Religio Medici: Part One, Paragraphs 1–35
35 min read
35 min read
For my Religion, though there be several Circumstances that might persuade the World I have none at all, (as the general scandal of my Profession, the natural course of my Studies, the indifference of my Behaviour and Discourse in matters of Religion, neither violently Defending one, nor with that common ardour and contention Opposing another;) yet, in despite hereof, I dare without usurpation assume the honourable Stile of a Christian. Not that I really owe this Title to the Font, my Education, or the clime wherein I was born, (as being bred up either to confirm those Principles my Parents instilled into my unwary Understanding, or by a general consent proceed in the Religion of my Country;) but having in my riper years and confirmed Judgment seen and examined all, I find my self obliged by the Principles of Grace, and the law of mine own Reason, to embrace no other Name but this. Neither doth herein my zeal so far make me forget the general Charity I owe unto Humanity, as rather to hate than pity Turks, Infidels, and (what is worse,) Jews; rather contenting my self to enjoy that happy Stile, than maligning those who refuse so glorious a Title.
II. But, because the Name of a Christian is become too general to express our Faith, (there being a Geography or Religions as well as Lands, and every Clime distinguished not only by their Laws and Limits, but circumscribed by their Doctrines and Rules of Faith;) to be particular, I am of that Reformed new-cast Religion, wherein I dislike nothing but the Name; of the same belief our Saviour taught, the Apostles disseminated, the Fathers authorized, and the Martyrs confirmed; but by the sinister ends of Princes, the ambition and avarice of Prelates, and the fatal corruption of times, so decayed, impaired, and fallen from its native Beauty, that it required the careful and charitable hands of these times to restore it to its primitive Integrity. Now the accidental occasion whereupon, the slender means whereby, the low and abject condition of the Person by whom so good a work was set on foot, which in our Adversaries beget contempt and scorn, fills me with wonder, and is the very same Objection the insolent Pagans first cast at CHRIST and HIS Disciples.
III. Yet have I not so shaken hands with those desperate Resolutions, (who had rather venture at large their decayed bottom, than bring her in to be new trimm’d in the Dock; who had rather promiscuously retain all, than abridge any, and obstinately be what they are, than what they have been,) as to stand in Diameter and Swords point with them. We have reformed from them, not against them; for (omitting those Improperations and Terms of Scurrility betwixt us, which only difference our Affections, and not our Cause,) there is between us one common Name and Appellation, one Faith and necessary body of Principles common to us both; and therefore I am not scrupulous to converse and live with them, to enter their Churches in defect of ours, and either pray with them, or for them. I could never perceive any rational Consequence from those many Texts which prohibit the Children of Israel to pollute themselves with the Temples of the Heathens; we being all Christians, and not divided by such detested impieties as might profane our Prayers, or the place wherein we make them; or that a resolved Conscience may not adore her Creator anywhere, especially in places devoted to His Service; where, if their Devotions offend Him, mine may please Him; if theirs profane it, mine may hallow it. Holy-water and Crucifix (dangerous to common people,) deceive not my judgment, nor abuse my devotion at all. I am, I confess, naturally inclined to that which misguided Zeal terms Superstition. My common conversation I do acknowledge austerely, my behaviour full of rigour, sometimes not without morosity; yet at my Devotion, I love to use the civility of my knee, my hat, and hand, with all those outward and sensible motions which may express or promote my invisible Devotion. I should violate my arm rather than a Church; nor willingly deface the name of Saint or Martyr. At the sight of a Cross or Crucifix I can dispense with my hat, but scarce with the thought or memory of my Saviour. I cannot laugh at, but rather pity, the fruitless journeys of Pilgrims, or contemn the miserable condition of Fryars; for, though misplaced in Circumstances, there is something in it of Devotion. I could never hear the Ave-Mary Bell without an elevation; or think it a sufficient warrant, because they erred in one circumstance, for me to err in all, that is, in silence and dumb contempt. Whilst, therefore, they directed their Devotions to Her, I offered mine to GOD and rectified the Errors of their Prayers by rightly ordering mine own. At a solemn Procession, I have wept abundantly, while my consorts, blind with opposition and prejudice, have fallen into an excess of scorn and laughter. There are, questionless, both in Greek, Roman, and African Churches, Solemnities and Ceremonies, whereof the wiser Zeals do make a Christian use, and stand condemned by us, not as evil in themselves, but as allurements and baits of superstition to those vulgar heads that look asquint on the face of Truth, and those unstable Judgments that cannot consist in the narrow point and centre of Virtue without a reel or stagger to the Circumference.
IV. As there were many Reformers, so likewise many Reformations; every Country proceeding in a particular way and method, according to as their national Interest, together with their Constitution and Clime, inclined them; some angrily, and with extremity; others calmly, and with mediocrity; not rending, but easily dividing the community, and leaving an honest possibility of a reconciliation; which though peaceable Spirits do desire and may conceive that revolution of time and the mercies of GOD may effect, yet that judgment that shall consider the present antipathies between the two extremes, their contrarieties in condition, affection, and opinion, may with the same hopes expect a union in the Poles of Heaven.
V. But (to difference my self nearer, and draw into a lesser Circle,) there is no Church whose every part so squares unto my Conscience; whose Articles, Constitutions and Customs seem so consonant unto reason, and as it was framed to my particular Devotion, as this whereof I hold my Belief, the Church of England; to whose Faith I am a sworn Subject, and therefore in a double Obligation subscribe unto her Articles, and endeavour to observe her Constitutions. Whatsoever is beyond, as points indifferent, I observe according to the rules of my private reason, or the humour and fashion of my Devotion; neither believing this, because Luther affirmed it, or disproving that because Calvin hath disavouched it. I condemn not all things in the Council of Trent, nor approve all in the Synod of Dort. In brief, where the Scripture is silent, the Church is my Text; where that speaks, ’tis but my Comment: where there is a joint silence of both, I borrow not the rules of my Religion from Rome or Geneva, but the dictates of my reason. It is an unjust scandal of our adversaries, and a gross error in our selves, to compute the Nativity of our Religion from Henry the Eighth, who, though he rejected the Pope, refused not the faith of Rome, and effected no more than what his Predecessors desired and assayed in Ages past, and was conceived the State of Venice would have attempted in our days. It is as uncharitable a point in us to fall upon those popular scurrilities and opprobrious scoffs of the Bishop of Rome, to whom, as a temporal Prince, we owe the duty of good language. I confess there is a cause of passion between us: by his sentence, I stand excommunicated; Heretick is the best language he affords me; yet can no ear witness I ever returned him the name of Antichrist, Man of Sin, or Whore of Babylon. It is the method of Charity to suffer without reaction: those usual Satyrs and invectives of the Pulpit may perchance produce a good effect on the vulgar, whose ears are opener to Rhetorick than Logick; yet do they in no wise confirm the faith of wiser Believers, who know that a good cause needs not to be patron’d by passion, but can sustain itself upon a temperate dispute.
