« PrécédentContinuer »
and the furniture, is therefore impatient, because he had some
The vanity of Pleasure; the third enemy on the right hand. BUT, if there be any sorceress upon earth, it is Pleasure: which so enchanteth the minds of men, and worketh the disturbance of our peace, with such secret delight, that foolish men think this want of Tranquillity, Happiness. She turneth men into swine, with such sweet charms, that they would not change their brutish nature, for their former reason, "It is a good unquietness," say they, "that contenteth it is a good enemy, that profiteth." Is it any wonder, that men should be sottish, when their reason is mastered with sensuality? Thou fool, thy pleasure contents thee: how much? how long? If she have not more befriended thee, than ever she did any earthly favourite; yea, if she have not given thee more, than she hath herself; thy best delight hath had some mixture of discontentment for, either some circumstance crosseth thy desire, or the inward distaste of thy conscience (checking thine appetite) permits thee not any entire fruition of thy joy. Even the sweetest of all flowers hath his thorns: and who can determine, whether the scent be more delectable, or the pricks more irksome? It is enough for heaven to have absolute pleasures: which if they could be found here below, certainly that heaven, which is now not enough desired, would then be feared. God will have our pleasures here, according to the fashion of ourselves, compounded; so as the best delights may still savour of their earth.
See how that great king, which never had any match for wisdom, scarce ever any superior for wealth, traversed over all this inferior world, with diligent enquiry and observation, and all to find out that goodness of the children of men which they enjoy under the sun; abridging himself of nothing, that either his eyes or his heart could suggest to him; as what is it, that he could not either know or purchase? and now, coming home to himself, after the disquisition of all natural and human things, complains, that Behold, all is not only vanity, but vexation.
Go, then, thou wise scholar of experience, and make a more accurate search for that, which he sought, and missed. Perhaps, somewhere, betwixt the tallest cedar in Lebanon and the shrubby hyssop upon the wall, Pleasure shrouded herself, that she could not be descried of him; whether through ignorance, or negligence: thine insight may be more piercing; thy means more commodious; thy success happier. If it were possible for any man to entertain such hopes, his vain experience could not make him a greater fool: it could but teach him, what he is and knoweth not.
And yet, so imperfect as our pleasures are, they have their satiety and as their continuance is not good, so their conclusion is worse look to their end, and see how sudden, how bitter it is,
Their only courtesy is, to salute us with a farewell; and such a one, as makes their salutation uncomfortable. This Dalila shews and speaks fair; but, in the end, she will bereave thee of thy strength, of thy sight, yea of thyself. These gnats fly about thine ears, and make thee music awhile; but evermore they sting, ere they part. Sorrow, and repentance, is the best end of pleasure: pain is yet worse; but the worst is, despair. If thou miss of the first of these, one of the latter shall find thee; perhaps, both. How much better is it for thee, to want a little honey, than to be swollen up with a venomous sting!
Thus then the mind resolved, that these earthly things, Honours, Wealth, Pleasures, are casual, unstable, deceitful, imperfect, dangerous; must learn to use them without trust, and to want them without grief; thinking still, “ If I have them, I have some benefit with a great charge : if I have them not; with little respect of others, I have much security and ease, in myself :" which once ohtained, we cannot fare amiss in either estate ; and, without which, we cannot but miscarry in both.
SECT. XXII. Positive rules of our peace.-The fruition of God in holy e.rercises. All the enemies of our inward peace are thus described and discomfited. Which done, we have enough to preserve us from misery: but, since we moreover seek how to live well and happily, there yet remain those Positive Rules, whereby our Tranquillity may be both had, continued, and confirmed.
Wherein, I fear not, lest I should seem over divine, in casting the anchor of quietness so deep as Heaven, the only seat of constancy; while it can find no hold at all upon earth. All earthly things are full of variableness; and therefore, having no stay in themselves, can give none to us. He, that will have and hold right Tranquillity, must find in himself a sweet fruition of God, and feeling apprehension of his presence; that, when he finds manifold occasions of vexation in these earthly things, he, overlooking them all and having recourse to his Comforter, may find in him such matter of contentment, that he may pass over all these petty grievances with contempt: which whosoever wants, may be secure, cannot be quiet.
