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underminings, corroding of riches, cozening in contracts, revenging of wrongs, suppressing the emulous, oppressing inferiors, mutinying against authority, eluding of laws, and what shall I say? in doing all but what he should: so as, in this, man proves Polybius's word too true, That he is both the craftiest of all creatures and most vicious; and, in the best and all his ways, makes good the word in my Text, even in this sense, Man is like unto vanity: yea, like is not the same; Man is altogether vanity; Psalm xxxix. 6: indeed so more than vanity, that we may
rather say vanity is like to man. What a deal of variety of vanity here is one's is a starved vanity; another's, a pampered one: one's, a jovial vanity; another's, a sullen one: one's, a silken vanity; another's, a ragged one: one's, a careless vanity; another's, a carking : And all these rivulets run into one common ocean of vanity; at last, universa vanitas omnis homo. In this busy variety doth he wear out the time and himself, till age or sickness summon him to his dissolution.
But, the while, in the few minutes of our life, how are our drachms of pleasure lost in our pounds of gall! Anguish of soul, troubles of mind, distempers of body, losses of estate, blemishes of reputation, miscarriages of children, mis-casualties, unquietness, pains, griefs, fears take up our hearts; and forbid us to enjoy, not happiness, but our very selves: so as our whole life sits, like Augustus, inter suspiria et lachrymas; " betwixt sighs and tears:” and all these hasten us on to our end; and, woe is me, how soon is that upon us ! I remember Gerson brings in an Englishman asking a Frenchman, Quot annos habes? “How many years are you?” a usual Latin phrase, when we ask after a man's age: His answer is, Annos non habeo ; “I am of no years at all, but death hath forborne me these fifty.”
3. Surely, we cannot make account of one minute. Besides the vanity of unprofitableness, here is the vanity of Transitoriness. How doth the momentariness of this misery add to the misery! What à flower, a vapour, a smoke, a bubble, a shadow, a dream of a shadow our life is! We are going; and then a careless life is shut up in a disconsolate end, and God thinks it enough to threat, Ye shall die like men. Alas! this worm-eaten apple soon falls. Vitreum hoc corpusculum, as Erasmus terms it, is soon cracked and broken.
It is not for every one, to have his soul sucked out of his mouth with a kiss; as the Jews say of Moses. He, that came into the world with cries, goes out with groans: the pangs of death, the an. guish of conscience, the shrieking of friends, the frights of hell meet now together, to render hin perfectly miserable; and now, Lord, what is man?
Well, he dies, saith the Psalmist, and then all his thoughts perish. Lo, what a word here is ! All his thoughts perish. What is man, but for his thoughts? Those are the only improvement of reason; and that, in an infinite variety. One bends his thoughts upon some busy controversies; perhaps, nec gemino ab ovo : another, upon some deep plot of state to be moulded up, like to China
clay, some hundred years after : another hath cast models in his brain of some curious fabric, wherewith he will enrich the surface of the earth: another hath, in his active imagination, hooked in his neighbour's inheritance; and takes care to convey it: one studies art; another, fraud ; another, the art of fraud : one is laying a foundation for future greatness, as low as hell; another is laying on a gilded roof, where is no firm foundation : each one is taken up with several thoughts; when he dies, all those thoughts perish; all those castles in the air, νεφελοκοκυγια as Aristophanes his word is, vanish to nothing: only his ill thoughts stick by him, and wait on his soul to hell.
But I have not yet done with the body. Rameses, which sig. nifieth worms, is our last station in this wilderness : yet one step lower è corpore vermes, è vermibus fætor ; as Bernard well. He, that was rotted with disorder, would be sweetened with odours: but it is more than all Arabia can do; neither is there more horror in the face of death, than in his breath noisomeness. Lord, what is man?
But, alas! it is well for this part, that it is for the time senseless : the living spirit pays the while for all; which, if it be but a meer man's, is hurried by devils immediately into the dreadful regions of horror and death, and there lies for ever and ever and ever in unsufferable, unutterable, unconceivable torments, without all possibility of intermission or mitigation. Oh, woe, woe, woe to those miserable souls, that ever they were created! And now, Lord, what is man?
Ye have seen man divided by his times; in his Ingress, Progress, Egress: or, in Lactantius's terms; in his original, state, dissolution. See him now, at one glance, divided in his parts; Bernard's two mites; a body and a soul.
