But to return to what I was upon before; we have for our part inconstancy, irresolution, incertitude, sorrow, superstition, solicitude of things to come, even after we shall be no more, ambition, avarice, jealousy, envy, irregular, frantic, and untamed appetites, war, lying, disloyalty, detraction, and curiosity. Doubtless, we have strangely overpaid this fine reason, upon which we so much glorify ourselves, and this capacity of judging and knowing, if we have bought it at the price of this infinite number of passions to which we are eternally subject. Unless we shall also think fit, as even Socrates does, to add to the counterpoise that notable prerogative above beasts, That whereas nature has prescribed them certain seasons and limits for the delights of Venus, she has given us the reins at all hours and all seasons." Ut vinum ogrotis, quia prodest rar, nocet sopissime, melius est non adhibere omnino, quam, spe dubio salutis, in apertam per-niciem incurrere; sic, haud scio an melius fuerit humano generi motum istum celerem cogitationis, acumen, solertiam, quam rationem vocamus, quoniam pestifera sint multis, ad-modum paucis saluiaria, non dari omnino, quam tam muniice et tam large dari? As it falls out that wine often hurting the sick, and very rarely doing them good, it is better not to give them any at all than to run into an apparent danger out of hope of an uncertain benefit, so I know not whether it had not been better for mankind that this quick motion, this penetration, this subtlety that we call reason, had not been given to man at all; considering how pestiferous it is to many, and useful but to few, than to have been conferred in so abundant manner, and with so liberal a hand." Of what advantage can we conceive the knowledge of so many things was to Yarro and Aristotle? Did it exempt them from human inconveniences? Were they by it freed from the accidents that lay heavy upon the shoulders of a porter? Did they extract from their logic any consolation for the gout? Or, for knowing how this humour is lodged in the joints, did they feel it the less? Did they enter into composition with death by knowing that some nations rejoice at his approach; or with cuckoldry, by knowing that in some parts of the world wives are in common? On the contrary, having been reputed the greatest men for knowledge, the one amongst the Romans and the other amongst the Greeks, and in a time when learning did most flourish, we have not heard, nevertheless, that they had any particular excellence in their lives; nay, the Greek had enough to do to clear himself from some notable blemishes in his. Have we observed that pleasure and health have a better relish with him that understands astrology and grammar than with others?
Illiterati num minus nervi rigent?
"Th' illiterate ploughman is as fit
For Venus' service as the wit:"
or shame and poverty less troublesome to the first than to the last?
Scilicet et morbis et debilitate carebis,
Et luctum et curam effugies, et tempora vit
Longa tibi post hc fato meliore dabuntur.
"Disease thy couch shall flee,
And sorrow and care; yes, thou, be sure, wilt see
Long years of happiness, till now unknown."
I have known in my time a hundred artisans, a hundred labourers, wiser and more happy than the rectors of the university, and whom I had much rather have resembled. Learning, methinks, has its place amongst the necessary, things of life, as glory, nobility, dignity, or at the most, as beauty, riches, and such other qualities, which indeed are useful to it, but remotely, and more by opinion than by nature. We stand very little more in need of offices, rules, and laws of living in our society, than cranes and ants do in theirs; and yet we see that these carry themselves very regularly without erudition. If man was wise, he would take the true value of every thing according as it was useful and proper to his life. Whoever will number us by our actions and deportments will find many more excellent men amongst the ignorant than among the learned; aye, in all sorts of virtue. Old Rome seems to me to have been of much greater value, both for peace and war, than that learned Rome that ruined itself. And, though all the rest should be equal, yet integrity and innocency would remain to the ancients, for they cohabit singularly well with simplicity. But I will leave this discourse, that would lead me farther than I am willing to follow; and shall only say this further, 'tis only humility and submission that can make a complete good man. We are not to leave the knowledge of his duty to every man's own judgment; we are to prescribe it to him, and not suffer him to choose it at his own discretion; otherwise, according to the imbecility, and infinite variety of our reasons and opinions, we should at large forge ourselves duties that would, as Epicurus says, enjoin us to eat one another.
