« FöregåendeFortsätt »
SECT. XVII. Remedy of the last and greatest breach of peace, arising from
death. Now when this great adversary, like a proud giant, comes stalking out in his fearful shape, and insults over our frail mortality, daring the world to match him with an equal champion ; while a whole host of worldlings shew him their backs for fear, the true Christian, armed only with confidence and resolution of his future happiness, dares boldly encounter him ; and can wound him in the forehead, the wonted seat of terror; and, trampling upon him, can cut off his head with his own sword, and, victoriously returning, can sing in triumph, O death, where is thy sting? A happy victory! We die; and are not foiled: yea, we are conquerors in dying: we could not overcome death, if we died not. That dissolution is well bestowed, that parts the soul from the body, that it may unite both to God. All our life here, as that heavenly Doctor (Augustin) well terms it, is but a vital death, How advantageous is that death, that determines this false and dying life ; and begins a true one, above all the titles of happiness!
The Epicure or Sadducee dare not die, for fear of not being: the guilty and loose worldling dares not die, for fear of being miserable: the distrustful and doubting semi-Christian dares not die, because he knows not, whether he shall be, or miserable, or not be at all: the resolved Christian dares, and would die, because he knows be shall be happy; and, looking merrily towards heaven, the place of his rest, can unfeignedly say, “ Į desire to be dissolved : I see thee, my home, I see thee, a sweet and glorious home after a weary pilgrimage, I see thee; and now, after many lingering hopes, I aspire to thee. How oft have I looked up at thee, with admiration and ravishment of soul; and, by the goodly beams that I have seen, guessed at the glory that is above them! How oft have I scorned these dead and unpleasant pleasures of earth, in comparison of thine! I come now, my joys, I come to possess you : I come, through pain and death; yea, if hell itself were in the way betwixt you and me, I would pass through hell itself to enjoy you.”
And, in truth, if that heathen Cleombrotus, a follower of the ancient Academy, but upon only reading of his master Plato's * Discourses of the Immortality of the Soul, could cast down himself headlong from a high rock, and wilfully break his neck, that he might be possessed of that immortality which he believed to follow upon death; how contented should they be to die, that know they shall be, more than immortal, glorious ! He went, not in a hate of the flesh, as the patrician heretics of old t, but in a blind love to his soul, out of bare opinion; we, upon a holy love, grounded upon
* Tul. Tuscul. Callimach. Epigram.
+ August. de Hæres,
assured knowledge: he, upon an opinion of future life; we, on knowledge of future glory : he went, unsent for; we, called for by our Maker. Why should his courage exceed ours, since our ground, our estate so far exceeds his ?
Even this age, within the reach of our memory, bred that peremptory Italian, which, in imitation of the old Roman courage, lest in that degenerated nation there should be no step left of the qualities of their ancestors, entering upon his torment for killing a tyrant, cheered himself with this confidence; “ My death is sharp: my fame shall be everlasting *.” The voice of a Roman, not of a Christian. My fame shall be eternal : an idle comfort ! My fame shall live ; not my soul live to see it. What shall it avail thee to be talked of, while thou art not? Then fame only is precious, when a man lives to enjoy it. The fame, that survives the soul, is bootless. Yet even this hope cheered him against the violence of his death. What should it do us, that (not our fame, but) our life, our glory after death, cannot die? He, that hath Stephen's eyes, to look into heaven, cannot but have the tongue of the Saints, Come, Lord : how long ? That man, seeing the glory of the end, cannot but contemn the hardness of the way. But, who wants those eyes, if he say and swears that he fears not death, believe him not: if he protest his Tranquillity, and yet fear death, believe him not : believe him not, if he say he is not miserable.
