The Advancement of Learning
Francis Bacon

Part 5 out of 5

some difference to be used by the expositor. For the Inditer of
them did know four things which no man attains to know; which are--
the mysteries of the kingdom of glory, the perfection of the laws of
nature, the secrets of the heart of man, and the future succession
of all ages. For as to the first it is said, "He that presseth into
the light shall be oppressed of the glory." And again, "No man
shall see My face and live." To the second, "When He prepared the
heavens I was present, when by law and compass He enclosed the
deep." To the third, "Neither was it needful that any should bear
witness to Him of man, for He knew well what was in man." And to
the last, "From the beginning are known to the Lord all His works."

(15) From the former two of these have been drawn certain senses and
expositions of Scriptures, which had need be contained within the
bounds of sobriety--the one anagogical, and the other philosophical.
But as to the former, man is not to prevent his time: Videmus nunc
per speculum in aenigmate, tunc autem facie ad faciem; wherein
nevertheless there seemeth to be a liberty granted, as far forth as
the polishing of this glass, or some moderate explication of this
enigma. But to press too far into it cannot but cause a dissolution
and overthrow of the spirit of man. For in the body there are three
degrees of that we receive into it--aliment, medicine, and poison;
whereof aliment is that which the nature of man can perfectly alter
and overcome; medicine is that which is partly converted by nature,
and partly converteth nature; and poison is that which worketh
wholly upon nature, without that nature can in any part work upon
it. So in the mind, whatsoever knowledge reason cannot at all work
upon and convert is a mere intoxication, and endangereth a
dissolution of the mind and understanding.

(16) But for the latter, it hath been extremely set on foot of late
time by the school of Paracelsus, and some others, that have
pretended to find the truth of all natural philosophy in the
Scriptures; scandalising and traducing all other philosophy as
heathenish and profane. But there is no such enmity between God's
Word and His works; neither do they give honour to the Scriptures,
as they suppose, but much embase them. For to seek heaven and earth
in the Word of God, whereof it is said, "Heaven and earth shall
pass, but My word shall not pass," is to seek temporary things
amongst eternal: and as to seek divinity in philosophy is to seek
the living amongst the dead, so to seek philosophy in divinity is to
seek the dead amongst the living: neither are the pots or lavers,
whose place was in the outward part of the temple, to be sought in
the holiest place of all where the ark of the testimony was seated.
And again, the scope or purpose of the Spirit of God is not to
express matters of nature in the Scriptures, otherwise than in
passage, and for application to man's capacity and to matters moral
or divine. And it is a true rule, Auctoris aliud agentis parva
auctoritas. For it were a strange conclusion, if a man should use a
similitude for ornament or illustration sake, borrowed from nature
or history according to vulgar conceit, as of a basilisk, a unicorn,
a centaur, a Briareus, a hydra, or the like, that therefore he must
needs be thought to affirm the matter thereof positively to be true.
To conclude therefore these two interpretations, the one by
reduction or enigmatical, the other philosophical or physical, which
have been received and pursued in imitation of the rabbins and
cabalists, are to be confined with a a noli akryn sapere, sed time.

(17) But the two latter points, known to God and unknown to man,
touching the secrets of the heart and the successions of time, doth
make a just and sound difference between the manner of the
exposition of the Scriptures and all other books. For it is an
excellent observation which hath been made upon the answers of our
Saviour Christ to many of the questions which were propounded to
Him, how that they are impertinent to the state of the question
demanded: the reason whereof is, because not being like man, which
knows man's thoughts by his words, but knowing man's thoughts
immediately, He never answered their words, but their thoughts.
Much in the like manner it is with the Scriptures, which being
written to the thoughts of men, and to the succession of all ages,
with a foresight of all heresies, contradictions, differing estates
of the Church, yea, and particularly of the elect, are not to be
interpreted only according to the latitude of the proper sense of
the place, and respectively towards that present occasion whereupon
the words were uttered, or in precise congruity or contexture with
the words before or after, or in contemplation of the principal
scope of the place; but have in themselves, not only totally or
collectively, but distributively in clauses and words, infinite
springs and streams of doctrine to water the Church in every part.
And therefore as the literal sense is, as it were, the main stream
or river, so the moral sense chiefly, and sometimes the allegorical
or typical, are they whereof the Church hath most use; not that I
wish men to be bold in allegories, or indulgent or light in
allusions: but that I do much condemn that interpretation of the
Scripture which is only after the manner as men use to interpret a
profane book.

(18) In this part touching the exposition of the Scriptures, I can
report no deficiency; but by way of remembrance this I will add. In
perusing books of divinity I find many books of controversies, and
many of commonplaces and treatises, a mass of positive divinity, as
it is made an art: a number of sermons and lectures, and many
prolix commentaries upon the Scriptures, with harmonies and
concordances. But that form of writing in divinity which in my
judgment is of all others most rich and precious is positive
divinity, collected upon particular texts of Scriptures in brief
observations; not dilated into commonplaces, not chasing after
controversies, not reduced into method of art; a thing abounding in
sermons, which will vanish, but defective in books which will
remain, and a thing wherein this age excelleth. For I am persuaded,
and I may speak it with an absit invidia verbo, and nowise in
derogation of antiquity, but as in a good emulation between the vine
and the olive, that if the choice and best of those observations
upon texts of Scriptures which have been made dispersedly in sermons
within this your Majesty's Island of Brittany by the space of these
forty years and more (leaving out the largeness of exhortations and
applications thereupon) had been set down in a continuance, it had
been the best work in divinity which had been written since the
Apostles' times.

