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was fed with a little breast-milk: and yet, besides this, he suffered all the sorrows which we deserved. We therefore have great reason to sit down upon our own hearths, and warm ourselves at our own fires, and feed upon content at home: for it were a strange pride to expect to be more gently treated by the Divine Providence, than the best and wisest men, than apostles and saints, nay, the Son of the eternal God, the heir of both the worlds.
This consideration may be enlarged by surveying all the states and families of the world: and he that at once saw Ægina and Megara, Pyræus and Corinth, lie gasping in their ruins, and almost buried in their own heaps, had reason to blame Cicero for mourning impatiently the death of one woman. In the most beauteous and splendid fortune, there are many cares and proper interruptions and allays: in the fortune of a prince there is not the coarse robe of beggary; but there are infinite cares; and the judge sits upon the tribunal with great ceremony and ostentation of fortune, and yet, at his house or in his breast, there is something, that causes him to sigh deeply. Pittacus was a wise and valiant man, but his wife overthrew the table when he had invited his friends: upon which the good man, to excuse her incivility and his own misfortune, said, "That every man had one evil, and he was most happy, that had but that alone." And if nothing else happens, yet sicknesses so often do embitter the fortune and content of a family, that a physician, in a few years, and with the practice upon a very few families, gets experience enough to administer to almost all diseases. And when thy little misfortune troubles thee, remember that thou hast known the best of kings and the best of men put to death publickly by his own subjects.
3. There are many accidents, which are esteemed great calamities, and yet we have reason enough to bear them well and unconcernedly; for they neither touch our bodies nor our souls: our health and our virtue remain entire, our life
a Servias Sulpicius.
b Hic in foro beatus esse creditur,
Cùm foribus apertis sit suis miserrimus ;
and our reputation. It may be I am slighted, or I have received ill language; but my head aches not for it, neither hath it broke my thigh, nor taken away my virtue, unless I lose my charity or my patience. Inquire, therefore, what you are the worse, either in your soul or in your body, for what hath happened: for upon this very stock many evils will disappear, since the body and the soul make up the whole man. And when the daughter of Stilpo proved a wanton, he said it was none of his sin, and therefore there was no reason it should be his misery. And if an enemy hath taken all that from a prince, whereby he was a king; he may refresh himself by considering all that is left him, whereby he is a man.
4. Consider, that sad accidents and a state of affliction is a school of virtue it reduces our spirits to soberness, and our counsels to moderation: it corrects levity, and interrupts the confidence of sinning. "It is good for me (said David) that I have been afflicted, for thereby I have learned thy law." And "I know (O Lord) that thou of very faithfulness hast caused me to be troubled." For God, who, in mercy and wisdom, governs the world, would never have suffered so many sadnesses, and have sent them especially to the most virtuous and the wisest men, but that he intends they should be the seminary of comfort, the nursery of virtue, the exercise of wisdom, the trial of patience, the venturing for a crown, and the gate of glory.
5. Consider, that afflictions are oftentimes the occasions of great temporal advantages; and we must not look upon them, as they sit down heavily upon us, but as they serve some of God's ends, and the purposes of universal Providence. And when a prince fights justly, and yet unprosperously, if he could see all those reasons for which God hath so ordered it, he would think it the most reasonable thing in the world, and that it would be very ill to have it otherwise. If a man could have opened one of the pages of the
c Si natus es, Trophime, solus omnium hac lege,
Et improbè egisset.
d Psal. exix. part 10. ver. 3.
Menan. Clerc. p. 259.
Divine counsel, and could have seen the event of Joseph's being sold to the merchants of Amalek, he might, with much reason, have dried up the young man's tears: and when God's purposes are opened in the events of things, as it was in the case of Joseph, when he sustained his father's family and became lord of Egypt, then we see, what ill judgment we made of things, and that we were passionate as children, and transported with sense and mistaken interest. The case of Themistocles was almost like that of Joseph; for being banished into Egypt, he also grew in favour with the king, and told his wife, "he had been undone, unless he had been undone." For God esteems it one of his glories, that he brings good out of evil; and therefore it were but reason, we should trust God to govern his own world as he pleases; and that we should patiently wait till the change cometh, or the reason be discovered.
