Front Page Titles (by Subject) chapter 12: The Light of Reason Is a Diminutive Light - An Elegant and Learned Discourse of the Light of Nature
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chapter 12: The Light of Reason Is a Diminutive Light - Nathaniel Culverwell, An Elegant and Learned Discourse of the Light of Nature 
An Elegant and Learned Discourse of the Light of Nature, ed. Robert A. Greene and Hugh MacCallum, foreword by Robert A. Greene (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2001).
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The Light of Reason Is a Diminutive Light
 This Candle of the Lord, ’tis Lumen tenue & diminutum[a feeble and diminished light]. A Lamp is no such dazling object. A Candle has no such goodly light, as that it should pride and glory in it. ’Tis but a brief and compendious flame, shut up, and imprison’d in a narrow compasse. How farre distant is it from the beauty of a Starre? How farre from the brightnesse of a Sun? This Candle of the Lord when it was first lighted up, before there was any thief in it, even then it had but a limited and restrained light. God said unto it, Thus farre shall thy Light go. Hither shalt thou shine, and no farther.1Adam in innocency was not to crown himself with his own sparks. God never intended that a creature should rest satisfied with its own candle-light, but that it should run to the fountain of light, and sunne it self in the presence of its God. What a poor happinesse had it been for a man, only to have enjoyed his own Lamp? Could this ever have been a beatifical vision? Could this light ever have made a heaven fit for a soul to dwell in? The sparkling Seraphims and glittering Cherubims (if it were possible that the face of God should be eclipsed from them, that they should have no light, but that which shines from their own essences) Blacknesse, and darknesse, and gloominesse, a totall and fatal Eclipse, a present and perpetual night would rush in upon them, if the heaven were fuller of Stars then it is, and if this lower part of the world were adorned and illuminated with as many Lamps as ’tis capable of, yet would they never be able to supply the absence of one Sun. Their united light would not amount to so much as to make up one day, or one moment of a day. Let Angels and men contribute as much light as they can, let them knit and concentricate their beams; yet neither Angelical Star-light, nor the sons of men with their Lamps and Torches could ever make up the least shadow of glory, the least appearance of heaven: the least fringe of happinesse. Lucifer that needs would be an Independent light that would shine with his own beams, you know that he presently sunk and fell into perpetual darknesse.2 And Adams Candle aspiring to be a Sun, has burnt the dimmer ever since. God taking notice of it, and spying him in the dust; Lo (saies he) here lies the spark, that would needs become a God. There lies the glow-worm that would needs become a Sun. Man is become like one of us,3 yet notwithstanding Adams light at first was a pure light, till he had soild it, ’twas a Virgin-light till he had deflower’d it. The breath  that God breath’d into him was very precious and fragrant, till he had corrupted it. אדם נשמח[the understanding of a man] the spirit of Adam (if we should render the words so) ’twas in a special manner נד יחוחLucerna Domini4 [the candle of the Lord], when God raised this goodly structure of man out of nothing, he built it most compleatly and proportionably; he left it in statu integro & perfecto5 [in an integral and perfect state], for you cannot imagine that any obliquity, or irregularity should come from so accurate an hand as his was; when God printed the whole creation, there were no errata to be found, no blots at all. Every letter was faire and lovely, though some first and capital letters were flourisht more artificially then others; Other inferiour creatures would serve like so many consonants, but men were the vowels, or rather the diphthongs to praise him both in soul and body. When God first tun’d the whole creation, every string, every creature praised him; but man was the sweetest and loudest of the rest, so that when that string apostatized, and fell from its first tuning, it set the whole creation a jarring. When God first planted the soul of man, it was the garden of God himself, his spiritual Eden, he lov’d to walk in it; ’twas full of the fairest and choicest flowers, of the most precious and delicious fruits; ’twas water’d with all the fresh springs of heavenly influence: No weeds, nor briers, nor thornes to be found there. The understanding, that tree of knowledge, was very tall and stately, and reaching up to heaven. There was in man a cognitio plena & lucida[a complete and lucid knowledge], as the Schoolmen speak; clara & fixa contemplatio intelligibilium6 [clear and steady contemplation of the intelligible]. The eye of the soul ’ twas quick and clear, ’twas strong and fixt, God tried it by himself, by a Sun-beam, and found it genuine. How presently did Adam by this spy