(19) The matter informed by divinity is of two kinds: matter of
belief and truth of opinion, and matter of service and adoration;
which is also judged and directed by the former--the one being as
the internal soul of religion, and the other as the external body
thereof. And, therefore, the heathen religion was not only a
worship of idols, but the whole religion was an idol in itself; for
it had no soul; that is, no certainty of belief or confession: as a
man may well think, considering the chief doctors of their church
were the poets; and the reason was because the heathen gods were no
jealous gods, but were glad to be admitted into part, as they had
reason. Neither did they respect the pureness of heart, so they
might have external honour and rites.

(20) But out of these two do result and issue four main branches of
divinity: faith, manners, liturgy, and government. Faith
containeth the doctrine of the nature of God, of the attributes of
God, and of the works of God. The nature of God consisteth of three
persons in unity of Godhead. The attributes of God are either
common to the Deity, or respective to the persons. The works of God
summary are two, that of the creation and that of the redemption;
and both these works, as in total they appertain to the unity of the
Godhead, so in their parts they refer to the three persons: that of
the creation, in the mass of the matter, to the Father; in the
disposition of the form, to the Son; and in the continuance and
conservation of the being, to the Holy Spirit. So that of the
redemption, in the election and counsel, to the Father; in the whole
act and consummation, to the Son; and in the application, to the
Holy Spirit; for by the Holy Ghost was Christ conceived in flesh,
and by the Holy Ghost are the elect regenerate in spirit. This work
likewise we consider either effectually, in the elect; or privately,
in the reprobate; or according to appearance, in the visible Church.

(21) For manners, the doctrine thereof is contained in the law,
which discloseth sin. The law itself is divided, according to the
edition thereof, into the law of nature, the law moral, and the law
positive; and according to the style, into negative and affirmative,
prohibitions and commandments. Sin, in the matter and subject
thereof, is divided according to the commandments; in the form
thereof it referreth to the three persons in Deity: sins of
infirmity against the Father, whose more special attribute is power;
sins of ignorance against the Son, whose attribute is wisdom; and
sins of malice against the Holy Ghost, whose attribute is grace or
love. In the motions of it, it either moveth to the right hand or
to the left; either to blind devotion or to profane and libertine
transgression; either in imposing restraint where God granteth
liberty, or in taking liberty where God imposeth restraint. In the
degrees and progress of it, it divideth itself into thought, word,
or act. And in this part I commend much the deducing of the law of
God to cases of conscience; for that I take indeed to be a breaking,
and not exhibiting whole of the bread of life. But that which
quickeneth both these doctrines of faith and manners is the
elevation and consent of the heart; whereunto appertain books of
exhortation, holy meditation, Christian resolution, and the like.

(22) For the liturgy or service, it consisteth of the reciprocal
acts between God and man; which, on the part of God, are the
preaching of the word, and the sacraments, which are seals to the
covenant, or as the visible word; and on the part of man, invocation
of the name of God; and under the law, sacrifices; which were as
visible prayers or confessions: but now the adoration being in
spiritu et veritate, there remaineth only vituli labiorum; although
the use of holy vows of thankfulness and retribution may be
accounted also as sealed petitions.

(23) And for the government of the Church, it consisteth of the
patrimony of the Church, the franchises of the Church, and the
offices and jurisdictions of the Church, and the laws of the Church
directing the whole; all which have two considerations, the one in
themselves, the other how they stand compatible and agreeable to the
civil estate.

(24) This matter of divinity is handled either in form of
instruction of truth, or in form of confutation of falsehood. The
declinations from religion, besides the privative, which is atheism
and the branches thereof, are three--heresies, idolatry, and
witchcraft: heresies, when we serve the true God with a false
worship; idolatry, when we worship false gods, supposing them to be
true; and witchcraft, when we adore false gods, knowing them to be
wicked and false. For so your Majesty doth excellently well
observe, that witchcraft is the height of idolatry. And yet we see
though these be true degrees, Samuel teacheth us that they are all
of a nature, when there is once a receding from the Word of God; for
so he saith, Quasi peccatum ariolandi est repugnare, et quasi scelus
idololatriae nolle acquiescere.

(25) These things I have passed over so briefly because I can report
no deficiency concerning them: for I can find no space or ground
that lieth vacant and unsown in the matter of divinity, so diligent
have men been either in sowing of good seed, or in sowing of tares.

Thus have I made as it were a small globe of the intellectual world,
as truly and faithfully as I could discover; with a note and
description of those parts which seem to me not constantly occupate,
or not well converted by the labour of man. In which, if I have in
any point receded from that which is commonly received, it hath been
with a purpose of proceeding in melius, and not in aliud; a mind of
amendment and proficiency, and not of change and difference. For I
could not be true and constant to the argument I handle if I were
not willing to go beyond others; but yet not more willing than to
have others go beyond me again: which may the better appear by
this, that I have propounded my opinions naked and unarmed, not
seeking to preoccupate the liberty of men's judgments by
confutations. For in anything which is well set down, I am in good
hope that if the first reading move an objection, the second reading
will make an answer. And in those things wherein I have erred, I am
sure I have not prejudiced the right by litigious arguments; which
certainly have this contrary effect and operation, that they add
authority to error, and destroy the authority of that which is well
invented. For question is an honour and preferment to falsehood, as
on the other side it is a repulse to truth. But the errors I claim
and challenge to myself as mine own. The good, it any be, is due
tanquam adeps sacrificii, to be incensed to the honour, first of the
Divine Majesty, and next of your Majesty, to whom on earth I am most


{1} Stoops in the rice and takes the speeding gold. Ovid. Metam,
x. 667.


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