« AnteriorContinuar »
THAT RELIGION IS THE BEST GUIDE
M O MAN can live conveniently unless he propounds something IV to himself that may bound the whole course of his actions.
There must be something for him to fly to beyond the reach of his caviling senses and corrupted reason; otherwise, he will waver in his ways and ever be in a doubtful unsettledness. If he takes policy, that is both endless and uncertain, and oftentimes depends more upon circumstances than upon the main act. What to-day is good is to-morrow unsaving; what benefits one may be the undoing of another. Besides, policy is not a flower which grows in every man's garden. All the world is not made up of wit and stratagem. If it were, policy would then be but a fight of wit, a brain war; and in all wars how doubtful, and how unsure is victory! The cunning of Edipus in resolving the Sphinx's riddle only betrayed him into the fatal marriage of his mother. Though Palamedes discovered the feigned madness of Ulysses, yet Ulysses afterwards, by hidden gold and forged letters, found means to have him stoned, even while he pretended to defend him. No man has an exclusive monopoly of craft. Again, craft in private individuals is infinitely limited both in respect of means and lawfulness. Even those who have allowed deceit to be lawful in princes have yet condemned it as sinful in private persons. And if a man take Nature for his guide, she is obscure and insufficient; nor, if she were sufficient, could we have her pure. Custom hath so mingled her with art that we can hardly separate the one from the other. Nature and policy are but sinking floors, which will fail us when our weight is on them. Reason is contradicting, and so is nature; and so is religion, if we measure it by either of these; but faith, being the rule of it, places it above the cavils of imagination, and so subjects both the others to it. This being above all, is that only, which, setting limits to all our actions, can confine us to a settled rest. Policy governs the world; nature, policy; but religion, all. The first two I may use as counselors, hear what they say, and weigh it; but the last must be my sovereign. They are to religion what the Apocrypha is to the Bible; they are good things, and may be bound up and read with it; but must be rejected when they cross the canonical text. God is the summit of man's happiness; and religion is the way to it. Till we arrive at him, we are but vapors, tossed about by inconstant winds.
Complete. From «Resolves, Divine,
Moral, and Political.»
OF THE SOUL nicero is there divine, where he says, Credo Deum immortalem
sparsisse animos in humana corpora; and where he further
says, Mihi quidem nunquam persuaderi potuit, animos, dum in corporibus essent mortalibus, vivere; cum exissent ex iis, emori. I could never think souls live in mortal bodies, to die when they depart from them. Seneca raises the idea still higher, and asks, Quid aliud voces hunc, quam Deum, in corpore humano hospitantem? What other canst thou think it, but God dwelling in the flesh of man? Conscience, the character of a god stamped in it, and the apprehension of eternity, all prove it to be a shoot of everlastingness. Those who say that the soul is not immortal, yet that it is good for men to think it so, thereby to awe them from vice, and incite them to virtue, even by that argument reason against themselves. Let those who believe not in its immortality be plunged in the horrors of a wounded conscience, and then let them tell me whether they believe in it or not. It is certain, man has a soul; and as certain that it is immortal. But what, and how it is, in the perfect nature and substance of it, I confess my human reason could never inform me, so as fully to explain it to my own apprehension. O my God! what a clod of moving ignorance is man! when all his industry cannot instruct him, what himself is; when he knows not that, whereby he knows that he does not know it! Let him study, and think, and invent, and search the very inwards of obscured nature; he is yet to seek how to define this inexplicable, immortal, incorporeal wonder; this ray of thee, this emanation of thy Deity! Let it then be sufficient for me that God has given me a soul, and that my eternal welfare depends upon it; though he be not accountable to make me understand either how I had it, or what it is. Why should I strive to know that which I know I cannot know? Can a man dissect an atom? Can he grasp a flame, or lay hold of lightning ? I am sure I have a soul, and am commanded to keep it from sin. O thou, the God of that little god within me, my soul! let me do that, and I know thou art not such an enemy to ignorance in man, but that thou art better pleased with his admiration of thy secrets than his search of them.
Complete. From «Resolves, Divine,
Moral, and Political. »
A FRIEND AND ENEMY,- WHEN MOST DANGEROUS WILL take heed both of a speedy friend and a slow enemy. Love is never lasting which flames before it burns; and hate,
like wetted coals, throws a fiercer heat when fire gets the mastery. As quick wits have seldom sound judgments which should make them continue, so friendship kindled suddenly is rarely found to consist with the durability of affection. Endur. ing love is ever built on virtue, which no man can see in another at once. He that fixes upon her shall find a beauty which will every day take him with some new grace or other. I like that love which, by a soft ascension, by degrees possesses itself of the soul. As for an enemy who is long a-making, he is much the worse for being ill no sooner. He hates not without cause who is unwilling to hate at all.
