« PreviousContinue »
CLV. - PASSAGES FROM BACON.
[FRANCIS BACON, one of the most illustrious philosophers that ever lived, was born in London, January 22, 1561, and died April 9, 1626. Besides his inestimable services to philosophy and the investigation of truth, he was eminent as a lawyer, a statesman, and an orator. He rose to the office of lord high chancellor, and was created Baron Verulam and Viscount St. Albans. His strength of character was not equal to the splendor of his genius.
For more ample accounts of the life and writings of this great man, see the biography of him in Lord Campbell's Lives of the Chancellors, Macaulay's essay, originally contributed to the Edinburgh Review, and Hallam's Literature of Europe.]
THE TRUE ENDS OF KNOWLEDGE. But the greatest error of all the rest is the mistaking or misplacing of the last or farthest end of knowledge ; for men have entered into a desire of learning and knowledge, sometimes upon a natural curiosity and inquisitive appetite; sometimes to entertain their minds with variety and delight; sometimes for ornament and reputation ; and sometimes to enable them to victory of wit and contradiction; and most times for lucre and profession; and seldom sincerely to give a true account of their gift of reason, to the benefit and use of men; as if there were sought in knowledge a couch whereupon to rest a searching and restless spirit; or a terrace, for a wandering and variable mind to walk up and down, with a fair prospect; or a tower of state, for a proud mind to raise itself upon ; or a fort, or commanding ground, for strife and contention; or a shop, for profit or sale, - and not a rich storehouse, for the glory of the Creator, and the relief of man's estate. But this is that which will indeed dignify and exalt knowledge, if conitemplation and action may be more nearly and straitly conjoined and united together than they have been; a conjunction like unto that of the two highest planets — Saturn, the planet of rest and contemplation, and Jupiter, the planet of civil society and action. Howbeit, I do not mean (when I speak of use and action) that end before mentioned, of the applying of knowledge to lucre and profession; for I am not ignorant how much that diverteth and interrupteth the prosecution and
advancement of knowledge; like unto the golden ball thrown before Atalanta,* which, while she goeth aside and stoopeth to take up, the race is hindered.
Neither is my meaning, as was spoken of Socrates, to call philosophy down from heaven to converse upon the earth ; that is, to leave natural philosophy aside, and to apply knowledge only to manners and policy. But as both heaven and earth do conspire and contribute to the use and benefit of man, so the end ought to be, from both philosophies to separate and reject vain speculations, and whatsoever is empty and void, and to preserve and augment whatsoever is solid and fruitful.
LAWS AND LAW MAKERS. Notwithstanding, for the more public part of government, which is laws, I think to note only one deficiency; which is, that all those who have written of laws have written either as philosophers or as lawyers, and none as statesmen. As for the philosophers, they make imaginary laws for imaginary commonwealths; and their discourses are as the stars, which give little light, because they are so high. For the lawyers, they write according to the states where they live, what is received law, and not what ought to be law: for the wisdom of a law maker is one, and of a lawyer is another. For there are in nature certain fountains of justice, whence all civil laws are derived but as streams; and like as waters do take tinctures and tastes from the soils through which they run, so do civil laws vary according to the regions and governments where they are planted, though they proceed from the same fountains.
* Atalanta was a swift-footed maiden in Greek mythology, who vanquished all her competitors in the race, but was finally beaten by Meilanion, who dropped three golden apples, one after another, which Atalanta stopped to pick up. Bacon's illustration is very happy, because the parallel is 80 exact throughout.
CLVI. — PASSAGES FROM JEREMY TAYLOR.
(JEREMY TAYLOR was born at Cambridge, in England, in 1613, and died in 1667. Ho was bishop of Down and Connor, in Ireland, at the time of bis death. He was a voluminous writer on theological and devotional subjects, and his works have been often republished. His writings are remarkable for richness of fancy, copiousness of expres mion, and fervid religious feeling.]