VI. I could never divide myself from any man upon the difference of opinion, or be angry with his judgment for not agreeing with me in that from which perhaps within a few days I should dissent my self. I have no Genius to disputes in Religion and have often thought it wise to decline them, especially upon a disadvantage, or when the cause of Truth might suffer in the weakness of my patronage. Where we desire to be informed, ’tis good to contest with men above our selves; but to confirm and establish our opinions, ’tis best to argue with judgments below our own, that the frequent spoils and Victories over their reasons may settle in ourselves esteem and confirmed Opinion of our own. Every man is not a proper Champion for Truth, nor fit to take up the Gauntlet in the cause of Verity: many from the ignorance of these Maximes, and an inconsiderate Zeal unto Truth have too rashly charged the Troops of Error, and remain as Trophies unto the enemies of Truth. A man may be in as just possession of Truth as of a City, and yet be forced to surrender; ’tis therefore far better to enjoy her with peace than to hazard her on a battle. If therefore, there rise any doubts in my way, I do forget them, or at least defer them till my better-settled judgement and more manly reason be able to resolve them; for I perceive every man’s reason is his best Oedipus, and will, upon a reasonable truce, find a way to lose those bonds wherewith the subtleties of error have enchained our more flexible and tender judgements. In Philosophy, where Truth seems double-faced, there is no man more Paradoxical than my self: but in Divinity I love to keep the Road; and, though not in an implicit, yet a humble faith, follow the great wheel of the Church, by which I move, not reserving any proper Poles or motion from the Epicycle of my brain. By this means, I leave no gap for Heresies, Schismes, or Errors, of which at present I hope I shall not injure Truth to say I have no taint or tincture. I must confess my greener studies have been polluted with two or three; not any begotten in the latter Centuries, but old and obsolete, such as could never have been revived, but by such extravagant and irregular heads as mine: for indeed Heresies perish not with their Authors, but, like the river Arethusa, though they lose their currents in one place, they rise again in another. One General Council is not able to extirpate one single Heresie: it may be cancell’d for the present; but a revolution of time, and the like aspects from Heaven, will restore it when it will flourish till it is condemned again. For as though there were a Metempsuchosis, and the soul of one man passed into another, Opinions do find, after certain Revolutions, men and minds like those that first begat them. To see our selves again, we need not look for Plato’s year: every man is not only himself; there hath been many Diogenes, and as many Timons, though but few of that name: men are lived over again, the world is now as it was in Ages past; there was none then, but there hath been someone since that parallels him, and is, as it were, his revived self.
VII. Now the first of mine was that of the Arabians, That the Souls of men perished with their Bodies, but should yet be raised again at the last day. Not that I did absolutely conceive a mortality of the Soul; but if that were, (which Faith, not Philosophy, hath yet thoroughly disproved,) and that both entered the grave together, yet I held the same conceit thereof that we all do of the body, that it should rise again. Surely it is but the merits of our unworthy Natures if we sleep in darkness until the last Alarum. A serious reflex upon my unworthiness did make me backwards from challenging this prerogative of my Soul: so that I might enjoy my Saviour at the last, I could with patience be nothing almost unto Eternity.
The second was that of Origen, That GOD would not persist in His vengeance forever, but after a definite time of His wrath, He would release the damned Souls from torture. Which error I fell into upon a serious contemplation of the great Attribute of GOD, His Mercy; and did a little cherish it in my self, because I found therein no malice, and a ready weight to sway me from the other extream of despair, whereunto Melancholy and Contemplative Natures are too easily disposed.
A third there is, which I did never positively maintain or practise, but have often wished it had been consonant to Truth, and not offensive to my Religion, and that is, the Prayer for the Dead; whereunto I was inclined from some charitable inducements, whereby I could scarce contain my Prayers for a friend at the ringing of a Bell, or behold his Corps without an Orison for his Soul. ’Twas a good way, methought, to be remembered by posterity, and far more noble than an History.
These opinions I never maintained with pertinacy or endeavoured to inveigle any mans belief unto mine, nor so much as ever revealed or disputed them with my dearest friends; by which means I neither propagated them in others, nor confirmed them in my self; but suffering them to flame upon their own substance, without addition of new fuel, they went out insensibly of themselves. Therefore these Opinions, though condemned by lawful Counsels, were not Heresies in me, but bare Errors, and single Lapses of my understanding, without joint depravity of my will. Those have not only depraved understandings, but diseased affections, which cannot enjoy a singularity without an Heresie, or be the Author of an Opinion without they be of a Sect also. This was the villany of the first Schism of Lucifer, who was not content to err alone, but drew into his Faction many Legions of Spirits; and upon this experience he tempted only Eve, as well understanding the Communicable nature of Sin, and that to deceive but one, was tacitly and upon consequence to delude them both.
