« AnteriorContinuar »
namely invention of further means to endow the condition and life of man with new powers or works, was almost never yet set up and resolved in man's intention and inquiry.
6. He thought also, that, amongst other knowledges, natural philosophy hath been the least followed and laboured. For since the Christian faith, the greatest number of wits have been employed, and the greatest helps and rewards have been converted upon divinity. And before time likewise, the greatest part of the studies of philosophers was consumed in moral philosophy, which was as the heathen divinity. And in both times a great part of the best wits betook themselves to law, pleadings, and causes of estate; specially in the time of the greatness of the Romans, who by reason of their large empire needed the service of all their able men for civil business. And the time amongst the Grecians in which natural philosophy seemed most to flourish, was but a short space; and that also rather abused in differing sects and conflicts of opinions, than profitably spent: since which time, natural philosophy was never any profession, nor never possessed any whole man, except perchance some monk in a cloister, or some gentleman in the country, and that very rarely; but became a science of passage, to season a little young and unripe wits, and to serve for an introduction to other arts, specially physic and the practical mathematics. So as he saw plainly, that natural philosophy hath been intended by few persons, and in them hath occupied the least part of their time, and that in the weakest of their age and judgment.
7. He thought also, how great opposition and prejudice natural philosophy had received by superstition, and the immoderate and blind zeal of religion; for he found that some of the Grecians which first gave the reason of thunder, had been condemned of impiety; and that the cosmographers which first discovered and described the roundness of the earth, and the consequence thereof touching the Antipodes, were not much otherwise censured by the ancient fathers of the Christian Church; and that the case is now much worse, in regard of the boldness of the schoolmen and their dependances in the monasteries, who having made divinity into an art, have almost incorporated the contentious philosophy of Aristotle into the body of Christian religion. And generally he perceived in men of devout simplicity, this opinion, that the secrets of nature
were the secrets of God and part of that glory whereinto the mind of man if it seek to press shall be oppressed; and that the desire in men to attain to so great and hidden knowledge, hath a resemblance with that temptation which caused the original fall: and on the other side in men of a devout policy, he noted an inclination to have the people depend upon God the more, when they are less acquainted with second causes; and to have no stirring in philosophy, lest it may lead to an innovation in divinity, or else should discover matter of further contradiction to divinity. But in this part resorting to the authority of the Scriptures, and holy examples, and to reason, he rested not satisfied alone, but much confirmed. For first he considered that the knowledge of nature, by the light whereof man discerned of every living creature, and imposed names according to their propriety, was not the occasion of the fall; but the moral knowledge of good and evil, affected to the end to depend no more upon God's commandments, but for man to direct himself; neither could he find in any Scripture, that the inquiry and science of man in any thing, under the mysteries of the Deity, is determined and restrained, but contrariwise allowed and provoked; for concerning all other knowledge the Scripture pronounceth, That it is the glory of God to conceal, but it is the glory of man (or of the king, for the king is but the excellency of man) to invent; and again, The spirit of man is as the lamp of God, wherewith he searcheth every secret; and again most effectually, That God hath made all things beautiful and decent, according to the return of their seasons; also that he hath set the world in man's heart, and yet man cannot find out the work which God worketh from the beginning to the end; shewing that the heart of man is a continent of that concave or capacity, wherein the content of the world (that is, all forms of the creatures and whatsoever is not God) may be placed or received; and complaining that through the variety of things and vicissitudes of times (which are but impediments and not impuissances) man cannot accomplish his invention. In precedent also he set before his eyes, that in those few memorials before the flood, the Scripture honoureth the name of the inventors of music and works in metal; that Moses had this addition of praise, that he was seen in all the learning of the Egyptians; that Solomon', in his grant of wisdom
So spelt in MS.
