Page images
PDF
EPUB

injury you may have suffered does not lead you to think worse of a man than he deserves, or to treat him worse; and, on the other hand, you should not allow a false generosity to destroy in your mind the distinctions of right and wrong. Nor, again, should the desire of gaining credit for magnanimity, lead you to pretend to think favourably of wrong conduct, merely because it is you that have suffered from it. None but thoughtless or misjudging people will applaud you for this. The duty of christian forgiveness does not require you, nor are you allowed, to look on injustice, or any other fault, with indifference, as if it were nothing wrong at all, merely because it is you that have been wronged.

But even where we cannot but censure, in a moral point of view, the conduct of those who have injured us, we should remember that such treatment as may be very fitting for them to receive, may be very unfitting for us to give. To cherish, or to gratify, haughty resentment, is a departure from the pattern left us by Him who endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself,' and is not to be justified by any offence that can be committed against us. And it is this recollection of Him who, faultless Himself, deigned to leave us an example of meekness and long-suffering, that is the true principle and motive of christian forgiveness. We shall best fortify our patience under injuries, by remembering how much we ourselves have to be forgiven, and that it was 'while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Let the Christian therefore accustom himself to say of any one who has greatly wronged him, that man owes me an hundred pence ;" while I hope to be pardoned a debt often thousand talents.'

An old Spanish writer says, "To return evil for good is devilish ; to return good for good is human; but to return good for evil is godlike.'

i Matt. xviii.

ESSAY LVIII. OF VICISSITUDES OF THINGS.

COLOMON saith, “There is no new thing upon the earth :' D so that as Plato had an imagination that all knowledge was but remembrance,a so Solomon giveth his sentence, “That all novelty is but oblivion ;' whereby you may see, that the river of Lethe runneth as well above ground as below. There is an abstruse astrologer that saith, “If it were not for two things that are constant (the one is, that the fixed stars ever stand at like distance one from another, and never come nearer together, nor go farther asunder; the other, that the diurnal motion perpetually keepeth time), no individual would last one moment.' Certain it is that 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 4 dispeople or destroy. Phaeton'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; but in the other two destructions, by deluge and earthquake, it is farther to be noted, that the remnant of people which hapto be reserved, are commonly ignorant and mountainous people, that can give no account of the time past; so that the oblivion is all one, 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 Egyptian priest told Solon, concerning the island of Atlantis,' that it was swallowed by an earthquake), but rather, that it was desolated by a particulara deluge-for earthquakes are seldom in those parts: but, on the other side, they have such pouring rivers, as the rivers of Asia, and Africa, 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 generations 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 6 do any great effects, nor last long; as it appeared in the succession of Sabinian, who did revive the former antiquities.

| Eccles. i. 9.
2 See Advancement of Learning. Dedication.

3 Flux. Fluctuation. Our language, like our bodies, is in a perpetual flux'Felton.

* Merely. Completely. In the Latin it is penitus. See Essay xxix.
5 Dispeople. Depopulate.

Kings, furious and severe,
Who claimed the skies, dispeopled air and floods,

The lonely lords of empty wilds and woods.'-Pope. 6 i Kings xvii.

7 West Indies. In Bacon's time was meant by West Indies all the countries included under the name of the Spanish Main : that is, all the continental parts of America discovered by the Spaniards, or the countries which now form Venezuela, New Granada, Central America, Peru, &c.'-Spiers.

8 Har. Happen. •To brandish the tongue wantonly, to slash and smite with it any that happeth to come in our way, doth argue malice or madness.'--Barrow.

The vicissitudes, 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.O Comets, out of question, have likewise

i Vid. Plat. Tim. iii. 24, seq.

Particular. Partial ; not general. 3 As. That. See page 26. + Mach. Disc. Sop. liv. ii. 5.

5 Traduce. To condemn; to censure, whether justly or unjustly. Now, to calumniate, to slander.)

6 Zeals. (Not now used in the plural.) 7 Argument. Subject.

"She who even but now was your best object,

Your praise's argument, balm of your age,

Dearest and best.' --Shakespere. 8 Plat. Tim. iii. 38, seq.

9 Fume. Idle conceit; vain imagination. If his sorrow bring forth amendment, he hath the grace of hope, though it be clouded over with a melancholy fume. - Hammond,

10 Gross. On the whole. The confession of our sins to God may be general, when we only confess in gross that we are sinful; or particular, when we mention the several sorts and acts of our sins.'-Duty of Man.

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, especially in their respective effects; that is, what kind of comet, for magnitude, colour, version 3 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 sute* of years and weathers comes about again; 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.

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 these 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 great revolutions.

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 withale 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, for it will not spread : the one is the supplanting, or the opposing of authority established—for nothing is more popular 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 now the Arminians), though they work mightily upon men’s wits, they do not produce any great alteration 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.

I Gross. The chief part; the main body. The gross of the people can have no other prospect in changes and revolutions than of public blessings.'-Addison.

2 Waited upon. Watched. See page 241. 3 Version. Direction.

4 Sute or suit. Order ; correspondence. Touching matters belonging to the Church of Christ, this we conceive that they are not of one sute.'--Hlooker. For our expression 'out of sorts,' Shakespere has out of sutes.' 5 Stay. Check.

With prudent stay he long deferred

The fierce contention.'-- Philips. 6 Withal. Likewise ; besides.

God, when He gave me strength, to shew withal

How slight the gift was, hung it in my hair.'Milton. 7 Doubt. To fear; to apprehend. “This is enough for a project without any name. I doubt more than will be reduced into practice.'-Swift.

The changes and vicissitudes 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, and no more have the wars, either from the east or west, any certainty of observation ; but north and south are fixed; 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 track 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

1 Contrariwise. On the contrary. See page 103.

« PreviousContinue »