VIII. That Heresies should arise, we have the Prophesies of CHRIST; but that old ones should be abolished, we hold no prediction. That there must be Heresies, is true, not only in our Church, but also in any other: even in doctrines heretical, there will be super-heresies; and Arians not only divided from their Church, but also among themselves. For heads that are disposed unto Schism and complexionally propense to innovation, are naturally indisposed for a community, nor will be ever confined unto the order or œconomy of one body; and therefore, when they separate from others, they knit but loosely among themselves; nor contented with a general breach or dichotomy with their Church do subdivide and mince themselves almost into Atoms. ’Tis true, that men of singular parts and humours have not been free from singular opinions and conceits in all Ages; retaining something, not only beside the opinion of his Church or any other but also any particular Author; which, notwithstanding, a sober Judgment may do without offence or heresie; for there is yet, after all the Decrees of Councils and the niceties of the Schools, many things untouched, unimagined, wherein the liberty of an honest reason may play and expatiate with security, and far without the circle of an Heresie.
IX. As for those wingy Mysteries in Divinity, and airy subtleties in Religion, which have unhing’d the brains of better heads, they never stretched the Pia Mater of mine. Methinks there be not impossibilities enough in Religion for an active faith; the deepest Mysteries ours contains have not only been illustrated, but maintained, by Syllogism and the rule of Reason. I love to lose my self in a mystery, to pursue my Reason to an O altitudo! ’Tis my solitary recreation to pose my apprehension with those involved Ænigmas and riddles of the Trinity, with Incarnation, and Resurrection. I can answer all the objections of Satan and my rebellious reason with that odd resolution I learned of Tertullian, Certum est, quia impossibile est. I desire to exercise my faith in the most difficult point; for to credit ordinary and visible objects is not faith, but persuasion. Some believe the better for seeing CHRIST’S Sepulchre; and, when they have seen the Red Sea, doubt not of the Miracle. Now, contrarily, I bless my self and am thankful that I lived not in the days of Miracles, that I never saw CHRIST nor His Disciples. I would not have been one of those Israelites that passed the Red Sea, nor one of CHRIST’S patients on whom He wrought His wonders; then had my faith been thrust upon me, nor should I enjoy that greater blessing pronounced to all that believe and saw not. ’Tis an easy and necessary belief, to credit what our eye and sense hath examined. I believe He was dead, and buried, and rose again; and desire to see Him in His glory, rather than to contemplate Him in His Cenotaphe or Sepulchre. Nor is this much to believe; as we have a reason, we owe this faith unto History: they only had the advantage of a bold and noble Faith, who lived before His coming, who upon obscure prophesies and mystical Types could raise a belief and expect apparent impossibilities.
X. ’Tis true, there is an edge in all firm belief, and with an easy Metaphor we may say, the Sword of Faith; but in these obscurities, I rather use it in the adjunct the Apostle gives it, a Buckler; under which I conceive a wary combatant may lye invulnerable. Since I was of understanding to know we knew nothing, my reason hath been more pliable to the will of Faith; I am now content to understand a mystery without a rigid definition, in an easier and Platonic description. That allegorical description of Hermes pleaseth me beyond all the Metaphysical definitions of Divines. Where I cannot satisfy my reason, I love to humour my fancy: I had as live you tell me that anima est angelus hominis, est Corpus DEI, [the soul is man’s angel, GOD’s body] as Entelechia; Lux est umbra Dei, [Light is GOD’s shadow] as actus perspicui. Where there is an obscurity too deep for our Reason, ’tis good to sit down with a description, periphrasis, or adumbration; for by acquainting our Reason how unable it is to display the visible and obvious effects of Nature, it becomes more humble and submissive unto the subtleties of Faith; and thus I teach my haggard and unreclaimed Reason to stoop unto the lure of Faith. I believe there was already a tree whose fruit our unhappy Parents tasted, though, in the same Chapter when GOD forbids it, ’tis positively said, the plants of the field were not yet grown, for GOD had not caused it to rain upon the earth. I believe that the Serpent, (if we shall literally understand it,) from his proper form and figure, made his motion on his belly before the curse. I find the trial of the Pucellage and virginity of Women, which GOD ordained the Jews, is very fallible. Experience and History informs me, that not only many particular Women but likewise whole Nations, have escaped the curse of Childbirth, which GOD seems to pronounce upon the whole Sex. Yet I do believe that all this is true, which indeed my Reason would persuade me to be false; and this I think is no vulgar part of Faith, to believe a thing not only above but contrary to Reason, and against the Arguments of our proper Senses.
XI. In my solitary and retired imagination:
(neque enim cum porticus aut me
Lectulus accepit, desum mihi,)
[for when porch or bed has received me, I do not lose myself]
I remember I am not alone and therefore forget not to contemplate Him and His Attributes Who is ever with me, especially those two mighty ones, His Wisdom and Eternity. With the one I recreate, with the other I confound, my understanding; for who can speak of Eternity without a solecism, or think thereof without an extasy? Time we may comprehend; ’tis but five days elder then our selves, and hath the same Horoscope with the World; but to retire so far back as to apprehend a beginning, to give such an infinite start forwards as to conceive an end, in an essence that we affirm hath neither the one nor the other, it puts my Reason to St. Paul’s Sanctuary. My Philosophy dares not say the Angels can do it. GOD hath not made a Creature that can comprehend Him; ’tis a privilege of His nature. I AM THAT I AM, was His definition unto Moses; and it was a short one, to confound mortality, that durst question GOD, or ask Him what He was. Indeed, He only is; all others have and shall be. But in Eternity there is no distinction of Tenses; and therefore that terrible term Predestination, which hath troubled so many weak heads to conceive, and the wisest to explain, is in respect to GOD no precious determination of our Estates to come, but a definitive blast of His Will already fulfilled, and at the instant that He first decreed it; for to His Eternity, which is indivisible and all together, the last Trump is already sounded, the reprobates in the flame, and the blessed in Abraham’s bosom. St. Peter speaks modestly, when he saith, a thousand years to GOD are but as one day; for, to speak like a Philosopher, those continued instances of time which flow into a thousand years, make not to Him one moment: what to us is to come, to His Eternity is present, His whole duration being but one permanent point, without Succession, Parts, Flux, or Division.
XII. No Attribute adds more difficulty to the mystery of the Trinity, where, though in a relative way of Father and Son, we must deny a priority. I wonder how Aristotle could conceive the World eternal, or how he could make good two Eternities. His similitude of a Triangle comprehended in a square doth somewhat illustrate the Trinity of our Souls, and that the Triple Unity of GOD; for there is in us not three, but a Trinity of Souls; because there is in us, if not three distinct Souls, yet differing faculties, that can and do subsist apart in different Subjects, and yet in us are so united as to make but one Soul and substance.