The first law that ever God gave to man was a law of pure obedience; it was a commandment naked and simple, wherein man had nothing to inquire after, nor to dispute; forasmuch as to obey is the proper office of a rational soul, acknowledging a heavenly superior and benefactor. From obedience and submission spring all other virtues, as all sin does from selfopinion. And, on the contrary, the first temptation that by the devil was offered to human nature, its first poison insinuated itself into us by the promise made us of knowledge and wisdom; Eritis sicut Dii, scientes bonum et malum. "Ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil." And the sirens, in Homer, to allure Ulysses, and draw him within the danger of their snares, offered to give him knowledge. The plague of man is the opinion of wisdom; and for this reason it is that ignorance is so recommended to us, by our religion, as proper to faith and obedience; Cavete ne quis vos decipiat per philosophiam et inanes seductiones, secundum elementa mundi. "Take heed, lest any man deceive you by philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, and the rudiments of the world." There is in this a general consent amongst all sorts of philosophers, that the sovereign good consists in the tranquillity of the soul and body; but where shall we find it?
Ad summum, sapiens uno minor est Jove, dives,
Liber, honoratus, pulcher, rex deniqne regum;
Prcipue sanus, nisi cum pituita molesta est:
"In short, the wise is only less than Jove,
Rich, free, and handsome; nay, a king above
All earthly kings; with health supremely blest,
Excepting when a cold disturbs his rest!"
It seems, in truth, that nature, for the consolation of our miserable and wretched state, has only given us presumption for our inheritance. 'Tis as Epictetus says, that man has nothing properly his own, but the use of his opinion; we have nothing but wind and smoke for our portion. The gods have health in essence, says philosophy, and sickness in intelligence. Man, on the contrary, possesses his goods by fancy, his ills in essence. We have reason to magnify the power of our imagination; for all our goods are only in dream. Hear this poor calamitous animal huff! "There is nothing," says Cicero, "so charming as the employment of letters; of letters, I say, by means whereof the infinity of things, the immense grandeur of nature, the heavens even in this world, the earth, and the seas are discovered to us; 'tis they that have taught us religion, moderation, and the grandeur of courage, and that have rescued our souls from darkness, to make her see all things, high, low, first, last, and middling; 'tis they that furnish us wherewith to live happily and well, and conduct us to pass over our lives without displeasure, and without offence." Does not this man seem to speak of the condition of the ever-living and almighty God? But as to effects, a thousand little countrywomen have lived lives more equal, more sweet, and constant than his.
Deus ille fuit, deus, inclyte Memmi,
Qui princeps vit rationem invenit earn, qu
Nunc appellatur sapientia; quique per artem
Fluctibus tantis vitam, tantisque tenebris,
In tam tranquilla et tam clara luce locavit:
"That god, great Memmus, was a god no doubt
Who, prince of life, first found that reason out
Now wisdom called; and by his art, who did
That life in tempests tost, and darkness hid,
Place in so great a calm, and clear a light:"
here are brave ranting words; but a very slight accident put this man's understanding in a worse condition than that of the meanest shepherd, notwithstanding this instructing god, this divine wisdom. Of the same stamp and impudence is the promise of Democritus's book: "I am going to speak of all things;" and that foolish title that Aristotle prefixes to one of his, order only afforded him a few lucid intervals which he employed in composing his book, and at last made him kill himself,—Eusebius's Chronicon.
Of the Mortal Gods; and the judgment of Chrysippus, that "Dion was as virtuous as God;" and my Seneca himself says, that "God had given him life; but that to live well was his own;" conformably to this other: In virtute vere gloriamur; quod non contingeret, si id donum Deo, non nobis haberemus: "We truly glory in our virtue; which would not be, if it was given us of God, and not by ourselves;" this is also Seneca's saying; "that the wise man hath fortitude equal with God, but that his is in spite of human frailty, wherein therefore he more than equals God." There is nothing so ordinary as to meet with sallies of the like temerity; there is none of us, who take so much offence to see himself equalled with God, as he does to see himself undervalued by being ranked with other creatures; so much more are we jealous of our own interest than that of our Creator.
