Page:The Works of Francis Bacon (1884) Volume 1.djvu/211

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OF THE INTERPRETATION OF NATURE.

83

ing and fructifying of this plant, by a providence of God, nay, not only by a general providence but by a special prophecy, was appointed to this autumn ot the world: for to my understanding, it is not violent to the letter, and safe now after the event, so to interpret that place in the prophecy of Daniel, where, speaking of the latter limes, it is said, "Many shall pass to and fro, and science shall be increased;" as if the opening of the world by navigation and commerce, and the further discovery of knowledge, should meet in one time or age.

But howsoever that be, there are besides the authorities of Scriptures before recited, two reasons of exceeding great weight and force, why religion should dearly protect all increase of natural knowledge: the one, because it leadeth to the greater exaltation of the glory of God; for as the Psalms and other Scriptures do often invite us to consider, and to magnify the great and wonderful works of God; so if we should rest only in the contemplation of those shows which first offer themselves to our senses, we should do a like injury to the majesty of God, as if we should judge of the store of some excellent jeweller, by that only which is set out to the street in his shop. The other reason is, because it is a singular help and preservative against unbelief and error: for saith our Saviour, "You err, not knowing the Scriptures, nor the power of God;" laying before us two books or volumes to study, if we will be secured from error; first the Scriptures revealing the will of God, and then the creatures expressing his power; for that latter book will certify us, that nothing which the first, teacheth shall be thought impossible. And most sure it is, and a true conclusion of experience, that a little natural philosophy inclineth the mind to atheism, but a further proceeding bringeth the mind back to religion.

To conclude then: Let no man presume to check the liberality of God's gifts, who, as was said, "hath set the world in man's heart." So as whatsoever is not God, but parcel of the world, he hath fitted it to the comprehension of man's mind, if man will open and dilate the powers of his understanding as he may.

But yet evermore it must be remembered, that the least part of knowledge passed to man by this so large a charter from God, must be subject to that use for which God hath granted it, which is the benefit and relief of the state and society of man: for otherwise all manner of knowledge becometh malign and serpentine, and therefore, as carrying the quality of the serpent's sting and malice, it maketh the mind of man to swell; as the Scripture sayeth excellently, "Knowledge bloweth up, but charity buildeth up." And again, the same author doth notably disavow both power and knowledge, such as is not dedicated to goodness or love; for saith he, "If I have all faith, so as I could remove mountains," there is power active; "If I render my body to the fire," there is power passive; "If I speak with the tongues of men and angels," there is knowledge, for language is but the conveyance of knowledge, "all were nothing."

And therefore it is not the pleasure of curiosity, nor the quiet of resolution, nor the raising of the spirit, nor victory of wit, nor faculty of speech, nor lucre of profession, nor ambition of honour or fame, or inablement for business, that are the true ends of knowledge; some of these being more worthy than other, though all inferior and degenerate: but it is a restitution and reinvesting, in great part, of man to the sovereignty and power, for whensoever he shall be able to call the creatures by their true names, he shall again command them, which he had in his first state of creation. And to speak plainly and clearly, it is a discovery of all operations and possibilities of operations from immortality, if it were possible, to the meanest mechanical practice. And therefore knowledge, that tendeth but to satisfaction, is but as a courtesan, which is for pleasure, and not for fruit or generation. And knowledge that tendeth to profit or profession, or glory, is but as the golden ball thrown before Atalanta; which while she goeth aside, and stoopeth to take up, she hindereth the race. And knowledge referred to some particular point of use, is but as Harmodius, which putteth down one tyrant: and not like Hercules, who did perambulate the world to suppress tyrants and giants and monsters in every part.

It is true, that in two points the curse is peremptory, and not to be removed: the one, that vanity must be the end in all human effects; eternity being resumed though the revolutions and periods may be delayed. The other, that the consent of the creature being now turned into reluctation, this power cannot otherwise be exercised and administered but with labour, as well in inventing as in executing; yet nevertheless chiefly that labour and travel which is described by the sweat of the brows, more than of the body; that is, such travel as is joined with the working and discursion of the spirits in the brain: for as Solomon saith excellently, "The fool putteth to more strength, but the wise man considereth which way;" signifying the election of the mean to be more material than the multiplication of endeavour. It is true also that there is a limitation rather potential than actual, which is when the effect is possible, but the time or place yieldeth not the matter or basis whereupon man should work. But notwithstanding these precincts and bounds, let it be believed, and appeal thereof made to time, with renunciation nevertheless to all the vain and abusing promises of alchemists and magicians, and such like light, idle, ignorant, credulous, and fantastical wits and sects, that the new-found world of land was not greater addition to the ancient continent, than there remaineth at this day a world of inventions and