Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Isaac Barrow

English Polemical Author, Scholar, Mathematician and Christian Theologian

"As a stick, when once it is dry and stiff you may break it, but you can never bend it into a straighter posture; so doth the man become incorrigible who is settled and stiffened into vice."

"Incredulity is not wisdom, but the worst kind of folly. It is folly, because it causes ignorance and mistake, with all the consequents of these; and it is very bad, as being accompanied with disingenuity, obstinacy, rudeness, uncharitableness, and the like, bad dispositions; from which credulity itself, the other extreme sort of folly, is exempt."

"None are too wise to be mistaken, but few are so wisely just as to acknowledge and correct their mistakes, and especially the mistakes of prejudice."

"Nothing has wrought more prejudice to religion, or brought more disparagement upon truth, than boisterous and unseasonable zeal."

"Nothing of worth or weight can be achieved with half a mind, with a faint heart, and with a lame endeavor."

"Sin is never at a stay; if we do not retreat from it, we shall advance in it; and the farther on we go, the more we have to come back."

"If we desire to live securely, comfortably, and quietly, that by all honest means we should endeavor to purchase the good will of all men, and provoke no man’s enmity needlessly; since any man’s love may be useful, and every man’s hatred is dangerous."

"The proper work of man, the grand drift of human life is to follow reason, that noble spark kindled in us from heaven."

"It is safe to make a choice of your thoughts, scarcely ever safe to express them all. "

"A constant governance of our speech, according to duty and reason, is a high instance and a special argument of a thoroughly sincere and solid goodness."

"Alexander the Great, reflecting on his friends degenerating into sloth and luxury, told them that it was a most slavish thing to luxuriate, and a most royal thing to labor."

"An accomplished mathematician, i.e. a most wretched orator. [Closing remark in an address, referring to himself.]"

"Because men believe not Providence, therefore they do so greedily scrape and hoard. They do not believe any reward for charity, therefore they will part with nothing."

"Chance never write a legible book; never built a fair house; never drew a neat picture; never did any of these things, nor ever will; nor can it, without absurdity, be supposed to do them, which are yet works very gross and rude, and very easy and feasible, as it were, in comparison to the production of a flower or a tree."

"Even private persons in due season, with discretion and temper, may reprove others, whom they observe to commit sin, or follow bad courses, out of charitable design, and with hope to reclaim them."

"Every ear is tickled with the sweet music of applause."

"Facetiousness is allowable when it is the most proper instrument of exposing things apparently base and vile to due contempt."

"For to pass by those Ancients, the wonderful Pythagoras, the sagacious Democritus, the divine Plato, the most subtle and very learned Aristotle, Men whom every Age has hitherto acknowledged as deservedly honored, as the greatest Philosophers, the Ring-leaders of Arts; in whose Judgments how much these Studies [mathematics] were esteemed, is abundantly proclaimed in History and confirmed by their famous Monuments, which are everywhere interspersed and bespangled with Mathematical Reasonings and Examples, as with so many Stars; and consequently anyone not in some Degree conversant in these Studies will in vain expect to understand, or unlock their hidden Meanings, without the Help of a Mathematical Key: For who can play well on Aristotle?s Instrument but with a Mathematical Quill; or not be altogether deaf to the Lessons of natural Philosophy, while ignorant of Geometry? Who void of (Geometry shall I say, or)Arithmetic can comprehend Plato?s 218 Socrates lisping with Children concerning Square Numbers; or can conceive Plato himself treating not only of the Universe, but the Polity of Commonwealths regulated by the Laws of Geometry, and formed according to a Mathematical Plan?"

"Generosity is in nothing more seen than in a candid estimation of other men?s virtues and good qualities."

"God designs that a charitable intercourse should be maintained among men, mutually pleasant and beneficial."

"He that loveth a book will never want a faithful friend, a wholesome counsellor, a cheerful companion, an effectual comforter."

"I pass by that it is very culpable to be facetious in obscene and smutty matters."

"If men are wont to play with swearing anywhere, can we expect they should be serious and strict therein at the bar or in the church."

"In defiance of all the torture, the might, and the malice of the world, the liberal man will ever be rich; for God's providence is his estate, God's wisdom and power his defense, God's love and favor his reward, and God's word his security."

"Industry hath annexed thereto the fairest fruits and the richest rewards."

"Industry sweeteneth our enjoyments, and seasoneth our attainments with a delightful relish."

"Infidelity, indeed, is the root of all sin; for did man heartily believe the promises to obedience, and the threats to disobedience, they could hardly be so unreasonable as to forfeit the one or incur the other."

