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the volumes of the modern doctors of the civil law exceed those of the ancient jurisconsults, of which Tribonian compiled the digest. So as this course of sums and commentaries is that which doth infallibly make the body of sciences more immense in quantity, and more base in substance.
And for strength, it is true that knowledges reduced into exact methods have a shew of strength, in that each part seemeth to support and sustain the other; but this is more satisfactory than substantial; like unto buildings which stand by architecture and compaction, which are more subject to ruin than those which are built more strong in their several parts, though less compacted. But it is plain that the more you recede from your grounds the weaker do you conclude; and as in nature the more you remove yourself from particulars the greater peril of error you do incur, so much more in divinity the more you recede from the Scriptures by inferences and consequences, the more weak and dilute are your positions.
And as for perfection or completeness in divinity, it is not to be sought; which makes this course of artificial divinity the more suspect. For he that will reduce
books, entitled "The Sentences;" and according to the taste of the middle ages acquired the title of "Master of the Sentences." Many of these scholastic titles are curious. Thus Thomas Aquinas is Doctor Angelicus; Buonaventura, Doctor Seraphicus; Alexander Hales, Doctor Irrefragabilis; Duns Scotus, Doctor Subtilis; Raymund Lully, Doctor Illuminatus; Roger Bacon, Doctor Mirabilis; Occam, Doctor Singularis. - R. L. E.
1 Compare with this remark that of Maphæus Vegius-"Existimabas, ut opinor," he is apostrophising Tribonian -"plurimum conducere utilitati studentium, si quod antea in multitudine tractatuum tardius effecerunt coangustatis postea libris citius adsequi possunt. . . . Sed longe secus ac persuadebas tibi cessit. Quis namque nesciat infinitas et nonnunquam ineptas vanasque interpretationes quibus nulla fere lex exempta est? See Maphæus Vegius de Verborum significatione, xiv. 77., apud Savigny; History of Roman Law in the Middle Ages, ch. 59. — R. L. E.
a knowledge into an art, will make it round and uniform but in divinity many things must be left abrupt and concluded with this: O altitudo sapientiæ et scientia Dei! quam incomprehensibilia sunt judicia ejus, et non investigabiles viæ ejus! [O the depth of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How incomprehensible are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!] So again the apostle saith, Ex parte scimus, [we know in part,] and to have the form of a total where there is but matter for a part, cannot be without supplies by supposition and presumption. And therefore I conclude, that the true use of these Sums and Methods hath place in institutions or introductions preparatory unto knowledge; but in them, or by deducement from them, to handle the main body and substance of a knowledge, is in all sciences prejudicial, and in divinity dangerous.
As to the interpretation of the Scriptures solute and at large, there have been divers kinds introduced and devised; some of them rather curious and unsafe, than sober and warranted. Notwithstanding thus much must be confessed, that the Scriptures, being given by inspiration and not by human reason, do differ from all other books in the author; which by consequence both draw on some difference to be used by the expositor. For the inditer of them did know four things which no man attains to know; which are, the mysteries of the kingdom of glory; the perfection of the laws of nature; the secrets of the heart of man; and the future succession of all ages. For as to the first, it is said, He
1 Of these four things he mentions in the translation only the two last; introducing the mention of them in the next paragraph but three, and in the mean time omitting altogether both this and the following paragraph.
that presseth into the light, shall be oppressed of the glory: and again, No man shall see my face and live. To the second, When he prepared the heavens I was present, when by law and compass he inclosed the deep. To the third, Neither was it needful that any should bear witness to him of Man, for he knew well what was in Man. And to the last, From the beginning are known to the Lord all his works.
From the former two of these have been drawn certain senses and expositions of Scriptures, which had need be contained within the bounds of sobriety; the one anagogical, and the other philosophical. But as to the former, man is not to prevent his time: Videmus nunc per speculum in ænigmate, tunc autem facie ad faciem: [now we see through a glass darkly, but then face to face :] wherein nevertheless there seemeth to be a liberty granted, as far forth as the polishing of this glass, or some moderate explication of this ænigma. But to press too far into it, cannot but cause a dissolution and overthrow of the spirit of man. For in the body there are three degrees of that we receive into it; Aliment, Medicine, and Poison; whereof aliment is that which the nature of man can perfectly alter and overcome: medicine is that which is partly converted by nature, and partly converteth nature; and poison is that which worketh wholly upon nature, without that that nature can in any part work upon it. So in the mind whatsoever knowledge reason cannot at all work upon and convert, is a mere intoxi
1 i. e. from the intimations in the Scriptures concerning the Kingdom of Glory and the Laws of Nature. Edd. 1629 and 1633 have "from the former of these two; " obviously a misprint, though adopted in all modern editions.
cation, and endangereth a dissolution of the mind and understanding.
But for the latter,1 it hath been extremely set on foot of late time by the school of Paracelsus, and some others, that have pretended to find the truth of all natural philosophy in the Scriptures; scandalizing and traducing all other philosophy as heathenish and profane. But there is no such enmity between God's word and his works. Neither do they give honour to the Scriptures, as they suppose, but much imbase them. For to seek heaven and earth in the word of God, whereof it is said, Heaven and earth shall pass, but my word shall not pass, is to seek temporary things amongst eternal: and as to seek divinity in philosophy is to seek the living amongst the dead, so to seek philosophy in divinity is to seek the dead amongst the living: 2 neither are the pots or lavers whose place was in the outward part of the temple to be sought in the holiest place of all, where the ark of the testimony was seated. And again, the scope or purpose of the Spirit of God is not to express matters of nature in the Scriptures, otherwise than in passage, and for application to man's capacity and to matters moral or divine. And it is a true rule, Authoris aliud agentis parva authoritas; [what a man says incidentally about matters which are not in question has little author
1 i. e. the philosophical exposition. The "former," i. e. the anagogical exposition, is not mentioned in the translation; which only says that the method of interpretation solute and at large has been carried to excess in two ways; first in supposing such perfection in the Scriptures that all philosophy is to be sought there, secondly in interpreting them in the same manner as one would interpret an uninspired book. The remarks on the first of these excesses coincide with the first half of this paragraph (the rest being omitted), those on the second with the next paragraph.
2 The rest of this paragraph is omitted in the translation.
ity;] for it were a strange conclusion, if a man should use a similitude for ornament or illustration sake, bor rowed from nature or history according to vulgar conceit, as of a Basilisk, an Unicorn, a Centaur, a Briareus, an Hydra, or the like, that therefore he must needs be thought to affirm the matter thereof positively to be true. To conclude therefore, these two interpretations, the one by reduction or ænigmatical, the other philosophical or physical, which have been received and pursued in imitation of the rabbins and cabalists, are to be confined with a Noli altum sapere, sed time, [be not overwise, but fear.]
But the two later points, known to God and unknown to man, touching the secrets of the heart, and the successions of time, doth make a just and sound difference between the manner of the exposition of the Scriptures, and all other books. For it is an excellent observation which hath been made upon the answers of our Saviour Christ to many of the questions which were propounded to him, how that they are impertinent to the state of the question demanded; the reason whereof is, because not being like man, which knows man's thoughts by his words, but knowing man's thoughts immediately, he never answered their words, but their thoughts: much in the like manner it is with the Scriptures, which being written to the thoughts of men, and to the succession of all ages, with a foresight of all heresies, contradictions, differing estates of the church, yea and particularly of the elect, are not to be interpreted only according to the latitude of the
1 And also (the translation adds) because he addressed himself not solely to those present, but to men of all times and places to whom the gospel was to be preached.