Page images

mised 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 his 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 philosopher's heaven, whereby they feigned an higher elevation of man's nature than was, (for we see in what an height of stile Seneca writeth, "Vere magnum, habere fragilitatem hominis, secu"ritatem 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 especially 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 to 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 com

mission 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 speak of before; for we read that the elected saints of God have wished themselves anathematized and razed out of the book of life, in an ecstasy of charity and infinite feeling of communion.

This being set down and strongly planted, doth judge and determine most of the controversies wherein moral philosophy is conversant. For first, it decideth the question touching the preferment of the contemplative or active life, and decideth it against Aristotle. For all the reasons which he bringeth for the contemplative are private, and respecting the pleasure and dignity of a man's self, in which respects, no question, the contemplative life hath the pre-eminence: not much unlike to that comparison, which Pythagoras made for the gracing and magnifying of philosophy and contemplation; who being asked what he was, answered, "That if "Hiero were ever at the Olympian games, he knew

"the manner, that some came to try their fortune for the prizes, and some came as merchants to utter "their commodities, and some came to make good "cheer and meet their friends, and some came to "look on; and that he was one of them that came to "look on." But men must know, that in this theatre of man's life it is reserved only for God and Angels to be lookers on: neither could the like question ever have been received in the church (notwithstanding their "Pretiosa in oculis Domini mors sancto"rum ejus," by which place they would exalt their civil death and regular professions), but upon this defence, that the monastical life is not simply contemplative, but performeth the duty either of incessant prayers and supplications, which hath been truly esteemed as an office in the church, or else of writing or in taking instructions for writing concerning the law of God, as Moses did when he abode so long in the mount. And so we see Enoch the seventh from Adam, who was the first contemplative, and walked with God, yet did also endow the church with phecy, which St. Jude citeth. plation which should be finished in itself, without casting beams upon society, assuredly Divinity knoweth it not.


But for contem

It decideth also the controversies between Zeno and Socrates, and their schools and successions, on the one side, who placed felicity in virtue simply or attended, the actions and exercises whereof do chiefly embrace and concern society; and on the other side, the Cyrenaics and Epicureans, who


« PreviousContinue »