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amemus, tamen nec numero Hispanos, nec robore Gallos, nec calliditate Pænos, nec artibus Græcos, nec denique hoc ipso hujus gentis et terræ domestico nativoque sensu Italos ipsos et Latinos; sed pietate, ac religione, atque hâc unâ sapientid, quod Deorum immortalium numine omnia regi, gubernarique perspeximus, omnes gentes, nationesque superavimus.'
NOTES ON ESSAY XVI. 1. The Legend.' He refers to some collection, of which there
were many, of the miraculous stories of saints : one such called the Golden Legend may be specially intended ; it was compiled in the thirteenth century by Jacob Voraigne, Archbishop of Genoa. • The Talmud.' The Talmud is a book containing the Jewish
traditions and sacred laws. It consists of two parts--the Mishna, or the written laws, and the Gemara, or the rabbinical comments, explanations, and traditions thereon. It is
said to contain a great deal of foolish extravagance. • The Alcoran '--more properly, 'The Koran,' i.e. the book, al
being the article, as in al-chemy, al-cohol, al-gebra, al-kali, al-manac, and other words of Arabic origin. Al-Koran is the name by which Mohammedans designate their sacred book, and etymologically it exactly corresponds with our name 'the Bible,' i.e. the Book. It was composed by Mahomet (A.D. 570-632), and consists of revelations said to have been made to him at various times by God through
the angel Gabriel. 2. “universal frame'-the framework of the universe; the
material world ; all material things. 3. convince '-convict, expose, overthrow. So in speaking of
the power which it was believed the English kings pos. sessed of curing scrofula ('the king's evil') by a touch, Shakespeare makes Macduff say:
'Their malady convinces The great assay of art ; but at his touch
they presently amend'-Macbeth. • To convince the proud what signs avail'-Milton. Seek not to convince me of a crime
Which I can ne'er repent nor you pardon'-DRÝDEN. "Which of you convinceth me of sin?'- John viii, 46.
*To convince all that are ungodly of all their ungodly deeds '- Jud. i, 15. 4. about'-in circuit, round. So in Macbeth, III, ii, 12, when
Banquo dismounts to walk by a short path to the palace, and send his horses round by the longer way, the murderer says, His horses go
about.' 5. the chain of them —the long succession of causes. Bacon's
argument is that a little scientific knowledge may dispose a man to atheism by leading him to fancy that phenomena are entirely explained when we have discovered the second causes' (i.e. immediate or efficient causes '), which produce them ; whereas a wider and deeper knowledge may lead him to see that all these second causes' must themselves have some cause, and that there must be a great general First Cause of all things; so that there can be no satisfactory end to his inquiries until he ‘flies to Providence and Deity.
Thus, the second cause of the sensation of sight is now known to be that light impinges upon the retina and affects the optic nerve, which is directly connected with the brain itself, the seat and origin of all sensation. This, however, does not afford any answer to the question, How is it that I am able to see? It merely takes me one link further back in the chain of causes, and leaves me still to inquire what it is that makes the nerve to convey and the brain to receive the
sensation of light. 6. school .... most accused of Atheism.' Those Greek philoso
phers who, continuing the investigations of the Ionic school, adopted in physics the atomic theory of accounting for the origin of the universe.
Leucippus originated this theory, and it was developed by his disciple, Democritus of Abdera (B.C. 460-355).
He was called 'the laughing philosopher,' and is regarded as the parent of experimental philosophy. Epicurus, in physics, adopted the doctrines of this school.
They held that there were four elements out of which all things were composed, and a fifth, the quintessence, or fifth essence, which was immutable.
Bacon (laying stress on the antithesis between 'placed' and unplaced) says that the doctrines of the Atomists • demonstrate religion' because they presuppose a God as the originator, though not the sustainer, of all things: as he says a few lines below, they denied the administration, but could
not deny the nature. 7.
so as '-so that. 8. • that that which. 9. for whom it maketh'—to whom it would be an advantage. So in Milton :
'I was assured that nothing was designed
-Samson Agonistes. 10. 'more.' The meaning would be clearer if this word were
removed a few words further down : more than by this,
that atheists,' etc. 11. Bacon's argument is that when atheists proselytise, or are
willing to suffer for their atheism, they afford a conclusive proof of their insincerity, because, assuming atheism to be true, they do but waste their labour in trying to convince others of it, and undergo needless and profitless pain in suffering for it.
