Page images
PDF
EPUB

man) cum dignitate otium. This was ex- died the noble martyr of ceremony and cellent advice to Joshua, who could bid gentility.—Essays.

the sun stay too. But there is no fooling with life, when it is once turned beyond forty: the seeking for a fortune then is but a desperate after-game; it is a hundred to one if a man fling two sixes, and recover all; especially if his hand be no luckier than mine.

There is some help for all the defects of fortune; for if a man cannot attain to the length of his wishes, he may have his remedy by cutting of them shorter. Epicurus writes a letter to Idomeneus (who was then a very powerful, wealthy, and, it seems, bountiful person), to recommend to him, who had made so many men rich, one Pythocles, a friend of his, whom he desired might be made a rich man too, "but I entreat you that you would not do it just the same way as you have done to many less deserving persons; but in the most gentlemanly manner of obliging him, which is, not to add anything to his estate, but to take something from his desires."

The sum of this is, that for the uncertain hopes of some conveniences, we ought not to defer the execution of a work that is necessary; especially when the use of those things which we would stay for may otherwise be supplied, but the loss of time never recovered; nay, farther yet, though we were sure to obtain all that we had a mind to, though we were sure of getting never so much by continuing the game, yet, when the light of life is so near going out, and ought to be so precious, "le jeu ne vaut pas la chandelle "-[the play is not worth the expense of the candle]; after having been long tossed in a tempest, if our masts be standing, and we have still sail and tackling enough to carry us to our port, it is no matter for the want of streamers and top-gallants: 66 utere velis, Totos pande sinus."

A gentleman, in our late civil wars, when his quarters were beaten up by the enemy, was taken prisoner, and lost his life afterwards, only by staying to put on a band and adjust his periwig: he would escape like a person of quality, or not at all, and

is

[WILLIAM PENN. 1644-1718.]

PRIDE OF BIRTH.

WHAT matter is it of whom any one descended, that is not of ill fame; since 'tis his own virtue that must raise, or vice depress him? An ancestor's character is no excuse to a man's ill actions, but an aggravation of his degeneracy; and, since virtue comes not by generation, I neither am the better nor the worse for my forefather: to be sure, not in God's account; nor should it be in man's. Nobody would endure injuries the easier, or reject favours the more, for coming by the hand of a man well or ill descended. I confess it were greater honour to have had no blots, and with an hereditary estate to have had a lineal descent of worth: but that was never found; no, not in the most blessed of families upon earth; I mean Abraham's. To be descended of wealth and titles, fills no man's head with brains, or heart with truth; those qualities come from a higher cause. 'Tis vanity, then, and most condemnable pride, for a man of bulk and character to despise another of less size in the world, and of meaner alliance, for want of them; because the latter may have the merit, where the former has only the effects of it in an ancestor: and though the one be great by means of a forefather, the other is so too, but 'tis by his own; then, pray, which is the bravest man of the two?

"O," says the person proud of blood, "it was never a good world since we have had so many upstart gentlemen!" But what should others have said of that man's ancestor, when he started first up into the knowledge of the world? For he, and all men and families, ay, and all states and kingdoms too, have had their upstarts, that is, their beginnings. This is like being the True Church, because old, not because good; for families to be noble by being old, and not by being virtuous. No such matter: it must be age in virtue, or else virtue before age; for otherwise a

man should be noble by means of his predecessor, and yet the predecessor less noble than he, because he was the acquirer; which is a paradox that will puzzle all their heraldry to explain. Strange that they should be more noble than their ancestor, that got their nobility for them! But if this be absurd, as it is, then the upstart is the noble man; the man that got it by his virtue: and those only are entitled to his honour that are imitators of his virtue; the rest may bear his name from his blood, but that is all. If virtue, then, give nobility, which heathens themselves agree, then families are no longer truly noble than they are virtuous. And if virtue go not by blood, but by the qualifications of the descendants, it follows, blood is then of more than ordinary virtue, whose examples have given light to their families. And

