Essays book 2

When philosophers search narrowly into the hierarchy of their gods, and make a great bustle about distinguishing their alliances, offices, and power, I cannot believe they speak as they think. When Plato describes Pluto's orchard to us, and the bodily conveniences or pains that attend us after the ruin and annihilation of our bodies, and accommodates them to the feeling we have in this life:—

Secreti celant calles, et myrtea circum
Sylva tegit; cur non ips in morte relinquunt;

"In secret vales and myrtle groves they lie,
Nor do cares leave them even when they die."

when Mahomet promises his followers a Paradise hung with tapestry, gilded and enamelled with gold and precious stones, furnished with wenches of excelling beauty, rare wines, and delicate dishes; it is easily discerned that these are deceivers that accommodate their promises to our sensuality, to attract and allure us by hopes and opinions suitable to our mortal appetites. And yet some amongst us are fallen into the like error, promising to themselves after the resurrection a terrestrial and temporal life, accompanied with all sorts of worldly conveniences and pleasures. Can we believe that Plato, he who had such heavenly conceptions, and was so well acquainted with the Divinity as thence to derive the name of the Divine Plato, ever thought that the poor creature, man, had any thing in him applicable to that incomprehensible power? and that he believed that the weak holds we are able to take were capable, or the force of our understanding sufficient, to participate of beatitude or eternal pains? We should then tell him from human reason: "If the pleasures thou dost promise us in the other life are of the same kind that I have enjoyed here below, this has nothing in common with infinity; though all my five natural senses should be even loaded with pleasure, and my soul full of all the contentment it could hope or desire, we know what all this amounts to, all this would be nothing; if there be any thing of mine there, there is nothing divine; if this be no more than what may belong to our present condition, it cannot be of any value. All contentment of mortals is mortal. Even the knowledge of our parents, children, and friends, if that can affect and delight us in the other world, if that still continues a satisfaction to us there, we still remain in earthly and finite conveniences. We cannot as we ought conceive the greatness of these high and divine promises, if we could in any sort conceive them; to have a worthy imagination of them we must imagine them unimaginable, inexplicable, and incomprehensible, and absolutely another thing than those of our miserable experience." "Eye hath not seen," saith St. Paul, "nor ear heard, neither hath entered into the heart of man, the things that God hath prepared for them that love him." And if, to render us capable, our being were reformed and changed (as thou, Plato, sayest, by thy purifications), it ought to be so extreme and total a change, that by physical doctrine it be no more us;—

Hector erat tunc cum bello certabat; at ille
Tractus ab monio non erat Hector eqao;

He Hector was whilst he could fight, but when
Dragg'd by Achilles' steeds, no Hector then;

it must be something else that must receive these recompenses:—

Quod mutatur... dissolvitur; interit ergo;
Trajiciuntur enim partes, atque ordine migrant.

"Things changed dissolved are, and therefore die;
Their parts are mix'd, and from their order fly."

For in Pythagoras's metempsychosis, and the change of habitation that he imagined in souls, can we believe that the lion, in whom the soul of Csar is enclosed, does espouse Csar's passions, or that the lion is he? For if it was still Csar, they would be in the right who, controverting this opinion with Plato, reproach him that the son might be seen to ride his mother transformed into a mule, and the like absurdities. And can we believe that in the mutations that are made of the bodies of animals into others of the same kind, the new comers are not other than their predecessors? From the ashes of a phoenix, a worm, they say, is engendered, and from that another phoenix; who can imagine that this second phoenix is no other than the first? We see our silk-worms, as it were, die and wither; and from this withered body a butterfly is produced; and from that another worm; how ridiculous would it be to imagine that this was still the first! That which once has ceased to be is no more:—

Nec, si materiam nostram collegerit tas
Post obitum, rursumque redegerit, ut sita nunc est,
Atque iterum nobis fuerint data lumina vit,
Pertineat quidquam tamen ad nos id quoque factum,
Interrupta semel cum sit repetentia nostra.