The mind of man cannot but want some refuge; and, as we say of the elephant, cannot rest, unless it have something to lean upon. The Covetous man, whose heaven is his chest, when he hears himself rated and cursed for oppressions, comes home; and, seeing his bags safe, applauds himself against all censures. The Glutton, when he loseth friends or good name, yet joyeth in his well furnished table, and the laughter of his wine ; more pleasing himself in one dish, than he can be grieved with all the world's miscarriage. The needy Scholar, whose wealth lies all in his brain, cheers hiinself against iniquity of times, with the conceit of his knowledge. These starting holes the mind cannot want, when it is hard driven.
Now, when as, like to some chased Sisera, it shrowds itself under the harbour of these Jaels ; although they give it houseroom and milk for a time: yet, at last, either they entertain it with a nail in the temples; or, being guilty to their own impotency, send it out of themselves, for safety and peace. For, if the cross light in that, which it made his refuge; as, if the covetous man be crossed in his riches; what earthly thing can stay him from a desperate phrensy? Or, if the cross fall in a degree above the height of his stay; as, if the rich man be sick or dying; wherein, all wealth is either contemned, or remembered with anguish ; how do all his comforts, like vermin from a house on fire, run away from him, and leave him over to his ruin! while the soul, that hath placed his refuge above, is sure that the ground of his comfort cannot be matched with an earthly sorrow, cannot be made variable by the change of any event; but is infinitely above all casualties, and without all uncertainties.
What state is there, wherein this heavenly stay shall not afford me, not only peace, but joy?
Am I in Prison? or in the hell of prisons, in some dark, low, and desolate dungeon ? Lo, there, Algerius, that sweet martyr, finds more light than above; and pities the darkness of our Liberty *. We have but a sun to enlighten our world, which every cloud dimmeth, and hideth from our eyes : but the Father of Lights, in respect of whom all the bright stars of heaven are but as the snuff of a dim candle, shines into his pit; and the presence of his glorious angels make that a heaven to him, which the world purposed as a heil of discomfort. What walls can keep out that Infinite Spirit, that fills all things ? What darkness can be, where the God of this sun dwelleth? What sorrow, where he comforteth ?
Am I wandering in Banishment ? Can I go, whither God is not? What sea can divide betwixt him and me? Then would I fear exile; if I could be driven away, as well from God, as my country. Now, he is as much in all earths. His title is alike to all places; and mine in him. His sun shines to me: his sea, or earth, bears me up: his presence cheereth me, whithersoever I go. He cannot be said to flit, that never changeth his host. He alone is a thousand companions : he alone is a world of friends. That man never knew what it was to be familiar with God, that complains of the want of home, of friends, of companions, while God is with him.
Am I Contemned of the world ? It is enough for me, that I am honoured of God: of both, I cannot. The world would love me more, if I were less friends with God. It cannot hate me so much as God bates it. What care I to be hated of them, whom God hateth ? He is unworthy of God's favour, that cannot think it happiness enough without the world's. How easy is it for such a man, wbile the world disgraces him, at once to scorn and pity it, that it cannot think nothing more contemptible than itself!
* Pompon. Alger. Fox Martyr.
I am Impoverished with losses: that was never throughly good, that may be lost. My riches will not lose me; yea, though I forego all, to my skin, yet have I not lost any part of my wealth: for, if he be rich, that hath something; how rich is he, that hath the Maker and Owner of all things!
I am Weak and Diseased in body: he cannot miscarry, that hath his Maker for his Physician. Yet my soul, the better part, is sound; for that cannot be weak, whose strength God is. How many are sick in that, and complain not! I can be content to be let blood in the arm or foot, for the curing of the head or heart. The health of the principal part is more joy to me, than it is trouble to be distempered in the inferior.
