صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

speak, because it differeth not from the voluntary ignorance of spiritual things, save only in the relation that it hath to the justice of God thereby provoked; who sometimes leaveth such men to their blindness, that the thing which, with respect to their own choice of it, is a pleasure, with respect unto God's justice, may be a plague and a punishment unto them. Thus the intellectual faculty is corrupted in many men by ignorance.

In others it is abused by curiosity, which may well be called the 'pride and the wantonness' of knowledge; because it looketh after high things, that are above us; and after hidden things, that are denied us. And I may well put these two together, pride and luxury' of learning: for I believe we shall seldom find the pride of knowledge more predominant, than there where it ariseth out of the curious and conjectural enquiries of wit, and not out of scientifical and demonstrative grounds. And I find the apostle joining them together, when he telleth us of some, who "intruded themselves into things which they had not seen, and were vainly puffed up by a fleshly mind." And he himself complaineth of others, who were 'proud,' and languished about needless questions; as it is ever a sign of a sick and ill-affected stomach to quarrel with usual and wholesome meat, and to long for and linger after delicacies, which we cannot reach to. When manna will not go down without quails, you may be sure the stomach is cloyed, and wants physick to purge it. I will not here add more of this point, having lately touched it on a fitter occasion. '

A third corruption of this faculty in regard of knowledge, is in the fluctuating, wavering, and uncertainty of assents; when the understanding is left floating, and, as it were, in ' æquilibrio,' that it cannot tell which way to incline, or what resolutions to grow unto: and this is that which, in oppo

2 Thes. ii. 10, 11.-Ne intelligerent, meritum fuit delictorum, Tert. Apol. c. 21. contra Marc. 1. 3. c. 6. Cypr. 1. 1. Ep. 3. Percussi sunt cæcitate, ut nec intelligant delicta, nec plangant. Indignantis Dei major hæc ira. Cypr. de lapsis.Vid. Aug. Qu. 14. ex Mat. et fuse contr. Jul. 1. 5. Clem. Alex. Strom.

1. 1. statim ab initio.-Iren. 1. 5. c. 28. Vid. quædam contr. hunc scientiæ pruritum apud Tertul. de Anim. c. 1. cont. Marc. 1. 1. c. 1.-Aug. ep. 29, 56, 78, et 57. Conf. 1. 11. c. 12. de Gen. ad lit. 1. 2. c. 9, et l. 10. c. 23, In my Ser

mon, of the Peace of the Church, p. 24-26. Aug. 22. Qu. 1. Art. 4. C.

sition to science, is called opinion:' for science is ever' cum certitudine,' with evidence and unquestionable consequence of conclusions from necessary principles: but opinion is 'cum formidine oppositi,' with a fear lest the contrary of what we assent unto should be true; and so it importeth a tender, doubtful, and infirm conclusion.

The causes of opinion I conceive to be principally two; the first is a disproportion between the understanding and the object, when the object is either too bright and excellent, or too dark and base: the one dazzles the power, the other affects it not. Things too divine and abstracted, are to the understanding, 'Tanquam lumen ad vespertilionem,' as light unto a bat, which rather astonish than inform and things too material and immersed, are like a mist unto the eye, which rather hinder than affect it. And therefore, though whatsoever hath truth in it, be the object of the understanding, yet the co-existence of the soul with the body, in this present estate, restrains and limits the latitude of the object, and requires in it, not only the bare nature of truth, but such a qualification thereof, as may make it fit for representation and impression by the conveyance of the sense. So that as in the true perception of the eye, (especially of those 'vespertiliones,' to which Aristotle hath compared the understanding, in this estate of subsistence with the body) there is required a mixture of contraries in the air; it must not be too light, lest it weaken and too much disgregate or spread the sense; nor yet too dark, lest it contract and lock it up; but there must be a kind of middle temper, clearness of the medium for conveyance, and yet some degree of darkness for qualification of the object;even so also the objects of man's understanding must participate of the two contraries, abstraction and materiality. Abstraction first, in proportion to the nature of the understanding, which is spiritual. And materiality too, in respect of the sense, on which the understanding depends in this estate, as on the medium of conveyance, and that is corporal. So that wherever there is difficulty and uncertainty of operation in the understanding, there is a double defect and disproportion; first, to the power, whose operations are restrained and limited for the most, by the body and then

in the object, which hath not a sufficient mixture of those two qualities, which should proportion it to the power. This is plain by a familiar similitude: an aged man is not able to read a small print without the assistance of spectacles, to make the letters, by a refraction, seem greater. Where, first, we may descry an imperfection in the organ: for if his eyes were as clear and well-disposed as a young man's, he would be able, by his natural power, without art, to receive the species of small letters. And next, there is an imperfection and deficiency in the letters: for if they had the same magnitude and fitness in themselves, which they seem to have by refraction through the glass, the weakness of his power might, haply, have sufficient strength to receive them without those helps. So that always the uncertainty of opinion, is grounded on the insufficiency of the understanding to receive an object, and on the disproportion of the object to the nature of the understanding.