"It is a fair adornment of a man and a great convenience both to himself and to all those with whom he converses and deals, to act uprightly, uniformly, and consistently. The practice of piety frees a man from interior distraction and from irresolution in his mind, from duplicity or inconstancy in his character, and from confusion in his proceedings, and consequently securing for others freedom from deception and disappointment in their transactions with him."

"It is of perilous consequence that foreigners should have authoritative influence upon the subjects of any prince."

"It may be observed of mathematicians that they only meddle with such things as are certain, passing by those that are doubtful and unknown. They profess not to know all things, neither do they affect to speak of all things. What they know to be true, and can make good by invincible arguments, that they publish and insert among their theorems. Of other things they are silent and pass no judgment at all, choosing rather to acknowledge their ignorance, than affirm anything rashly. They affirm nothing among their arguments or assertions which is not most manifestly known and examined with utmost rigour, rejecting all probable conjectures and little witticisms. They submit nothing to authority, indulge no affection, detest subterfuges of words, and declare their sentiments, as in a court of justice, without passion, without apology; knowing that their reasons, as Seneca testifies of them, are not brought to persuade, but to compel."

"Jesting when not used upon improper matter, in an unfit manner, with excessive measure, at undue season, or to evil purpose, may be allowed."

"Let us consider that swearing is a sin of all others peculiarly clamorous, and provocative of Divine judgment."

"Mathematics - the unshaken Foundation of Sciences, and the plentiful Fountain of Advantage to human affairs."

"Mathematics is the fruitful Parent of, I had almost said all, Arts, the unshaken Foundation of Sciences, and the plentiful Fountain of Advantage to Human Affairs. In which last Respect, we may be said to receive from the Mathematics, the principal Delights of Life, Securities of Health, Increase of Fortune, and Conveniences of Labor: That we dwell elegantly and commodiously, build decent Houses for ourselves, erect stately Temples to God, and leave wonderful Monuments to Posterity: That we are protected by those Rampires from the Incursions of the Enemy; rightly use Arms, skillfully range an Army, and manage War by Art, and not by the Madness of wild Beasts: That we have safe Traffick through the deceitful Billows, pass in a direct Road through the tractless Ways of the Sea, and come to the designed Ports by the uncertain Impulse of the Winds: That we rightly cast up our Accounts, do Business expeditiously, dispose, tabulate, and calculate scattered 248 Ranks of Numbers, and easily compute them, though expressive of huge Heaps of Sand, nay immense Hills of Atoms: That we make pacifick Separations of the Bounds of Lands, examine the Moments of Weights in an equal Balance, and distribute everyone his own by a just Measure: That with a light Touch we thrust forward vast Bodies which way we will, and stop a huge Resistance with a very small Force: That we accurately delineate the Face of this Earthly Orb, and subject the Oeconomy of the Universe to our Sight: That we aptly digest the flowing Series of Time, distinguish what is acted by due Intervals, rightly account and discern the various Returns of the Seasons, the stated Periods of Years and Months, the alternate Increments of Days and Nights, the doubtful Limits of Light and Shadow, and the exact Differences of Hours and Minutes: That we derive the subtle Virtue of the Solar Rays to our Uses, infinitely extend the Sphere of Sight, enlarge the near Appearances of Things, bring to Hand Things remote, discover Things hidden, search Nature out of her Concealments, and unfold her dark Mysteries: That we delight our Eyes with beautiful Images, cunningly imitate the Devices and portray the Works of Nature; imitate did I say? nay excel, while we form to ourselves Things not in being, exhibit Things absent, and represent Things past: That we recreate our Minds and delight our Ears with melodious Sounds, attemperate the inconstant Undulations of the Air to musical Tunes, add a pleasant Voice to a sapless Log and draw a sweet Eloquence from a rigid Metal; celebrate our Maker with an harmonious Praise, and not unaptly imitate the blessed Choirs of Heaven: That we approach and examine the inaccessible Seats of the Clouds, the distant Tracts of Land, unfrequented Paths of the Sea; lofty Tops of the Mountains, low Bottoms of the Valleys, and deep Gulphs of the Ocean: That in Heart we advance to the Saints themselves above, yea draw them to us, scale the etherial Towers, freely range through the celestial Fields, measure the Magnitudes, and determine the Interstices of the Stars, prescribe inviolable Laws to the Heavens themselves, and confine the wandering Circuits of the Stars within fixed Bounds: Lastly, that we comprehend the vast Fabrick of the Universe, admire and contemplate the wonderful Beauty of the Divine 249 Workmanship, and to learn the incredible Force and Sagacity of our own Minds, by certain Experiments, and to acknowledge the Blessings of Heaven with pious Affection."

"Nature has concatenated our fortunes and affections together with indissoluble bands of mutual sympathy."