"Neither tho' time should gather and restore
Our matter to the form it was before,
And give again new light to see withal,
Would that new figure us concern at all;
Or we again ever the same be seen,
Our being having interrupted been."

And, Plato, when thou sayest in another place that it shall be the spiritual part of man that will be concerned in the fruition of the recompense of another life, thou tellest us a thing wherein there is as little appearance of truth:—

Scilicet, avolsis radicibus, ut nequit ullam
Dispicere ipsa oculus rem, seorsum corpore toto;

"No more than eyes once from their optics torn,
Can ever after any thing discern;"

for, by this account, it would no more be man, nor consequently us, who would be concerned in this enjoyment; for we are composed of two principal essential parts, the separation of which is the death and ruin of our being:—

Inter enim jecta est vital pausa, vageque
Deerrarunt passim motus ab sensibus omnes;

"When once that pause of life is come between,
'Tis just the same as we had never been;"

we cannot say that the man suffers when the worms feed upon his members, and that the earth consumes them:—

Et nihil hoc ad nos, qui coltu conjugioque
Corporis atque anim consistimus uniter apti.

"What's that to us? for we are only we,
While soul and body in one frame agree."

Moreover, upon what foundation of their justice can the gods take notice of or reward man after his death and virtuous actions, since it was themselves that put them in the way and mind to do them? And why should they be offended at or punish him for wicked ones, since themselves have created in him so frail a condition, and when, with one glance of their will, they might prevent him from falling? Might not Epicurus, with great colour of human reason, object this to Plato, did he not often save himself with this sentence: "That it is impossible to establish any thing certain of the immortal nature by the mortal?" She does nothing but err throughout, but especially when she meddles with divine things. Who does more evidently perceive this than we? For although we have given her certain and infallible principles; and though we have enlightened her steps with the sacred lamp of truth that it has pleased God to communicate to us; we daily see, nevertheless, that if she swerve never so little from the ordinary path; and that she stray from, or wander out of the way set out and beaten by the church, how soon she loses, confounds and fetters herself, tumbling and floating in this vast, turbulent, and waving sea of human opinions, without restraint, and without any determinate end; so soon as she loses that great and common road, she enters into a labyrinth of a thousand several paths.

Man cannot be any thing but what he is, nor imagine beyond the reach of his capacity. "Tis a greater presumption," says Plutarch, "in them who are but men to attempt to speak and discourse of the gods and demi-gods than it is in a man utterly ignorant of music to give an opinion of singing; or in a man who never saw a camp to dispute about arms and martial affairs, presuming by some light conjecture to understand the effects of an art he is totally a stranger to." Antiquity, I believe, thought to put a compliment upon, and to add something to, the divine grandeur in assimilating it to man, investing it with his faculties, and adorning it with his ugly humours and most shameful necessities; offering it our aliments to eat, presenting it with our dances, mummeries, and farces, to divert it; with our vestments to cover it, and our houses to inhabit, coaxing it with the odour of incense and the sounds of music, with festoons and nosegays; and to accommodate it to our vicious passions, flattering its justice with inhuman vengeance, and with the ruin and dissipation of things by it created and preserved as Tiberius Sempronius, who burnt the rich spoils and arms he had gained from the enemy in Sardinia for a sacrifice to Vulcan; and Paulus milius, those of Macedonia, to Mars and Minerva; and Alexander, arriving at the Indian Ocean, threw several great vessels of gold into the sea, in honour of Thetes; and moreover loading her altars with a slaughter not of innocent beasts only, but of men also, as several nations, and ours among the rest, were commonly used to do; and I believe there is no nation under the sun that has not done the same:—

Sulmone creatos
Quatuor hc juvenes, totidem quos educat Ufens,
Viventes rapit, inferias quos immolet umbris.

