and this sud- den change from a most bigoted Roman Catholic to a most bigoted Protestant country was not without its effect on his mind, as can be traced in his book. Here he took the degree of Doctor of Medicine, and shortly afterwards returned to England. Soon after his return, about the year 1635, he published his "Religio Medici," his first and greatest work, which may be fairly regarded as the reflection of the mind of one who, in spite of a strong intellect and vast erudition, was still prone to superstition, but having
"Through many cities strayed, Their customs, laws, and manners weighed,"
had obtained too large views of mankind to become a bigot.
After the publication of his book he settled at Norwich, where he soon had an extensive practice as a physician. From hence there remains little to be told of his life. In 1637 he was incorporated Doctor of Medicine at Oxford; and in 1641 he married Dorothy the daughter of Edward Mileham, of Burlingham in Norfolk, and had by her a family of eleven children.
In 1646 he published his "Pseudodoxia Epi- demica," or Enquiries into Vulgar Errors. The dis- covery of some Roman urns at Burnham in Nor- folk, led him in 1658 to write his "Hydriotaphia" (Urn-burial); he also published at the same time "The Garden of Cyrus, or the Quincunxcial Lozenge of the Ancients," a curious work, but far inferior to his other productions.
In 1665 he was elected an honorary Fellow of the College of Physicians, "virtute et literis orna- tissimus."
Browne had always been a Royalist. In 1643 he had refused to subscribe to the fund that was then being raised for regaining Newcastle. He proved a happy exception to the almost proverbial neglect the Royalists received from Charles II. in 1671, for when Charles was at Newmarket, he came over to see Nor- wich, and conferred the honour of knighthood on Browne. His reputation was now very great. Evelyn paid a visit to Norwich for the express purpose of seeing him; and at length, on his 76th birthday (19th October 1682), he died, full of years and honours.
It was a striking coincidence that he who in his Letter to a Friend had said that "in persons who out- live many years, and when there are no less than 365 days to determine their lives in every year, that the first day should mark the last, that the tail of the snake should return into its mouth precisely at that time, and that they should wind up upon the day of their nativity, is indeed a remarkable coin- cidence, which, though astrology hath taken witty pains to solve, yet hath it been very wary in making predictions of it," should himself die on the day of his birth.
Browne was buried in the church of St Peter, Mancroft, Norwich, where his wife erected to his memory a mural monument, on which was placed an English and Latin inscription, setting forth that he was the author of "Religio Medici," "Pseudodoxia Epidemica," and other learned works "per orbem notissimus." Yet his sleep was not to be undisturbed; his skull was fated to adorn a museum! In 1840, while some workmen were digging a vault in the chancel of St Peter's, they found a coffin with an inscription—
"Amplissimus Vir Dus Thomas Browne Miles Medicinae Dr Annis Natus 77 Denatus 19 Die Mensis Octobris Anno Dnj 1682 hoc. Loculo indormiens Corporis Spagy- rici pulvere plumbum in aurum convertit."
The translation of this inscription raised a storm over his ashes, which Browne would have enjoyed partaking in, the word spagyricus being an enigma to scholars. Mr Firth of Norwich (whose translation seems the best) thus renders the inscription:—
"The very distinguished man, Sir Thomas Browne, Knight, Doctor of Medicine, aged 77 years, who died on the 19th of October, in the year of our Lord 1682, sleeping in this coffin of lead, by the dust of his alchemic body, transmutes it into a coffer of gold.
After Sir Thomas's death, two collections of his works were published, one by Archbishop Tenison, and the other in 1772. They contain most of his letters, his tracts on various subjects, and his Letter to a Friend. Various editions of parts of Browne's works have from time to time appeared. By far the best edition of the whole of them is that published by Simon Wilkin.
It is upon his "Religio Medici"—the religion of a physician—that Browne's fame chiefly rests. It was his first and most celebrated work, published just after his return from his travels; it gives us the impres- sions made on his mind by the various and opposite schools he had passed through. He tells us that he never intended to publish it, but that on its being surreptitiously printed, he was induced to do so. In 1643, the first genuine edition appeared, with "an admonition to such as shall peruse the observations upon a former corrupt copy of this book." The observations here alluded to, were written by Sir Kenelm Digby, and sent by him to the Earl of Dorset. They were first printed at the end of the edition of 1643, and have ever since been published with the book. Their chief merit consists in the marvellous rapidity with which they were written, Sir Kenelm having, as he tells us, bought the book, read it, and written his observations, in the course of twenty-four hours!
The book contains what may be termed an apology for his belief. He states the reasons on which he grounds his opinions, and endeavours to show that, although he had been accused of atheism, he was in all points a good Christian, and a loyal member of the Church of England. Each person must judge for himself of his success; but the effect it produced on the mind of Johnson may be noticed. "The opinions of every man," says he, "must be learned from himself; concerning his practice, it is safer to trust to the evidence of others. When the testimonies concur, no higher degree of historical certainty can be obtained; and they apparently concur to prove that Browne was a zealous adherent to the faith of Christ, that he lived in obedience to His laws, and died in con- fidence of His mercy."
The best proof of the excellence of the "Religio" is to be found in its great success. During the author's life, from 1643 to 1681, it passed through eleven editions. It has been translated into Latin, Dutch, French, and German, and many of the translations have passed through several editions. No less than thirty-three treatises have been written in imitation of it; and what, to some, will be the greatest proof of all, it was soon after its publication placed in the Index Expurgatorius. The best proof of its liberality of sentiment is in the fact that its author was claimed at the same time by the Romanists and Quakers to be a member of their respective creeds!
The "Hydriotaphia," or Urn-burial, is a treatise on the funeral rites of ancient nations. It was caused by the discovery of some Roman urns in Norfolk. Though inferior to the "Religio," "there is perhaps none of his works which better exemplifies his reading or memory."
The text of the present edition of the "Religio Medici" is taken from what is called the eighth edition, but is in reality the eleventh, published in London in 1682, the last edition in the author's life- time. The notes are for the most part compiled from the observations of Sir Kenelm Digby, the annotation of Mr. Keck, and the very valuable notes of Simon Wilkin. For the account of the finding of Sir Thomas Browne's skull I am indebted to Mr Friswell's notice of Sir Thomas in his "Varia." The text of the "Hydriotaphia" is taken from the folio edition of 1686, in the Lincoln's Inn library. Some of Browne's notes to that edition have been omitted, and most of the references, as they refer to books which are not likely to be met with by the general reader.
The "Letter to a Friend, upon the occasion of the Death of his intimate Friend," was first published in a folio pamphlet in 1690. It was reprinted in his posthumous works. The concluding reflexions are the basis of a larger work, "Christian Morals." I am not aware of any complete modern edition of it. The text of the present one is taken from the original edition of 1690. The pamphlet is in the British Museum, bound up with a volume of old poems. It is entitled, "A Letter to a Friend, upon the occasion of the Death of his intimate Friend. By the learned Sir Thomas Brown, Knight, Doctor of Physick, late of Norwich. London: Printed for Charles Brone, at the Gun, at the West End of St Paul's Churchyard, 1690."
TO THE READER.
CERTAINLY that man were greedy of life, who should desire to live when all the world were at an end; and he must needs be very im- patient, who would repine at death in the society of all things that suffer under it. Had not almost every man suffered by the press, or were not the tyranny thereof become universal, I had not wanted reason for com- plaint: but in times wherein I have lived to behold the highest perversion of that excellent invention, the name of his Majesty defamed, the honour of Parlia- ment depraved, the writings of both depravedly, antici- patively, counterfeitly, imprinted: complaints may seem ridiculous in private persons; and men of my condition may be as incapable of affronts, as hopeless of their reparations. And truly had not the duty I owe unto the importunity of friends, and the allegiance I must ever acknowledge unto truth, prevailed with me; the inactivity of my disposition might have made these sufferings continual, and time, that brings other things to light, should have satisfied me in the remedy of its oblivion. But because things evidently false are not only printed, but many things of truth most falsely set forth; in this latter I could not but think myself engaged: for, though we have no power to redress the former, yet in the other reparation being within our- selves, I have at present represented unto the world a full and intended copy of that piece, which was most imperfectly and surreptitiously published before.