But we must trample under foot this foolish vanity, and briskly and boldly shake the ridiculous foundation upon which these false opinions are founded. So long as man shall believe he has any means and power of himself, he will never acknowledge what he owes to his Maker; his eggs shall always be chickens, as the saying is; we must therefore strip him to his shirt. Let us see some notable examples of the effects of his philosophy: Posidonius being tormented with a disease so painful as made him writhe his arms and gnash his teeth, thought he sufficiently scorned the dolour, by crying out against it: "Thou mayst do thy worst, I will not confess that thou art an evil." He was as sensible of the pain as my footman, but he made a bravado of bridling his tongue, at least, and restraining it within the laws of his sect: Re succumbere non oportebat, verbis gloriantem. "It did not become him, that spoke so big, to confess his frailty when he came to the test." Arcesilas being ill of the gout, and Car-neades, who had come to see him, going away troubled at his condition, he called him back, and showing him his feet and breast: "There is nothing comes thence hither," said he. This has something a better grace, for he feels himself in pain, and would be disengaged from it; but his heart, notwithstanding, is not conquered nor subdued by it. The other stands more obstinately to his point, but, I fear, rather verbally than really. And Dionysius Heracleotes, afflicted with a vehement smarting in his eyes, was reduced to quit these stoical resolutions. But even though knowledge should, in effect, do as they say, and could blunt the point, and dull the edge, of the misfortunes that attend us, what does she, more than what ignorance does more purely and evidently?—The philosopher Pyrrho, being at sea in very great danger, by reason of a mighty storm, presented nothing to the imitation of those who were with him, in that extremity, but a hog they had on board, that was fearless and unconcerned at the tempest. Philosophy, when she has said all she can, refers us at last to the example of a gladiator, wrestler, or muleteer, in which sort of people we commonly observe much less apprehension of death, sense of pain, and other inconveniences, and more of endurance, than ever knowledge furnished any one withal, that was not bom and bred to hardship. What is the cause that we make incisions, and cut the tender limbs of an infant, and those of a horse, more easily than our own—but ignorance only? How many has mere force of imagination made sick? We often see men cause themselves to be let blood, purged, and physicked, to be cured of diseases they only feel in opinion.—When real infirmities fail us, knowledge lends us her's; that colour, that complexion, portend some catarrhous defluxion; this hot season threatens us with a fever; this breach in the life-line of your left hand gives you notice of some near and dangerous indisposition; and at last she roundly attacks health itself; saying, this sprightliness and vigour of youth cannot continue in this posture; there must be blood taken, and the heat abated, lest it turn against yourself. Compare the life of a man subjected to such imaginations, to that of a labourer that suffers himself to be led by his natural appetite, measuring things only by the present sense, without knowledge, and without prognostic, that feels no pain or sickness, but when he is really ill. Whereas the other has the stone in his soul, before he has it in his bladder; as if it were not time enough to suffer the evil when it shall come, he must anticipate it by fancy, and run to meet it.