If one Soul were so perfect as to inform three distinct Bodies, that were a petty Trinity: conceive the distinct number of three, not divided nor separated by the intellect, but comprehended in its Unity, and that is a perfect Trinity. I have often admired the mystical way of Pythagoras, and the secret Magick of numbers. Beware of Philosophy, is a precept not to be received in too large a sense; for in this Mass of Nature there is a set of things that carry in their Front (though not in Capital Letters, yet in Stenography and short Characters,) something of Divinity, which to wiser Reasons serve as Luminaries in the Abyss of Knowledge, and to judicious beliefs as Scales and Roundels to mount the Pinnacles and highest pieces of Divinity. The severe Schools shall never laugh me out of the Philosophy of Hermes, that this visible World is but a Picture of the invisible wherein, as in a Portrait, things are not truly, but in equivocal shapes, and as they counterfeit some more real substance in that invisible fabric.
XIII. That other Attribute wherewith I recreate my devotion, is His Wisdom, in which I am happy; and for the contemplation of this only, do not repent me that I was bred in the way of Study: the advantage I have of the vulgar, with the content and happiness I conceive therein, is an ample recompense for all my endeavours, in what part of knowledge soever. Wisdom is His most beauteous Attribute; no man can attain unto it, yet Solomon pleased GOD when he desired it. He is wise because He knows all things; and He knoweth all things, because He made them all; but His greatest knowledge is in comprehending that He made not, that is, Himself. And this is also the greatest knowledge in man. For this do I honour my profession, and embrace the Counsel even of the Devil himself: had he read such a Lecture in Paradise as he did at Delphos, we had better known our selves, nor had we stood in fear to know him. I know He is wise in all, wonderful in what we conceive, but far more in what we comprehend not; for we behold Him but asquint, upon reflex or shadow; our understanding is dimmer than Moses Eye; we are ignorant of the back-parts or lower side of His Divinity; therefore to prie into the maze of His Counsels is not only folly in man, but presumption even in Angels. Like us, they are His Servants, not His Senators; He holds no Counsel, but that mystical one of the Trinity, wherein, though there be three Persons, there is but one mind that decrees without contradiction. Nor needs He any: His actions are not begot with deliberation, His Wisdom naturally knows what’s best; His intellect stands ready fraught with the superlative and purest Ideas of goodness; consultation and election, which are two motions in us, make but one in Him, His actions springing from His power at the first touch of His will. These are Contemplations metaphysical: my humble speculations have another Method, and are content to trace and discover those expressions He hath left in His Creatures and the obvious effects of Nature. There is no danger to profound these mysteries, no sanctum sanctorum in Philosophy. The World was made to be inhabited by beasts, but studied and contemplated by Man: ’tis the Debt of our Reason we owe unto GOD, and the homage we pay for not being Beasts. Without this, the World is still as though it had not been, or as it was before the sixth day when as yet there was not a Creature that could conceive or say there was a World. The Wisdom of GOD receives small honour from those vulgar heads that rudely stare about, and with a gross rusticity admire His works: those highly magnifie Him, whose judicious inquiry into His Acts, and deliberate research into His Creatures, return the duty of a devout and learned admiration. Therefore:
Search while thou wilt, and let thy Reason go,
To ransom Truth, even to the’ Abyss below;
Rally the scattered Causes; and that line,
Which Nature twists, be able to untwine.
It is thy Makers will, for unto none
But unto Reason can Here be known.
The Devils do know Thee, but those damnèd Meteors
Build not Thy Glory, but confound Thy Creatures.
Teach my indeavours so Thy works to read,
That learning them in Thee, I may proceed.
Give Thou my reason that instructive flight,
Whose weary wings may on Thy hands still light.
Teach me to soar aloft, yet ever so,
When neer the Sun, to stoop again below.
Thus shall my humble Feathers safely hover,
And, though near Earth, more than the Heavens discover.
And then at last, when homeward I shall drive,
Rich with the Spoils of Nature, to my Hive,
There will I sit like that industrious Fly,
Buzzing Thy praises, which shall never die,
Till Death abrupts them and succeeding Glory
Bid me go on in a more lasting story.
And this is almost all wherein a humble Creature may endeavour to requite and some way to retribute unto his Creator: for if not he that saith, “Lord, Lord,” but he that doth the will of his Father, shall be saved; certainly our wills must be our performances, and our intents make out our Actions; otherwise our pious labours shall find anxiety in our Graves, and our best endeavours not hope, but fear, a resurrection.
XIV. There is but one first cause, and four-second causes of all things. Some are without efficient, as GOD; others without matter, as Angels; some without form, as the first matter: but every Essence, created or uncreated, hath its final cause, and some positive end both of its Essence and Operation. This is the cause I grope after in the works of Nature; on this hangs the Providence of GOD. To raise so beauteous a structure as the World and the Creatures thereof, was but His Art; but their sundry and divided operations, with their predestinated ends, are from the Treasure of His Wisdom. In the causes, nature, and affections of the Eclipses of the Sun and Moon, there is most excellent speculation; but to profound farther, and to contemplate a reason why His Providence hath so disposed and ordered their motions in that vast circle as to conjoin and obscure each other, is a sweeter piece of Reason, and a diviner point of Philosophy. Therefore sometimes, and in some things, there appears to me as much Divinity in Galen his books De Usu Partium, as in Suarez Metaphysicks. Had Aristotle been as curious in the enquiry of this cause as he was of the other, he had not left behind him an imperfect piece of Philosophy, but an absolute tract of Divinity.
