The history of the Royal-Society of London for the improving of natural knowledge by Tho. Sprat.
Sprat, Thomas, 1635-1713., Cowley, Abraham, 1618-1667. To the Royal Society.
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THE HISTORY OF THE Institution, Design, and Progress, OF THE ROYAL SOCIETY OF LONDON. For the Advancement of Experimental Philosophy. The FIRST PART.

I Shall here present to the World,* an Account of the First Institution of the Royal Society; and of the Progress, which they have already made: in hope, that this Learned and Inquisitive Age, will either think their In∣deavours, worthy of its Assist∣ance; or else will be thereby provok'd, to attempt some greater Enterprise (if any such can be found Page  2 out) for the Benefit of humane life, by the Ad∣vancement of Real Knowledge.

Perhaps this Task, which I have propos'd to my self, will incurr the Censure of many Judicious Men, who may think it an over-hasty, and presumptuous Attempt: and may object to me, that the History of an Assembly which begins with so great expe∣ctations, ought not to have been made publique so soon; till We could have produced very many considerable Experiments, which they had try'd, and so have given undenyable Proofs, of the use∣fulness of their undertaking.

In answer to this, I can plead for my self, that what I am here to say, will be far from preventing the labours of others in adorning so worthy a Sub∣ject: and is premis'd upon no other account, then as the noblest Buidings are first wont to be repre∣sented in a few Shadows, or small Models: which are not intended to be equal to the Chief Stru∣cture it self, but onely to shew in little, by what Materials, with what Charge, and by how many Hands, that is afterwards to be rais'd. Although therefore, I come to the performance of this work, with much less deliberation, and ability, then the weightiness of it requires: yet, I trust, that the Greatness of the Design it self, on which I am to speak, and the zeal which I have for the Honour of our Nation, which have been the chief reasons, that have mov'd me to this confidence of writing, will serve to make something for my Excuse. For what greater matter can any man desire, about which to employ his thoughts, then the Beginnings of an Il∣lustrious Company, which has already laid such ex∣cellent Foundations of so much good to Mankind?Page  3 Or, what can be more delightful for an Englishman to consider, then that notwithstandng all the late miseries of his Country; it has been able in a short time so well to recover it self: as not onely to at∣tain to the perfection of its former Civility, and Learning, but also to set on foot, a new way of im∣provement of Arts, as Great and as Beneficial (to say no more) as any the wittiest or the happiest Age has ever invented?

But besides this, I can also add, in my Defence, that though the Society, of which I am to write, is not yet four years old, and has been of necessity hitherto chiefly taken up, about Preparatory Affairs: yet even in this time, they have not wholly ne∣glected their principal End; but have had Success, in the tryal of many remarkable things; of which I doubt not, but I shall be able, as I pass along, to give instances enough to satisfie the curiosity of all sober Inquirers into Truth. And in short, if for no other end, yet certainly for this, A Relation of their First Original ought to be expos'd to the view of Men: that by laying down, on what course of Discovery they intend to proceed, the Gentlemen of the Society, may be more solemnly engag'd, to prosecute the same. For now they will not be able, handsomely to draw back, and to forsake such ho∣nourable Intentions: when the World shall have taken notice, that so many prudent men have gone so farr, in a business of this Universal Importance, and have given such undoubted Pledges, of many admirable Inventions to follow.

I shall therefore divide my Discourse into these three general Heads.*

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  • The First shall give a short view of the Antient, and Modern Philosophy; and of the most Famous Attempts, that have been made for its Advance∣ment: that by observing wherein others have ex∣cell'd, and wherein they have been thought to fail, we may the better shew, what is to be expected, from these new Undertakers; and what mov'd them, to enter upon a way of Inquiry, different from that, on which the former have proceeded.
  • The Second shall consist of the Narrative it self: and out of their Registers, and Iournals, which I have been permitted to peruse, shall relate the first Occasions of their Meetings, the Incouragement, and Patronage, which they have receiv'd; their Patent, their Statutes, the whole Order and Scheme of their Design, and the Manner of their Pro∣ceedings.
  • The Third shall try, to assert the Advantage and Innocence of this work, in respect of all Professions, and especially of Religion; and how proper, above others, it is, for the present temper of the Age where∣in we live.

On the First and Last of these Particulars, it is not needfull that I should long insist: because se∣veral Great Men have already so much prevented me about them; that there is hardly any thing can be spoken, in which I shall not almost tread in their very Footsteps. But yet it is requisite, that some∣thing be here said to that purpose, though it be onely in Repetition: because I perceive, that there is still much prejudice remaining on many mens minds, towards any now Discoveries in Natura Things. This I shall try to remove, not that I imagine, that those Reasons can have any great ef∣fect Page  5 in my weak hands, which were not able fully to prevail, when they were inforc'd by the Eloquence of those Excellent Men, who have gone before me in this Argument: But I rather trust to the inclina∣tion of the Age it self, wherein I write; which (if I mistake not) is farr more prepar'd to be perswaded to promote such Studies, then any other time that has gone before us.

And first,* let us observe the Practice of the best, and the civilest Nations, amongst the Antients; and a little trace out the course which they followed, to inrich their Countries, by the introducing of Forein Arts, or a searching into New.

It is evident, from the universal Testimony of History, that all Learning and Civility were deriv'd down to us, from the Eastern parts of the World. There it was, that Mankind arose: and there they first discovered the wayes of living, with safety, convenience, and delight. It is but just, that we should attribute the original of Astronomy, Geometry, Government, and many sorts of Manufactures, which we now enjoy, to the Assyrians, the Chaldeans, and Egyptians. And as to them we owe the Invention; so from them proceeded the first Corruption of knowledge. It was the custom of their Wise men, to wrap up their Observations on Nature, and the Manners of Men, in the dark Shadows of Hierogly∣phicks; and to conceal them, as sacred Mysteries, from the apprehensions of the vulgar. This was a sure way to beget a Reverence in the Peoples Hearts to∣wards themselves: but not to advance the true Phi∣losophy of Nature. That stands not in need of such Artifices to uphold its credit: but is then most likely Page  6 to thrive, when the minds, and labours of men of all Conditions, are join'd to promote it, and when it becomes the care of united Nations.

Into the East, the first Inquisitive Men amongst the Grecians traveled: By what they observed there, they ripened their own imperfect Conceptions, and so return'd to teach them at home. And that they might the better insinuate their opinions into their hearers minds, they set them off with the mixture of Fables, and the ornaments of Fancy. Hence it came to pass, that the first Masters of knowledge amongst them, were as well Poets, as Philosophers: For Orpheus, Linus, Musaeus, and Homer, first softned mens natural rudeness, and by the charms of their Numbers, allur'd them to be instructed by the se∣verer Doctrines, of Solon, Thales, and Pythagoras. This was a course, that was useful at first, when men were to be delightfully deceiv'd to their own good: But perhaps it left some ill influence, on the whole Philosopy of their Successors; and gave the Greci∣ans occasion ever after of exercising their wit, and their imagination, about the works of Nature, more then was consistent with a sincere Inquiry into them.

*When the fabulous Age was past: Philosophy took a little more courage; and ventured more to relye upon its own strength, without the Assistance of Poetry. Now they began to gather into Assemblies, and to increase their interest: and, according to the different temper of the Grecians, from the East∣ern Nations; so were their Arts propagated in a different way from theirs. The Greeks, being of a vigorous, and active humour, establish't their Philo∣sophy, Page  7 in the Walks, and Porches, and Gardens, and such publick places about their Cities: whereas the Graver, and more reserv'd Aegyptians, had confin'd it to their Temples.

In Greece, the most considerable (and indeed almost the onely successful) Tryals, that were made in this way, were at Athens. The wit of whose Inha∣bitants, was ('tis true) admirably fit, for the redu∣cing of Philosophy into Method, and for the adorn∣ing of it with the noblest words; when once it had been before compleated in its substance: But yet their Genius was not so well made, for the under∣going of the first drudgery and burden of Observation, which is needful for the Beginning of so difficult a work. This will appear, if we remember, that they were the Masters of the Arts of Speaking, to all their Neighbours: and so might well be inclin'd, rather to choose such opinions of Nature, which they might most elegantly express; then such, which were more useful, but could not so well be illustrated by the ornaments of Speech. Besides this, their City was the General Schole, and Seat of Education: and therefore the Epitome's of knowledge best served their turn, to make their Scholars, in a short time, finish the course of their Studies, and go home sa∣tisfied with a belief of their own Proficience, and their Teachers Wisdom. They were also common∣ly (as most of the other Grecians) men of hot, ear∣nest, and hasty minds: and so lov'd rather to make sudden Conclusions, and to convince their hearers by argument; then to delay long, before they fixt their judgments; or to attend with sufficient pati∣ence the labour of Experiments. But to say no more, they had but a narrow Territory; and the conditi∣on Page  8 of those times, would not allow a very large commerce, with forein Nations: they were much exercis'd in the civil Affairs of their Country: they had almost a perpetual Warr, at home, or abroad: which kinds of busie, and active life, breed men up indeed for great Employments: but not so well for the diligent, private, and severe examination of those little and almost infinite Curiosities, on which the true Philosophy must be founded.