The next cause of opinion and uncertainty in assents, may be acuteness and subtilty of wit, when men, out of ability, like Carneades", do discourse probably on either side; and poising their judgements between an equal weight of arguments, are forced to suspend their assents, and so either to continue unresolved and equally inclinable unto either part; or else, if to avoid neutrality, they make choice of something to aver, (and that is properly opinion) yet it is rather an inclination than an assertion, as being accompanied with fear, floating, and inconstancy.

And this indeed, although it be in itself a defect of learning, yet considering the state of man, and strict condition of perfecting the understanding by continual enquiry (man being bound in this also to recover that measure of his first fulness, which is attainable in this corrupted estate by sweat of brain, by labour and degrees, 'paulatim extundere artes,) I say, in these considerations, irresolution in judgement (so it be not universal in all conclusions, for that argues more weakness than choice of conceit; not particular, in things of

In Nullam unquam in disputationibus rem defendit, quam non probarit; nullam oppugnavit, quam non everterit. Cic. de Orat. lib. 2.-Non minoribus viribus contra justitiam dicitur d.sseruisse, quam pridie pro justitia dixerat. Quint. de Carnead. 1. 12. c. 1.-Plin. 1. 7. c. 30.

[ocr errors]

faith and salvation, which is not modesty but infidelity ") is both commendable and useful: commendable, because it prevents a heretical temper, which is ever peremptory and pertinacious. And both argues learning and modesty in the softness of judgement, which will not suffer itself to be captivated, either to its own conceits, or unto such unforcible reasons, in which it is able to descry weakness. And this is that which Pliny commends in his friend, Titus Ariston, whose hesitancy and slowness of resolution in matter of learning, proceeded not from any emptiness or unfurniture, but ex diversitate rationum, quas acri magnoque judicio ab origine causisque primis repetit, discernit, expendit: out of a learned cautelousness of judgement, which made him so long suspend his assent, till he had weighed the several repugnances of reasons, and by that means found out some truth whereon to settle his conceit. For (as the same Pliny elsewhere out of Thucydides observes) it is rawness and deficiency of learning that makes bold and peremptory; λογισμὸς δὲ ὄκνον φέρει. Demurs and fearfulness of resolution, are commonly the companions of more able wits. And for the use of doubtings; first, they lessen the number of heresies, which are (as I said) always obstinate; and next, it gives occasion of farther enquiry after the truth, to those, who shall find themselves best qualified for that service. But heresy, coming under the shape of science, with shows of certainty, evidence, and resolution, (especially if the inducements be quick and subtile) doth rather settle the understanding, and possess it with false assents, than yield occasion of deeper search, unless it meet with a more piercing judgement, which can through confidence descry weakness. For questionless the errors of great men, generally honoured for their learning, when they are once wrapped up in the boldness of assertions, do either, by possessing the judgement with prejudice of the author, make it also subscribe to the error; or if a more impartial eye see insufficiency in the ground, the authority of the man frights and deters from the opposing of his conceit. Whereas, when

n Vid. quæ adversus Scepticos disputat Aristocles apud Euseb. de Præpar. Evang. 1. 14. c. 18. • Ad quamcunque sunt disciplinam quasi tempestate delapsi, ad eam tanquam ad saxum, adhærescunt, &c. Acad. Q. 1. 4. p Plin, 1. 1. cp. 22.

Lib. 4. ep. 7.

men's assents are opposed with a modest confession of distrust and uncertainty, the understanding is incited both to enquire after the reasons of diffidence, as also to find out means for a more settled confirmation, and clearing of the truth.


Of Errors: the causes thereof: the abuse of principles, falsifying them, or transferring the truth of them out of their own bounds. Affectation of singularity and novel courses. Credulity and thraldom of judgement unto others. How antiquity is to be honoured. Affectation to particular objects corrupteth judgement. Curiosity in searching things secret.

THE other main corruption of knowledge was error, whereby I understand a peremptory and habitual assent, firmly, and without wavering, fixed upon some falsehood under the show of truth. It is Aristotle's assertion in his Ethicks, that one man may conceive himself as certain of his error, as another man of his knowledge;' and this indeed is so much the more dangerous aberration from knowledge, by how much it seems most nearly to resemble it.

[ocr errors]

If we enquire after the prime fundamental cause, the gate by which error came first into the world, Siracides will tell us in a word, that "error and darkness had their beginning together with sinners:" and the reason is, because sin, being a partition-wall, and a separation of man from God, who is 'Pater Luminum,' the father and fountain of all knowledge, and whose perfection man did at first, one principal way, by knowledge resemble,-cannot choose but bring with it darkness and confusion into the soul. But I shall enquire rather after the more immediate and secondary causes; some whereof, amongst sundry others, I take to be these:

1. A first and most special one is the abuse of principles: for the understanding must have ever something to rest itself upon; and from the conformity of other things thereunto, to gather the certainty and evidence of its assents. For it is the nature of man's mind, since it had at first itself a beginning, to abhor all manner of infinity, à parte-ante, (I mean

« السابقةمتابعة »