out the stamps and signatures that were upon the several creatures? when by an extemporary facility, he gave them such names as should interpret and comment upon their essences (nay according to the Schoolmens determinations) man in this his primitive condition, habuit scientiam omnium naturaliter scibilium7 [new all by nature]. As God framed him an elegant body, at its full height and stature, (though not with his head reaching up to heaven, as some did ridiculously phancy) so he gave him also a comely and amiable soul at its just ἀκμὴ[acme] endowed with all natural accomplishments and perfections; his Dove-like spirit dwelt in a spotlesse and beautiful temple. This makes the Protestant Divines very well determine, that pronitas ad malum non fluit ex principiis naturae integrae8 [an inclination to evil does not originate in principles of unfallen nature]; for it would be a thought too injurious to the God of Nature, to imagine he should frame evill. Yet some of the Papists and some others do constantly affirm, that such a rational being as man is, considered in puris naturalibus[solely in his natural state], will have an unavoydable propensity unto evil, ex necessaria materiae conditione[by the necessary condition of matter],  and they bring forth such bold words as these. Deum non posse creare hominem ex anima rationali, & materiali sensibili compositum, quin praeter divinam intentionem, homo ita constitutus habeat praecipitem inclinationem ad sensibilia,9 their meaning is this, by reason of that intimate and essential conjunction of the sensitive powers with the intellectual, there must needs arise some ataxy and confusion in the being of man, and too great a favouring of sensitive objects, unlesse that inferiour part of the soul be restrained supernaturali quodam fraeno[by a sort of supernatural rein] (as they speak;) and say they, it was thus chain’d up in a state of innocency, but now being let loose, ’tis extreamly wilde and unruly. How derogatory is this from the goodnesse and power of Gods creation, and from that accurate harmony and immaculate beauty that were to be found in such a noble being as man was in his native and original condition? nec fraenum nec calcar desiderabatur10 [neither rein nor spur was required], for there was a just and regular tendency without the least swerving or deviation. There was no such tardity in the sensitive part as should need a spurre; nor yet any such impetuousnesse and violence as should require a bridle. This indeed must be granted, that upon the knitting and uniting of such a soul to such a body, of sensitives to intellectuals, there will naturally follow, respectus & inclinatio ad sensibilia[a consideration of, and tendency towards, sensible things]; and this is not praeter, sed secundum intentionem divinam[contrary, but according to, the intention of God]; but that this should be praeceps, rebellis, & inordinata inclinatio11 [a violent, rebellious and disordered inclination], is so farre from being necessary, as that ’tis plainly contra-natural. For this sensitive appetite of man, is born sub regno rationis[under the rule of reason], and so is to be govern’d sceptro rationis[by the sceptre of reason]. By this golden Scepter, it was peaceably rul’d in a state of innocency. Anima non aggravata erat a corpore12 [the soul was not oppressed by the body], (as the Schoolmen say) the body though it was not beautified and clarified in the same measure that a glorified body is; yet it was dutiful and obedient, and every way serviceable to the soul. The sensitive powers were not factious, but were willingly subject to the higher powers, to the intellectuals. The first bublings of the soul were pure and crystaline, and streamed out very freely and fluently without any murmuring, without any wavering, without any foaming. There were no violent motions, no violent perturbations which since have made such insurrections in the soul, and with their importunate breath endeavour as much as they can, to blow out this intellectual Lamp, this light of reason. There were nullae passiones, quae respiciunt malum[no passions which had evil as their object], (as the School tells us.) There was no slavish fear to bespeak and antedate grief. There was no palenesse to be seen, no tremblings nor shiverings, no tears nor sighs, no blushes nor the least tincture of shame. Paradise it had so much of the Lily, as’t  had nothing of the Rose, yet there were istiusmodi passiones quae ordinantur ad bonum13 [passions which were regulated towards the good]. Joy would dance and leap sometimes, love would embrace and twine about its dearest good; such pure and noble affections as live and dwell in the breasts of glorified beings were not banisht and excluded from this state of integrity. The Poets shadowed out this happy time in their golden age, though they mixe some drosse in the description of it. Now man being constituted in this state of natural rectitude, his Candle shining clearly, his will following cheerfully, his affections complying most suitably, a sudden cloud presently rusht