*In that City therefore, the knowledge of Nature had its Original, before either that of Discourse, or of humane Actions: but it was quickly forc'd to give way to them Both. For it was not yet come to a sufficient ripeness, in the time of Socrates. And he, by the authority of his admirable wit, made all parts of Philosophy to be taken off from a conditi∣on of encreasing much farther, that they might be immediately serviceable to the affairs of men, and the uses of life. He was one of the first men, that began to draw into some order, the confus'd, and obscure imaginations, of those that went before him: and to make way for the composing of Arts, out of their scattered Observations. All these various Sub∣jects, the vastness of his Soul comprehended in his casual Disputations: but after his death they were divided amongst his Followers, according to their several inclinations. From him most of the suc∣ceeding Sects descended: and though every one of them had its different principles, and rendez∣vouses: yet they all laid claim to this one common title of being his Disciples. By this means, there was a most specious appearance of the increase of Learning: all places were fill'd with Philosophical Page  9 disputes: controversies were rais'd: Factions were made: many subtilties of confuting, and defending, were invented: but so insteed of joyning all their strength to overcome the Secrets of Nature (all which would have been little enough, though never so wisely manag'd) they onely did that, which has undone many such great attempts, before they had yet fully conquer'd her; they fell into an open dissension, to which of them, her spoyls did be∣long.

'Tis true, at the same time, some few men did con∣tinue an earnest, and laborious pursuit, after Natu∣ral causes, and effects: and took that course, which, if it had met with us much incouragement, as the others had, would without question have produc'd extraordinary things. But these Philosophers, dig∣ging deap, out of the sight of men; and studying more, how to conceive things aright, then how to set off, and persuade their conceptions, to others; were quickly almost quite overwhelm'd, by the more plau∣sible and Talkative Sects.

This was the success of that Famous Age of the Grecian Learning,* in respect of Natural knowledge. They stay'd not for an information sufficient for such a noble Enterprise: They would not suffer their po∣sterity, to have any share with them, in the honor of performing it: But too suddenly, for present use, they clap'd up an entire Building of Sciences: and there∣fore it is not to be wonder'd, if the hasty Fabrick, which they rais'd, did not consist of the best ma∣terialls.

But at last with their Empire, their Arts also were transported to Rome: the great spirit of their Law∣givers, Page  10 and Philosophers, in course of time, dege∣nerating into Rhetoricians, and wandring Teachers of the opinions, of their private Sects. Amongst the Romans, the studies of Nature met with little, or no entertainment. They scarce ever dream't of any other way of Philosophy, then only just redu∣cing into New Method, and eloquently translating into their own Language, the Doctrines, which they had receiv'd from the Greeks. And it was a long time too, before even that could obtain any counte∣nance amongst them. For, in the first warlick and busie Ages of that State, they onely apply'd them∣selves to a severity of Moral vertue; indeavor'd af∣ter no other skill, then that of the Customes, and Laws of their Country, the Ceremonies of their Re∣ligion, and the Arts of Government: esteeming eve∣ry thing that came out of Greece, as an outlandish fashion, which would corrupt the manners of their Youth; and allure them, from that strictness of Di∣scipline, and Integrity of Life, by which they had inlarg'd the Bounds of their Common-wealth. Till at length their power being increas'd, and their minds a little softned by the Greatness of their commands, and having tasted of the pleasures of the East; they were content too, by degrees, to admit their Phi∣losophy. And yet all the use, that they made of it at last, was onely, either that they might thereby make their speech more plentiful; or else, that when they were at leisure from Civil affairs, they might have that as a companion, and comfort of their Re∣tirements.*

This was the condition of Philosophy, when the Christian Religion came into the World. That main∣tain'd Page  11 it self in its first Age, by the innocence, and miracles, and suff'rings of its Founder, and his Apo∣stles. But after their Deaths, when Christianity be∣gan to spread into the farthest Nations, and when the power of working wonders had ceas'd: it was thought necessary, for its increase, that its professors should be able to defend it, against the subtilties of the Hethens; by those same ways of arguing, which were then in use, among the Hethen Philosophers. It was therefore on this account, that the Fathers, and chief Doctors of our Church, apply'd them∣selves to the Peripatetick, and Platonick Sects: But chiefly to the Platonick: Because that seem'd to speak plainer about the Divine Nature; and also, because the sweetness, and powerfulness of Plato's Writings, did serve as well to make them popular speakers, as disputers. Having thus provided them∣selves against their adversaries, they easily got the victory over them: and though the Idolatrous Gen∣tiles had kept the instruments of disputing, in their own hands, so many hundred years; yet they soon convinc'd them, of the ridiculousness of their wor∣ships, and the purity, and reasonableness of ours.

But now the Christians having had so good suc∣cess, against the Religions of the Heathens, by their own weapons; instead of laying them down when they had done, unfortunately fell to manage them one against another. So many subtile brains having been set on work, and warm'd against a Forein enemy: When that was over, and they had nothing else to do (like an Army that returns victorious, and is not presently disbanded) they began to spoyl, and quarrel amongst themselves. Hence that Religion, which at first appear'd so innocent, and peaceable, Page  12 and fitted for the benefit of humane Society; which consisted in the plain, and direct Rules, of good Life, and Charity, and the Belief in a redemption by one Savior, was miserably divided into a thousand intri∣cate questions, which neither advance true Piety, nor good manners. Hence arose all the Heresies of those times Against these, besides the force of Disputa∣tion, the Church obtain'd the Arm of the Civil Magi∣strate: and so at last by the help of many General Councils, got them extinguish'd, (if I may say they were extinguish'd, seeing in this age wherein we live, we have seen most of them unhappily reviv'd). But still by his means, there was no knowledge in request, but the Disputative Philosophy. For while things were in this posture, and so many great Wits ingag'd in the heats of controversie: it was not to be expected, that they should look out for further assistance, then the Arts, which were already prepar'd; or that they should make any considerable indeavors, about new inven∣tions, and the tedious tryal of Experiments. Nor can we much blame them for it: seeing in a time of War, every man will rather snatch up that armor which he finds ready made, then stay till men go to the Mine, and digge out new Ore, and refine, and harden it a better way; in hope to have his weapons of a stron∣ster, and nobler Metal at last.

Nor was that Age unfit for such an enterprise, on∣ly on the account of these Warrs of the Tongue: But also by reason of the miserable distempers of the civill affairs of the World, about that time: which were chiefly occasion'd by the Roman Armies usur∣ping the Right of choosing Emperors, and by the invasions of Barbarous Nations, which overwhelm'd the greatest part of Europe. Amidst these distractions, Page  13 it was impossible for any thing of this Nature to have prosper'd: and in so vast in inundation of ig∣norance, which carri'd away with it the very grown and aged Trees themselves (those parts of Learning which had taken root, so many generations past) it would have been in vain, to have committed any new plants to the ground. Such studies as these, as they must receive incouragement from the Sove∣reign Authority, so they must come up in a peace∣full time, when mens minds are at ease, and their imaginations not disturb'd, with the cares of preser∣ving their Lives, and Fortunes.

To go on therefore with the matter of Fact:* Ha∣ving left that dismall Bloody Age, we come into a Course of Time, which was indeed farr quieter: But it was like the quiet of the night, which is dark withall. The Bishops of Rome taking the opportu∣nity of the decay of the Roman Empire, had wrest∣ed from it so many privileges, as did at last wholly destroy it: and while it was gasping for life, forc'd it to make what Will, and Testament they pleas'd. Being thus establish'd, and making Rome, whose name was still venerable, the Seat of their Dominion, they soon obtain'd a Supremacy over the Western World. Under them for a long space together men lay in a profound sleep. Of the Universal igno∣rance of those times; let it suffice to take the Testi∣mony of William of Malmsbury, one of our antient English Historians, who says, That even amongst the Priests themselves, he was a Miracle that could un∣derstand Latine. Thus they continued; till at last, that Church adopted, and cherish'd, some of the Pe∣ripatetick opinions, which the most ingenious of the Page  14 Moncks, in their solitary, and idle course of life, had lighted upon. This Sect was excellently well made for their turn. For by hovering so much, in gene∣all Terms, and Notions, it amusd mens minds, in things that had not much difficulty: and so the Laity being kept blind, were forc'd in all things to depend on the Lips of the Roman Clergy. From that time, even down to the Reformation, the Gentlemen of all these Countries, imploying themselves, chiefly in arms, and adventures abroad: and the Books of the antients, being either destroy'd by the Goths, and Vandalls; or those which escap'd their fury, lying co∣ver'd with dust in the Libraries of Monasteries: few or none regarded any of the Arts of Wit, and Rea∣son, besides the Church-men.

