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of choice, which is befallen thee upon need: some, out of the grounds of philosophy; others, of religion !
Attalus, the philosopher, might have lain soft ; yet he calls for and praises the bed and pillow, that will not yield to his body * : and Nero's great and rich master brags of his usual dining without a tablet.
What should I tell then of the Pharisees' uneasy couches and penal garments ? of the mats of the elect Manichees? of the austere usages of the ancient Eremitical Christians ? their rigorous abstinences, their affamishing meals, their nightly watchings, their cold ground-lyings, their sharp disciplines?
Thou art in ease and delicacy, in comparison of these men, who voluntarily imposed upon themselves these hardnesses, which thou wouldst be loth to undergo from others' cruelty.
It was a strange word of Epicurus, the philosopher, not savouring of more contentment than presumption: “Give us but water, give us but barley-meal, and we shall vie with Jupiter himself for happiness I :” and if this Ethnic, who was in an isl name for affectation of pleasure, could rest so well pleased with a poor mess of water-gruel; what a shame were it for us Christians, not to be well apaid with a much larger, though but homely, provision !
COMFORTS AGAINST IMPRISONMENT.
The nature and power of true liberty. Thou art restrained of thy liberty :- I cannot blame thee to be sensible of the affliction. Liberty is wont to hold competition for dearness, with life itself: yea, how many have lost their life, to purchase their liberty !
But, take heed, lest thou be either mistaken, or guilty of thine own complaint: for, certainly, thou canst not be bereaved of thy liberty, except thou wilt. Liberty is a privilege of the will: will is a sovereign power, that is not subject to either restraint or constraint. Hast thou, therefore, a freedom within ; a full scope to thine own thoughts ? It is not the cooping up of these outward parts, that can make thee a Prisoner.
Thou art not worthy of the name of a man, if thou thinkest this body to be thyself: and that is only it, which human power can reach unto.
* Sen. Epist. 108.
+ Epist. 83.
Epic. in Ep. Sen. 110.
Besides, art thou a Christian ? then thou hast learned to submit thy will to God's: God's will is declared in his actions ; for, sure, what he doth, that he wills to do. If his will be then to have thee restrained, why should it not be thine? And, if it be thy will to keep in, what dost thou complain of restraint ?
The sad objects of a free beholder's eye. Thou art restrained :- Is it such a matter, that thou art not suffered to come abroad? How ill hast thou spent thy time, if thou hast not laid up matter, both of employment and contentment, in thine own bosom!
And what such goodly pleasure were it for thee, to look over the world, and to behold those objects which thine
shall there meet withal: here, men fighting; there, women and children wailing : here, plunders; there, riots : here, fields of blood; there, towns and cities flaming: here, some scuffling for patrimonies; there, others wrangling for religion: here, some famishing for want; there, others abusing their fulness : here, schisms and heresies; there, rapines and sacrileges! What comfortable spectacles these are, to attract or please our eyes ! Thy closeness frees thee from these sights; the very thought whereof is enough to make a man miserable: and, instead of them, presents thee only with the face of thy keeper, which custom, and necessity, hath acquitted from thy first horror.
The invisible company, that cannot be kept from us. Thou art shut up close within four walls, and all company is secluded from thee :-Content thyself, my son: God and his angels cannot be kept out: thou hast better company in thy solitude, than thy liberty afforded thee. The jollity of thy freedom robbed thee of the conversation of these spiritual companions, which only can render thee happy: they, which before were strangers to thee, are now thy guests; yea, thy inmates, if the fault be not thine, to dwell with thee in that forced retiredness.
What if the light be shut out from thee? This cannot hinder thee from seeing the Invisible: The darkness hideth not from thee; saith the Psalmist; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to thce ; Ps. cxxxix. 12.
Yea, I doubt not to say, God hath never been so clearly seen, as in the darkest dungeons; for the outward light of prosperity distracts our visive beams, which are strongly contracted in a deep ob
scurity. He must descend low, and be compassed with darkness, that would see the glorious lights of heaven by day : they ever shine; but are not seen, save in the night.
May thine eyes be blessed with this invisible sight, thou shalt not envy those that glitter in court, and that look daily upon the faces of kings and princes; yea, though they could see all that the Tempter represented to the view of our Saviour upon the highest mountain ; all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them.
SECT. 4. The inward disposition of the prisoner. Thou art forced to keep close :-But with what disposition, both of mind and body? If thou hadst an unquiet and burdened soul, it were not the open and free air, that could refresh thee; and if thou have a clear and light heart, it is not a strict closeness, that can dismay thee: thy thoughts can keep thee company, and cheer up thy solitariness. If thou hadst an unsound and painful body; as, if thou wert laid up of the gout, or some rupture, or luxation of some limb; thou wouldst not complain to keep in: thy pain would make thee insensible of the trouble of thy confinement: But, if God have favoured thee with health of body, how easily mayest thou digest a harmless limitation of thy person !
