« PreviousContinue »
matters, do work great and important effects; whereof we see a notable example in Tacitus, of two stage players, Percennius and Vibulenus, who by their faculty of playing put the Pannonian armies into an extreme tumult and combustion; for there arising a mutiny amongst them, upon the death of Augustus Cæsar, Blæsus the lieutenant had committed some of the mutineers, which were suddenly rescued; whereupon Vibulenus got to be heard speak, which he did in this manner: "These poor innocent "wretches appointed to cruel death, you have re"stored to behold the light: but who shall restore my "brother to me, or life unto my brother, that was sent “hither in message from the legions of Germany, to "treat of the common cause? And he hath murdered "him this last night by some of his fencers and "ruffians, that he hath about him for his execution"ers upon soldiers. Answer, Blæsus, what is done "with his body? The mortalest enemies do not
deny burial; when I have performed my last "duties to the corpse with kisses, with tears, com"mand me to be slain besides him, so that these my "fellows, for our good meaning, and our true hearts
to the legions, may have leave to bury us." With which speech he put the army into an infinite fury and uproar; whereas truth was he had no brother, neither was there any such matter, but he played it merely as if he had been upon the stage.
But to return, we are now come to a period of rational knowledges, wherein if I have made the divisions other than those that are received, yet would I not be thought to disallow all those divisions which I do not use; for there is a double necessity imposed upon me of altering the divisions. The one, because it differeth in end and purpose, to sort together those things which are next in nature, and those things which are next in use; for if a secretary of estate should sort his papers, it is like in his study, or general cabinet, he would sort together things of a nature, as treaties, instructions, etc. but in his boxes, or particular cabinet, he would sort together those
that he were like to use together, though of several natures; so in this general cabinet of knowledge it was necessary for me to follow the divisions of the nature of things; whereas if myself had been to handle any particular knowledge, I would have respected the divisions fittest for use. The other, because the bringing in of the deficiencies did by consequence alter the partitions of the rest: for let the knowledge extant, for demonstration sake, be fifteen, let the knowledge with the deficiencies be twenty, the parts of fifteen are not the parts of twenty, for the parts of fifteen are three and five, the parts of twenty are two, four, five and ten; so as these things are without contradiction, and could not otherwise be.
WE proceed now to that knowledge which considereth of the Appetite and Will of Man, whereof Solomon saith, Ante omnia, fili, custodi cor tuum, nam inde procedunt actiones vitæ. In the handling of this science, those which have written seem to me to have done as if a man that professed to teach to write, did only exhibit fair copies of alphabets, and letters joined, without giving any precepts or directions for the carriage of the hand and framing of the letters; so have they made good and fair exemplars and copies, carrying the draughts and portraitures of good, virtue, duty, felicity; propounding them well described as the true objects and scopes of man's will and desires; but how to attain these excellent marks, and how to frame and subdue the will of man to become true and comformable to these pursuits, they pass it over altogether, or slightly and unprofitably; for it is not the disputing that moral virtues are in the mind of man by habit and not by nature, or the distinguishing that generous spirits are won by doctrines and persuasions, and the vulgar sort by reward and punishment, and the like scattered glances and touches, that can excuse the absence of this part.
The reason of this omission I suppose to be that
hidden rock whereupon both this and many other barks of knowledge have been cast away; which is, that men have despised to be conversant in ordinary and common matters, the judicious direction whereof nevertheless is the wisest doctrine, for life consisteth not in novelties nor subtilities, but contrariwise they have compounded sciences chiefly of a certain resplendent or lustrous mass of matter, chosen to give glory either to the subtility of disputations, or to the eloquence of discourses. But Seneca giveth an excellent check to eloquence: Nocet illis eloquentia, quibus non rerum cupiditatem facit, sed sui. Doctrine should be such as should make men in love with the lesson, and not with the teacher, being directed to the auditor's benefit, and not to the author's commendation; and therefore those are of the right kind which may be concluded as Demosthenes concludes his counsel, Quæ si feceritis, non oratorem duntaxat in præsentia laudabitis, sed vosmetipsos etiam, non ita multo post statu rerum vestrarum meliore. Neither needed men of so excellent parts to have despaired of a fortune, which the poet Virgil promised himself, and indeed obtained, who got as much glory of eloquence, wit, and learning in the expressing of the observations of husbandry, as of the heroical acts of Æneas:
Nec sum animi dubius, verbis ea vincere magnum Quam sit, et angustis hunc addere rebus honorem. Georg. iii. 289.
