Henry Peacham (1638) The Valley of Varietie, Chapter III, pp. 18-25.


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CHAP. III.

Of that admirable Alteration or Change, which is every five hundred yeares, as well in the Church, as in everie Common-wealth: As also of the contrary Fortunes of certaine Kingdomes under Princes of the same Name.

It is marvellous, and a remarkable thing in Histories, that at the ende of every five hundred yeares, there are great Changes and Alterations in States, whereof I bring you these examples:

The Aßyrians possessed Asia five hundred yeares; afterwards the Aßyrians beeing driven out, the Medes possessed the same. The Kingdome of Athens continued foure hundred ninetie yeares, from Cecrops unto Codrus; from that time, of a Monarchie, it became a Democracie. As many yeares flourished the Common-wealth of the Lacedemonians, which being brought to a forme by Lycurgus, fell to ruine under Alexander the Great. Five hundred yeares passed from the expulsion of the Romane Kings, unto the time of Augustus the Emperour, under whom was a Monarchie established, when formerly the Roman Common wealth was mixed of an Aristocracie, and a Democracie. It was about five hundred yeares, from the time that Constantine the Great translated the seate of the Empire to Constantinople, to the time of Charles the Great, under whom the Empire was divided; and the Romane Eagle, which formerly had but one head, now was allowed two, and so became a Monster. From the battell of Actium, which assured to Augustus the Empire of the West, unto Valentinian the last of the Romane Emperours, are likewise numbred, five hundred yeares. This was Valentinian the third, and last Emperour of the West, untill Charles the Great, although after him, many would be called Emperours, albeit they possest scarse a very small part of Italy.

Moreover, the Church of God under the Gospell everie five hundred yeares, hath found a great change and alternation. In the first five hundred yeares, from the birth of our Saviour Christ, the Church shone in her puritie, and Discipline severely exacted, albeit toward the end of this Period, it grew more remisse. In the next following five hundred yeares, Falshood so contended with Truth, Superstition with sinceretie of the Faith, Ambition in the Clergie, with Christian Humilitie; that by degrees crept in, and gathered head, the Invocation of the Dead, Worshipping of Images, Adoration of the Eucharist, those dreames of Purgatorie, and the Primacie of the Romane Bishops, with the like.

Then came the third Period, wherein those named abuses and errors, that before did bud, now grew ripe, yeelding unsavourie and bitter fruit; the Authoritie of the Emperours abated and vilified, Pardons established and confirmed. The Apostolicall Doctrine of the saving Grace of God, and the Merit of Christ Jesus little valued; in the roome whereof, crept in the Merits of Saints, Workes of Supererogation, Cowles, Rosaries, Beades, Holy water, and other such like, which were defended and maintained by the Monks, with no lesse impudencie than impietie; and in this Period the Papacie was at the height.

But in the fourth Period of five hundred yeares, God respecting, and in his mercie looking downe upon his Church, hee raised up learned and godly men, who reducing the Church to her former puritie, overthrew the Romish Idolatrie, and brideled the Popes Tyranny, as all the world knoweth.

Thus wee see, every five hundred yeares there hath beene a change in the outward, or visible Church of God, although the Elect in all Ages of the Church, have evermore laid fast hold upon the Rocke whereupon they were built, and founded.

But observe another thing no lesse wonderfull, that is, under Kings and Princes of the same name, how the fortune and estate of their Kingdomes hath fallen out to have beene quite contrarie. The Kingdome of the Persians grew up, and increased under one Darius, under another Darius it was ruined. The Kingdome of Macedonia was greatly augmented, and indeed grew first famous, under Phillip the Father of Alexander: the same Kingdome under Phillip the Father of Perseus came to decay. The Easterne Empire began with Constantine, and ended with Constantine Palæologus; that it was truly said, a Constantine was to that famous and renowned Empire, the Rise, and the Ruine. I could here alleage examples of nearer, and our owne times, but it would not be so pleasing.

Surely, the Providence of God governing all things, hath set certaine bounds and limits to worldly promotions, and will have nothing to be certaine upon earth; that mindfull of our mortall and uncertaine estates, we should not be proud, but alwaies aspire, and seeke after that certaine Good, wherein is no mutability, which is God himselfe.


This page is by James Easonf.