consider with me how many do, even at this very time, lie under the torment of the stone, the gout, and toothache; and this we are free from. And every misery that I miss is a new mercy; and therefore let us be thankful. There have been, since we met, others that have met disasters of broken limbs; some have been blasted, others thunder-strucken ; and we have been freed from these and all those many other miseries that threaten human nature: let us therefore rejoice and be thankful. Nay, which is a far greater mercy, we are free from the insupportable burden of an accusing, tormenting conscience-a misery that none can bear; and therefore let us praise Him for His preventing grace, and say, Every misery that I miss is a new mercy. Nay, let me tell you, there be many that have forty times our estates, that would give the greatest part of it to be healthful and cheerful like us, who, with the expense of a little money, have ate and drank, and laughed, and angled, and sung, and slept securely; and rose next day, and cast away care, and sung, and laughed, and angled again, which are blessings

it has been something natural for some of their descendants to endeavour to keep up the credit of their houses in proportion to the merit of their founder. And, to say true, if there be any advantage in such descent, 'tis not from blood, but education; for blood has no intelligence in it, and is often spurious and un-rich men cannot purchase with all their certain; but education has a mighty influence and strong bias upon the affections and actions of men.-No Cross, no Crown.

[ISAAK WALTON. 1593-1683.] PISCATOR'S

THANKFULNESS FOR WORLDLY BLESSINGS. "WELL, scholar, having now taught you to paint your rod, and we having still a mile to Tottenham High Cross, I will, as we walk towards it in the cool shade of this sweet honeysuckle hedge, mention to you some of the thoughts and joys that have possessed my soul since we met together. And these thoughts shall be told you, that you also may join with me in thankfulness to the Giver of every good and perfect gift for our happiness. And that our present happiness may appear to be the greater, and we the more thankful for it, I will beg you to

money. Let me tell you, scholar, I have a rich neighbour that is always so busy that he has no leisure to laugh; the whole business of his life is to get money, and more money, that he may still get more and more money; he is still drudging on, and says that Solomon says, "The hand of the diligent maketh rich; " and it is

true indeed: but he considers not that it is not in the power of riches to make a man happy for it was wisely said by a man of great observation, "That there be as many miseries beyond riches as on this side them." And yet God deliver us from pinching poverty, and grant that, having a competency, we may be content and thankful! Let us not repine, or so much as think the gifts of God unequally dealt, if we see another abound with riches, when as God knows the cares that are the keys that keep those riches hang often so heavily at the rich man's girdle, that they clog him with weary days and restless nights, even when others sleep

quietly. We see but the outside of the
rich man's happiness; few consider him
to be like the silkworm, that, when she
seems to play, is at the very same time
spinning her own bowels, and consuming
herself; and this many rich men do,
loading themselves with corroding cares,
to keep what they have probably uncon-
scionably got. Let us
therefore be
thankful for health and competence, and,
above all, for a quiet conscience.
Let not the blessings we receive daily
from God make us not to value, or not
praise Him, because they be common; let
us not forget to praise Him for the inno-
cent mirth and pleasure we have met with
since we met together. What would a
blind man give to see the pleasant rivers,
and meadows, and flowers, and fountains
that we have met with since we met to-
gether? I have been told, that if a man
that was born blind could obtain to have
his sight for but only one hour during his
whole life, and should, at the first opening
of his eyes, fix his sight upon the sun when
it was in his full glory, either at the rising
or setting of it, he would be so trans-
ported and amazed, and so admire the
glory of it, that he would not willingly
turn his eyes from that first ravishing
object to behold all the other various
beauties this world could present to him.
And this, and many other like blessings,
we enjoy daily. And for most of them
because they be so common, most men
forget to pay their praises; but let not
us, because it is a sacrifice so pleasing to
Him that made that sun and us, and still
protects us, and gives us flowers and
showers, and stomachs, and meat, and
content, and leisure to go a-fishing.
The Complete Angler.

