« AnteriorContinua »
therein the conscience, filling us with heavenly delight, maketh sweet triumphs in itself, as being now the lord of his own dominions, and knowing what to trust to. No man knows the pleasure of this thought, “I have done well,” but he that hath felt it: and he, that hath felt it, contemus all pleasure to it. It is a false slander raised on Christianity, that it maketh men dumpish and melancholic: for therefore are we heavy, because we are not enough Christians. We have religion enough, to mislike pleasures; not enough, to overcome them. But, if we be once conquerors over ourselves, and have devoted ourselves wholly to God, there can be nothing but heavenly mirth in the soul. Lo here, ye Philosophers, the true music of heaven, which the good heart continually heareth; and answers it, in the just measures of joy. Others may talk of mirth, as a thing they have heard of, or vainly fancied: only the Christian feels it; and, in comparison thereof, scorneth the idle, ribaldish, and scurrilous mirth of the profane.
SECT. XXIV. 2. Rule for our actions: To do nothing doubtingly. AND this resolution, which we call for, must not only exclude manifestly evil actions; but also doubting and suspension of mind, in actions suspected and questionable: wherein the judgment must ever give confident determination one way. For this Tranquillity consisteth in a steadiness of the mind: and how can that vessel, which is beaten upon by contrary waves and winds, and tottereth to either part, be said to keep a steady course? Resolution is the only mother of security.
For instance*: I see, that Usury, which was wont to be condemned for no better than a legal theft, hath now obtained, with many, the reputation of an honest trade; and is both used by many, and by some defended. It is pity, that a bad practice should find any learned or religious patron. The sum of my patrimony lieth dead by me, sealed up in the bag of my father: my thriftier friends advise me to this easy and sure improvement: their counsel and my gain prevail : my yearly sums come in with no cost but of time, wax, parchment: my estate likes it well; better than my conscience; which tells me still, he doubts, my trade is too easy to be honest. Yet I continue my illiberal course, not without some scruple and contradiction: so as my fear of
* Usury, in the author's days, denoted any advantage whatever made by lending money. This was condemned by the Canons of the Church, probably in imitalion of the Jewish Law, by which all profit made by lending, except to strangers, vas forbidden; (Deut. xxiii. 20.) Since a certain gain has been allowed by law, the word has grown into a bad sense, to denote unlawful gain, or that which exceeds the legal allowance. The prohibition to the Jews was peculiarly adapted, and we may therefore suppose intended, to preserve them a distinct people ; but among us, where the borrower makes gain by the money he borrows, it seems most truly equitable that the lender should have a reasonable share in that gain.
offence hinders the joy of my profit, and the pleasure of my gain heartens me against the fear of injustice. I would be rich with ease and yet I would not be uncharitable; I would not be unjust. All the while I live in unquiet doubts and distraction: others are not so much entangled in my bonds, as I in my own. At last, that I may be both just and quiet, I conclude to refer this case wholly to the sentence of my inward judge, the Conscience: the advo cates, Gain and Justice, plead on either part at this bar, with doubtful success. Gain informs the judge of a new and nice distinction; of toothless, and biting Interest: and brings precedents of particular cases of Usury, so far from any breach of charity or justice, that both parts therein confess themselves advantaged. Justice pleads even the most toothless usury to have sharp gums; and finds, in the most harmless and profitable practice of it, an insensible wrong to the common body; besides the infinite wrecks of private estates. The weak judge suspends, in such probable allegations; and demurreth: as being overcome of both, and of neither part and leaves me yet no whit more quiet; no whit less uncertain. I suspend my practice, accordingly; being sure, it is good not to do, what I am not sure is good to be done and now Gain solicits me as much, as Justice did before. Betwixt both, I live troublesomely nor ever shall do other, till, in a resolute detestation, I have whipped this evil merchant out of the temple of my heart. This rigour is my peace: before, I could not be well, either full or fasting: uncertainty is much pain, even in a more tolerable action.
