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Sir Francis Bacon


Essay 3

Of Vnity in Religion.
1 REligion being the chiefe Band of humane Society, it is a happy thing, when it selfe, is well contained, within the true Band of Vnity. The Quarrels, and Diuisions about Religion, were Euils vnknowne to the Heathen. The Reason was, because the Religion of the Heathen, consisted rather in Rites and Ceremonies; then in any constant Beleefe. For you may imagine, what kinde of Faith theirs was, when the chiefe Doctors, and Fathers of their Church, were the Poets. But the true God hath this Attribute, That he is a Iealous God; And therefore, his worship and Religion, will endure no Mixture, nor Partner. We shall therefore speake, a few words, concerning the Vnity of the Church; What are the Fruits thereof; what the Bounds; And what the Meanes?
2 The Fruits of Vnity ( next vnto the well Pleasing of God, which is All in All ) are two; The One, towards those, that are without the Church; The Other, towards those, that are within. For the Former, lt is certaine, that Heresies, and Schismes, are of all others, the greatest Scandals; yea more then Corruption of Manners. For as in the Naturall Body, a Wound or Solution of Continuity, is worse then a Corrupt Humor; So in the Spirituall. So that nothing, doth so much keepe Men out of the Church, and driue Men out of the Church, as Breach of Vnity: And therefore, whensoeuer it commeth to that passe, that one saith, Ecce in Deserto; Another saith, Ecce in penetralibus; That is, when some Men seeke Christ, in the Conuenticles of Heretikes, and others, in an Outward Face of a Church, that voice had need continually to sound in Mens Eares, Nolite exire, Goe not out. The Doctor of the Gentiles ( the Propriety of whose Vocation, drew him to haue a speciall care of those without) saith; If an Heathen come in, and heare you speake with seuerall Tongues, Will he not say that you are mad? And certainly, it is little better, when Atheists, and prophane Persons, do heare of so many Discordant, and Contrary Opinions in Religion; It doth auert them from the Church, and maketh them, To sit downe in the chaire of the Scorners. It is but a light Thing, to be Vouched in so Serious a Matter, but yet it expresseth well the Deformity. There is a Master of Scoffing; that in his Catalogue of Books, of a faigned Library, sets Downe this Title of a Booke; The morris daunce of Heretikes. For indeed, euery Sect of them, hath a Diuers Posture, or Cringe by themselues, which cannot but Moue Derision, in Worldlings, and Depraued Politickes, who are apt to contemne Holy Things.
3 As for the Fruit towards those that are within; It is Peace; which containeth infinite Blessings: It establisheth Faith; It kindleth Charity; The outward Peace of the Church, Distilleth into Peace of Conscience; And it turneth the Labours, of Writing, and Reading of Controuersies, into Treaties of Mortification, and Deuotion. Concerning the Bounds of Vnity; The true Placing of them, importeth exceedingly. There appeare to be two extremes. For to certaine Zelants all Speech of Pacification is odious. Is it peace Iehu? What hast thou to doe with peace? turne thee behinde me. Peace is not the Matter, but Following and Party. Contrariwise, certaine Laodiceans, and Luke-warme Persons, thinke they may accommodate Points of Religion, by Middle Waies, and taking part of both; And witty Reconcilements; As if they would make an Arbitrement, betweene God and Man. Both these Extremes are to be auoyded; which will be done, if the League of Christians, penned by our Sauiour himselfe, were in the two crosse Clauses thereof, soundly and plainly expounded; He that is not with vs, is against vs: And againe; He that is not against vs, is with vs: That is, if the Points Fundamentall and of Substance in Religion, were truly discerned and distinguished, from Points not meerely of Faith, but of Opinion, Order, or good Intention. This is a Thing, may seeme to many, a Matter triuiall, and done already: But if it were done lesse partially, it would be embraced more generally.