What is man, then ? A goodly creature he is. When I look upon his stirring pile, I can say, I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Lord, I can admire thee in me, and yet abase myself thou art so much more wonderful in thy works, by how much I am viler. What is this body of mine, but a piece of that I tread upon; a sack of dust, if not saccus stercorum, as Bernard; a sewer of ill humours; a magazine of diseases; a feast of worms, And, as for that better part, the inmate of this ragged cottage, though, as it proceeds from thee, it is a pure immortal spirit, a spark of thy heavenly fire, a glimpse of that divine light; yet, as it is mine, how can I pity it! Alas, how dark it is with ignorance! For what have I here, but that cognitionem nocturnam, which Aquinas yields to worse creatures ? How foul and muddy with error! Nec quis error turpitudine caret ; “ There is no error that is not nasty;" as Austin truly. How earthly and gross with mis-affections ! Præcedit carnem in crimine ; “ It ushers the flesh in sinful courses;” as Bernard. How as unlike thee, as like him that marred it! And, if both parts in their kind were good; yet, put together, they are .naught. Earth is good, and water is good; yet, put together, they make mud and mire. Lord, then, what is man?
Such is nature now, in her best dress : but, if ye look upon her in the worst of her depravation, ye shall not more wonder at her misery, than her ugly deformity; Materia vilis, operatio turpis ; as Bernard : and, in a detestation, more than pity, of her loathliness, shall cry out, Lord, what is man? I do not tell you of bloody Turks, man-eating Cannibals, mungrel Troglodites feeding upon buried carcasses, Pataviau pandarism of their own daughters, or of miserable Indians idolatrously adoring their devilish pagodas. I meddle not with these' remote prodigies of lost humanity ; yet these go for men too: I speak of more civil wickedness, incident to the ordinary courses of men. It is sweetly said of St. Chrysostom; Alas, what is sickness, what is blindness ? nihil sunt ista, o homo ; “ These are nothing :" Unum duntaxat malum est peccare ; 6. There is no evil to sin.” If then man be such, as man; what is he, as a sinner? when his eyes are the burning-glasses of concupiscence; his tongue, a razor of detraction; his throat, an open sepulchre of good names or patrimonies; his heart, a mint of treasons and villainies; his hands, the engines of fraud and violence: shortly, when he is debauched with lust, with riot, with intemperance; transported with pride, insolence, fury? Pardon mé now, man is a beast, Psalm lxxiv : that is yet too easy, a monster: yet once more pardon me, a devil: if the word seem too harsh, it
Saviour's, unus vestrúm diabolus ; one of you is a devil. In this case, his best is vanity; his next, wickedness; his worst, is despair, and damnation.
Is there any of you now, that hears me this day, that finds cause to be in love with, or proud of himself, as a man? Let me see him, and bless myself. Surely, if there be glory in shame, power in impatence, pleasure in misery, safety in danger, beauty in deformity, he hath reason.
I remember the learned Chancellor of Paris, when, in his Tract upon the Magnificat, he describes beauty to be conformitas exemplaris ; he instances, that if we see a toad well and lively pictured, we say Ecce pulchrè pictum bufonem. O the loathly beauty of our conformity, to the natural condition of man; yea, of Satan in him!
The philosopher did well, to thank God that he was a man: but, if I had been by him, I should have bidden him to bewail himself, that he was but a man; and, I
say to every
whom I now see and speak unto, that if ye be but men, it had been better ye had never been. If men, ye are but oupainoi; 1 Cor. iii. 3. so the Vulgate turns it: Men are but flesh; and flesh is a title given to the Egyptian horses, by way of disparagement too: Their horses are but flesh ; Isaiah xxxi. 3 : and flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God : it can, it doth, it must inherit misery, sorrow, corruption, torment; it cannot claim, it cannot hope for more, for other patrimony: Oh, then, as you tender your eternal safety, be not quiet till ye be more than men, till ye have passed a new birth.
It was wise Zeno's word, Difficile est hominem exuere ; “ It is hard to put off the man:” hard, but necessary: off he must: Nisi me mutassem, was Socrates's word: till then, your condition, whatever it may be in civil and secular regards, is unexpressibly woeful. That same interior cordis horno, the inner man of the heart, the phrase whereof St. Ambrose doth so much wonder at in St. Peter, is that, which ye must both find and look to: otherwise, let your outside be never so beautiful, never so glorious, ye are no better than misery itself.
Down, then, dust and ashes ; down with those proud plumes of the vain misconceits of thine own goodliness, beauty, glory: think thyself but so vile as thou art, there will be more danger of thy self-contempt. Would our vain dames bestow so much curious cost on this woeful piece, if they could see themselves as well as their glasses ? Who is so foolish, to cast away gilding upon a clay wall, or a cracked pitcher ; yea, to enamel a bubble? Would our gallants so over-pamper this worms' meat, if they could be sensible of their own vileness?