A wise man, as Laurentius the Presbyter observed well, doth much while he rests: his motions are not so beneficial, as his sitting still. So mayest thou bestow the hours of thy close retiredness, that thou mayest have cause to bless God for so happy an opportunity
How memorable an instance hath our age yielded us, of an eminent person *, to whose encagement we are beholden, besides many philosophical experiments, for that noble History of the World, which is now in our hands! The Court had his youthful and freer times; the Tower, his later age: the Tower reformed the Court in him; and produced those worthy monuments of art and industry, which we should have in vain expected from his freedom and jollity. It is observed, that shining wood, when it is kept within doors, loseth its light. It is otherwise with this and many other active wits, which had never shined so much, if not for their closeness.
SECT. 5. The willing choice of retiredness in some persons. Thou art close shut up :- I have seen anchorites, that have sued for this as a favour, which thou esteemest a punishment; and, haying obtained it, have placed merit in that wherein thou apprehendest misery. Yea, our History tells us of one, who, when the church, whereto his cell was annexed, was on fire, would not come out to live; but would die, and lie buried under the ashes of that roof, where his vow had fixed him. Suppose thou dost that out of the resolution of thine own will, which thou dost out of another's necessitating, and thou shalt sit down contented with thy lot.
* Sir Walter Raleigh.
The causes of imprisonment. Thou art imprisoned :—Wise men are wont, in all actions and events, to enquire still into the causes. Wherefore dost thou suffer?
Is it for thy fault? Make thou thy gaol God's Correction-House for reforming of thy misdeeds. Remember, and imitate Manasseh, the evil son of a good father; who, upon true humiliation, by his just imprisonment, found a happy expiation of his horrible idolatries, murders, witchcrafts; whose bonds brought him home to God and himself.
Is it for debt? Think not to pay those who have entrusted thee, with a lingering durance, if there be power in thy hand for a discharge: there is fraud, and injustice, in this closeness : fear thou a worse prison, if thou wilt needs wilfully live and die in a just indebtment, when thou mayest be at once free and honest : stretch thine ability to the utmost, to satisfy others with thine own impoverishing. But, if the hand of God hath humbled and disabled thee, labour what thou canst to make thy peace with thy creditors : if they will needs be cruel, look up with patience to the hand of that God, who thinks fit to afflict thee with their unreasonableness; and make the same good use of thy sufferings, which thou wouldst do from the immediate hand of thy Creator.
If it be for a good cause, rejoice in this tribulation; and be holily proud and glad, with the blessed Apostles, that thou art counted worthy to suffer shame and bonds for the name of the Lord Jesus ; Acts v. 41: for every just cause is his: neither is he less a martyr, that suffers for his conscience in any of God's commandments, than he who suffers for matter of faith and religion. Remember that cordial word of thy Saviour, Blessed are they, that are persecuted for righteousness' sake'; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
In such a prison, thou shalt be sure to find good company. There, thou shalt find Joseph, Micaiah, Jeremiah, John Baptist, Peter, Paul and Silas, and (what should I think of the poll ?) all the holy Martyrs and Confessors of Jesus Christ, from the first plantation of the Gospel to this present day. Repent thee, if thou canst, to be thus matched; and choose rather to violate a good conscience and be free, than to keep it under a momentary restraint.
The goodness of retiredness ; and the partnership of the soul's impri
sonment. Thou art a prisoner :-Make the best of thy condition: close air is warmer than open: and how ordinarily do we hear birds sing sweeter notes in their cages, than they could do in the wood! It shall be thine own fault, if thou be not bettered by thy retiredness.
Thou art a prisoner :-so is thy soul in thy body: there, not restrained only, but fettered; yet complains not of the straitness of these clay walls or the weight of these bonds, but patiently waits for a happy gaol-delivery. So do thou attend, with all long-suffering, the good hour of the pleasure of thy God. Thy period is set, not without a regard to thy good; yea, to thy best. He, in whose hand are all times, shall find and hath determined a fit time, to free both thy body from these outward prison-walls, and thy soul from this prison of thy body; and to restore both body and soul from the bondage of corruption, to the glorious liberty of the sons of God; Rom. viii. 21.
COMFORTS AGAINST BANISHMENT.
SECT. 1. The universality of a wise man's country. Thou art banished from thy country :-Beware lest, in thy complaining, thou censure thyself
. A wise man's country is every where. What such relation bath the place, wherein thou wert born, to thy present being? What, more than the time, wherein thou wert born? What reason hast thou to be more addicted to the region, wherein thou fellest, than to the day of the week, or hour of the day, in which thou salutedst the light? What are times and places of our birth, but unconcerning circumstances? Wherever thou farest well, thou mayest either find or make thy country.
“ But,” thou sayest, "there is a certain secret property in our native soil, that draws our affection to it; and ties our hearts to it, not without a pleasing kind of delight, whereof no reason can be yielded : so as we affect the place, not because it is better than others, but it is because it is our own *. Ulysses doth no less value the rocky soil of his hard and barren Ithaca, than Agamemnon doth the noble walls of his rich and pleasant Mycenæ.”
* Sen. Ep. 66.