What I say of physic may generally serve in example for all other sciences. Thence is derived that ancient opinion of the philosophers that placed the sovereign good in the discovery of the weakness of our judgment My ignorance affords me as much occasion of hope as of fear; and having no other rule for my health than that of the examples of others, and of events I see elsewhere upon the like occasion, I find of all sorts, and rely upon those which by comparison are most favourable to me. I receive health with open arms, free, full, and entire, and by so much the more whet my appetite to enjoy it, by how much it is at present less ordinary and more rare; so far am I from troubling its repose and sweetness with the bitterness of a new and constrained manner of living. Beasts sufficiently show us how much the agitation of our minds brings infirmities and diseases upon us. That which is told us of those of Brazil, that they never die but of old age, is attributed to the serenity and tranquillity of the air they live in; but I rather attribute it to the serenity and tranquillity of their souls, free from all passion, thought, or employment, extended or unpleasing, a people that pass over their lives in a wonderful simplicity and ignorance, without letters, without law, without king, or any manner of religion. And whence comes that, which we find by experience, that the heaviest and dullest men are most able; and the most to be desired in amorous performances; and that the love of a muleteer often renders itself more acceptable than that of a gentleman, if it be not that the agitation of the soul in the latter disturbs his physical ability, dissolves and tires it, as it also ordinarily troubles and tires itself. What puts the soul beside itself, and more usually throws it into madness, but her own promptness, vigour, and agility, and, finally, her own proper force? Of what is the most subtle folly made, but of the most subtle wisdom? As great friendships spring from great enmities, and vigorous health from mortal diseases, so from the rare and vivid agitations of our souls proceed the most wonderful and most distracted frenzies; 'tis but half a turn of the toe from the one to the other. In the actions of madmen we see how infinitely madness resembles the most vigorous operations of the soul. Who does not know how indiscernible the difference is betwixt folly and the sprightly elevations of a free soul, and the effects of a supreme and extraordinary virtue? Plato says that melancholy persons are the most capable of discipline, and the most excellent; and accordingly in none is there so great a propension to madness. Great wits are ruined by their own proper force and pliability; into what a condition, through his own agitation and promptness of fancy, is one of the most judicious, ingenious, and nearest formed, of any other Italian poet, to the air of the ancient and true poesy, lately fallen! Has he not vast obligation to this vivacity that has destroyed him? to this light that has blinded him? to this exact and subtle apprehension of reason that has put him beside his own? to this curious and laborious search after sciences, that has reduced him to imbecility? and to this rare aptitude to the exercises of the soul, that has rendered him without exercise and without soul? I was more angry, if possible, than compassionate, to see him at Ferrara in so pitiful a condition surviving himself, forgetting both himself and his works, which, without his knowledge, though before his face, have been published unformed and incorrect.
Would you have a man healthy, would you have him regular, and in a steady and secure posture? Muffle him up in the shades of stupidity and sloth. We must be made beasts to be made wise, and hoodwinked before we are fit to be led. And if one shall tell me that the advantage of having a cold and dull sense of pain and other evils, brings this disadvantage along with it, to render us consequently less sensible also in the fruition of good and pleasure, this is true; but the misery of our condition is such that we have not so much to enjoy as to avoid, and that the extremest pleasure does not affect us to the degree that a light grief does: Segnius homines bona quam mala sentiunt. We are not so sensible of the most perfect health as we are of the least sickness.
In cute vix sum ma violatum plagula corpus;
Quando valere nihil quemquam movet. Hoc juvat unum,
Quod me non torquet latus, aut pes;
Ctera quisquam Vix queat aut sanum sese, aut sentire valentem.
"The body with a little sting is griev'd,
When the most perfect health is not perceiv'd,
This only pleases me, that spleen nor gout
Neither offend my side nor wring my foot;
Excepting these, scarce any one can tell,
Or e'er observes, when he's in health and well."
Our well-being is nothing but the not being ill. Which is the reason why that sect of philosophers, which sets the greatest value upon pleasure, has yet fixed it chiefly in unconsciousness of pain. To be freed from ill is the greatest good that man can hope for or desire; as Ennius says,—
Nimium boni est, cui nihil est mali;
for that every tickling and sting which are in certain pleasures, and that seem to raise us above simple health and passiveness, that active, moving, and, I know not how, itching, and biting pleasure; even that very pleasure itself aims at nothing but insensibility as its mark. The appetite that carries us headlong to women's embraces has no other end but only to cure the torment of our ardent and furious desires, and only requires to be glutted and laid at rest, and delivered from the fever. And so of the rest. I say, then, that if simplicity conducts us to a state free from evil, she leads us to a very happy one according to our condition. And yet we are not to imagine it so stupid an insensibility as to be totally without sense; for Crantor had very good reason to controvert the insensibility of Epicurus, if founded so deep that the very first attack and birth of evils were not to be perceived: "I do not approve such an insensibility as is neither possible nor to be desired. I am very well content not to be sick; but if I am, I would know that I am so; and if a caustic be applied, or incisions made in any part, I would feel them." In truth, whoever would take away the knowledge and sense of evil, would at the same time eradicate the sense of pleasure, and finally annihilate man himself: Istud nihil dolere, non sine magn mercede contingit, immanitatis in animo, stuporis in corpore. "An insensibility that is not to be purchased but at the price of inhumanity in the soul, and of stupidity of the body." Evil appertains to man of course. Neither is pain always to be avoided, nor pleasure always pursued.
