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S. Austin Allibone, comp. Prose Quotations from Socrates to Macaulay. 1880.

Sir Thomas Browne

The choleric fall short of the longevity of the sanguine.

Sir Thomas Browne.

In matters of antiquity, if their originals escape due relation, they fall into great obscurities, and such as future ages seldom reduce into a resolution.

Sir Thomas Browne.

This considered together with a strict account and critical examen of reason, will also distract the witty determinations of astrology.

Sir Thomas Browne.

An argument from authority is but a weaker kind of proof; it being but a topical probation, and an inartificial argument, depending on naked asseveration.

Sir Thomas Browne.

The swiftest animal conjoined with a heavy body implies that common moral, festina lente; and that celerity should always be contempered with cunctation.

Sir Thomas Browne.

I cannot fall out, or contemn a man for an error, or conceive why a difference in opinion should divide an affection: for controversies, disputes, and argumentations, both in philosophy and in divinity, if they meet with discreet and peaceable natures, do not infringe the laws of charity. In all disputes, so much as there is of passion so much there is of nothing to the purpose; for then reason, like a bad hound, spends upon a false scent, and forsakes the question first started. And this is one reason why controversies are never determined: for though they be amply proposed they are scarce at all handled, they do so swell with unnecessary digressions: and the parenthesis on the party is often as large as the main discourse upon the subject.

Sir Thomas Browne.

Bring candid eyes unto the perusal of men’s works, and let not zoilism … blast any well-intended labours.

Sir Thomas Browne.

Scholars are men of peace: they bear no arms, but their tongues are sharper than Actius’ sword, their pens carry further, and give a louder report, than thunder. I had rather stand in the shock of a basilisk than in the fury of a merciless pen.

Sir Thomas Browne.

God hath reserved many things to his own resolution, whose determinations we cannot hope from flesh; but with reverence must suspend unto that great day whose justice shall either condemn our curiosity or resolve our disquisitions.

Sir Thomas Browne.

In expectation of a better, I can with patience embrace this life, yet in my best meditations do often desire death. I honour any man that contemns it, nor can I highly love any one that is afraid of it…. For a Pagan there may be some motive to be in love with life; but for a Christian to be amazed at death, I see not how he can escape this dilemma, that he is too sensible of this life, or hopeless of the life to come.

Sir Thomas Browne.

Errors such as are but acorns in our younger brows grow oaks in our older heads, and become inflexible.

Sir Thomas Browne.

The solid reason of one man with imprejudicate apprehensions begets as firm a belief as the authority or aggregated testimony of many hundreds.

Sir Thomas Browne.

God hath divided the genius of men according to the different affairs of the world; and varied their inclinations according to the variety of actions to be performed.

Sir Thomas Browne.

This is the consolation of all good men, unto whom his ubiquity affordeth continual comfort and security, and this is the affliction of hell, to whom it affordeth despair and remediless calamity.

Sir Thomas Browne.

Persons lightly dipped, not grained, in generous honesty, are but pale in goodness.

Sir Thomas Browne.

The Hebrew is incontrovertibly the primitive and surest text to rely upon; and to preserve the same entire and uncorrupt there hath been used the highest caution humanity could invent.

Sir Thomas Browne.

The inservient and brutal faculties controlled the suggestions of truth; pleasure and profit, overswaying the instructions of honesty, and sensuality perturbing the reasonable commands of virtue.

Sir Thomas Browne.

From a temperate inactivity we are unready to put in execution the suggestions of reason; or by a content in every species of truth, we embrace the shadow thereof.

Sir Thomas Browne.

Knowledge is made by oblivion, and to purchase a clear and warrantable body of truth, we must forget and part with much we know.

Sir Thomas Browne.

Would truth dispense, we could be content with Plato, that knowledge were but remembrance, that intellectual acquisition were but reminiscential evocation.

Sir Thomas Browne.

I make not, therefore, my head a grave, but a treasure, of knowledge; I intend no monopoly, but a community, in learning; I study not for my own sake only, but for theirs that study not for themselves. I envy no man that knows more than myself, but pity them that know less. I instruct no man as an exercise of my knowledge, or with an intent rather to nourish and keep it alive in mine own head than beget and propagate it in his; and in the midst of all my endeavours there is but one thought that dejects me,—that my acquired parts must perish with myself, nor can be legacied among my honoured friends.

Sir Thomas Browne.

Though I think no man can live well once but he that could live well twice, yet for my own part I would not live over my hours past, or begin again the thread of my days: not upon Cicero’s ground, because I have lived them well, but for fear I should live them worse.

Sir Thomas Browne.

The days of men are cast up by septenaries, and every seventh year conceived to carry some altering character in temper of mind or body.

Sir Thomas Browne.

’Tis a practice that savours much of pedantry, a reserve of puerility we have not shaken off from school.

Sir Thomas Browne.

We apply present remedies according to indications; respecting rather the acuteness of the disease, and precipitancy of the occasion, than the rising and setting of the stars.

Sir Thomas Browne.