make men counterfeit, but cannot make them believe, and is therefore fit for nothing but to breed form without and atheism within. Besides, if this means of bringing men to embrace any religion were generally used (as, if it may be justly used in any place by those that have power, and think they have truth, certainly they cannot with reason deny, but that it may be used in every place by those that have power as well as they, and think they have truth as well as they), what could follow but the maintenance, perhaps, of truth, but perhaps only the profession of it, in one place, and the oppression of it in a hundred? What will follow from it but the preservation, peradventure of unity, but, peradventure, only of uniformity, in particular states. and churches; but the immortalising the greater and more lamentable divisions of Christendom and the world? And, therefore, what can follow from it but, perhaps, in the judgment of carnal policy, the temporal benefit and tranquillity of temporal states and kingdoms, but the infinite prejudice, if not the desolation, of the kingdom of Christ? But they that know there is a King of kings, and Lord of lords, by whose wili and pleasure kings and kingdoms stand and fall, they know that to no king or state anything can be profitable which is unjust; and that nothing can be more evidently unjust than to force weak men, by the profession of a religion which they believe not, to lose their own eternal happiness, out of a vain and needless fear lest they may possibly disturb their temporal quietness. There is no danger to any state from any man's opinion, unless it be such an opinion, by which disobedience to authority, or impiety, is taught or licensed (which sort, I confess, may justly be punished as well as other faults), or unless this sanguinary doctrine be joined with it, that it is lawful for him by human violence to enforce others to it. Therefore, if Protestants did offer violence to other men's consciences, and compel them to embrace their reformation, I excuse them not.-The Religion of the great reason; for human violence may | Protestants a safe Way to Salvation.

I HAVE learned from the ancient fathers of the church, that nothing is more against religion than to force religion; and of St. Paul, the weapons of the Christian warfare are not carnal. And

[ocr errors]

[WILLIAM CHILLINGWORTH. 1602--1644.]

THE WISDOM OF TOLERATION.

AGAINST DUELLING.

BUT how is this doctrine [of the forgiveness of injuries] received in the world? What counsel would men, and those none of the worst sort, give thee in such a case? How would the soberest, discreetest, wellbred Christian advise thee? Why, thus: If thy brother or thy neighbour have offered thee an injury, or an affront, forgive him? By no means; thou art utterly undone, and lost in reputation with the world, if thou dost forgive him. What is to be done, then? Why, let not thy heart take rest, let all other business and employment be laid aside, till thou hast his blood. How! A man's blood for an injurious, passionate speech-for a disdainful look? Nay, that is not all: that thou mayest gain among men the reputation of a discreet, well-tempered murderer, be sure thou killest him not in passion, when thy blood is hot and boiling with the provocation; but proceed with as great temper and settledness of reason, with as much discretion and preparedness, as thou wouldest to the communion: after several days' respite, that it may appear it is thy reason guides thee, and not thy passion, invite him kindly and courteously into some retired place, and there let it be determined whether his blood or thine shall satisfy the injury.

Oh, thou holy Christian religion! Whence is it that thy children have sucked this inhuman poisonous blood, these raging fiery spirits? For if we shall inquire of the heathen, they will say, They have not learned this from us; or of the Mahometans, they will answer, We are not guilty of it. Blessed God! that it should become a most sure settled course for a man to run into danger and disgrace with the world, if he shall dare to perform a commandment of Christ, which is as necessary for him to do, if he have any hopes of attaining heaven, as meat and drink is for the maintaining of life! That ever it should enter into Christian hearts to walk so curiously and exactly contrary unto the ways of God.Sermon preached before King Charles I.

[BISHOP HALL. 1574-1656.]

THOUGHTS IN A GREAT LIBRARY.

WHAT a world of wit is here packed up together! I know not whether this sight doth more dismay or comfort me; it dismays me to think, that here is so much that I cannot know; it comforts me to think that this variety yields so good helps to know what I should. There is no truer word than that of Solomon-there is no end of making many books; this sight verifies it-there is no end; indeed, it were pity there should. God hath given to man a busy soul, the agitation whereof cannot but through time and experience work out many hidden truths; to suppress these would be no other than injurious to mankind, whose minds, like unto so many candles, should be kindled by each other. The thoughts of our deliberation are most accurate; these we vent into our papers; what a happiness is it, that without all offence of necromancy, I may here call up any of the ancient worthies of learning, whether human or divine, and confer with them of all my doubts !—that I can at pleasure summon whole synods of reverend fathers, and acute doctors, from all the coasts of the earth, to give their well-studied judgments in all points of question which I propose! Neither can I cast my eye casually upon any of these silent masters, but I must learn somewhat: it is a wantonness to complain of choice.