SECT. XVIII. The second rank of the enemies of peace.—The first remedy of an
over prosperous estate : the vanity and unprofitableness of Riches :
the first enemy on the right hand. These are enemies on the left hand. There want not some on the right, which, with less profession of hostility, hurt no Jess : not so easily perceived, because they distemper the mind, not without some kind of pleasure. Surfeit kills more than famine. These are the over-desiring and over-joying of these earthly things. All immoderations are enemies; as to health, so to peace t. He, that desires, wants as much ; as he, that hath nothing. The drunken man is as thirsty, as the sweating traveller. Hence are the studies, cares, fears, jealousies, hopes, griefs, envies, wishes, platforms of atchieving, alterations of purposes, and a thousand like ; whereof each one is enough to make the life troublesome. One is sick of his neighbour's tield, whose misshapen angles disfigure his, and hinder his lordship of entireness : what he hath is not regarded, for the want of what he cannot have. Another feeds on crusts, to purchase what he must leave, perhaps, to a fool; or, which is not much better, to a prodigal heir. Another, in the extremity of covetous folly, chuses to die an unpitied death; hanging himself for the fall of the market, while the Commons laugh at that loss, and
in their speeches epitaph upon him, as on that Pope, “ He lived as a wolf, and died as a dog.” One cares not what attendance he dances all hours, on whose stairs he sits, what vices he soothes, what deformities he imitates, what servile offices he doth; in a hope to rise. Another stomachs the covered head and stiff knee of his inferior; angry that other men think him not so good as he thinks himself
. Another eats his own heart, with envy at the richer furniture, and better estate, or more honour of his neighbour; thinking his own not good, because another hath better. Another vexeth himself with a word of disgrace, passed from the mouth of an enemy, which he neither can digest, nor cast up; resolving, because another will be his enemy, to be his own.
These humours are as manifold, as there are men that seem prosperous.
For the avoiding of all which ridiculous and yet spiteful inconveniences, the mind must be settled in a persuasion of the worthlessness of these outward things. Let it know, that these riches have made many prouder, none better: that, as neve man was, so never wise man thought himself, better for enjoying them. Would that wise philosopher (Socrates) have cast his gold into the sea, if he had not known he should live more happily without it? If he knew not the use of riches, he was no wise man: if he knew not the best way to quietness, he was no philosopher: now, even by the voice of their oracie, he was confessed to be both; yet cast away his gold, that he might be happy*. Would that wise prophet have prayed as well against riches, as poverty ? Would so many great men, whereof our little island hath yielded nine crowned kings while it was held of old by the Saxons, after they had continued their life in the throne, have ended it in the cell, and changed their sceptre for a book; if they could have found as much felicity in the highest estate, as security in the lowest ? I hear Peter and John, the eldest and dearest Apostles, say, Golil and silver have I none : I hear the Devil say, All these will I give thee ; and they are mine, to give : whether shall I desire to be in the state of these Saints, or that Devil? He was, therefore, a better husband than a philosopher, that first termed riches Goods : and he mended the title well, that, adding a fit epithet, called them Goods of Fortune; false goods ascribed to a false patron, There is no fortune, to give or guide riches : there is no true goodness in riches, to be guided, His meaning then was, as I can interpret it, to teach us, in this title; that it is a chance, if ever riches were good to any. In sum, who would account those as riches, or those riches as goods, which hurt the owner, disquiet others; which the worst have; which the best have not; which those, that have noț, want not; which those want, that have them; which are lost in a night, and a man is not worse, when he hath lost them? It is true of them, that we say of fire and water : they are good servants, ill masters. Make them thy
* A proof, that, with Christians, deserves no credit; but, with Heathens, commands it.
slaves, they shall be goods indeed : in use, if not in nature ; good to thyself, good to others by thee : but, if they be thy masters, thou hast condemned thyself to thine own gallies. If a servant rule, he proves a tyrant. What madness is this! thou hast made thyself, at once a slave and a fool. What if thy chains be of gold? or if, with Heliogabalus, thou hast made thee silken halters? thy servitude may be glorious : it is no less miserable.
The second enemy on the right hand, Honour. HONOUR, perhaps, is yet better : such is the confused opinion of those, that know little; but a distinct and curious head shall find a hard task, to define in what point the goodness thereof consisteth.
