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Of others indirectly effecting the same. THERE are, besides these authors and such as have positively promoted errors, divers other which are in some way accessory ; whose verities, although they do not directly assert, yet do they obliquely concur unto their beliefs. In which account are many holy writers, preachers, moralists, rhetoricians, orators, and poets; for they depending upon invention, deduce their mediums from all things whatsoever; and playing much upon the simile, or illustrative argumentation, to induce their enthymemes unto the people,3 they take up popular conceits, and from traditions unjustifiable, or really false, illustrate matters of undeniable truth. Wherein, although their intention be sincere, and that course not much condemnable, yet doth it notoriously strengthen common errors, and authorise opinions injurious unto truth.
Thus have some divines drawn into argument the fable of the phenix, made use of that of the salamander, pelican, basisisk, and divers relations of Pliny, deducing from thence most worthy morals, and even upon our Saviour. Now, although this be not prejudicial unto wiser judgments, who are but weakly moved with such arguments, yet is it ofttimes occasion of error unto vulgar heads, who expect in the fable as equal a truth as in the moral, and conceive that infallible philosophy, which is in any sense delivered by divinity. But wiser discerners do well understand that every art hath its own circle; that the effects of things are best examined by sciences wherein are delivered their causes : that strict and definitive expressions are always required in philosophy, but a loose and popular delivery will serve oftentimes in
unto their beliefs.] Unto the belief of errors.
to induce their enthymemes, &c.] An enthymem is an imperfect syllogism, where either the major or the minor is omitted, as being easily supplied by the understanding. The term, however, seems used here in no such precise signification. The author merely means to say, that, to obtain readier assent to the maxims or propositions delivered, preachers, moralists, &c., have garnished them with popular though erroneous conceits..
divinity.4 As may be observed even in Holy Scripture, which often omitteth the exact account of things, describing them rather to our apprehensions, than leaving doubts in vulgar minds upon their unknown and philosophical descriptions. Thus it termeth the sun and the moon, the two great lights of heaven. Now if any shall from hence conclude the moon is second in magnitude unto the sun, he must excuse my belief: and it cannot be strange if 5 herein I rather adhere unto the demonstration of Ptolemy, than the popular description of Moses. Thus it said (2 Chron. iv. 2,) 66 That Solomon made a molten sea of ten cubits from brim to brim round in compass, and five cubits the height thereof, and a line of thirty cubits did compass it round about.” Now in this description the circumference is made just treble unto the diameter: that is, as 10 to 30, or 7 to 21. But Archimedes demonstrates [in his Cyclometria] that the proportion of the diameter unto the circumference is as 7 unto almost 22, which will occasion a sensible difference, that is almost a cubit. Now, if herein I adhere unto Archimedes, who speaketh exactly, rather than the sacred text, which speaketh largely, I hope I shall not offend divinity; I am sure I shall have reason and experience of every circle to support me.
Thus moral writers, rhetoricians, and orators, make use of several relations, which will not consist with verity. Aristotle in his ethics takes up the conceit of the beaver, and the divulsion of his testicles. The tradition of the bear, the viper, and divers others are frequent amongst orators. All which, although unto the illiterate and undiscerning hearers [it] may seem a confirmation of their realities, yet this is no reasonable establishment unto others, who will not depend hereon, otherwise than on common apologues; which
a loose and popular delivery, &c.] The author's illustration and application of this position in the remainder of the paragraph, might have well served as a reply to the tirade of Dean Wren against the Copernican system of astronomy, in his note at page 35, and has been used by some of the most eminent of our modern geologists, in attempting to show that certain opinions, which they have deduced from geological phenomena, are only apparently and not really at variance with the Mosaic account of creation.
5 and it cannot be strange if.] Ed. 1646 reads, “and I think it cannot be taken for heresy, if.”
being of impossible falsities, do notwithstanding include wholesome moralities, and such as expiate the trespass of their absurdities.
The hieroglyphical doctrine of the Egyptians (which in their four hundred years' cohabitation some conjecture they learned from the Hebrews) hath much advanced many popular conceits. For, using an alphabet of things, and not of words, through the image and pictures thereof they endeavoured to speak their hidden conceits in the letters and language of nature. In pursuit whereof, although in many things they exceeded not their true and real apprehensions, yet in some other they, either framing the story or taking up the tradition conducible unto their intentions, obliquely confirmed many falsities; which, us authentic and conceded truths, did after pass unto the Greeks, from them unto other nations, and are still retained
by symbolical writers, emblematists, heralds, and others. Whereof some are strictly maintained for truths, as naturally making good their artificial representations; others, symbolically intended, are literally received, and swallowed in the first sense, without all gust of the second. Whereby we pervert the profound and mysterious knowledge of Egypt; containing the arcana of Greek antiquities, the key of many obscurities and ancient learning extant. Famous herein in former ages were Heraiscus, Cheremon, and Epius: especially Orus Apollo Niliacus, who lived in the reign of Theodosius, and in Egyytian language left two books of hieroglyphics, translated into Greek by Philippus, and a large collection of all made after by Pierius. But no man is likely to profound the ocean of that doctrine, beyond that eminent example of industrious learning, Kircherus.