The Chancellor of Paris tells us of king Lewes the Saint, that he regarded not quàm delicato cibo stercus conficeretur, nec coquus vermium esse volebat ; "he would be no cook for the worms:" such would be our resolution, if we knew ourselves. O seasonable and just prayer of David! Let them know they are but men. Could they know this, how many insolencies and proud outrages would be spared! how many good hours, how many useful creatures, would escape their luxurious waste!
It is out of mere ignorance, that man is so over-glad of himself, so puffed up above his brethren. There are but two things, as notes well, that the natural man is most proud of, knowledge and power: surely, if he had one of these to purpose, he could be proud of neither. Know thyself, Oman, and be proud if thou canst. Why then doth the rich landlord grate upon his poor scraping tenant? Why doth the silken courtier brow-beat his russet countryman? Why do potent lords, decepti floridate purpure, as Ambrose speaks, trample upon that peasantly mould, which nature hath not in kind differenced from their own ; since, if great ones could be more men, they would be more miserable? Why do we, how dare we, insult on each other; since we are all under one common doom of miserable mortality? Why do we fix our thoughts upon these cottages of clay, which are every hour going into dust; and not make sure work for those glorious and eternal mansions, wherein dwells our interminable and incomprehensible blessedness; longing that this mortal may put on immortality, this corruptible incorruption ? Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly.
II. Do not think now, that I have all this while doné, as I have seen some in a throng, or as hood-winked boys in their sport, struck my friends. The regenerate man is an angelical creature : and man, whatever he be in other regards, yet, as he comes out of God's mould, is the great master-piece of his Creator : 177771, Thou hast taken knowledge of him: and, nownn, reputasti cum; thou inakest account of him. Turn your eyes then from man's vileness, to the more pleasing object of GOD'S MERCY: and, as you have seen man in the dust of his abasement; so now, see him in the throne of his exaltation. This grain, after a little frost-biting, will sprout up the more: if, elsewhere, the Psalmist say, Elevans allisisti ; here it is allisum elevasti.
* Some pame seems to be omitted here: but I have not the means of supplying it ; as I know of no other edition of this Sermon, than that from which this is printed, and which is in the Third Folio EDITOR.
It is a great word, Thou takest knowledge of him. Alas! what knowledge do we take of the gnats, that play in the sun; or the ants, or worms, that are crawling in our grounds ? yet the disproportion betwixt us and them is but finite; infinite, betwixt God and us. Thou, the great God of Heaven, to take knowledge of such a thing as man? If a mighty prince shall vouchsafe to spy and single out a plain homely swain in a throng, as the Great Sultan did lately a Tankard-bearer; and take special notice of him, and call him but to a kiss of his hand and nearness to his person ; he boasts of it as a great favour : for thee, then, o God, who abasest thyself to behold the things in heaven itself, to cast thine eye upon so poor a worm as man, it must needs be a wonderful mercy. Exigua pauperibus magna ; as Nazianzen to his Amphilochius.
But God takes knowledge of many, that he regards not : he knows the proud afar off; but he hates him. That of St. Austin is right: we are sometimes said not to know that, which we approve not; it is therefore added, reputasti eum ; thou makest account of him : a high account indeed! David learned this of Job, whose word is, Thou magnifiest him, and settest thy heart repon him; Job vii. 17.
Now this knowledge, this account is by David here, either appropriated to himself as a King, or diffused and communicated to him as a Man. The fore-text appropriates it: the sub-text communicates it.
In the immediate words before, had David reported what God did for him as a King ; that he was his tower for safety, his deliverer from danger, his shield for protection, his subduer of his enemies for rule: and now he adds, Lord, what is man, that those takest knowledge of him ; and the son of man, that thou makest account of him intimating, that this knowledge, this account is of David, as a man of men; ävež žudwv; “A king of men;" as the Grecians' title had wont to be. It is God's truth: it can be neither paradox, nor parasiteism, to say, that God takes special knowledge, and makes special account, of kings; especially the kings of Israel. I have found (x) David my servant ; with my holy oil have 1 anointed him ; Psalm Ixxxix. 20. See what a peculiarity here is : my servant, first, by a propriety, by a supereminence : my servant found out, or singled from the rest of mankind, for public administration: my anointed, when other heads are dry: anointed with holy oil, yea God's holy oil, while other heads with common.