This, I will take the boldness to say, must needs be very injurious to the increase of Generall Learning. For though I shall justly affirm, to the honor of that sacred profession, that all knowledge has been more search'd into, and promoted by them, then by any other order of men, even from the Egyptians times, (whose Priests in good part invented, or at least pre∣serv'd, the Learning of the East) down to our pre∣sent Age: yet I must also adde, that whenever all the studious spirits of a Nation, have been reduc'd within the Temples walls, that time is naturally ly∣able to this danger, of having its Genius more in∣tent, on the different opinions in Religion, and the Rites of Worship, then on the increase of any other Science. Of this I shall give two instances: one, from the Antients: the other, from our selves.

It is manifest, that amongst the Iews, all the men of Letters still appli'd themselves to the under∣standing of their Law: that being the publick way Page  15 of preferment, to the highest places of Judicature and Authority in the State. For that many Fraterni∣ties were erected, and (as I may call them) Iudaical Monast'ries constituted. Hence came all the inter∣pretations on the Writings of their Great Lawgiver: which at last grew so numerous, and various amongst themselves, that Christ, when he came, could hard∣ly find any thing of Moses his mind, in all they had writ: But perform'd more himself towards the ex∣planation of the Law, in two Chapters, then they had done in all their infinite Volumes. But while they were so excessively busie, about such sorts of con∣templations, the other parts of Learning were neg∣lected: Little or no footsteps of Philosophy remain∣ing amonst them, except onely the memory of that History of Plants, which was not written by any of Aarons family, but by their wisest King.

But my other instance comes neerer home,* and it is of the Schole-men. Whose works when I consider, it puts into my thoughts, how farre more impor∣tantly a good Method of thinking, and a right course of apprehending things, does contribute to∣wards the attaining of perfection in true knowledge, then the strongest, and most vigorous wit in the World, can do without them. It cannot without injustice be deny'd, that they were men of extraor∣dinary strength of mind: they had a great quick∣ness of imagination, and subtilty of distinguishing: they very well understood the consequence of pro∣positions: their natural endowments were excellent: their industry commendable: But they lighted on a wrong path at first, and wanted matter to contrive: and so, like the Indians, onely express'd a wonderful Page  16 Artifice, in the ordering of the same Feathers in a thousand varities of Figures. I will not insist long on the Barbarousness of their style: though that too might justly be censur'd: for all the antient Philoso∣phers, though they labor'd not to be full, and a∣dorn'd in their Speech: yet they always strove to be easie, naturall, and unaffected. Plato was allow'd by all to be the chief Master of speaking, as well as of thinking. And even Aristotle himself, whom a∣lone these men ador'd, however he has been since us'd by his Commentators, was so carefull about his words, that he was esteem'd one of the purest, and most polite Writers of his time. But the want of good Language, not being the Schole-mens worst defect, I shall pass it over: and rather stop a little, to exa∣mine the the matter itself, and order in which they proceeded.

The Subjects about which they were most conver∣sant, were either some of those Arts, which Aristo∣stle had drawn into Method, or the more specula∣tive parts of our Divinity. These they commonly handled after this fashion. They began with some generall Definitions of the things themselves, ac∣cording to their universal Natures: Then divided them into their parts, and drew them out into sever∣all propositions, which they layd down as Problems: these they controverted on both sides: and by ma∣ny nicities of Arguments, and citations of Autho∣rities, confuted their adversaries, and strengthned their own dictates. But though this Notional Warr had been carry'd on with farr more care, and calm∣ness amongst them, then it was: yet it was never able to do any great good towards the enlargement of knowledge: Because it rely'd on generall Terms,Page  17 which had not much foundation in Nature; and also be∣cause they took no other course, but that of disputing.

That this insisting altogether on establish'd Axioms, is not the most usefull way, is not only cleer in such airy conceptions, which they manag'd: but also in those things, which lye before every mans observa∣tion, which belong to the life, and passions, and manners of men; which, one would think, might be sooner reduc'd into standing Rules. As for example: To make a prudent man in the affairs of State, It is not enough, to be well vers'd in all the conclusions, which all the Politicians in the World have devis'd, or to be expert in the Nature of Government, and Laws, Obedience, and Rebellion, Peace, and War: Nay rather a man that relyes altogether on such uni∣versal precepts, is almost certain to miscarry. But there must be a sagacity of judgement in particular things: a dexterity in discerning the advantages of occasions: a study of the humour, and interest of the people he is to govern: The same is to be found in Philosophy; a thousand fine Argumentations, and Fabricks in the mind, concerning the Nature of Body, Quantity, Motion, and the like, if they only hover a-loof, and are not squar'd to particular mat∣ters, they may give an empty satisfaction, but no be∣nefit, and rather serve to swell, then fill the Soul.

But besides this, the very way of disputing itself, and inferring one thing from another alone, is not at all proper for the spreading of knowledge. It serves admirably well indeed, in those Arts, where the con∣nexion between the propositions is necessary, as in the Mathematicks, in which a long train of Demonstra∣tions, may be truly collected, from the certainty of the first foundation: But in things of probability onely, Page  18 it seldom or never happens, that after some little progress, the main subject is not left, and the con∣tenders fall not into other matters, that are nothing to the purpose: For if but one link in the whole chain be loose, they wander farr away, and seldom, or never recover their first ground again. In brief, dis∣puting is a very good instrument, to sharpen mens wits, and to make them versatil, and wary defen∣ders of the Principles, which they already know: but it can never much augment the solid substance of Science itself: And me thinks compar'd to Experi∣menting, it is like Exercise to the Body in compari∣son of Meat: For running, walking, wrestling, shoot∣ing, and other such active sports, will keep men in health, and breath, and a vigorous temper: but it must be a supply of new food that must make them grow: so it is in this case; much contention, and strife of argument, will serve well to explain ob∣scure things, and strengthen the weak, and give a good, sound, masculine colour, to the whole masse of knowledge: But it must be a continued addition of observations, which must nourish, and increase, and give new Blood, and flesh, to the Arts them∣selves.

But this has been only hitherto spoken, against the Method of the Schole-men in General; on sup∣position, that they took the best course, that could be in that kind. I shall now come, to weigh that too. For it may easily be prov'd, that those very Theories, on which they built all their subtle webs, were not at all Collected, by a sufficient information from the things themselves. Which if it can be made out, I hope, it will be granted, that the force and vigour of their Wit did more hurt, then good: and Page  19 onely serv'd to carry them the faster out of the right way, when they were once going. The Peripate∣ticks themselves do all grant, that the first rise of knowledge must be from the Senses, and from an in∣duction of their reports: Well then; how could the Schole-men be proper for such a business, who were ty'd by their Cloysterall life, to such a strict∣ness of hours, and had seldom any larger prospects of Nature, then the Gardens of their Monasteries? It is a common observation, that mens studies are various, according to the different courses of life, to which they apply themselves; or the tempers of the places, wherein they live. They who are bred up in Commonwealths, where the greatest affairs are manag'd by the violence of popular assemblies, and those govern'd by the most plausible speakers: bu∣sie themselves chiefly about Eloquence; they who follow a Court, especially intend the ornament of Language, and Poetry, and such more delicate Arts, which are usually there in most request: they who retire from humane things, and shut themselves up in a narrow compass, keeping company with a very few, and that too in a solemne way, addict them∣selves, for the most part, to some melancholy con∣templations, or to devotion, and the thoughts of another world. That therefore which was fittest for the Schole-mens way of life, we will allow them. But what sorry kinds of Philosophy must they needs produce, when it was a part of their Religion, to separate themselves, as much as they could, from the converse of mankind? when they were so farr from being able to discover the secrets of Nature, that they had scarce opportunity, to behold enough of its common works? If any shall be inclinable to fol∣low Page  20 the directions of such men in Natural things, ra∣ther then of those, who make it their employment: I shall believe, they will be irrational enough, to think, that a man may draw an exacter Description of England, who has never been here, then the most industrious Mr. Cambden, who had travell'd over every part of this Country, for that very pur∣pose.