That every plant might receive a name according to the disease it cureth, was the wish of Paracelsus: a way more likely to multiply empirics than herbalists.

Sir Thomas Browne.

Galen would not leave the world too subtle a theory of poisons; unarming thereby the malice of venomous spirits.

Sir Thomas Browne.

He will easily discern how little of truth there is in the multitude; and, though sometimes they are flattered with that aphorism, will hardly believe the voice of the people to be the voice of God.

Sir Thomas Browne.

A reserve of puerility we have not shaken off from school, where, being seasoned with minor sentences, they prescribe upon our riper years, and never are worn out but with our memories.

Sir Thomas Browne.

Such as deny spirits subsistent without bodies, will with difficulty affirm the separate existence of their own.

Sir Thomas Browne.

Were every one employed in points concordant to their natures, professions, and arts, commonwealths would rise up of themselves.

Sir Thomas Browne.

Some indeed have been so affectedly vain as to counterfeit immortality; and have stolen their death in hopes to be esteemed immortal.

Sir Thomas Browne.

Nor do they speak properly who say that time consumeth all things; for time is not effective, nor are bodies destroyed by it.

Sir Thomas Browne.

The world was made to be inhabited by beasts, but studied and contemplated by man; it is the debt of our reason we owe unto God, and the homage we pay for not being beasts: without this the world is still as though it had not been, or as it was before the sixth day, when as yet there was not a creature that could conceive, or say, there was a world. The wisdom of God receives small honour from those vulgar heads that rudely stare about, and with a gross rusticity admire his works: those highly magnify him whose judicious inquiry into his acts, and deliberate research into his creatures, return the duty of a devout and learned admiration.

Sir Thomas Browne.

Such errors as are but as acorns in our younger brows grow oaks in our older heads, and become inflexible to the powerful arm of reason.

Sir Thomas Browne.

Be substantially great in thyself, and more than thou appearest unto others; and let the world be deceived in thee as they are in the lights of heaven. Hang early plummets upon the heels of pride, and let ambition have but an epicycle and narrow circuit in thee. Measure not thyself by thy morning shadow, but by the extent of thy grave; and reckon thyself above the earth by the line thou must be contented with under it.

Sir Thomas Browne: Chris. Morals, Pt. I., xix.

Could the world unite in the practice of that despised train of virtues which the divine ethics of our Saviour hath so inculcated upon us, the furious face of things must disappear; Eden would be yet to be found, and the angels might look down, not with pity, but joy upon us.

Sir Thomas Browne: Chris. Morals, Pt. I., xix.

Opinion rides upon the neck of reason; and men are happy, wise, or learned, according as that empress shall set them down in the register of reputation. However, weigh not thyself in the scales of thy own opinion, but let the judgment of the judicious be the standard of thy merit.

Sir Thomas Browne: Chris. Morals, Pt. II., viii.

Since the worst of times afford imitable examples of virtue; since no deluge of vice is like to be so general but more than eight will escape; eye well those heroes who have held their heads above water, who have touched pitch and not been defiled, and in the common contagion have remained uncorrupted.

Sir Thomas Browne: Christian Morals, Part I., xii.

Owe not thy humility unto humiliation from adversity, but look humbly down in that state where others look upwards upon thee. Think not thy own shadow longer than that of others, nor delight to take the altitude of thyself.

Sir Thomas Browne: Christian Morals, Part I., xii.

Let not the sun in Capricorn [when the days are shortest] go down upon thy wrath, but write thy wrongs in ashes. Draw the curtain of night upon injuries, shut them up in the tower of oblivion, and let them be as though they had not been. To forgive our enemies, yet hope that God will punish them, is not to forgive enough. To forgive them ourselves, and not to pray God to forgive them, is a partial act of charity. Forgive thine enemies totally, and without any reserve that, however, God will revenge thee.

Sir Thomas Browne: Christian Morals, Part I., xv.

Since thou hast an alarum in thy breast, which tells thee thou hast a living spirit in thee above two thousand times in an hour, dull not away thy days in slothful supinity and the tediousness of doing nothing. To strenuous minds there is an inquietude in overquietness, and no laboriousness in labour; and to tread a mile after the slow pace of a snail, or the heavy measures of the lazy of Brazilia, were a most tiring penance, and worse than a race of some furlongs at the Olympics. The rapid courses of the heavenly bodies are rather imitable by our thoughts, than our corporeal motions: yet the solemn motions of our lives amount unto a greater measure than is commonly apprehended. Some few men have surrounded the globe of the earth; yet many in the set locomotions and movements of their days have measured the circuit of it, and twenty thousand miles have been exceeded by them.

Sir Thomas Browne: Christian Morals, Part I., xxxiii.

Fall not, however, into the common prevaricating way of self-commendation and boasting by denoting the imperfections of others. He who discommendeth others obliquely commendeth himself. He who whispers their infirmities proclaims his own exemption from them; and consequently says, I am not as this publican, or hic niger, whom I talk of. Open ostentation and loud vain-glory is more tolerable than this obliquity, as but containing some froth, no ink; as but consisting of a personal piece of folly, nor complicated with uncharitableness.

