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OF INNOVATIONS

Francis Bacon

As the births of living creatures, at first are ill-shapen so are all innovations, which are the births of time. Yet notwithstanding, as those that first bring honor into their family, are commonly more worthy than most that succeed, so the first precedent (if it be good) is seldom attained by imitation. For ill, to man's nature, as it stands perverted, hath a natural motion, strongest in continuance; but good, as a forced motion, strongest at first. Surely every medicine is an innovation; and he that will not apply new remedies, must expect new evils; for time is the greatest innovator; and if time of course alter things to the worse, and wisdom and counsel shall not alter them to the better, what shall be the end? It is true, that what is settled by custom, though it be not good, yet at least it is fit; and those things which have long gone together, are, as it were, confederate within themselves; whereas new things piece not so well; but though they help by their utility, yet they trouble by their inconformity. Besides, they are like strangers; more admired, and less favored. All this is true, if time stood still; which contrariwise moveth so round, that a froward retention of custom, is as turbulent a thing as an innovation; and they that reverence too much old times, are but a scorn to the new. It were good, therefore, that men in their innovations would follow the example of time itself; which indeed innovateth greatly, but quietly, by degrees scarce to be perceived. For otherwise, whatsoever is new is unlooked for; and ever it mends some, and pairs others; and he that holpen, takes it for a fortune, and thanks the time; and he that is hurt, for a wrong, and imputeth it to the author. It is good also, not to try experiments in states, except the necessity be urgent, or the utility evident; and well to beware, that it be the reformation, that draweth on the change, and not the desire of change, that pretendeth the reformation. And lastly, that the novelty, though it be not rejected, yet be held for a suspect; and, as the Scripture saith, that we make a stand upon the ancient way, and then look about us, and discover what is the straight and right way, and so to walk in it.


论兴革

但凡一切生灵,诞生之际,其形不雅;举凡一切兴革,兴起之时,皆不成形。然而,创业者,其兴家之才,后嗣能超越者不常见。先行者,其杰出之才,后继能模仿者甚为罕见。至于人之本质,恶,乃其本,且乃自然之力,发展时最强。然善,乃牵强之力,初始时最强。举凡药物皆为创新之事,此乃无疑;但凡有病拒服药者,其病必有所期;时间乃最大之革新者;倘若时间使事趋恶,而人无智使之趋好,则其果若何?确实,习俗所立者,虽不尽然优良,然适时也,盖因适时而彼此不嫌;而新生事物,即使有用,然因旧制而彼此不合,易生冲突。再者,新生事物犹异邦人士,欣羡者众,得心者少。此言不假。时间川流不息,倘使之静而不动,因循旧制,必致乱;革新之举亦然,二者无二致焉。循古过度,必成今世之笑也。是故,人之兴革,当以时间为楷模,时之变化也,似未变而变,察之不易。如不然者,大凡新生事物,必出人意料,或有所益,或有所失;有所益者,则视其为时运而谢之;有所失者,则视其为背运而非之。且,若非必要,或其效不明之时,国之兴革,切勿轻率行事;且须当谨记,兴革者,兴于变革之必要也,而非旨在矫饰而喜新厌旧也。最后,须当注意,兴革之举,虽非人人拒之,然亦有质疑者。诚如《圣经》戒言所云:“立于古道,而环顾四周,须择其善道而行之。”