Whoever shall soberly profess, to be willing to put their shoulders, under the burthen of so great an enterprise, as to represent to mankind, the whole Fabrick, the parts, the causes, the effects of Na∣ture: ought to have their eyes in all parts, and to receive information from every quarter of the earth: they ought to have a constant universall intelligence: all discoveries should be brought to them: the Trea∣suries of all former times should be laid open before them: the assistance of the present should be allow'd them: so farr are the narrow conceptions of a few private Writers, in a dark Age, from being equall to so vast a design. There are indeed some opera∣tions of the mind, which may be best perform'd by the simple strength of mens own particular thoughts; such are invention, and judgement, and disposition: For in them a security from noise, leaves the Soul at more liberty, to bring forth, order, and fashion the heap of matter, which had been before supply'd to its use. But there are other works also, which re∣quire as much aid, and as many hands, as can be found. And such is this of observation: Which is the great Foundation of Knowledge: Some must gather, some must bring, some separate, some examine: and (to use a Similitude, which the pre∣sent time of the year, and the ripe fields, that lye Page  21 before my eyes, suggest to me) it is in Philosophy, as in Husbandry: Wherein we see, that a few hands will serve to measure out, and fill into sacks, that Corn, which requires very many more laborers, to sow, and reap, and bind, and bring it into the Barn.

But now it is time for me to dismiss this subtle ge∣neration of Writers: whom I would not have pro∣secuted so farr, but that they are still esteem'd by some men, the onely Masters of Reason. If they would be content, with any thing less then an Empire in Learning, we would grant them very much. We would permit them to be great, and profound Wits, as Angelicall, and Seraphical, as they pleas'd: We would commend them, as we are wont to do Chau∣cer; we would confess, that they are admirable in comparison of the ignorance of their own Age: And, as Sir Philip Sidney of him, we would say of them; that it is to be wonder'd, how they could see so cleer∣ly then, and we can see no cleerer now: But that they should still be set before us, as the great Ora∣cles of all Wit, we can never allow. Suppose, that I should grant, that they are most usefull in the con∣troversies of our Church, to defend us against the He∣resies, and Schisms of our times: what will thence follow, but that they ought to be confin'd, within their own Bounds, and not be suffer'd to hinder the enlargement of the territories of other Sciences? Let them still prevail in the Scholes, and let them govern in disputations: But let them not over-spread all sorts of knowledge. That would be as ridiculous, as if, because we see, that Thorns, and Briers, by reason of their sharpness, are fit to stop a gap, and keep out wild Beasts; we should therefore think, they deserv'd to be planted all over every Field. Page  22 And yet I should not doubt, (if it were not some∣what improper to the present discourse) to prove, that even in Divinity itself, they are not so necessa∣ry, as they are reputed to be: and that all, or most of our Religious controversies, may be as well deci∣ded, by plain reason, and by considerations, which may be fetch'd from the Religion of mankind, the Nature of Government, and humane Society, and Scripture itself, as by the multitudes of Authorities, and subtleties of disputes, which have been hereto∣fore in use.

*And now I am come to the time within our view, and to the third great Age of the flourishing of Learn∣ing. Whether this recovery of knowledge did hap∣pen by the benefit of Printing, invented about that time, which shew'd a very easie way of communica∣ting mens thoughts one to another? or whether it came from the hatred, which was then generally conceiv'd against the blindness, and stupidity, of the Roman Fryers? or from the Reformation, which put men upon a stricter inquiry into the Truth of things? whatever the cause was, I will not take much pains to determine: But I will rather observe, what kinds of knowledge have most flourish'd upon it. If we compare this Age of Learning, with the two for∣mer; we shall find, that this does far exceed both the other in its extent: there being a much larger plot of ground, sown with Arts, and civility at this time, then either when the Grecian, or Roman Em∣pires prevail'd. For then (especially under the Ro∣mans) so many Nations being united under one Do∣minion, and reduc'd into the Form of Provinces: that knowledge which they had was chiefly confin'd Page  23 to the walls of the Imperial Cities themselves. But now (not to insist on the Learning of farr remote Countries, of which we have onely imperfect Rela∣tions; but to contract our observation to Christen∣dom alone) there being so many different States, and Governments in Europe, every Country sets up for it∣self: almost in every place, the liberal Arts (as they are call'd) are cherish'd, and publick allowance is made for their support. And in this compass, the in∣finit numbers of Wits, which have appear'd so thick for these many years, have been chiefly taken up a∣bout some of these three studies: either the Writings of the Antients: or Controversies of Religion: or Af∣fairs of State.

The First thing that was undertaken,* was to re∣scue the excellent works of former Writers from ob∣scurity. To the better performing of this, many things contributed about that time. Amongst which, as to us in England, I may reckon (and that too, it may be, not the least, whatever the action was in it∣self,) the dissolution of Abbyes: whereby their Li∣braries came forth into the light, and fell into indu∣strious Mens hands, who understood how to make more use of them, then their slothfull possessors had done. So that now the Greek, and Latine Tongues began to be in request; and all the ancient Authors, the Hethen Philosophers, Mathematicians, Orators, Hi∣storians, Poets, the various Copies, and Translati∣ons of the Bible, and the Primitive Fathers were produc'd. All these, by the severall Transcriptions, and the ignorance of the Transcribers had very ma∣ny different readings, and many parts wholly lost; and by the distance of times, and change of customs, Page  24 were grown obscure. About the interpreting, ex∣plaining, supplying, commenting on these, almost all the first Wits were employed. A work of great use, and for which we ought to esteem our selves much beholding to them. For indeed, if they had not compleated that business, to our hands, we of this age, had not been so much at leisure, as now I hope we are, to prosecute new inventions. If they had not done it, we should: of which we ought not to doubt, seeing we behold, that even now, when the soyl of Criticism is almost quite Barren, and hard∣ly another Crop will come, yet many Learned men cannot forbear spending their whole labour in toyl∣ing about it: what then should we have done, if all those Books had come down untouch'd to our hands?

We cannot then, with any sobriety, detract from the Criticks, and Philologists, whose labors we in∣joy. But we ought rather to give them this Testi∣mony, that they were men of admirable Diligence: and that the Collections, which they have made, out of the Monuments of the Antients, will be wonder∣fully advantageous to us, if the right use be made of them: if they be not set before us, onely that we may spend our whole Lives, in their consideration, and to make the course of Learning more difficult: But if they be imploy'd, to direct us in the ways, that we ought to proceed, in knowledge for the fu∣ture; if by shewing us what has been already finish'd, they point out to us, the most probable means, to accomplish what is behind. For methinks, that wis∣dom, which they fetch'd from the ashes of the dead, is something of the same nature, with Ashes them∣selves: which, if they are kept up in heaps together, Page  25 will be useless: But if they are scattred upon Living ground, they will make it more fertile, in the bring∣ing forth of various sorts of Fruits. To these men then we are beholding, that we have a fairer pro∣spect about us: to them we owe, that we are not ig∣norant of the times that are gone before us: which to be, is (as Tully says) to be always Children. All this, and much more, is to be acknowledg'd: But then we shall also desire of them, that they would content themselves, with what is their due: that by what they have discover'd, amongst the rubbish of the Antients, they would not contemn the Treasures, either lately found out, or still unknown: and that they would not prefer the Gold of Ophir, of which now there is no mention, but in Books, before the present Mountains of the West-Indies.

Thus I pass over this sort of reviv'd Learning.* And now there comes into our view another remarkable occasion, of the hinderance of the growth of Expe∣rimentall Philosophy, within the compass of this bright Age; and that is the great a-do which has been made, in raising, and confirming, and refuting so many different Sects, and opinions of the Christian Faith. For whatever other hurt or good comes, by such holy speculative Warrs (of which whether the benefit or mischief over-weighs, I will not now exa∣mine) yet certainly by this means, the knowledge of Nature has been very much retarded. And (to use that Metaphor, which an excellent Poet of our Nation, turns to another purpose) that showre has done very much injury by falling on the Sea, for which the Shepherd, and the Plough-man, call'd in vain: The Wit of men has been profusely powr'd out Page  26 on Religion, which needed not its help, and which was onely thereby made more tempestuous: while it might have been more fruitfully spent, on some parts of Philosophy, which have been hitherto barren, and might soon have been made fertil.