Sir Thomas Browne: Christian Morals, Part I., xxxiv.

Live by old ethics and the classical rules of honesty. Put no new names or notions upon authentic virtues and vices. Think not that morality is ambulatory; that vices in one age are not vices in another; or that virtues which are under the everlasting seal of right reason may be stamped by opinion. And therefore, though vicious times invert the opinions of things, and set up new ethics against virtue, yet hold thou unto old morality; and rather than follow a multitude to do evil, stand like Pompey’s pillar conspicuous by thyself, and single in integrity.

Sir Thomas Browne: Christian Morals, Pt. I., xii.

Let age, not envy, draw wrinkles on thy cheeks; be content to be envied, but envy not. Emulation may be plausible, and indignation allowable, but admit no treaty with that passion which no circumstance can make good. A displacency at the good of others because they enjoy it, though not unworthy of it, is an absurd depravity, sticking fast unto corrupted nature, and often too hard for humility and charity, the great suppressors of envy. This surely is a lion not to be strangled but by Hercules himself, or the highest stress of our minds, and an atom of that power which subdueth all things unto itself.

Sir Thomas Browne: Christian Morals, Pt. I., xiii.

Be patient in the age of pride, when men live by short intervals of reason under the dominion of humour and passion, when it is in the power of every one to transform thee out of thyself, and run thee into the short madness. If you cannot imitate Job, yet come not short of Socrates, and those patient Pagans who tired the tongues of their enemies, while they perceived they spit their malice at brazen walls and statues.

Sir Thomas Browne: Christian Morals, Pt. I., xiv.

Bid early defiance unto those vices which are of thine inward family, and having a root in thy temper plead a right and propriety in thee. Raise timely barriers against those strongholds built upon the rock of nature, and make this a great part of the militia of thy life. Delude not thyself into iniquities from participation or community, which abate the sense but not the obliquity of them. To conceive sins less, or less of sins, because others also transgress, were morally to commit that natural fallacy of man, to take comfort from society, and think adversities less because others also suffer them.

Sir Thomas Browne: Christian Morals, Pt. I., xviii.

Annihilate not the mercies of God by the oblivion of ingratitude: for oblivion is a kind of annihilation; and for things to be as though they had not been, is like unto never being. Make not thy head a grave, but a repository of God’s mercies…. Register not only strange, but merciful occurrences. Let ephemerides, not olympiads, give thee account of His mercies; thy diaries stand thick with dutiful mementos and asterisks of acknowledgment.

Sir Thomas Browne: Christian Morals, Pt. I., xxi.

Let not fortune, which hath no name in Scripture, have any in thy divinity. Let Providence, not chance, have the honour of thy acknowledgments, and be thy Œdipus in contingencies. Mark well the paths and winding ways thereof; but be not too wise in the construction, or sudden in the application. The hand of Providence writes often by abbreviatures, hieroglyphics or short characters, which, like the Laconism on the wall, are not to be made out but by a hint or key from that spirit which indited them.

Sir Thomas Browne: Christian Morals, Pt. I., xxv.

Punish not thyself with pleasure; glut not thy sense with palative delights, nor revenge the contempt of temperance by the penalty of satiety. Were there an age of delight, or any pleasure durable, who would not honour Voluptia? but the race of delight is short, and pleasures have mutable faces. The pleasures of one age are not pleasures in another, and their lives fall short of our own.

Sir Thomas Browne: Christian Morals, Pt. II., i.

Since the brow speaks often true, since eyes and noses have tongues, and the countenance proclaims the heart and inclinations, let observation so far instruct thee in physiognomical lines as to be some rule for thy distinction, and guide for thy affection unto such as look most like men. Mankind, methinks, is comprehended in a few faces, if we exclude all visages which in any way participate of symmetries and schemes of look common unto other animals. For as though man were the extract of the world, in whom all were in coagulato, which in their forms were in soluto and at extension; we often observe that men do most act those creatures whose constitutions, parts, and complexion do most predominate in their mixtures. This is a corner-stone in physiognomy, and holds some truth not only in particular persons, but also in whole nations. There are, therefore, provincial faces, national lips and noses, which testify not only the natures of those countries, but of those which have them elsewhere.

Sir Thomas Browne: Christian Morals, Pt. II., ix.

Let thy studies be free as thy thoughts and contemplations: but fly not only upon the wings of imagination; join sense unto reason, and experiment unto speculation, and so give life unto embryon thoughts and verities yet in their chaos…. And therefore, rather than to swell the leaves of learning by fruitless repetitions, to sing the same song in all ages, nor adventure at essays beyond the attempt of others, many would be content that some would write like Helmont or Paracelsus; and be willing to endure the monstrosity of some opinions for divers singular notions requiting such aberrations.

Sir Thomas Browne: Christian Morals, Pt. II., v.

Men are not the same through all divisions of their ages: time, experience, self-reflections, and God’s mercies, make in some well-tempered minds a kind of translation before death, and men to differ from themselves as well as from other persons. Hereof the old world afforded many examples to the infamy of latter ages, wherein men too often live by the rule of their inclinations; so that, without any astral prediction, the first day gives the last: men are commonly as they were; or rather, as bad dispositions run into worser habits, the evening doth not crown, but sourly conclude, the day.