"Four sons of Sulmo, four whom Ufens bred,
He took in flight, and living victims led,
To please the ghost of Pallas, and expire
In sacrifice before his fun'ral pyre."

The Get hold themselves to be immortal, and that their death is nothing but a journey to their god Zamolxis. Every five years they dispatch some one among them to him, to entreat of him such necessaries as they stand in need of. This envoy is chosen by lot, and the form of dispatching him, after he has been instructed by word of mouth what he is to deliver, is that of the assistants, three hold up as many javelins, upon which the rest throw his body with all their force. If he happen to be wounded in a mortal part, and that he immediately dies, 'tis held a certain argument of divine favour; but if he escapes, he is looked upon as a wicked and execrable wretch, and another is dismissed after the same manner in his stead. Amestris, the mother of Xerxes, being grown old, caused at once fourteen young men, of the best families of Persia, to be buried alive, according to the religion of the country, to gratify some infernal deity. And even to this day the idols of Themixtitan are cemented with the blood of little children, and they delight in no sacrifice but of these pure and infantine souls; a justice thirsty of innocent blood:—

Tantum religio potuit suadere maloram.

"Such impious use was of religion made,
So many demon acts it could persuade."

The Carthaginians immolated their own children to Saturn; and those who had none of their own bought of others, the father and mother being in the mean time obliged to assist at the ceremony with a gay and contented countenance.

It was a strange fancy to think to gratify the divine bounty with our afflictions; like the Lacedemonians, who regaled their Diana with the tormenting of young boys, whom they caused to be whipped for her sake, very often to death. It was a savage humour to imagine to gratify the architect by the subversion of his building, and to think to take away the punishment due to the guilty by punishing the innocent; and that poor Iphigenia, at the port of Aulis, should by her death and immolation acquit, towards God, the whole army of the Greeks from all the crimes they had committed;

Et casta inceste, nubendi tempore in ipso,
Hostia concideret mactatu mosta parentis;

"That the chaste virgin in her nuptial band
Should die by an unnat'ral father's hand;"

and that the two noble and generous souls of the two Decii, the father and the son, to incline the favour of the gods to be propitious to the affairs of Rome, should throw themselves headlong into the thickest of the enemy: Quo fuit tanta deorum iniquitas, ut placari populo Romano non possent, nisi tales viri occidissent? "How great an injustice in the gods was it that they could not be reconciled to the people of Rome unless such men perished!" To which may be added, that it is not for the criminal to cause himself to be scourged according to his own measure nor at his own time, but that it purely belongs to the judge, who considers nothing as chastisements but the penalty that he appoints, and cannot call that punishment which proceeds from the consent of him that suffers. The divine vengeance presupposes an absolute dissent in us, both for its justice and for our own penalty. And therefore it was a ridiculous humour of Polycrates, tyrant of Samos, who, to interrupt the continued course of his good fortune, and to balance it, went and threw the dearest and most precious jewel he had into the sea, believing that by this voluntary and antedated mishap he bribed and satisfied the revolution and vicissitude of fortune; and she, to mock his folly, ordered it so that the same jewel came again into his hands, found in the belly of a fish. And then to what end were those tearings and dismemberments of the Corybantes, the Menades, and, in our times, of the Mahometans, who slash their faces, bosoms, and limbs, to gratify their prophet; seeing that the offence lies in the will, not in the breast, eyes, genitals, roundness of form, the shoulders, or the throat? Tantus est perturbto mentis, et sedibus suis pilso, furor, ut sic dii placentur, quemadmodum ne homines quidem soviunt. "So great is the fury and madness of troubled minds when once displaced from the seat of reason, as if the gods should be appeased with what even men are not so cruel as to approve." The use of this natural contexture has not only respect to us, but also to the service of God and other men; 'tis as unjust for us voluntarily to wound or hurt it as to kill ourselves upon any pretence whatever; it seems to be great cowardice and treason to exercise cruelty upon, and to destroy, the functions of the body that are stupid and servile, to spare the soul the solicitude of governing them according to reason: Ubi iratos deos timent, qui sic propitios habere merentur? In regi libidinis voluptatem castrati sunt quidam; sed nemo sibi, ne vir esset, jubente domino, mantis intulit. "Where are they so afraid of the anger of the gods as to merit their favour at that rate? Some, indeed, have been made eunuchs for the lust of princes: but no man at his master's command has put his own hand to unman himself." So did they fill their religion with several ill effects:—

