Francis Bacon.

The works of Francis Bacon, baron of Verulam, viscount St. Alban, and lord high chancellor of England (Volume 1) online

. (page 8 of 52)
Online LibraryFrancis BaconThe works of Francis Bacon, baron of Verulam, viscount St. Alban, and lord high chancellor of England (Volume 1) → online text (page 8 of 52)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

kind of philosophy: but the author judged, that, in an
affair so complicated and important, some otlicr things
ought to precede, partly for instruction, and partly for
present use. He therefore interposed a fourth and
fifth part : the former of which he named Scala In-
tellectus, or a series of steps by which the understand-
ing might regularly ascend in its philosophical re-
searches. For this purpose he proposed examples of
inquiry and investigation, agreeable to his own me-
thod, in certain subjects ; selecting such especially as
are of the noblest order, and most widely differing
from one another ; that instances of every sort miglit
not be wanting. The fourth jiart then was to con-
tain a particular appHcation and illustration of the
second. In this light we choose to consider tlie six
montlily histories which he proposed to write on
six principal topics in natural history : namely, of
winds ; of life and death ; of rarefaction and con-
densation ; of the three chemical principles, salt, sul-


phiir, mercury ; of bodies heavy and light: of sympathy
and antipathy. The first three, in the order I have
liere placed them, he prosecuted at some length ; and
in a manner that shews with what a happy sagacity
he could apply his own rules to the interpretation of
nature. The wonder is, that other inquirers since his
time have done so little towards perfecting the two
first mentioned, things of so great concern to human
society, and to every individual. As to the three last,
we have only a short introduction to each : death
having prevented him from vnriting any thing on the
subjects themselves. Such is our condition here :
whoever is capable of planning useful and extensive
schemes dies always too soon for mankind, even in
the most advanced age.

5. Of the fifth part he has left nothing but the Antidpa-
title and scheme. It was indeed to be only a tem- pJ||J*
porary structure, raised with such materials as he secunds.
himself had either invented, or tried, or improved ;

not according to the due form of genuine induction,
but by the same common use of the understanding
that others had employed. And this was to remain
no longer than till he had raised,

6. The sixth and sublimest part of this grand In- Pi.iiosophja
stauration, to which all the preceding are merely |J^i"a'/"'^
subservient ; a philosophy purely axiomatical and sci-
entific; flowing from that just, castigated, genuine
manner of inquiry, which the author first invented

and applied. But this he despaired of being able to
accomplish ; and the learned of all countries from
his days have been only labouring some separate or
lesser parts of this amazing edifice, which ages to
come may not see finished according to the model left
them by this one man.

Such, and so unlimited were his views for the uni-
versal advancement of science ; the noble aim to
which he directed all his philosophic labours. What
Cajsar said, in compliment, to Tully, may, with strict
justice, be applied to him ; that it was more glorious
to have extended the limits of human wit, than to
have enlarged the bounds of the Roman world. Sir


Francis Bacon really did so : a truth acknowledged
not only by the greatest private names in Europe, but
by all the public societies of its most civilized na-
tions. France, Italy, Germany, Britain, I may add
even Russia, have taken him for their leader, and
submitted to be governed by his institutions. The
empire he has erected in the learned world is as uni-
versal as the free use of reason : and one must con-
tinue, till the other is no more.









Co the i^ing.









There were under the law, excellent king, both
daily sacrifices, and freewill offerings : the one pro-
ceeding upon ordinary observance, the other upon a
devout chearfulness : in like manner there belongeth
to kings from their servants, both tribute of duty,
and presents of affection. In the former of these, I
hope I shall not live to be wanting, according to my
most humble duty, and the good pleasure of your
majesty's employments : for the latter, I thought it
more respective to make choice of some oblation,
which might rather refer to the propriety and excel-
lency of your individual person, than to the business
of your crown and state.