Sir Thomas Browne: Christian Morals, Pt. II., vi.

Self-estimation is a flatterer too readily entitling us unto knowledge and abilities, which others solicitously labour after, and doubtfully think they attain. Surely, such confident tempers do pass their days in best tranquillity; who, resting in the opinion of their own abilities, are happily gulled by such contentation; wherein pride, self-conceit, confidence, and opiniatrity will hardly suffer any to complain of imperfection. To think themselves in the right, or all that right, or only that, which they do or think, is a fallacy of high content; though others laugh in their sleeves, and look upon them as in a deluded state of judgment: wherein, notwithstanding, it were but a civil piece of complacency to suffer them to sleep who would not wake, to let them rest in their securities, nor by dissent or opposition to stagger their contentments.

Sir Thomas Browne: Christian Morals, Pt. II., viii.

Be deaf unto the suggestions of tale-bearers, calumniators, pick-thank or malevolent delators, who, while quiet men sleep, sowing the tares of discord and division, distract the tranquillity of charity and all friendly society. These are the tongues that set the world on fire, cankers of reputation, and, like that of Jonas his gourd, wither a good name in a night.

Sir Thomas Browne: Christian Morals, Pt. II., xx.

Rest not in the high-strained paradoxes of old philosophy, supported by naked reason and the reward of mortal felicity; but labour in the ethics of faith, built upon heavenly assistance, and the happiness of both beings. Understand the rules, but swear not unto the doctrines, of Zeno or Epicurus. Look beyond Antoninus, and terminate not thy morals in Seneca or Epictetus. Let not the twelve, but the two tables be thy law: let Pythagoras be thy remembrancer, not thy textuary and final instructor; and learn the vanity of the world rather from Solomon than Phocylides. Sleep not in the dogmas of the Peripatus, Academy, or Porticus. Be a moralist of the Mount, an Epictetus in the faith, and Christianize thy notions.

Sir Thomas Browne: Christian Morals, Pt. II., xxi.

When the stoic [Seneca] said that life would not be accepted if it were offered unto such as knew it, he spoke too meanly of that state of being which placeth us in the form of men. It more depreciates the value of this life, that men would not live it over again; for although they would still live on, yet few or none can endure to think of being twice the same men upon earth, and some had rather never have lived, than to tread over their days once more…. But the greatest underweening of this life is to undervalue that unto which this is but exordial, or a passage leading unto it. The great advantage of this mean life is thereby to stand in a capacity of a better; for the colonies of heaven must be drawn from earth, and the sons of the first Adam are only heirs unto the second.

Sir Thomas Browne: Christian Morals, Pt. III. xxv.

If length of days be thy portion, make it not thy expectation. Reckon not upon long life: think every day the last, and live always beyond thy account. He that so often surviveth his expectations lives many lives, and will scarce complain of the shortness of his days. Time past is gone like a shadow; make time to come present. Approximate thy latter times by present apprehensions of them: be like a neighbour unto the grave, and think there is but little time to come. And since there is something of us that will still live on, join both lives together, and live in one but for the other. He who thus ordereth the purposes of this life will never be far from the next; and is in some manner already in it, by a happy conformity and close apprehension of it.

Sir Thomas Browne: Christian Morals, Pt. III. xxx.

To forgive our enemies is a charming way of revenge, and a short Cæsarean conquest, overcoming without a blow; laying our enemies at our feet, under sorrow, shame, and repentance; leaving our foes our friends, and solicitously inclined to grateful retaliations. Thus to return upon our adversaries is a healing way of revenge; and to do good for evil a soft and melting ultion, a method taught from heaven to keep all smooth on earth. Common forcible ways make not an end of evil, but leave hatred and malice behind them.

Sir Thomas Browne: Christian Morals, Pt. III., xii.

Though the world be histrionical, and most men live ironically, yet be thou what thou singly art, and personate only thyself. Swim smoothly in the stream of thy nature, and live but one man. To single hearts doubling is discruciating: such tempers must sweat to dissemble, and prove but hypocritical hypocrites. Simulation must be short; men do not easily continue a counterfeiting life, or dissemble unto death…. And therefore, since sincerity is thy temper, let veracity be thy virtue, in words, manners, and actions.

Sir Thomas Browne: Christian Morals, Pt. III., xx.

Upon a curricle in this world depends a long course of the next, and upon a narrow scene here an endless expansion hereafter. In vain some think to have an end of their beings with their lives. Things cannot get out of their natures, or be, or not be, in despite of their constitutions. Rational existences in heaven perish not at all, and but partially on earth: that which is thus once will in some way be always: the first human soul is still alive, and all Adam hath found no period.

Sir Thomas Browne: Christian Morals, Pt. III., xxiii.

