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us is against us"; and again, "He that is not against us is with us”; that is, if the points fundamental, and of substance in religion, were truly discerned, and distinguished from points not merely8 of faith, but of opinion, order, or good intention. This is a thing may seem to many a matter trivial, and done already; but if it were done less partially, it would be embraced more generally.
Of this I may give only this advice, according to my small model. Men ought to take heed of rending God's Church by two kinds of controversies: the one is, when the matter of the point controverted is too small and light, not worth the heat and strife about it, kindled only by contradiction ; for, as it is noted by one of the fathers, Christ's coat indeed had no seam, but the Church's vesture was of divers colours; whereupon he saith, In veste varietas sit, scissura non sit, '— they be two things, unity and uniformity: the other is, when the matter of the point controverted is great, but it is driven to an over great subtilty and obscurity, so that it becometh a thing rather ingenious than substantial. A man that is of judgment and understanding shall sometimes hear ignorant men differ, and know well within himself that those which so differ mean one thing, and yet they themselves would never agree: and if it come so to pass in that distance of judgment which is between man and man, shall we think that God above, that knows the heart, doth not discern that frail men, in some of their contradictions, intend the same thing, and accepteth of both ? The nature of such controversies is excellently expressed by St. Paul, in the warning and precept that he giveth concerning the same: Devita profanas vocum novitates, et oppositiones falsi nominis scientice. Men create oppositions which are not, and put them into new terms so fixed as,2 whereas the meaning ought to govern the term, the term in effect governeth the meaning. There be also two false peaces, or unities: the one, when the peace is grounded but upon an implicit ignorance ; for all colours will agree in the dark: the other, when it is pieced up upon a direct admission of contraries in fundamental points ; for truth and falsehood in such things are like the iron 3 and clay in the toes of Nebuchadnezzar's image; they may cleave, but they will not incorporate.
8 Merely in the sense of purely, absolutely ; like the Latin merus. So in Hamlet, i., 2: "Things rank and gross in nature possess it merely.”
9 “In the garment there may be many colours, but let there be no rending of it."
1 “Avoid profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called.”
2 In all such cases, Bacon uses as and that indiscriminately, 3 Alluding to Nebuchadnezzar's dream, which signified the short duration of his kingdom. See Daniel, ii., 33.
Concerning the means of procuring unity, men must beware that, in the procuring or muniting 4 of religious unity, they do not dissolve and deface the laws of charity and of human society. There be two swords amongst Christians, the spiritual and temporal, and both have their due office and place in the maintenance of religion: but we may not take up the third sword, which is Mahomet's sword, or like unto it; that is, to propagate religion by wars, or by sanguinary persecutions to force consciences; except it be in cases of overt scandal, blasphemy, or intermixture of practice against the State ; much less to nourish seditions ; to authorize conspiracies and rebellions; to put the sword into the people's hands, and the like, tending to the subversion of all government, which is the ordinance of God: for this is but to dash the first table against the second; and so to consider men as Christians, as we forget that they are men. Lucretius the poet, when he beheld the act of Agamemnon, that could endure the sacrificing of his own daughter, exclaimed, Tantum religio potuit suadere malorum.5 What would he have said, if he had known of the massacre in France, or the powder treason of England ?? He would have been seven times more Epicure and atheist than he was ; for as the temporal sword is to be drawn with great circumspection in cases of religion, so it is a thing monstrous to put it into the hands of the common people; let that be left unto the Anabaptists 8 and other furies. It was great blasphemy, when the Devil said, “I will ascend and be like the Highest”; but it is greater blasphemy to personate God, and bring Him in saying, “I will descend, and be like the prince of darkness”; and what
4 Muniting is fortifying or strengthening.
“To deeds so dreadful could religion prompt.” The poet refers to Aga. memnon's sacrifice of his daughter Iphigenia, with the view of appeasing the wrath of Diana.
6 He alludes to the massacre of the Huguenots, in France, which took place on St. Bartholomew's day, August 24, 1572, by the order of Charles IX. and his mother, Catherine de Medici.
7 More generally known as “the Gunpowder Plot.”
8 A set of desperate fanatics who appeared at Munster about 1530. Assum. ing a special and conscious indwelling of the Holy Ghost, they of course set themselves above all law, and often plunged into the grossest sensualities and cruelties. Hooker aptly says of them, “what strange fantastical opinion soever at any time entered into their heads, their use was to think the Spirit taught it them.” And again: “These men, in whose mouths at the first sounded nothing but only mortification of the flesh, were come at the length to think they might lawfully have their six or seven wives apiece; they which at the first thought judgment and justice itself to be merciless cruelty, accounted at the length their own hands sanctified with being embried in Christian blood."
is it better, to make the cause of religion to descend to the cruel and execrable actions of murdering princes, butchery of people, and subversion of States and governments ? Surely this is to bring down the Holy Ghost, instead of the likeness of a dove, in the shape of a vulture or raven; and to set out of the bark of a Christian church a flag of a bark of pirates and assassins: therefore it is most necessary that the Church by doctrine and decree, princes by their sword, and all learnings, both Christian and moral, as by their Mercury rod, do damn, and send to Hell for ever those facts and opinions tending to the support of the same; as hath been already in good part done. Surely, in councils concerning religion, that counsel of the Apostle would be prefixed, Ira hominis non implet justitiam Dei;' and it was a notable observation of a wise father, and no less ingenuously confessed, that those which held and persuaded pressure of consciences were commonly interested therein themselves for their own ends.