Wherefore representing your majesty many times
unto my mind, and beholding you not with the in-
quisitive eye of presumption, to discover that which
the Scripture telleth me is inscrutable, but with the
observant eye of duty and admiration : leaving aside
the other parts of your virtue and fortune, I have |
been touched, yea, and possessed with an extreme!
wonder at those your virtues and faculties, which the '*
philosophers call intellectual : the largeness of your
capacity, the faithfulness of your memory, the swift-


ness of your apprehension, the penetration of your
judgment, and the facility and order of your elocu-
tion : and I have often thought, that of all the persons
living, that I have known, your majesty were the best
insjtance to make a man of Pla Lu's"'D|)i*niou,"that all
knowledge is but remembrance, and that the mind of
man by nature knoweth all things, and hath but her
own native and original notions (which by the strange-
ness and darkness of this tabernacle of the body are
sequestered) again revived and restored : such a light
of nature I have observed in your majesty, and such
a readiness to take flame, and blaze from the least
occasion presented, or the least spark of another's
knowledge delivered. And as the Scripture saith of
the wisest king, " That his heart was as the sands of
the sea ; " which though it be one of the largest bodies,
yet it consisteth of the smallest and finest portions : so
hath God given your majesty a composition of under-
standing admirable, being able to compass and com-
prehend the greatest matters, and nevertheless to
touch and apprehend the least • whereas it should
seem an impossibility in nature, for the same instru-
ment to make itself fit for great and small works.
And for your gift of speech, I call to mind what
Cornelius Tacitus saith of Augustus Cassar: " Augusto
proflucns, et quae principem deceret, eloquentia fuit :"
For, if we note it well, speech that is uttered with
labour and difficulty, or speech that savourcth of the
affectation of art and precepts, or speech that is
framed after the imitation of some pattern of elo-
quence, though never so excellent ; all this has some-
what servile, and holding of the subject. But your
majesty's manner of speech is indeed prince-like, flow-
ing as from a fountain, and yet streaming and branch-
ing itself into nature's order, full of facility and feli-
city, imitating none, and inimitable by any. And as
in your civil estate there appeareth to be an emula-
tion and contention of your majesty's virtue with your
fortune ; a virtuous disposition with a fortunate regi-
ment ; a virtuous expectation, when time was, of
your greater fortune, with a pros])erous possession
thereof in tlic i\\\c time ; a virtuous observation of the


laws of marriage, with most blessed aiul liappy fruit
of marriage ; a virtuous ami most Christian desire of
peace, with a fortunate inclination in your neighhour
princes tlicrcunto : so likewise in these intellectual
matters, tlierc seemeth to be no less coiitention be-
tween the excellency of your INIajesty's gifts of nature,
and the universality and perfection of your learning.
For I am well assured, that this which I shall say is
no amplification at all, but a positive and measured
truth ; wliicli is, tliat there hath not been since Christ's
time any king, or temporal monarch, which hath been
so learned in all literature and erudition, divine and
human. For let a man seriously and diligently
revolve and peruse the succession of the emperors of
Rome, of which Cagsar the dictator, who lived some
years before Christ, and Marcus Antoninus, were the
best learned ; and so descend to the emperors of
Grajcia, or of the West ; and then to the lines of
France, Spain, England, Scotland, and the rest, and he
shall find this judgnient is truly made. For it seemeth
much hi a king, if, by the compendious extractions
of otlier men's wits and labours, he can take hold
of any superficial ornaments and slicws of learning,
or if he countenance and prefer learning and learned
men : but to drink indeed of the true fountains
of learning, nay, to have such a fountain of learn-
ing in himself, in a king, and in a king born, is
almost a miracle. And the more, because therc is
met in your majesty a rare conjuuctiou^ a& welLof
divine and sacred literature, as of profane and human ;
so as your majesty standeth invested of that triplicity,
which in great veneration was ascribed to the ancient
Hermes : the power and fortune of a king, the know-
ledge and illumination of a priest, and the learning
and universality of a philosopher. This propriety,
inherent and individual attribute in your majesty,
deserveth to be expressed, not only in the fame and
admiration of the present time, nor in the history
or tradition of the ages succeeding ; but also in some
solid work, fixed memorial, and immortal monument,
bearing a character or signature, both of the power

\'OI,. I. B


of a king, and the difference and perfection of such
a king.