But besides this, there have been also several o∣ther professions, which have drawn away the Inclina∣tions of Men, from prosecuting the naked, and unin∣teressed Truth. And of these I shall chiefly name the affairs of State, the administration of Civil Go∣vernment, and the execution of Laws. These by their fair dowry of gain, and honor, have always allur'd the greatest part of the men of Art, and rea∣son, to addict themselves to them: while the search into severer knowledge has been lookt on, as a study out of the way, fitter for a melancholy humorist, or a retir'd weak spirit, then to make men equal to bu∣siness, or serviceable to their Country. And in this, methinks the Experimental Philosophy has met with ve∣ry hard usage: For it has commonly in Mens Cen∣sures, undergone the imputation of those very faults, which it indeavors to correct in the Verbal. That indeed may be justly condemn'd for filling mens thoughts, with imaginary Ideas of conceptions, that are no way answerable to the practical ends of Life: But this on the other side (as I shall shortly make out) is the surest guide, against such Notional wandrings: opens our eyes to perceive all the realities of things: and cleers the brain, not onely from darkness, but false, or useless Light. This is certainly so, in the thing it self. But the greatest part of men, have still apprehended the contrary. If they can bring such Inquirers under the scornfull Titles of Philoso∣phers, or Schollars, or Virtuosi, it is enough: They pre∣sently Page  27 conclude them, to be men of another World, onely fit companions for the shadow, and their own melancholy whimsies: looking on those who dig in the Mine of Nature, to be in as bad a condition, as the King of Spains slaves in Peru, condemn'd for ever to that drudgery, and never to be redeem'd to any other imployment. And is not this a very une∣qual proceeding? While some over-zealous Divines do reprobate Natural Philosophy, as a carnal know∣ledge, and a too much minding worldly things: the men of the World, and business on the other side, esteem it meerly as an idle matter of Fancy, and as that which disables us, from taking right measures in humane affairs. Thus by the one party, it is cen∣sur'd, for stooping too low; by the other, for soar∣ing too high: so that methinks, it is a good ground to conclude, that it is guilty of neither of these faults, seeing it is alike condemn'd by both the ex∣treams. But I shall have a fitter occasion, to examine this hereafter. However it be, it is not to be won∣der'd, if men have not been very zealous about those studies, which have been so farr remov'd, from present benefit, and from the applause of men. For what should incite them, to bestow their time, and Art, in revealing to mankind, those Mysteries; for which, it may be, they would be onely despis'd at last? How few must there needs be, who will be willing, to be impoverish'd for the common good? which they shall see, all the rewards, which might give life to their Industry, passing by them, and be∣stow'd on the deserts of easier studies? and while they for all their pains, and publick spirit, shall on∣ly perhaps be serv'd as the poor man was in the Fable: who, while he went down into the well, in assurance, Page  28 that he should find a mighty Treasure there, was in the mean time robb'd by his companions, that stay'd above, of his Cloak, and all the Booty that he had before gotten?

*And yet, notwithstanding all these unfortunate hinderances, there have been many commendable at∣tempts in this way, in the compass of our Memo∣ries, and the Age before us. And though they have been for the most part carry'd on, by the private Di∣ligence of some few Men, in the mid'st of a thou∣sand difficulties, yet it will not be unprofitable to recount some of them: if it were onely to give a fair ground of hope, how much progress may be made by a form'd and Regular Assembly, seeing some sin∣gle hands, with so small incouragement, could dis∣patch so much of the work.

There are Five new ways of Philosophy, that come into my observation.

*The First is, of those, who, out of a just disdain, that the Antients should still possess a Tyranny over our Judgements, began first to put off the reverence, that men had born to their memories; and handling them more familiarly, made an exact survey of their imperfections: But then having rejected them, they pursued their success too far, and straight fell to form and impose new Theories on Mens Reason, with an usurpation, as great as that of the others: An acti∣on, which we that live in this Age, may resemble to some things that we have seen acted on the Stage of the World: For we also have beheld the Pretenders to publick Liberty, turn the greatest Tyrants them∣selves. The first part of these mens performance is very much to the prais'd: They have made the Page  29 ground open, and cleer, for us: they have remov'd the rubbish; which, when one great Fabrick is to be pull'd down, and another to be erected in its stead, is always esteem'd well nigh half the whole work: Their adventure was bold, and hazardous: They touch'd mens minds in their tenderest part, when they strove to pluck off those opinions, which had, by long custom, been so closely twin'd about them: They freed our understandings from the Charms of vain apparitions, and a slavery to dead Mens names. And we may well ghess, that the absolute perfection of the True Philosophy, is not now far off, seeing this first great and necessary prepa∣tion for its coming, is already taken off our hands. For methinks there is an agreement, between the growth of Learning, and of Civil Government. The Method of the rise and increase of that, was, this. At first in every Country, there prevail'd nothing, but Barbarism, and Rudeness: All places were ter∣rible with Gyants, and enchantments, and insolent Usurpers: Against these there first arose some mighty Heroes, as Hercules, Theseus, and Iason: These scowr'd the World, redress'd injuries, destroy'd Monsters: and for this they were made Demi-gods. But then they gave over, and it was left to the great Men, who succeeded them, as Solon, and Lycurgus, to ac∣complish the Work, to found Common-wealths, to give Laws, to put Justice in its course: And why may I not now presume (as many others have done before me) to reduce these stories to a Philosophi∣cal sence? First then, the Phantasms, and Fairies, and venerable Images of Antiquity, did long haunt the World: against these we have had our Champions; and without all question, they had the better of the Page  30 cause: and now we have good ground to trust, that these Illusions being well over, the last finishing of this great Work, is nigh at hand, and is reserv'd for this undertaking.

So then, thus farr they did well. But in the se∣cond part of their Enterprize, they themselves seem to me to have run into the same mistake, for which we chiefly complain'd against those Antients, whose Authority they destroy'd. The greatest occasion of our dissenting from the Greek Philosophers, and espe∣cially from Aristotle, was, that they made too much hast to seise on the prize, before they were at the end of the Race: that they fix'd, and determin'd their judgements, on general conclusions too soon, and so could not afterwards alter them, by any new appearances, which might represent themselves. And may we not suppose, that posterity will have the same quarrel at these mens labors? We do not fall foul upon Antiquity, out of any singularity of opi∣nion, or a presumptuous confidence of the strength of our Wits above theirs. We admire the men, but onely dislike the Method of their proceedings. And can we forbear murmuring, if we see our contempo∣raries disdain them, and yet imitate their failings? If we must constitute a Sovereignty over our Reasons; I know not, why we should not allow this Dominion to the Antients, rather then to any one of the Mo∣derns. They are all dead long since: and though we should be over-reach'd by them in some few false∣hoods, yet there is no danger, lest they should in∣crease them upon us: whereas, if we once hang on the lips, of the wisest men now Living; we are still in their Power, and under their Discipline, and sub∣ject to be led by all their Dictates for the future. It Page  31 is true indeed, a diligent Inquirer of these times, may gather as much experience, and in probability, con∣clude as rightly, as a whole Academy, or Sect of theirs could: yet I shall still deny, that any one Man, though he has the nimblest, and most universal obser∣vation, can ever, in the compass of his life, lay up enough knowledge, to suffice all that shall come after him to rest upon, without the help of any new Inquiries.

And if we suppose the best, that some one Man, by wonderful sagacity, or extraordinary chance, shall light upon the True Principles of Natural Phi∣losophy: yet what will be the profit, of such uni∣versal Demonstrations, if they are onely fitted for talk, and the solving of appearances? Will there be any great matter, whether they are certain, or doubtful; old, or new; if they must be onely boun∣ded to a systeme, and confin'd to discourse? The True Philosophy must be first of all begun, on a scrupulous, and severe examination of particulars: from them, there may be some general Rules, with great caution drawn: But it must not rest there, nor is that the most difficult part of its course: It must ad∣vance those Principles, to the finding out of new effects, through all the varieties of Matter: and so both the courses must proceed orderly together; from experimenting, to Demonstrating, and from demonstrating, to Experimenting again. I hope I shall content my Reader, if I onely give one instance in this case. It is probable, that he, who first disco∣ver'd, that all things were order'd in Nature by Mo∣tion; went upon a better ground, then any before him. But now if he will onely manage this, by nicely disputing about the Nature, and Causes of Page  32Motion in general; and not prosecute it through all particular Bodies: to what will he at last arrive, but onely to a better sort of Metaphysicks? And it may be, his Followers, some Ages hence, will divide his Do∣ctrine into as many distinctions, as the Schole-men did that of Matter, and Form: and so the whole life of it, will also vanish away, into air, and words, as that of theirs has already done.

*But it is time for me to give over this Argument; in which I fear, that what I have already said, will alarm some excellent men, whose abilities I admire: who may perhaps suspect, that it has bin with a parti∣cular reflexion. I might say for my self, That first they must pass sentence on themselves, before they can think so, seeing I have nam'd no man. But I will ra∣ther sincerely profess, that I had no satyrical Sence, but onely declar'd against Dogmatists in general. And I cannot repent my having done it, while I per∣ceive, there are two very dangerous mischiefs, which are caus'd by that way of Philosophy. The one is, that it makes men give over, and believe that they are satisfi'd, too soon. This is of very ill consequence: For thereby mens industry will be slackned, and all the motives to any farther pursuit taken away. And indeed this is an error, which is very natural to mens minds: they love not a long and a tedious doubt∣ing, though it brings them at last to a real certainty: but they choose rather to conclude presently, then to be long in suspence, though to better purpose. And it is with most mens understandings, as with their eyes; to which those seem the most delightful pros∣pects, where varieties of Hills, and Woods, do soon bound their wandrings; then where there is one Page  33 large smooth campagne, over which they may see much farther, but where there is nothing to delay, and stop, and divert the sight.