And this consideration is also of great use to them, who envy at the prosperity of the wicked, and the success of persecutors, and the baits of fishes, and the bread of dogs. God fails not to sow blessings in the long furrows, which the ploughers plough upon the back of the church: and this success, which troubles us, will be a great glory to God, and a great benefit to his saints and servants, and a great ruin to the persecutors, who shall have but the fortune of Theramenes, one of the thirty tyrants of Athens, who escaped, when his house fell upon him, and was shortly after put to death with torments by his colleagues in the tyranny.
To which also may be added, that the great evils, which happen to the best and wisest men, are one of the great arguments, upon the strength of which we can expect felicity to our souls and the joys of another world. And certainly they are then very tolerable and eligible, when, with so great advantages, they minister to the faith and hope of a Christian. But if we consider what unspeakable tortures are provided for the wicked to all eternity, we should not be troubled to see them prosperous here, but rather wonder, that their portion in this life is not bigger, and that ever they should be sick, or crossed, or affronted, or troubled with the contradiction and disease of their own vices, since, if they were fortunate beyond their own ambition, it could not make them
recompence for one hour's torment in hell, which yet they shall have for their eternal portion.
After all these considerations deriving from sense and experience, grace and reason, there are two remedies still remaining, and they are necessity and time.
6. For it is but reasonable to bear that accident patiently which God sends, since impatience does but entangle us, like the fluttering of a bird in a net, but cannot at all ease our trouble, or prevent the accident: it must be run through, and therefore it were better we compose ourselves to a patient, than to a troubled and miserable suffering.
7. But however, if you will not otherwise be cured, time at last will do it alone; and then consider, do you mean to mourn always, or but for a time? If always, you are miserable and foolish. If for a time, then why will you not apply those reasons to your grief at first, with which you will cure it at last? or if you will not cure it with reason, see how little of a man there is in you, that you suffer time to do more with you than reason or religion! You suffer yourself to be cured, just as a beast or a tree is; let it alone, and the thing will heal itself: but this is neither honourable to thy person, nor of reputation to thy religion. However, be content to bear thy calamity, because thou art sure, in a little time, it will sit down gentle and easy: for to a mortal man no evil is immortal. And here let the worst thing happen that can, it will end in death, and we commonly think that to be near enough.
8. Lastly, of those things which are reckoned amongst evils, some are better than their contraries; and to a good man, the very worst is tolerable.
Poverty or a low fortune.
1. Poverty is better than riches, and a mean fortune to be chosen before a great and splendid one. It is indeed despised, and makes men contemptible: it exposes a man to the insolence of evil persons, and leaves a man defenceless: it is always suspected: its stories are accounted lies, and all its counsels follies: it puts a man from all employment: it makes a man's discourses tedious, and his society trouble
e Nemo recusat ferre, quod necesse est pati.
some. This is the worst of it: and yet all this, and far worse than this, the apostles suffered for being Christians: and Christianity itself may be esteemed an affliction as well as poverty, if this be all that can be said against it; for the apostles and the most eminent Christians were really poor, and were used contemptuously and yet, that poverty is despised may be an argument to commend it, if it be despised by none but persons vicious and ignorant'. However, certain it is, that a great fortune is a great vanity, and riches is nothing but danger, trouble, and temptation; like a gar ment that is too long, and bears a train; not so useful to one, but it is troublesome to two, to him that bears the one part upon his shoulders, and to him that bears the other part in his hand. But poverty is the sister of a good mind, the parent of sober counsels, and the nurse of all virtue.
For what is it that you admire in the fortune of a great king? Is it, that he always goes in a great company? You may thrust yourself into the same crowd, or go often to church, and then you have as great a company as he hath; and that may, upon as good grounds, please you as him, that is, justly neither: for so impertinent and useless pomp, and the other circumstances of his distance, are not made for him, but for his subjects, that they may learn to separate him from common usages, and be taught to be governed. But if But if you look upon them as fine things in themselves, you may quickly alter your opinion, when you shall consider, that they cannot cure the tooth-ache, nor make one wise, or fill the belly, or give one night's sleep (though they help to break many), not satisfying any appetite of nature, or reason, or religion: but they are states of greatness, which only make it possible for a man to be made extremely miserable. And it was long ago observed by the Greek tragedians, and from them by Arrianus", saying, "That all our tragedies are of kings and princes, and rich or ambitious personages; but you never
£ Alta fortuna alto travaglio apporta.
g Da autorita la ceremonia al atto.
Η Οὐδεὶς δὲ πένης τραγῳδίαν συμπληροῖ, εἰ μὴ χορευτής.
Animúsque meus sensim usque evectus ad polum
Tantal. in Tragad.