This I confess, about seven years past, with some others of affinity thereto, for my private exercise and satisfaction, I had at leisurable hours composed; which being communicated unto one, it became common unto many, and was by transcription successively corrupted, until it arrived in a most depraved copy at the press. He that shall peruse that work, and shall take notice of sundry particulars and personal expressions therein, will easily discern the intention was not publick: and, being a private exercise directed to myself, what is de- livered therein was rather a memorial unto me, than an example or rule unto any other: and therefore, if there be any singularity therein correspondent unto the pri- vate conceptions of any man, it doth not advantage them; or if dissentaneous thereunto, it no way over- throws them. It was penned in such a place, and with such disadvantage, that (I protest), from the first setting of pen unto paper, I had not the assistance of any good book, whereby to promote my invention, or relieve my memory; and therefore there might be many real lapses therein, which others might take notice of, and more that I suspected myself. It was set down many years past, and was the sense of my conceptions at that time, not an immutable law unto my advancing judgment at all times; and therefore there might be many things therein plausible unto my passed apprehension, which are not agreeable unto my present self. There are many things delivered rhetorically, many expressions therein merely tropical, and as they best illustrate my inten- tion; and therefore also there are many things to be taken in a soft and flexible sense, and not to be called unto the rigid test of reason. Lastly, all that is con- tained therein is in submission unto maturer discern- ments; and, as I have declared, shall no further father them than the best and learned judgments shall au- thorize them: under favour of which considerations, I have made its secrecy publick, and committed the truth thereof to every ingenuous reader.
SECT. 1.—For my religion, though there be several circumstances that might persuade the world I have none at all,—as the general scandal of my profession,—the natural course of my studies,—the in- differency of my behaviour and discourse in matters of religion (neither violently defending one, nor with that common ardour and contention opposing another),— yet, in despite hereof, I dare without usurpation assume the honourable style of a Christian. Not that I merely owe this title to the font, my education, or the clime wherein I was born, as being bred up either to confirm those principles my parents instilled into my under- standing, or by a general consent proceed in the religion of my country; but having, in my riper years and con- firmed judgment, seen and examined all, I find myself obliged, by the principles of grace, and the law of mine own reason, to embrace no other name but this. Neither doth herein my zeal so far make me forget the general charity I owe unto humanity, as rather to hate than pity Turks, Infidels, and (what is worse) Jews; rather contenting myself to enjoy that happy style, than maligning those who refuse so glorious a title.
Sect. 2.—But, because the name of a Christian is be- come too general to express our faith,—there being a geography of religion as well as lands, and every clime distinguished not only by their laws and limits, but circumscribed by their doctrines and rules of faith,—to be particular, I am of that reformed new-cast religion, wherein I dislike nothing but the name; of the same belief our Saviour taught, the apostles disseminated, the fathers authorized, and the martyrs confirmed; but, by the sinister ends of princes, the ambition and avarice of prelates, and the fatal corruption of times, so decayed, impaired, and fallen from its native beauty, that it re- quired the careful and charitable hands of these times to restore it to its primitive integrity. Now, the acci- dental occasion whereupon, the slender means whereby, the low and abject condition of the person by whom, so good a work was set on foot, which in our adver- saries beget contempt and scorn, fills me with wonder, and is the very same objection the insolent pagans first cast at Christ and his disciples.
Sect. 3.—Yet have I not so shaken hands with those desperate resolutions who had rather venture at large their decayed bottom, than bring her in to be new- trimmed in the dock,—who had rather promiscuously retain all, than abridge any, and obstinately be what they are, than what they have been,—as to stand in diameter and sword's point with them. We have re- formed from them, not against them: for, omitting those improperations and terms of scurrility betwixt us, which only difference our affections, and not our cause, there is between us one common name and ap- pellation, one faith and necessary body of principles common to us both; and therefore I am not scrupulous to converse and live with them, to enter their churches in defect of ours, and either pray with them or for them. I could never perceive any rational consequences from those many texts which prohibit the children of Israel to pollute themselves with the temples of the heathens; we being all Christians, and not divided by such de- tested impieties as might profane our prayers, or the place wherein we make them; or that a resolved con- science may not adore her Creator anywhere, especially in places devoted to his service; if their devotions offend him, mine may please him: if theirs profane it, mine may hallow it. Holy water and crucifix (danger- ous to the common people) deceive not my judgment, nor abuse my devotion at all. I am, I confess, natur- ally inclined to that which misguided zeal terms super- stition: my common conversation I do acknowledge austere, my behaviour full of rigour, sometimes not without morosity; yet, at my devotion I love to use the civility of my knee, my hat, and hand, with all those outward and sensible motions which may express or promote my invisible devotion. I should violate my own arm rather than a church; nor willingly deface the name of saint or martyr. At the sight of a cross, or crucifix, I can dispense with my hat, but scarce with the thought or memory of my Saviour. I cannot laugh at, but rather pity, the fruitless journeys of pilgrims, or contemn the miserable condition of friars; for, though misplaced in circumstances, there is something in it of devotion. I could never hear the Ave-Mary bell*
* A church-bell, that tolls every day at six and twelve of the clock; at the hearing whereof every one, in what place soever, either of house or street, betakes himself to his prayer, which is commonly directed to the Virgin. without an elevation, or think it a sufficient warrant, because they erred in one circumstance, for me to err in all,—that is, in silence and dumb contempt. Whilst, therefore, they direct their devotions to her, I offered mine to God; and rectify the errors of their prayers by rightly ordering mine own. At a solemn procession I have wept abundantly, while my consorts, blind with opposition and prejudice, have fallen into an excess of scorn and laughter. There are, questionless, both in Greek, Roman, and African churches, solemnities and ceremonies, whereof the wiser zeals do make a Chris- tian use; and stand condemned by us, not as evil in themselves, but as allurements and baits of superstition to those vulgar heads that look asquint on the face of truth, and those unstable judgments that cannot resist in the narrow point and centre of virtue without a reel or stagger to the circumference.
Sect. 4.—As there were many reformers, so likewise many reformations; every country proceeding in a par- ticular way and method, according as their national interest, together with their constitution and clime, in- clined them: some angrily and with extremity; others calmly and with mediocrity, not rending, but easily dividing, the community, and leaving an honest possi- bility of a reconciliation;—which, though peaceable spirits do desire, and may conceive that revolution of time and the mercies of God may effect, yet that judg- ment that shall consider the present antipathies between the two extremes,—their contrarieties in condition, affection, and opinion,—may, with the same hopes, expect a union in the poles of heaven.
Sect. 5.—But, to difference myself nearer, and draw into a lesser circle; there is no church whose every part so squares unto my conscience, whose articles, constitu- tions, and customs, seem so consonant unto reason, and, as it were, framed to my particular devotion, as this whereof I hold my belief—the Church of England; to whose faith I am a sworn subject, and therefore, in a double obligation, subscribe unto her articles, and en- deavour to observe her constitutions: whatsoever is beyond, as points indifferent, I observe, according to the rules of my private reason, or the humour and fashion of my devotion; neither believing this because Luther affirmed it, nor disproving that because Calvin hath dis- avouched it. I condemn not all things in the council of Trent, nor approve all in the synod of Dort. In brief, where the Scripture is silent, the church is my text; where that speaks, 'tis but my comment; where there is a joint silence of both, I borrow not the rules of my religion from Rome or Geneva, but from the dictates of my own reason. It is an unjust scandal of our ad- versaries, and a gross error in ourselves, to compute the nativity of our religion from Henry the Eighth; who, though he rejected the Pope, refused not the faith of Rome, and effected no more than what his own pre- decessors desired and essayed in ages past, and it was conceived the state of Venice would have attempted in our days. It is as uncharitable a point in us to fall upon those popular scurrilities and opprobrious scoffs of the Bishop of Rome, to whom, as a temporal prince, we owe the duty of good language. I confess there is a cause of passion between us: by his sentence I stand excommunicated; heretic is the best language he affords me: yet can no ear witness I ever returned to him the name of antichrist, man of sin, or whore of Babylon. It is the method of charity to suffer without reaction: those usual satires and invectives of the pulpit may per- chance produce a good effect on the vulgar, whose ears are opener to rhetoric than logic; yet do they, in no wise, confirm the faith of wiser believers, who know that a good cause needs not be pardoned by passion, but can sustain itself upon a temperate dispute.
Sect. 6.—I could never divide myself from any man upon the difference of an opinion, or be angry with his judgment for not agreeing with me in that from which, perhaps, within a few days, I should dissent myself. I have no genius to disputes in religion: and have often thought it wisdom to decline them, especially upon a disadvantage, or when the cause of truth might suffer in the weakness of my patronage. Where we desire to be informed, 'tis good to contest with men above our- selves; but, to confirm and establish our opinions, 'tis best to argue with judgments below our own, that the frequent spoils and victories over their reasons may settle in ourselves an esteem and confirmed opinion of our own. Every man is not a proper champion for truth, nor fit to take up the gauntlet in the cause of verity; many, from the ignorance of these maxims, and an inconsiderate zeal unto truth, have too rashly charged the troops of error and remain as trophies unto the enemies of truth. A man may be in as just possession of truth as of a city, and yet be forced to surrender; 'tis therefore far better to enjoy her with peace than to hazard her on a battle. If, therefore, there rise any doubts in my way, I do forget them, or at least defer them, till my better settled judgment and more manly reason be able to resolve them; for I perceive every man's own reason is his best OEdipus, and will, upon a reasonable truce, find a way to loose those bonds where- with the subtleties of error have enchained our more flexible and tender judgments. In philosophy, where truth seems double-faced, there is no man more para- doxical than myself: but in divinity I love to keep the road; and, though not in an implicit, yet an humble faith, follow the great wheel of the church, by which I move; not reserving any proper poles, or motion from the epicycle of my own brain. By this means I have no gap for heresy, schisms, or errors, of which at pre- sent, I hope I shall not injure truth to say, I have no taint or tincture. I must confess my greener studies have been polluted with two or three; not any begotten in the latter centuries, but old and obsolete, such as could never have been revived but by such extravagant and irregular heads as mine. For, indeed, heresies perish not with their authors; but, like the river Arethusa, though they lose their currents in one place, they rise up again in another. One general council is not able to extirpate one single heresy: it may be cancelled for the present; but revolution of time, and the like aspects from heaven, will restore it, when it will flourish till it be condemned again. For, as though there were metemp- psychosis, and the soul of one man passed into another, opinions do find, after certain revolutions, men and minds like those that first begat them. To see our- selves again, we need not look for Plato's year:* every man is not only himself; there have been many Diogenes, and as many Timons, though but few of that name; men are lived over again; the world is now as it was in ages past; there was none then, but there hath been some one since, that parallels him, and is, as it were, his revived self.