Therefore I did conclude with myself, that I could
not make unto your majesty a better oblation, than of
some treatise tending to that end, whereof the sum
will consist of t hese two jarts ; the former conc^rn-
I ing the excellency of learning and kiiowlcclge, and
I the excellency orfFe'merit and true glory in theaug-
• mentation and propagation thereof ; the latter2_what
the particular acts and works are, whicTi have been
■ embraced and undertaken for the advancement of
i learning ; and again, what defects and undervaruesn[
find in such particular acts : to the end, that though
I cannot j)ositively or affirmatively advise your ma-
jesty, or propound unto you framed particidars ; yet I
may excite your princely cogitations to visit the
excellent treasure of your own mind, and thence to
extract particulars for this purpose, agreeable to your
magnanimity and wisdom.

In the entrance to the former of these, to clear the
way, and, as it were, to make silence, to have the true
testimonies concerning the dignity of learning to be
better heard, without the interruption of tacit objec-
tions ; I think good to deliver it from the discredits
and disgraces which it hath received, all from igno^^ —
ranee, but ignorance severally disguised; appearing
sometiines in the zeal and jealousy of divines, some-
times in the severity and arrogancy of politicians, and
sometimes in the errors and imperfections of learned
men themselves.

r hear the former sort say, that knowledge is of
those things which are to be accepted of with great
, limitation and caution ; that the aspiring to oyer-
j much knowledge, was the original temptation and sin,
whereupon ensued the fall of man; that knowledge
hath in it somewhat of the serpent, and therefore
where it entereth into a man it makes him swell ;
Scientia inflat : that Solomon gives a censure, " That
there is no end of making books, and that much
reading is weariness of the flesh;" and again in


another place, " That in spacious knowledge there is
much contristation, and that he that increaseth
knowledge increaseth anxiety ; " that St. Paul gives
a caveat, " That we be not spoiled througli vain phi-
losophy; " that experience demonstrates how learned
men have been arch -heretics, how learned times have
been inclined to atheism, and how the contemplation
of second causes doth derogate from our dependence
upon God, who is the first cause.

To discover then the ignorance and error of this
opinion, and the misunderstanding in the grounds
thereof^ it may well appear these men do not observe
or consider, that it was not the pure knowledge of
nature and universality, a knowledge by the light
whereof man did give names unto other creatures in
paradise, as they were brought before him, according
unto their proprieties, which gave the occasion to the
fall ; but it was the proud knowledge of good and
evil, with an intent in man to give law unto himself,
and to depend no more upon God's commandments,
which was the form of the temptation. Neither is
is it any quantity of knowledge, how great soever, that
can make the mind of man to swell ; for nothing can
fill, much less extend the soul of man, but God,
and the contemplation of God ; and therefore Solo-
mon, speaking of the two principal senses of inquisi-
tion, the eye and the ear, affirmeth that the eye is
never satisfied with seeing, nor the ear with hearing ;
and if there be no fulness, then is the continent
greater than the content : so of knowledge itself,
and the mind of man, whereto the senses are but
reporters, he defineth likewise in these words, placed
after that calendar or ephemerides, which he maketh
of the diversities of times and seasons for all actions
and purposes ; and concludeth thus : " God hath made
all things beautiful, or decent, in the true return of
their seasons: Also he hath placed the world in man's
heart, yet cannot man find out the work which God
worketh from the beginning to the end : " declaring,
not obscurely, that GocLhath framed tlieixiind- of man
as a mirror, or gl as s^ capal)leof the r magcjof thejuniKer-

B 2 '