And surely if the purpose be in good earnest not to write at leisure that which men may read at leisure, but really to instruct and suborn action and active life, these georgics of the mind concerning the husbandry and tillage thereof, are no less worthy than the heroical descriptions of virtue, duty, and felicity. Wherefore the main and primitive division of moral knowledge seemeth to be into the Exemplar or Platform of Good, and the Regiment or Culture of the Mind; the one describing the nature of good, the other prescribing rules how to subdue, apply and accommodate the will of man thereunto.
The doctrine touching the Platform or Nature of Good considereth it either simple or compared, either the kinds of good, or the degrees of good; in the latter whereof those infinite disputations which were touching the supreme degree thereof, which they term felicity, beatitude, or the highest good, the doctrines concerning which were as the heathen divinity, are by the Christian faith discharged. And, as Aristotle saith, "That young men may be happy, "but not otherwise but by hope;" so we must all acknowledge our minority, and embrace the felicity. which is by hope of the future world.
Freed therefore, and delivered from this doctrine of the philosophers' heaven, whereby they feigned a higher elevation of man's nature than was, for we see in what a height of style Seneca writeth, Vere magnum, habere fragilitatem hominis, securitatem Dei, we may with more sobriety and truth receive the rest of their inquiries and labours; wherein for the nature of good, positive or simple, they have set it down excellently, in describing the forms of virtue and duty with their situations and postures, in distributing them into their kinds, parts, provinces, actions, and administrations, and the like: nay farther, they have commended them to man's nature and spirit, with great quickness of argument and beauty of persuasions; yea, and fortified and intrenched them, as much as discourse can do, against corrupt and popular opinions. Again, for the degrees and comparative nature of good, they have also excellently. handled it in their triplicity of good, in the comparison between a contemplative and an active life, in the distinction between virtue with reluctation, and virtue secured, in their encounters between honesty and profit, in their balancing of virtue with virtue, and the like; so as this part deserveth to be reported for excellently laboured.
Notwithstanding, if before they had come to the popular and received notions of virtue and vice, pleasure and pain, and the rest, they had stayed a little longer upon the inquiry concerning the roots of good
and evil, and the strings of those roots, they had given, in my opinion, a great light to that which followed and specially if they had consulted with nature, they had made their doctrines less prolix and more profound: which being by them in part omitted and in part handled with much confusion, we will endeavour to resume and open in a more clear manner.
There is formed in every thing a double nature of good, the one as every thing is a total or substantive in itself, the other as it is a part or member of a greater body; whereof the latter is in degree the greater and the worthier, because it tendeth to the conservation of a more general form: therefore we see the iron in particular sympathy moveth to the loadstone, but yet if it exceed a certain quantity, it forsaketh the affection to the loadstone, and like a good patriot moveth to the earth, which is the region and country of massy bodies; so may we go forward and see that water and massy bodies move to the centre of the earth, but rather than to suffer a divulsion in the continuance of nature they will move upwards from the centre of the earth, forsaking their duty to the earth in regard of their duty to the world. This double nature of good and the comparative thereof is much more engraven upon man, if he degenerate not, unto whom the conservation of duty to the public ought to be much more precious than the conservation of life and being; according to that memorable speech of Pompeius Magnus, when being in commission of purveyance for a famine at Rome, and being dissuaded with great vehemency and instance by his friends about him, that he should not hazard himself to sea in an extremity of weather, he said only to them, Necesse est ut eam, non ut vivam: but it may be truly affirmed that there was never any philosophy, religion, or other discipline, which did so plainly and highly exalt the good which is communicative, and depress the good which is private and particular, as the holy faith well declaring, that it was the same God that gave the Christian law to men, who gave those laws of nature to inanimate creatures that we spake of before; for we