Sect. 7.—Now, the first of mine was that of the Arabians; that the souls of men perished with their
* A revolution of certain thousand years, when all things should return unto their former estate, and he be teaching again in his school, as when he delivered this opinion. bodies, but should yet be raised again at the last day: not that I did absolutely conceive a mortality of the soul, but, if that were (which faith, not philosophy, hath yet thoroughly disproved), and that both entered the grave together, yet I held the same conceit thereof that we all do of the body, that it rise again. Surely it is but the merits of our unworthy natures, if we sleep in darkness until the last alarm. A serious reflex upon my own unworthiness did make me backward from challenging this prerogative of my soul: so that I might enjoy my Saviour at the last, I could with patience be nothing almost unto eternity. The second was that of Origen; that God would not persist in his vengeance for ever, but, after a definite time of his wrath, would release the damned souls from torture; which error I fell into upon a serious contemplation of the great attribute of God, his mercy; and did a little cherish it in myself, because I found therein no malice, and a ready weight to sway me from the other extreme of despair, whereunto melancholy and contemplative natures are too easily disposed. A third there is, which I did never positively maintain or practise, but have often wished it had been consonant to truth, and not offensive to my religion; and that is, the prayer for the dead; whereunto I was inclined from some charitable inducements, whereby I could scarce contain my prayers for a friend at the ringing of a bell, or behold his corpse without an orison for his soul. 'Twas a good way, methought, to be remembered by posterity, and far more noble than a history. These opinions I never maintained with pertinacity, or endeavoured to inveigle any man's belief unto mine, nor so much as ever revealed, or disputed them with my dearest friends; by which means I neither propagated them in others nor confirmed them in myself: but, suffering them to flame upon their own substance, without addition of new fuel, they went out insensibly of themselves; therefore these opinions, though condemned by lawful councils, were not heresies in me, but bare errors, and single lapses of my understanding, without a joint depravity of my will. Those have not only depraved under- standings, but diseased affections, which cannot enjoy a singularity without a heresy, or be the author of an opinion without they be of a sect also. This was the villany of the first schism of Lucifer; who was not content to err alone, but drew into his faction many legions; and upon this experience he tempted only Eve, well understanding the communicable nature of sin, and that to deceive but one was tacitly and upon consequence to delude them both.
Sect. 8.—That heresies should arise, we have the prophecy of Christ; but, that old ones should be abolished, we hold no prediction. That there must be heresies, is true, not only in our church, but also in any other: even in the doctrines heretical there will be superheresies; and Arians, not only divided from the church, but also among themselves: for heads that are disposed unto schism, and complexionally propense to innovation, are naturally indisposed for a community; nor will be ever confined unto the order or economy of one body; and therefore, when they separate from others, they knit but loosely among themselves; nor contented with a general breach or dichotomy with their church, do subdivide and mince themselves almost into atoms. 'Tis true, that men of singular parts and humours have not been free from singular opinions and conceits in all ages; retaining something, not only beside the opinion of his own church, or any other, but also any particular author; which, notwithstanding, a sober judgment may do without offence or heresy; for there is yet, after all the decrees of councils, and the niceties of the schools, many things, untouched, un- imagined, wherein the liberty of an honest reason may play and expatiate with security, and far without the circle of a heresy.
Sect. 9.—As for those wingy mysteries in divinity, and airy subtleties in religion, which have unhinged the brains of better heads, they never stretched the pia mater<11> of mine. Methinks there be not impossibilities enough in religion for an active faith: the deepest mysteries our contains have not only been illustrated, but maintained, by syllogism and the rule of reason. I love to lose myself in a mystery; to pursue my reason to an O altitudo! 'Tis my solitary recreation to pose my apprehension with those involved enigmas and riddles of the Trinity—with incarnation and resurrec- tion. I can answer all the objections of Satan and my rebellious reason with that odd resolution I learned of Tertullian, "Certum est quia impossibile est." I desire to exercise my faith in the difficultest point; for, to credit ordinary and visible objects, is not faith, but persuasion. Some believe the better for seeing Christ's sepulchre; and, when they have seen the Red Sea, doubt not of the miracle. Now, contrarily, I bless myself, and am thankful, that I lived not in the days of miracles; that I never saw Christ nor his disciples. I would not have been one of those Israelites that passed the Red Sea; nor one of Christ's patients, on whom he wrought his wonders: then had my faith been thrust upon me; nor should I enjoy that greater blessing pronounced to all that believe and saw not. 'Tis an easy and necessary belief, to credit what our eye and sense hath examined. I believe he was dead, and buried, and rose again; and desire to see him in his glory, rather than to contemplate him in his cenotaph or sepulchre. Nor is this much to believe; as we have reason, we owe this faith unto history: they only had the advantage of a bold and noble faith, who lived before his coming, who, upon obscure prophesies and mystical types, could raise a belief, and expect apparent impossibilities.
Sect. 10.—'Tis true, there is an edge in all firm belief, and with an easy metaphor we may say, the sword of faith; but in these obscurities I rather use it in the adjunct the apostle gives it, a buckler; under which I conceive a wary combatant may lie invulnerable. Since I was of understanding to know that we knew nothing, my reason hath been more pliable to the will of faith: I am now content to understand a mystery, without a rigid definition, in an easy and Platonic description. That allegorical description of Hermes* pleaseth me beyond all the metaphysical definitions of divines. Where I cannot satisfy my reason, I love to humour my fancy: I had as lieve you tell me that anima est angelus hominis, est corpus Dei, as [Greek omitted];—lux est umbra Dei, as actus perspicui. Where there is an obscurity too deep for our reason, 'tis good to sit down with a description, periphrasis, or adumbration; for, by acquainting our reason how unable it is to display the visible and obvious effects of nature, it becomes more humble and submissive unto the subtleties of faith: and thus I teach my haggard and unreclaimed reason to stoop unto the lure of faith. I believe there was already a tree, whose fruit our unhappy parents tasted, though, in the same chapter when God forbids it, 'tis
* "Sphaera cujus centrum ubique, circumferentia nullibi." positively said, the plants of the field were not yet grown; for God had not caused it to rain upon the earth. I believe that the serpent (if we shall literally understand it), from his proper form and figure, made his motion on his belly, before the curse. I find the trial of the pucelage and virginity of women, which God ordained the Jews, is very fallible. Experience and history informs me that, not only many particular women, but likewise whole nations, have escaped the curse of childbirth, which God seems to pronounce upon the whole sex; yet do I believe that all this is true, which, indeed, my reason would persuade me to be false: and this, I think, is no vulgar part of faith, to believe a thing not only above, but contrary to, reason, and against the arguments of our proper senses.
Sect. 11.—In my solitary and retired imagination ("neque enim cum porticus aut me lectulus accepit, desum mihi"), I remember I am not alone; and therefore forget not to contemplate him and his attributes, who is ever with me, especially those two mighty ones, his wisdom and eternity. With the one I recreate, with the other I confound, my understanding: for who can speak of eternity without a solecism, or think thereof without an ecstasy? Time we may comprehend; 'tis but five days elder than ourselves, and hath the same horoscope with the world; but, to retire so far back as to appre- hend a beginning,—to give such an infinite start for- wards as to conceive an end,—in an essence that we affirm hath neither the one nor the other, it puts my reason to St Paul's sanctuary: my philosophy dares not say the angels can do it. God hath not made a creature that can comprehend him; 'tis a privilege of his own nature: "I am that I am" was his own definition unto Moses; and 'twas a short one to confound mortality, that durst question God, or ask him what he was. In- deed, he only is; all others have and shall be; but, in eternity, there is no distinction of tenses; and therefore that terrible term, predestination, which hath troubled so many weak heads to conceive, and the wisest to ex- plain, is in respect to God no prescious determination of our estates to come, but a definitive blast of his will already fulfilled, and at the instant that he first decreed it; for, to his eternity, which is indivisible, and alto- gether, the last trump is already sounded, the reprobates in the flame, and the blessed in Abraham's bosom. St Peter speaks modestly, when he saith, "a thousand years to God are but as one day;" for, to speak like a philosopher, those continued instances of time, which flow into a thousand years, make not to him one moment. What to us is to come, to his eternity is present; his whole duration being but one permanent point, without succession, parts, flux, or division.