DECLINE IN GRACE. THE canes of Egypt, when they newly arise from their bed of mud and slime of Nilus, start up into an equal and continual length, and are interrupted but with few knots, and are strong and beauteous, with great distances and intervals; but when they are grown to their full length, they lessen into the point of a pyramid, and multiply their knots and joints, interrupting the fineness and smoothness of its body. So are the steps and declensions of him that does not grow in At first, when he springs up from his impurity by the waters of baptism and repentance, he grows straight and strong, and suffers but few interruptions of piety, and his constant courses of religion are but rarely intermitted, till they ascend up to a full age, or towards the ends of their life; then they are weak, and their devotions often intermitted, and their breaches are frequent, and they seek excuses and labor for dispensations, and love God and religion less and less; till their old age, instead of a crown of their virtue and perseverance, ends in levity and unprofitable courses ; light and useless as the tufted feathers upon the cane, every wind can play with it and abuse it, but ao man can make it useful.*
* This is one of the most characteristic passages in Taylor's writings, and shows his extraordinary power of illustration. Had it never been written, we should have pronounced it utterly impossible to trace any analogy between decline in spiritual growth and the structure of a reed; but in the hands of this master of rhetoric, the comparison seems neither forced nor inapt.
TOLERATION. When Abraham sat at his tent door, according to his custom, waiting to entertain strangers, he espied an old man, stooping and leaning on his staff, weary with age and travel, coming towards him, who was a hundred years of age. He received him kindly, washed his feet, provided supper, caused him to sit down; but observing that the old man ate and prayed not, nor begged for a blessing on his meat, he asked him why he did not worship the God of heaven. The old man told him that he worshipped the fire only, and acknowledged no other God. At which answer, Abraham grew so zealously angry, that he thrust the old man out of his tent, and exposed him to all the toils of the night, and an unguarded condition. When the old man was gone, God called to Abraham, and asked him where the stranger was.
He replied, "I thrust him away because he did not worship thee." God answered him, “I have suffered him these hundred years, although he dishonored me; and couldst thou not endure him one night, when he gave thee no trouble?” Upon this, saith the story, Abraham fetched him back again, and gave him hospitable entertainment and wise instruction. Go thou and do likewise, and thy charity will be rewarded by the God of Abraham.
CLVII. – THE RESPONSIBILITY OF AMERICAN
When we reflect on what has been, and is, how is it possible not to feel a profound sense of the responsibleness of this republic to all future ages ? What vast motives press upon us for lofty efforts ! What brilliant prospects invite our enthusiasm! What solemn warnings at once demand our vigilance, and moderate our confidence !
The old world has already revealed to us, in its unsealed
are no more.
books, the beginning and end of all its own marvellous struggles in the cause of liberty. Greece, lovely Greece, “ the land of scholars and the nurse of arms,” where sister republics in fair processions chanted the praises of liberty and the gods, — where and what is she? For two thousand years, the oppressor has bound her to the earth. Her arts
The last sad relics of her temples are but the barracks of a ruthless soldiery ; the fragments of her columns and her palaces are in the dust, yet beautiful in ruin. She fell not when the mighty were upon her. Her sons were united at Thermopylæ and Marathon ; and the tide of her triumph rolled back upon the Hellespont. She was conquered by her own factions. She fell by the hands of her own people. The man of Macedonia did not the work of destruction. It was already done by her own corruptions, banishments, and dissensions.
Rome, republican Rome, whose eagles glanced in the rising and setting sun,
- where and what is she? The Eternal City yet remains, proud even in her desolation, noble in her decline, venerable in the majesty of religion, and calm as in the composure of death. The malaria has but travelled in the paths worn by her destroyers. More than eighteen centuries have mourned over the loss of her empire. A mortal disease was upon her vitals before Cæsar had crossed the Rubicon; and Brutus did not restore her health by the deep probings of the senate chamber. The Goths, and Vandals, and Huns, the swarms of the north, completed only what was already begun at home. Romans betrayed Rome. The legions were bought and sold, but the people offered the tribute money.
And where are the republics of modern times, which clustered round immortal Italy? Venice and Genoa exist but in name.
The Alps, indeed, look down upon the brave and peaceful Swiss in their native fastnesses; but the guaranty of their freedom is in their weakness, and not in their