Page images
PDF
EPUB

weak for if too high, in a diffident nature you discourage: in a confident nature you breed an opinion of facility, and so a sloth; and in all natures you breed a further expectation than can hold out, and so an insatisfaction on the end: if too weak of the other side, you may not look to perform and overcome any great task.

Another precept is, to practise all things chiefly at two several times, the one when the mind is best disposed, the other when it is worst disposed; that by the one you may gain a great step, by the other you may work out the knots and stonds of the mind, and make the middle times the more easy and pleasant.

Another precept is, that which Aristotle -mentioneth by the way, which is to bear ever towards the contrary extreme of that whereunto we are by nature inclined; like unto the rowing against the stream, or making a wand straight by bending him contrary to his natural crookedness.

1

Another precept is, that the mind is brought to anything better, and with more sweetness and happiness, if that whereunto you pretend be not first in the intention, but "tanquam aliud agendo," because of the natural hatred of the mind against necessity and constraint. Many other axioms there are touching the managing of exercise and custom; which being so conducted, doth prove indeed another nature; but being governed by chance, doth commonly prove but an ape of nature, and bringeth forth that which is lame and counterfeit.

So if we should handle books and studies, and what influence and operation they have upon manners, are there not divers precepts of great caution and direction appertaining thereunto? Did not one of the fathers in great indignation call poesy "vinum dæmonum," "2 because it increaseth temptations, perturbations, and vain opinions? Is not the opinion of Aristotle worthy to be regarded, wherein be saith, "That young men are no fit auditors of moral philosophy, because they are not settled from the boiling heat of their

[blocks in formation]

affections, nor attempered with time and experience?" And doth it not hereof come, that those excellent books and discourses of the ancient writers (whereby they have persuaded unto virtue most effectually, by representing her in state and majesty, and popular opinions against virtue in their parasites' coats fit to be scorned and derided) are of so little effect towards honesty of life, because they are not read and revolved by men in their mature and settled years, but confined almost to boys and beginners? But is it not true also, that much less young men are fit auditors of matters of policy, till they have been thoroughly seasoned in religion and morality : lest their judgments be corrupted, and made apt to think that there are no true differences of things, but according to utility and fortune, as the verse describes it :

"Prosperum et felix scelus virtus vocatur :"3 and again,

"Ille crucem pretium sceleris tulit, hic diadema :" 4 which the poets do speak satirically, and in indignation on virtue's behalf; but books of policy do speak it seriously and positively; for so it pleaseth Machiavel to say, "That if Cæsar had been overthrown, he would have been more odious than ever was Catiline;" as if there had been no difference, but in fortune, between a very fury of lust and blood, and the most excellent spirit (his ambition reserved) of the world? Again, is there not a caution likewise to be given of the doctrines of moralities themselves, (some kinds of them,) lest they make men too precise, arrogant, incompatible; as Cicero saith of Cato, "In Marco Catone hæc bona quæ videmus divina et egregia, ipsius scitote esse propria; quæ nonnunquam requirimus, ea sunt omnia non a naturâ, sed a magistro ?" 5 Many other

3 A lucky crime takes virtue's honoured name. Thus the old epigram

Treason is ne'er successful. What's the reason?
For when successful, who dare call it treason?
4 The crime that one man to the gallows led
May place the crown upon another's head.

5 The noble and excellent qualities which we find in Marcus Cato are peculiarly his own; the qualities which we sometimes lament to find deficient belong to education rather than nature.

axioms and advices there are touching those proprieties and effects, which studies do infuse and instil into manners. And so likewise is there touching the use of all those other points, of company, fame, laws, and the rest, which we recited in the beginning in the doctrine of morality.

But there is a kind of culture of the mind that seemeth yet more accurate and elaborate than the rest, and is built upon this ground; that the minds of all men are at sometimes in a state more perfect, and at other times in a state more depraved. The purpose therefore of this practice is, to fix and cherish the good hours of the mind, and to obliterate and take forth the evil. The fixing of the good hath been practised by two means, vows or constant resolutions, and observances or exercises; which are not to be regarded so much in themselves, as because they keep the mind in continual obedience. The obliteration of the evil hath been practised by two means, some kind of redemption or expiation of that which is past, and an inception or account "de novo," for the time to come. But this part seemeth sacred and religious, and justly; for all good moral philosophy, as was said, is but a handmaid to religion.