"No man speaketh, or should speak, of his prince, that which he hath not weighed whether it will consist with that veneration which should be preserved inviolate to him."

"No unkindness of a brother can wholly rescind that relation, or disoblige us from the duties annexed thereto."

"No virtue is acquired in an instant, but step by step."

"Now as to what pertains to these Surd numbers (which, as it were by way of reproach and calumny, having no merit of their own are also styled Irrational, Irregular, and Inexplicable) they are by many denied to be numbers properly speaking, and are wont to be banished from arithmetic to another Science, (which yet is no science) viz. algebra."

"Our hearts will be so resty or listless that hardly we shall be induced to perform it [devotion] when it is most necessary or useful for us."

"Poetry is a kind of ingenious nonsense (Spence, Anecdotes"

"Slander is a complication, a comprisal and sum of all wickedness."

"Smiling always with a never fading serenity of countenance, and flourishing in an immortal youth."

"Sometimes [wit] lieth in pat allusion to a known story, or in seasonable application of a trivial saying, or in forging an apposite tale; sometimes it playeth in words and phrases, taking advantage from the ambiguity of their sense, or the affinity of their sound; sometimes it is wrapped up in a dress of humorous expression; sometimes it lurketh under an odd similitude; sometimes it is lodged in a sly question, in a smart answer, in a quickish reason, in a shrewd intimation, in cunningly diverting or cleverly retorting an objection; sometimes it is couched in a bold scheme of speech, in a tart irony, in a lusty hyperbole, in a startling metaphor, in a plausible reconciling of contradictions, or in acute nonsense; sometimes a scenical representation of persons or things, a counterfeit speech, a mimical look or gesture, passeth for it; sometimes an affected simplicity, sometimes a presumptuous bluntness, giveth it being; sometimes it riseth only from a lucky hitting upon what is strange; sometimes from a crafty wresting obvious matter to the purpose. Often it consisteth in one knows not what, and springeth up one can hardly tell how. Its ways are unaccountable and inexplicable, being answerable to the numberless rovings of fancy and windings of language."

"Such facetiousness is not unreasonable or unlawful which ministereth harmless divertisement and delight to conversation; harmless, I say, that is, not intrenching upon piety, nor infringing charity or justice, not disturbing peace. For Christianity is not so tetrical, so harsh, so envious, as to bar us continually from innocent, much less from wholesome and useful, pleasure, such as human life doth need or require. And if jocular discourse may serve to good purposes of this kind; if it may be apt to raise our drooping spirits, to allay our irksome cares, to whet our blunted industry, to recreate our minds, being tired and cloyed with graver occupations; if it may breed alacrity, or maintain good humour among us; if it may conduce to sweeten conversation and endear society, then it is not inconvenient or unprofitable. If for these ends we may use other recreations, employing on them our ears and eyes, our hands and feet, our other instruments of sense and motion, why may we not so well accommodate our organs of speech and interior sense? Why should those gomes which excite our wit and fancies be less reasonable, since they are performed in a manly way, and have in them a smack of reason; seeing, also, they may be so managed as not only to divert and please, but to improve and profit the mind, rousing and quickening it, yea, sometimes enlightening and instructing it, by good sense, conveyed in jocular expression?"

"That in affairs of very considerable importance men should deal with one another with satisfaction of mind, and mutual confidence, they must receive competent assurances concerning the integrity, fidelity, and constancy each of other."

"That justice should be administered between men, it is necessary that testimonies of fact be alleged; and that witnesses should apprehend themselves greatly obliged to discover the truth, according to their conscience, in dark and doubtful cases."

"That men should live honestly, quietly, and comfortably together, it is needful that they should live under a sense of God's will, and in awe of the divine power, hoping to please God, and fearing to offend Him, by their behaviour respectively."

"The common nature of men disposeth them to be credulous when they are commended?. Every ear is tickled with this sweet music of applause."

"The Definition in the Elements, according to Clavius, is this: Magnitudes are said to be in the same Reason [ratio], a first to a second, and a third to a fourth, when the Equimultiples of the first and third according to any Multiplication whatsoever are both together either short of, equal to, or exceed the Equimultiples of the second and fourth, if those be taken, which answer one another.... Such is Euclid?s Definition of Proportions; that scare-Crow at which the over modest or slothful Dispositions of Men are generally affrighted: they are modest, who distrust their own Ability, as soon as a Difficulty appears, but they are slothful that will not give some Attention for the learning of Sciences; as if while we are involved in Obscurity we could clear ourselves without Labor. Both of 300 which Sorts of Persons are to be admonished, that the former be not discouraged, nor the latter refuse a little Care and Diligence when a Thing requires some Study."