But the other ill effect of which I shall take no∣tice, is, that it commonly inclines such men, who think themselves already resolv'd, and immoveable in their opinions, to be more imperious, and im∣patient of contradiction, then becomes the calmness, and unpassionate evenness of the true Philosophical Spirit. It makes them prone to undervalue other mens labours, and to neglect the real advantage, that may be gotten by their assistance; least they should seem to darken their own glory. This is a Temper of mind, of all others the most pernicious; to which I may chiefly attribute the slowness of the increase of knowledge amongst men. For what great things can be expected, if mens understandings shall be (as it were) always in the warlike State of Nature, one against another? if every one be jea∣lous of anothers inventions, and still ready to put a stop to his conquests? Will there not be the same wild condition in Learning, which had been amongst men, if they had always been dispers'd, still preying upon, and spoiling their neighbors? If that had still continued, no Cities had been built, no Trades found out, no Civility taught: For all these noble produ∣ctions came from mens joyning in compacts, and en∣tring into Society. It is a usual saying, that Where the Natural Philosopher ends, the Physitian must begin: and I will also add, that The Natural Philosopher is to begin, where the Moral ends. It is requisite, that he who goes about such an undertaking, should first know himself, should be well-practis'd in all the mo∣dest, humble, friendly Vertues: should be willing Page  34 to be taught, and to give way to the Judgement of others. And I dare boldly say, that a plain, indu∣strious Man, so prepar'd, is more likely to make a good Philosopher, then all the high, earnest, insul∣ting Wits, who can neither bear partnership, nor op∣position. The Chymists lay it down, as a necessary qualification of their happy Man, to whom God will reveal their ador'd Elixir, that he must be rather innocent, and vertuous, then knowing. And if I were to form the Character of a True Philosopher, I would be sure to make that the Foundation: Not that I believe, God will bestow any extraordinary Light in Nature, on such men more then others: But upon a bare, rational account: For certainly, such men, whose minds are so soft, so yielding, so complying, so large, are in a far better way, then the Bold, and haughty Assertors: they will pass by nothing, by which they may learn: they will be al∣ways ready to receive, and communicate Observa∣tions: they will not contemn the Fruits of others di∣ligence: they will rejoyce, to see mankind benefited, whether it be by themselves, or others.

*The second indeavors, have been of those, who renounc'd the Authority of Aristotle: But then re∣stor'd some one or other of the Antient Sects in his stead. If such mens intentions were onely, that we might have before us, the conceptions of several men, of different Ages, upon the works of Nature, without obliging us to an implicit consent to all that they affirm; then their labors ought to be receiv'd with great acknowledgements: For such a general prospect will very much inlarge, and guide our in∣quiry: and perhaps also will help to hinder the Age Page  35 from ever falling back again into a subjection to one usurping Philosopher. But if their purpose was, to erect those Scholes which they reviv'd, into as abso∣lute a power, as the Peripateticks had heretofore: if they strive to make a competition between Aristo∣tle, and Epicurus, or Democritus, or Philolaus: they do not contribute very much, towards the main de∣sign. For towards that, it is not enough, that the Tyrant be chang'd; but the Tyranny it self must be wholy taken away.

The Third sort of new Philosophers,* have been those, who have not onely disagreed from the An∣tients, but have also propos'd to themselves the right course of slow, and sure Experimenting: and have prosecuted it as far, as the shortness of their own Lives, or the multiplicity of their other affairs, or the narrowness of their Fortunes, have given them leave. Such as these, we are to expect to be but few: for they must devest themselves of many vain con∣ceptions, and overcome a thousand false Images, which lye like Monsters in their way, before they can get as far as this. And of these, I shall onely men∣tion one great Man, who had the true Imagination of the whole extent of this Enterprize, as it is now set on foot; and that is, the Lord Bacon. In whose Books there are every where scattered the best argu∣ments, that can be produc'd for the defence of Ex∣perimental Philosophy; and the best directions, that are needful to promote it. All which he has already adorn'd with so much Art; that if my desires could have prevail'd with some excellent Friends of mine, who engag'd me to this Work: there should have been no other Preface to the History of the Royal So∣ciety,Page  36 but some of his Writings. But methinks, in this one Man, I do at once find enough occasion, to admire the strength of humane Wit, and to bewail the weakness of a Mortal condition. For is it not wonderful, that he, who had run through all the de∣grees of that profession, which usually takes up mens whole time; who had studied, and practis'd, and govern'd the Common Law: who had always liv'd in the crowd, and born the greatest Burden of Civil business: should yet find leisure enough for these re∣tir'd Studies, to excel all those men, who separate themselves for this very purpose? He was a Man of strong▪ cleer, and powerful Imaginations: his Geni∣us was searching, and inimitable: and of this I need give no other proof, then his Style it self; which as, for the most part, it describes mens minds, as well as Pictures do their Bodies; so it did his above all men living. The course of it vigorous, and majestical: The Wit Bold, and Familiar: The comparisons fetch'd out of the way, and yet the most easie: in all, ex∣pressing a soul, equally skill'd in Men, and Nature. All this, and much more is true of him: But yet his Philosophical Works do shew, that a single, and busie hand can never grasp all this whole Design, of which we treat. His Rules were admirable: yet his Histo∣ry not so faithful, as might have been wish'd in many places, he seems rather to take all that comes, then to choose; and to heap, rather, then to register. But I hope this accusation of mine can be no great injury to his Memory; seeing, at the same time, that I say he had not the strength of a thousand men; I do also allow him to have had as much as twenty.

Page  37The next Philosophers,* whom I shall touch upon, are the Chymists, who have been more numerous, in this later Age, then ever before. And without que∣stion, they have lighted upon the right Instrument of great productions, and alterations: which must for the most part be perform'd by Fire. They may be divided into three rancks: Such, as look after the knowledge of Nature in general: Such, as seek out, and prepare Medicines: and such, as search after riches, by Transmutations, and the great Elixir. The two first, have been very successful, in separating, compounding, and changing the parts of things: and in shewing the admirable powers of Nature, in the raising of new consistencies, figures, colors, and vertues of Bodies. And from their labors, the true Philosophy is like to receive the noblest Improve∣ments. But the pretensions of the Third kind, are not onely to indow us, with all the benefits of this life, but with Immortality it self. And their success has been as small, as their design was extravagant. Their Writers involve them in such darkness; that I scarce know, which was the greatest task, to un∣derstand their meaning, or to effect it. And in the chase of the Philosopher's Stone, they are so earnest, that they are scarce capable of any other thoughts: so that if an Experiment lye never so little out of their rode, it is free from their discovery: as I have heard of some creatures in Africk, which still going a violent pace straight on, and not being able to turn themselves, can never get any prey, but what they meet just in their way. This secret they pro∣secute so impetuously, that they believe they see some footsteps of it, in every line of Moses, Solomon, or Virgil. The truth is, they are downright EnthusiastsPage  38 about it. And seeing we cast Enthusiasm out of Di∣vinity it self, we shall hardly sure be perswaded, to admit it into Philosophy. It were perhaps a vain at∣tempt, to try to cure such Men of their groundless hopes. It may be they are happier now, as they are. And they would onely cry out with the Man in Horace, that their Friends, who had restor'd them to a perfect sense, had murder'd them. But certainly, if they could be brought to content them∣selves with moderate things, to grow rich by de∣grees, and not to imagine, they shall gain the Indies, out of every Crucible: there might be wonderful things expected from them. And of this we have good assurance, by what is come abroad from di∣vers eminent Persons: amongst whom some are mem∣bers of the Royal Society. And, if it were not alrea∣dy excellently perform'd by others, I might here speak largely, of the advantages that accrue to Phy∣sick, by the industrious labors of such Chymists, as have onely the discreet, and sober flame, and not the wild lightning of the others Brains.

*But the last kind, that I shall name, has been of those, who, conscious of humane frailty, and of the vastness of the Design of an universal Philosophy; have separated, and chosen out for themselves, some par∣ticular Subjects, about which to bestow their dili∣gence. In these, there was less hazard of failing: these by one mans Industry, and constant indeavors, might probably at last be overcome. And indeed they have generally reap'd the fruits of their mode∣sty. I have but one thing to except against some few of them: that they have been sometimes a little too forward to conclude upon Axioms, from what Page  39 they have found out, in some particular Body. But that is a fault, which ought to be overwhelm'd by their other praises. And I shall boldly affirm, that if all other Philosophical Matters had been as well, and as throughly sifted, as some admirable Men of this Age have manag'd some parts of Astronomy, Geome∣try, Anatomy, &c. there would scarce any burden have remain'd, on the shoulders of our Posterity: But they might have sate quietly down, and injoy'd the pleasure of the true Speculative Philosophy, and the profit of the Practical.