Spius olim Religio peperit scelerosa atque impia facta.

"In elder times Religion did commit most fearful crimes."

Now nothing of ours can in any sort be compared or likened unto the divine nature, which will not blemish and stain it with much imperfection.

How can that infinite beauty, power, and goodness, admit of any correspondence or similitude to such abject things as we are, without extreme wrong and manifest dishonour to his divine greatness? Infirmum dei fortius est hominibs; et stultum dei sapientius est hominibus. "For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men." Stilpo, the philosopher, being asked, "Whether the gods were delighted with our adorations and sacrifices?"—"You are indiscreet," answered he; "let us withdraw apart, if you would talk of such things." Nevertheless, we prescribe him bounds, we keep his power besieged by our reasons (I call our ravings and dreams reason, with the dispensation of philosophy, which says, "That the wicked man, and even the fool, go mad by reason, but a particular form of reason"), we would subject him to the vain and feeble appearances of our understandings,—him who has made both us and our knowledge. Because that nothing is made of nothing, God therefore could not make the world without matter. What! has God put into our hands the keys and most secret springs of his power? Is he obliged not to exceed the limits of our knowledge? Put the case, O man! that thou hast been able here to mark some footsteps of his effects; dost thou therefore think that he has employed all he can, and has crowded all his forms and ideas in this work? Thou seest nothing but the order and revolution of this little cave in which thou art lodged, if, indeed, thou dost see so much; whereas his divinity has an infinite jurisdiction beyond. This part is nothing in comparison of the whole:—

Omnia cum colo, terrque, manque,
Nil sunt ad summam summal totius omnem.

"The earth, the sea, and skies, from pole to pole,
Are small, nay, nothing to the mighty whole."

'Tis a municipal law that thou allegest, thou knowest not what is universal Tie thyself to that to which thou art subject, but not him; he is not of thy brotherhood, thy fellow-citizen, or companion. If he has in some sort communicated himself unto thee, 'tis not to debase himself unto thy littleness, nor to make thee comptroller of his power; the human body cannot fly to the clouds; rules are for thee. The sun runs every day his ordinary course; the bounds of the sea and the earth cannot be confounded; the water is unstable and without firmness; a wall, unless it be broken, is impenetrable to a solid body; a man cannot preserve his life in the flames; he cannot be both in heaven and upon earth, and corporally in a thousand places at once. 'Tis for thee that he has made these rules; 'tis thee that they concern; he has manifested to Christians that he has enfranchised himself from them all when it pleased him. And, in truth, why, almighty as he is, should he have limited his power within any certain bounds? In favour of whom should he have renounced his privilege? Thy reason has in no other thing more of likelihood and foundation than in that wherein it persuades thee that there is a plurality of worlds:—

Terramque et solem, lunam, mare, estera quo rant,
Non esse unica, sed numro magis innumerali.

"That earth, sun, moon, sea, and the rest that are,
Not single, but innumerable were."

The most eminent minds of elder times believed it; and some of this age of ours, compelled by the appearances of human reason, do the same; forasmuch as in this fabric that we behold there is nothing single and one,

Cum in summ res nulla sit una,
Unica quo gignatur, et unica solaque crescat;

"Since nothing's single in this mighty place,
That can alone beget, alone increase;"

and that all the kinds are multiplied in some number; by which it seems not to be likely that God should have made this work only without a companion; and that the matter of this form should have been totally drained in this individual.