XV. Natura nihil agit frustra, [Nature does nothing in vain] is the only indisputed Axiome in Philosophy. There are no Grotesques in Nature; not any thing framed to fill up empty Cantons, and unnecessary spaces. In the most imperfect Creatures, and such as were not preserved in the Ark, but, having their Seeds and Principles in the womb of Nature, are everywhere, where the power of the Sun is, in these is the Wisdom of His hand discovered. Out of this rank, Solomon chose the object of his admiration. Indeed what Reason may not go to School to the Wisdom of Bees, Ants, and Spiders? what wise hand teacheth them to do what Reason cannot teach us? Ruder heads stand amazed at those prodigious pieces of Nature, Whales, Elephants, Dromidaries and Camels; these, I confess, are the Colossus and majestick pieces of her hand: but in these narrow Engines there are more curious Mathematics; and the civility of these little Citizens more neatly sets forth Wisdom of their Maker. Who admires not Regio-Montanus his Fly beyond his Eagle, or wonders not more at the operation of two Souls in those little Bodies, than but one in the Trunk of a Cedar? I could never content my contemplations with those general pieces of wonder, the Flux and Reflux of the Sea, the increase of Nile, the conversion of the Needle to the North; and have studied to match and parallel those in the more obvious and neglected pieces of Nature, which without further travel I can do in the Cosmography of myself. We carry with us the wonders we seek without us: there is all Africa and her prodigies in us; we are that bold and adventurous piece of Nature, which he that studies wisely learns in a compendium what others labour at in a divided piece and endless volume.
XVI. Thus there are two books from whence I collect my Divinity; besides that written one of GOD, another of His servant Nature, that universal and public Manuscript, that lies exposed unto the Eyes of all: those that never saw Him in the one, have discovered Him in the other. This was the Scripture and Theology of the Heathens: the natural motion of the Sun made them more admire Him than its supernatural station did the Children of Israel; the ordinary effects of Nature wrought more admiration in them than in the other all His Miracles. Surely the Heathens knew better how to join and read these mystical Letters than we Christians, who cast a more careless Eye on these common Hieroglyphics, and disdain to suck Divinity from the flowers of Nature. Nor do I so forget GOD as to adore the name of Nature; which I define not, with the Schools, to be the principle of motion and rest, but that straight and regular line, that settled and constant course the Wisdom of GOD hath ordained the actions of His creatures, according to their several kinds. To make a revolution every day is the Nature of the Sun, because of that necessary course which GOD hath ordained it, from which it cannot swerve but by a faculty from that voice which first did give it motion. Now this course of Nature GOD seldom alters or perverts, but, like an excellent Artist, hath so contrived His work, that with the self-same instrument, without a new creation, He may effect His obscurest designs. Thus He sweetened the Water with a Wood, preserveth the Creatures in the Ark, which the blast of His mouth might have as easily created; for GOD is like a skilful Geometrician, who, when more easily and with one stroke of his Compass he might describe or divide a right line, had yet rather do this in a circle or long way, according to the constituted and forelaid principles of his Art. Yet this rule of His He doth sometimes pervert, to acquaint the World with His Prerogative, lest the arrogance of our reason should question His power, and conclude He could not. And thus I call the effects of Nature the works of GOD, Whose hand and instrument she only is; and therefore to ascribe His actions unto her, is to devolve the honour of the principal-agent upon the instrument; which if with reason we may do, then let our hammers rise up and boast they have built our houses, and our pens receive the honour of our writings. I hold there is a general beauty in the works of GOD, and therefore no deformity in any kind or species of creature whatsoever. I cannot tell by what Logick we call a Toad, a Bear, or an Elephant ugly; they were created in those outward shapes and figures which best express the actions of their inward forms, and having past that general Visitation of GOD, Who saw that all that He had made was good, that is, conformable to His Will, which abhors deformity, and is the rule of order and beauty. There is no deformity but in Monstrosity; wherein, notwithstanding, there is a kind of Beauty; Nature so ingeniously contriving the irregular parts, as they become sometimes more remarkable than the principal Fabrick. To speak yet more narrowly, there was never anything ugly or misshapen, but the Chaos; wherein, notwithstanding, (to speak strictly,) there was no deformity because no form; nor was it yet impregnated by the voice of GOD. Now Nature is not at variance with Art, nor Art with Nature, they were both servants of His Providence. Art is the perfection of Nature. Were the World now as it was the sixth day, there was yet a Chaos. Nature hath made one World and Art another. In brief, all things are artificial; for Nature is the Art of GOD.
XVII. This is the ordinary and open way of His Providence, which Art and Industry have in a good part discovered; whose effects we may foretell without an Oracle: to foreshew these, is not Prophesy, but Prognostication. There is another way, full of Meanders and Labyrinths, whereof the Devil and Spirits have no exact Ephemerides; and that is a more particular and obscure method of His Providence, directing the operations of individuals and single Essences: this we call Fortune, that serpentine and crooked line, whereby He draws those actions His Wisdom intends, in a more unknown and secret way. This cryptic and involved method of His Providence have I ever admired; nor can I relate the History of my life, the occurrences of my days, the escapes of dangers, and hits of chance, with a Bezo las Manos to Fortune, or a bare Gramercy to my good Stars. Abraham might have thought the Ram in the thicket came thither by accident; humane reason would have said that meer chance conveyed Moses in the Ark to the sight of Pharaoh’s Daughter: what a Labyrinth is there in the story of Joseph, able to convert a Stoick! Surely there are in every man’s Life certain rubs, doublings, and wrenches, which pass a while under the effects of chance, but at the last, well examined, prove the meer hand of GOD. ’Twas not dumb chance, that, to discover the Fougade or Powder-plot, contrived a miscarriage in the Letter. I like the Victory of ’88 the better for that one occurrence, which our enemies imputed to our dishonour and the partiality of Fortune, to wit, the tempests and contrariety of Winds. King Philip did not detract from the Nation when he said, he sent his Armado to fight with men, and not to combat with the Winds. Where there is a manifest disproportion between the powers and forces of two several agents, upon a Maxime of reason we may promise the Victory to the Superior; but when unexpected accidents slip in and unthought-of occurrences intervene, these must proceed from a power that owes no obedience to those Axioms; where, as in the writing upon the wall, we may behold the hand, but see not the spring that moves it. The success of that petty Province of Holland (of which the Grand Seignour proudly said, if they should trouble him as they did the Spaniard, he would send his men with shovels and pick-axes and throw it into the Sea,) I cannot altogether ascribe to the ingenuity and industry of the people, but the mercy of GOD, that hath disposed them to such a thriving Genius; and to the will of His Providence, that disposeth her favour to each Country in their pre-ordinate season. All cannot be happy at once; for, because the glory of one State depends upon the ruin of another, there is a revolution and vicissitude of their greatness, and must obey the swing of that wheel, not moved by Intelligences, but by the hand of GOD, whereby all Estates arise to their Zenith and Vertical points according to their predestinated periods. For the lives, not only of men, but of Commonwealths, and the whole World, run not upon an Helix, that still enlargeth, but on a Circle, where, arriving at their Meridian, they decline in obscurity, and fall under the Horizon again.
