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Sir Francis Bacon


Essay 13

Of Goodnesse And Goodnesse of Nature.
1 I Take Goodnesse in this Sense, the affecting of the Weale of Men, which is that the Grecians call Philanthropia; And the word Humanitie ( as it is vsed ) is a little too light, to expresse it. Goodnesse I call the Habit, and Goodnesse of Nature the Inclination. This of all Vertues, and Dignities of the Minde, is the greatest; being the Character of the Deitie: And without it, Man is a Busie, Mischieuous, Wretched Thing; No better then a Kinde of Vermine. Goodnesse answers to the Theologicall Vertue Charitie, and admits no Excesse, but Errour. The desire of Power in Excesse, caused the Angels to fall; The desire of Knowledge in Excesse, caused Man to fall; But in Charity, there is no Excesse; Neither can Angell, or Man, come in danger by it. The Inclination to Goodnesse, is imprinted deepely in the Nature of Man: In so much, that if it issue not towards Men, it will take vnto Other Liuing Creatures: As it is seen in the Turks, a Cruell People, who neuerthelesse, are kinde to Beasts, and giue Almes to Dogs, and Birds: In so much, as Busbechius reporteth; A Christian Boy in Constantinople, had like to haue been stoned, for gagging, in a waggishnesse, a long Billed Fowle. Errours, indeed, in this vertue of Goodnesse, or Charity, may be committed. The Italians haue an vngracious Prouerb; Tanto buon che val niente: So good, that he is good for nothing. And one of the Doctors of Italy, Nicholas Macciauel, had the confidence to put in writing, almost in plaine Termes: That the Christian Faith, had giuen vp Good Men, in prey, to those, that are Tyrannicall, and vniust. Which he spake, because indeed there was neuer Law, or Sect, or Opinion, did so much magnifie Goodnesse, as the Christian Religion doth. Therfore to auoid the Scandall, and the Danger both; it is good to take knowledge, of the Errours, of an Habit, so excellent. Seeke the Good of other Men, but be not in bondage, to their Faces, or Fancies; For that is but Facilitie, or Softnesse; which taketh an honest Minde Prisoner. Neither giue thou AEsops Cocke a Gemme, who would be better pleased, and happier, if he had had a Barly Corne. The Example of God teacheth the Lesson truly: He sendeth his Raine, and maketh his Sunne to shine, vpon the Iust, and Vniust; But hee doth not raine Wealth, nor shine Honour, and Vertues, vpon Men equally. Common Benefits, are to be communicate with all; But peculiar Benefits, with choice. And beware, how in making the Portraiture, thou breakest the Patterne: For Diuinitie maketh the Loue of our Selues the Patterne; The Loue of our Neighbours but the Portraiture. Sell all thou hast, and giue it to the poore, and follow mee:But sell not all thou hast, except thou come, and follow mee; That is, except thou haue a Vocation, wherin thou maist doe as much good, with little meanes, as with great: For otherwise, in feeding the Streames, thou driest the Fountaine. Neither is there only a Habit of Goodnesse, directed by right Reason; but there is, in some Men, euen in Nature, a Disposition towards it: As on the other side, there is a Naturall Malignitie. For there be, that in their Nature, doe not affect the Good of Others. The lighter Sort of Malignitie, turneth but to a Crosnesse, or Frowardnesse, or Aptnesse to oppose, or Difficilnesse, or the like; but the deeper Sort, to Enuy, and meere Mischiefe. Such Men, in other mens Calamities, are, as it were, in season, and are euer on the loading Part; Not so good as the Dogs, that licked Lazarus Sores; but like Flies, that are still buzzing, vpon any Thing that is raw; Misanthropi, that make it their Practise, to bring Men, to the Bough; And yet haue neuer a Tree, for the purpose, in their Gardens, as Timon had. Such Dispositions, are the very Errours of Humane Nature: And yet they are the fittest Timber, to make great Politiques of: Like to knee Timber, that is good for Ships, that are ordained, to be tossed; But not for Building houses, that shall stand firme. The Parts and Signes of Goodnesse are many. If a Man be Gracious, and Curteous to Strangers, it shewes, he is a Citizen of the World; And that his Heart, is no Island, cut off from other Lands; but a Continent, that ioynes to them. If he be Compassionate, towards the Afflictions of others, it shewes that his Heart is like the noble Tree, that is wounded it selfe, when it giues the Balme. If he easily Pardons and Remits Offences, it shews, that his Minde is planted aboue Iniuries; So that he cannot be shot. If he be Thankfull for small Benefits, it shewes, that he weighes Mens Mindes, and not their Trash. But aboue all, if he haue S+t+. Pauls Perfection, that he would wish to be an Anathema from Christ, for the Saluation of his Brethren, it shewes much of a Diuine Nature, and a kinde of Conformity with Christ himselfe.

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