Painters, who are the visible representers of things, and such as by the learned sense of the eye endeavour to inform the understanding, are not inculpable herein, who, either describing naturals as they are or actions as they have been, have oftentimes erred in their delineations. Which, being the books that all can read, are fruitful advancers of these conceptions, especially in common and popular apprehensions, who being unable for further enquiry, must rest in the draught and letter of their descriptions.
Lastly, poets and poetical writers have in this point
exceeded others, trimly advancing the Egyptian notions of harpies, phoenix, griffins, and many more. Now, however to make use of fictions, apologues, and fables be not unwarrantable, and the intent of these inventions might point at laudable ends, yet do they afford our junior capacities a frequent occasion of error, settling impressions in our tender memories which our advanced judgments generally neglect to expunge.
This the vain and idle fictions of the Gentiles did first insinuate into the heads of Christians, and thus are they continued even unto our days. Our first and literary apprehensions being commonly instructed in authors which handle nothing else, wherewith our memories being stuffed, our inventions become pedantic, and cannot avoid their allusions; driving at these as at the highest elegancies, which are but the frigidities of wit, and become not the genius of manly ingenuities. It were, therefore, no loss like that of Galen’s library, if these had found the same fate; and would in some way requite the neglect of solid authors, if they were less pursued. For, were a pregnant wit educated in ignorance hereof, receiving only impressions from realities, upon such solid foundations, it must surely raise more substantial superstructions, and fall upon very many excellent strains, which have been justled off by their intrusions.
CHAPTER X. Of the last and great promoter of false opinions, the endeavours of Satan.
But, beside the infirmities of human nature, the seed of error within ourselves, and the several ways of delusion from each other, there is an invisible agent, the secret promoter without us, whose activity is undiscerned, and plays in the dark upon us : and that is the first contriver of error, and professed opposer of truth, the devil. For though, permitted
trimly advancing the Egyptian notions.] Leaving unto us the notions :"-Ed. 1646.
7 It were therefore no loss, &c.] i.e. “had all such fabulous works been burnt, the loss would not have been comparable to that of Galen's library.” He wrote 300 works, the greater part of which were burnt in the Temple of Peace, at Rome.
unto his proper principles, Adam, perhaps, would have sinned without the suggestion of Satan, and from the transgressive infirmities of himself might have erred alone, as well as the angels before him; and although were there no devil at all, yet there is now in our natures a confessed sufficiency unto corruption, and the frailty of our own economy were able to betray us out of truth; yet wants there not another agent, who taking advantage hereof proceedeth to obscure the diviner part, and efface all tract of its traduction. To attempt a particular of all his wiles, is too bold an arithmetic for man: what most considerably concerneth his popular and practised ways of delusion, he first deceiveth mankind in five main points concerning God and himself.
And first, his endeavours have ever been, and they cease not yet, to instil a belief in the mind of man, there is no God at all
. And this he principally endeavours to establish in a direct and literal apprehension; that is, that there is no such reality existent, that the necessity of his entity dependeth upon ours, and is but a political chimera ; that the natural truth of God is an artificial erection of man, and the Creator himself but a subtile invention of the creature. Where he succeeds not thus high, he labours to introduce a secondary and deductive atheism; that although men concede there is a God, yet should they deny his providence. And therefore assertions have flown about, that he intendeth only the care of the species or common natures, but letteth loose the guard of individuals, and single existencies therein; that he looks not below the moon, but hath designed the regiment of sublunary affairs unto inferior deputations. To promote which apprehensions, or empuzzle their due conceptions, he casteth in the notions of fate, destiny, fortune, chance, and necessity; terms commonly misconceived by vulgar heads, and their propriety sometime perverted by the wisest. Whereby extinguishing in minds the compensation of virtue and vice, the hope and fear of heaven and hell, they comply in their actions unto the drift of his delusions, and live like creatures below the capacity of either.
Now hereby he not only undermineth the base of religion, and destroyeth the principle preambulous unto all belief, but
tract.] In the sense of track. So used also by Shakspeare.