« VorigeDoorgaan »
Epicurus is charged, that he did but dissemble for his credit's sake when he affirmed there were blessed natures, but such as enjoyed themselves without having respect to the government of the world; wherein they say he did temporize, though in secret he thought there was no God; but certainly he is traduced, for his words are noble and divine: * "Non Deos vulgi negare profanum; sed vulgi opiniones Diis applicare profanum." Plato could have said no more. And although he had the confidence to deny the administration, he had not the power to deny the nature. The Indians of the west have names for their particular gods, though they have no name for God; as if the heathens should have had the names Jupiter, Apollo, Mars, &c. but not the word Deus; which shows, that even those barbarous people have the notion, though they have not the latitude and extent of it: so that against atheists the very savages take part with the very subtilest philosophers. The contemplative atheist is rare; a Diagoras, a Bion, a Lucian perhaps, and some others; and yet they seem to be more than they are; for that all that impugn a received religion or superstition are by the adverse part branded with the name of atheists. But the great atheists indeed are hypocrites, which are ever handling holy things, but without feeling;
It is not profane to deny the gods of the vulgar; but it is profane to apply the vulgar opinions to the gods.
so as they must needs be cauterized in the end. The causes of atheism are, divisions in religion, if they be many; for any one main division addeth zeal to both sides, but many divisions introduce atheism. Another is, scandal of priests, when it is come to that which S. Bernard saith, *"non est jam dicere, ut populus, sic sacerdos ; quia nec sic populus, ut sacerdos." A third is, a custom of profane scoffing in holy matters, which doth by little and little deface the reverence of religion. And, lastly, learned times, especially with peace and prosperity; for troubles and adversities do more bow men's minds to religion. They that deny a God destroy man's nobility; for certainly man is of kin to the beasts by his body; and if he be not of kin to God by his spirit, he is a base and ignoble creature. It destroys likewise magnanimity, and the raising of human nature; for take an example of a dog, and mark what a generosity and courage he will put on when he finds himself maintained by a man, who to him is instead of a God, or + "melior natura:" which courage is manifestly such as that creature, with that confidence of a better nature than his own, could never attain. So man, when he resteth and assureth himself upon divine protection and favour, gathereth a force and faith which human nature in
* We can no longer say, "As is the people, so is the priest!" for the people now are not so bad as the priest.
itself could not obtain ; therefore, as atheism is in all respects hateful, so in this, that it depriveth humani nature of the means to exalt itself above human frailty. As it is in particular persons, so it is in nations: never was there such a state for magnanimity as Rome; of this state hear what Cicero saith, *"Quam volumus, licet, patres conscripti; nos amemus, tamen nec numero Hispanos, nec robore Gallos, nec calliditate Poenos, nec artibus Græcos, nec denique hoc ipso hujus gentis et terra domestico nativoque sensu Italos ipsos et Latinos; sed pietate, ac religione, atque hac una sapientia, quod deorum immortalium numine omnia regi gubernarique perspeximus, omnes gentes nationesque superavimus." BACON.
THE FEARS OF DEATH.
Ay, but to die, and go we know not where;
*We may admire ourselves, conscript fathers, as much as we please: nevertheless, it was neither by numbers that we subdued the Spaniards, nor by strength the Gauls, nor by craft the Carthaginians, nor by tactics the Grecians, nor, in fine, by the homebred and native good sense of this people and country, the Italians themselves, and the Latins; but by piety and religion and by this sole wisdom, namely, that we perceived that all things are ruled and governed by the providence of the immortal gods, did we subdue all peoples and nations.
In thrilling regions of thick-ribbed ice po ule mk
And blown with restless violence round about. Con
THE SAME SUBJECT.
MEN fear death as children fear to go in the dark ; and as that natural fear in children is increased with tales, so is the other. Certainly the contemplation of death as "the wages of sin," and passage to another world, is holy and religious; but the fear of it, as a tribute due unto nature, is weak. Yet in religious meditations there is sometimes mixture of vanity and of superstition. You shall read in some of the friars' books of mortification, that a man should think with himself what the pain is, if he have but his finger's end pressed, or tortured, and thereby imagine what the pains of death are, when the whole body is corrupted and dissolved; when many times death passeth with less pain than the torture of a limb; for the most vital
parts are not the quickest of sense. And by him that spake only as a philosopher and natural man, it was well said, *" Pompa mortis magis terret, quàm mors ipsa." Groans, and convulsions, and a dis coloured face, and friends weeping, and blacks, and obsequies, and the like, show death terrible. It is worthy the observing, that there is no passion in the mind of man so weak, but it mates and masters the fear of death; and therefore death is no such terrible enemy, when a man hath so many attendants about him that can win the combat of him. ›› Revenge triumphs over death; love slights it; honour aspireth to it; grief flieth to it; fear pre-occupateth it; nay, we read, after Otho the emperor had slain himself, pity (which is the tenderest of affections) provoked many to die out of mere compassion to their sovereign, and as the truest sort of followers. Nay, Seneca adds, niceness and satiety; +" Cogita quamdiu eadem feceris; mori velle, non tantùm fortis, aut miser, sed etiam fastidiosus potest." A man would die though he were neither valiant nor miserable, only upon a weariness to do the same thing so oft over and over. It is no less worthy to ob
The circumstances attendant on death are more terrific than death
Think for how long a time you have done only the same things over and over again: so that not only a valiant man, or a wretched man, may wish to die; but even one who is cloyed or satiated.