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who have waked in another world! we give too large scope to our account, while we reckon seven years for a Life: a shorter time will serve; while we find the revolution of less than half those years, to have dispatched five Cæsars and five Popes *. Nay, who can assure himself of the next moment ? It is our great weakness, if we do not look upon every day as our last. Why should we think ourselves in a better condition, than the Chosen Vessel, who deeply protested to die daily? i Cor. xv. 31. What a poor complaint was that of the great conqueror of the Jews, Titus Vespasian; who, putting his head out of his sick litter, querulously accused heaven, that he must die, and had not deserved it! when he might have found it guilt enough, that he was a man; and, therefore, by the very sentence of nature condemned, I know not whether to live or die. Indeed, what can we cast our eyes up
that doth not put us in mind of our frailty? All our fellowcreatures die for us, and by us. The day dies into night. The trees, and all other plants of the earth, suffer a kind of autumnal mortality. The face of that common mother of us all, doth, at the least, in winter, resemble death. But, if the Angel of Death, as the Jews term him, shall respite and reprieve us for the time; alas, how easily may we have over-lived our comforts! If death do not snatch us away from them, how many thousand means of casualties, of enemies, may snatch them away from us! He, that was the greatest man of all the sons of the East, within a few days became a spectacle and proverb of penury; which still sticks by him, and so shall do to the world's end; “ As poor as Job.” The rich plain of Jordan, which, over-night, was as the garden of the Lord, is, in the morning, covered over with brimstone, and salt, and burning; Gen. xv. 10. Deut. xxix. 23.
Wilt thou cause thine eyes to fly upon that which is not ? saith wise Solomon! Prov. xxiii. 5. for riches certainly make themselves wings : they fly away as an eagle towards heaven if we have wings of desire to fly after them, they are nimbler of flight to outstrip us; and leave us no less miserable in their loss, than we were eager in their pursuit.
As for Honour, what a mere shadow it is! Upon the least cloud interposed, it is gone; and leaves no mention where it was. The same sun sees Haman adored in the Persian Court, like some earthly deity; and, like some base vermin, waving upon his gibbet. Do we see the great, and glorious Cleopatra, shining in the pompous majesty of Egypt? stay but a while, and ye shall see her in the dust ; and her two children, whom she proudly styled the Sun and the Moon, driven, like miserable captives, before the chariot of their conqueror. Man, being in honour, abideth not, saith the Psalmist, Ps. xlix. 12. He perisheth: but his greatness, as more frail than he is oftentimes dead and buried before him; and leaves him the surviving executor of his own shame. It was easy for the captive prince, to observe in the chariot-wheel of his victor, that, when one spoke rose up, another went down; and both these in so quick a motion, that it was scarce distinguished by the eye. Well, therefore, may we say of honour, as Ludovicus Vives said of Scholastical Divinity ; Cui fumus est pro fundamento *. It is built upon smoke : how can it be kept from vanishing? As for Beauty, what is it, but a dash of nature's tincture laid
* Galba, Otho, Vitellius, Æl. Pertinax, Didius.--Anno D. 1275, 1276, Grem gor.
X. Innocent V. Hadrian V. John XX. vel XXI. Nicolaus IIL
upon the skin, which is soon washed off with a little sickness? what, but a fair blossom, that drops off so soon as the fruit offers to succeed it? what, but a flower, which, with one hot sun-gleam, weltereth and falls? He, that had the choice of a thousand faces, could say, Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vanity ; Prov. xxxi. 30.
Lastly, for Strength and Vigour of Body, if it could be maintained till our old age, alas, how soon is that upon us, ere we be aware! How doth it then shrivel our flesh, and loosen our sinews, and cripple our joints! Milo, when he looked upon his late brawny arms, and saw them now grown lank and writhled, lets fall tears; and be wrays more weakness of mind, than he had before bodily strength, But how often doth sickness prevent the debilitations of age; pulling the strongest man upon his knees; and making him confess, that youth, as well as childhood, is vanity! Eccl. xi. 1o.
As for Pleasure, it dies in the birth; and is not therefore worthy to come into this Bill of Mortality.
