Francis Bacon (1561-1626), was an English philosopher, statesman, scientist, jurist, orator, essayist, and author. His book The New Organon has been extremely influential in the development of the modern scientific method. His essays collected in this book cover a wide and diverse range of topics, such as Death; Revenge; Love; Atheism; Superstition; Friendship; Riches; Usury; Beauty; Anger; the Vicissitude of Things, etc. His essays are also justly famed for their literary style (remember that Bacon has often been suggested as the "true" author of Shakespeare's plays). The essays are very brief---normally, just a page to two in length.
He suggests, "Certainly virtue is like precious odours, most fragrant when they are incensed, or crushed; for prosperity doth best discover vice, but adversity doth best discover virtue." (Of Adversity, pg. 11)
He points out, "The perpetuity by generation is common to beasts; but memory, merit, and noble works, are proper to men: and surely a man shall see the noblest works and foundations have proceeded from childless men, which have sought to express the images of their minds where those of their bodies have failed; do the care of posterity is most in them that have no posterity." (Of Parents and Children, pg. 14-15)
He argues, "I had rather believe all the fables in the Legend, and the Talmud, and the [Koran], than that this universal frame is without a mind; and, therefore, God never wrought miracle to convince atheism, because his ordinary works convince it. It is true, that a little philosophy inclineth man's mind to atheism, but depth in philosophy bringeth men's minds about to religion; for while the mind of man looketh upon second causes scattered, it may sometimes rest in them, and go no further; but when it beholdeth the chain of them confederate, and linked together, it must needs fly to Providence and Deity..." (Of Atheism, pg. 39)
He contends, "It were better to have no opinion of god at all than such an opinion as is unworthy of him; for the one is unbelief, and other is contumely; and certainly superstition is the reproach of the Deity... Atheism leaves a man to sense, to philosophy, to natural piety, to laws, to reputation; all which may be guides to an outward moral virtue, though religion were not; but superstition dismounts all these, and erecteth an absolute monarchy in the minds of men: therefore atheism did never perturb states; for it makes men wary of themselves, as looking no further, and we see the times inclined to atheism (as the time of Augustus Caesar) were civil times; but superstition hath been the confusion of many states, and... ravisheth all the spheres of government." (Of Superstition, pg. 42)
He observes, "So as there is as much difference between the counsel that a friend giveth, and that a man giveth himself, as there is between the counsel of a friend and of a flatterer; for there is no such flatterer as is a man's self, and there is no such remedy against flattery of a man's self as the liberty of a friend." (Of Friendship, pg. 69)
He says, "Read not to contradict and confute, nor to believe and take for granted, nor to find talk and discourse, but to weight and consider. Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few are to be chewed and digested; that is, some books are to be read only in parts; others to be read but not curiously; and some few to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention... Reading maketh a full man; conference a ready man; and writing an exact man; and, therefore, if a man write little, he had need have a great memory; if he confer little, he had need have a present wit; and if he read little, he had need much cunning, to seem to know that he doth not." (Of Studies, pg. 126)
Bacon's essays are deservedly among the "classics" of Western literature, and are well worth pondering over, and reading at leisure.