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first entrance of reformation, sought out new Limboes and new Hells wherein they might include our books also within the number of their damned. And this was the rare morsel so officiously snatched up, and so illfavouredly'imitated by our inquifiturient bishops, and the attendant minorites their chaplains. That ye like not now these most certain authors of this licensing order, and that all sinister intention was far distant from your thoughts, when ye were importuned the passing it, all men who know the integrity of your actions, and how ye honour truth, will clear ye readily.
. But some will say, what though the inventors were bad, the thing for all that may be good. It may so; yet if that thing be no such deep invention, but obvious and easy for any man to light on, and yet best and wisest commonwealths through all ages and occasions have forborn to use it, and falsest seducers and oppreffors of men were the first who took it up, and to no other purpofe but to obstruct and hinder the first approach of reformation ; I am of those who believe, it will be a harder alchymy than Lullius ever knew, to sublimate any good use out of such an invention. Yet this only is what I request to gain from this reason, that it may be held a dangerous and suspicious fruit, as certainly it deserves, for the tree that bore it, until I can dissect one by one the properties it has. But I have first to finish, as was propounded, what is to be thought in general of reading books, whatever fort they be, and whether be more the benefit or the harm that thence proceeds.
Not to insist upon the examples of Moses, Daniel, and Paul, who were skilful in all the learning of the Egyptians, Chaldeans, and Greeks, which could not probably be without reading their books of all sorts, in Paul especially, who thought it no defilement to insert into holy scripture the sentences of three Greek poets, and one of them a tragedian ; the question was notwithstanding sometimes controverted among the prịmitive doctors, but with great odds on that fide which affirmed it both law. ful and profitable, as was then evidently perceived, when Julian the Apostate, and subtlest enemy to our faith, made a decree forbidding Christians the study of heathen
learning; for said he, they wound us with our own weapons, and with our own arts and sciences they overcome us, And indeed the Christians were put so to their shifts by this crafty means, and so much in danger to decline into all ignorance, that the two Apollinarii were fain, as a man may say, to coin all the seven liberal sciences out of the Bible, reducing it into divers forms of orations, poems, dialogues, even to the calculating of a new christian grammar. But, faith the historian Socrates, the providence of God provided better than the industry of Apollinarius and his son, by taking away that illiterate law with the life of him who devised it. So great an injury they then held it to be deprived of Hellenic learning; and thought it a persecution more undermining, and secretly decaying the church, than the open cruelty of Decius or Diocletian. And perhaps it was the same politic drift that the devil whipped St. Jerom in a lenten dream, for reading Cicero; or else it was, a phantasm, bred by the fever which had then seized him. For had an angel been his discipliner, unless it were for dwelling too much on Ciceronianisms, and had chastised the reading, not the vanity, it had been plainly partial ; first to correct him for grave Cicero, and not for scurril Plautus, whom he confesses to have been reading not long before; next to correct him only, and let so many more ancient fathers wax old in those pleasant and florid studies without the lash of such a tutoring apparition ; insomuch that Basil teaches how some good use may be made of Margites a sportful poem, not now extant, writ by Homer ; and why not then of Morgante an Italian romance much to the same purpose ? But if it be agreed we shall be tried by visions, there is a vision recorded by Eusebius, far ancienter than this tale of Jerom, to the nun Euftochium, and besides, has nothing of a fever in it. Dionysius Alexandrinus was, about the year 240, a person of great name in the church, for piety and learning, who had wont to avail himself much against heretics, by being conversant in their books; until a certain presbyter laid it scrupulously to his conscience, how he durft venture himself among those defiling volumes. The worthy man, loth to give offence, fell into a new debate with himself,
he year 240; learning, by being
!! himses for piety
what was to be thought; when suddenly à vision fent from God, (it is his own epiftle that so avers it,) con: firmed him in these words : “ Read any books whatever come to thy hands, for thou art fufficient both to judge aright, and to examine each matter.” To this revelation he assented the sooner, as he confesses, because it was anfwerable to that of the Apostle to the Theffalonians; « Prove all things, hold fast that which is good.” And he might have added another remarkable saying of the fame author : “ To the pure, all things are pure;" not only meats and drinks, but all kind of knowledge, whether of good or evil; the knowledge cannot defile, nor confequently the books, if the will and conscience be not defiled. For books are as meats and viands are; fome of good, fome of evil substance; and yet God in that unapocryphal vision said without exception, " rise Peter kill and eat;" leaving the choice to each man's difcretion. Wholesome meats to a vitiated ftomach differ little or nothing from unwholesome ; and best books to a naughty mind are not unapplicable to occasions of evil. Bad meats will