Do we then, upon sad consideration, see and feel the manifest Transitoriness of Life, Riches, Honour, Beauty, Strength, Pleasure, and whatever else can be dear and precious to us in this world; and can we dote upon them so, as to be too much dejected with our parting from them? Our Saviour bids us consider the lilies of the field; Matt. vi. 28: and he, that made both, tells us, that Solomon, in all his glory, was not arrayed like one of these. Surely, full well are they worth our considering. But, if those beauties could be as permanent, as they are glorious, how would they carry away our hearts with them! now, their fading condition justly abates of their value. Would we not smile at the weakness of that man, that should
weep and howl, for the falling of this tulip, or that rose; abandoning all comfort for the loss of that, which he knows must flourish but his month? It is for children, to cry for the falling of their house of cards; or the miscarriage of that painted gewgaw, which the next shower would have defaced : wise Christians know how to apprize good things according to their continuance; and can therefore set their hearts only upon the invisible comforts of a better life, as knowing that the things, which are not seen, are eternal.
(b.) But, were these earthly things exempted from that fickleness, which the God of Nature hath condemned them unto; were they, the very memory whereof perisheth with their satiety, as lasting, as they are brittle: yet, what comfort could they yield for the soul to rest in ? Alas, their Efficacy is too Short, to reach unto a True Contentation! Yea, if the best of them were perpetuated unto us, upon the fairest conditions that this earth can allow, how intolerably tedious would it prove in the fruition ! Say, that God were pleased to protract my life to the length of the age of the first founders of mankind; and should, in this state of body, add hundreds of years to the days of my pilgrimage: woe is me, how weary should I be of myself, and of the world! I, that now complain of the load of seventy-one years, how should I be tired out, ere I could arrive at the age of Parr! but, before I could climb up to the third century of Johannes de Temporibus, how often should I call for death; not to take up, but to take off my burden, and, with it, myself!
* Ludo. Vives in 3 de Civit, censurâ notatus Vallosillo,
But, if any or all these earthly blessings could be freed from those grievances, wherewith they are commonly tempered; yet, how little satisfaction could the soul find in them! What are these outward things, but very luggage, which may load our backs, but cannot lighten our hearts ? Great and wise Solomon, that had the full command of them all, cries out Vanily of vanities : and a greater monarch than he, shuts up the scene with, “ I have been all things, and am never the better." All these are of too narrow an extent, to fill the capacious soul of man; the desires whereof are enlarged with enjoying : so as, the more it hath, the less it is satisfied. Neither, indeed, can it be otherwise: the eye and the ear are but the purveyors for the heart; if, therefore, the eye be not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear with hearing, (Eccl. i. 8.) how shall the heart say, It is enough?
Now, who would suffer himself to be too much disquieted with the loss of that, which may vex him, but cannot content him? We do justly smile at the folly of that vain lord, of whom Petrarch speaks ; who, when a horse, which he dearly loved, was sick, laid that steed of his on a silken bed, with a wrought pillow under his head; and caused himself, then afflicted with the gout, to be carried on his servants' shoulders to visit that dear patient; and, upon his decease, mourned solemnly for him, as if it had been his son. We have laughed at the fashion of the girls of Holland, who, having made to themselves gay and large babies, and laid them in a curious cradle, feign them to sicken and die, and celebrate their funeral with much passion. So fond are we, if, having framed to ourselves imaginary contentments here in the world, we give way to immoderate grief in their miscarriage.
(c.) Neither are these earthly comforts more defective, in vielding full satisfaction to the soul, than Dangerous, in their Over-Dear Fruition: for too much delight in them, robs us of more solid contentments. The world is a cheating gamester; suffering us to win at the first, that at last he may go away with all
. Our very table may be made our snare; and those things, which should have been for our wealth, may be unto us an occasion of falling; Ps. Ixix. 22. Leo, the fourth emperor of Constantinople, delighted extremely in precious stones: with these he embellishes his crown, which, be ing worn close to his temples, strikes such a cold into his head, that causeth his bane. Yea, how many, with the too much love of
these outward things, have lost, not their lives only, but their souls! No man can be at once the favourite of God and the world; as that Father said truly: or, as our Saviour, in fuller terms, No man can serve two masters, God and Mammon. Shortly, the world may be a dangerous enemy : sure friend, it cannot be.
If, therefore, we shall, like wise men, value things at their due prices, since we are convinced in ourselves, that all these earthly comforts are so Transitory in their Nature, so Unsatisfying in their Use, and so Dangerous in their Enjoying, how little reason have we, to be too much affected with foregoing them! Our blood is dear to us, as that, wherein our life is ; yet, if we find that it is either infected or distempered, we do willingly part with it, in hope of better health : how much more, with those things, which are farther from us, and less concerning us !
