« PreviousContinue »
mon, concerning the excess of writing and reading books, and the anxiety of spirit which redoundeth from knowledge; and that admonition of St. Paul, That we be not seduced by vain philosophy; let those places be rightly understood, and they do indeed excellently set forth the true bounds and limitations, whereby human knowledge is confined and circumscribed; and yet without any such contracting or coarctation, but that it may comprehend all the universal nature of things: for these limitations are three: the first, that we do not so place our felicity in knowledge, as we forget our mortality. The second, that we make application of our knowledge, to give ourselves repose and contentment, and not distaste or repining. The third, that we do not presume by the contemplation of nature to attain to the mysteries of God. For as touching the first of these, Solomon doth excellently expound himself in another place of the same book, where he saith; I saw well that knowledge recedeth as far from ignorance, as light doth from darkness; and that the wise man's eyes keep watch in his head, whereas the fool roundeth about in darkness: but withal I learned, that the same mortality involveth them both. And for the second, certain it is, there is no vexation or anxiety of mind which resulteth from knowledge, otherwise than merely by accident; for all knowledge, and wonder (which is the seed of knowledge) is an impression of pleasure in itself: but when men fall to framing conclusions out of their knowledge, applying it to their particular, and ministring to themselves thereby weak fears, or vast desires, there groweth that carefulness and trouble of mind which is spoken of: for then knowledge is no more Lumen siccum, whereof Heraclitus the profound said, Lumen siccum optima anima; but it becometh Lumen madidum, or maceratum, being steeped and infused in the humours of the affections. And as for the third point, it deserveth to be a little stood upon, and not to be lightly passed over: for if any man shall think by view and inquiry into these sensible and material things to attain that light, where
by he may reveal unto himself the nature or will of God, then indeed is he spoiled by vain philosophy : for the contemplation of God's creatures and works produceth (having regard to the works and creatures themselves) knowledge; but, having regard to God, no perfect knowledge, but wonder, which is broken knowledge. And therefore it was most aptly said by one of Plato's school, "That the sense of man "carrieth a resemblance with the sun, which, as we "see, openeth and revealeth all the terrestrial globe; "but then again it obscureth and concealeth the "stars and celestial globe: so doth the sense dis"cover natural things, but it darkeneth and shutteth up divine." And hence it is true, that it hath proceeded, that divers great learned men have been heretical, whilst they have sought to fly up to the secrets of the Deity by the waxen wings of the senses and as for the conceit, that too much knowledge should incline a man to atheism, and that the ignorance of second causes should make a more devout dependence upon God, who is the first cause : First, it is good to ask the question which Job asked of his friends: Will you lie for God, as one man will do for another, to gratify him? For certain it is, that God worketh nothing in nature but by second causes; and if they would have it otherwise believed, it is mere imposture, as it were in favour towards God; and nothing else but to offer to the author of truth the unclean sacrifice of a lie. But farther, it is an assured truth, and a conclusion of experience, that a little or superficial knowledge of philosophy may incline the mind of man to atheism, but a farther proceeding therein doth bring the mind back again to religion; for in the entrance of philosophy, when the second causes, which are next unto the senses, do offer themselves to the mind of man, if it dwell and stay there, it may induce some oblivion of the highest cause; but when a man passeth on farther, and seeth the dependence of causes, and the works of providence; then, according to the allegory of the poets, he will easily believe that the highest link of
nature's chain must needs be tied to the foot of Jupiter's chair. To conclude therefore: let no man, upon a weak conceit of sobriety, or an ill-applied moderation, think or maintain, that a man can search too far, or be too well studied in the book of God's word, or in the book of God's works; divinity or philosophy; but rather let men endeavour an endless progress, or proficience in both; only let men beware that they apply both to charity, and not to swelling ; to use, and not to ostentation; and again, that they do not unwisely mingle, or confound these learnings together.
