« PrécédentContinuer »
not by your fancy; by nature, not by evil customs and ambitious principles. He that would shoot an arrow out of a plough, or hunt a hare with an elephant, is not unfortunate for missing the mark or prey; but he is foolish for choosing such unapt instruments: and so is he, that runs after his content with appetites not springing from natural needs, but from artificial, fantastical, and violent necessities. These are not to be satisfied; or if they were, a man hath chosen an evil instrument towards his content: nature did not intend rest to a man by filling of such desires. Is that beast better, that hath two or three mountains to graze on, than a little bee that feeds on dew or manna, and lives upon what falls every morning from the storehouses of heaven, clouds and Providence? Can a man quench his thirst better out of a river than a full urn, or drink better from the fountain, which is finely paved with marble, than when it swells over the green turf? Pride and artificial gluttonies do but adulterate nature, making our diet healthless, our appetites impatient and unsatisfiable, and the taste mixed, fantastical, and meretricious. But that which we miscall poverty, is indeed nature and its proportions are the just measures of a man, and the best instruments of content. But when we create needs, that God or nature never made, we have erected to ourselves an infinite stock of trouble, that can have no period. Sempronius complained of want of clothes, and was much troubled for a new suit, being ashamed to appear in the theatre with his gown a little threadbare: but when he got it, and gave his old clothes to Codrus, the poor man was ravished with joy, and went and gave God thanks for his new purchase; and Codrus was made richly fine and cheerfully warm by that which Sempronius was ashamed to wear;
Assai basta per chi non è ingordo.
Quantò præstantius esset
Numen aquæ, viridi si margine clauderet andas
Frui paratis et valido mihi,
Latoe, dones. Horat. I. i. Od. 31.
Amabo levem cupressum,
Omissis Crete pascuis :
Terræ mihi datum est parùm ;
Pindar. fragm. 43.
Juv. iii. 20.
and yet their natural needs were both alike: the difference only was, that Sempronius had some artificial and fantastical necessities superinduced, which Codrus had not; and was harder to be relieved, and could not have joy at so cheap a rate; because he only lived according to nature, the other by pride and ill customs, and measures taken by other men's eyes and tongues, and artificial needs. He that propounds to his fancy things greater than himself or his needs, and is discontent and troubled, when he fails of such purchases, ought not to accuse Providence, or blame his fortune, but his folly. God and nature made no more needs than they mean to satisfy; and he that will make more, must look for satisfaction when he can.
8. In all troubles and sadder accidents, let us take sanctuary in religion, and by innocence cast out anchors for our souls to keep them from shipwreck, though they be not kept from storm". For what philosophy shall comfort a villain, that is haled to the rack for murdering his prince, or that is broken upon the wheel for sacrilege? His cup is full of pure and unmingled sorrow: his body is rent with torment, his name with ignominy, his soul with shame and sorrow, which are to last eternally. But when a man suffers in a good cause, or is afflicted, and yet walks not perversely with his God, then "Anytus and Melitus may kill me, but they cannot hurt me:" then St. Paul's character is engraved in the forehead of our fortune"; "We are troubled on every side, but not distressed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed. And who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good "?" For indeed every thing in the world is indifferent, but sin: and all the scorchings of the sun are very tolerable in respect of the burnings of a fever or a calenture. The greatest evils are from within us: and from ourselves also we must look for our greatest good; for God is the fountain of it, but reaches it to us by our own hands: and when all things look sadly round about us, then only we shall find, how excellent a fortune it is to have God to our friend; and, of all friendships, that only is created to support us in our needs. For it is sin that turns an ague into a fever, and a
"Vacare culpâ in calamitatibus maximum solatium.
• 2 Cor. iv. 8, 9.
w 1 Pet. iii. 13. iv. 15. 16.
fever to the plague, fear into despair, anger into rage, and loss into madness, and sorrow to amazement and confusion: but if either we were innocent, or else, by the sadness, are made penitent, we are put to school, or into the theatre, either to learn how, or else actually to combat for a crown; the accident may serve an end of mercy, but is not a messenger of wrath.
Let us therefore be governed by external, and present, and seeming things; nor let us make the same judgment of things that common and weak understandings do; nor make other men, and they not the wisest, to be judges of our felicity, so that we be happy or miserable, as they please to think us: but let reason, and experience, and religion, and hope relying upon the divine promises, be the measure of our judgment. No wise man did ever describe felicity without virtue*; and no good man did ever think, virtue could depend upon the variety of a good or bad fortune. It is no evil to be poor, but to be vicious and impatient.
Means to obtain Content by way of considerations.