scarce breed good nourishment in the healthiest concoction ; but herein the difference is of bad books, that they to a discreet and judicious reader serve in many respects to discover, to confute, to forewarn, and to illustrate. Whereof what better witness can ye expect I should produce, than one of your own now fitting in parliament, the chief of learned men reputed in this land, Mr. Selden; whose volume of natural and national laws proves, not only by great authorities brought together, but by exquisite reasons and theorems almost mathematic cally demonstrative, that all opinions, yea errours, known, read, and collated, are of main service and assistance toward the speedy attainment of what is trueft. I conceive therefore, that when God did enlarge the universal diet of man's body (saving ever the rules of temperance, he then also, as before, left arbitrary the dieting and repafting of our minds; as wherein every mature man might have to exercise his own leading capacity. How great a virtue is temperance, how much of moment through the whole life of man! Yet God commits the managing so great a trust without particular law or prescription,
wholly to the demeanour of every grown man. And therefore when he himself tabled the Jews from Heaven, that omer, which was every man's daily portion of manna, is computed to have been more than might haye well fufficed the heartiest feeder thrice as many meals. For those actions which enter into a man, rather than issue out of him, and therefore defile not, God uses not to cap. tivate under a perpetual childhood of prescription, but trusts him with the gift of reason to be his own chooler; there were but little work left for preaching, it law and compulsion should grow fo fast upon those things which heretofore were governed only by exhortation. Solomon informs us, that much reading is a weariness to the flesh; but neither he, nor other inspired author tells us that such or such reading is unlawful ; yet certainly had God thought good to limit us herein, it had been much more expedient to have told us what was unlawful, than what was wearisome. As for the burning of those Ephesian books by St. Paul's converts; it is replied, the books were magic, the Syriac so renders them. It was a private act, a voluntary act, and leaves us to a voluntary imitation: the men in remorse burnt those books which were their own; the magistrate by this example is not appointed ; these men practised the books, another might perhaps have read them in some fort usefully. Good and evil we know in the field of this world grow up together almost inseparably; and the knowledge of good is so involved and interwoven with the knowledge of evil, and in so many cunning resemblances hardly to be discerned, that those confused seeds which were imposed upon Psyche as an incessant labour to cull out, and sort asunder, were not more intermixed. It was from out the rind of one apple tasted, that the knowledge of good and evil, as two twins cleaving together, leaped forth into the world. And perhaps this is that doom which Adam fell into of knowing good and evil, that is to say of knowing good by evil. As therefore the state of man now is; what wisdom can there be to choose, what continence to forbear without the knowledge of evil? He that can apprehend and consider vice with all her baits and seeming pleasures, and yet abstain, and yet distinguish, and yet
mable coneftant laised.
incessant : feds which wardly to be
prefer that which is truly better, he is the true warfaring Christian. I cannot praise a fugitive and cloistered virtue unexercised, and unbreathed, that never fallies out and sees her adverfary, but sinks out of the race, where that immortal garland is to be run for, not without duft and heat. Assuredly we bring not innocence into the world, we bring impurity much rather; that which purifies us is trial; and trial is by what is contrary. That virtue therefore which is but a youngling in the contemplation of evil, and knows not the utmost that vice promises to her followers, and rejects it, is but a blank virtue, not a pure; her whiteness is but an excremental whiteness; which was the reason why our fage and serious poet Spenser, (whom I dare be known to think a better teacha er than Scotus or Aquinas,) describing true temperance under the person of Guion, brings him in with his palmer through the cave of Mammon, and the bower of earthly blits, that he might see and know, and yet abitain. Since therefore the knowledge and survey of vice is in this world fo necessary to the constituting of human virtue and the scanning of errour to the confirmation of truth, how can we more fafely, and with less danger scout into the regions of fin and fallity, than by reading all manner of tractates, and hearing all manner of reason? And this is the benefit which may be had of books promiscuously read. But of the harm that may result hence, three kinds are usually reckoned. First, is feared the infection that may spread; but then, all human learning and controversy in religious points muft remove out of the world, yea, the Bible itself; for that ofttimes relates blasphemy not nicely, it describes the carnal sense of wicked men not unelegantly, it brings in holiest men passionately murmuring against providence through all the arguments of Epicurus; in other great disputes it answers dubiously and darkly to the common reader; and ask a Talmudist what ails the modesty of his marginal Keri, that Moses and all the prophets cannot persuade him to pronounce the textual Chetiv. For these causes we all know the Bible itself put by the papist into the first rank of prohibited books. The ancientest fathers must be next removed, as Clement of Alexandria,