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upon the knowledge that is now in use? Are we the richer by one poor invention, by reason of all the learning that hath been these many hundred years? The industry of artificers maketh some small improvement of things invented; and chance sometimes in experimenting, maketh us to stumble upon somewhat which is new: but all the disputation of the learned never brought to light one effect of nature before unknown. When things are known and found out, then they can descant upon them, they can knit them into certain causes, they can reduce them to their principles. If any instance of experience stand against them, they can range it in order by some distinctions. But all this is but a web of the wit, it can work nothing. I do not doubt but that common notions which we call reason, and the knitting of them together, which we call logic, are the art of reason and studies. But they rather cast obscurity, than gain light to the contemplation of nature. All the philosophy of nature which is now received, is either the philosophy of the Grecians, or that other of the alchemists. That of the Grecians hath the foundations in words, in ostentation, in confutation, in sects, in schools, in disputations. The Grecians were, as one of themselves saith, you Grecians, ever children. They knew little antiquity; they knew, except fables, not much above five hundred years before themselves. They knew but a small portion of the world. That of the alchemists hath the foundation in imposture, in auricular traditions and obscurity. It was catching hold of religion, but the principle of it is, Populus vult decipi. So that I know no great difference between these great philosophers, but that the one is a loud crying folly, and the other is a whispering folly. The one is gathered out of a few vulgar observations, and the other out of a few experiments of a furnace. The one never faileth to multiply words, and the other ever faileth to multiply gold. Who would not smile at Aristotle, when he admireth the eternity and invariableness of the heavens, as there were not the like in the bowels of the earth? Those be the confines
and borders of these two kingdoms, where the continual alteration and incursion are. The superficies
and upper parts of the earth are full of varieties. The superficies and lower parts of the heavens, which we call the middle region of the air, is full of variety. There is much spirit in the one part, that cannot be brought into mass. There is much massy
body in the other place, that cannot be refined to spirit. The common air is as the waste ground between the borders. Who would not smile at the astronomers, I mean not these few carmen which drive the earth about, but the ancient astronomers, which feign the moon to be the swiftest of the planets in motion, and the rest in order, the higher the slower; and so are compelled to imagine a double motion: whereas how evident is it, that that which they call a contrary motion, is but an abatement of motion? The fixed stars overgo Saturn, and so in them and the rest, all is but one motion, and the nearer the earth the slower. A motion also whereof air and water do participate, though much interrupted. But why do I in a conference of pleasure enter into these great matters, in sort that pretending to know much, I should forget what is seasonable? Pardon me, it was because all things may be endowed and adorned with speeches, but knowledge itself is more beautiful than any apparel of words that can be put upon it. And let not me seem arrogant without respect to these great reputed authors. Let me so give every man his due, as I give Time his due, which is to discover truth. Many of these men had greater wits, far above mine own, and so are many in the universities of Europe at this day. But alas, they learn nothing there but to believe: first to believe that others know that which they know not; and after themselves know that which they know not. But indeed facility to believe, impatience to doubt, temerity to answer, glory to know, doubt to contradict, end to gain, sloth to search, seeking things in words, resting in part of nature; these, and the like, have been the things which have forbidden the happy match be
tween the mind of man and the nature of things; and in place thereof have married it to vain notions and blind experiments: and what the posterity and issue of so honourable a match may be, it is not hard to consider. Printing, a gross invention; artillery, a thing that lay not far out of the way; the needle, a thing partly known before: what a change have these three made in the world in these times; the one in state of learning, the other in state of the war, the third in the state of treasure, commodities, and navigation? And those, I say, were but stumbled upon and lighted upon by chance. Therefore, no doubt, the sovereignty of man lieth hid in knowledge; wherein many things are reserved, which kings with their treasure cannot buy, nor with their force command ; their spials and intelligencers can give no news of them, their seamen and discoverers cannot sail where they grow now we govern nature in opinions, but we are thrall unto her in necessity; but if we would be led by her in invention, we should command her in action.
[None of the Annotations of Stella àre set down in these Fragments.]
Of the limits and end of knowledge..
IN the divine nature, both, religion and philosophy hath acknowledged goodness in perfection, science or providence comprehending all things, and absolute sovereignty or kingdom. In aspiring to the throne of power, the angels transgressed and fell; in presuming to come within the oracle of knowledge, man transgressed and fell; but in pursuit towards the similitude of God's goodness or love, which is one thing, for love is nothing else but goodness put in motion or applied, neither man or spirit ever hath transgressed, or shall transgress.
The angel of light that was, when he presumed before his fall, said within himself, I will ascend and be like unto the Highest; not God, but the Highest. To be like to God in goodness, was no part of his emulation: knowledge, being in creation an angel of light, was not the want which did most solicit him; only because he was a minister he aimed at a supremacy; therefore his climbing or ascension was turned into a throwing down or precipitation.
Man on the other side, when he was tempted before he fell, had offered unto him this suggestion, that he should be like unto God. But how? not sim
ply, but in this part, knowing good and evil. For being in his creation invested with sovereignty of all inferior creatures, he was not needy of power or dominion. But again, being a spirit newly inclosed in a body of earth, he was fittest to be allured with appetite of light and liberty of knowledge. Therefore this approaching and intruding into God's secrets and mysteries, was rewarded with a further removing and estranging from God's presence. But as to the goodness of God, there is no danger in contending or advancing towards a similitude thereof; as that which is open and propounded to our imitation. For that voice, whereof the heathen and all other errors of religion have ever confessed that it sounds not like man, Love your enemies; be you like unto your heavenly Father, that suffereth his rain to fall both upon the just and the unjust, doth well declare, that we can in that point commit no excess. So again we find it often repeated in the old law, Be you holy as I am holy; and what is holiness else but goodness, as we consider it separate, and guarded from all mixture, and all access of evil?
Wherefore seeing that knowledge is of the number of those things which are to be accepted of with caution and distinction; being now to open a fountain, such as it is not easy to discern where the issues and streams thereof will take and fall; I thought it good and necessary in the first place, to make a strong and sound head or bank to rule and guide the course of the waters; by setting down this position or firmament, namely, That all knowledge is to be limited by religion, and to be referred to use and action.
For if any man shall think, by view and inquiry into these sensible and material things, to attain to any light for the revealing of the nature or will of God; he shall dangerously abuse himself. It is true, that the contemplation of the creatures of God hath for end, as to the natures of the creatures themselves, knowledge; but as to the nature of God, no knowledge, but wonder: which is nothing else but contemplation broken off, or losing itself. Nay further, as it was aptly said