XVIII. These must not, therefore, be named the effects of Fortune, but relatively, and as we term the works of Nature. It was the ignorance of man’s reason that begat this very name, and by a careless term miscalled the Providence of GOD; for there is no liberty for causes to operate in a loose and straggling way, nor any effect whatsoever, but hath its warrant from some universal or superior Cause. ’Tis, not a ridiculous devotion to say a prayer before a game at Tables; for even in sortilegies and matters of greatest uncertainty there is a settled and preordered course of effects. It is we that are blind, not Fortune: because our Eye is too dim to discover the mystery of her effects, we foolishly paint her blind, and hoodwink the Providence of the Almighty. I cannot justify that contemptible Proverb, That fools only are Fortunate, or that insolent Paradox, That a wise man is out of the reach of Fortune; much less those opprobrious epithets of Poets, Whore, Bawd, and Strumpet. ’Tis, I confess, the common fate of men of singular gifts of mind to be destitute of those of Fortune, which doth not any way deject the Spirit of wiser judgements, who thoroughly understand the justice of this proceeding; and being enriched with higher donatives, cast a more careless eye on these vulgar parts of felicity. It is a most unjust ambition to desire to engross the mercies of the Almighty, not to be content with the goods of mind, without a possession of those of body or Fortune; and it is an error worse than heresy, to adore these complemental and circumstantial pieces of felicity, and undervalue those perfections and essential points of happiness wherein we resemble our Maker. To wiser desires it is satisfaction enough to deserve, though not to enjoy, the favours of Fortune: let Providence provide for Fools. ’Tis not partiality, but equity in GOD, Who deals with us but as our natural Parents: those that are able of Body and Mind He leaves to their deserts; to those of weaker merits He imparts a larger portion, and pieces out the defect of one by the excess of the other. Thus have we no just quarrel with Nature for leaving us naked; or to envy the Horns, Hoofs, Skins, and Furs of other Creatures, being provided with Reason, that can supply them all. We need not labour with so many Arguments to confute Judicial Astrology; for, if there be a truth therein, it doth not injure Divinity. If to be born under Mercury disposeth us to be witty, under Jupiter to be wealthy; I do not owe a Knee unto these, but unto that merciful Hand that hath ordered my indifferent and uncertain nativity unto such benevolent Aspects. Those that hold that all things are governed by Fortune had not erred, had they not persisted there. The Romans, that erected a Temple to Fortune, acknowledged therein, though in a blinder way, somewhat of Divinity; for, in a wise suppuration, all things begin and end in the Almighty. There is a nearer way to Heaven than Homer’s Chain; an easier Logic may conjoin Heaven and Earth in one Argument, and with less than a Sorites, resolve all things into GOD. For though we christen effects by their most sensible and nearest Causes, yet is GOD the true and infallible Cause of all; whose concourse, though it be general, yet doth it subdivide itself into the particular Actions of everything, and is that Spirit, by which each singular Essence not only subsists but performs its operation.
XIX. The bad construction and perverse comment on these pair of second Causes, or visible hands of GOD, have perverted the Devotion of many unto Atheism; who, forgetting the honest Advisoes of Faith, have listened unto the conspiracy of Passion and Reason. I have therefore always endeavoured to compose those Feuds and angry Dissensions between Affection, Faith, and Reason; for there is in our Soul a kind of Triumvirate, or triple Government of three Competitors, which distract the Peace of this our Commonwealth, not less than did that other the State of Rome.
As Reason is a Rebel unto Faith, so Passion unto Reason: as the propositions of Faith seem absurd unto Reason, so the Theorems of Reason unto Passion, and both unto Faith. Yet a moderate and peaceable discretion may so state and order the matter, that they may be all Kings, and yet make but one Monarchy, every one exercising his Sovereignty and Prerogative in a due time and place, according to the restraint and limit of circumstance. There is, as in Philosophy, so in Divinity, sturdy doubts and boisterous objections, wherewith the unhappiness of our knowledge too nearly acquainteth us. More of these no man hath known than myself, which I confess I conquered, not in a martial posture, but on my knees. For our endeavours are not only to combat with doubts but always to dispute with the Devil. The villany of that Spirit takes a hint of Infidelity from our Studies, and, by demonstrating naturality in one way, makes us mistrust a miracle in another. Thus, having perused the Archidoxis and read the secret Sympathies of things, he would dissuade my belief from the miracle of the Brazen Serpent, make me conceit that Image worked by Sympathy, and was but a Ægyptian trick to cure their Diseases without a miracle. Again, having seen some experiments of Bitumen, and having read far more of Naphtha, he whispered to my curiosity the fire of the Altar might be natural; and bid me mistrust a miracle in Elias, when he entrenched the Altar round with Water; for that inflammable substance yields not easily unto Water, but flames in the Arms of its Antagonist. And thus would he inveigle my belief to think the combustion of Sodom might be natural, and that there was an Asphaltick and Bituminous nature in that Lake before the fire of Gomorrah. I know that Manna is now plentifully gathered in Calabria; and Josephus tells me, in his days it was as plentiful in Arabia; the Devil, therefore, made the inquiry, where was then the miracle in the days of Moses? The Israelites saw but that in his time, the Natives of those Countries behold in ours. Thus the Devil played at Chess with me, and yielding a Pawn, thought to gain a Queen of me, taking advantage of my honest endeavours; and whilst I laboured to raise the structure of my Reason, he strived to undermine the edifice of my Faith.