[2.] The Second Consideration is, of that All-wise Providence which ordereth all events, both in heaven and earth; allotting to every creature his due proportion; so over-ruling all things to the best, that we could not want, if he knew it better for us to abound. This station he hath set us in, this measure he hath shared out to us, whose will is the rule of good : what we have therefore, cannot but be best for us.
The world is a large chess-board : every man hath his place assigned him: one is a King; another, a Knight; another, a Pawn; and each hath his several motion : without this variety, there could be no game played. A skilful player will not stir one of these chips, but with intention of an advantage: neither should any of his men either stand or move, if, in any other part of that chequer, it might be in more hope to win.
There is no estate in this world, which can be universally good for all. One man's meat may be another man's medicine, and a third man's poison. A Turk finds health and temper in that opium, which would put one of us into our last sleep: Should the ploughman be set to the gentleman's fare, this chicken, that partridge or pheasant, would, as over-slight food, be too soon turned over; and leave his empty stomach, to quarrel for stronger provision : beef is for his diet; and, if any sauce needs besides his hunger, garlic. Every man bath, as a body, so a mind of his own: what one loves is abhorred of another.
The great Housekeeper of the World knows how to fit every palate with that, which either is or should be agreeable to it, for salubrity, if not for pleasure. Lay before a child, a knife and a rod, and bid him take his choice, his hand will be straight upon that edgetool, especially if it be a little gilded and glittering; but the parent knows the rod to be more safe for him, and more beneficial. We are ill-carvers for ourselves : he, that made us, knows what is fit for us; either for time, or measure: without his Providence, not a hair can fall from our heads.
We would have bodily health : I cannot blame us : what is the world to us, without it?'he, whose we are, knows sickness to be for the health of the soul: whether should we, in true judgment, desire? We wish to live : who can blame us? life is sweet : but, if our Maker have ordained, that nothing but death can sender us glorious, what madness is it to stick at the condition!
Oh, our gross infidelity, if we do not believe that great Arbiter of the World, infinitely wise to know what is best for us, infinitely merciful to will what he knows best, infinitely powerful to do what he will! And, if we be thus persuaded, how can we, but, in matter of good, say with Blessed Mary, Behold thy servant : be it unto me according to thy word? and, in matter of evil, with good Eli, It is the Lord, let him do what he will ?
[3.] In the Third place, it will be requisite for us, to cast our eyes upon the Worse Condition of Others, perhaps better deserving than ourselves : for, if we shall whine and complain of that weight, which others do run away cheerfully withal, the fault will appear to be, not in the heaviness of the load, but in the weakness of the bearer.
If I be discontented with a mean dwelling, another man lives merrily in a thatched cottage: if I dislike my plain fare, the four captive children feed fair and fat with pulse and water; Dan. i. 12, 13: if I be plundered of my rich suits, I see a more cheerful heart under a russet coat, than great princes have under purple robes : if I do gently languish upon my sick bed, I see others patiert under the torments of the cholic, or stone, or strangury: if I be clapped up within four walls, I hear Petronius profess, he would rather be in prison with Cato, than at liberty with Cæsar; I hear Paul and Silas sing like nightingales in their cages: am I sad, because I am childless? I hear many a parent wish himself so: am I banished from my home? I meet with many, of whom the world was not worthy, wandering about in sheep-skins, in goat-skins, in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of earth; Heb. xi. 38: what am I, that I should speed better, than the miserablest of these patients? what had they done, that they should fare worse than 1? If I have little, others have less: if I feel pain, some others torture: if their sufferings be just, my forbearances are merciful; my provisions, to theirs, libera).
It is no ill counsel therefore, and not a little conducing to a contented want, that great persons should sometimes step aside into the homely cottages of the poor; and see their mean stuff
, coarse fare, hard lodgings, worthless utensils, miserable shifts; and to compare it with their own delicate and nauseating superfluities. Our great and learned king Alfred was the better, all his life after, for his hidden retiredness in a poor neat-herd's cabbin; where he was sheltered, and sometimes also chidden, by that homely dame. Neither was it an ill wish of that wise man, That all great princes might first have some little taste, what it is to want; that so their own experience might render them more sensible of the complaints of others.
Man, though he be absolute in himself, and stand upon his own bottom; yet is he not a little wrought upon by examples, and comparisons with others : for, in them, he sees what he is, or may