REVENGE is a kind of wild justice, which the more Man's nature runs to, the more ought law to weed it out: for, as for the first wrong, it doth but offend the law, but the revenge of that wrong putteth the law out of office. Certainly, in taking revenge, a man is but even with his enemy, but in passing it over he is superior ; for it is a prince's part to pardon: and Solomon, I am sure, saith, “It is the glory of a man to pass by an offence.” That which is past is gone and irrevocable, and wise men have enough to do with things present and to come; therefore they do but trifle with themselves that labour in past matters. There is no man doth a wrong for the wrong's sake, but thereby to purchase himself profit, or pleasure, or honour, or the like; therefore why should I be angry with a man for loving himself better than me? And if any man should do wrong merely out of ill-nature, why, yet it is but like the thorn or briar, which prick and scratch because they can do no other. The most tolerable sort of revenge is for those wrongs which there is no law to remedy; but then let a man take heed the revenge be such as
9 Alluding to the caduceus, with which Mercury, the messenger of the gods, summoned the souls of the departed to the infernal regions.
1 “ The wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God,” Observe that would here has the sense of should. The auxiliaries could, should, and would were often used indiscriminately in Bacon's time.
there is no law to punish, else a man's enemy is still beforehand, and it is two for one.' Some, when they take revenge, are desirous the party should know whence it cometh: this is the more generous; for the delight seemeth to be not so much in doing the hurt as in making the party repent: but base and crafty cowards are like the arrow that flieth in the dark. Cosmus, Duke of Florence,2 had a desperate saying against perfidious or neglecting friends, as if those wrongs were unpardonable. “You shall read,” saith he, “that we are commanded to forgive our enemies; but you never read that we are commanded to forgive our friends.” But yet the spirit of Job was in a better tune: “Shall we," saith he, “take good at God's hands, and not be content to take evil also ?" and so of friends in a proportion. This is certain, that a man that studieth revenge keeps his own wounds green, which otherwise would heal and do well. Public revenges 3 are for the most part fortunate; as that for the death of Cæsar ; 4 for the death of Pertinax; for the death of Henry the Third of France; 5 and many more. But in private revenges it is not so; nay, rather vindictive persons live the life of witches; who, as they are mischievous, so end they unfortunate.
It was a high speech of Seneca, (after the manner of the Stoics), that “the good things which belong to prosperity are to be wished, but the good things that belong to adversity are to be admired,”—Bona rerum secundarum optabilia, adversarum mirabilia. Certainly, if miracles be the command over Nature, they appear most in adversity. It is yet a higher speech of his than the other, (much too high for a heathen,) “It is true greatness to have in one the fraility of a man, and the security of a god,” – Vere magnum habere fragilitatem hominis, securitatem dei. This would have done better in poesy, where transcendencies are more allowed; and the poets indeed have been busy with it; for it is in effect the thing which is figured in that strange fiction of the ancient poets, which seemeth not to be without mystery ;' nay, and to have some approach to the state of a Christian; “that Hercules, when he went to unbind Prometheus, (by whom human nature is represented,) sailed the length of the great ocean in an earthen pot or pitcher," lively describing Christian resolution, that saileth in the frail bark of the flesh through the waves of the world. But, to speak in a mean, the virtue of prosperity is temperance, the virtue of adversity is fortitude, which in morals is the more heroical virtue. Prosperity is the blessing of the Old Testament, adversity is the blessing of the New, which carrieth the greater benediction, and the clearer revelation of God's favour. Yet, even in the Old Testament, if you listen to David's harp, you shall hear as many hearse-like airso as carols; and the pencil of the Holy Ghost hath laboured more in describing the afflictions of Job than the felicities of Solomon. Prosperity is not without many fears and distastes; and adversity is not without comforts and hopes. We see in needleworks and embroideries, it is more pleasing to have a lively work upon a sad and solemn ground, than to have a dark and melancholy work upon a lightsome ground: judge, therefore, of the pleasure of the heart by the pleasure of the eye. Certainly virtue is like precious odours, most fragrant when they are incensed,1 or crushed : for prosperity doth best discover vice, but adversity doth best discover virtue.
2 The allusion is to Cosmo de Medici, chief of the Florentine republic, and much distinguished as an encourager of literature and art.
3 By “public revenges," he means punishment awarded by the State with the sanction of the laws.
4 He alludes to the retribution dealt by Augustus and Antony to the mur. derers of Julius Cæsar. It is related by ancient historians, as a singular fact, that not one of them died a natural death.
5 Henry III. of France was assassinated in 1999 by Jacques Clement, a Jaco. bin monk, in the frenzy of fanaticism. Although Clement justly suffered pun. ishment, the end of this bloodthirsty and bigoted tyrant may be justly deemed a retribution dealt by the hand of an offended Providence.
6 For some excellent remarks on the subject of this Essay, seo a passage from Burke, page 320 of this volume.
7 Mystery, here is secret meaning ; like the hidden moral of a fable or inyth.
8 • Speaking in a mean” is speaking with moderation. So in one of Wordsworth’s Ecclesiastical Sonnets : “ The golden mean and quiet flow of truths that soften hatred, temper strife.”
9 Funereal airs. It must be remembered that many of the Psalms of David were written by him when persecuted by Saul, as also in the tribulation caused by the wicked conduct of his son Absalom. Some of them, too, though called “The Psalms of David,” were really composed by the Jews in their captivity at Babylon; as, for instance, the 137th Psalm, which so beautifully commences, “By the waters of Babylon there we sat down.” One of them is supposed to be the composition of Moses.
1 Incensed is set on fire or burned.