Sect. 12.—There is no attribute that adds more diffi- culty to the mystery of the Trinity, where, though in a relative way of Father and Son, we must deny a priority. I wonder how Aristotle could conceive the world eternal, or how he could make good two eternities. His simili- tude, of a triangle comprehended in a square, doth some- what illustrate the trinity of our souls, and that the triple unity of God; for there is in us not three, but a trinity of, souls; because there is in us, if not three dis- tinct souls, yet differing faculties, that can and do subsist apart in different subjects, and yet in us are thus united as to make but one soul and substance. If one soul were so perfect as to inform three distinct bodies, that were a pretty trinity. Conceive the distinct number of three, not divided nor separated by the intellect, but actually comprehended in its unity, and that a per- fect trinity. I have often admired the mystical way of Pythagoras, and the secret magick of numbers. "Be- ware of philosophy," is a precept not to be received in too large a sense: for, in this mass of nature, there is a set of things that carry in their front, though not in capital letters, yet in stenography and short characters, something of divinity; which, to wiser reasons, serve as luminaries in the abyss of knowledge, and, to judicious beliefs, as scales and roundles to mount the pinnacles and highest pieces of divinity. The severe schools shall never laugh me out of the philosophy of Hermes, that this visible world is but a picture of the invisible, where- in, as in a portrait, things are not truly, but in equivocal shapes, and as they counterfeit some real substance in that invisible fabrick.
Sect. 13.—That other attribute, wherewith I recreate my devotion, is his wisdom, in which I am happy; and for the contemplation of this only do not repent me that I was bred in the way of study. The advantage I have therein, is an ample recompense for all my endeavours, in what part of knowledge soever. Wisdom is his most beauteous attribute: no man can attain unto it: yet Solomon pleased God when he desired it. He is wise, because he knows all things; and he knoweth all things, because he made them all: but his greatest knowledge is in comprehending that he made not, that is, himself. And this is also the greatest knowledge in man. For this do I honour my own profession, and embrace the counsel even of the devil himself: had he read such a lecture in Paradise as he did at Delphos,* we had better known ourselves; nor had we stood in fear to
* [Greek omitted] "Nosce teipsum." know him. I know God is wise in all; wonderful in what we conceive, but far more in what we comprehend not: for we behold him but asquint, upon reflex or shadow; our understanding is dimmer than Moses's eye; we are ignorant of the back parts or lower side of his divinity; therefore, to pry into the maze of his counsels, is not only folly in man, but presumption even in angels. Like us, they are his servants, not his senators; he holds no counsel, but that mystical one of the Trinity, wherein, though there be three persons, there is but one mind that decrees without contradic- tion. Nor needs he any; his actions are not begot with deliberation; his wisdom naturally knows what's best: his intellect stands ready fraught with the super- lative and purest ideas of goodness, consultations, and election, which are two motions in us, make but one in him: his actions springing from his power at the first touch of his will. These are contemplations meta- physical: my humble speculations have another method, and are content to trace and discover those expressions he hath left in his creatures, and the obvious effects of nature. There is no danger to profound these mys- teries, no sanctum sanctorum in philosophy. The world was made to be inhabited by beasts, but studied and contemplated by man: 'tis the debt of our reason we owe unto God, and the homage we pay for not being beasts. Without this, the world is still as though it had not been, or as it was before the sixth day, when as yet there was not a creature that could conceive or say there was a world. The wisdom of God receives small honour from those vulgar heads that rudely stare about, and with a gross rusticity admire his works. Those highly magnify him, whose judicious enquiry into his acts, and deliberate research into his creatures, return the duty of a devout and learned admiration. There- fore,
Search while thou wilt; and let thy reason go, To ransom truth, e'en to th' abyss below; Rally the scatter'd causes; and that line Which nature twists be able to untwine. It is thy Maker's will; for unto none But unto reason can he e'er be known. The devils do know thee; but those damn'd meteors Build not thy glory, but confound thy creatures. Teach my endeavours so thy works to read, That learning them in thee I may proceed. Give thou my reason that instructive flight, Whose weary wings may on thy hands still light. Teach me to soar aloft, yet ever so, When near the sun, to stoop again below. Thus shall my humble feathers safely hover, And, though near earth, more than the heavens discover. And then at last, when homeward I shall drive, Rich with the spoils of nature, to my hive, There will I sit, like that industrious fly, Buzzing thy praises; which shall never die Till death abrupts them, and succeeding glory Bid me go on in a more lasting story.
And this is almost all wherein an humble creature may endeavour to requite, and some way to retribute unto his Creator: for, if not he that saith, "Lord, Lord, but he that doth the will of the Father, shall be saved," certainly our wills must be our performances, and our intents make out our actions; otherwise our pious labours shall find anxiety in our graves, and our best endeavours not hope, but fear, a resurrection.
Sect. 14.—There is but one first cause, and four second causes, of all things. Some are without efficient, as God; others without matter, as angels; some without form, as the first matter: but every essence, created or uncreated, hath its final cause, and some positive end both of its essence and operation. This is the cause I grope after in the works of nature; on this hangs the providence of God. To raise so beauteous a structure as the world and the creatures thereof was but his art; but their sundry and divided operations, with their pre- destinated ends, are from the treasure of his wisdom. In the causes, nature, and affections, of the eclipses of the sun and moon, there is most excellent speculation; but, to profound further, and to contemplate a reason why his providence hath so disposed and ordered their motions in that vast circle, as to conjoin and obscure each other, is a sweeter piece of reason, and a diviner point of philosophy. Therefore, sometimes, and in some things, there appears to me as much divinity in Galen his books, De Usu Partium, as in Suarez's Meta- physicks. Had Aristotle been as curious in the enquiry of this cause as he was of the other, he had not left behind him an imperfect piece of philosophy, but an absolute tract of divinity.
Sect. 15.—Natura nihil agit frustra, is the only indis- putable axiom in philosophy. There are no grotesques in nature; not any thing framed to fill up empty cantons, and unnecessary spaces. In the most imperfect creatures, and such as were not preserved in the ark, but, having their seeds and principles in the womb of nature, are everywhere, where the power of the sun is,—in these is the wisdom of his hand discovered. Out of this rank Solomon chose the object of his admiration; indeed, what reason may not go to school to the wisdom of bees, ants, and spiders? What wise hand teacheth them to do what reason cannot teach us? Ruder heads stand amazed at those prodigious pieces of nature, whales, elephants, dromedaries, and camels; these, I confess, are the colossus and majestick pieces of her hand; but in these narrow engines there is more curious mathe- maticks; and the civility of these little citizens more neatly sets forth the wisdom of their Maker. Who admires not Regio Montanus his fly beyond his eagle; or wonders not more at the operation of two souls in those little bodies than but one in the trunk of a cedar? I could never content my contemplation with those general pieces of wonder, the flux and reflux of the sea, the increase of Nile, the conversion of the needle to the north; and have studied to match and parallel those in the more obvious and neglected pieces of nature which, without farther travel, I can do in the cosmography of myself. We carry with us the wonders we seek without us: there is all Africa and her prodigies in us. We are that bold and adventurous piece of nature, which he that studies wisely learns, in a compendium, what others labour at in a divided piece and endless volume.
