Ancient Authority

Thomas Browne, Religio Medici §21

I confesse I have perused them all, and can discover nothing that may startle a discreet beliefe: yet are there heads carried off with the wind and breath of such motives. I remember a Doctor in Physick of Italy, who could not perfectly believe the immortality of the soule, because Galen seemed to make a doubt thereof. With another I was familiarly acquainted in France, a Divine and man of singular parts, that on the same point was so plunged and gravelled with three lines of Seneca, that all our Antidotes, drawne from both Scripture and Philosophy, could not expell the poyson of his errour.

There are a set of heads, that can credit the relations of Mariners, yet question the testimonies of Saint Paul; and peremptorily maintaine the traditions of Ælian or Pliny, yet in Histories of Scripture, raise Quere’s and objections, beleeving no more than they can parallel in humane Authors. I confesse there are in Scripture stories that doe exceed the fable of Poets, and to a captious Reader sound like Gargantua or Bevis: Search all the Legends of times past, and the fabulous conceits of these present, and ’twill bee hard to find one that deserves to carry the buckler unto Sampson, yet is all this of an easie possibility, if we conceive a divine concourse or an influence but from the little finger of the Almighty. It is impossible that either in the discourse of man, or in the infallible voyce of God, to the weakenesse of our apprehensions, there should not appeare irregularities, contradictions, and antinomies: my selfe could shew a catalogue of doubts never yet imagined nor questioned, as I know, which are not resolved at the first hearing, not fantastick Quere’s, or objections of ayre: For I cannot heare of Atoms in Divinity.

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