Sidor som bilder



Censure of Philosophers. When I had studiously read over the moral writings of some wise heathen, especially those of the Stoical profession, I must confess, I found a little envy and pity striving together within me. I envied nature in them, to see her so witty in devising such plausible refuges for doubting and troubled minds : I pitied them, to see that their careful disquisition of true rest led them, in the end, but to mere unquietness. Wherein, methought, they were as hounds swift of foot, but not exquisite in scent; which, in a hasty pursuit, take a wrong way; spending their mouths and courses in vain. Their praise of guessing wittily they shall not lose: their hopes, both they lost and whosoever follows them,

If Seneca could have had grace to his wit, what wonders would he have done in this kind! What divine might not have yielded him the chair, for precepts of tranquillity, without any disparagement ? As he was, this he hath gained-never any heathen wrote more divinely; never any philosopher more probably.

Neither would I ever desire better master, if, to this purpose, I needed no other mistress than nature. But this, in truth, is a task which nature hath never, without presumption, undertaken; and never performed, without much imperfection : like to those vain and wandering empirics, which, in tables and pictures, make great ostentation of cures; never approving their skill to their credulous patients. And if she could have truly effected it alone, I know not what employment in this life she should have left for grace to busy herself about, nor what privilege it should have been here below to be a Christian : since this, that we seek, is the noblest work of the soul; and in which alone consists the only heaven of this world : this is the sum of all human desires; which when we have attained, then only we begin to live, and are sure we cannot thenceforth live miserably. No marvel then, if all the heathen have diligently sought after it, many wrote of it, none attained it. Not Athens must teach this lesson, but Jerusalem.

SECTION II. What Tranquillity is, and wherein it consists. Yer something grace scorneth not to learn of nature; as Moses may take good counsel of a Midianite.

Nature hath ever had more skill in the end, than in the way to it; and, whether she have discoursed of the good estate of the mind, which we call tran

quillity, or the best, which is happiness, hath more happily guessed at the general definition of them, than of the means to compass them.

She teacheth us therefore, without controlment, that the tranquillity of the mind is, as of the sea and weather, when no wind stirreth, when the waves do not tumultuously rise and fall upon each other ; but when the face, both of the heaven and waters, is still, fair, and equable: that it is such an even disposition of the heart, wherein the scales of the mind neither rise up towards the beam, through their own lightness, or the overweening opinion of prosperity, nor are too much depressed with any load of sorrow; but hanging equal and unmoved betwixt both, give a man liberty in all occurrences to enjoy himself.

Not that the most temperate mind can be so the master of his passions, as not sometimes to over-joy his grief, or over-grieve his joy, according to the contrary occasions of both : for not the evenest weights, but at their first putting into the balance somewhat sway both parts thereof, not without some show of inequality; which yet, after some little motion, settle themselves in a meet poise. It is enough, that, after some sudden agitation, it can return to itself; and rest itself, at last, in a resolved peace.

And this due composedness of mind we require unto our tranquillity, not for some short fits of good mood, which soon after end in discontentment, but with the condition of perpetuity: for there is no heart makes so rough weather, as not sometimes to admit of a calm; and, whether for that he knoweth no present cause of his trouble, or for that he knoweth that cause of trouble is countervailed

with as great an occasion of private joy, or for that the multitude of evils hath bred carelessness, the man that is most disordered finds some respites of quietness. The balances that are most ill matched in their unsteady motions, come to an equality, but stay not at it. The frantic man cannot avoid the imputation of madness, though he be sober for many moons, if he rage in one.

So then, the calm mind must be settled in an habitual rest : not then firm, when there is nothing to shake it; but then least shaken when it is most assailed.


Insufficiency of human precepts.- Seneca's rules of

Tranquillity abridged.Rejected as insufficient.

Disposition of the work. WHENCE easily appears, how vainly it hath been sought, either in such a constant estate of outward things, as should give no distaste to the mind, while all earthly things vary with the weather, and have no stay but in uncertainty; or in the natural temper of the soul, so ordered by human wisdom as that it should not be affected with any casual events to either part : since that cannot ever, by natural power, be held like to itself; but one while is cheerful, stirring, and ready to undertake; another while, drowsy, dull, comfortless, prone to rest, weary of itself, loathing his own purposes, his own resolutions.

In both which, since the wisest philosophers have grounded all the rules of their tranquillity, it is

« FöregåendeFortsätt »