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these things do now all serve? See we not plainly, that obedience of creatures unto the Law of Nature is the stay of the whole world ?
But now that we may lift up our eyes, as it were, from the footstool to the throne of God, and leaving these natural, consider a little the state of heavenly and divine creatures : touching Angels, which are Spirits immaterial and intellectual, the glorious inhabitants of those sacred palaces, where nothing but light and blessed immortality, no shadow of matter for tears, discontentments, griefs, and uncomfortable passions to work upon, but all joy, tranquillity, and peace, even for ever and ever do dwell; as in number and order they are huge, mighty, and royal armies, so likewise in perfection of obedience unto that Law, which the Highest, whom they adore, love, and imitate, hath imposed upon them, such observants they are thereof, that our Saviour himself, being to set down the perfect idea of that which we are to pray and wish for on earth, did not teach to pray or wish for more, than only that here it might be with us, as with them it is in heaven. God, which moveth mere natural agents as an efficient only, doth otherwise move intellectual creatures, and especially his holy Angels : for beholding the face of God, in admiration of so great excellency, they all adore him : and being rapt with the love of his beauty, they cleave inseparably for ever unto him. Desire to resemble him in goodness maketh them unweariable and even unsatiable in their longing, to do by all means all manner of good unto all the creatures of God, but especially unto the children of men. In the countenance of whose nature looking downward, they behold themselves beneath themselves, even as upward in God, beneath whom themselves are, they see that character which is no where but in themselves and us resembled. Thus far even the Painims have approached ; thus far they have seen into the doings of the Angels of God; Orpheus confessing, that the fiery throne of God is attended on by those most industrious Angels, careful
how all things are performed amongst men; and* the mirror of human wisdom plainly teaching, that God moveth Angels, even as that thing doth stir man's heart, which is thereunto presented amiable. Angelical actions may therefore be reduced unto these three general kinds. First, most delectable love arising from the visible apprehension of the purity, glory, and beauty of God invisible, saving only unto Spirits that are pure: Secondly, adoration, grounded upon the evidence of the greatness of God, on whom they see how all things depend: Thirdly, imitation, bred by the presence of his exemplary goodness, who ceaseth not before them daily to fill heaven and earth with the rich treasures of most free and undeserved grace.
God alone excepted, who actually and everlastingly is whatsoever he may be, and which cannot hereafter be that which now he is not; all other things besides are somewhat in possibility, which as yet they are not in act. And for this cause there is in all things an appetite or desire, whereby they incline to something which they may be ; and when they are it, they shall be perfecter than now they are. All which perfections are contained under the general name of Goodness. And because there is not in the world any thing whereby another may not be made the perfecter, therefore all things that are, are good. Again, sith there can be no goodness desired, which proceedeth not from God himself, as from the supreme cause of all things ; and every effect doth after a sort contain, at leastwise resemble the cause from which it proceedeth: all things in the world are said in some sort to seek the highest, and to covet more or less the participation of God himself ; yet this doth no where so much appear, as it doth in Man, because there are so many kinds of perfection which Man seeketh. The first degree of goodness is that general perfection which all things do seek, in desiring the continuance of their being ; all things therefore coveting, as much as may be, to be like unto God in being ever, that which cannot hereunto attain
personally, doth seek to continue itself another way; that is, by offspring and propagation. The next degree of goodness is that which each thing coveteth, by affecting resemblance with God, in the constancy and excellency of those operations which belong unto their kind. The immutability of God they strive unto, by working either always, or for the most part, after one and the same manner; his absolute exactness they imitate, by tending unto that which is most exquisite in every particular. Hence have risen a number of Axioms in Philosophy, shewing how the works of Nature do always aim at that which cannot be bettered. These two kinds of goodness rehearsed, are so nearly united to the things themselves which desire them, that we scarcely perceive the appetite to stir in reaching forth her hand towards them. But the desire of those perfections which grow externally is more apparent, especially of such as are not expressly desired, unless they be first known, or such as are not for any other cause than for knowledge itself desired. Concerning perfections in this kind, that by proceeding in the knowledge of truth, and by growing in the exercise of virtue, Man, amongst the creatures of this inferior world, aspireth to the greatest conformity with God, this is not only known unto us, whom he himself hath so instructed, but even they do acknowledge, who amongst men are not judged the nearest unto him. With Plato, what one thing more usual, than to excite men unto a love of wisdom, by shewing, how much wise men are thereby exalted above men ; how knowledge doth raise them up into heaven; how it maketh them, though not Gods, yet as Gods, high, admirable, and divine ? And Mercurius Trismegistus, speaking of the virtues of a righteous soul, “Such spirits,” saith he, “are never cloyed with praising and speaking well of all men, with doing good unto every one by word and deed, because they study to frame themselves according to the pattern of the Father of spirits.”