Sect. 16.—Thus there are two books from whence I collect my divinity. Besides that written one of God, another of his servant, nature, that universal and publick manuscript, that lies expansed unto the eyes of all. Those that never saw him in the one have discovered him in the other; this was the scripture and theology of the heathens; the natural motion of the sun made them more admire him than its supernatural station did the children of Israel. The ordinary effects of nature wrought more admiration in them than, in the other, all his miracles. Surely the heathens knew better how to join and read these mystical letters than we Christians, who cast a more careless eye on these common hiero- glyphics, and disdain to suck divinity from the flowers of nature. Nor do I so forget God as to adore the name of nature; which I define not, with the schools, to be the principle of motion and rest, but that straight and regular line, that settled and constant course the wisdom of God hath ordained the actions of his creatures, accord- ing to their several kinds. To make a revolution every day is the nature of the sun, because of that necessary course which God hath ordained it, from which it cannot swerve but by a faculty from that voice which first did give it motion. Now this course of nature God seldom alters or perverts; but, like an excellent artist, hath so contrived his work, that, with the self-same instrument, without a new creation, he may effect his obscurest designs. Thus he sweeteneth the water with a word, preserveth the creatures in the ark, which the blest of his mouth might have as easily created;—for God is like a skilful geometrician, who, when more easily, and with one stroke of his compass, he might describe or divide a right line, had yet rather do this in a circle or longer way, according to the constituted and forelaid principles of his art: yet this rule of his he doth some- times pervert, to acquaint the world with his preroga- tive, lest the arrogancy of our reason should question his power, and conclude he could not. And thus I call the effects of nature the works of God, whose hand and instrument she only is; and therefore, to ascribe his actions unto her is to devolve the honour of the prin- cipal agent upon the instrument; which if with reason we may do, then let our hammers rise up and boast they have built our houses, and our pens receive the honour of our writing. I hold there is a general beauty in the works of God, and therefore no deformity in any kind of species of creature whatsoever. I cannot tell by what logick we call a toad, a bear, or an elephant ugly; they being created in those outward shapes and figures which best express the actions of their inward forms; and having passed that general visitation of God, who saw that all that he had made was good, that is, conformable to his will, which abhors deformity, and is the rule of order and beauty. There is no deformity but in mon- strosity; wherein, notwithstanding, there is a kind of beauty; nature so ingeniously contriving the irregular part, as they become sometimes more remarkable than the principal fabrick. To speak yet more narrowly, there was never any thing ugly or mis-shapen, but the chaos; wherein, notwithstanding, to speak strictly, there was no deformity, because no form; nor was it yet im- pregnant by the voice of God. Now nature is not at variance with art, nor art with nature; they being both the servants of his providence. Art is the perfection of nature. Were the world now as it was the sixth day, there were yet a chaos. Nature hath made one world, and art another. In brief, all things are artificial; for nature is the art of God.
Sect. 17.—This is the ordinary and open way of his providence, which art and industry have in good part discovered; whose effects we may foretell without an oracle. To foreshow these is not prophecy, but prog- nostication. There is another way, full of meanders and labyrinths, whereof the devil and spirits have no exact ephemerides: and that is a more particular and obscure method of his providence; directing the opera- tions of individual and single essences: this we call fortune; that serpentine and crooked line, whereby he draws those actions his wisdom intends in a more un- known and secret way; this cryptic and involved method of his providence have I ever admired; nor can I relate the history of my life, the occurrences of my days, the escapes, or dangers, and hits of chance, with a bezo las manos to Fortune, or a bare gramercy to my good stars. Abraham might have thought the ram in the thicket came thither by accident: human reason would have said that mere chance conveyed Moses in the ark to the sight of Pharaoh's daughter. What a labyrinth is there in the story of Joseph! able to con- vert a stoick. Surely there are in every man's life certain rubs, doublings, and wrenches, which pass a while under the effects of chance; but at the last, well examined, prove the mere hand of God. 'Twas not dumb chance that, to discover the fougade, or powder plot, contrived a miscarriage in the letter. I like the victory of '88 the better for that one occurrence which our enemies imputed to our dishonour, and the partiality of fortune; to wit, the tempests and contrariety of winds. King Philip did not detract from the nation, when he said, he sent his armada to fight with men, and not to combat with the winds. Where there is a manifest disproportion between the powers and forces of two several agents, upon a maxim of reason we may promise the victory to the superior: but when unex- pected accidents slip in, and unthought-of occurrences intervene, these must proceed from a power that owes no obedience to those axioms; where, as in the writing upon the wall, we may behold the hand, but see not the spring that moves it. The success of that petty province of Holland (of which the Grand Seignior proudly said, if they should trouble him, as they did the Spaniard, he would send his men with shovels and pickaxes, and throw it into the sea) I cannot altogether ascribe to the ingenuity and industry of the people, but the mercy of God, that hath disposed them to such a thriving genius; and to the will of his providence, that disposeth her favour to each country in their preordinate season. All cannot be happy at once; for, because the glory of one state depends upon the ruin of another, there is a revolution and vicissitude of their greatness, and must obey the swing of that wheel, not moved by intelligencies, but by the hand of God, whereby all estates arise to their zenith and vertical points, accord- ing to their predestinated periods. For the lives, not only of men, but of commonwealths and the whole world, run not upon a helix that still enlargeth; but on a circle, where, arriving to their meridian, they decline in obscurity, and fall under the horizon again.
Sect. 18.—These must not therefore be named the effects of fortune but in a relative way, and as we term the works of nature. It was the ignorance of man's reason that begat this very name, and by a careless term miscalled the providence of God: for there is no liberty for causes to operate in a loose and straggling way; nor any effect whatsoever but hath its warrant from some universal or superior cause. 'Tis not a ridiculous devotion to say a prayer before a game at tables; for, even in sortileges and matters of greatest uncertainty, there is a settled and preordered course of effects. It is we that are blind, not fortune. Because our eye is too dim to discover the mystery of her effects, we foolishly paint her blind, and hoodwink the pro- vidence of the Almighty. I cannot justify that con- temptible proverb, that "fools only are fortunate;" or that insolent paradox, that "a wise man is out of the reach of fortune;" much less those opprobrious epithets of poets,—"whore," "bawd," and "strumpet." 'Tis, I con- fess, the common fate of men of singular gifts of mind, to be destitute of those of fortune; which doth not any way deject the spirit of wiser judgments who thoroughly understand the justice of this proceeding; and, being enriched with higher donatives, cast a more careless eye on these vulgar parts of felicity. It is a most un- just ambition, to desire to engross the mercies of the Almighty, not to be content with the goods of mind, without a possession of those of body or fortune: and it is an error, worse than heresy, to adore these com- plimental and circumstantial pieces of felicity, and un- dervalue those perfections and essential points of happi- ness, wherein we resemble our Maker. To wiser desires it is satisfaction enough to deserve, though not to enjoy, the favours of fortune. Let providence provide for fools: 'tis not partiality, but equity, in God, who deals with us but as our natural parents. Those that are able of body and mind he leaves to their deserts; to those of weaker merits he imparts a larger portion; and pieces out the defect of one by the excess of the other. Thus have we no just quarrel with nature for leaving us naked; or to envy the horns, hoofs, skins, and furs of other creatures; being provided with reason, that can supply them all. We need not labour, with so many arguments, to con- fute judicial astrology; for, if there be a truth therein, it doth not injure divinity. If to be born under Mer- cury disposeth us to be witty; under Jupiter to be wealthy; I do not owe a knee unto these, but unto that merciful hand that hath ordered my indifferent and uncertain nativity unto such benevolous aspects. Those that hold that all things are governed by fortune, had not erred, had they not persisted there. The Romans, that erected a temple to Fortune, acknow- ledged therein, though in a blinder way, somewhat of divinity; for, in a wise supputation, all things begin and end in the Almighty. There is a nearer way to heaven than Homer's chain; an easy logick may con- join a heaven and earth in one argument, and, with less than a sorites, resolve all things to God. For though we christen effects by their most sensible and nearest causes, yet is God the true and infallible cause of all; whose concourse, though it be general, yet doth it sub- divide itself into the particular actions of every thing, and is that spirit, by which each singular essence not only subsists, but performs its operation.
Sect. 19.—The bad construction and perverse com- ment on these pair of second causes, or visible hands of God, have perverted the devotion of many unto atheism; who, forgetting the honest advisoes of faith, have lis- tened unto the conspiracy of passion and reason. I have therefore always endeavoured to compose those feuds and angry dissensions between affection, faith, and reason: for there is in our soul a kind of trium- virate, or triple government of three competitors, which distracts the peace of this our commonwealth not less than did that other the state of Rome.
As reason is a rebel unto faith, so passion unto reason. As the propositions of faith seem absurd unto reason, so the theorems of reason unto passion and both unto reason; yet a moderate and peaceable discretion may so state and order the matter, that they may be all kings, and yet make but one monarchy: every one exercising his sovereignty and prerogative in a due time and place, according to the restraint and limit of circumstance. There are, as in philosophy, so in divinity, sturdy doubts, and boisterous objections, wherewith the unhappiness of our knowledge too nearly acquainteth us. More of these no man hath known than myself; which I confess I conquered, not in a martial posture, but on my knees. For our en- deavours are not only to combat with doubts, but always to dispute with the devil. The villany of that spirit takes a hint of infidelity from our studios; and, by demonstrating a naturality in one way, makes us mistrust a miracle in another. Thus, having perused the Archidoxes, and read the secret sympathies of things, he would dissuade my belief from the miracle of the brazen serpent; make me conceit that image worked by sympathy, and was but an Egyptian trick, to cure their diseases without a miracle. Again, having seen some experiments of bitumen, and having read far more of naphtha, he whispered to my curiosity the fire of the altar might be natural, and bade me mistrust a miracle in Elias, when he intrenched the altar round with water: for that inflamable substance yields not easily unto water, but flames in the arms of its an- tagonist. And thus would he inveigle my belief to think the combustion of Sodom might be natural, and that there was an asphaltick and bituminous nature in that lake before the fire of Gomorrah. I know that manna is now plentifully gathered in Calabria; and Josephus tells me, in his days it was as plentiful in Arabia. The devil therefore made the query, "Where was then the miracle in the days of Moses?" The Israelites saw but that, in his time, which the natives of those countries behold in ours. Thus the devil played at chess with me, and, yielding a pawn, thought to gain a queen of me; taking advantage of my honest endeavours; and, whilst I laboured to raise the struc- ture of my reason, he strove to undermine the edifice of my faith.