To these exercises and spiritual instruments, if we add the following considerations concerning the nature and circumstances of human chance, we may better secure our peace. For as to children, who are afraid of vain images, we use to persuade confidence by making them to handle and look nearer such things, that when, in such a familiarity, they perceive them innocent, they may overcome their fears: so must timorous, fantastical, sad, and discontented persons, be treated; they must be made to consider and on all sides. to look upon the accident, and to take all its dimensions, and consider its consequences, and to behold the purpose of God, and the common mistakes of men, and their evil sentences, they usually pass upon them. For then we shall perceive, that, like colts of unmanaged horses, we start at dead bones and lifeless blocks, things that are inactive as they are innocent. But if we secure our hopes and our fears, and make them moderate and within government, we may the sooner overcome the evil of the accident; for nothing that we feel is so bad as what we fear.
* Beatitudo pendet à rectis consiliis in affectionem animi constantem desinentibus. Plut.
1. Consider that the universal providence of God hath so ordered it, that the good things of nature and fortune are divided, that we may know how to bear our own, and relieve each other's wants and imperfections. It is not for a man, but for a God, to have all excellences and all felicities". He supports my poverty with his wealth; I counsel and instruct him with my learning and experience. He hath many friends, I many children: he hath no heir, I have no inheritance and any one great blessing, together with the common portions of nature and necessity, is a fair fortune, if it be but health or strength, or the swiftness of Ahimaaz. For it is an unreasonable discontent to be troubled, that I have not so good cocks or dogs or horses as my neighbour, being more troubled that I want one thing that I need not, than thankful for having received all that I need. Nero had this disease, that he was not content with the fortune of the whole empire, but put the fiddlers to death for being more skilful in the trade, than he was: and Dionysius the elder was so angry at Philoxenus for singing, and with Plato for disputing, better than he did, that he sold Plato a slave into Egina, and condemned the other to the quarries.
This consideration is to be enlarged by adding to it, that there are some instances of fortune and a fair condition, that cannot stand with some others, but if you desire this, you must lose that, and unless you be content with one, you lose the comfort of both. If you covet learning, you must have leisure and a retired life: if to be a politician, you must go abroad and get experience, and do all businesses, and keep all company, and have no leisure at all. If you will be rich, you must be frugal: if you will be popular, you must be bountiful: if a philosopher, you must despise riches. The Greek, that designed to make the most exquisite picture, that could be imagined, fancied the eye of Chione, and the hair of Pægnium, and Tarsia's lip, Philenium's chin, and the forehead of Delphia, and set all these upon Milphidippa's neck, and thought that he should outdo both art and nature. But when he came to view the proportions, he found, that what was excellent in Tarsia, did not agree with the other excellency of Philenium; and although, singly, they were rare pieces, yet
y Non te ad omnia læta genuit, O Agamemnon, Atrcus. Opus est to gaudere et mærere: Mortalis enim natus es, et ut haud velis: Superi sic constituerunt.
in the whole, they made a most ugly face. The dispersed excellences and blessings of many men, if given to one, would not make a handsome, but a monstrous fortune. Use therefore that faculty, which nature hath given thee, and thy education hath made actual, and thy calling hath made a duty. But if thou desirest to be a saint, refuse not his persecution if thou wouldest be famous as Epaminondas or Fabricius, accept also of their poverty; for that added lustre to their persons, and envy to their fortune, and their virtue without it could not have been so excellent. Let Euphorion sleep quietly with his old rich wife; and let Medius drink on with Alexander: and remember thou canst not have the riches of the first, unless you have the old wife too; nor the favour, which the second had with his prince, unless you buy it at his price, that is, lay thy sobriety down at first, and thy health a little after; and then their condition, though it look splendidly, yet when you handle it on all sides, it will prick your fingers.
2. Consider, how many excellent personages in all ages have suffered as great or greater calamities than this, which now tempts thee to impatience. Agis was the most noble of the Greeks, and yet his wife bore a child by Alcibiades: and Philip was prince of Ituræa, and yet his wife ran away with his brother Herod into Galilee; and certainly, in a great fortune, that was a great calamity. But these are but single instances. Almost all the ages of the world have noted, that their most eminent scholars were most eminently poor, some by choice, but most by chance, and an inevitable decree of Providence and, in the whole sex of women, God hath decreed the sharpest pains of child-birth, to shew, that there is no state exempt from sorrow, and yet that the weakest persons have strength more than enough to bear the greatest evil: and the greatest queens, and the mothers of saints and apostles, have no charter of exemption from this sad sentence. But the Lord of men and angels was also the King of sufferings: and if thy coarse robe trouble thee, remember the swaddlingclothes of Jesus; if thy bed be uneasy, yet it is not worse than his manger; and it is no sadness to have a thin table, if thou callest to mind, that the King of heaven and earth
* Prandet Aristoteles, quando Philippo lubet; Diogenes, quando Diogeni.