'Tis a great advantage to the honour of ignorance that knowledge itself throws us into its arms, when she finds herself puzzled to fortify us against the weight of evil; she is constrained to come to this composition, to give us the reins, and permit us to fly into the lap of the other, and to shelter ourselves under her protection from the strokes and injuries of fortune. For what else is her meaning when she instructs us to divert our thoughts from the ills that press upon us, and entertain them with the meditation of pleasures past and gone; to comfort ourselves in present afflictions with the remembrance of fled delights, and to call to our succour a vanished satisfaction, to oppose it to the discomfort that lies heavy upon us? Levationes gritudinum in avocatione a cogitand molesti, et revocation ad contemplandas voluptates, ponit; "He directs us to alleviate our grief and pains by rejecting unpleasant thoughts, and recalling agreeable ideas;" if it be not that where her power fails she would supply it with policy, and make use of sleight of hand where force of limbs will not serve her turn? For not only to a philosopher, but to any man in his right wits, when he has upon him the thirst of a burning fever, what satisfaction can it be to him to remember the pleasure he took in drinking Greek wine a month ago? It would rather only make matters worse to him:—
Che ricordarsi il ben doppia la noia.
"The thinking of pleasure doubles trouble."
Of the same stamp is this other counsel that philosophy gives, only to remember the happiness that is past, and to forget the misadventures we have undergone; as if we had the science of oblivion in our own power, and counsel, wherein we are yet no more to seek.
Suavis laborum est prteritorum rmoria.
"Sweet is the memory of by-gone pain."
How does philosophy, that should arm me to contend with fortune, and steel my courage to trample all human adversities under foot, arrive to this degree of cowardice to make me hide my head at this rate, and save myself by these pitiful and ridiculous shifts? For the memory represents to us not what we choose, but what she pleases; nay, there is nothing that so much imprints any thing in our memory as a desire to forget it. And 'tis a good way to retain and keep any thing safe in the soul to solicit her to lose it. And this is false: Est situm in nobis, ut et adversa quasi perpetua oblivione obruamus, et secunda jucunde et suaviter meminerimus; "it is in our power to bury, as it were, in a perpetual oblivion, all adverse accidents, and to retain a pleasant and delightful memory of our successes;" and this is true: Memini etiam quo nolo; oblivisci non possum quo volo. "I do also remember what I would not; but I cannot forget what I would." And whose counsel is this? His, qui se unies sapiervtem profiteri sit ausus; "who alone durst profess himself a wise man."
Qui genus humanum ingenio superavit, et omnes
Prstinxit stellas, exortus uti thereus Sol.
"Who from mankind the prize of knowledge won,
And put the stars out like the rising sun."
To empty and disfurnish the memory, is not this the true way to ignorance?
Iners malorum remedium ignorantia est.
"Ignorance is but a dull remedy for evils."
We find several other like precepts, whereby we are permitted to borrow frivolous appearances from the vulgar, where we find the strongest reason will not answer the purpose, provided they administer satisfaction and comfort Where they cannot cure the wound, they are content to palliate and benumb it I believe they will not deny this, that if they could add order and constancy in a state of life that could maintain itself in ease and pleasure by some debility of judgment, they would accept it:—
Potare, et spargere flores
Incipiam, patiarque vel inconsultus haberi.
"Give me to drink, and, crown'd with flowers, despise
The grave disgrace of being thought unwise."