Sect. 20.—Neither had these or any other ever such advantage of me, as to incline me to any point of in- fidelity or desperate positions of atheism; for I have been these many years of opinion there was never any. Those that held religion was the difference of man from beasts, have spoken probably, and proceed upon a prin- ciple as inductive as the other. That doctrine of Epicurus, that denied the providence of God, was no atheism, but a magnificent and high-strained conceit of his majesty, which he deemed too sublime to mind the trivial actions of those inferior creatures. That fatal necessity of the stoicks is nothing but the immutable law of his will. Those that heretofore denied the divinity of the Holy Ghost have been condemned but as hereticks; and those that now deny our Saviour, though more than hereticks, are not so much as atheists: for, though they deny two persons in the Trinity, they hold, as we do, there is but one God.
That villain and secretary of hell, that composed that miscreant piece of the three impostors, though divided from all religions, and neither Jew, Turk, nor Christian, was not a positive atheist. I confess every country hath its Machiavel, every age its Lucian, whereof common heads must not hear, nor more advanced judgments too rashly venture on. It is the rhetorick of Satan; and may pervert a loose or prejudicate belief.
Sect. 21.—I confess I have perused them all, and can discover nothing that may startle a discreet belief; yet are their heads carried off with the wind and breath of such motives. I remember a doctor in physick, of Italy, who could not perfectly believe the immortality of the soul, because Galen seemed to make a doubt thereof. With another I was familiarly acquainted, in France, a divine, and a man of singular parts, that on the same point was so plunged and gravelled with three lines of Seneca,* that all our antidotes, drawn from
* "Post mortem nihil est, ipsaque mors nihil, mors individua est noxia corpori, nec patiens animae. . . . Toti morimur nullaque pars manet nostri." both Scripture and philosophy, could not expel the poison of his error. There are a set of heads that can credit the relations of mariners, yet question the testi- monies of Saint Paul: and peremptorily maintain the traditions of AElian or Pliny; yet, in histories of Scrip- ture, raise queries and objections: believing no more than they can parallel in human authors. I confess there are, in Scripture, stories that do exceed the fables of poets, and, to a captious reader, sound like Gara- gantua or Bevis. Search all the legends of times past, and the fabulous conceits of these present, and 'twill be hard to find one that deserves to carry the buckler unto Samson; yet is all this of an easy possibility, if we con- ceive a divine concourse, or an influence from the little finger of the Almighty. It is impossible that, either in the discourse of man or in the infallible voice of God, to the weakness of our apprehensions there should not appear irregularities, contradictions, and antino- mies: myself could show a catalogue of doubts, never yet imagined nor questioned, as I know, which are not resolved at the first hearing; not fantastick queries or objections of air; for I cannot hear of atoms in divinity. I can read the history of the pigeon that was sent out of the ark, and returned no more, yet not question how she found out her mate that was left behind: that Lazarus was raised from the dead, yet not demand where, in the interim, his soul awaited; or raise a law- case, whether his heir might lawfully detain his inherit- ance bequeathed upon him by his death, and he, though restored to life, have no plea or title unto his former possessions. Whether Eve was framed out of the left side of Adam, I dispute not; because I stand not yet assured which is the right side of a man; or whether there be any such distinction in nature. That she was edified out of the rib of Adam, I believe; yet raise no question who shall arise with that rib at the resurrection. Whether Adam was an hermaphrodite, as the rabbins contend upon the letter of the text; because it is con- trary to reason, there should be an hermaphrodite before there was a woman, or a composition of two natures, before there was a second composed. Likewise, whether the world was created in autumn, summer, or the spring; because it was created in them all: for, whatsoever sign the sun possesseth, those four seasons are actually existent. It is the nature of this luminary to distinguish the several seasons of the year; all which it makes at one time in the whole earth, and successively in any part thereof. There are a bundle of curiosities, not only in philosophy, but in divinity, proposed and discussed by men of most supposed abilities, which indeed are not worthy our vacant hours, much less our serious studies. Pieces only fit to be placed in Pantagruel's library, or bound up with Tartaratus, De Modo Cacandi.*
Sect. 22.—These are niceties that become not those that peruse so serious a mystery. There are others more generally questioned, and called to the bar, yet, methinks, of an easy and possible truth.
'Tis ridiculous to put off or down the general flood of Noah, in that particular inundation of Deucalion. That there was a deluge once seems not to me so great a miracle as that there is not one always. How all the kinds of creatures, not only in their own bulks, but with a competency of food and sustenance, might be preserved in one ark, and within the extent of three hundred cubits, to a reason that rightly examines it, will appear very feasible. There is another secret, not contained in the Scripture, which is more hard to com-
* In Rabelais.
prehend, and put the honest Father to the refuge of a miracle; and that is, not only how the distinct pieces of the world, and divided islands, should be first planted by men, but inhabited by tigers, panthers, and bears. How America abounded with beasts of prey, and noxious animals, yet contained not in it that necessary creature, a horse, is very strange. By what passage those, not only birds, but dangerous and unwelcome beasts, come over. How there be creatures there (which are not found in this triple continent). All which must needs be strange unto us, that hold but one ark; and that the creatures began their progress from the mountains of Ararat. They who, to salve this, would make the deluge particular, proceed upon a principle that I can no way grant; not only upon the negative of Holy Scriptures, but of mine own reason, whereby I can make it probable that the world was as well peopled in the time of Noah as in ours; and fifteen hundred years, to people the world, as full a time for them as four thousand years since have been to us. There are other assertions and common tenets drawn from Scripture, and generally believed as Scrip- ture, whereunto, notwithstanding, I would never betray the liberty of my reason. 'Tis a paradox to me, that Methusalem was the longest lived of all the children of Adam; and no man will be able to prove it; when, from the process of the text, I can manifest it may be otherwise. That Judas perished by hanging himself, there is no certainty in Scripture: though, in one place, it seems to affirm it, and, by a doubtful word, hath given occasion to translate it; yet, in another place, in a more punctual description, it makes it im- probable, and seems to overthrow it. That our fathers, after the flood, erected the tower of Babel, to preserve themselves against a second deluge, is generally opin- ioned and believed; yet is there another intention of theirs expressed in Scripture. Besides, it is improbable, from the circumstance of the place; that is, a plain in the land of Shinar. These are no points of faith; and therefore may admit a free dispute. There are yet others, and those familiarly concluded from the text, wherein (under favour) I see no consequence. The church of Rome confidently proves the opinion of tutelary angels, from that answer, when Peter knocked at the door, "'Tis not he, but his angel;" that is, might some say, his messenger, or somebody from him; for so the original signifies; and is as likely to be the doubtful family's meaning. This exposition I once suggested to a young divine, that answered upon this point; to which I remember the Franciscan opponent replied no more, but, that it was a new, and no authentick inter- pretation.
Sect. 23.—These are but the conclusions and fallible discourses of man upon the word of God; for such I do believe the Holy Scriptures; yet, were it of man, I could not choose but say, it was the singularest and superlative piece that hath been extant since the creation. Were I a pagan, I should not refrain the lecture of it; and cannot but commend the judgment of Ptolemy, that thought not his library complete without it. The Alcoran of the Turks (I speak without prejudice) is an ill-composed piece, containing in it vain and ridiculous errors in philosophy, impossibilities, fictions, and vanities beyond laughter, maintained by evident and open so- phisms, the policy of ignorance, deposition of universities, and banishment of learning. That hath gotten foot by arms and violence: this, without a blow, hath dis- seminated itself through the whole earth. It is not unremarkable, what Philo first observed, that the law of Moses continued two thousand years without the least alteration; whereas, we see, the laws of other commonwealths do alter with occasions: and even those, that pretended their original from some divinity, to have vanished without trace or memory. I believe, besides Zoroaster, there were divers others that writ before Moses; who, notwithstanding, have suffered the common fate of time. Men's works have an age, like themselves; and though they outlive their authors, yet have they a stint and period to their duration. This only is a work too hard for the teeth of time, and cannot perish but in the general flames, when all things shall confess their ashes.