To all these proceedings, that I have mention'd, there is as much honor to be payd, as can be due to any one single humane Wit: But they must pardon us, if we still prefer the joynt force of many men.

And now it is much to be wonder'd,* that there was never yet such an Assembly erected, which might pro∣ceed, on some standing constitutions of Experiment∣ing. There have, 'tis true, of late, in many parts of Europe, some Gentlemen met together, submitted to Common Laws, and form'd themselves into Aca∣demies. But it has been, for the most part, to a far different purpose: and most of them only aim'd at the smoothing of their Style, and the Language of their Country. Of these, the first arose in Italy; where they have since so much abounded, that there was scarce any one great City without one of these combinations. But that, which excell'd all the other, and kept it self longer untainted from the corrupti∣ons of speech, was the French Academy at Paris. This was compos'd of the noblest Authors of that Nation: and had for its Founder, the Great Cardinal de Riche∣lieu: who, amongst all his cares, whereby he esta∣blish'd, Page  40 and enlarg'd that Monarchy so much, did of∣ten refresh himself by directing, and taking an ac∣count of their progress. And indeed in his own life, he found so great success of this Institution, that he saw the French Tongue abundantly purifi'd, and be∣ginning to take place in the Western World, almost as much, as the Greek did of old, when it was the Language of Merchants, Souldiers, Courtiers, and Travellers. But I shall say no more of this Academy; that I may not deprive my Reader of the delight of perusing their own History, written by Monsieur de Pelisson: which is so masculinely, so chastly, and so unaffectedly done, that I can hardly forbear envy∣ing the French Nation this honor: that while the Eng∣lish Royal Society has so much out-gone their Illustri∣ous Academy, in the greatness of its undertaking, it should be so far short of them in the abilities of its Historian. I have onely this to allege in my excuse; that as they undertook the advancement of the Ele∣gance of Speech, so it became their History, to have some resemblance to their enterprize: Whereas the intention of ours, being not the Artifice of Words, but a bare knowledge of things; my fault may be esteem'd the less, that I have written of Philosophers, without any ornament of Eloquence.

*I hope now, it will not be thought a vain digres∣sion, if I step a little aside, to recommend the forming of such an Assembly, to the Gentlemen of our Nation. I know indeed, that the English Genius is not so airy, and discoursive, as that of some of our neighbors, but that we generally love to have Reason set out in plain, undeceiving expressions; as much, as they to have it deliver'd with colour, and beauty. And be∣sides Page  41 this, I understand well enough, that they have one great assistance, to the growth of Oratory, which to us is wanting: that is, that their Nobility live commonly close together in their Cities, and our for the most part scattered in their Country Houses. For the same reason, why our streets are not so well built as theirs, will hold also, for their exceeding us in the Arts of Speech: They prefer the Pleasures of the Town; we, those of the Field: whereas it is from the frequent conversations in Ci∣ties, that the Humour, and Wit, and Variety, and Elegance of Language, are chiefly to be fetch'd. But yet, notwithstanding these discouragements, I shall not stick to say: that such a project is now season∣able to be set on foot, and may make a great Refor∣mation in the manner of our Speaking, and Writing. First, the thing itself is no way contemptible. For the purity of Speech, and greatness of Empire have in all Countries, still met together. The Greeks spoke best, when they were in their glory of con∣quest: The Romans made those times the Stan∣dard of their Wit, when they subdu'd, and gave Laws to to the World: And from thence, by de∣grees, they declin'd to corruption; as their valour, their prudence, and the honor of their Arms did de∣cay: and at last, did even meet the Northern Nations half way in Barbarism, a little before they were over∣run by their Armies.

But besides, if we observe well the English Lan∣guage; we shall find, that it seems at this time more then others, to require some such aid, to bring it to its last perfection. The Truth is, it has been hither∣to a little too carelessly hand led; and I think, has had less labor spent about its polishing, then it de∣serves. Page  42 Till the time of King Henry the Eighth, there was scarce any man regarded it, but Chaucer; and nothing was written in it, which one would be wil∣ling to read twice, but some of his Poetry. But then it began to raise it self a little, and to sound tolera∣bly well. From that Age, down to the beginning of our late Civil Wars, it was still fashioning, and beautifying it self. In the Wars themselves (which is a time, wherein all Languages use, if ever, to in∣crease by extraordinary degrees; for in such busie, and active times, there arise more new thoughts of men, which must be signifi'd, and varied by new expressions) then I say, it receiv'd many fantastical terms, which were introduc'd by our Religious Sects; and many outlandish phrases, which several Writers, and Translators, in that great hurry, brought in, and made free as they pleas'd, and with all it was inlarg'd by many sound, and necessary Forms, and Idioms, which it before wanted. And now, when mens minds are somewhat settled, their Passions allai'd, and the peace of our Country gives us the opportuni∣ty of such diversions: if some sober and judicious Men, would take the whole Mass of our Language into their hands, as they find it, and would set a mark on the ill Words; correct those, which are to be retain'd; admit, and establish the good; and make some emendations in the Accent, and Gram∣mar: I dare pronounce, that our Speech would quick∣ly arrive at as much plenty, as it is capable to re∣ceive; and at the greatest smoothness, which its de∣rivation from the rough German will allow it.

Nor would I have this new English Acamedy, con∣fin'd only to the weighing Words, and Letters: But there may be also greater Works found out for it. By Page  43 many signs we may ghess, that the Wits of our Na∣tion, are not inferior to any other; and that they have an excellent mixture of the Spirit of the French, and the Spaniard: and I am confident, that we only want a few more standing Examples, and a little more familiarity with the Antients, to excel all the Moderns. Now the best means, that can be devis'd to bring that about, is to settle a fixt, and Impartial Court of Eloquence; according to whose Censure, all Books, or Authors should either stand or fall. And above all, there might be recommended to them one Principal Work, in which we are yet defective; and that is, the compiling of a History of our late Civil Wars. Of all the labors of mens Wit, and Industry, I scarce know any, that can be more useful to the World, then Civil History: if it were written, with that sincerity, and majesty, as it ought to be, as a faithful Idea of humane Actions. And it is observa∣ble, that almost in all civiliz'd Countries, it has been the last thing, that has come to perfection. I may now say, that the English can already shew many in∣dustrious, and worthy Pieces in this kind: But yet, I have some Prophetical imagination in my thoughts, that there is still behind, something Greater, then any we have yet seen, reserv'd for the Glory of this Age. One Reason of this my strong persuasion, is a comparison, that I make, between the condition of our State, and that of the Romans. They at first writ, in this way, not much better then our Moncks: onely Registring in an undigested manner, some few naked Breviaries of their Wars, and Leagues, and Acts, of their City Magistrates. And indeed they advanc'd forward by very slow degrees: For I re∣member, that Tully somewhere complains, in these Page  44 Words: Historia nonclum latinis literis illustrata. But it was in the peaceful reign of Augustus, after the conclusion of their long Civil Wars, that most of their perfect Historians appear'd. And it seems to me, that we may expect the same progress amongst us. There lye now ready in Bank, the most memorable Actions of Twenty years: a Subject of as great Dig∣nity, and Variety, as ever pass'd under any Mans hands: the peace which we injoy, gives leisure and incouragement enough: The effects of such a Work would be wonderfully advantageous, to the safety of our Country, and to His Majesties Interest: for there can be no better means to preserve his Sub∣jects in obedience for the future, than to give them a full view of the miseries, that attended rebellion. There are onely therefore wanting, for the finishing of so brave an undertaking, the united indeavors of some publick minds, who are conversant both in Letters and business: and if it were appointed to be the labor of one or two men to compose it, and of such an Assembly, to revise and correct it, it might certainly challenge all the Writings of past, or pre∣sent Times.

But I see, I have already transgress'd: For I know it will be thought unadvisedly done, while I was in∣forcing a weightier Design, to start, and to follow another of less moment. I shall therefore let it pass as an extravagant conceit: only I shall affirm, that the Royal Society is so far from being like to put a stop to such a business, that I know many of its Members, who are as able as any others, to assist in the bringing it into practice.

Thus I have dispatch'd my first general Head; in which, it may be, it was not needful to have stay'd so Page  45 long: seeing, I am confident, I have said nothing, but what was before very well known, and what passes about in common discourse.