No law binds me to read all; but the more we can take in and digest, the better liking must the mind's needs be. Blessed be God that hath set up so many clear lamps in his church.

Now, none but the wilfully blind can plead darkness; and blessed be the memory of those his faithful servants, that have left their blood, their spirits, theiv lives, in these precious papers, and hare willingly wasted themselves into these during monuments, to give light unto others. Occasional Meditations.

[OWEN FELTHAM. 16 -16.]

THE LIMITATIONS OF KNOW-
LEDGE.

But

LEARNING is like a river, whose head being far in the land, is, at first rising, little, and easily viewed; but, still as you go, it gapeth with a wider bank; not without pleasure and delightful winding, while it is on both sides set with trees, and the beauties of various flowers. still the further you follow it, the deeper and the broader 'tis; till, at last, it inwaves itself in the unfathomed ocean; there you see more water, but no shoreno end of that liquid fluid vastness. In many things we may sound Nature, in the shallows of her revelations. We may trace her to her second causes; but,

the heart did neither hatch nor harbour. While we think to revenge an injury, we many times begin one; and, after that, repent our misconceptions. In things that may have a double sense, it is good to think the better was intended; so shall we still both keep our friends and quietness.-Idem.

[THOMAS HOBBES. 1588-1679.]

THE PHILOSOPHY OF
LAUGHTER.

THERE is a passion that hath no name; but the sign of it is that distortion of the countenance which we call laughter, which is always joy: but what joy, what beyond them, we meet with nothing but we think, and wherein we triumph, when the puzzle of the soul, and the dazzle of That it consisteth in wit, or, as they call we laugh, is not hitherto declared by any. the mind's dim eyes. While we speak it, in the jest, experience confuteth; for of things that are, that we may dissect and have power and means to find the cies, wherein there lieth no wit nor jest at men laugh at mischances and indecencauses, there is some pleasure, some cer- all. And forasmuch as the same thing tainty. But when we come to meta-is no more ridiculous when it groweth physics, to long-buried antiquity, and stale or usual, whatsoever it be that unto unrevealed divinity, we are in a sea, moveth laughter, it must be new and unwhich is deeper than the short reach of the line of man. expected. Men laugh often (especially Much may be gained such as are greedy of applause from everyby studious inquisition; but more will ever rest, which man cannot discover,thing they do well) at their own actions

Resolves.

[ocr errors]

performed never so little beyond their own expectations; as also at their own jests: and in this case it is manifest that

ON OVER-HASTINESS TO TAKE the passion of laughter proceedeth from

OFFENCE.

WE make ourselves more injuries than are offered us; they many times pass for wrongs in our own thoughts, that were never meant so by the heart of him that spoke them. The apprehension of wrong hurts more than the sharpest part of the wrong done. So, by falsely making ourselves patients of wrong, we become the true and first actors. It is not good, in matters of discourtesy, to dive into a man's mind, beyond his own comment; nor to stir upon a doubtful indignity without it, unless we have proofs that carry weight and conviction with them. Words do sometimes fly from the tongue that

a sudden conception of some ability in himself that laugheth. Also, men laugh at the infirmities of others, by comparison wherewith their own abilities are set off and illustrated. Also men laugh at jests, the wit whereof always consisteth in the elegant discovering and conveying to our minds some absurdity of another; and in this case also the passion of laughter proceeded from the sudden imagination of our own odds and eminency; for what is else the recommending of ourselves to our own good opinion, by comparison with another man's infirmity or absurdity? For when a jest is broken upon ourselves, or friends, of whose dishonour we participate, we never laugh thereat. I may

« EelmineJätka »