XX. Neither had these or any other ever such advantage of me, as to incline me to any point of Infidelity or desperate positions of Atheism; for I have been these many years of opinion there was never any. Those that held Religion was the difference of Man from Beasts, have spoken probably, and proceed upon a principle as inductive as the other. That doctrine of Epicurus, that denied the Providence of GOD, was no Atheism, but a magnificent and high strained conceit of His Majesty, which he deemed too sublime to mind the trivial Actions of those inferior Creatures. That fatal Necessity of the Stoicks is nothing but the immutable Law of His Will. Those that heretofore denied the Divinity of the HOLY GHOST, have been condemned but as Heretics; and those that now deny our Saviour, (though more than Heretics,) are not so much as Atheists; for, though they deny two persons in the Trinity, they hold, as we do, there is but one GOD.
That Villain and Secretary of Hell, that composed that miscreant piece Of the Three Impostors, though divided from all Religions, and was neither Jew, Turk, nor Christian, was not a positive Atheist. I confess every Country hath its Machiavel, every age its Lucian, whereof common Heads must not hear, nor more advanced Judgments too rashly venture on: it is the Rhetoric of Satan, and may pervert a loose or prejudicate belief.
XXI. I confess I have perused them all and can discover nothing that may startle a discreet belief; yet are their heads carried off with the Wind and breath of such motives. I remember a Doctor in Physick, of Italy, who could not perfectly believe the immortality of the Soul because Galen seemed to make a doubt thereof. With another I was familiarly acquainted in France, a Divine, and a man of singular parts, that on the same point was so plunged and gravelled with three lines of Seneca, that all our Antidotes, drawn from both Scripture and Philosophy, could not expel the poison of his error. There are a set of Heads, that can credit the relations of Mariners, yet question the Testimonies of St. Paul; and peremptorily maintain the traditions of Ælian or Pliny, yet in Histories of Scripture raise Queries and Objections, believing no more than they can parallel in humane Authors. I confess there are in Scripture Stories that do exceed the Fables of Poets, and to a captious Reader sound like Garagantua or Bevis. Search all the Legends of times past, and the fabulous conceits of these present, and ’twill be hard to find one that deserves to carry the Buckler unto Sampson; yet is all this of an easy possibility, if we conceive a Divine concourse or an influence but from the little Finger of the Almighty. It is impossible that either in the discourse of man, or in the infallible Voice of GOD, to the weakness of our apprehensions, there should not appear irregularities, contradictions, and antinomies: my self could shew a Catalogue of doubts, never yet imagined nor questioned, as I know, which are not resolved at the first hearing; not fantastic Queries or Objections of Air; for I cannot hear of Atoms in Divinity. I can read the History of the Pigeon that was sent out of the Ark, and returned no more, yet not question how she found out her Mate that was left behind: that Lazarus was raised from the dead, yet not demand wherein the interim his Soul awaited; or raise a Law case, whether his Heir might lawfully detain his inheritance bequeathed unto him by his death, and he, though restored to life, have no Plea or Title unto his former possessions. Whether Eve was framed out of the left side of Adam, I dispute not; because I stand not yet assured which is the right side of a man, or whether there be any such distinction in Nature: that she was edified out of the Rib of Adam I believe, yet raise no question who shall arise with that Rib at the Resurrection. Whether Adam was a Hermaphrodite, as the Rabbins contend upon the Letter of the Text, because it is contrary to reason, there should be a Hermaphrodite before there was a Woman, or a composition of two Natures before there was a second composed. Likewise, whether the World was created in Autumn, Summer, or the Spring, because it was created in them all; for whatsoever Sign the Sun possesseth, those four Seasons are existent. It is the nature of this Luminary to distinguish the several Seasons of the year, all which it makes at one time in the whole Earth, and successive in any part thereof. There are a bundle of curiosities, not only in Philosophy but in Divinity, proposed and discussed by men of most supposed abilities, which indeed are not worthy our vacant hours, much less our serious Studies: Pieces only fit to be placed in Pantagruel’s Library or bound up with Tartaretus De modo Cacandi.
XXII. These are niceties that become not those that peruse so serious a Mystery. There are others more generally questioned and called to the Bar, yet methinks of an easier and possible truth.
’Tis ridiculous to put off or drown the general Flood of Noah in that particular inundation of Deucalion. That there was a Deluge once, seems not to me so great a Miracle, as that there is not one always. How all the kinds of Creatures, not only in their bulks, but with a competency of food and sustenance, might be preserved in one Ark, and within the extent of three hundred Cubits, to a reason that rightly examines it will appear very feasible. There is another secret, not contained in the Scripture, which is more hard to comprehend, and put the honest Father to the refuge of a miracle; and that is, not only how the distinct pieces of the World and divided Islands, should be first planted by men but inhabited by Tigers, Panthers, and Bears. How America abounded with Beasts of prey and noxious Animals, yet contained not in it that necessary Creature, a Horse, is very strange. By what passage those, not only Birds but dangerous and unwelcome Beasts, came over; how there be Creatures there, which are not found in this Triple Continent; (all which must needs be strange unto us, that hold but one Ark, and that the Creatures began their progress from the Mountains of Ararat:) they who, to salve this, would make the Deluge particular, proceed upon a principle that I can no way grant; not only upon the negative of Holy Scriptures, but of mine own Reason, whereby I can make it probable, that the World was as well peopled in the time of Noah as in ours; and fifteen hundred years to people the World, as full a time for them, as four thousand years since have been to us.
There are other assertions and common Tenents drawn from Scripture and generally believed as Scripture, whereunto, notwithstanding, I would never betray the liberty of my Reason. ’Tis a Postulate to me, that Methusalem was the longest-lived of all the Children of Adam; and no man will be able to prove it, when, from the process of the Text, I can manifest it may be otherwise. That Judas perished by hanging himself, there is no certainty in Scripture: though in one place it seems to affirm it, and by a doubtful word hath given occasion to translate it; yet in another place, in a more punctual description, it makes it improbable, and seems to overthrow it. That our Fathers, after the Flood, erected the Tower of Babel to preserve themselves against a second Deluge, is generally opinioned and believed; yet is there another intention of theirs expressed in Scripture: besides, it is improbable from the circumstances of the place, that is, a plain in the Land of Shinar. These are no points of Faith, and therefore may admit a free dispute.