sal world, and joyful to receive the impression thereof,
as thT eye joyetli to receive light : and not only de-
lighted in beholding the variety of things, and vicis-
situde of times, but raised also to find out and discern
the ordinances and decrees, which throughout all those
changes are infallibly observed. And althougli he doth
insinuate, that the supreme or summary law of nature,
which he calleth, " The work which God worketh
from the beginning to the end, is not possible to be
found out by man ; " yet that doth not derogate
from the capacity of the mind, but may be referred
to the impediments, as of shortness of life, ill
conjunction of labours, ill tradition of knowledge over
from hand to hand, and many other inconveniencies,
where unto the condition of man is subject. For that
nothing parcel of the world is denied to man's in-
quiry and invention, he doth in another place rule
over, when he saith, " The spirit of man is as the lamp
of God, wherewith he searcheth the inwardness of
all secrets." If then such be the capacity and receipt
of the mind of man, it is manifest, that there_is_iiD
danger at all in the proportfcHT'or quantity oLknoHt
ledge, how large soever, lest it should make itjswell
or OUt-compaSs itself ; no, but it is merely the gu ality
of knowledge, which, be it in quantity more or less,
if it be taken without the true corrective thereof, hath
in it some nature of venom or malignity, and some
effects of that venom, which is ventosity or swelling.
This corrective spice, the mixture whereof maketh
knowledge so sovereigiiriscBarityr which the apostle
immediately addifith to the former clause ; for so he
saith, " knowledge bloweth up, but charity buildetli
up ; " not unlike unto that which he delivereth in
another place : " If I spake," saith he, " with the
tongues of men and angels, and had not charity, it
were but as a tinkling cymbal ; " not but that it
is an excellent thing to speak with the tongues of men
and angels, but because, if it be severed from charity,
and not referred to the good of men and mankind, it
hath rather a sounding and unworthy glory, than a
meriting and substantial virtue. And as for that


censure of Solomon, concerning the excess of %vTiting
and reading books, and the anxiety of spirit which re-
doundeth from knowledge; and that admonition of
St. Paul, " That we be not seduced by vain philoso-
phy ; " let those places be rightly understood, and
they do indeed excellently set forth the true bounds
and limitations, whereby human knowledge is con-
fined and circumscribed ; and yet without any such con-
tracting or coarctation, but that it may comprehend all
the universal nature of things: for these limitations are
three : the first, that we do not so place our feli city i n
knowledge, as we forget our mortality: Tlie second,
that we make application of our knowledge, tq^ive i
ourselves rcpose~aiid cbii tcii tmch f ^ aji^'nof distaste or
repining. [The third, tliat wc do not presume by the
contemplation of nature to attain to the. mysteries of
G^dTiTor as touching the first of these, Solomon
doth excellently expound himself in another place of
the same book, where he saith ; •' I saw well that
knowledge reccdeth as far from ignorance, as light
doth from darkness ; and that the wise man's eyes
keep watch in his head, whereas the fool roundeth
about in darkness : but withal I learned, that the
same mortality involveth them both." And for the
second, certain it is, there is no vexation or anxiety of
mind which resulteth from knowledge, otherwise than
merely by accident; for all knowledge and wonder
(which is the seed of knowledge) is an impression of
pleasure in itself : but when men fall to framing con-
clusions out of their knowledge, applying it to their
particular, and ministring to themselves thereby weak
fears, or vast desires, there groweth that carefulness
and trouble of mind which is spoken of: for then know-
ledge is no more Lumen siccum, whereof Heraclitus
the profound said, '' Lumen siccum optima anima;" but
it bccometh Lumen madidam, or maceratum, being
steeped and infused in the humours of the affections.
And as for the third point, it deserveth to be a little
stood upon, and not to be lightly passed over : for if
any man shall think by view and inquiry into these
sensible and material things to attain that light, where-


by he inay reveal unto himself the nature or will of
God, then indeed is he spoiled by vain philosophy ;
for the contemplation of God's creatures and woiks
produceth (having regard, to the \vorks and creatures
themselves) knowledge ; but, having regard to God,
no perfect knowledge, but wonder, which is broken
knowledge. And therefore it was most aptly said
by one of Plato's school, " That the sense of man
carrieth a resemblance with the sun, which, as we
see openeth and revealeth ail the terrestrial globe ;
but then again it obscureth and concealeth the
stars and celestial globe : so doth the sense dis-
cover natural things, but it darkeneth and shutteth
up divine." And hence it is true, that it hath
proceeded, that divers great learned men have been
heretical, whilst they have sought to fly up to the
secrets of the Deity by the waxen wings of the
senses : and as for the conceit, that too much know-
ledge should incline a man to atheism, and that the
ignorance of second causes should make a more
devout dependence upon God, who is the first cause :
First, it is good to ask the question which Job asked
of his friends : " Will you lie for God, as one man will
** do for another, to gratify him ? " For certain it is,
that God worketh nothing in nature but by second
causes ; and if they would have it otherwise believed, it
is mere imposture, as it were in favour towards God ;
and nothing else but to offer to the author of truth
the unclean sacrifice of a lie. But farther, it is an
assured truth, and a conclusion of experience, that a
little or superficial knowledge of philosophy may
I incline the mind of man to atheism, but_j^- farther
proceeding therein doth bring the mind back again
to religion ; for in the entrance of philosophy, when
the second causes, which are next unto the senses, do
offer themselves to the mind of man, if it dwell and
stay there, it may induce some oblivion of tlie highest
cause ; but when a man passeth on farther, and
secth the dependence of causes and the works of
providence ; tlien, according to the allegory of the
|)0€ts, he will easily believe that the highest link of