Neither is it, I think, easy to determine, whether it be worse to do a lawful act with doubting, or an evil with resolution: since that, which in itself is good, is made evil to me by my doubt: and what is in nature evil, is in this one point not evil to me, that I do it upon a verdict of a conscience: so now my judgment offends in not following the truth: I offend not, in that I follow my judgment. Wherein, if the most wise God had left us to rove only according to the aim of our own conjectures, it should have been less faulty to be sceptics in our actions, and either not to judge at all, or to judge amiss: but, now that he hath given us a perfect, rule of eternal equity and truth, whereby to direct the sentences of our judgment; that uncertainty, which alloweth no peace to us, will afford us no excuse before the tribunal of heaven: wherefore, then only is the heart quiet, when our actions are grounded upon judgment, and our judgment upon truth.
Rules for Estate: 1. Reliance upon the providence of God. FOR his Estate, the quiet mind must first roll itself upon the vidence of the Highest: for, whosoever so casts himself upon these outward things, that in their prosperous estate he rejoiceth, and, contrarily, is cast down in their miscarriage; I know not whether he shall find more uncertainty of rest, or more certainty of un
quietness: since he must needs be like a light unballasted vessel, that rises and falls with every wave, and depends only on the mercy of wind and water. But, who relies on the inevitable decree and all-seeing providence of God, which can neither be crossed with second thoughts nor with events unlooked for, lays a sure ground of Tranquillity. Let the world toss how it list, and vary itself, as it ever doth, in storms and calms; his rest is pitched aloft, above the sphere of changeable mortality.
To begin, is harder than to prosecute: what counsel had God, in the first moulding of thee in the womb of thy mother! What aid shall he have, in repairing thee from the womb of the earth? And, if he could make and shall restore thee without thee, why shall he not much more, without thy endeavour, dispose of thee? Is God wise enough to guide the heavens, and to produce all creatures in their kinds and seasons ? and shall he not be able to order thee alone?
Thou sayest, “ I have friends; and, which is my best friend, I have wealth, to make both them and me; and wit, to put both to best use." () the broken reeds of human confidence! Who ever trusted on friends, that could trust to himself? Who ever was so wise, as not sometimes to be a fool in his own conceit; ofttimes in the conceit of others? Who was ever more discontent, than the wealthy ? Friends may be false: wealth cannot but be deceitful: wit hath made many fools. Trust thou to that, which, if thou wouldest, cannot fail thee.
Not that thou desirest shall come to pass ; but that which God hath decreed. Neither thy fears, nor thy hopes, nor vows shall either foreslow or alter it. The unexperienced passenger, when he sees the vessel go amiss or too far, lays fast hold on the contrary part, or on the mast, for remedy: the pilot laughs at his folly; knowing, that, whatever he labours, the bark will go which way the wind and his stern directeth it
. Thy goods are embarked : now thou wishest a direct north-wind, to drive thee to the Straits; and then a west, to run in: and now, when thou hast emptied and laded again, thou callest as earnestly for the south and south-east, to return; and lowrest, if all these answer thee not: as if heaven and earth had nothing else to do, but to wait upon thy pleasure; and served only, to be commanded service by thee. Another, that hath contrary occasion, asks for winds quite opposite to thine. He, that sits in heaven, neither fits thy fancy nor his: but bids his winds spit sometimes in thy face; sometimes, to favour thee with a side blast; sometimes, to be boisterous; otherwhile, to be silent, at his own pleasure. Whether the mariner sing or curse, it shall go, whither it is sent. Strive or lie still, thy destiny shall run on; and, what must be, shall be. Not that we should hence exclude benefit of means, which are always necessarily included in this wise preordination of all things; but perplexity of cares, and wrestling with Providence. Oh, the idle and ill-spent cares of curious men, that consult with stars and spirits for their destinies, under colour of prevention! If it be not thy destiny; why wouldst thou know
it; what needst thou resist it? If it be thy destiny; why wouldst thou know that thou caust not prevent That, which God hath decreed, is already done in heaven, and must be done on earth. This kind of expectation doth but hasten slow evils, and prolong them in their continuance; hasten them, not in their event, but in our conceit. Shortly then, if thou swimmest against the stream of this Providence, thou canst not escape drowning: every wave turns thee over, like a porpoise before a tempest: but, if thou swimmest with the stream, do but cast thine arms abroad, thou passest with safety and with ease: it both bears thee up, and carries thee on to the liaven, whither God hath determined thine arrival,
The second rule for estate. A persuasion of the goodness and fitness of it for us.