If the end of the world shall have the same foregoing signs as the period of empires, states, and dominions in it, that is, corruption of manners, inhuman degenerations, and deluge of iniquities; it may be doubted whether that final time be so far off, of whose day and hour there can be no prescience. But while all men doubt, and none can determine how long the world shall last, some may wonder that it hath spun out so long and unto our days … if we consider the incessant and cutting provocations from the earth, it is not without amazement how his patience hath permitted so long a continuance unto it.

Sir Thomas Browne: Christian Morals, Pt. III., xxvi.

Think not silence the wisdom of fools, but, if rightly timed, the honour of wise men who have not the infirmity but the virtue of taciturnity; and speak not of the abundance, but the well-weighed thoughts of their hearts. Such silence may be eloquence, and speak thy worth above the power of words. Make such a one thy friend, in whom princes may be happy, and great counsels successful. Let him have the key of thy heart who hath the lock of his own, which no temptation can open; where thy secrets may lastingly lie, like the lamp in Olybius his urn, alive and light, but close and invisible.

Sir Thomas Browne: Christian Morals, Pt. IV., xviii.

There is nothing strictly immortal but immortality. Whatever hath no beginning may be confident of no end, which is the peculiar of that necessary essence that cannot destroy itself, and the highest strain of omnipotency to be so powerfully constituted as not to suffer even from the power of itself: all others have a dependent being, and within the reach of destruction. But the sufficiency of Christian immortality frustrates all earthly glory, and the quality of either state after death makes a folly of posthumous memory. God, who can only destroy our souls, and hath assumed our resurrection, either of our bodies or names hath directly promised no duration; wherein there is so much of chance that the boldest expectants have found unhappy frustration, and to hold long subsistence seems but a scape in oblivion. But man is a noble animal, splendid in ashes, and pompous in the grave, solemnizing nativities and deaths with equal lustre, nor omitting ceremonies of bravery in the infamy of his nature.

Sir Thomas Browne: Hydriotaphia, Urn-Burial, ch. v.

And surely, if we deduct all those days of our life which we might wish unlived, and which abate the comfort of those we now live, if we reckon up only those days which God hath accepted of our lives, a life of good years will hardly be a span long, the son in this sense may outlive the father, and none climacterically old.

Sir Thomas Browne: Letter to a Friend.

He maintained not (when near death) his proper countenance, but looked like his uncle, the lines of whose face lay deep and invisible in his healthful visage before: for as from our beginning we run through variety of looks before we come to consistent and settled faces, so before our end, by sick and languishing alterations, we put on new visages, and in our retreat to earth may fall upon such looks which from our community of seminal originals were before latent in us.

Sir Thomas Browne: Letter to a Friend.

What is made to be immortal, nature cannot, nor will the voice of God, destroy. Those bodies that we behold to perish were in their created natures immortal, and liable unto death only accidentally, and upon forfeit; and therefore they owe not that natural homage unto death as other bodies do, but may be restored to immortality with a lesser miracle, and, by a bare and easy revocation of course, return immortal.

Sir Thomas Browne: Religio Medici, I., xlviii., edit. 1642.

In philosophy, where truth seems doubly-faced, there is no man more paradoxical than myself; but in divinity I love to keep the road; and though not in implicit, yet an humble, faith follow the great wheel of the church, by which I move, not reserving any proper poles or motions from the epicycle of my own brain: by these means I leave no gap for heresy, schisms, or errors.

Sir Thomas Browne: Religio Medici, Part I., ix.

Some believe the better for seeing Christ’s sepulchre; and when they have seen the Red Sea, doubt not of the miracle. Now, contrarily, I bless myself, and am thankful, that I live not in the days of miracles, that I never saw Christ nor his disciples; I would not have been one of those Israelites that passed the Red Sea, nor one of Christ’s patients on whom he wrought his wonders; then had my faith been thrust upon me; nor should I enjoy that greater blessing pronounced to all that believe and saw not. ’Tis an easy and necessary belief to credit what our eye and sense hath examined: I believe he was dead and buried, and rose again; and desire to see him in his glory, rather than to contemplate him in his cenotaph or sepulchre.

Sir Thomas Browne: Religio Medici, Part I., ix.

The heart of man is the place the devil dwells in: I feel sometimes a hell within myself: Lucifer keeps his court in my breast, Legion is revived in me. There are as many hells as Anaxarchus conceited worlds: there was more than one hell in Magdalene, when there were seven devils, for every devil is an hell unto himself; he holds enough of torture in his own ubi, and needs not the misery of circumference to afflict him; and thus a distracted conscience here is a shadow or introduction unto hell hereafter.

Sir Thomas Browne: Religio Medici, Part I., li.

And to be true, and speak my soul, when I survey the occurrences of my life, and call into account the finger of God, I can perceive nothing but an abyss and mass of mercies, either in general to mankind, or in particular to myself; and whether out of the prejudice of my affection, or an inverting and partial conceit of his mercies, I know not; but those which others term crosses, afflictions, judgments, misfortunes, to me who inquire farther into them than their visible effects, they both appear, and in event have ever proved, the secret and dissembled favours of his affection. It is a singular piece of wisdom to apprehend truly, and without passion, the works of God, and so well to distinguish his justice from his mercy as not to miscall those noble attributes: yet it is likewise an honest piece of logic, so to dispute and argue the proceedings of God as to distinguish even his judgments into mercies. For God is merciful unto all, because better to the worst than the best deserve; and to say he punisheth none in this world, though it be a paradox, is no absurdity.