Quare etiam atque etiam tales fateare necesse est
Esse alios alibi congressus materiali;
Qualis hic est, avido complexu quem tenet ther.

"Wherefore 'tis necessary to confess
That there must elsewhere be the like congress
Of the like matter, which the airy space
Holds fast within its infinite embrace."

Especially if it be a living creature, which its motions render so credible that Plato affirms it, and that many of our people do either confirm, or dare not deny it; no more than that ancient opinion that the heavens, the stars, and other members of the world, are creatures composed of body and soul, mortal in respect of their composition, but immortal by the determination of the Creator. Now if there be many worlds, as Democritus, Epicurus, and almost all philosophy has believed, what do we know that the principles and rules of this of ours in like manner concern the rest? They may peradventure have another form and another polity. Epicurus supposes them either like or unlike. We see in this world an infinite difference and variety, only by distance of places; neither com, wine, nor any of our animals are to be seen in that new comer of the world discovered by our fathers; 'tis all there another thing; and in times past, do but consider in how many parts of the world they had no knowledge either of Bacchus or Ceres. If Pliny and Herodotus are to be believed, there are in certain places kinds of men very little resembling us, mongrel and ambiguous forms, betwixt the human and brutal natures; there are countries where men are bom without heads, having their mouth and eyes in their breast; where they are all hermaphrodites; where they go on all four; where they have but one eye in the forehead, and a head more like a dog than like ours; where they are half fish the lower part, and live in the water; where the women bear at five years old, and live but eight; where the head and the skin of the forehead is so hard that a sword will not touch it, but rebounds again; where men have no beards; nations that know not the use of fire; others that eject seed of a black colour. What shall we say of those that naturally change themselves into wolves, colts, and then into men again? And if it be true, as Plutarch says, that in some place of the Indies there are men without mouths, who nourish themselves with the smell of certain odours, how many of our descriptions are false? He is no longer risible, nor, perhaps, capable of reason and society. The disposition and cause of our internal composition would then for the most part be to no purpose, and of no use.

Moreover, how many things are there in our own knowledge that oppose those fine rules we have cut out for and prescribe to nature? And yet we must undertake to circumscribe thereto God himself! How many things do we call miraculous, and contrary to nature? This is done by every nation and by every man, according to the proportion of his ignorance. How many occult properties and quintessences do we daily discover? For, for us to go "according to nature," is no more but to go "according to our understanding," as far as that is able to follow, and as far as we are able to see into it; all beyond that is, forsooth, monstrous and irregular. Now, by this account, all things shall be monstrous to the wisest and most understanding men; for human reason has persuaded them that there was no manner of ground nor foundation, not so much as to be assured that snow is white, and Anaxagoras affirmed it to be black; if there be any thing, or if there be nothing; if there be knowledge or ignorance, which Metrodorus of Chios denied that man was able to determine; or whether we live, as Euripides doubts whether the life we live is life, or whether that we call death be not life, [—Greek—] and not without some appearance. For why do we derive the title of being from this instant, which is but a flash in the infinite course of an eternal night, and so short an interruption of our perpetual and natural condition, death possessing all the before and after this moment, and also a good part of the moment itself. Others swear there is no motion at all, as followers of Melissus, and that nothing stirs. For if there be but one, neither can that spherical motion be of any use to him, nor motion from one place to another, as Plato proves: "That there is neither generation nor corruption in nature." Protagoras says that there is nothing in nature but doubt; that a man may equally dispute of all things; and even of this, whether a man can equally dispute of all things; Nausiphanes, that of things which seem to be, nothing is more than it is not; that there is nothing certain but uncertainty; Parmenides, that of that which seems, there is no one thing in general; that there is but one thing; Zeno, that one same is not, and that there is nothing; if there were one thing, it would either be in another or in itself; if it be in another, they are two; if it be in itself, they are yet two; the comprehending, and the comprehended. According to these doctrines the nature of things is no other than a shadow, either false or vain.