NEXT to this, the mind of the unquiet man must be so wrought by these former resolutions, that it be throughly persuaded, the estate, wherein he is, is best of all; if not in itself, yet to him? not out of pride, but out of contentment: which whosoever wanteth, cannot but be continually vexed with envy, and racked with ambition. Yea, if it were possible to be in heaven without this, he could not be happy for it is as impossible, for the mind at once to long after and enjoy, as for a man to feed and sleep at once.
And this is the more to be striven for, because we are all naturally prone to afflict ourselves with our own frowardness: ungratefully contemning all we have, for what we would have. Even the best of the Patriarchs could say, O Lord, what wilt thou give me, since I go childless?
The bond-man desires now, nothing but liberty: that alone would make him happy. Once free, forgetting his former thought, he wishes some wealth to make use of his freedom; and says, "It were as good be straited in place, as in ability." Once rich, he longeth after nobility; thinking it no praise to be a wealthy peasant. Once noble, he begins to deem it a base matter to be subject: nothing can now content him but a crown. Then, it is a small matter to rule, so long as he hath but little dominions, and greater neighbours: he would, therefore, be an universal monarch. Whither then? surely it vexeth him as much, that the earth is so small a globe, so little a molehill; and that there are no more worlds to conquer. And, now that he hath attained the highest dignity amongst men, he would needs be a God, conceits his immortality, erects temples to his own name, commands his dead statues to be adored; and, not thus contented, is angry that he 'cannot command heaven, and control nature.
O vain fools! whither doth our restless ambition climb? What shall be at length the period of our wishes? I could not blame these desires, if contentment consisted in having much: but, now that he only hath much, that hath contentment, and that it is as easily obtained in a low estate, I can account of these thoughts no better than proudly foolish.
Thou art poor: what difference is there betwixt a greater man and thee; save that he doth his businesses by others; thou doest them thyself? He hath caters, cooks, bailiffs, stewards, secretaries, and all other officers for his several services: thou providest, dressest, gatherest, receivest, expendest, writest for thyself. His patrimony is large: thine earnings small. If Briareus feed fifty bellies with his hundred hands; what is he the better, than he that with two hands feedeth one? He is served in silver: thou in a vessel of the same colour, of lesser price; as good for use, though not for value. His dishes are more dainty; thine as well relished to thee, and no less wholesome. He eats olives, thou garlic: he mislikes not more the smell of thy sauce, than thou dost the taste of his. Thou wantest somewhat, that he hath: he wisheth something, which thou hast, and regardest not. Thou couldst be content to have the rich man's purse; but his gout thou wouldst not have: he would have thy health; but not thy fare.
If we might pick out of all men's estates, that which is laudable, omitting the inconveniences, we would make ourselves complete: but, if we must take altogether, we should perhaps little advantage ourselves with the change: for the most wise God hath so proportioned out every man's condition, that he hath some just cause of sorrow inseparably mixed with other contentments, and hath allotted to no man living an absolute happiness, without some grievances; nor to any man such an exquisite misery, as that he findeth not somewhat wherein to solace himself: the weight whereof varies, according to our estimation of them. One hath much wealth, but no child to inherit it: he envies at the poor man's fruitfulness, which hath many heirs, and no lands; and could be content, with all his abundance to purchase a successor of his own loins. Another hath many children, little maintenance: he commendeth the careless quietness of the barren; and thinks fewer mouths and more meat would do better. The labouring man hath the blessing of a strong body; fit to digest any fare, to endure any labour: yet he wisheth himself weaker, on condition he might be wealthier. The man of nice education hath a feeble stomach; and, rasping since his last meal, doubts, whether he should eat of his best dish, or nothing: this man repines at nothing more, than to see his hungry ploughman feed on a crust; and wisheth to change estates, on condition he might change bodies with him,
Say, that God should give thee thy wish: what wouldst thou desire: "Let me," thou sayest, "be wise, healthful, rich, honourable, strong, learned, beautiful, immortal." I know thou lovest thyself so well, that thou canst wish all these and more.
But say, that God hath so shared out these gifts, by a most wise and just distribution, that thou canst have but some of these; perhaps, but one: which wouldst thou single out for thyself? Any thing, beside what thou hast: if learned, thou wouldst be strong; if strong, honourable; if honourable, long lived. Some of these thou art already.
Thou fool! cannot God chuse better for thee, than thou for thy