« PreviousContinue »
is true, that a little philosophy inclineth man’s mind to atheism, but depth in philosophy bringeth men's minds about to religion; for, while the mind of man looketh upon second causes scattered, it may sometimes rest in them, and go no further; but when it beholdeth the chain of them confederate, and linked together, it must needs fly to Providence and Deity : nay, even that school which is most accused of atheism doth most demonstrate religion; that is, the school of Leucippus,” and Democritus,” and Epicurus: for it is a thousand times more credible that four mutable elements and one immutable fifth essence," duly and eternally placed, need no God, than that an army of infinite small portions, or seeds unplaced,” should have produced this order or beauty without a Divine marshal. The Scripture saith, “The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God”; it is not said, “The fool hath thought in his heart”: so as he rather saith it by rote to himself, as that” he would have, than that he can thoroughly believe it, or be persuaded of it; for none deny there is a God, but those for whom it maketh * that there were no God. It appeareth in nothing more that atheism is rather in the lip than in the heart of man, than by this, that atheists will ever be talking of that their opinion, as if they fainted in it within themselves, and would be glad to be strengthened by consent of others; nay, more, you shall have atheists strive to get disciples, as it fareth with other sects; and, which is most of all, you shall have of them that will suffer for atheism, and not recant: whereas, if they did truly think that there were no such thing as God, why should they trouble themselves? Epicurus is charged, that he did but dis
8 A Philosopher of Abdera; the first who taught the system of atoms, which was afterwards more fully developed by Democritus and Epicurus. 9 He was a disciple of the last-named philosopher, and held the same principles: he also denied the existence of the soul after death. He is considered to have been the parent of experimental Philosophy, and was the first to teach, what is now confirmed by science, that the Milky Way is an accumulation of StarS. 1 The “four mutable elements” are earth, water, air, and fire, of which all visible things were thought to be composed. The “fifth essence,” commonly called quintessence, was an immaterial principle, superior to the four elements; a spirit-power. 2 The Epicureans held that the Universe consisted, originally, of atoms dif. fused chaotically through space, and that, after infimite trials and encounters, without any counsel or design, these did at last, by a lucky chance, “entangle and settle themselves in this beautiful and regular frame of the world which we now see.” In other words, that old chaos grew into the present order by a for. tuitous concourse of those atoms, 3 Here that is equivalent to the compound relative what, that which. The usage was very common. 4 That is, whose ends it serves, or whose interest it is.
semble for his credit’s sake, when he affirmed there were blessed natures, but such as enjoyed themselves without having respect to the government of the world; wherein they say he did temporize, though in secret he thought there was no God: but certainly he is traduced, for his words are noble and divine: Non Deos vulgi negare profanum; sed vulgi opiniones Diis applicare profanum.” Plato could have said no more ; and, although he had the confidence to deny the administration, he had not the power to deny the nature. The Indians of the West have names for their particular gods, though they have no name for God: as if the heathens should have had the names Jupiter, Apollo, Mars, &c., but not the word Deus: which shows that even those barbarous people have the notion, though they have not the latitude and extent of it; so that against atheists the very savages take part with the very subtilest philosophers. The contemplative atheist is rare, a Diagoras, a Bion, a Lucian, perhaps, and some others: and yet they seem to be more than they are ; for that all that impugn a received religion, or superstition, are, by the adverse part, branded with the name of atheists: but the great atheists indeed are hypocrites, which are ever handling holy things, but without feeling; so as they must needs be cauterized in the end.
The causes of atheism are, divisions in religion, if there be many; for any one main division addeth zeal to both sides, but many divisions introduce atheism: another is, scandal of priests, when it is come to that which St. Bernard saith, Non est jam dicere, wt populus, sic sacerdos; quia mec sic populus, wt sacerdos:6 a third is, custom of profane scoffing in holy matters, which doth by little and little deface the reverence of religion: and lastly, learned times, especially with peace and prosperity; for troubles and adversities do more bow men’s minds to religion. They that deny a God destroy man's nobility; for certainly man is of kin to the beasts by his body; and, if he be not of kin to God by his spirit, he is a base and ignoble creature. It destroys likewise magnanimity, and the raising of human nature; for take an example of a dog, and mark what a generosity and courage he will put on when he finds himself maintained by a
5 “It is not profane to deny the gods of the common people; but to apply to the gods the notions of the common people, is profane.”
6 “It is not now to be said, As the people so the priest, for the people are not so bad as the priests.”—St. Bernard, Abbot of Clairvaux, founded a hundred and sixty convents, and died in 1153. He was unsparing in his censures of the priests of his time. Gibbon speaks of him as follows: “Princes and pontiffs trembled at the freedom of his apostolical censures: France, England, and Milan consulted and obeyed his judgment in a schism of the Church: the debt was repayed by the gratitude of Innocent the Second; and his successor, Eugenius the Third, was the friend and disciple of the holy Bernard.”
man, who to him is instead of a God, or melior natura ;7 which courage is manifestly such as that creature, without that confidence of a better nature than his own, could never attain. So man, when he resteth and assureth himself upon Divine protection and favour, gathereth a force and faith which human nature in itself could not obtain; therefore, as atheism is in all respects hateful, so in this, that it depriveth human nature of the means to exaltitself above human frailty. As it is in particular persons, so it is in nations: never was there such a state for magnanimity as Rome. Of this state hear what Cicero saith: Quam volumus, licet, Patres conscripti, nos amenus, tamen nec numero Hispanos, mec robore Gallos, mec calliditate Poenos, mec artibus Graecos, mec denique hoc ipso hujus gentis et terrae domestico nativoqué sensu Italos insos et Latinos; sed pietate, ac religione, atque hac wha sapientia, quod Deorum immortalium numine omnia regi, gubernarique perspexinus, omnes gentes nationesque superavimus.”