There would be a great many philosophers of Lycas's mind this man, being otherwise of very regular manners, living quietly and contentedly in his family, and not failing in any office of his duty, either towards his own or strangers, and very carefully preserving himself from hurtful things, became, nevertheless, by some distemper in his brain, possessed with a conceit that he was perpetually in the theatre, a spectator of the finest sights and the best comedies in the world; and being cured by the physicians of his frenzy, was hardly prevented from endeavouring by suit to compel them to restore him again to his pleasing imagination:—
Pol I me occidistis, amici,
Non servastis, ait; cui sic extorta voluptas,
Et demptus per vim mentis gratissimus error;
"By heaven! you've killed me, friends, outright,
And not preserved me; since my dear delight
And pleasing error, by my better sense
Unhappily return'd, is banished hence;"
with a madness like that of Thrasylaus the son of Pythodorus, who made himself believe that all the ships that weighed anchor from the port of Pirus, and that came into the haven, only made their voyages for his profit; congratulating them upon their successful navigation, and receiving them with the greatest joy; and when his brother Crito caused him to be restored to his better understanding, he infinitely regretted that sort of condition wherein he had lived with so much delight and free from all anxiety of mind. 'Tis according to the old Greek verse, that "there is a great deal of convenience in not being over-wise."
And Ecclesiastes, "In much wisdom there is much sorrow;" and "Who gets wisdom gets labour and trouble."
Even that to which philosophy consents in general, that last remedy which she applies to all sorts of necessities, to put an end to the life we are not able to endure. Placet?—Pare. Non placet?—Qucumque vis, exi. Pungit dolor?—Vel fodiat sane. Si nudus es, da jugulum; sin tectus armis Vulcaniis, id est fortitudine, rsist; "Does it please?—Obey it. Not please?—Go where thou wilt. Does grief prick thee,—nay, stab thee?—If thou art naked, present thy throat; if covered with the arms of Vulcan, that is, fortitude, resist it." And this word, so used in the Greek festivals, aut bibat, aut abeat, "either drink or go," which sounds better upon the tongue of a Gascon, who naturally changes the h into v, than on that of Cicero:—
Vivere si recte nescis, decede peritis.
Lusisti satis, edisti satis, atque bibisti;
Tempus abire tibi est, ne potum largius quo
Rideat et pulset lasciva decentius tas.
"If to live well and right thou dost not know,
Give way, and leave thy place to those that do.
Thou'st eaten, drunk, and play'd to thy content,
'Tis time to make thy parting compliment,
Lest youth, more decent in their follies, scoff
The nauseous scene, and hiss thee reeling off;"
What is it other than a confession of his impotency, and a sending back not only to ignorance, to be there in safety, but even to stupidity, insensibility, and nonentity?
Democritum postquam matura vetustas
Admonuit memorem motus languescere mentis;
Sponte sua letho caput obvius obtulit ipse.
"Soon as, through age, Democritus did find
A manifest decadence in his mind,
He thought he now surviv'd to his own wrong,
And went to meet his death, that stay'd too long."
'Tis what Antisthenes said, "That a man should either make provision of sense to understand, or of a halter to hang himself;" and what Chrysippus alleged upon this saying of the poet Tyrtus:—
"Or to arrive at virtue or at death;"
and Crates said, "That love would be cured by hunger, if not by time; and whoever disliked these two remedies, by a rope." That Sextius, of whom both Seneca and Plutarch speak with so high an encomium, having applied himself, all other things set aside, to the study of philosophy, resolved to throw himself into the sea, seeing the progress of his studies too tedious and slow. He ran to find death, since he could not overtake knowledge. These are the words of the law upon the subject: "If peradventure some great inconvenience happen, for which there is no remedy, the haven is near, and a man may save himself by swimming out of his body as out of a leaky skiff; for 'tis the fear of dying, and not the love of life, that ties the fool to his body."
