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that can comprehend him; it is a privilege of his own nature. "I am that I am," was his own definition unto Moses; and it was a short one, to confound mortality, that durst question God, (26) or ask him what he was; indeed he only is; all others have been and shall be. But in eternity there is no distinction of tenses; and therefore that terrible term, predestination, which hath troubled so many weak heads to conceive, and the wisest to explain, is in respect to God no prescious determination of our estates to come, but a definitive blast of his will already fulfilled, and at the instant that he first decreed it; for to his eternity which is indivisible, and altogether, the last trump is already sounded, the reprobates in the flame, and the blessed in Abraham's bosom. St. Peter speaks modestly, when he saith, a thousand years to God are but as one day for to speak like a philosopher, those continued instances of time which flow into a thousand years, make not to him one moment; what to us is to come, to his eternity is present, his whole duration being but one permanent point, without succession, parts, flux, or division. (27)
(26) If the above speculation be not too intelligible, there runs through it a strain of piety which may excuse the absence of perspicuity. From this passage, perhaps, a modern writer borrowed his notion that with God all time is an "eternal now," which appears to be a flight somewhat too lofty for his own unassisted pinions.-ED.
(27) Few of the speculations in the "Religio Medici" are new the merit of the author consists in skilfully adapting to his peculiar purpose the thoughts and meditations of others, which is also true in part of Montaigne. Here the substratum of the
There is no attribute that adds more difficulty to the mystery of the Trinity, were, though in a relative way of father and son, we must deny a priority. I wonder how Aristotle could conceive the world eternal, or how he could make good two eternities. His similitude of a triangle, comprehended in a square, doth somewhat illustrate the trinity of our souls, and that the triple unity of God; for there is in us not three, but a trinity of souls, because there is in us, if not three distinct souls, yet differing faculties, that can, and do subsist apart in different subjects, and yet in us are thus united as to make but one soul and substance. If one soul were so perfect as to inform three distinct bodies, that were a petty trinity: conceive the distinct number of three, not divided nor separated by the intellect, but actually comprehended in its unity, and that is a perfect trinity. I have often admired the mystical way of Pythagoras, and the secret magic of numbers. (28) Beware of philosophy, is a precept not to be received in too large a sense; for
whole disquisition was evidently furnished by Zabarella, who, with infinite subtlety and acuteness, has drawn a distinction between eternal self-existence, and the eternity of a thing existing in succession. To the latter non-existence is possible, since its being is not necessary, but dependent; to the former, existence is necessary, inevitable, since it is the fountain of whatever else exists. But I fear this will not be thought to elucidate what is obscure in the text; and the metaphysics of our author few readers perhaps will now care to penetrate.-ED.
(28) For a very able outline of the Pythagorean philosophy, see Buhle, Histoire de la Philosophie Moderne, Introduction, t. I. p. 21–32. and Conf. Tennemann, Manuel. de l' Hist. de la Philosoph. art. Pythagor, Tr. Franç.-ED.
in this mass of nature there is a set of things that carry in their front, though not in capital letters, yet in stenography, and short characters, something of divinity, which to wiser reasons serve as luminaries in the abyss of knowledge, and to judicious beliefs, as scales and rundles to mount the pinnacles and highest pieces of divinity. (29) The severe schools shall never laugh me out of the philosophy of Hermes, that this visible world is but a picture of the invisible, wherein as in a portrait, things are not truly, but in equivocal shapes, and as they counterfeit some real substance in that invisible fabric.
That other attribute wherewith I recreate my devotion, is his wisdom, in which I am happy; and for the contemplation of this only, do not repent me that I was bred in the way of study: the advantage I have of the vulgar, with the content and happiness I conceive therein, is an ample recompence for all my endeavours, in what part of knowledge soever. (30) Wisdom is his most beauteous attribute; no man can attain unto it; yet Solomon
(29) In this passage we have an example of that nervous eloquence common, amid all their quaintnesses, to our older wriHow few, in this age of elegant and refined literature, could conceive or express with similar power the train of thought developed in the text! It reads like an extract from Plato-and is not. What can I say more?-ED.
(30) It were difficult to decide which, in this passage, is most to be admired, the nobleness of the thought, or the vigour and stately flow of the language. To remain in ignorance of an author who can write thus, is to the public, a loss, and to a literary man something more. We ought to beware lest our ancestors be thought to have cast their pearls before-what I need not write.-ED.
pleased God when he desired it. He is wise, because he knows all things; and he knoweth all things, because he made them all: but his greatest knowledge is in comprehending that he made not, that is, himself. And this is also the greatest knowledge in man. For this do I honour my own profession, and embrace the counsel even of the devil himself: had he read such a lecture in paradise, as he did at Delphos, (3) we had better known ourselves; nor had we stood in fear to know him. I know he is wise in all, wonderful in what we conceive, but far more in what we comprehend not; for we behold him but asquint upon reflex or shadow; our understanding is dimmer than Moses's eye; we are ignorant of the back parts or lower side of his divinity; therefore to pry into the maze of his counsels, is not only folly in man, but presumption even in angels; like us, they are his servants, not his senators; he holds no counsel, but that mystical one of the Trinity, wherein, though there be three persons, there is but one mind that decrees without contradiction: nor needs he any; his actions are not begot with deliberation, his wisdom naturally knows what is best; his intellect stands ready fraught with the superlative and purest ideas (3) of goodness; consultation and election, which are two motions in us, make but
(31) гvõdi σeavтóv, Nosce teipsum.
(32) This is one among many examples in our older literature of the employment of the term idea in the sense in which it is used by Locke, supposed to have been the first to introduce it.-ED.
one in him; his action springing from his power,
at the first touch of his will. These are contemplations metaphysical : my humble speculations have another method, and are content to trace and discover those expressions he hath left in creatures, and the obvious effects of nature; there is no danger to profound these mysteries, no sanctum sanctorum in philosophy: the world was made to be inhabited by beasts; but studied and contemplated by man: it is the debt of our reason we owe unto God, and the homage we pay for not being beasts; without this, the world is still as though it had not been, or as it was before the sixth day, when as yet there was not a creature that could conceive, or say there was a world. The wisdom of God receives small honour from those vulgar heads that rudely stare about, and with a gross rusticity admire his works; (33) those highly magnify him, whose judicious inquiry into his acts, and deliberate research into his creatures, return the duty of a devout and learned admiration. Therefore,
Search where thou wilt, and let thy reason go
(33) Of this the Swiss furnish an example. Placed in the midst of grandest scenery, of mountains indescribably beautiful or sublime, they generally remain insensible of their attractions, and have only begun to value them, since the English have been thither to spend money. Education, without augmenting the cant about the picturesque, would render them more truly alive to
"What heaven has done for that delicious land."