I did on purpose omit the Learned Age of the Ara∣bians,* in its proper place: because I was resolv'd, as I came down, to keep my self as neer as I could, within the Bounds of Christendom. But I shall now add, concerning them, that their Studies also were principally bent, upon expounding Aristotle, and the Greek Physitians. They were, without question, men of a deep, and subtile Wit: which is a Chara∣cter that it may be in all Ages has belong'd more justly to the Tempers of the Southern, then of the Northern Countries: of this they have left many no∣ble Testimonies behind them; so many, that (if we believe some worthy and industrious Men of our own Nation, who have search'd into their Monuments) they might even almost be compar'd to Rome, and Athens themselves. But they injoy'd not the light long enough. It brake forth upon the point of their greatest conquests: It mainly consisted, in un∣derstanding the Antients: and what they would have done, when they had been weary of them, we can∣not tell: For that Work was not fully over, before they were darkned by that, which made even Greece it self Barbarous, the Turkish Monarchy. However, that knowledge, which they had, is the more re∣markable, because it sprung up, in that part of the World, which has been almost always perversly un∣learned. For methinks, that small Spot of Civil Arts, compar'd to their long course of ignorance, before, and after, bears some resemblance with that Country it self; where there are some few little Vallies, and Page  46 Wells, and pleasant Shades of Palm-Trees; But those lying in the midst of Deserts, and unpassable Tracts of Sands.

*But now it being a fit time to stop, and breathe a while, and to take a review of the ground, that we have pass'd. It will be here needful for me, to make an Apology for my self, in a matter, which, if it be not before hand remov'd, may chance to be very pre∣judicial to mens good opinion of the Royal Society it self, as well as of its Historian. I fear, that this As∣sembly will receive disadvantage enough, from my weak management of their cause, in many other par∣ticulars: so that I must not leave them, and my self unjustify'd, in this, wherein we have so much right on our sides. I doubt not then, but it will come into the thoughts of many Criticks, (of whom the World is now full) to urge against us, that I have spoken a little too sparingly of the Merits of former Ages; and that this Design seems to be promoted, with a mali∣cious intention of disgracing the Merits of the An∣tients.

But First, I shall beseech them, calmly to consider; whether they themselves do not more injure those great Men, whom they would make the Masters of our Judgments, by attributing all things to them so absolutely; then we, who do them all the Justice we can, without adoring them? It is always esteemd the greatest mischief, a man can do those whom he loves, to raise mens expectations of them too high, by undue, and impertinent commendations. For thereby not only their enemies, but indifferent men, will be secretly inclin'd to be more watchful over their failings, and to conspire in beating down their Page  47 Fame. What then can be more dangerous to the honor of Antiquity; then to set its value at such a rate, and to extol it so extravagantly, that it can never be able to bear the tryal, not onely of envi∣ous, but even of impartial Judges? It is natural to Mens mind, when they perceive others to arrogate more to themselves, then is their share; to deny them even that, which else they would confess to be their Right. And of the Truth of this, we have an instance of far greater concernment, then that which is before us. And that is, in Religion it self. For while the Bishops of Rome did assume an infallibility, and a sovereign Dominion over our Faith: the re∣formed Churches did not onely justly refuse to grant them that, but some of them thought themselves ob∣lig'd to forbear all communion with them, and would not give them that respect, which possibly might be∣long to so antient, and so famous a Church; and which might still have been allowed it, without any dan∣ger of Superstition.

But to carry this Dispute a little farther: What is this, of which they accuse us? They charge us with immodesty in neglecting the guidance of wiser, and more discerning Men, then our selves. But is not this rather the greatest sign of Modesty, to confess, that we our selves may err, and all mankind besides? To acknowledge the difficulties of Science? and to sub∣mit our minds, to all the least Works of Nature? What kind of behavior do they exact from us in this case? That we should reverence the Footsteps of Antiquity? We do it most unanimously. That we should subscribe to their sense, before our own? We are willing, in probabilities; but we cannot, in mat∣ters of Fact: for in them we follow the most antient Page  48 Author of all others, even Nature it self. Would they have us make our eies behold things, at no farther distance, than they saw? That is impossible; seeing we have the advantage of standing upon their shoulders. They say, it is insolence, to prefer our own inventions before those of our Ancestors. But do not even they the very same thing themselves, in all the petty matters of life? In the Arts of War, and Government; In the making, and abolishing of Laws; nay even in the fashion of their Cloaths, they differ from them, as their humour, or Fancy leads them. We approach the Antients, as we behold their Tombs, with veneration: but we would not there∣fore be confin'd to live in them altogether: nor would (I believe) any of those, who profess to be most addicted to their Memories. They tell us, that in this corruption of Manners, and sloth of Mens Minds, we cannot go beyond those, who search'd so diligently, and concluded so warily before us. But in this they are confuted by every days experience. They object to us Tradition, and the consent of all Ages. But do we not yet know the deceitfulness of such Words? Is any man, that is acquainted with the craft of founding Sects, or of managing Votes in po∣pular Assemblies, ignorant, how easie it is to carry things in a violent stream? And when an opinion has once master'd its first opposers, and setled it self in Mens Passions, or Interests: how few there be, that coldly consider, what they admit for a long time af∣ter? So that when they say, that all Antiquity is a∣gainst us; 'tis true, in shew, they object to us, the Wisdom of many Ages; but in reality, they onely confront us, with the Authority of a few leading Men. Nay, what if I should say, that this honor for Page  49 the dead, which such men pretend to, is rather a worshiping of themselves, than of the Antients? It may be well prov'd, that they are more in love with their own Commentaries, then with the Texts of those, whom they seem to make their Oracles: and that they chiefly doat on those Theories, which they themselves have drawn from them: which, it is like∣ly, are almost as far distant from the Original mean∣ing of their Authors, as the Positions of the New Philosophers themselves.

But to conclude this Argument (for I am weary of walking in a rode so trodden) I think I am able to confute such men by the practice of those very Anti∣ents, to whom they stoop so low. Did not they trust themselves, and their own Reasons? Did not they busie themselves in inquiry, make new Arts, establish new Tenents, overthrow the old, and order all things as they pleas'd, without any servile Regard to their Predecessors? The Grecians all, or the grea∣test part of them, fetch'd their Learning from Egypt. And did they blindly assent to all, that was taught them by the Priests of Isis, and Osiris? If so; then why did they not, together with their Arts, receive all the infinit Idolatries, which their Masters em∣brac'd? seeing it is not to be question'd, but the Egyptians deliver'd the rites of their Religion to strangers, with as much Solemnity at least, as they did the Mysteries of their Hieroglyphicks or Philosophy. Now then, let Pythagoras, Plato, and Aristotle, and the rest of their wise Men, be our examples, and we are safe. When they travell'd into the East, they collected what was fit for their purpose, and suita∣ble to the Genius of their Country; and left the su∣perfluities behind them: They brought home some Page  50 of their useful Secrets: but still counted their wor∣shiping a Dog, or an Onion, a Cat, or a Crocodile, ridiculous. And why shall not we be allow'd the same liberty, to distinguish, and choose, what we will follow? Especially, seeing in this, they had a more certain way of being instructed by their Tea∣chers, then we have by them: They were present on the place: They learn'd from the Men themselves, by word of mouth; and so were in a likely course to apprehend all their Precepts aright: whereas we are to take their Doctrines, so many hundred years after their death, from their Books only, where they are for the most part so obscurely express'd, that they are scarce sufficiently understood by the Grammarians, and Linguists themselves, much less by the Philosophers.

In few words therefore, let such men believe, that we have no thought of detracting from what was good in former times: But, on the contrary, we have a mind to bestow on them, a solid praise, insteed of a great, and an empty. While we are raising new Ob∣servations upon Nature, we mean not to abolish the Old, which were well, and judiciously establish'd by them: No more, then a King, when he makes a new Coyn of his own, does presently call in that, which bears the Image of his Father: he onely intends there∣by to increase the current Money of his Kingdom, and still permits the one to pass, as well as the other. It is probable enough, that upon a fresh survey, we may find many things true, which they have before asserted: and then will not they receive a greater confirmation, from this our new and severe appro∣bation, then from those men, who resign up their opi∣nions to their Words only? It is the best way of ho∣noring them, to separate the certain things in them, Page  51 from the doubtful: For that shews, we are not so much carri'd towards them, by rash affection, as by an unbyass'd Judgement. If we would do them the most right; it is not necessary we should be perfectly like them in all things. There are two principal Ways of preserving the Names of those, that are pass'd: The one, by Pictures; the other, by Children: The Pictures may be so made, that they may far neer∣er resemble the Original, then Children do their Pa∣rents: and yet all Mankind choose rather to keep themselves alive by Children, then by the other. It is best for the Philosophers of this Age to imitate the Antients as their Children: to have their blood de∣riv'd down to them; but to add a new Complexion, and Life of their own: While those, that indeavor to come neer them in every Line, and Feature, may rather be call'd their dead Pictures, or Statues, then their Genuine Off-spring.

The End of the First Part.