Nonfiction > Henry Craik, ed. > English Prose > Vol. I. Fourteenth to Sixteenth Century
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Henry Craik, ed.  English Prose.  1916.
Vol. I. Fourteenth to Sixteenth Century
 
Pamela’s Faith
By Sir Philip Sidney (1554–1586)
 
From The Countess of Pembroke’s Arcadia, Book III

SHE would have spoken further, to have enlarged and confirmed her discourse, when Pamela, whose cheeks were dyed in the beautifullest grain of virtuous anger, with eyes which glistered forth beams of disdain, thus interrupted her:—“Peace, wicked woman, peace! unworthy to breathe that doest not acknowledge the Breath-giver; most unworthy to have a tongue, which speakest against Him through Whom thou speakest; keep your affection to yourself, which, like a bemired dog, would defile with fawning. You say yesterday was as to-day. O foolish woman, and most miserably foolish since wit makes you foolish, what doth that argue but that there is a constancy in the everlasting Governor? Would you have an inconstant God; since we count a man foolish that is inconstant? He is not seen, you say; and would you think him a god who might be seen by so wicked eyes as yours? which yet might see enough if they were not like such who for sport’s sake willingly hoodwink themselves to receive blows the easier. But, though I speak to you without any hope of fruit in so rotten a heart, and there be nobody else here to judge of my speeches, yet be thou my witness, O captivity, that my ears shall not be willingly guilty of my Creator’s blasphemy. You say, because we know not the causes of things, therefore fear was the mother of superstition; nay, because we know that each effect hath a cause, that hath engendered a true and lively devotion. For this goodly work of which we are, and in which we live, hath not his being by chance; on which opinion it is beyond marvel by what chance any brain could stumble. For if it be eternal, as you would seem to conceive of it, eternity and chance are things unsufferable together. For that is chanceable which happeneth; and if it happen, there was a time before it happened when it might have not happened; or else it did not happen, and so, if chanceable, not eternal. And as absurd it is to think that, if it had a beginning, his beginning was derived from chance; for chance could never make all things of nothing: and if there were substances before which by chance should meet to make up this work, thereon follows another bottomless pit of absurdities. For then those substances must needs have been from ever, and so eternal; and that eternal causes should bring forth chanceable effects is as sensible as that the sun should be the author of darkness. Again, if it were chanceable, then was it not necessary; whereby you take away all consequents. But we see in all things, in some respect or other, necessity of consequence; therefore, in reason, we must needs know that the causes were necessary. Lastly, chance is variable, or else it is not to be called chance; but we see this work is steady and permanent. If nothing but chance had glued those pieces of this All, the heavy parts would have gone infinitely downward, the light infinitely upward, and so never have met to have made up this goodly body. For, before there was a heaven or earth, there was neither a heaven to stay the height of the ring, or an earth which, in respect of the round walls of heaven, should become a centre. Lastly, perfect order, perfect beauty, perfect constancy,—if these be the children of chance, let wisdom be counted the root of wickedness.
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  But, you will say, it is so by nature; as much as if you said it is so because it is so. If you mean of many natures conspiring together, as in a popular government, to establish this fair estate, as if the elementish and ethereal parts should in their town-house set down the bounds of each one’s office, then consider what follows: that there must needs have been a wisdom which made them concur. For their natures, being absolutely contrary, in nature rather would have sought each other’s ruin than have served as well-consorted parts to such an unexpressible harmony. For that contrary things should meet to make up a perfection without force and wisdom above their powers is absolutely impossible; unless you will fly to that hissed-out opinion of chance again. But you may perhaps affirm that one universal nature, which hath been for ever, is the knitting-together of these many parts to such an excellent unity. If you mean a nature of wisdom, goodness, and providence, which knows what it doth, then say you that which I seek of you, and cannot conclude those blasphemies with which you defiled your mouth and mine ears. But if you mean a nature, as we speak of the fire, which goeth upward it knows not why, and of the nature of the sea, which in ebbing and flowing seems to observe so just a dance and yet understands no music, it is but still the same absurdity superscribed with another title. For this word One being attributed to that which is All is but one mingling of many, and many ones; as in a less matter, when we say one kingdom which contains many cities, or one city which contains many persons; wherein the under-ones, if there be not a superior power and wisdom, cannot by nature regard any preservation but of themselves; no more we see they do, since the water willingly quenches the fire, and drowns the earth, so far are they from a conspired unity; but that a right heavenly nature indeed, as it were unnaturing them, doth so bridle them.  2
  Again, it is as absurd in nature that from an unity many contraries should proceed, still kept in an unity, as that from the number of contrarieties an unity should arise. I say still, if you banish both a singularity and a plurality of judgment from among them, then, if so earthly a mind can lift itself up so high, do but conceive how a thing whereto you give the highest and most excellent kind of being, which is eternity, can be of a base and vilest degree of being, and next to a not-being, which is so to be as not to enjoy his own being. I will not here call all your senses to witness, which can hear nor see nothing which yields not most evident evidence of the unspeakableness of that wisdom, each thing being directed to an end of preservation; so proper effects of judgment as speaking and laughing are of mankind. But what mad fury can ever so inveigle any conceit as to see our mortal and corruptible selves to have a reason, and that this universality, whereof we are but the least pieces, should be utterly devoid thereof? As if one should say that one’s foot might be wise, and himself foolish. This heard I once alleged against such a godless mind as yours, who, being driven to acknowledge this beastly absurdity, that our bodies should be better than the whole world if it had the knowledge whereof the other were void, he sought, not able to answer directly, to shift it off in this sort: that, if that reason were true, then must it follow also that the world must have in it a spirit that could write and read too, and be learned, since that was in us commendable. Wretched fool! not considering that books be but supplies of defects, and so are praised because they help our want, and therefore cannot be incident to the Eternal Intelligence, which needs no recording of opinions to confirm His knowledge, no more than the sun wants wax to be the fuel of his glorious lightfulness.  3
  This world, therefore, cannot otherwise consist but by a mind of wisdom which governs it, which whether you will allow to be the Creator thereof, as undoubtedly He is, or the soul and governor thereof, most certain it is that, whether He govern all, or make all, His power is above either His creatures or His government. And if His power be above all things, then, consequently, it must needs be infinite, since there is nothing above it to limit it; for that beyond which there is nothing must needs be boundless and infinite. If His power be infinite, then likewise must His knowledge be infinite; for else there should be an infinite proportion of power which He should not know how to use, the unsensibleness whereof I think even you can conceive; and if infinite, then must nothing, no, not the estate of flies, which you with so unsavoury scorn did jest at, be unknown to Him; for if there were, then were His knowledge bounded, and so not infinite. If His knowledge and power be infinite, then must needs His goodness and justice march in the same rank; for infiniteness of power and knowledge, without like measure of goodness, must necessarily bring forth destruction and ruin, and not ornament and preservation. Since, then, there is a God, and an all-knowing God, so as He seeth into the darkest of all natural secrets, which is the heart of man, and sees therein the deepest dissembled thoughts—nay, sees the thoughts before they be thought; since He is just to exercise His might, and mighty to perform His justice, assure thyself, most wicked woman, that hast so plaguily a corrupted mind as thou canst not keep thy sickness to thyself, but must most wickedly infect others—assure thyself, I say, for what I say depends of everlasting and unremovable causes, that the time will come when thou shalt know that power by feeling it, when thou shalt see His wisdom in the manifesting thy ugly shamefulness, and shalt only perceive Him to have been a Creator in thy destruction.  4
 
 
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