Page:The Works of Francis Bacon (1884) Volume 1.djvu/199

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70
MEDITATIONES SACRÆ.

Contrariwise, those who ascribed all things to their own cunning and practices, and to the immediate, and apparent causes, and as the prophet saith, "Have sacrificed to their own nets," have been always but petty counterfeit statesman, and not capable of the greatest actions.

Lastly, this I dare affirm in knowledge of nature, that a little natural philosophy, and the first entrance into it, doth dispose the opinion to atheism; but on the other side, much natural philosophy and wading deep into it, will bring about men's minds to religion; wherefore atheism every way seems to be combined with folly and ignorance, seeing nothing can can be more justly allotted to be the saying of fools than this, "There is no God"


OF HERESIES.

"You err, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God"

This canon is the mother of all canons against heresy; the causes of error are two; the ignorance of the will of God, and the ignorance or not sufficient consideration of his power; the will of God is more revealed by the Scriptures, and therefore the precept is, "Search the Scriptures;" the will of God is more revealed by the creatures, and therefore the precept is, "Behold and consider the creatures:" so is the fulness of the power of God to be affirmed, as we make no imputation to his will; so is the goodness of the will of God to be affirmed, as we make no derogation from his power: therefore true religion seated in the mean betwixt superstition, with superstitious heresies on the one side, and atheism with profane heresies on the other; superstition, rejecting the light of the Scriptures, and giving itself over to ungrounded traditions, and writings doubtful and not canonical, or to new revelations, or to untrue interpretations of the Scriptures, themselves do forge and dream many things of the will of God, which are strange and far distant from the true sense of the Scriptures; but atheism and theomachy rebelleth and mutinieth against the power of God, giving no faith to his word which revealeth his will, upon a discredit and unbelief of his power to whom all things are possible. Now, those heresies which spring out of this fountain seem more heinous than the other; for even in civil governments it is held an offence in a higher degree to deny the power and authority of a prince than to touch his honour and fame. Of these heresies which derogate from the power of God, beside plain atheism, there are three degrees, and they all have one and the same mystery; for all antichristianity worketh in a mystery, that is, under the shadow of good, and it is this, to free and deliver the will of God from all imputation and aspersion of evil. The first degree is of those who make and suppose two principles contrary and fighting one against the other, the one of good, the other of evil.

The second degree is of them to whom the majesty of God seems too much wronged, in setting up and erecting against him another adverse and oppose principle, namely, such a principle as should be active and affirmative, that is to say, cause or fountain of any essence or being; therefore rejecting all such presumption, they do nevertheless bring in against God a principal negative and privative, that is a cause of not being and subsisting, for they will have it to be an inbred proper work, and nature of the matter and creature itself, of itself to turn again and resolve into confusion and nothing, not knowing that it is an effect of one and the same omnipotency to make nothing of somewhat as to make somewhat of nothing. The third degree is, of those who abridge and restrain the former opinion only to those human actions which partake of sin, which actions they will have to depend substantively and originally, and without any sequel or subordination of causes upon the will, and make and set down and appoint larger limits of the knowledge of God than of his power, or rather of that part of God's power, (for knowledge itself is a power whereby he knoweth,) than of that by which he moveth and worketh, making him foreknow some things idle, and as a looker on, which he doth not predestinate nor ordain: not unlike to that devise which Epicurus brought into Democritus' opinion, to take away destiny, and make way to fortune, to wit; the start and slip of Attemus, which always of the wiser sort was rejected as a frivolous shift: but whatsoever depends not of God, as author and principle by inferior links and degrees, that must needs be in place of God, and a new principle, and a certain usurping God; wherefore worthily is that opinion refused as an indignity and derogation to the majesty and power of God, and yet it is most truly affirmed, that God is not the author of evil, not because he is not author, but because not as of evil.


OF THE CHURCH AND THE SCRIPTURES.

"Thou shall protect them in thy tabernacle from the tradition of tongues."

The contradiction of tongues doth everywhere meet with us out of the tabernacle of God, therefore whithersoever thou shall turn thyself thou shall find no end of controversies except thou with draw thyself into that tabernacle. Thou wilt say it is true, and that it is to be understood of the unity of the church; but hear and note; there was in the tabernacle the ark, and in the ark the testimony or tables of the law: what dost thou tell me of the husk of the tabernacle without the kernel of the testimony: the tabernacle was ordained for the keeping and delivering over from hand to hand of the testimony. In like manner the custody and passing over of the Scriptures is committed unto the church, but the life of the tabernacle is the testimony.