This way of speaking in a Christian man has ever seemed to me very indiscreet and irreverent. "God cannot die; God cannot contradict himself; God cannot do this or that." I do not like to have the divine power so limited by the laws of men's mouths; and the idea which presents itself to us in those propositions ought to be more religiously and reverently expressed.

Our speaking has its failings and defects, as well as all the rest. Most of the occasions of disturbance in the world are grammatical ones; our suits only spring from disputes as to the interpretation of laws; and most wars proceed from the inability of ministers clearly to express the conventions and treaties of amity of princes. How many quarrels, and of how great importance, has the doubt of the meaning of this syllable, hoc,* created in the world? Let us take the clearest conclusion that logic itself

* Montaigne here refers to the controversies between
the Catholics and Protestants about transubstantiation.

presents us withal; if you say, "It is fine weather," and that you say true, it is then fine weather. Is not this a very certain form of speaking? And yet it will deceive us; that it will do so, let us follow the example: If you say, "I lie," if you say true, you do lie. The art, the reason, and force of the conclusion of this, are the same with the other, and yet we are gravelled. The Pyrrhonian philosophers, I see, cannot express their general conception in any kind of speaking; for they would require a new language on purpose; ours is all formed of affirmative propositions, which are totally antarctic to them; insomuch that when they say "I doubt," they are presently taken by the throat, to make them confess that at least they know and are assured that they do doubt. By which means they have been compelled to shelter themselves under this medical comparison, without which their humour would be inexplicable: when they pronounce, "I know not," or, "I doubt," they say that this proposition carries off itself with the rest, no more nor less than rhubarb, that drives out the ill humours, and carries itself off with them. This fancy will be more certainly understood by interrogation: "What do I know?" as I bear it with the emblem of a balance.

See what use they make of this irreverent way of speaking; in the present disputes about our religion, if you press its adversaries too hard, they will roundly tell you, "that it is not in the power of God to make it so, that his body should be in paradise and upon earth, and in several places at once." And see, too, what advantage the old scoffer made of this. "At least," says he, "it is no little consolation to man to see that God cannot do all things; for he cannot kill himself, though he would; which is the greatest privilege we have in our condition; he cannot make mortal immortal, nor revive the dead; nor make it so, that he who has lived has not; nor that he who has had honours has not had them; having no other right to the past than that of oblivion." And that the comparison of man to God may yet be made out by jocose examples: "He cannot order it so," says he, "that twice ten shall not be twenty." This is what he says, and what a Christian ought to take heed shall not escape his lips. Whereas, on the contrary, it seems as if men studied this foolish daring of language, to reduce God to their own measure:—

Cras vel atr Nube polum, Pater, occupato,
Vel sole puro; non tamen irritum
Quodcumque retro est efficiet, neque
Diffinget infectumque reddet
Quod fugiens semel hora vexit.

"To-morrow, let it shine or rain,
Yet cannot this the past make vain:
Nor uncreate and render void
That which was yesterday enjoyed."