In the matter of knowledge, there is between the Angels of God and the children of Men this difference : Angels already have full and complete knowledge in the highest degree that can be imparted unto them : Men, if we view them in their spring, are at the first without understanding or knowledge at all. Nevertheless, from this utter vacuity they grow by degrees, till they come at length to be even as the Angels themselves are. That which agreeth to the one now, the other shall attain unto in the end ; they are not so far disjoined and severed, but that they come at length to meet. The soul of Man being therefore at the first as a book, wherein nothing is, and yet all things may be imprinted; we are to search by what steps and degrees it riseth unto perfection of knowledge. Unto that which hath been already set down concerning natural agents, this we must add, that albeit therein we have comprised, as well creatures living, as void of life, if they be in degree of nature beneath men; nevertheless, a difference we must observe between those natural agents that work altogether unwittingly; and those which have, though weak, yet some understanding what they do, as fishes, fowls, and beasts have. Beasts are in sensible capacity as ripe even as men themselves, perhaps more ripe. For as stones, though in dignity of nature inferior to plants, yet exceed them in firmness of strength, or durability of being ; and plants, though beneath the excellency of creatures endued with sense, yet exceed them in the faculty of vegetation, and of fertility; so beasts, though otherwise behind men, may notwithstanding in actions of sense and fancy go beyond them ; because the endeavours of nature, when it hath an higher perfection to seek, are in lower the more remiss, not esteeming thereof so much as those things do, which have no better proposed unto them. The soul of man therefore, being capable of a more divine perfection, hath, besides the faculty of growing unto sensible knowledge, which is common unto us with beasts, a farther ability, whereof in them there is no shew at all, the ability of reaching higher than unto sensible things. Till we grow to some ripeness of years, the soul of man doth only store itself with conceits of things of inferior and more open quality, which afterwards do serve as instruments unto that which is greater; in the mean while, above the reach of meaner creatures it ascendeth not. When once it comprehendeth any thing above this, as the differences of time, affirmations, negations, and contradiction in speech, we then count it to have some use of natural reason. Whereunto, if afterwards there might be added the right helps of true art and learning, which helps, I must plainly confess, this age of the world, carrying the name of a learned age, doth neither much know, nor greatly regard, there would undoubtedly be almost as great difference in maturity of judgment between men therewith inured, and that which now men are, as between men that are now, and innocents. Which speech, if any condemn as being over hyperbolical, let them consider but this one thing: no art is at the first finding out so perfect as industry may after make it ; yet* the very first man that to any purpose knew the way we speak of, and followed it, hath alone thereby performed more, very near, than sithence in any one part thereof, the whole world besides hath done. In the poverty oft that other new devised aid two things are notwithstanding singular. Of marvellous quick dispatch it is, and doth shew them that have it as much almost in three days, as if it had dwelt threescore years with them. Again, because the curiosity of man's wit doth many times with peril wade farther in the search of things than were convenient ; the same is thereby restrained unto such generalities as every where offering themselves are apparent unto men of the weakest conceit that need be: so as following the rules and precepts thereof, we may find it to be an art which teacheth the way of speedy discourse, and restraineth the mind of man that it may not wax overwise. Education and instruction are the means, the one by use, the other by precept, to make our natural faculty of reason both the better and the sooner able to judge rightly between truth and error, good and evil. But at what time a man may be said to have attained so far forth the use of reason, as sufficeth to make him capable of those Laws whereby he is then bound to