Sir Thomas Browne: Religio Medici, Part I., liii.

The practice of men holds not an equal pace; yea, and often runs counter to their theory: we naturally know what is good, but naturally pursue what is evil: the rhetoric wherewith I persuade another cannot persuade myself: there is a depraved appetite in us that will with patience hear the learned instructions of reason, but yet perform no farther than agrees to its own irregular humour. In brief, we all are monsters, that is, a composition of man and beast, wherein we must endeavour to be as the poets fancy that wise man Chiron, that is, to have the region of man above that of beast, and sense to sit but at the feet of reason. Lastly, I do desire with God, that all, but yet affirm with men, that few, shall know salvation: that the bridge is narrow, the passage straight unto life: yet those who do confine the Church of God either to particular nations, churches, or families, have made it far narrower than our Saviour ever meant it.

Sir Thomas Browne: Religio Medici, Part I., lv.

Nor truly do I think the lives of these, or of any other, were ever correspondent, or in all points conformable, unto their doctrines. It is evident that Aristotle transgressed the rule of his own ethics: the Stoics that condemn passion, and command a man to laugh in Phalaris his bull, could not endure without a groan a fit of the stone or colic. The Sceptics that affirmed they knew nothing, even in that opinion confute themselves, and thought they knew more than all the world beside. Diogenes I hold to be the most vainglorious man of his time, and more ambitious in refusing all honours than Alexander in rejecting none. Vice and the devil put a fallacy upon our reasons, and, provoking us too hastily to run from it, entangle and profound us deeper in it … the philosopher [Apollonius Tyaneus] that threw his money into the sea to avoid avarice, was a notorious prodigal.

Sir Thomas Browne: Religio Medici, Part I., lv.

In my solitary and retired imagination, I remember I am not alone, and therefore forget not to contemplate him and his attributes, especially those two mighty ones, his wisdom and eternity: with the one I recreate, with the other I confound, my understanding: for who can speak of eternity without a solecism, or think thereof without an ecstasy?

Sir Thomas Browne: Religio Medici, Part I., xl.

Briefly, therefore, where the soul hath the full measure and complement of happiness; where the boundless appetite of that spirit remains completely satisfied, that it can neither desire addition nor alteration; that, I think, is truly heaven; and this can only be in the enjoyment of that essence whose infinite goodness is able to terminate the desires of itself, and the unsatiable wishes of ours: wherever God will thus manifest himself, there is heaven, though within the circle of this sensible world. Thus the soul of man may be in heaven anywhere, even within the limits of his own proper body; and when it ceaseth to live in the body, it may remain in its own soul, that is, its Creator.

Sir Thomas Browne: Religio Medici, Part I., xlix.

Nor do I so forget God as to adore the name of nature; which I define, not, with the schools, to be the principle of motion and rest, but that straight and regular line, that settled and constant course, the wisdom of God hath ordained the actions of his creatures, according to their several kinds…. And thus I call the effects of nature the works of God, whose hand and instrument she only is: and therefore to ascribe his actions unto her, is to devolve the honour of the principal agent upon the instrument; which if with reason we may do, then let our hammers rise up and boast they have built our houses, and our pens receive the honour of our writing.

Sir Thomas Browne: Religio Medici, Part I., xvi.

It is, I confess, the common fate of men of singular gifts of mind, to be destitute of those of fortune, which doth not any way deject the spirit of wiser judgments, who thoroughly understand the justice of this proceeding; and, being enriched with higher donatives, cast a more careless eye on these vulgar parts of felicity. It is a most unjust ambition to desire to engross the mercies of the Almighty, not to be content with the goods of mind, without a possession of those of body or fortune; and it is an error worse than heresy, to adore these complemental and circumstantial pieces of felicity, and undervalue those perfections and essential points of happiness wherein we resemble our Maker.

Sir Thomas Browne: Religio Medici, Part I., xviii.

At my devotion I love to use the civility of my knee, my hat, and hand, with all those outward and sensible motions which may express or promote my invisible devotion. I should violate my own arm rather than a church; nor willingly deface the memory of saint or martyr. At the sight of a cross or crucifix I can dispense with my hat, but scarce with the thought or memory of my Saviour. I cannot laugh at, but rather pity, the fruitless journeys of pilgrims, nor contemn the miserable condition of friars; for, though misplaced in circumstances, there is something in it of devotion. I could never hear the Ave Mary bell without an elevation; or think it a sufficient warrant, because they erred in one circumstance, for me to err in all, that is, in silence and dumb contempt: whilst therefore they directed their devotions to her, I offered mine to God, and rectified the errors of their prayers by rightly ordering mine own. At a solemn procession I have wept abundantly, while my consorts, blind with opposition and prejudice, have fallen into an access of scorn and laughter.