upon him, and blotted all his glory. And as the Orator stiled that Roman Magistrate, that was suddenly turned out of his place, Consul vigilantissimus[a most vigilant consul], because he did not sleep all the time of his Consulship (for he continued but a day in it)14 in the very same sense, and only in this sense, man also was vigilantissimus in honore[most vigilant in honour], in the Psalmists language בל יליו15non per noctabit, he would not abide in honour, he did not lodge one night in honour. Though I am farre from laying such stresse upon those words, as they do, that will needs from thence measure the time so exactly, as that they’ll tell you to a minute how long Adam enjoyed his first glory: This only we are sure of, it was a very brief and transient happinesse, a fading and withering glory; he had wasted his Oile presently, and the Lamp was going out, but that God dropt fresh oile into it, by the promise of a Messiah. The Schoolmen are very solicitous & desirous to know how Adams understanding being in vigore viridi[in its fresh vigour] could be entangled in such a snare, and deluded with such a miserable fallacy. Aquinas for his part determines hominem in primo statu decipi non potuisse16 [man in his original innocence was not able to be deceived], which yet is altogether unconceivable, for how could he fall unlesse his head declin’d? ’Tis not very easily perceptible at any time, how there can be defectus in voluntate[a failure in the will], and yet not Error in Intellectu[an error in the intellect], much lesse can we tell how this should come to passe, when the will was so obediently disposed ad nutum intellectus[to the command of the intellect], when it gave such observance to all the commands and dictates of the understanding, as that did in a state of innocency. And to resolve the whole anomaly and irregularity of that first prevarication, only into the wills untowardnesse; what is it else then to say that Adam sinned ex mera malitia, contra claritatem judicii17 [out of pure malice, against the clarity of his judgment]; which is to entertain a thought very groundlesse, uncharitable, and dishonourable to the first root of mankinde, and to make his transgression of the same dye with those damned Angelical spirits that were thrown into irrecoverable misery. Therefore Zanchy, that was one of the most scholastical amongst the Protestants, doth most judiciously conclude, that the understanding of Adam was defective in its office, by a negligent non-attendency.18 The eye was clear enough, the bowe was strong enough, but it was not vigilant enough, it was not bent enough; the balance was not deceitful, but he forgot to weigh things in it. Now man by this fall of his was not only spoliatus supranaturalibus[deprived of his supernatural gifts], but also vulneratus in ipsis naturalibus19 [wounded in his very nature]. How soon is this beautiful creature withered! his spring is gone, his May is gone, his glosse and greennesse gone; the flower droops, the tree is neither so flourishing nor so fruitful, an untimely and disconsolate Autumne comes upon him. Thus the purest complexions are alwayes most fraile and brittle. Thus the highest conditions are most tottering and precipitious, and the noblest perfections, if built only upon natures bottome, are but voluble and uncertaine. There arises a sudden δυσκρασία[instability], a present ἀσυμμετρία20 [lack of harmony], in the being of man. The Philosophers were very sensible of it, and groaned under it. You may hear them complaining of the τὰνοσήματαπερὶτὴνψυχὴν, of the languishings and faintings of the soul, of a νόθοςλογισμὸς,21 a spurious and adulterate kinde of reason. You may hear them complaining of an ἀπτηρία&πτεροῤῥύησις,22 a defluvium pennarum. The wings of the soul flag, many of the feathers are sick and drop away. And that soul which was wont to build its nest in the Starres, is now faine to build it in the dust. You may hear one Philosopher complaining of the κεφαλαλγία, his head, his understanding akes; another of the Ὀφθαλμία, his eye, his reason is dimm’d; a third of the καρδιαλγία, the palpitatio cordis, his soul trembles with doubts and uncertainties. You may see one grasping a cloud of Errors, another spending much of his time in untying some one knot, in solving some one difficulty; you may see some one pleasing himself, and sitting down in the shadow of his own opinion, another bending all his nerves and endeavours, and they presently snap asunder. You may see Socrates in the twilight, and lamenting his obscure and benighted condition, and telling you that his Lamp will shew him nothing but his own darknesse. You may see Plato sitting down by the waters of Lethe, and weeping because he could not remember his former notions. You may hear Aristotle bewailing himself thus, that his νου̑ςἐνδυνάμει23 [potential reason] will so seldome come into act, that his abrasa tabula24 has so few, and such imperfect impressions upon it, that his intellectuals are at so low an ebbe, as that the motions of Euripus will pose them.25 You hear Zeno complaining