4 Of this I may giue onely this Aduice, according to my small Modell. Men ought to take heede, of rending Gods Church, by two kinds of Controuersies. The one is, when the Matter of the Point controuerted, is too small and light, not worth the Heat, and Strife about it, kindled onely by Contradiction. For, as it is noted by one of the Fathers; Christs Coat, indeed, had no seame: But the Churches Vesture was of diuers colours; whereupon he saith, In veste varietas sit, Scissura non sit; They be two Things, Vnity, and Vniformity. The other is, when the Matter of the Point Controuerted is great; but it is driuen to an ouer-great Subtilty, and Obscurity; so that it becommeth a Thing, rather Ingenious, then Substantiall. A man that is of Iudgement and vnderstanding, shall sometimes heare Ignorant Men differ, and know well within himselfe, that those which so differ, meane one thing, and yet they themselues would neuer agree. And if it come so to passe, in that distance of Iudgement, which is betweene Man and Man; Shall wee not thinke, that God aboue, that knowes the Heart, doth discerne, that fraile Men, in some of their Contradictions, intend the same thing; and accepteth of both? The Nature of such Controuersies, is excellently expressed, by S+t+. Paul, in the Warning and Precept, that he giueth, concerning the same, Devita profanas vocum Novitates, & Oppositiones falsi Nominis Scientiæ. Men create Oppositions, which are not; And put them into new termes, so fixed, as whereas the Meaning ought to gouerne the Terme, the Terme in effect gouerneth the Meaning. There be also two false Peaces, or Vnities; The one, when the Peace is grounded, but vpon an implicite ignorance, For all Colours will agree in the Darke: The other, when it is peeced vp, vpon a direct Admission of Contraries, in Fundamentall Points. For Truth and Falshood, in such things, are like the Iron and Clay, in the toes of Nabucadnezars Image; They may Cleaue, but they will not Incorporate.
5 Concerning the Meanes of procuring Vnity; Men must beware, that in the Procuring, or Muniting, of Religious Vnity, they doe not Dissolue and Deface the Lawes of Charity, and of humane Society. There be two Swords amongst Christians; the Spirituall, and Temporall; And both haue their due Office, and place, in the maintenance of Religion. But we may not take vp the Third sword, which is Mahomets Sword, or like vnto it; That is, to propagate Religion, by Warrs, or by Sanguinary Persecutions, to force Consciences; except it be in cases of Ouert Scandall, Blasphemy, or Intermixture of Practize, against the State; Much lesse to Nourish Seditions; To Authorize Conspiracies and Rebellions; To put the Sword into the Peoples Hands; And the like; Tending to the Subuersion of all Gouernment, which is the Ordinance of God. For this is, but to dash the first Table, against the Second; And so to consider Men as Christians, as we forget that they are Men. Lucretius the Poet, when he beheld the Act of Agamemnon, that could endure the Sacrificing of his owne Daughter, exclaimed; Tantum Relligio potuit suadere malorum.
6 What would he haue said, if he had knowne of the Massacre in France, or the Powder Treason of England? He would haue beene, Seuen times more Epicure and Atheist, then he was. For as the temporall Sword, is to bee drawne, with great circumspection, in Cases of Religion; So it is a thing monstrous, to put it into the hands of the Common People. Let that bee left vnto the Anabaptists, and other Furies. It was great Blasphemy, when the Deuill said; I will ascend, and be like the Highest; But it is greater Blasphemy, to personate God, and bring him in saying; I will descend, and be like the Prince of Darknesse, And what is it better, to make the cause of Religion, to descend, to the cruell and execrable Actions, of Murthering Princes, Butchery of People, and Subuersion of States, and Gouernments? Surely, this is to bring Downe the Holy Ghost, in stead of the Liknesse of a Doue, in the Shape of a Vulture, or Rauen: And to set, out of the Barke of a Christian Church, a Flagge of a Barque of Pirats, and Assassins. Therfore it is most necessary, that the Church by Doctrine and Decree; Princes by their Sword; And all Learnings, both Christian and Morall, as by their Mercury Rod; Doe Damne and send to Hell, for euer, those Facts and Opinions, tending to the Support of the same; As hath beene already in good part done. Surely in Counsels, Concerning Religion, that Counsel of the Apostle would be prefixed; Ira hominis non implet Iusticiam Dei. And it was a notable Obseruation, of a wise Father, And no lesse ingenuously confessed; That those, which held and perswaded, pressure of Consciences, were commonly interessed therin, themselues, for their owne ends.

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