Sir Thomas Browne: Religio Medici, Pt. I., iii.

Men that live according to the right rule and law of reason live but in their own kind, as beasts do in theirs; who justly obey the prescript of their natures, and therefore cannot reasonably demand a reward of their actions, as only obeying the natural dictates of their reason. It will therefore, and must at last, appear that all salvation is through Christ.

Sir Thomas Browne: Religio Medici, Pt. I., liv.

There is no road or ready way to virtue: it is not an easy point of art to disentangle ourselves from this riddle, or web of sin. To perfect virtue, as to religion, there is required a panoplia, or complete armour; that whilst we lie at close ward against one vice, we lie not open to the veny of another: and indeed wiser discretions that have the thread of reason to conduct them, offend without a pardon; whereas underheads may stumble without dishonour. There are so many circumstances to piece up one good action, that it is a lesson to be good, and we are forced to be virtuous by the book.

Sir Thomas Browne: Religio Medici, Pt. I., lv.

Every man is not a proper champion for truth, nor fit to take up the gauntlet in the cause of verity: many from the ignorance of these maxims, and an inconsiderate zeal for truth, have too rashly charged the troops of error, and remain as trophies unto the enemies of truth. A man may be in as just possession of truth as of a city, and yet be forced to surrender: ’tis therefore far better to enjoy her with peace than to hazard her on a battle: if therefore there rise any doubts in my way, I do forget them, or at least defer them, till my better settled judgment and more manly reason be able to resolve them.

Sir Thomas Browne: Religio Medici, Pt. I., vi.

Surely it is but the merits of our unworthy natures, if we sleep in darkness until the last alarm. A serious reflex upon my own unworthiness did make me backward from challenging this prerogative of my soul: so I could enjoy my Saviour at the last, I could with patience be nothing almost unto eternity.

Sir Thomas Browne: Religio Medici, Pt. I., vii.

Every sin the oftener it is committed, the more it acquireth in the quality of evil; as it succeeds in time, so it proceeds in degrees of badness: for as they proceed they ever multiply, and, like figures in arithmetic, the last stands for more than all that went before it. And though I think that no man can live well once but he that could live twice, yet for my own part I would not live over my hours past, or begin again the thread of my days: not upon Cicero’s ground, because I have lived them well, but for fear I should live them worse.

Sir Thomas Browne: Religio Medici, Pt. I., xlii.

Men that look no further than their outsides think health an appurtenance unto life, and quarrel with their constitutions for being sick; but I, that have examined the parts of man, and know upon what tender filaments that fabric hangs, do wonder that we are not always so; and, considering the thousand doors that lead to death, do thank my God that we can die but once.

Sir Thomas Browne: Religio Medici, Pt. I., xliv.

Herein are they in extremes, that can allow a man to be his own assassin, and so highly extol the end and suicide of Cato; this is indeed not to fear death, but yet to be afraid of life. It is a brave act of valour to contemn death; but where life is more terrible than death, it is then the truest valour to dare to live; and herein religion hath taught us a noble example; for all the valiant acts of Curtius, Scævola, or Codrus do not parallel or match that one of Job; and sure there is no torture to the rack of a disease, nor any poinards in death itself, like those in the way or prologue unto it.

Sir Thomas Browne: Religio Medici, Pt. I., xliv.

The life therefore and spirit of all our actions is the resurrection, and a stable apprehension that our ashes shall enjoy the fruit of our pious endeavours: without this, all religion is a fallacy, and those impieties of Lucian, Euripides, and Julian are no blasphemies, but subtle verities, and atheists have been the only philosophers.

Sir Thomas Browne: Religio Medici, Pt. I., xlvii.

This we call fortune, that serpentine and crooked line, whereby he draws those actions his wisdom intends, in a more unknown and secret way. This cryptic and involved method of his providence have I ever admired; nor can I relate the history of my life, the occurrences of my days, the escapes of dangers, and hits of chance, with a Bezo las Manos to fortune, or a bare gramercy to my good stars…. Surely there are in every man’s life certain rubs, doublings, and wrenches, which pass awhile under the effects of chance, but, at the last, well examined, prove the mere hand of God.

Sir Thomas Browne: Religio Medici, Pt. I., xvii.

All [countries] cannot be happy at once; for, because the glory of one state depends upon the ruin of another, there is a revolution and vicissitude of their greatness; and they must obey the swing of that wheel, not moved by intelligences, but by the hand of God, whereby all estates arise to their zenith and vertical points, according to their predestined periods. For the lives, not only of men, but of commonwealths, and the whole world, run not upon an helix that still enlargeth, but on a circle, where arriving to their meridian, they decline in obscurity, and fall under the horizon again.

Sir Thomas Browne: Religio Medici, Pt. I., xvii.