Wherefore we will conclude with that last point, which is of all other means the most compendious and summary, and again, the most noble and effectual to the reducing of the mind unto virtue and good estate; which is the electing and propounding unto a man's self good and virtuous ends of his life, such as may be in a reasonable sort within his compass to attain. For if these two things be supposed, that a man set before him honest and good ends, and again, that he be resolute, constant, and true unto them; it will follow that he shall mould himself into all virtue at once. And this indeed is like the work of nature; whereas the other course is like the work of the hand. For as when a carver makes an image, he shapes only that part whereupon he worketh (as if he be upon the face, that part which shall be the body is but a rude stone still, till such time as he comes to it); but, contrariwise, when nature

1 Anew.

makes a flower or living creature, she formeth rudiments of all the parts at one time: so in obtaining virtue by habit, while a man practiseth temperance, he doth not profit much to fortitude nor the like: but when he dedicateth and applieth himself to good ends, look, what virtue soever the pursuit and passage towards those ends doth commend unto him, he is invested of a precedent disposition to conform himself thereunto. Which state of mind Aristotle doth excellently express himself, that it ought not to be called virtuous, but divine: his words are these: "Immanitati autem consentaneum est opponere eam, quæ supra humanitatem est, heroicam sive divinam virtutem :"2 and a little after, "Nam ut feræ neque vitium neque virtus est, sic neque Dei sed hic quidem status altius quiddam virtute est, ille aliud quiddam a vitio."3 And therefore we may see what celsitude of honour Plinius Secundus attributeth to Trajan in his funeral oration; where he said, "That men needed to make no other prayers to the gods, but that they would continue as good lords to them as Trajan had been;" as if he had not been only an imitation of divine nature, but a pattern of it. But these be heathen and profane passages, having but a shadow of that divine state of mind which religion and the holy faith doth conduct men unto by imprinting upon their souls charity, which is excellently called the bond of perfection, because it comprehendeth and fasteneth all virtues together. And it is elegantly said by Menander of vain love, which is but a false imitation of divine love, "Amor melior sophista lævo ad humanam vitam," that love teacheth a man to carry himself better than the sophist or preceptor; which he calleth left-handed, because, with all his rules and precepts, he cannot form a man so dexterously, nor with that facility to prize himself and govern himself as love can

2 It is the characteristic of a ferocious disposition to oppose that heroic or rather divine virtue which transcends humanity.

3 As beasts cannot be said to have vice or virtue, so neither can the gods; for as the condition of the latter is something more exalted than virtue, so that of the former is something different from vice.

4 Love is better than any tutor as a guide to human life.

do; so certainly, if a man's mind be truly inflamed with charity, it doth work him suddenly into greater perfection than all the doctrine of morality can do, which is but a sophist in comparison of the other. Nay further, as Xenophon observed truly, that all other affections, though they raise the mind, yet they do it by distorting and uncomeliness of ecstasies or excesses; but only love doth exalt the mind, and nevertheless at the same instant doth settle and compose it: so in all other excellencies, though they advance nature, yet they are subject to excess; only charity admitteth no excess. For so we see, aspiring to be like God in power, the angels transgressed and fell; "Ascendam, et ero similis altissimo:" by aspiring to be like God in knowledge, man transgressed and fell; "Eritis sicut Dii, scientes bonum et malum:"2 but by aspiring to a similitude of God in goodness or love, neither man nor angel ever transgressed, or shall transgress. For unto that imitation we are called: "Diligite inimicos vestros, benefacite eis qui oderunt vos, et orate pro persequentibus et calumniantibus vos, ut sitis filii Patris vestri qui in cœlis est, qui solem suum oriri facit super bonos et malos, et pluit super justos et injustos." So in the first platform of the divine nature itself, the heathen religion speaketh thus, "Optimus Maximus:"4 and the sacred Scriptures thus, "Misericordia ejus super omnia opera ejus."