And as for the disgraces which learning receiveth from politicians, they be of this nature; that learning doth soften mens minds, and makes them more unapt for the honour and exercise of arms; that it doth mar and pervert mens dispositions for matter of government and policy, in making them too curious and irresolute by variety of reading, or too peremptory or positive by strictness of rules and axioms, or too immoderate and overweening by reason of the greatness of examples, or too incompatible and differing from the times, by reason of the dissimilitude of examples ; or at least, that it doth divert mens travels from action and business, and bringeth them to a love of leisure and privateness; and that it doth bring into states a relaxation of discipline, whilst every man is more ready to argue, than to obey and execute. Out of this conceit, Cato, surnamed the Censor, one of the wisest men indeed that ever lived, when Carneades the philosopher came in embassage to Rome, and that the young men of Rome began to flock about him, being allured with the sweetness and majesty of his eloquence and learning, gave counsel in open senate, that they should give him his dispatch with all speed, lest he should infect and inchant the minds and affections of the youth, and at unawares bring in an alteration of the manners and customs of the state. Out of the same conceit, or humour, did Virgil, turning his pen to the advantage of his country, and the disadvantage of his own profession, make a kind of
separation between policy and government, and between arts and sciences, in the verses so much renowned, attributing and challenging the one to the Romans, and leaving and yielding the other to the Grecians; Tu regere imperio populos, Romane, memento, Hæ tibi erunt artes, etc. So likewise we see that Anytus, the accuser of Socrates, laid it as an article of charge and accusation against him, that he did, with the variety and power of his discourses and disputations, withdraw young men from due reverence to the laws and customs of their country; and that he did profess a dangerous and pernicious science, which was, to make the worse matter seem the better, and to suppress truth by force of eloquence and speech.
But these, and the like imputations, have rather a countenance of gravity, than any ground of justice: for experience doth warrant, that, both in persons and in times, there hath been a meeting and concurrence in learning and arms, flourishing and excelling in the same men, and the same ages. For, as for men, there cannot be a better, nor the like instance, as of that pair, Alexander the Great and Julius Cæsar the dictator; whereof the one was Aristotle's scholar in philosophy, and the other was Cicero's rival in eloquence or if any man had rather call for scholars, that were great generals, than generals that were great scholars, let him take Epaminondas the Theban, or Xenophon the Athenian; whereof the one was the first that abated the power of Sparta, and the other was the first that made way to the overthrow of the monarchy of Persia. And this concurrence is yet more visible in times than in persons, by how much an age is greater object than a man. For both in Egypt, Assyria, Persia, Græcia, and Rome, the same times that are most renowned for arms, are likewise most admired for learning; so that the greatest authors and philosophers, and the greatest captains and governors, have lived in the same ages. Neither can it otherwise be: for as, in man, the ripeness of strength of the body and mind cometh much about an age,
save that the strength of the body cometh somewhat the more early; so in states, arms and learning, whereof the one correspondeth to the body, the other to the soul of man, have a concurrence or near sequence in times.
And for matter of policy and government, that learning should rather hurt, than enable thereunto, is a thing very improbable: we see it is accounted an error to commit a natural body to empiric physicians, which commonly have a few pleasing receipts, whereupon they are confident and adventurous, but know neither the causes of diseases, nor the complexions of patients, nor peril of accidents, nor the true method of cures we see it is a like error to rely upon advocates or lawyers which are only men of practice, and not grounded in their books, who are many times easily surprised, when matter falleth out besides their experience, to the prejudice of the causes they handle: so, by like reason, it cannot be but a matter of doubtful consequence, if states be managed by empiric statesmen, not well mingled with men grounded in learning. But contrariwise, it is almost without instance contradictory, that ever any government was disastrous that was in the hands of learned governors. For howsoever it hath been ordinary with politic men to extenuate and disable learned men by the names of pedants; yet in the records of time it appeareth, in many particulars, that the governments of princes in minority (notwithstanding the infinite disadvantage of that kind of state) have nevertheless excelled the government of princes of mature age, even for that reason which they seek to traduce, which is, that by that occasion the state hath been in the hands of pedants: for so was the state of Rome for the first five years, which are so much magnified, during the minority of Nero, in the hands of Seneca, a pedant: so it was again, for ten years space. or more, during the minority of Gordianus the younger, with great applause and contentation in the hands of Misitheus, a pedant: so was it before that, in the minority of Alexander Severus, in like happiness, in