Page images

consisteth not only in a platform of justice, but in the application thereof; taking into consideration by what means laws may be made certain, and what are the causes and remedies of the doubtfulness and incertainty of law; by what means laws may be made apt and easy to be executed, and what are the impediments and remedies in the execution of laws; what influence laws touching private right of meum and tuum have into the public state, and how they may be made apt and agreeable; how laws are to be penned and delivered, whether in texts or in acts, brief or large, with preambles, or without; how they are to be pruned and reformed from time to time, and what is the best means to keep them from being too vast in volumes, or too full of multiplicity and crossness; how they are to be expounded, when upon causes emergent and judically discussed, and when upon responses and conferences touching general points or questions; how they are to be pressed, rigorously or tenderly; how they are to be mitigated by equity and good conscience, and whether discretion and strict law are to be mingled in the same courts, or kept apart in several courts; again, how the practice, profession, and erudition of law is to be censured and governed; and many other points touching the administration, and, as I may term it, animation of laws. Upon which I insist the less, because I purpose, if God give me leave, (having begun a work of this nature in aphorisms,) to propound it hereafter, noting it in the mean time for deficient.

And for your majesty's laws of England, I could say much of their dignity, and somewhat of their defect; but they cannot but excel the civil laws in fitness for the government for the civil law was non hos quæsitum munus in usus;" it was not made for the countries which it governeth: hereof I cease to speak, because I will not intermingle matter of action with matter of general learning.


THUS have I concluded this portion of learning touching civil knowledge; and with civil knowledge have concluded human philosophy; and with human philosophy, philosophy in general. And being now at some pause, looking back into that I have passed through, this writing seemeth to me, "si nunquam "fallit imago" (as far as a man can judge of his own work), not much better than that noise or sound which musicians make while they are tuning their instruments; which is nothing pleasant to hear, but yet is a cause why the music is sweeter afterwards: so have I been content to tune the instruments of the muses, that they may play that have better hands. And surely, when I set before me the condition of these times, in which learning hath made her third visitation or circuit in all the qualities thereof-as the excellency and vivacity of the wits of this age; the noble helps and lights which we have by the travails of ancient writers; the art of printing, which communicateth books to men of all fortunes; the openness of the world by navigation, which hath disclosed multitudes of experiments, and

a mass of natural history; the leisure wherewith these times abound, not employing men so generally in civil business, as the states of Græcia did, in respect of their popularity, and the state of Rome, in respect of the greatness of their monarchy; the present disposition of these times at this instant to peace; the consumption of all that ever can be said in controversies of religion, which have so much diverted men from other sciences; the perfection of your majesty's learning, which as a phoenix may call whole vollies of wits to follow you; and the inseparable propriety of time, which is ever more and more to disclose truth-I cannot but be raised to this persuasion that this third period of time will far surpass that of the Græcian and Roman learning: only if men will know their own strength, and their own weakness both; and take one from the other, light of invention, and not fire of contradiction; and esteem of the inquisition of truth as of an enterprise, and not as of a quality or ornament; and employ wit and magnificence to things of worth and excellency, and not to things vulgar and of popular estimation. As for my labours if any man shall please himself or others in the reprehension of them, they shall make that ancient and patient request, "Verbera, sed audi;" let men reprehend them, so they observe and weigh them: for the appeal is lawful, though it may be it shall not be needful, from the first cogitations of men to their second, and from the nearer times to the times farther off. Now let us come to that learning, which both the

former times were not so blessed as to know, sacred and inspired Divinity, the sabbath and port of all men's labours and peregrinations.

THE prerogative of God extendeth as well to the reason as to the will of man; so that as we are to obey his law, though we find a reluctation in our will, so we are to believe his word, though we find a reluctation in our reason. For if we believe only that which is agreeable to our sense, we give consent to the matter, and not to the author; which is no more than we would do towards a suspected and discredited witness; but that faith which was accounted to Abraham for righteousness was of such a point as whereat Sarah laughed, who therein was an image of natural reason.

Howbeit, if we will truly consider it, more worthy it is to believe than to know as we now know. For in knowledge man's mind suffereth from sense; but in belief it suffereth from spirit, such one as it holdeth for more authorised than itself, and so suffereth from the worthier agent. Otherwise it is of the state of man glorified; for then faith shall cease, and we shall know as we are known.

Wherefore we conclude that sacred Theology, (which in our idiom we call Divinity,) is grounded only upon the word and oracle of God, and not upon the light of nature: for it is written, "Cœli enarrant gloriam Dei;" but it is not written, "Cœli "enarrant voluntatem Dei:" but of that it is said, "Ad legem et testimonium: si non fecerint secun

[ocr errors]

"dum verbum istud, &c." This holdeth not only in those points of faith which concern the great mysteries of the Deity, of the creation, of the redemption, but likewise those which concern the law moral truly interpreted: Love your enemies: do good to them that hate you: be like to your heavenly Father, that suffereth his rain to fall upon the just and unjust. To this it ought to be applauded, "Nec vox hominem sonat:" it is a voice beyond the light of nature. So we see the heathen poets, when they fall upon a libertine passion, do still expostulate with laws and moralities, as if they were opposite and malignant to nature: "Et quod natura remittit, "invida jura negant." So said Dendamis the Indian unto Alexander's messengers, "That he had heard "somewhat of Pythagoras, and some other of the "wise men of Græcia, and that he held them for "excellent men: but that they had a fault, which was, "that they had in too great reverence and veneration

[ocr errors]

a thing they called law and manners." So it must be confessed, that a great part of the law moral is of that perfection, whereunto the light of nature cannot aspire: how then is it that man is said to have, by the light and law of nature, some notions and conceits of virtue and vice, justice and wrong, good and evil? Thus, because the light of nature is used in two several senses; the one, that which springeth from reason, sense, induction, argument, according to the laws of heaven and earth; the other, that which is imprinted upon the spirit of man by an inward instinct, according to the law of

« PreviousContinue »