As life renders itself by simplicity more pleasant, so more innocent and better, also it renders it as I was saying before: "The simple and ignorant," says St. Paul, "raise themselves up to heaven and take possession of it; and we, with all our knowledge, plunge ourselves into the infernal abyss." I am neither swayed by Valentinian, a professed enemy to all learning and letters, nor by Licinius, both Roman emperors, who called them the poison and pest of all political government; nor by Mahomet, who, as 'tis said, interdicted all manner of learning to his followers; but the example of the great Lycurgus, and his authority, with the reverence of the divine Lacedemonian policy, so great, so admirable, and so long flourishing in virtue and happiness, without any institution or practice of letters, ought certainly to be of very great weight. Such as return from the new world discovered by the Spaniards in our fathers' days, testify to us how much more honestly and regularly those nations live, without magistrate and without law, than ours do, where there are more officers and lawyers than there are of other sorts of men and business:—
Di cittatorie piene, e di libelli,
D'esamine, e di carte di procure,
Hanno le mani e il seno, e gran fastelli
Di chioge, di consigli, et di letture:
Per cui le faculta de* poverelli
Non sono mai nelle citt sicure;
Hanno dietro e dinanzi, e d'ambi i lati,
Notai, procuratori, ed avvocati.
"Their bags were full of writs, and of citations,
Of process, and of actions and arrests,
Of bills, of answers, and of replications,
In courts of delegates, and of requests,
To grieve the simple sort with great vexations;
They had resorting to them as their guests,
Attending on their circuit, and their journeys,
Scriv'ners, and clerks, and lawyers, and attorneys."
It was what a Roman senator of the latter ages said, that their predecessors' breath stunk of garlic, but their stomachs were perfumed with a good conscience; and that, on the contrary, those of his time were all sweet odour without, but stunk within of all sorts of vices; that is to say, as I interpret it, that they abounded with learning and eloquence, but were very defective in moral honesty. Incivility, ignorance, simplicity, roughness, are the natural companions of innocence; curiosity, subtlety, knowledge, bring malice in their train; humility, fear, obedience, and affability, which are the principal things that support and maintain human society, require an empty and docile soul, and little presuming upon itself.
Christians have a particular knowledge, how natural and original an evil curiosity is in man; the thirst of knowledge, and the desire to become more wise, was the first ruin of man, and the way by which he precipitated himself into eternal damnation. Pride was his ruin and corruption. 'Tis pride that diverts him from the common path, and makes him embrace novelties, and rather choose to be head of a troop, lost and wandering in the path of error; to be a master and a teacher of lies, than to be a disciple in the school of truth, suffering himself to be led and guided by the hand of another, in the right and beaten road. 'Tis, peradventure, the meaning of this old Greek saying, that superstition follows pride, and obeys it as if it were a father: [—Greek—] Ah, presumption, how much dost thou hinder us?
After that Socrates was told that the god of wisdom had assigned to him the title of sage, he was astonished at it, and, searching and examining himself throughout, could find no foundation for this divine judgment. He knew others as just, temperate, valiant, and learned, as himself; and more eloquent, more handsome, and more profitable to their country than he. At last he concluded that he was not distinguished from others, nor wise, but only because he did not think himself so; and that his God considered the opinion of knowledge and wisdom as a singular absurdity in man; and that his best doctrine was the doctrine of ignorance, and simplicity his best wisdom. The sacred word declares those miserable among us who have an opinion of themselves: "Dust and ashes," says it to such, "what hast thou wherein to glorify thyself?" And, in another place, "God has made man like unto a shadow," of whom who can judge, when by removing the light it shall be vanished! Man is a thing of nothing.
Our force is so far from being able to comprehend the divine height, that, of the works of our Creator, those best bear his mark, and are with better title his, which we the least understand. To meet with an incredible thing is an occasion to Christians to believe; and it is so much the more according to reason, by how much it is against human reason. If it were according to reason, it would be no more a miracle; and if it were according to example, it would be no longer a singular thing. Melius scitur Deus nesdendo: "God is better known by not knowing him," says St. Austin: and Tacitus, Sanctius est ac reverentius de actis Deorum credere, quam scire; "it is more holy and reverent to believe the works of God than to know them;" and Plato thinks there is something of impiety in inquiring too curiously into God, the world, and the first causes of things: Atque illum quidem parentem hujus universitaiis invenire, difficile; et, quum jam inveneris, indicare in vulgtis, nefas: "to find out the parent of the world is very difficult; and when found out, to reveal him to the vulgar is sin," says Cicero. We talk indeed of power, truth, justice; which are words that signify some great thing; but that thing we neither see nor conceive at all. We say that God fears, that God is angry, that God loves,
Immortalia mortali sermone notantes:
"Giving to things immortal mortal names."