Complete. From «Resolves, Divine,
Moral, and Political.”
The defect of preaching has made the pulpit slighted; I mean I the much bad oratory we find come from it. It is a won.
der to me how men can preach so little, and so long: so long a time, and so little matter,— as if they thought to please by the inculcation of their vain tautologies. I see no reason why so high a princess as Divinity is should be presented to the people in the sordid rags of the tongue; nor that he who speaks from the Father of Languages should deliver his embassage in an ill one. A man can never speak too well while he speaks not obscurely. Long and diffusive sentences are both tedious to the ear and difficult to retain. A sentence well couched takes both the senses and the understanding. I love not those cart-rope speeches, which are longer than the memory of man can fathom. I see not but that divinity, put into apt significants, might ravish as well as poetry. They are sermons, but of baser metal, which lead the eyes to slumber. He answered well that, after often asking, said still, that action was the chief part of an orator. Surely that oration is most powerful where the tongue is eloquent, and speaks in a native decency, even in every limb. A good orator should pierce the ear, allure the eye, and invade the mind of his hearer. And this is Seneca's opinion: Fit words are better than fine ones: I like not those which are injudiciously employed, but such as are expressively pertinent,— which lead the mind to something beside the naked term. And he that speaks thus must not look to speak thus every day. A kembed oration will cost both labor and the rubbing of the brain. And kembed I wish it, not frizzled or curled. Divinity should not be wanton. Harmless jests I like well; but they are fitter for the tavern than the majesty of the temple. Christ taught the people with authority. Gravity becomes the pulpit. I admire the valor of some men who, before their studies, dare ascend the pulpit; and do there take more pains than they have done in their library. But having done this, I wonder not that they there spend sometimes three hours, only to weary the people into sleep. And this makes some such fugitive divines that, like cowards, they run away from their text. Words are not all, nor is matter all, nor gesture; yet, together they are. It is very moving in an orator when the soul seems to speak as well as the tongue. St. Augustine says Tully was admired more for his tongue than his mind, Aristotle more for his mind than his tongue, but Plato for both. And surely nothing is more necessary in an oration than a judgment able well to conceive and utter. I know God hath chosen by weak things to confound the wise: yet I see not but, in all times, attention has been paid to language. And even the Scriptures (though not the Hebrew) I believe are penned in a tongue of deep expression, wherein almost every word has a metaphorical sense, which illustrates by some allusion. How political is Moses in his Pentateuch! How philosophical Job! How massy and sententious is Solomon in his Proverbs! How grave and solemn in his Ecclesiastes; that in the world there is not such another dissection of the world as it! How were the Jews astonished at Christ's doctrine! How eloquent a pleader is Paul at the bar; in disputation how subtle! And he who reads the Fathers shall find them as if written with a fine pen. . . . I wish no man to be too dark and full of shadow. There is a way to be pleasingly plain; and some have found it. Mercury himself may move his tongue in vain if he has none to hear him but a nonintelligent. They that speak to children assume a pretty lisping. Birds are caught by the counterfeit of their own shrill notes. There is a magic in the tongue which can charm even the rude and untaught. Eloquence is a bridle, wherewith a wise man rides the
monster of the world, the people. The affections of the hearer depend upon the tongue of the speaker.
Flet, si flere jubes; gaudet, gaudere coactus:
«Thou may'st give smiles, or tears which joys do blot;
I grieve that anything so excellent as divinity should fall into a sluttish handling. Surely, though other obstructions do eclipse her, yet this is a principal one. I never yet knew a good tongue that wanted ears to hear it. I will honor her in her plain trim; but I would desire her in her graceful jewels, - not that they give addition to her goodness, but that she is thereby rendered more persuasive in working on the soul she meets with. When I meet with worth which I cannot overlove, I can well endure that art which is a means to heighten liking.
Complete. From «Resolves, Divine,
Moral, and Political.)
ON MAN'S SELF
THERE was never a sounder truth than Nemo læditur nisi a 1 se ipso. Had we the command of our own passions and af
fections, outward occasions might exercise our virtues, but could not injure them. There is a way to be wise and good, in spite of occasions. We cannot be drawn into evil courses, if we help not ourselves forward. It is our inside that undoes us. When men strive to entrap and ensnare us, they do but second our own inclinations; and if they did not see a kind of encouragement from ourselves they would never dare to attempt it. When men fall upon things which go against the genius of the mind, they then work in vain; but when the flatteries of others shall join with the great flatterer, a man's self, he is then in the way to be wrought upon. It is true there is sometimes a self-constancy which is not to be tempted. In Athens there may be one Phocion to refuse the gold of Harpalus and Alexander; but this indeed is rare, and worthy of being magnified. Nil magnum in rebus humanis, nisi animus magna despiciens. But generally we are the authors of our own ruin; if not totally, yet primarily. A man's