Sect. 24.—I have heard some with deep sighs lament the lost lines of Cicero; others with as many groans deplore the combustion of the library of Alexandria; for my own part, I think there be too many in the world; and could with patience behold the urn and ashes of the Vatican, could I, with a few others, recover the perished leaves of Solomon. I would not omit a copy of Enoch's pillars, had they many nearer authors than Josephus, or did not relish somewhat of the fable. Some men have written more than others have spoken. Pineda quotes more authors, in one work,* than are necessary in a whole world. Of those three great inven- tions in Germany, there are two which are not without their incommodities, and 'tis disputable whether they exceed not their use and commodities. 'Tis not a melan- choly utinam of my own, but the desires of better heads, that there were a general synod—not to unite the incom- patible difference of religion, but,—for the benefit of
* Pineda, in his "Monarchia Ecclesiastica," quotes one thousand and forty authors. learning, to reduce it, as it lay at first, in a few and solid authors; and to condemn to the fire those swarms and millions of rhapsodies, begotten only to distract and abuse the weaker judgments of scholars, and to maintain the trade and mystery of typographers.
Sect. 25.—I cannot but wonder with what exception the Samaritans could confine their belief to the Penta- teuch, or five books of Moses. I am ashamed at the rabbinical interpretation of the Jews upon the Old Testament, as much as their defection from the New: and truly it is beyond wonder, how that contemptible and degenerate issue of Jacob, once so devoted to ethnick superstition, and so easily seduced to the idolatry of their neighbours, should now, in such an obstinate and peremptory belief, adhere unto their own doctrine, expect impossibilities, and in the face and eye of the church, persist without the least hope of conversion. This is a vice in them, that were a virtue in us; for obstinacy in a bad cause is but constancy in a good: and herein I must accuse those of my own religion; for there is not any of such a fugitive faith, such an unstable belief, as a Christian; none that do so often transform themselves, not unto several shapes of Christianity, and of the same species, but unto more unnatural and contrary forms of Jew and Mohammedan; that, from the name of Saviour, can condescend to the bare term of prophet: and, from an old belief that he is come, fall to a new expectation of his coming. It is the promise of Christ, to make us all one flock: but how and when this union shall be, is as obscure to me as the last day. Of those four members of religion we hold a slender propor- tion. There are, I confess, some new additions; yet small to those which accrue to our adversaries; and those only drawn from the revolt of pagans; men but of negative impieties; and such as deny Christ, but because they never heard of him. But the religion of the Jew is expressly against the Christian, and the Mohammedan against both; for the Turk, in the bulk he now stands, is beyond all hope of conversion: if he fall asunder, there may be conceived hopes; but not without strong improbabilities. The Jew is obstinate in all fortunes; the persecution of fifteen hundred years hath but confirmed them in their error. They have already endured whatsoever may be inflicted: and have suffered, in a bad cause, even to the condemnation of their enemies. Persecution is a bad and indirect way to plant religion. It hath been the unhappy method of angry devotions, not only to confirm honest religion, but wicked heresies and extravagant opinions. It was the first stone and basis of our faith. None can more justly boast of persecutions, and glory in the number and valour of martyrs. For, to speak properly, those are true and almost only examples of fortitude. Those that are fetched from the field, or drawn from the actions of the camp, are not ofttimes so truly precedents of valour as audacity, and, at the best, attain but to some bastard piece of fortitude. If we shall strictly examine the circumstances and requisites which Aristotle requires to true and perfect valour, we shall find the name only in his master, Alexander, and as little in that Roman worthy, Julius Caesar; and if any, in that easy and active way, have done so nobly as to deserve that name, yet, in the passive and more terrible piece, these have surpassed, and in a more heroical way may claim, the honour of that title. 'Tis not in the power of every honest faith to proceed thus far, or pass to heaven through the flames. Every one hath it not in that full measure, nor in so audacious and resolute a temper, as to endure those terrible tests and trials; who, notwith- standing, in a peaceable way, do truly adore their Saviour, and have, no doubt, a faith acceptable in the eyes of God.
Sect. 26.—Now, as all that die in the war are not termed soldiers, so neither can I properly term all those that suffer in matters of religion, martyrs. The council of Constance condemns John Huss for a heretick; the stories of his own party style him a martyr. He must needs offend the divinity of both, that says he was neither the one nor the other. There are many (questionless) canonized on earth, that shall never be saints in heaven; and have their names in histories and martyrologies, who, in the eyes of God, are not so per- fect martyrs as was that wise heathen Socrates, that suffered on a fundamental point of religion,—the unity of God. I have often pitied the miserable bishop that suffered in the cause of antipodes; yet cannot choose but accuse him of as much madness, for exposing his living on such a trifle, as those of ignorance and folly, that condemned him. I think my conscience will not give me the lie, if I say there are not many extant, that, in a noble way, fear the face of death less than myself; yet, from the moral duty I owe to the com- mandment of God, and the natural respect that I tender unto the conservation of my essence and being, I would not perish upon a ceremony, politick points, or indiffer- ency: nor is my belief of that untractable temper as, not to bow at their obstacles, or connive at matters wherein there are not manifest impieties. The leaven, therefore, and ferment of all, not only civil, but re- ligious, actions, is wisdom; without which, to commit ourselves to the flames is homicide, and (I fear) but to pass through one fire into another.
Sect. 27.—That miracles are ceased, I can neither prove nor absolutely deny, much less define the time and period of their cessation. That they survived Christ is manifest upon record of Scripture: that they outlived the apostles also, and were revived at the con- version of nations, many years after, we cannot deny, if we shall not question those writers whose testimonies we do not controvert in points that make for our own opinions: therefore, that may have some truth in it, that is reported by the Jesuits of their miracles in the Indies. I could wish it were true, or had any other testimony than their own pens. They may easily believe those miracles abroad, who daily conceive a greater at home —the transmutation of those visible elements into the body and blood of our Saviour;—for the conversion of water into wine, which he wrought in Cana, or, what the devil would have had him done in the wilderness, of stones into bread, compared to this, will scarce deserve the name of a miracle: though, indeed, to speak pro- perly, there is not one miracle greater than another; they being the extraordinary effects of the hand of God, to which all things are of an equal facility; and to create the world as easy as one single creature. For this is also a miracle; not only to produce effects against or above nature, but before nature; and to create nature, as great a miracle as to contradict or transcend her. We do too narrowly define the power of God, restraining it to our capacities. I hold that God can do all things: how he should work contradic- tions, I do not understand, yet dare not, therefore, deny. I cannot see why the angel of God should question Esdras to recall the time past, if it were beyond his own power; or that God should pose mortality in that which he was not able to perform himself. I will not say that God cannot, but he will not, perform many things, which we plainly affirm he cannot. This, I am sure, is the mannerliest proposition; wherein, notwith- standing, I hold no paradox: for, strictly, his power is the same with his will; and they both, with all the rest, do make but one God.
Sect. 28.—Therefore, that miracles have been, I do believe; that they may yet be wrought by the living, I do not deny: but have no confidence in those which are fathered on the dead. And this hath ever made me suspect the efficacy of relicks, to examine the bones, question the habits and appertenances of saints, and even of Christ himself. I cannot conceive why the cross that Helena found, and whereon Christ himself died, should have power to restore others unto life. I excuse not Constantine from a fall off his horse, or a mischief from his enemies, upon the wearing those nails on his bridle which our Saviour bore upon the cross in his hands. I compute among piae fraudes, nor many degrees before consecrated swords and roses, that which Baldwin, king of Jerusalem, returned the Genoese for their costs and pains in his wars; to wit, the ashes of John the Baptist. Those that hold, the sanctity of their souls doth leave behind a tincture and sacred faculty on their bodies, speak naturally of miracles, and do not salve the doubt. Now, one reason I tender so little devotion unto relicks is, I think the slender and doubt- ful respect which I have always held unto antiquities. For that, indeed, which I admire, is far before antiquity; that is, Eternity; and that is, God himself; who, though he be styled the Ancient of Days, cannot receive the adjunct of antiquity, who was before the world, and shall be after it, yet is not older than it: for, in his years there is no climacter: his duration is eternity; and far more venerable than antiquity.
Sect. 29.—But, above all things, I wonder how the curiosity of wiser heads could pass that great and indis- putable miracle, the cessation of oracles; and in what swoon their reasons lay, to content themselves, and sit down with such a far-fetched and ridiculous reason as Plutarch allegeth for it. The Jews, that can believe the supernatural solstice of the sun in the days of Joshua, have yet the impudence to deny the eclipse, which every pagan confessed, at his death; but for this, it is evident beyond all contradiction: the devil himself confessed it.* Certainly it is not a warrant- able curiosity, to examine the verity of Scripture by the concordance of human history; or seek to confirm the chronicle of Hester or Daniel by the authority of Meg- asthenes or Herodotus. I confess, I have had an un- happy curiosity this way, till I laughed myself out of it with a piece of Justin, where he delivers that the children of Israel, for being scabbed, were banished out of Egypt. And truly, since I have understood the occurrences of the world, and know in what counterfeit- ing shapes and deceitful visards times present represent on the stage things past, I do believe them little more than things to come. Some have been of my own opinion, and endeavoured to write the history of their own lives; wherein Moses hath outgone them all, and left not only the story of his life, but, as some will have it, of his death also.