When we say that the infinity of ages, as well past as to come, are but one instant with God; that his goodness, wisdom, and power are the same with his essence; our mouths speak it, but our understandings apprehend it not; and yet, such is our vain opinion of ourselves, that we must make the Divinity to pass through our sieve; and thence proceed all the dreams and errors with which the world abounds, whilst we reduce and weigh in our balance a thing so far above our poise. Mirum quo procdat improbitas cordis humani, parvulo aliquo intritata successu. "'Tis wonderful to what the wickedness of man's heart will proceed, if elevated with the least success." How magisterially and insolently does Epicurus reprove the Stoics, for maintaining that the truly good and happy being appertained only to God, and that the wise man had nothing but a shadow and resemblance of it! How temerariously have they bound God to destiny (a thing which, by my consent, none that bears the name of a Christian shall ever do again)! and Thales, Plato, and Pythagoras have enslaved him to necessity. This arrogance of attempting to discover God with our eyes has been the cause that an eminent person among us has attributed to the Divinity a corporal form; and is the reason of what happens to us every day, of attributing to God important events, by a particular assignment. Because they weigh with us, they conclude that they also weigh with him, and that he has a more intent and vigilant regard to them than to others of less moment to us or of ordinary course: Magna Dii curant, parva negligunt: "The gods are concerned at great matters, but slight the small." Listen to him; he will clear this to you by his reason: Nec in regnis quidem reges omnia minima curant: "Neither indeed do kings in their administration take notice of all the least concerns." As if to that King of kings it were more or less to subvert a kingdom, or to move the leaf of a tree; or as if his providence acted after another manner in inclining the event of a battle than in the leap of a flea. The hand of his government is laid upon every thing after the same manner, with the same power and order; our interest does nothing towards it; our inclinations and measures sway nothing with him. Deus ita artifex magnus in magnis, ut minor non sit in parvis: "God is so great an artificer in great things, that he is no less in the least" Our arrogancy sets this blasphemous comparison ever before us. Because our employments are a burden to us, Strato has courteously been pleased to exempt the gods from all offices, as their priests are; he makes nature produce and support all things; and with her weights and motions make up the several parts of the world, discharging human nature from the awe of divine judgments: Quod beatum terumque sit, id nec habere negotii quicquam, nec exhibere alteri: "What is blessed and eternal has neither any business itself nor gives any to another." Nature will that in like things there should be a like relation. The infinite number of mortals, therefore, concludes a like number of immortals; the infinite things that kill and destroy presupposes as many that preserve and profit. As the souls of the gods, without tongue, eye, or ear, do every one of them feel amongst themselves what the other feels, and judge our thoughts; so the souls of men, when at liberty and loosed from the body, either by sleep or some ecstacy, divine, foretell, and see things, which, whilst joined to the body, they could not see. "Men," says St. Paul, "professing themselves to be wise, they become fools; and change the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man." Do but take notice of the juggling in the ancient deifications. After the great and stately pomp of the funeral, so soon as the fire began to mount to the top of the pyramid, and to catch hold of the couch where the body lay, they at the same time turned out an eagle, which flying upward, signified that the soul went into Paradise. We have a thousand medals, and particularly of the worthy Faustina, where this eagle is represented carrying these deified souls to heaven with their heels upwards. 'Tis pity that we should fool ourselves with our own fopperies and inventions,

Quod finxere, timent,

"They fear their own inventions,"

like children who are frighted with the same face of their playfellow, that they themselves have smeared and smutted. Quasi quicquam infelicius sit homine, cui sua figmenta dominantur:

"As if any thing could be more unhappy than man, who is insulted over by his own imagination." 'Tis far from honouring him who made us, to honour him that we have made. Augustus had more temples than Jupiter, served with as much religion and belief of miracles. The Thracians, in return of the benefits they had received from Agesilaus, came to bring him word that they had canonized him: "Has your nation," said he to them, "the power to make gods of whom they please? Pray first deify some one amongst yourselves, and when I shall see what advantage he has by it, I will thank you for your offer." Man is certainly stark mad; he cannot make a worm, and yet he will be making gods by dozens. Hear Trismegistus in praise of our sufficiency: "Of all the wonderful things, it surmounts all wonder that man could find out the divine nature and make it." And take here the arguments of the school of philosophy itself:—

Nosse cui divos et coli munina soli,
Aut soli nescire, datum.

"To whom to know the deities of heaven,
Or know he knows them not, alone 'tis given."