from God, had contained as a branch thereof, that knowledge whereby he wrote a natural history of all verdor, from the cedar to the moss, and of all that breatheth; that the book of Job, and many places of the prophets, have great aspersion of natural philosophy; that the Church in the bosom and lap thereof, in the greatest injuries of times, ever preserved (as holy relics) the books of philosophy and all heathen learning; and that when Gregory the bishop of Rome became adverse and unjust to the memory of heathen antiquity, it was censured for pusillanimity in him, and the honour thereof soon after restored, and his own memory almost persecuted by his successor Sabinian; and lastly in our times and the ages of our fathers, when Luther and the divines of the Protestant Church on the one side, and the Jesuits on the other, have enterprised to reform, the one the doctrine, the other the discipline and manners of the Church of Rome, he saw well how both of them have awaked to their great honour and succour all human learning. And for reason, there cannot be a greater and more evident than this; that all knowledge and specially that of natural philosophy tendeth highly to the magnifying of the glory of God in his power, providence, and benefits; appearing and engraven in his works, which without this knowledge are beheld but as through a veil; for if the heavens in the body of them do declare the glory of God to the eye, much more do they in the rule and decrees of them declare it to the understanding. And another reason not inferior to this is, that the same natural philosophy principally amongst all other human knowledge doth give an excellent defence against both extremes of religion, superstition and infidelity; for both it freeth the mind from a number of weak fancies and imaginations, and it raiseth the mind to acknowledge that to God all things are possible: for to that purpose speaketh our Saviour in that first canon against heresies delivered upon the case of the resurrection, You err, not knowing the Scriptures, nor the power of God; teaching that there are but two fountains of heresy, not knowing the will of God revealed in the Scriptures, and not knowing the power of God revealed or at least made most sensible in his creatures. So as he saw well, that natural philosophy was of excellent use to the exaltation of the Divine Majesty; and that which is admirable, that being a remedy of superstition, it is nevertheless an help to faith. He saw like
wise, that the former opinions to the prejudice thereof had no true ground; but must spring either out of mere ignorance, or out of an excess of devotion, to have divinity all in all, whereas it should be only above all (both which states of mind may be best pardoned); or else out of worse causes, namely out of envy, which is proud weakness and deserveth to be despised; or out of some mixture of imposture, to tell a lie for God's cause; or out of an impious diffidence, as if men should fear to discover some things in nature which might subvert faith. But still he saw well, howsoever these opinions are in right reason reproved, yet they leave not to be most effectual hindrances to natural philosophy and invention.
8. He thought also, that there wanted not great contrariety to the further discovery of sciences, in regard of the orders and customs of universities, and also in regard of common opinion. For in universities and colleges men's studies are almost confined to certain authors, from which if any dissenteth or propoundeth matter of redargution, it is enough to make him thought a person turbulent; whereas if it be well advised, there is a great difference to be made between matters contemplative and active. For in government change is suspected, though to the better; but it is natural to arts to be in perpetual agitation and growth; neither is the danger alike of new light, and of new motion or remove. And for vulgar and received opinions, nothing is more usual nor more usually complained of, than that it is imposed for arrogancy and presumption for men to authorise themselves against antiquity and authors, towards whom envy is ceased, and reverence by time amortised; it not being considered what Aristotle himself did (upon whom the philosophy that now is chiefly dependeth); who came with a professed contradiction to all the world, and did put all his opinions upon his own authority and argument, and never so much as nameth an author but to confute and reprove him; and yet his success well fulfilled the observation of Him that said, If a man come in his own name, him will you receive. Men think likewise, that if they should give themselves to the liberty of invention and travail of inquiry, that they shall light again upon some conceits and contemplations which have been formerly offered to the world, and have been put down by better, which have prevailed and brought them to oblivion; not
So MS.: a miscopy, I suspect, for imputed.
seeing that howsoever the property and breeding of knowledges is in great and excellent wits, yet the estimation and price of them is in the multitude, or in the inclinations of princes and great persons meanly learned. So as those knowledges are like to be received and honoured, which have their foundation in the subtility or finest trial of common sense, or such as fill the imagination; and not such knowledge as is digged out of the hard mine of history and experience, and falleth out to be in some points as adverse to common sense or popular reason, as religion, or more. Which kind of knowledge, except it be delivered with strange advantages of eloquence and power, may be likely to appear and disclose a little to the world and straight to vanish and shut again. So that time seemeth to be of the nature of a river or flood, that bringeth down to us that which is light and blown up, and sinketh and drowneth that which is solid and grave. So he saw well, that both in the state of religion, and in the administration of learning, and in common opinion, there were many and continual stops and traverses to the course of invention.
9. He thought also, that the invention of works and further possibility was prejudiced in a more special manner than that of speculative truth; for besides the impediments common to both, it hath by itself been notably hurt and discredited by the vain promises and pretences of Alchemy, Magic, Astrology, and such other arts, which (as they now pass) hold much more of imagination and belief than of sense and demonstration. But to use the poets' language, men ought to have remembered that although Ixion of a cloud in the likeness of Juno begat Centaurs and Chimeras, yet Jupiter also of the true Juno begat Vulcan and Hebe. Neither is it just to deny credit to the greatness of the acts of Alexander, because the like or more strange have been feigned of an Amadis or an Arthur, or other fabulous worthies. But though this in true reason should be, and that men ought not to make a confusion of unbelief; yet he saw well it could not otherwise be in event, but that experience of untruth had made access to truth more difficult, and that the ignominy of vanity had abated all greatness of mind.
10. He thought also, there was found in the mind of man an affection naturally bred, and fortified and furthered by discourse and doctrine, which did pervert the true proceeding towards active and operative knowledge. This was a false