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OF

THE INTERPRETATION OF NATURE.

CAP. 1.

Of the limits and end of knowledge.

In the divine nature both religion and philosophy hath acknowledged goodness in perfection, science or providence comprehending all things, and absolute sovereignty or kingdom. In aspiring to the throne of power the angels transgressed and fell, in presuming to come within the oracle of knowledge man transgressed and fell ;1 but in pursuit towards the similitude of God's goodness or love (which is one thing, for love is nothing else but goodness put in motion or applied) neither man or spirit ever hath transgressed, or shall transgress.

The angel of light that was, when he presumed before his fall, said within himself, I will ascend and be like unto the Highest ; not God, but the highest. To be like to God in goodness, was no part of his emulation ; knowledge, being in creation an angel of light, was not the want which did most solicit him ; only because he was a minister he aimed at a supremacy ; therefore his climbing or ascension was turned into a throwing down or precipitation.

Man on the other side, when he was tempted before he i This clause is repeated in the margin, in the transcriber's hand.

fell, had offered unto him this suggestion, that he should be like unto God. But how? Not simply, but in this part, knowing good and evil. For being in his creation invested with sovereignty of all inferior creatures, he was not needy of power or dominion; but again, being a spirit newly inclosed in a body of earth, he was fittest to be allured with appetite of light and liberty of knowledge; therefore this approaching and intruding into God's secrets and mysteries was rewarded with a further removing and estranging from God's presence. But as to the goodness of God, there is no danger in contending or advancing towards a similitude thereof, as that which is open and propounded to our imitation. For that voice (whereof the heathen and all other errors of religion have ever confessed that it sounds not like man), Love your enemies; be you like unto your heavenly Father, that suffereth his rain to fall both upon the just and the unjust, doth well declare, that we can in that point commit no excess; so again we find it often repeated in the old law, Be you holy as I am holy ; and what is holiness else but goodness, as we consider it separate and guarded from all mixture and all access of evil ?

Wherefore seeing that knowledge is of the number of those things which are to be accepted of with caution and distinction ; being now to open a fountain, such as it is not easy to discern where the issues and streams thereof will take and fall; I thought it good and necessary in the first place to make a strong and sound head or bank to rule and guide the course of the waters; by setting down this position or firmament, namely, That all knowledge is to be limited by religion, and to be referred to use and action.

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For if any man shall think by view and inquiry into these sensible and material things, to attain to any light for the revealing of the nature or will of God, he shall dangerously abuse himself. It is true that the contemplation of the creatures of God hath for end (as to the natures of the creatures themselves) knowledge, but as to the nature of God, no knowledge, but wonder ; which is nothing else but contemplation broken off, or losing itself. Nay further, as it was aptly said by one of Plato's school the sense of man resembles the sun, which openeth and revealeth the terrestrial globe, but obscureth and concealeth the celestial ; so doth the sense discover natural things, but darken and shut

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divine. And this appeareth sufficiently in that there is no proceeding in inyention of knowledge but by similitude ; and God is only self-like, having nothing in common with any creature, otherwise than as in shadow and trope. Therefore attend his will as himself openeth it, and give unto faith that which unto faith belongeth; for more worthy it is to believe than to think or know, considering that in knowledge (as we now are capable of it) the mind suffereth from inferior natures ; but in all belief it suffereth from a spirit which it holdeth superior and more authorised than itself.

To conclude, the prejudice hath been infinite that both divine and human knowledge hath received by the intermingling and tempering of the one with the other; as that which hath filled the one full of heresies, and the other full of speculative fictions and vanities.

But now there are again which in a contrary extremity to those which gave to contemplation an over-large scope, do offer too great a restraint to natural and law

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ful knowledge, being unjustly jealous that every reach and depth of knowledge wherewith their conceits have not been acquainted, should be too high an elevation of man's wit, and a searching and ravelling too far into God's secrets; an opinion that ariseth either of envy (which is proud weakness and to be censured and not confuted), or else of a deceitful simplicity. For if they mean that the ignorance of a second cause doth make men more devoutly to depend upon the providence of God, as supposing the effects to come immediately from his hand, I demand of them, as Job demanded of his friends, Will you lie for God as man will for man to gratify him? But if any man without any sinister humour doth indeed make doubt that this digging further and further into the mine of natural knowledge is a thing without example and uncommended in the Scriptures, or fruitless; let him remember and be instructed; for behold it was not that pure light of natural knowledge, whereby man in paradise was able to give unto every living creature a name according to his propriety, which gave occasion to the fall ; but it was an aspiring desire to attain to that part of moral knowledge which defineth of good and evil, whereby to dispute God's commandments and not to depend upon the revelation of his will, which was the original temptation. And the first holy records, which within those brief memorials of things which passed before the flood entered few things as worthy to be registered but only lineages 1 and propagations, yet nevertheless honour the remembrance of the inventor both of music and works in metal. Moses again (who was the reporter) is said to have been seen in all the Egyptian learning, which nation was early and leading in matter of knowledge. And Salomon the king, as out of a branch of his wisdom extraordinarily petitioned and granted from God, is said to have written a natural history of all that is green from the cedar to the moss, (which is but a rudiment between putrefaction and an herb,) and also of all that liveth and moveth. And if the book of Job be turned over, it will be found to have much aspersion of natural philosophy. Nay, the same Salomon the king affirmeth directly that the glory of God is to conceal a thing, but the glory of the king is to find it out, as if according to the innocent play of children the divine Majesty took delight to hide his works, to the end to have them found out; for in naming the king he intendeth man, taking such a condition of man as hath most excellency and greatest commandment of wits and means, alluding also to his own person, being truly one of those clearest burning lamps, whereof himself speaketh in another place, when he saith The spirit of man is as the lamp of God, wherewith he searcheth all inwardness ; which nature of the soul the same Salomon holding precious and inestimable, and therein conspiring with the affection of Socrates who scorned the pretended learned men of his time for raising great benefit of their learning (whereas Anaxagoras contrariwise and divers others being born to ample patrimonies decayed them in contemplation), delivereth it in precept yet remaining, Buy the truth, and sell it not ; and so of wisdom and knowledge.

i linages in original. See note 2. p. 387. of vol. v.

And lest any man should retain a scruple as if this thirst of knowledge were rather an humour of the mind than an emptiness or want in nature and an

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