We term sleep a death; and yet it is waking that kills us, and destroys those spirits that are the house of life. ’Tis indeed a part of life that best expresseth death; for every man truly lives, so long as he acts his nature, or some way makes good the faculties of himself…. It is that death by which we may be literally said to die daily; a death which Adam died before his mortality; a death whereby we live a middle and moderating point between life and death: in fine, so like death, I dare not trust it without my prayers, and in half adieu unto the world, and take my farewell in a colloquy with God…. This is the dormitive I take to bedward; I need no other laudanum than this to make me sleep; after which I close mine eyes in security, content to take my leave of the sun, and sleep unto the resurrection.

Sir Thomas Browne: Religio Medici, Pt. II. xii.

That wherein God himself is happy, the holy angels are happy, in whose defect the devils are unhappy, that dare I call happiness: whatsoever conduceth unto this may, with an easy metaphor, deserve that name; whatsoever else the world terms happiness is to me a story out of Pliny, an apparition, or neat delusion, wherein there is no more of happiness than the name. Bless me in this life but with peace of my conscience, command of my affections, the love of Thyself and my dearest friends, and I shall be happy enough to pity Cæsar. These are, O Lord, the humble desires of my most reasonable ambition, and all I dare call happiness on earth; wherein I set no rule or limit to thy hand or providence: dispose of me according to the wisdom of thy pleasure: thy will be done, though in my own undoing.

Sir Thomas Browne: Religio Medici, Pt. II. xv.

There is no man alone, because every man is a microcosm, and carries the whole world about him: Nunquam minus solus quam cum solus, though it be the apophthegm of a wise man [Publius Scipio: Cic. de Off., lib. iii.], is yet true in the mouth of a fool; for indeed, though in a wilderness, a man is never alone, not only because he is with himself and his own thoughts, but because he is with the devil, who ever consorts with our solitude, and is that unruly rebel that musters up those disordered motions which accompany our sequestered imaginations: and to speak more narrowly, there is no such thing as solitude, nor anything that can be said to be alone and by itself, but God, who is his own circle, and con subsist by himself; all others, besides their dissimilarity and heterogeneous parts, which in a manner multiply their natures, cannot subsist without the concourse of God, and the society of that hand which doth uphold their natures.

Sir Thomas Browne: Religio Medici, Pt. II., x.

I could never divide myself from any man upon the difference of an opinion, or be angry with his judgment for not agreeing with me in that from which within a few days I should dissent myself…. Where we desire to be informed, ’tis good to contest with men above ourselves; but to confirm and establish our opinions ’tis best to argue with judgments below our own, that the frequent spoils and victories over their reasons may settle in ourselves an esteem and confirmed opinion of our own.

Sir Thomas Browne: Religio Medici, VI.

We are somewhat more than ourselves in our sleeps, and the slumber of the body seems to be but the waking of the soul. It is the litigation of sense, but the liberty of reason; and our waking conceptions do not match the fancies of our sleeps.

Sir Thomas Browne: Religio Medici, XI.

There is surely a nearer apprehension of anything that delights us in our dreams, than in our waked senses: without this I were unhappy; for my awaked judgment discontents me, ever whispering unto me that I am from my friend; but my friendly dreams in the night requite me, and make me think I am within his arms. I thank God for my happy dreams, as I do for my good rest, for there is a satisfaction in them unto reasonable desires and such as can be content with a fit of happiness.

Sir Thomas Browne: Religio Medici, XI.

To be sure that no day pass without calling upon God in a solemn formed prayer seven times within the compass thereof; that is, in the morning, and at night, and five times between; taken up long ago from the example of David and Daniel, and a compunction and shame that I had omitted it so long, when I heedfully read of the custom of the Mahometans to pray five times in the day.

Sir Thomas Browne: Resolves.

Old men do most exceed in this point of folly, commending the days of their youth they scarce remembered, at least well understood not.

Sir Thomas Browne: Vulgar Errors.

We may magnify the apophthegms, or reputed replies of wisdom, whereof many are to be seen in Laertius and Lycosthenes.

Sir Thomas Browne: Vulgar Errors.

He strictly adviseth not to begin to sow before the setting of the stars; which, notwithstanding, without injury to agriculture cannot be observed in England.

Sir Thomas Browne: Vulgar Errors.

Thus unto them [the people] a piece of rhetoric is a sufficient argument of logic, an apologue of Æsop beyond a syllogism in Barbara; parables than propositions, and proverbs more powerful than demonstrations.

Sir Thomas Browne: Vulgar Errors.

Although to opinion there be many gods may seem an access in religion, and such as cannot at all consist with atheism; yet doth it deductively and upon inference include the same: for unity is the inseparable and essential attribute of Deity.

Sir Thomas Browne: Vulgar Errors.

As he created all things, so is he beyond and in them all, not only in power, as under his subjection, or in his presence, as being in his cognition, but in his very essence, as being the soul of their causalities and the essential cause of their existences.

Sir Thomas Browne: Vulgar Errors.

By desiring a secrecy to words spoken under the rose we mean, in society and compotation, from the ancient custom in symposiac meetings to wear chaplets of roses about their heads.

Sir Thomas Browne: Vulgar Errors.

The solid reason of one man with unprejudicate apprehensions, begets as firm a belief as the authority or aggregate testimony of many hundreds.

Sir Thomas Browne: Vulgar Errors.