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ESSAY LVIII. OF VICISSITUDES OF THINGS.
SOLOMON saith, 'There is no new thing upon the earth:'' so that as Plato had an imagination that all knowledge was hut remembrance,2 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,3 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 merely4 dispeople5 or destroy. Phaeton's car «ent but a day; and the three years' drought, in the time of Elias,6 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 haps to 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,1 that it was swallowed by an earthquake), but rather, that it was desolated by a particular2 deluge—for earthquakes are seldom in those parts: but, on the other side, they have such pouring rivers, as3 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—traducing5 Gregory the Great, that he did what in him lay to extinguish all heathen antiquities—I do not find that those zeals6 do any great effects, nor last long; as it appeared in the succession of Sabinian, who did revive the former antiquities.
1 Eecles. i. 9.
1 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,
8 1 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.
"Hap. Hnpfien. 'To brandish the tnngne wantonly, In slash and smite with it any that happeth to cuuio in our way, doth argue malice or madness.'—Ilarroie.
The vicissitudes, or mutations, in the superior globe, are no fit matter for this present argument.7 It may be, Plato's great year,8 if the world should last so long, would have some effect, not in renewing the state of like individuals (for that is the fume9 of those that conceive the celestial bodies have more accurate influences upon these things below, than indeed they have), but in gross.10 Comets, out of question, have likewise power and effect over the gross1 and mass of things; but they are rather gazed upon, and waited upon3 in their journey, than wisely observed in t their effects, especially in their respective effects; that is, what kind of comet, for magnitude, colour, version3 of the beams, placing in the region of heaven or lasting, produceth what kind of effects.
1 Vid. Plat. Tim. iii. 24, aeq.
3 Purticular. Partial; not genend. a As. That. See page 26.
4 Mach. Disc. Sup. 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. "Plat. Tim. iii. 38, seq.
,J Fume. Idle conceit; vain imagination. 'If his sorrow bring forth amendment, he hath tho grace of hope, though it bo clouded over with a melaucboly /««**?.'— Hammond.
10 Gross. On the whole. 'The confession of our sius to God may be general, when we only confess in gross that we are sinful; or particular, when we mention the several sorts uud acts of our sins.'—Duty of Man.
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 sute4 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 stay5 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 withal6 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.
1 Gross. The chief part; the main huly. 'The grasa of thc people pan have no other prospect in changes and revolutions than of public blessings.'—Addison. . 5 Waited upon. Watched. See page 241.
3 Version. Direction.
* Sutc or suit. Order; correxpemdence. 'Touching matters belonging to tho Church of Christ, this wo conceive that they are not of oue sate.'—Hooker. For our expression 'out of sorts,' Shakespcro has ' out of sutet.'
5 Stay. Check.
'With prudent utay he long deferred
6 Withal. Likewise; besides.
'Ciod, when He gave me strength, to shew withal How slight the gift was, hung it in my hair.'—Milton. 'Doubt . To fear; to apprehend. 'This is enough for a project without any name. I doul,t 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-Graeeia, 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 contrariwise1— 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 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 courage warmest.
1 Contrariwise. On the contrary. Seo page 103.
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 it was in the decay of the Roman empire, and likewise in the empire of Almaigne,1 after Charles the Great, every bird taking a feather, and were not unlike to befall to2 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 people, but such as commonly will not marry, or generate, except they know means to live (as it is almost everywhere at this day, except Tartary), there is no danger of inundations of people; but when there be great shoals of people, which go on to populate, without foreseeing means of life and sustentation,3 it is of necessity that once in an age or two they discharge a portion of their people upon other nations, which the ancient northern people were wont to do by lot—casting lots what part should stay at home, and what should seek their fortunes. When a warlike State grows soft and effeminate, they may be sure of a war; for commonly such States are grown rich in the time of their degenerating, and so the prey inviteth, and their decay in valour encourageth a war.
As for the weapons, it hardly falleth under rule and observation; yet we see even they have returns and vicissitudes; for
1 Almaigne. Germany.
'Then I stoutly won in fight
2 Befall to (unusual with to). To happen.
'Some great mischief hath befallen
3 Sustentation. Support. 'He (Malcolm) assigned certain rents for the sustsmtaliou of the canons he had placed there of the order of St. Augustine.'—UuliiusheJ.