IT were better to have no opinion of God at all than such an opinion as is unworthy of Him; for the one is unbelief, the other is contumely: and certainly superstition is the reproach of the Deity. Plutarch saith well to that purpose: “Surely,” said he, “I had rather a great deal men should say there was no such man at all as Plutarch, than that they should say that there was one Plutarch that would eat his children as soon as they were born ‘’; as the poets speak of Saturn:” and as the contumely is greater towards God, so the danger is greater towards men. Atheism leaves a man to sense, to philosophy, to natural piety, to laws, to reputation; all which may be guides to an outward moral virtue, though religion were not ; but superstition dismounts all these, and erecteth an absolute monarchy in the minds of men: therefore atheism did never perturb
7 That is, “a superior nature.”
8 “Let us be as partial to ourselves as we will, Conscript Fathers, yet we have not surpassed the Spaniards in number, nor the Gauls in strength, nor the Carthaginians in cunning, nor the Greeks in the arts, nor, lastly, the Latins and Italians of this nation and land, in natural intelligence about home-affairs; but we have excelled all nations and people in piety and religion, and in this one wisdom of fully recognizing that all things are ordered and governed by the power of the immortal gods.”
9 Time was personified in Saturn, and by this story was meant its tendency to destroy whatever it has brought into existence.
States; 1 for it makes men wary of themselves, as looking no further. And we see the times inclined to atheism (as the time of Augustus Caesar) were civil times;” but superstition hath been the confusion of many States, and bringeth in a new primum mobile,” that ravisheth all the spheres of government. The master of superstition is the people, and in all superstition wise men follow fools; and arguments are fitted to practice in a reversed order. It was gravely said by some of the prelates in the Council of Trent, where the doctrine of the schoolmen bare great sway, that the schoolmen were like astronomers, which did feign eccentrics and epicycles,” and such engines of orbs, to save the phenomena, though they knew there were no such things; and, in like manner, that the schoolmen had framed a number of subtile and intricate axioms and theorems, to save the practice of the Church. The causes of superstition are, pleasing and sensual rites and ceremonies; excess of outward and pharisaical holiness; overgreat reverence of traditions, which cannot but load the Church; the stratagems of prelates for their own ambition and lucre ; the favouring too much of good intentions, which openeth the gate to conceits and novelties; the taking an aim at Divine matters by human, which cannot but breed mixture of imaginations; and, lastly, barbarous times, especially joined with calamities and disasters. Superstition, without a veil, is a deformed thing; for as it addeth deformity to an ape to be so like a man, so the similitude of superstition to religion makes it the more deformed; and as wholesome meat corrupteth to little worms, so good forms and orders corrupt into a number of petty observances. There is a superstition in avoiding superstition, when men think to do best if they go farthest from the superstition formerly received;" therefore care would" be had that (as it fareth in ill purgings) the good be not taken away with the bad, which commonly is done when the people is the reformer. OF TRAVEL.
1 Bacon would hardly have written this passage, had he lived after the French Revolution. See some of the pieces from Burke in this volume; especially that on page 296.
2 And yet in those very times human society was, through sheer prosligacy, going to ruin faster in Rome, was rotting inwards more deeply, than it has ever done in any modern nation.
3 In the astronomical language of Bacon's time, primum mobile meant a body drawing all others into its own sphere.
4 An epicycle is a smaller circle, whose centre is in the circumference of a greater one.
5 So, for example, in Bacon's time, there was a class of people who had a superstitious dread of such things as the ring in marriage, and kneeling at the Lord's Supper.
6 Would for should. See page 569, note 1.
TRAVEL, in the younger sort, is a part of education; in the elder, a part of experience. He that travelleth into a country before he hath some entrance into the language, goeth to school, and not to travel. That young men travel under some tutor or grave servant, I allow 7 well; so that he be such a one that hath the language, and hath been in the country before ; whereby he may be able to tell them what things are worthy to be seen in the country where they go, what acquaintances they are to seek, what exercises or discipline the place yieldeth ; for else young men shall go hooded, and look abroad little. It is a strange thing that, in sea-voyages, where there is nothing to be seen but sky and sea, men should make diaries; but in landtravel, wherein so much is to be observed, for the most part they omit it ; as if chance were fitter to be registered than observation: let diaries, therefore, be brought in use. The things to be seen and observed are, the Courts of princes, especially when they give audience to ambassadors ; the courts of justice, while they sit and hear causes; and so of consistories ecclesiastic; the churches and monasteries, with the monuments which are therein extant ; the walls and fortifications of cities and towns; and so the havens and harbours, antiquities and ruins, libraries, colleges, disputations, and lectures, where any are ; shipping and navies; houses and gardens of state and pleasure near great cities; armories, arsenals, magazines, exchanges, bourses,” warehouses, exercises of horsemanship, fencing, training of soldiers, and the like ; comedies, such whereunto the better sort of persons do resort; treasuries of jewels and robes; cabinets and rarities; and, to conclude, whatsoever is memorable in the places where they go; after all which the tutors or servants ought to make diligent inquiry. As for triumphs,” masques, feasts, weddings, funerals, capital executions, and such shows, men need not to be put in mind of them; yet they are not to be neglected. If you will have a young man to put his travel into a little room, and in short time to gather much, this you must do: first, as was said, he must have some entrance into the language before he goeth ; then he must have such a servant, or tutor, as knoweth the country, as was likewise said: let him calry with him also some card, or book, describing the
7 Approve is the old meaning of allow. Often so in Shakespeare. Also in the Psalms: “The Lord alloweth the righteous.”
8 Bourse is French for purse; and the sign of a purse was anciently set over the places where merchants met.
9 Public shows of any kind were often called triumphs.