Sect. 30.—It is a riddle to me, how the story of oracles hath not wormed out of the world that doubtful conceit of spirits and witches; how so many learned
* In his oracle to Augustus.
heads should so far forget their metaphysicks, and destroy the ladder and scale of creatures, as to question the existence of spirits; for my part, I have ever be- lieved, and do now know, that there are witches. They that doubt of these do not only deny them, but spirits: and are obliquely, and upon consequence, a sort, not of infidels, but atheists. Those that, to confute their in- credulity, desire to see apparitions, shall, questionless, never behold any, nor have the power to be so much as witches. The devil hath made them already in a heresy as capital as witchcraft; and to appear to them were but to convert them. Of all the delusions wherewith he deceives mortality, there is not any that puzzleth me more than the legerdemain of changelings. I do not credit those transformations of reasonable creatures into beasts, or that the devil hath a power to transpeciate a man into a horse, who tempted Christ (as a trial of his divinity) to convert but stones into bread. I could believe that spirits use with man the act of carnality; and that in both sexes. I conceive they may assume, steal, or contrive a body, wherein there may be action enough to content decrepit lust, or passion to satisfy more active veneries; yet, in both, without a possibility of generation: and therefore that opinion, that Anti- christ should be born of the tribe of Dan, by conjunc- tion with the devil, is ridiculous, and a conceit fitter for a rabbin than a Christian. I hold that the devil doth really possess some men; the spirit of melancholy others; the spirit of delusion others: that, as the devil is concealed and denied by some, so God and good angels are pretended by others, whereof the late defec- tion of the maid of Germany hath left a pregnant example.
Sect. 31.—Again, I believe that all that use sorceries, incantations, and spells, are not witches, or, as we term them, magicians. I conceive there is a traditional magick, not learned immediately from the devil, but at second hand from his scholars, who, having once the secret betrayed, are able and do empirically practise without his advice; they both proceeding upon the principles of nature; where actives, aptly conjoined to disposed passives, will, under any master, produce their effects. Thus, I think, at first, a great part of philosophy was witchcraft; which, being afterward derived to one another, proved but philosophy, and was indeed no more than the honest effects of nature:—what invented by us, is philosophy; learned from him, is magick. We do surely owe the discovery of many secrets to the discovery of good and bad angels. I could never pass that sentence of Paracelsus without an asterisk, or an- notation: "ascendens* constellatum multa revelat quaeren- tibus magnalia naturae, i.e. opera Dei." I do think that many mysteries ascribed to our own inventions have been the corteous revelations of spirits; for those noble essences in heaven bear a friendly regard unto their fellow-nature on earth; and therefore believe that those many prodigies and ominous prognosticks, which forerun the ruins of states, princes, and private persons, are the charitable premonitions of good angels, which more careless inquiries term but the effects of chance and nature.
Sect. 32.—Now, besides these particular and divided spirits, there may be (for aught I know) a universal and common spirit to the whole world. It was the opinion of Plato, and is yet of the hermetical philosophers. If there be a common nature, that unites and ties the
* Thereby is meant our good angel, appointed us from our nativity.
scattered and divided individuals into one species, why may there not be one that unites them all? However, I am sure there is a common spirit, that plays within us, yet makes no part in us; and that is, the spirit of God; the fire and scintillation of that noble and mighty essence, which is the life and radical heat of spirits, and those essences that know not the virtue of the sun; a fire quite contrary to the fire of hell. This is that gentle heat that brooded on the waters, and in six days hatched the world; this is that irradiation that dispels the mists of hell, the clouds of horror, fear, sorrow, despair; and preserves the region of the mind in serenity. Whatso- ever feels not the warm gale and gentle ventilation of this spirit (though I feel his pulse), I dare not say he lives; for truly without this, to me, there is no heat under the tropick; nor any light, though I dwelt in the body of the sun.
"As when the labouring sun hath wrought his track Up to the top of lofty Cancer's back, The icy ocean cracks, the frozen pole Thaws with the heat of the celestial coal; So when thy absent beams begin t'impart Again a solstice on my frozen heart, My winter's o'er, my drooping spirits sing, And every part revives into a spring. But if thy quickening beams a while decline, And with their light bless not this orb of mine, A chilly frost surpriseth every member. And in the midst of June I feel December. Oh how this earthly temper doth debase The noble soul, in this her humble place! Whose wingy nature ever doth aspire To reach that place whence first it took its fire. These flames I feel, which in my heart do dwell, Are not thy beams, but take their fire from hell. Oh quench them all! and let thy Light divine Be as the sun to this poor orb of mine! And to thy sacred Spirit convert those fires, Whose earthly fumes choke my devout aspires!"
Sect. 33.—Therefore, for spirits, I am so far from denying their existence, that I could easily believe, that not only whole countries, but particular persons, have their tutelary and guardian angels. It is not a new opinion of the Church of Rome, but an old one of Pythagoras and Plato: there is no heresy in it: and if not manifestly defined in Scripture, yet it is an opinion of a good and wholesome use in the course and actions of a man's life; and would serve as an hypothesis to salve many doubts, whereof common philosophy affordeth no solution. Now, if you demand my opinion and meta- physicks of their natures, I confess them very shallow; most of them in a negative way, like that of God; or in a comparative, between ourselves and fellow-creatures: for there is in this universe a stair, or manifest scale, of creatures, rising not disorderly, or in confusion, but with a comely method and proportion. Between creatures of mere existence and things of life there is a large dispro- portion of nature: between plants and animals, or creatures of sense, a wider difference: between them and man, a far greater: and if the proportion hold on, between man and angels there should be yet a greater. We do not comprehend their natures, who retain the first definition of Porphyry; and distinguish them from ourselves by immortality: for, before his fall, man also was im- mortal: yet must we needs affirm that he had a different essence from the angels. Having, therefore, no certain knowledge of their nature, 'tis no bad method of the schools, whatsoever perfection we find obscurely in our- selves, in a more complete and absolute way to ascribe unto them. I believe they have an extemporary know- ledge, and, upon the first motion of their reason, do what we cannot without study or deliberation: that they know things by their forms, and define, by speci- fical difference what we describe by accidents and pro- perties: and therefore probabilities to us may be demonstrations unto them: that they have knowledge not only of the specifical, but numerical, forms of in- dividuals, and understand by what reserved difference each single hypostatis (besides the relation to its species) becomes its numerical self: that, as the soul hath a power to move the body it informs, so there's a faculty to move any, though inform none: ours upon restraint of time, place, and distance: but that invisible hand that conveyed Habakkuk to the lion's den, or Philip to Azotus, infringeth this rule, and hath a secret convey- ance, wherewith mortality is not acquainted. If they have that intuitive knowledge, whereby, as in reflection, they behold the thoughts of one another, I cannot peremptorily deny but they know a great part of ours. They that, to refute the invocation of saints, have denied that they have any knowledge of our affairs below, have proceeded too far, and must pardon my opinion, till I can thoroughly answer that piece of Scripture, "At the conversion of a sinner, the angels in heaven rejoice." I cannot, with those in that great father, securely interpret the work of the first day, fiat lux, to the creation of angels; though I confess there is not any creature that hath so near a glimpse of their nature as light in the sun and elements: we style it a bare accident; but, where it subsists alone, 'tis a spiritual substance, and may be an angel: in brief, conceive light invisible, and that is a spirit.
Sect. 34.—These are certainly the magisterial and masterpieces of the Creator; the flower, or, as we may say, the best part of nothing; actually existing, what we are but in hopes, and probability. We are only that amphibious piece, between a corporeal and a spiritual essence; that middle form, that links those two to- gether, and makes good the method of God and nature, that jumps not from extremes, but unites the incom- patible distances by some middle and participating natures. That we are the breath and similitude of God, it is indisputable, and upon record of Holy Scripture: but to call ourselves a microcosm, or little world, I thought it only a pleasant trope of rhetorick, till my near judgment and second thoughts told me there was a real truth therein. For, first we are a rude mass, and in the rank of creatures which only are, and have a dull kind of being, not yet privileged with life, or preferred to sense or reason; next we live the life of plants, the life of animals, the life of men, and at last the life of spirits: running on, in one mysterious nature, those five kinds of existencies, which comprehend the creatures, not only of the world, but of the universe. Thus is man that great and true amphibium, whose nature is disposed to live, not only like other creatures in divers elements, but in divided and distinguished worlds; for though there be but one to sense, there are two to reason, the one visible, the other invisible; whereof Moses seems to have left description, and of the other so obscurely, that some parts thereof are yet in controversy. And truly, for the first chapters of Genesis, I must con- fess a great deal of obscurity; though divines have, to the power of human reason, endeavoured to make all go in a literal meaning, yet those allegorical interpreta- tions are also probable, and perhaps the mystical method of Moses, bred up in the hieroglyphical schools of the Egyptians.