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conceit they are dead, cannot be convicted into the society of the living
The fourth is a supinity, or neglect of enquiry, even of matters whereof we doubt; rather believing than going to see, or doubting with ease and gratis than believing with difficulty or purchase. Whereby, either from a temperamental inactivity, we are unready to put in execution the suggestions or dictates of reason or by a content and acquiescence in every species of truth, we embrace the shadow thereof, or so much as may palliate its just and substantial acquirements. Had our forefathers sat down in these resolutions, or had their curiosities been sedentary, who pursued the knowledge of things through all the corners of nature, the face of truth had been obscure unto us, whose lustre in some part their industries have revealed.
Certainly the sweat of their labours was not salt .unto them, and they took delight in the dust of their endeavours. For, questionless, in knowledge there is no slender difficulty; and truth, which wise men say doth lie in a well, is not recoverable by exantlation. It were some extenuation of the curse, if in sudore vultús tui were confinable unto corporal exercitations, and there still remained a Paradise, or unthorny place of knowledge. But now, our understandings being eclipsed, as well as our tempers infirmed, we must betake ourselves to ways of reparation, and depend upon the illumination of our endeavours. For thus we may, in some measure, repair our primary ruins, and build ourselves men again. And though the attempts of some have been precipitous, and their enquiries so audacious as to come within command of the flaming swords, and lost themselves in attempts above humanity; yet have the enquiries of most defected by the way, and tired within the sober circumference of knowledge.
And this is the reason why some have transcribed anything; and although they cannot but doubt thereof, yet neither make experiment by sense, nor enquiry by reason, but live in doubts of things, whose satisfaction is in their own power; which is, indeed, the inexcusable part of our ignorance, and may, perhaps, fill up the charge of the last day.For, not obeying the dictates of reason, and neglecting the crys of truth, we fail, not only in the trust of our undertakings, but in the intention of man itself. Which, although more venial in ordinary constitutions, and such as are not framed beyond the capacity of beaten notions; yet will it inexcusably condemn some men, who, having received excellent endowments, have yet sat down by the way, and frustrated the intention of their abilities. For certainly, as some men have sinned in the principles of humanity, and must answer for not being men; so others offend if they be not more. Magis extra vitia, quàm cum virtutibus, would commend those: these are not excusable without an excellency. For, great constitutions, and such as are constellated unto knowledge, do nothing till they out-do all; they come short of themselves, if they go not beyond others; and must not sit down under the degree of worthies. pects no lustre from the minor stars; but if the sun should not illuminate all, it were a sin in nature. Ultimus bonorum, will not excuse every man, nor is it sufficient for all to hold the common level. Men's names should not only distinguish them. A man should be something, that all men are not, and individual in somewhat beside his proper name. Thus, while it exceeds not the bounds of reason and modesty, we cannot condemn singularity. Nos numerus sumus, is the motto of the multitude, and for that reason are they fools. For things, as they recede from unity, the more they approach to imperfection and deformity; for they hold their perfection in their simplicities, and as they nearest approach unto God.
refused to believe it, and the bulk of the French philosophers were yet undecided what to think, when the fall of some thousands of stones at L'Aigle, in Normandy, the testimonies to which were scrutinized with judicial circumspection and jealousy, compelled the most determined scepticism to an unwilling assent.—Br.
by exantlation.] By being drawn out. See Christian Morals, p. ii. & 5.
Now, as there are many great wits to be condemned, who have neglected the increment of arts, and the sedulous pursuit of knowledge; so are there not a few very
much to be pitied, whose industry being not attended with natural parts, they have sweat to little purpose, and rolled the stone in vain. Which chiefly proceedeth from natural incapacity,
may, perhaps, fill up the charge, &c.] Audi et time !— Wr. 3 A man should be, &c.] A right and able man should. Wr.
and genial indisposition, at least, to those particulars whereunto they apply their endeavours. And this is one reason why, though universities be full of men, they are oftentimes empty of learning; why, as there are some men do much without learning, so others but little with it, and few that attain to any measure of it. For many heads, that undertake it, were never squared, nor timber'd for it. There are not only particular men, but whole nations indisposed for learning; whereunto is required, not only education, but a pregnant Minerva, and teeming constitution. For the wisdom of God hath divided the genius of men according to the different affairs of the world, and varied their inclinations according to the variety of actions to be performed therein. Which they who consider not, rudely rushing upon professions and ways of life unequal to their natures, dishonour not only themselves and their functions, but pervert the harınony of the whole world. For, if the world went on as God hath ordained it, and were every one employed in points concordant to their natures, professions, arts, and commonwealths, would rise up of themselves, nor needed we a lanthorn to find a man in Athens.