Let me know, that God favours me: then I have liberty, in prison; home, in banishment; honour, in contempt; in losses, wealth ; health, in infirmity; life, in death; and, in all these, happiness.
And, surely, if our perfect fruition of God be our complete heaven; it must needs be, that our inchoate conversing with him is our heaven imperfectly, and the entrance into the other: which, methinks, differs from this, not in the kind of it, but in the degree.
For the continuation of which happy society, since strangeness looseth acquaintance and breedeth neglect, on our part must be a daily renewing of heavenly familiarity, by seeking him up, even with the contempt of all inferior distraction; by talking with him, in our secret invocations; by hearing his conference with us; and by mutual entertainment of each other, in the sweet discourses of our daily meditations. He is a sullen and unsociable friend, that wants words. God shall take no pleasure in us, if we be silent. The heart, that is full of love, cannot but have a busy tongue. All our talk with God, is either Suits or Thanks: in them, the Christian heart pours out itself to his Maker; and would not change this privilege for a world. All his annoyances, all his wants, all his dislikes are poured into the bosom of his Ínvisible Friend; who likes us still so much more, as we ask more, as we complain more.
Oh, the easy and happy recourse, that the poor soul bath to the high throne of heaven! We stay not for the holding out of a golden sceptre, to warn our admission; before which our presence should be presumption and death. No hour is unseasonable, no person too base, no words too homely, no fact too hard, no importunity too great. We speak familiarly; we are heard, answered, comforted. Another while, God interchangeably speaks unto us, by the secret voice of his Spirit, or by the audible sound of his word: we hear, adore, answer him; by both which the mind so communicates itself to God, and hath God so plentifully commu
nicated unto it, that hereby it grows to such a habit of heavenliness, as that now it wants nothing, but dissolution, of full glory.
SECT. XXIII. The subordinate rules of Tranquillity. 1. For Actions: To refrain
from all sin, and to perform all duty. Out of this main ground once settled in the heart, like as so many rivers from one common sea, flow those Subordinate Resolutions, which we require as necessary to our peace; whether in respect of our actions, or our estate.
For our Actions, there must be a secret vow passed in the soul, both of constant refraining from whatsoever may oifend that Majesty we rest upon; and, above this, of true and canonical obedience to God, without all care of difficulty, and in spite of all contradictions of nature: not out of the confidence of our own power: impotent men, who are we, that we should either vow or perform? but, as he said, “ Give, what thou biddest; and bid, what thou wilt.” Hence, the courage of Moses durst venture his hand, to take up the crawling and hissing serpent. Hence, Peter durst walk upon the pavement of the waves. Hence, that heroical spirit of Luther, a man made of metal fit for so great a work, durst resolve and profess to enter into that fore-warned city, though there had been as many devils in their streets as tiles on their houses.
Both these vows, as we once solemnly made by others; so, for our peace, we must renew in ourselves. Thus, the experienced mind, both knowing that it hath met with a good friend, and withal what the price of a friend is, cannot but be careful to retain him, and wary of displeasing; and therefore, to cut off all dangers of variance, voluntarily takes a double oath of allegiance of itself to God: which, neither benefit shall induce us to break, if we might gain a world; nor fear urge us thereto, though we must lose ourselves.
The wavering heart, that finds continual combats in itself betwixt pleasure and conscience, so equally matched that neither gets the day, is not yet capable of peace; and, whether ever overcometh, is troubled both with resistance and victory. Barren Rebekah found more ease, than when her twins struggled in her womb. If Jacob had been there alone, she had not complained of that painful contention. One while, pleasure holds the fort, and conscience assaults it: which when it hath entered at last by strong hand, after many batteries of judgments denounced; ere long, pleasure either corrupts the watch, or, by some cunning stratagem, finds way to recover her first hold.
So, one part is ever attempting, and ever resisting : betwixt both, the heart cannot have peace, because it resolves not : for, while the soul is held in suspense, it cannot enjoy the pleasure it useth ; because it is halt taken up with fear: only a strong and resolute repulse of pleasure is truly pleasant; for