Page images

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

[ocr errors]

"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 sanctorum 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 prophecy, which St. Jude citeth. But for contemplation which should be finished in itself, without casting beams upon society, assuredly Divinity knoweth it not.

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

[blocks in formation]

placed it in pleasure, and made virtue, (as it is used in some comedies of errors, wherein the mistress and the maid change habits,) to be but as a servant, without which pleasure cannot be served and attended, and the reformed school of the Epicureans, which placed it in serenity of mind and freedom from perturbation, (as if they would have deposed Jupiter again, and restored Saturn and the first age, when there was no summer nor winter, spring nor autumn, but all after one air and season,) and Herillus, who placed felicity in extinguishment of the disputes of the mind, making no fixed nature of good and evil, esteeming things according to the clearness of the desires, or the reluctation; which opinion was revived in the heresy of the Anabaptists, measuring things according to the motions of the spirit, and the constancy or wavering of belief: all which are manifest to tend to private repose and contentment, and not to point of society.

It censureth also the philosophy of Epictetus, which presupposeth that felicity must be placed in those things which are in our power, lest we be liable to fortune and disturbance: as if it were not a thing much more happy to fail in good and virtuous ends for the public, than to obtain all that we can wish to ourselves in our proper fortune; as Gonsalvo said to his soldiers, shewing them Naples, and protesting, "He had rather die one foot forwards, than "to have his life secured for long by one foot of "retreat." Whereunto the wisdom of that heavenly leader hath signed, who hath affirmed that a good

conscience is a continual feast: shewing plainly that the conscience of good intentions, howsoever succeeding, is a more continual joy to nature, than all the provision which can be made for security and repose.

It censureth likewise that abuse of philosophy, which grew general about the time of Epictetus, in converting it into an occupation or profession; as if the purpose had been, not to resist and extinguish perturbations, but to fly and avoid the causes of them, and to shape a particular kind and course of life to that end; introducing such an health of mind, as was that health of body of which Aristotle speaketh of Herodicus, who did nothing all his life long but intend his health: whereas if men refer themselves to duties of society, as that health of body is best, which is ablest to endure all alterations and extremities; so likewise that health of mind is most proper, which can go through the greatest temptations and perturbations. So as Diogenes's opinion is to be accepted, who commended not them which abstained, but them which sustained, and could refrain their mind "in præcipitio," and could give unto the mind, as is used in horsemanship, the shortest stop or turn.

Lastly, it censureth the tenderness and want of application in some of the most ancient and reverend philosophers and philosophical men, that did retire too easily from civil business, for avoiding of indignities and perturbations: whereas the resolution of men truly moral ought to be such as the same Gon

« PreviousContinue »