Of another more immediate Cause of Error; viz. obstinate Adherence
unto Antiquity. But the mortallest enemy unto knowledge, and that which hath done the greatest execution upon truth, hath been a peremptory adhesion unto authority; and more especially, the establishing of our belief upon the dictates of antiquity. For (as every capacity may observe) most men, of ages present, so superstitiously do look upon ages past, that the authorities of the one exceed the reasons of the other. Whose persons indeed being far removed from our times, their works, which seldom with us pass uncontrolled,
4 why, as there are some men, &c.] These observations are well amplified by the author in his Christian Morals, p. ii. $ 4.-J. Cr.
5 whole nations, &c.] Surely so sweeping an assertion as this would fall under the author's own censure, in Religio Medici, p. 93.
either by contemporaries, or immediate successors, are now become out of the distance of envies; and, the farther removed from present times, are conceived to approach the nearer unto truth itself. Now hereby methinks we manifestly delude ourselves, and widely walk out of the track of truth.
For, first, men hereby impose a thraldom on their times, which the ingenuity of no age should endure, or indeed the presumption of any did ever yet enjoin. Thus Hippocrates about two thousand years ago, conceived it no injustice, either to examine or refute the doctrines of his predecessors ; Galen the like, and Aristotle the most of any.
Yet did not any of these conceive themselves infallible, or set down their dictates as verities irrefragable: but when they either deliver their own inventions, or reject other men's opinions, they proceed with judgment and ingenuity; establishing their assertions, not only with great solidity, but submitting them also unto the correction of future discovery.
Secondly, Men that adore times past consider not that those times were once present, that is, as our own are at this instant; and we ourselves unto those to come, as they unto us at present; as we rely on them, even so will those on us, and magnify us hereafter, who at present condemn ourselves. Which very absurdity is daily committed amongst us, even in the esteem and censure of our own times. And, to speak impartially, old men, from whom we should expect the greatest example of wisdom, do most exceed in this point of folly; commending the days of their youth, which they scarce remember, at least well understood not, extolling those times their younger years have heard their fathers condemn, and condemning those times the grey heads of their posterity shall commend. And thus is it the humour of many heads to extol the days of their forefathers, and declaim against the wickedness of times present. Which notwithstanding they cannot handsomely do, without the borrowed help and satires of times past; condemning the vices of their own times, by the expressions of vices in times which they commend, which cannot but argue the community of vice in both. Horace, therefore, Juvenal, and Persius, were no prophets, although their lines did seem to indigitate and point at our times. There is a
certain list of vices6 committed in all ages, and declaimed against by all authors, which will last as long as human nature; which digested into common places, may serve for any theme, and never be out of date until doomsday.
Thirdly, The testimonies of antiquity, and such as pass oraculously amongst us, were not, if we consider them, always so exact as to examine the doctrine they delivered. For some, and those the acutest of them, have left unto us many things of falsity ; controllable not only by critical and collective reason,
country observation. Hereof there want not many examples in Aristotle, through all his book of animals; we shall instance only in three of his problems, and all contained under one section. The first enquireth, why a man doth cough, but not an ox or cow; whereas notwithstanding the contrary is often observed by husbandmen, and stands confirmed by those who have expressly treated De re rustica, and have also delivered divers remedies for it. Why juments, as horses, oxen, and asses, have no eructation or belching; whereas indeed the contrary is often observed, and also delivered by Columella. And thirdly, why man alone hath grey
whereas it cannot escape the eyes, and ordinary observation of all men, that horses, dogs, and foxes, wax grey with age in our countrys; and in the colder regions, many other animals without it. And though favourable constructions may somewhat extenu
6 There is a certain list of vices.] “Qualia sunt quæ semper velantur sed semper retinentur,” saith old Livius.— Wr.
7 Why man alone hath grey hairs, &c.] The author's previous refer ence to the problems of Aristotle, of which this is one, is so ambiguous, that it might induce a reader, unacquainted with the works of the Stagirite, to suppose that the problems formed part of the “Book of Animals,” which is not the case. From a passage in the latter work, however, apparently unknown to our author, it is to be inferred that Aris. totle was aware of the fact, that other animals become grey by age, and that he is speaking not in an absolute but in a comparative sense, when he asks the above question in the problems. For in the History of Animals, lib. iii. cap. xi., speaking of animals in general, he observes that “the colour of the hair changes in old age, in men becoming white, undergoing the same change in other animals, but not very manifestly, except in the horse,” which latter is one of the instances cited in the paragraph before us, in contradiction of Aristotle. The other subjects, coughing and eructation, are not noticed in the History of Animals. --Br.