"If there is a God, he is a living creature; if he be a living creature, he has sense; and if he has sense, he is subject to corruption. If he be without a body he is without a soul, and consequently without action; and if he has a body, it is perishable." Is not here a triumph? we are incapable of having made the world; there must then be some more excellent nature that has put a hand to the work. It were a foolish and ridiculous arrogance to esteem ourselves the most perfect thing of the universe. There must then be something that is better, and that must be God. When you see a stately and stupendous edifice, though you do not know who is the owner of it, you would yet conclude it was not built for rats. And this divine structure, that we behold of the celestial palace, have we not reason to believe that it is the residence of some possessor, who is much greater than we? Is not the most supreme always the most worthy? but we are in the lowest form. Nothing without a soul and without reason can produce a living creature capable of reason. The world produces us, the world then has soul and reason. Every part of us is less than we. We are part of the world, the world therefore is endued with wisdom and reason, and that more abundantly than we. 'Tis a fine thing to have a great government; the government of the world then appertains to some happy nature. The stars do us no harm; they are then full of goodness. We have need of nourishment; then so have the gods also, and feed upon the vapours of the earth. Worldly goods are not goods to God; therefore they are not goods to us; offending and being offended are equally testimonies of imbecility; 'tis therefore folly to fear God. God is good by his nature; man by his industry, which is more. The divine and human wisdom have no other distinction, but that the first is eternal; but duration is no accession to wisdom, therefore we are companions. We have life, reason, and liberty; we esteem goodness, charity, and justice; these qualities are then in him. In conclusion, building and destroying, the conditions of the Divinity, are forged by man, according as they relate to himself. What a pattern, and what a model! let us stretch, let us raise and swell human qualities as much as we please; puff up thyself, poor man, yet more and more, and more:—

Non, si tu ruperis, inquit.

"Not if thou burst," said he.

Profecto non Deum, quern cogitare non possunt, sed semetip pro illo cogitantes, non ilium, sed seipsos, non illi, sed sibi comparant? "Certainly they do not imagine God, whom they cannot imagine; but they imagine themselves in his stead; they do not compare him, but themselves, not to him, but to themselves." In natural things the effects do but half relate to their causes. What's this to the purpose? His condition is above the order of nature, too elevated, too remote, and too mighty, to permit itself to be bound and fettered by our conclusions. 'Tis not through ourselves that we arrive at that place; our ways lie too low. We are no nearer heaven on the top of Mount Cenis than at the bottom of the sea; take the distance with your astrolabe. They debase God even to the carnal knowledge of women, to so many times, and so many generations. Paulina, the wife of Satuminus, a matron of great reputation at Rome, thinking she lay with the god Serapis, found herself in the arms of an amoroso of hers, through the panderism of the priests of his temple. Varro, the most subtle and most learned of all the Latin authors, in his book of theology, writes, that the sexton of Hercules's temple, throwing dice with one hand for himself, and with the other for Hercules, played after that manner with him for a supper and a wench; if he won, at the expense of the offerings; if he lost, at his own. The sexton lost, and paid the supper and the wench. Her name was Laurentina, who saw by night this god in her arms, who moreover told her, that the first she met the next day, should give her a heavenly reward; which proved to be Taruncius, a rich young man, who took her home to his house, and in time left her his inheritrix. She, in her turn, thinking to do a thing that would be pleasing to the god, left the people of Rome heirs to her; and therefore had divine honours attributed to her. As if it had not been sufficient that Plato was originally descended from the gods by a double line, and that he had Neptune for the common father of his race, it was certainly believed at Athens, that Aristo, having a mind to enjoy the fair Perictione, could not, and was warned by the god Apollo, in a dream, to leave her unpolluted and untouched, till she should first be brought to bed. These were the father and mother of Plato. How many ridiculous stories are there of like cuckoldings, committed by the gods against poor mortal men! And how many husbands injuriously scandaled in favour of the children! In the Mahometan religion there are Merlins enough found by the belief of the people; that is to say, children without fathers, spiritual, divinely conceived in the wombs of virgins, and carry names that signify so much in their language.

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