nature's chain must needs be tied to tlie foot of
Jupiter's chair. To conclude therefore : let no man,
upon a weak conceit of sobriety, or an ill-applied
moderation, think or maintain, that a man can search
too far, or be too well studied in the book of God's
word, or in the book of God's works ; divinity or
philosophy ; but rather let men endeavour an endless
progress, or proficience in both ; only let men beware
that they apply both to charity, and not to swelling ;
to use, and not to ostentation ; and again, that they
do not unwisely mingle, or confound these learnings

And as for the disgraces which learning rcceiveth
from politicians, they be of this nature ; that learning
doth soften mens minds, and makes themliiiore una]Tl|
for fhe hoiToiir aiidT exercise of arms; that it doth mat^
and pervert mens dispositions for matfer of govern-|
ment and policy, in making them too curious and^
irresolute by variety of reading, or too peremptory or
positive by strictness of rules and axioms, or too im-
moderate aud overweening by reason of the greatness
of examples, or too incompatible and differing from
the times, by reason of the dissimilitude of examples ;
or at least, that it doth divert mens travels from action
and business, and bringeth them to a love of leisure
and privateness ; and that it doth bring into states a
relaxation of discipline, whilst every man is more
ready to argue than to obey and execute. Out of
this conceit, Cato, sumamed the Censor, one of the
wisest men indeed that ever lived, when Carneades
the philosopher came in embassage to Rome, and that
the young men of Rome began to flock about him,
being allured with the sweetness and majesty of his
eloquence and learning, gave counsel in open senate,
that they should give him his dispatch with all speed,
lest he should infect and inchant the minds and affec-
tions of the youth, and at unawares bring in an altera-
tion of the manners and customs of the state. Out
of the same conceit, or humour, did Virgil, turning
his pen to the advantage of his country, and the
disadvantage of his own profession, make a kind of


separation between policy and government, and be-
tween arts and sciences, in the verses so mnch re-
nowned, attributing and challenging the one to tlie
Romans, and leaving and yielding the other to the
Grecians ; " Tu regere imperio populos, Romane, me-
mento, Has tibi erunt artes, etc." So likewise we
see that Anytus, the accuser of Socrates, laid it as an
article of charge and accusation against him, that he
did, with the variety and power of his discourses and
disputations, withdraw young men from due reverence
to the laws and customs of their country ; and that
he did profess a dangerous and pernicious science,
which was, to make the worse matter seem the better,
and to suppress truth by force of eloquence and

But these, and the like imputations, have rather
a countenance of gravity, than any ground of justice :
for experience doth warrant, that, both in persons and
in times, therfijiajdij^een^ajneeting and concurrence
in leanriii^' and /arnas,..,gflaumhing and excelling injtiie
sam&,iaen, and, the same ages For, as for men, there
cannot be a better, nor the like instance, as of that
pair, Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar the
dictator ; whereof the one was Aristotle's scholar in
philosophy, and the other was Cicero's rival in elo-
quence : or if any man had rather call for scholars,
that were great generals, than generals that were great
scholars, let him take Epaminondas the Theban, or
Xenophon the Athenian ; whereof the one was the
first that abated the power of Sparta, and the other
was the first that made way to the overthrow of the
monarchy of Persia. And this concurrence is yet
more visible in times than in persons, by how much
an age is greater object than a man. For botli in
jEgypt, Assyria, Persia, Graicia, and Rome, the same
times that are most renowned for arms, are likewise
most admired for learning ; so that the greatest au-
thors and philosophers, and the greatest captains and

Online LibraryFrancis BaconThe works of Francis Bacon, baron of Verulam, viscount St. Alban, and lord high chancellor of England (Volume 1) → online text (page 8 of 52)