There are yet others, and those familiarly concluded from the text, wherein (under favour,) I see no consequence. The Church of Rome confidently proves the opinion of Tutelary Angels from that Answer, when Peter knocked at the Door, ’Tis not he, but his Angel; that is (might some say,) his Messenger or somebody from him; for so the Original signifies, and is as likely to be the doubtful Families meaning. This exposition I once suggested to a young Divine, that answered upon this point; to which I remember the Franciscan Opponent replyed no more, but that it was a new, and no authentic interpretation.
XXIII. These are but the conclusions and fallible discourses of man upon the Word of GOD, for such I do believe the Holy Scriptures: yet, was it of man, I could not choose but say, it was the most singular and superlative piece that hath been extant since the Creation. Were I a Pagan, I should not refrain the Lecture of it; and cannot but commend the judgment of Ptolomy, and thought not his Library compleat without it. The Alcoran of the Turks (I speak without prejudice,) is an ill composed Piece, containing in vain and ridiculous Errors in Philosophy, impossibilities, fictions, and vanities beyond laughter, maintained by evident and open Sophisms, the Policy of Ignorance, deposition of Universities, and banishment of Learning, that hath gotten Foot by Arms and violence: this without a blow hath disseminated itself through the whole Earth. It is not unremarkable what Philo first observed, that the Law of Moses continued two thousand years without the least alteration; whereas, we see the Laws of other Common-weals do alter with occasions; and even those that pretended their original from some Divinity, to have vanished without trace or memory. I believe, besides Zoroaster, there were divers that writ before Moses, who, notwithstanding, have suffered the common fate of time. Men’s Works have an age like themselves; and though they out-live their Authors, yet have they a stint and period to their duration: this only is a work too hard for the teeth of time, and cannot perish but in the general Flames, when all things shall confess their Ashes.
XXIV. I have heard some with deep sighs lament the lost lines of Cicero; others with as many groans deplore the combustion of the Library of Alexandria: for my part, I think there be too many in the World, and could with patience behold the urn and ashes of the Vatican, could I, with a few others, recover the perished leaves of Solomon. I would not omit a copy of Enoch’s Pillars, had they many nearer Authors than Josephus, or did not relish somewhat of the Fable. Some men have written more than others have spoken; Pineda quotes more Authors in one work than are necessary in a whole World. Of those three great inventions in Germany, there are two which are not without their incommodities, and ’tis disputable whether they exceed not their use and commodities. ’Tis not a melancholy Utinam of my own, but the desires of better heads, that there was a general Synod; not to unite the incompatible difference of Religion, but for the benefit of learning, to reduce it as it lay at first, in a few and solid Authors; and to condemn to the fire those swarms and millions of Rhapsodies, begotten only to distract and abuse the weaker judgements of Scholars, and to maintain the trade and mystery of Typographers.
XXV. I cannot but wonder with what exception the Samaritans could confine their belief to the Pentateuch, or Five Books of Moses. I am ashamed at the Rabbinical Interpretation of the Jews upon the Old Testament, as much as their defection from the New: and truly it is beyond wonder, how that contemptible and degenerate issue of Jacob, once so devoted to Ethnic Superstition, and so easily seduced to the Idolatry of their Neighbours, should now in such an obstinate and peremptory belief adhere unto their own Doctrine, expect impossibilities, and, in the face and eye of the Church, persist without the least hope of Conversion. This is a vice in them, that were a virtue in us; for obstinacy in a bad Cause is but constancy in a good. And herein I must accuse those of my Religion, for there is not any of such a fugitive Faith, such an unstable belief, as a Christian; none that do so oft transform themselves, not unto several shapes of Christianity and of the same Species, but unto more unnatural and contrary Forms of Jew and Mahometan; that, from the name of Saviour, can condescend to the bare term of Prophet; and, from an old belief that He is come, fall to a new expectation of His coming. It is the promise of CHRIST to make us all one Flock; but how and when this Union shall be, is as obscure to me as the last day. Of those four Members of Religion, we hold a slender proportion. There are, I confess, some new additions, yet small to those which accrue to our Adversaries, and those only drawn from the revolt of Pagans, men but of negative Impieties, and such as deny CHRIST, but because they never heard of Him. But the Religion of the Jew is expressly against the Christian and the Mahometan against both. For the Turk, in the bulk he now stands, he is beyond all hope of conversion; if he falls asunder, there may be conceived hopes, but not without strong improbabilities. The Jew is obstinate in all fortunes; the persecution of fifteen hundred years hath but confirmed them in their Error: they have already endured whatsoever may be inflicted, and have suffered in a bad cause, even to the condemnation of their enemies. Persecution is a bad and indirect way to plant Religion: it hath been the unhappy method of angry Devotions, not only to confirm honest Religion, but wicked Heresies, and extravagant Opinions. It was the first stone and Basis of our Faith; none can more justly boast of Persecutions, and glory in the number and valour of Martyrs. For, to speak properly, those are true and almost only examples of fortitude: those that are fetched from the field, or drawn from the actions of the Camp, are not oft-times so truly precedents of valour as audacity, and at the best attain but to some bastard piece of fortitude. If we shall strictly examine the circumstances and requisites which Aristotle requires to true and perfect valour, we shall find the name only in his Master, Alexander, and as little in that Roman Worthy, Julius Cæsar; and if any in that easier and active way have done so nobly as to deserve that name, yet in the passive and more terrible piece these have surpassed, and in a more heroical way may claim the honour of that Title. ’Tis not in the power of every honest Faith to proceed thus far, or pass to Heaven through the flames. Every one hath it not in that full measure, nor so audacious and resolute a temper, as to endure those terrible tests and trials; who, notwithstanding, in a peaceable way, do truely adore their Saviour, and have (no doubt,) a Faith acceptable in the eyes of GOD.