These are all agitations and emotions that cannot be in God, according to our form, nor can we imagine them, according to his. It only belongs to God to know himself, and to interpret his own works; and he does it in our language, going out of himself, to stoop to us who grovel upon the earth. How can prudence, which is the choice between good and evil, be properly attributed to him whom no evil can touch? How can reason and intelligence, which we make use of, to arrive by obscure at apparent things; seeing that nothing is obscure to him? How justice, which distributes to every one what appertains to him, a thing begot by the society and community of men, how is that in God? How temperance, which is the moderation of corporal pleasures, that have no place in the Divinity? Fortitude to support pain, labour, and dangers, as little appertains to him as the rest; these three things have no access to him. For which reason Aristotle holds him equally exempt from virtue and vice: Neque gratia, neque ira teneri potest; quod quo talia essent, imbecilla essent omnia? "He can neither be affected with favour nor indignation, because both these are the effects of frailty."
The participation we have in the knowledge of truth, such as it is, is not acquired by our own force: God has sufficiently given us to understand that, by the witnesses he has chosen out of the common people, simple and ignorant men, that he has been pleased to employ to instruct us in his admirable secrets. Our faith is not of our own acquiring; 'tis purely the gift of another's bounty: 'tis not by meditation, or by virtue of our own understanding, that we have acquired our religion, but by foreign authority and command wherein the imbecility of our own judgment does more assist us than any force of it; and our blindness more than our clearness of sight: 'tis more by__ the mediation of our ignorance than of our knowledge that we know any thing of the divine wisdom. 'Tis no wonder if our natural and earthly parts cannot conceive that supernatural and heavenly knowledge: let us bring nothing of our own, but obedience and subjection; for, as it is written, "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this world? Hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For after that, in the wisdom of God, the world knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe."
Finally, should I examine whether it be in the power of man to find out that which he seeks and if that quest, wherein he has busied himself so many ages, has enriched him with any new force, or any solid truth; I believe he will confess, if he speaks from his conscience, that all he has got by so long inquiry is only to have learned to know his own weakness. We have only by a long study confirmed and verified the natural ignorance we were in before. The same has fallen out to men truly wise, which befalls the ears of corn; they shoot and raise their heads high and pert, whilst empty; but when full and swelled with grain in maturity, begin to flag and droop. So men, having tried and sounded all things, and having found in that mass of knowledge, and provision of so many various things, nothing solid and firm, and nothing but vanity, have quitted their presumption, and acknowledged their natural condition. 'Tis what Velleius reproaches Cotta withal and Cicero, "that they had learned of Philo, that they had learned nothing." Pherecydes, one of the seven sages, writing to Thales upon his death-bed; "I have," said he, "given order to my people, after my interment, to carry my writings to thee. If they please thee and the other sages, publish; if not, suppress them. They contain no certainty with which I myself am satisfied. Neither do I pretend to know the truth, or to attain to it. I rather open than discover things." The wisest man that ever was, being asked what he knew, made answer, "He knew this, that he knew nothing." By which he verified what has been said, that the greatest part of what we know is the least of what we do not; that is to say, that even what we think we know is but a piece, and a very little one, of our ignorance. We know things in dreams, says Plato, and are ignorant of them in truth. Ormes pene veteres nihil cognosci, nihil percipi, nihil sciri posse dixerunt; angustos sensus, imbecilles animos, brevia curricula vito. "Almost all the ancients have declared that there is nothing to be known, nothing to be perceived or understood; the senses are too limited, men's minds too weak, and the course of life too short." And of Cicero himself, who stood indebted to his learning for all he was worth, Valerius says, "That he began to disrelish letters in his old age; and when at his studies, it was with great independency upon any one party; following what he thought probable, now in one sect, and then in another, evermore wavering under the doubts of the academy." Dicendum est, sed ita ut nihil affirment, quceram omnia, dubitans plerumque, et mihi diffidens. "Something I must say, but so as to affirm nothing; I inquire into all things, but for the most part in doubt and distrust of myself."