The argument, however, is not satisfactory : we can imagine an atheist willing to suffer for the sake of the consciousness that he had not given his assent to what he be
lieved to be false. 12. •blessed natures '—divine natures ; gods. 13. temporise '—dally, comply; say what was best for the time,
though he did not really believe it.
The words quoted are attributed to Epicurus by Diogenes Laertius (x, 23) : 'It is not profane to deny the existence of the gods of the vulgar; but it is profane to attribute to the gods
the opinions of the vulgar.' 14. • Diagoras.' An Athenian philosopher surnamed 'the Atheist.'
For speaking contemptuously of the popular religion he was charged with impiety, and being banished, died at Corinth,
about 450 B.C. * Bion? (contemporary with a poet of the same name) was a
satirist who died about B.C. 240. • Lucian,' who died about A.D. 200, ridiculed in his writings
the pagan mythology and the philosophical sects. 15. St Bernard' (A. D. 1091-1153), called the last of the Fathers,' was Abbot of Clairvaux.
The quotation is from Serm. ad Pastores : 'It is not for us now to say, “ As is the people, so
the priest,” for the people are not so bad as the priest. 16. melior natura'-a superior nature. 17. • Cicero saith.' The quotation is from De Haruspicum Re
sponsis, ix : 'We may admire ourselves, O conscript fathers, as much as we wish ; still we cannot match the Spaniards in number, nor the Gauls in strength, nor the Carthaginians in cunning, nor the Greeks in art. Nor, in short, the Italians and Latins themselves in the inborn, home-bred sons of this land and nation ; but in piety and devotion, and in this the only wisdom, because we have recognised that all things are ruled and governed by the will of the immortal gods, (in this) we have surpassed all nations and races.'
ANALYSIS OF ESSAY XVI. I. The absurdity of atheism is exposed by
1. God's ordinary works.
2. Deep philosophy, though shallow philosophy may seem
to justify it.
6. The lack of contemplative atheists.' II. The causes of atheism :
1. Many divisions in religion.
4. Learned times, with peace and prosperity. III. The hateful character of atheism :
1. It destroys man's nobility.
XVII.-OF SUPERSTITION. (1612, slightly enlarged
in 1625.) IT were better to have no opinion of God at all than such an opinion as is unworthy of Him; for the one is unbelief, the other is contumely:1 and certainly Superstition is the reproach of the Deity. Plutarch 3 saith well to that purpose, ‘Surely,' saith he, 'I had rather a great deal men should say there was no such man at all as Plutarch, than that they should say that there was one Plutarch that would eat his children as soon as they were born;' as the poets speak of Saturn : and, as the contumely is greater towards God, so the danger is greater towards men.
Atheism leaves a man to sense, to philosophy, to natural piety, to laws, to reputation : all which may be guides to an outward moral virtue, though religion were not;5 but Superstition dismounts 6 all these, and erecteth an absolute mon
onarchy in the minds of men : therefore atheism did never perturb? states : for it makes men
7 wary of themselves, as looking no further, and we see the times inclined to atheism (as the time of Augustus
Cæsar) were civil 8 times; but Superstition hath been the confusion of many states, and bringeth in a new 'primum mobile,'' that ravisheth all the spheres of government.
The master of Superstition is the people, 10 and in all Superstition wise men follow fools: and arguments are fitted to practice 11 in a reversed order. It was gravely said by some of the prelates in the Council of Trent, where the doctrine of the schoolmen 12 bare great sway, that the schoolmen were like astronomers, which did feign eccentrics and epicycles, and such engines of orbs 13 to save the phenomena, though they knew there were no such things; and, in like manner, that the schoolmen had framed a number of subtle and intricate axioms and theorems, to save the practice of the Church.
The causes 14 of Superstition are, pleasing and sensual rites and ceremonies ; excess of outward and pharisaical holiness; over-great reverence of traditions, which cannot but load the Church; the stratagems of prelates for their own ambition and lucre; the favouring too much of good intentions, which openeth the gate to conceits and novelties; the taking an aim at Divine matters by human, which cannot but breed mixture of imaginations ; 15 and lastly, barbarous times, especially joined with calamities and disasters.
Superstition, without a veil, is a deformed thing; for as it addeth deformity to an ape to be so like a man, so the similitude of Superstition to religion makes it the more deformed: and as wholesome meat corrupteth to little worms, so good forms and orders corrupt into a number of petty observances. There is a Superstition in avoiding Superstition, 16 when men think to do best if they go furthest from the Superstition formerly received; therefore care would be had that (as it fareth in ill purgings 17) the good be not taken away with the bad which commonly is done when the people is the reformer.