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Wherefore I do conclude this part of moral knowledge, concerning the culture and regimen of the mind; wherein if any man, considering the parts thereof which I have enumerated, do judge that my labour is but to collect into an art or science that which hath been pretermitted by others, as matter of common sense and experience, he judgeth well. But as Philocrates sported with Demosthenes, "You may not marvel, Athenians,

1 I will mount up (to the heaven of heavens) and be like unto the Most High.

2 Ye shall be like gods knowing good and evil. 3 Love your enemies; do good to them who hate you, and pray for them who despitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be the children of your Father in heaven, who maketh his sun to rise upon the evil and the good, and sendeth his rain upon the just and upon the unjust.

4 Best and greatest.

5 His tender mercy is over all his works.

that Demosthenes and I do differ; for he drinketh water, and I drink wine;" and like as we read of an ancient parable of the two gates of sleep,

"Sunt geminæ somni portæ : quarum altera fertur Cornea, qua veris facilis datur exitus umbris: Altera candenti perfecta nitens elephanto,

Sed falsa ad cœlum mittunt insomnia manes :"6

so if we put on sobriety and attention, we shall find it a sure maxim in knowledge, that the more pleasant liquor of wine is the more vaporous, and the braver gate of ivory sendeth forth the falser dreams.

But we have now concluded that general part of human philosophy, which contemplateth man segregate, and as he consisteth of body and spirit. Wherein we may further note, that there seemeth to be a relation or conformity between the good of the mind and the good of the body. For as we divided the good of the body into health, beauty, strength, and pleasure; so the good of the mind, inquired in rational and moral knowledges, tendeth to this, to make the mind sound, and without perturbation; beautiful, and graced with decency; and strong and agile for all duties of life. These three, as in the body, so in the mind, seldom meet, and commonly sever. For it is easy to observe, that many have strength of wit and courage, but have neither health from perturbations, nor any beauty or decency in their doings: some again have an elegancy and fineness of carriage, which have neither soundness of honesty, nor substance of sufficiency: and some again have honest and reformed minds, that can neither become themselves nor manage business and sometimes two of them meet, and rarely all three. As for pleasure, we have likewise determined that the mind ought not to be reduced to stupidity, but to retain pleasure; confined rather in the subject of it, than in the strength and vigour of it.

:

Civil knowledge is conversant about a subject which of all others is most immersed in matter, and hardliest reduced to axiom. Nevertheless, as Cato the censor said, "That

6 Thus rendered by Dryden :

Two gates the silent house of sleep adorn;
Of polish'd ivory this, that of transparent horn;
True visions through transparent horn arise,
Through polish'd ivory pass deluding lies.

[graphic][merged small]

the Romans were like sheep, for that a man might better drive a flock of them, than one of them; for in a flock, if you could but get some few to go right, the rest would follow :" so in that respect moral philosophy is more difficile than policy. Again, moral philosophy propoundeth to itself the framing of internal goodness; but civil knowledge requireth only an external goodness; for that as to society sufficeth. And therefore it cometh oft to pass that there be evil times in good governments: for so we find in the holy story, when the kings were good, yet it is added, "Sed adhuc populus non dederat cor suum ad Dominum Deum patrum suorum." Again, states, as great engines, move slowly, and are not so soon put out of frame; for as in Egypt the seven good years sustained the seven bad, so governments, for a time well grounded, do bear out errors following: but the resolution of particular persons is more suddenly subverted. These respects do somewhat qualify the extreme difficulty of civil knowledge.

ניי

This knowledge hath three parts, according to the three summary actions of society: which are conversation, negotiation, and government. For man seeketh in society comfort, use, and protection: and they be three wisdoms of

1 Nevertheless the people gave not their hearts to the Lord God of their fathers.

divers natures, which do often sever: wisdom of the behaviour, wisdom of business, and wisdom of state.