Is it in high descent of blood ? I would think so, if nature were tied by any law to produce children like qualitied to their parents. But, although in the brute creatures she be ever thus regular, that ye shall never find a young pigeon hatched in an eagle's nest : neither can I think that true, or if true it was monstrous, that Ni. cippus's sheep should yean a lion: yet, in the best creature, which hath his form and her attending qualities from above, with a likeness of face and features, is commonly found an unlikeness of disposition ; only the earthly part follows the seed : wisdom, valour, virtue, are of another beginning. Shall I bow to a molten calf, because it was made of golden ear-rings ? Shall I condemn all honour of the first head, though upon never so noble deserving, because it can shew nothing before itself, but a white shield ? If Cæsar or Agathocles, be a potter's son, shall I contemn him? Or if wise Bion be the son of an infamous courtesan, shall the censorious lawyer raze him out of the catalogue, with partus sequitur ventrem * ? Lastly, shall I account that good, which is incident to the worst? Either, therefore, greatness must shew some charter, wherein it is privileged with succession of virtue; or else the goodness of honour cannot consist in blood.
Is it, then, in the admiration and high opinion, that others have conceived of thee, which draws all dutiful respect, and humble offices from them, to thee? ( fickle good, that is ever in the keeping of others ! especially of the unstable vulgar, that beast of many heads : whose divided tongues, as they never agree with each other; so seldom (whenever) agree long with themselves. Do we not see the superstitious Lystrians, that ere-while would needs make Paul a god, against his will; and, in devout zeal, drew crowned bulls to the altars of their new Jupiter and Mercury ? violence can scarce hold them from sacrificing to him: now, not many hours after, gather up stones against him; having, in their conceits, turned him, from a god into a malefactor; and are ready to kill
* Olympia, Diog. Laert.
him, instead of killing a sacrifice to him. Such is the multitude; and such the steadiness of their honour.
There, then, only is true honour, where blood and virtue meet together : the greatness whereof is from blood; the goodness, from virtue. Rejoice, ye great men, that your blood is ennobled with the virtues and deserts of your ancestors. This only is yours: this only challengeth all unfeigned respect of your inferiors. Count it praise-worthy, not that you have, but that you deserve honour. Blood may be tainted: the opinion of the vulgar cannot be constant: only virtue is ever like itself; and only wins reverence, even of those that hate it: without which, greatness is as a beacon of vice, to draw men's eyes the more to behold it; and those, that see it, dare loath it, though they dare not censure it. So, while the knee bendeth, the mind abhorreth ; and telleth the body, it honours an unworthy subject : within itself, secretly, comparing that vicious great man, on whom his submiss courtesy is cast away, to some goodly fair-bound Seneca's Tragedies, that is curiously gilded without; which if a man open, he shall find Thyestes the tomb of his own children; or Oedipus the husband of his own mother; or some such monstrous part, which he, at once, reads and hates.
SECT. XX. The second remedy of overjoyed prosperity : That it exposes Let him think, that not only these outward things are not in them. selves good, but that they expose their owners to misery : for, besides that God usually punishes our over-loving them, with their loss, (because he thinks them unworthy rivals to himself, who challengeth all height of love, as his only right) so that the way to lose, is to love much; the largeness moreover either of affection or estate, makes an open way to ruin. While a man walks on plain ground, he falls not; or, if he fall, he doth but measure his length on the ground, and rise again without harm: but he, that climbeth high, is in danger of falling; and, if he fall, of killing. All the sails hoised, give vantage to a tempest; which, through the ma. riners' foresight giving timely room thereto, by their fall, deliver the vessel from the danger of that gust, whose rage now passeth over, with only beating her with waves for anger that he was prevented. So, the larger our estate is, the fairer mark hath mischief given to hit; and, which is worse, that, which makes us so easy to hit, makes our wound more deep and grievous. If poor Codrus's house burn, he stands by and warms him with the fame, because he knows it is but the loss of an outside ; which, by gathering some few sticks, straw, and clay, may, with little labour and no cost, be repaired : but, when the many lofts of the rich man do one give fire to another, he cries out one while of his countinghouse; another while, of his wardrobe: then, of some noted chest; and, straight, of some rich cabinet : and, lamenting both the frame