that his στοὰ26 [cloister] is dark, and Epictetus confessing that he had not the right ansa27 [handle], the true apprehension of things; look upon the Naturalists head and you’ll see it non-plust with an occult quality, feel the Moralists pulse, (his conscience I mean) and you’ll finde it beating very slowly, very remissely; look upon the most speculative Eagles that stare the Sun in the face, that fly highest in contemplation, those that love to sport and play in the light; yet at length you may see the Sun striking them thorow with one of his  glorious darts, and chastizing their inquisitive eyes with one of his brightest beams. The Sun ’tis ready to put out this Candle of the Lord, if it make too neer approaches to it. Humane understandings are glad to wink at some dazling objects, as vehemens sensibile doth destruere sensum[an intense sense impression doth destroy the sense]: so vehemens intelligibile doth perstringere intellectum[an intense conceptual experience doth strain the intellect]. For in all knowledge there’s required a due proportion between the objectum cognoscibile[nowable object], and the virtus cognoscitiva[nowing power], but when the several powers and faculties of the soul lost that comely proportion which they had amongst themselves, they lost also much of that correspondency and conformity which they had to their several objects. And the soul besides its own losse, had a share in the bodies losse also: for the body wanting much of that accurate and elegant composure which once it had, knowledge it self must needs be prejudic’d by it; that being amongst men founded in sense, and in some measure depending upon organical dispositions. So that the streitning and stopping of these windows, must needs prohibit light. Sin entered in first at a corporeal, then at an intellectual window, and stole away the heart; and the windows have been broken ever since. I know the generality of Philosophers do partly excuse the understanding, and do blame the objects for their exility and poverty, for their little diminutive Entity, for their want of intelligibility. But the subtil Scotus doth endeavour to invalidate that, by telling them, that omnia eadem facilitate intelliguntur a Deo28 [all things are understood by God with equal facility]. Thus much is evident and undeniable, that the spying out of a little lurking object, doth argue the strength, and quicknesse, and clearnesse of the eye. The Sun discovers atomes, though they be invisible by candlelight, yet that makes them dance naked in his beams. Created understandings want spectacles to augment and majorate some objects. But the soul never meets with more difficulty then in the understanding of spiritual beings, although they have most of Entity, and so most of intelligibility. Yet the soul being imprison’d in a body not sufficiently clarified and refined, cannot so fully close and comply with incorporeal beings. This Candle of the Lord will discover more of spirituals when ’tis took out of the Lanthorne in statu separato[in a separate state], or when ’tis put into a clearer in statu consummato[in the perfected state]. But for the present how little doth it know of it self? How little of Angels? How little of God? And yet how much might be known of them? Look but a while, (if you can endure to look) upon so unlovely and unpleasant an object, I mean upon those black and prodigious Errors, that cover and bespot the face of these times. And they’ll soon convince you of the weaknesse and dimnesse of this Lamp-light of the spirit of a man. The Candle of the Lord, though it be amongst them, yet ’tis not so powerful as to scatter and conquer their thick and palpable darkness. ’Tis not an easie, nor a sudden, nor a  delightful work to number so many errors, yet if I could reckon them up all, from the blundering Antinomian, to the vagabond Seeker, or the wild Seraphick,29 set on fire of hell, they would all serve for so many fatal examples of the miserable weaknes of mens understanding. ’Tis true, they do not follow the Candle of the Lord, for then reason would have guided them better. But this very consideration shewes the weaknesse of their candle-light, for if it had been a brighter ’twould not have been so soon put out. ’Tis easie to blow out a candle, but who can put out a Starre? or who can extinguish the Sun? And men can shut up natural light, but who can imprison a Star? or who can shut up the Sun? This faint and languishing candle-light does not alwayes prevaile upon the will, it doth not sufficiently warme and inflame the affections. Men do not use to warme their hands at a candle, ’tis not so victorious and over-powering as to scatter all the works of darknesse. It will be night for all the candle; the Moralists were not only frigid in their devotions, but some of them were very dissolute in their practises. When you think upon these things, sure you’ll willingly subscribe to the forementioned particular, which you may do very safely, that the spirit of a man ’tis but a Candle. Lumen exile & diminutum[a meagre and diminished light].