The wisdom of conversation ought not to be over much affected, but much less despised; for it hath not only an honour in itself, but an influence also into business and government. The poet saith

"Nec vultu destrue verba tuo:"2

a man may destroy the force of his words with his countenance: so may he of his deeds, saith Cicero, recommending to his brother affability and easy access: "Nil interest habere ostium apertum, vultum clausum;"3 it is nothing won to admit men with an open door, and to receive them with a shut and reserved countenance. So, we see, Atticus, before the first interview between Cæsar and Cicero, the war depending, did seriously advise Cicero touching the composing and ordering of his countenance and gesture. And if the government of the countenance be of such effect, much more is that of the speech, and other carriage appertaining to conversation; the true model whereof seemeth to me well expressed by Livy, though not meant for this purpose: "Ne aut arrogans videar, aut obnoxius; quorum alte

2 Let not harsh looks your soothing words belie. 3 It is not enough to keep your door open, if your looks forbid entrance.

་1

rum est alienæ libertatis obliti, alterum suæ : the sum of behaviour is to retain a man's own dignity, without intruding upon the liberty of others. On the other side, if behaviour and outward carriage be intended too much, first it may pass into affectation, and then "quid deformius quam scenam in vitam transferre "2 (to act a man's life)? But although it proceed not to that extreme, yet it consumeth time, and employeth the mind too much. And therefore as we use to advise young students from company keeping, by saying, "Amici fures temporis:"8

so certainly the intending of the discretion of behaviour is a great thief of meditation. Again, such as are accomplished in that form of urbanity please themselves in it, and seldom aspire to higher virtue; whereas those that have defect in it do seek comeliness by reputation; for where reputation is, almost everything becometh; but where that is not, it must be supplied by punctilios, and compliments. Again, there is no greater impediment of action than an over-curious observance of decency, and the guide of decency, which is time and season. For as Solomon saith, "Qui respicit ad ventos, non seminat; et qui respicist ad nubes, non metet:"4 a man must make his opportunity, as oft as find it. To conclude; behaviour seemeth to me as a garment of the mind, and to have the conditions of a garment. For it ought to be made in fashion; it ought not to be too curious; it ought to be shaped so as to set forth any good making of the mind, and hide any deformity; and above all, it ought not to be too strait, or restrained for exercise or motion. But this part of civil know* ledge hath been elegantly handled, and therefore I cannot report it for deficient.

The wisdom touching Negotiation or Business hath not been hitherto collected into writing, to the great derogation of learning, and the professors of learning. For from this root springeth chiefly that note or opinion, which by us is expressed in adage to this

1 Lest I should seem arrogant or subservient; the former of which argues forgetfulness of the freedom of others, the latter of our own.

2 What is worse than to transfer the stage to real life.

3 Friends are thieves of time.

He that observeth the wind shall not sow; and he that regardeth the clouds shall not reap.

effect, "that there is no great concurrence between learning and wisdom." For of the three wisdoms which we have set down to pertain to civil life, for wisdom of behaviour, it is by learned men for the most part despised, as an inferior to virtue, and an enemy to meditation; for wisdom of government, they acquit themselves well when they are called to it, but that happeneth to few; but for the wisdom of business, wherein man's life is most conversant, there be no books of it, except some few scattered advertisements, that have no proportion to the magnitude of this subject. For if books were written of this, as the other, I doubt not but learned men with mean experience, would far excel men of long experience without learning, and outshoot them in their own bow.

Neither needeth it at all to be doubted, that this knowledge should be so variable as it falleth not under precept; for it is much less infinite than science of government, which, we see, is laboured and in some part reduced. Of this wisdom, it seemeth some of the ancient Romans, in the sagest and wisest times, were professors; for Cicero reporteth, that it was then in use for senators that had name and opinion for general wise men, as Coruncanius, Curius, Lælius, and many others, to walk at certain hours in the place, and to give audience to those that would use their advice; and that the particular citizens would resort unto them, and consult with them of the marriage of a daughter, or of the employing of a son, or of a purchase or bargain, or of an accusation, and every other occasion incident to man's life. So as there is a wisdom of counsel and advice even in private causes, arising out of a universal insight into the affairs of the world; which is used indeed upon particular causes propounded, but is gathered by general observation of causes of like nature. For so we see in the book which Q. Cicero writeth to his brother. "De petitione consulatus," (being the only book of business that I know written by the ancients,) although it concerned a particular action then on foot, yet the substance thereof con

5 A treatise on Consular Elections.

« PreviousContinue »