Page images

perpetually keepeth time,) no individual would last one moment. Certain it is, that the matter is in a perpetual flux, and never at a stay. The great winding-sheets, that bury all things in oblivion, are two; deluges and earthquakes. As for conflagrations and great droughts, they do not merely dispeople and destroy. Phaëton's car went but a day. And the three years' drought in the time of Elias was but particular, and left people alive. As for the great burnings by lightnings, which are often in the West Indies, they are but narrow.3 But in the other two destructions, by deluge and earthquake, it is further to be noted, that the remnant of people which hap to be reserved, are commonly ignorant and mountainous people, that can give no account of the time past; so that the oblivion is all one4 as if none had been left. If you consider well of the people of the West Indies, it is very probable that they are a newer or a younger people than the people of the old world. And it is much more likely that the destruction that hath heretofore been there, was not by earthquakes (as the Ægyptian priest told Solon concerning the island of Atlantis, that it was swallowed by an earthquake), but rather that it was desolated by a particular deluge. For earthquakes are seldom in those parts. But on the other side, they have such pouring rivers, as the rivers of Asia and Africk and Europe are but brooks to them. Their Andes likewise, or mountains, are far higher than those with us; whereby it seems that the remnants of generation of men were in such a particular deluge saved. As for the observation that Machiavel hath, that the jealousy of sects doth much extinguish the memory of things ; traducing Gregory the Great, that he did what in him lay to extinguish all heathen antiquities; I do not find that those zeals do any great effects, nor last long; as it appeared in the succession of Sabinian, who did revive the former antiquities. 2

1 illæ populum penitus non absorbent aut destruunt.

2 Fabula Phaëtontis brevitatem conflagrationis, ad unius diei tantum spatium, repræsentavit.

8 The translation adds: Pestilentias etiam prætereo quia nec illo totaliter absorbent.

4 ut oblivio non minus omnia involvat.

The vicissitude or mutations in the Superior Globe are no fit matter for this present argument. It may be, Plato's great year, if the world should last so long, would have some effect; not in renewing the state of like individuals, (for that is the fume of those that conceive the celestial bodies have more accurate influences upon these things below than indeed they have,) but in gross.3 Comets, out of question, have likewise power and effect over the gross and mass of things; but they are rather gazed upon, and waited upon in their journey, than wisely observed in their effects ; 4 specially in their respective effects; that is, what kind of comet, for magnitude, colour, version of the beams, placing in the region of heaven, or lasting, produceth what kind of effects.

There is a toy which I have heard, and I would not have it given over, but waited upon a little. They say it is observed in the Low Countries (I know not in what part) that every five and thirty years the same kind and suit of years and weathers comes about again ;1 as great frosts, great wet, great droughts, warm winters, summers with little heat, and the like; and they call it the Prime. It is a thing I do the rather mention, because, computing backwards, I have found some concurrence.2

1 unde credibile est reliquias stirpis hominum apud eos post tale diluvium particulare conservatas fuisse.

? The translation adds: Tum vero prohibita, licet tenebris cooperta, obrepunt tamen et suas nanciscuntur periodos. 8 in summis et massis rerum.

4 Verum homines, ut nunc est, indiligentes, aut curiosi, circa eos sunt: eosque potius mirabundi spectant, atque itineraria eorundem conficiunt, quam effectus eorum prudenter et sobrie notant.

5 The translation adds: tempestatis anni ; semitoe aut cursûs.

But to leave these points of nature, and to come to men. The greatest vicissitude of things amongst men, is the vicissitude of sects and religions. For those orbs rule in men's minds most. The true religion is built upon the rock; the rest are tossed upon the waves of time. To speak therefore of the causes of new sects; and to give some counsel concerning them, as far as the weakness of human judgment can give stay to so

When the religion formerly received is rent by discords ; and when the holiness of the professors of religion is decayed and full of scandal ; and withal the times be stupid, ignorant, and barbarous ; you may doubt the springing up of a new sect; if then also there should arise any extravagant and strange spirit to make himself author thereof. All which points held when Mahomet published his law. If a new sect have not two properties, fear it not ;4 for it will not spread. The one is, the supplanting or the opposing of authority established ; for nothing is more pop

1 Similem annorum temperaturam, et tempestatem cæli, velut in orbem redire. ? Congruentiam, haud exactam sane, sed non multum discrepantem.

8 præcipue si eo tempore ingenium quoddam intemperans et paradoxa spirans suboriatur.

4 nova secta licet pullulet, duobus si destituatur adminiculis, ab non metuas.

ular than that. The other is, the giving licence to pleasures and a voluptuous life. For as for speculative heresies, (such as were in ancient times the Arians, and

men's wits, yet they do not produce any great alterations in states ; except it be by the help of civil occasions. There be three manner of plantations of new sects. By the power of signs and miracles ; by the eloquence and wisdom of speech and persuasion ; and by the sword. For martyrdoms, I reckon them amongst miracles ; because they seem to exceed the strength of human nature: and I may do the like of superlative and admirable holiness of life. Surely there is no better way to stop the rising of new sects and schisms, than to reform abuses ; to compound the smaller differences ; to proceed mildly, and not with sanguinary persecutions; and rather to take off the principal authors by winning and advancing them, than to enrage them by violence and bitterness.

The changes and vicissitude in wars are many; but chiefly in three things ; in the seats or stages of the war; in the weapons, and in the manner of the conduct. Wars, in ancient time, seemed more to move from east to west ; for the Persians, Assyrians, Arabians, Tartars, (which were the invaders,) were all eastern people. It is true, the Gauls were western; but we read but of two incursions of theirs: the one to Gallo-Græcia, the other to Rome. But East and West have no certain points of heaven ;2 and no more have the wars, either from the east or west, any certainty of observation. But North and South are fixed; 3 and it hath seldom or never been seen that the far southern people have invaded the northern, but contrariwise. Whereby it is manifest that the northern tract of the world is in nature the more martial region : be it in respect of the stars of that hemisphere; or of the great continents that are upon the north, whereas the south part, for aught that is known, is almost all sea; or (which is most apparent) of the cold of the northern parts, which is that which, without aid of discipline, doth make the bodies hardest, and the courages warmest.

1 ex occasione motuum civilium. 2 cæli climata non determinant.

8 naturâ fixi.

Upon the breaking and shivering of a great state and empire, you may be sure to have wars. For great empires, while they stand, do enervate and destroy the forces of the natives which they have subdued, resting upon their own protecting forces; and then when they fail also, all goes to ruin, and they become a prey.? So was it in the decay of the Roman empire ; and likewise in the empire of Almaigne, after Charles the Great, every bird taking a feather; and were not unlike to befal to Spain, if it should break. The great accessions and unions of kingdoms do likewise stir up wars : for when a state grows to an over-power, it is like a great flood, that will be sure to overflow. As it hath been seen in the states of Rome, Turkey, Spain, and others. Look when the world hath fewest barbarous peoples, but such as commonly will not marry or generate, except they know means to live,4 (as it is almost every where at this day, except Tartary,) there is

1 The translation adds: ut liquet in populo Araucensi ; qui ad ulteriora Austri positi omnibus Peruviensibus fortitudine longe præcellunt. 2 aliis gentibus in prædam cadunt. 8 cum mundus nationibus barbaris minus abundat, sed civiliores fere sunt. 4 nisi modum familiam alendi, aut saltem victum parandi, præviderint.

« PreviousContinue »