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and quickly cease running in our channels here below: this instant will never return again, and yet, it may be, this instant will declare or secure the fortune of a whole eternity. The old Greeks and Romans taught us the prudence of this rule: but Christianity teaches us the religion of it. They so seized upon the present, that they would lose nothing of the day's pleasure'. “Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we shall die;” that was their philosophy; and at their solemn feasts they would talk of death to heighten the present drinking, and that they might warm their veins with a fuller chalice, as knowing the drink, that was poured upon their graves, would be cold and without relish. Break the beds, drink your wine, crown your heads with roses, and besmear your curled locks with nard; for God bids you to remember death:” so the epigrammatist speaks the sense of their drunken principles. Something towards this signification is that of Solomon, “ There is nothing better for a man, than that he should eat and drink, and that he should make his soul enjoy good in his labour; for that is his portion; for who shall bring him to see that, which shall be after him ?” But, although he concludes all this to be vanity, yet because it was the best thing that was then commonly known, that they should seize upon the present with a temperate use of permitted pleasures, I had reason to say', that Christianity taught us to turn this into religion. For he that by a present and constant holiness secures the present, and makes it useful to his noblest purposes, he turns his condition into his best advantage, by making his unavoidable fate become his necessary religion.
To the purpose of this rule is that collect of Tuscan Hieroglyphics, which we have from Gabriel Simeon. life is very short, beauty is a cozenage, money is false and
c Ælate fruere ; mobili carsu fugit.— Seneca.
d Martial. I. ij. epig. 59. e Bccles, iii. 22. ii. 24.
"Amici, dum vivimos, vivamus.
Lucret. lib. iii. 925.
fugitive; empire is odious, and hated by them, that have it not, and uneasy to them, that have; victory is always uncertain, and peace, most commonly, is but a fraudulent bargain; old age is miserable, death is the period, and is a happy one, if it be not sorrowed by the sins of our life : but nothing continues but the effects of that wisdom, which employs the present time in the acts of a holy religion, and a peaceable conscience :” for they make us to live even beyond our funerals, embalmed in the spices and odours of a good name, and entombed in the grave of the holy Jesus, where we shall be dressed for a blessed resurrection to the state of angels and beatified spirits.
5. Since we stay not here, being people but of a day's abode, and our age is like that of a fly, and contemporary with a gourd, we must look somewhere else for an abiding city, a place in another country to fix our house in, whose walls and foundation is God, where we must find rest, or else be restless for ever. For whatsoever ease we can have or fancy here, is shortly to be changed into sadness, or tediousness &: it goes away too soon, like the periods of our life: or stays too long, like the sorrows of a sinner: its own weariness, or a contrary disturbance, is its load; or it is eased by its revolution into vanity and forgetfulness; and where either there is sorrow or an end of joy, there can be no true felicity: which, because it must be had by some instrument, and in some period of our duration, we must carry up our affections to the mansions prepared for us above, where eternity is the measure, felicity is the state, angels are the company, the Lamb is the light, and God is the portion and inheritance.
SECTION III. Rules and spiritual arts of lengthening our days, and to take
off the objection of a short life. In the accounts of a man's life, we do not reckon that portion of days, in which we are shut up in the prison of the
& Quis sapiens bono
Confidal fragili? dum licet, olere:
womb; we tell our years from the day of our birth : and the same reason, that makes our reckoning to stay so long, says also, that then it begins too soon. For then we are beholden to others to make the account for us: for we know not of a long time, whether we be alive or no, having but some little approaches and symptoms of a life. To feed, and sleep, and move a little, and imperfectly, is the state of an unborn child; and when he is born, he does no more for a good while; and what is it, that shall make him to be esteemed to live the life of a mani and when shall that account begin? For we should be loath to have the accounts of
age taken by the measures of a beast: and fools and distracted persons are reckoned as civilly dead; they are no parts of the commonwealth, not subject to laws, but secured by them in charity, and kept from violence as a man keeps his ox: and a third part of our life is spent, before we enter into a higher order, into the state of a man.
2. Neither must we think, that the life of a man begins, when he can feed himself, or walk alone, when he can fight, or beget his like; for so he is contemporary with a camel or a cow; but he is first a man, when he comes to a certain, steady use of reason, according to his proportion: and when that is, all the world of men cannot tell precisely. Some are called at age, at fourteen; some, at one-and-twenty; some, never; but all men, late enough; for the life of a man comes upon him slowly and insensibly. But as when the sun approaches towards the gates of the morning, he first opens a little eye of heaven, and sends away the spirits of darkness, and gives light to a cock, and calls up the lark to matins, and by and by gilds the fringes of a cloud, and peeps over the eastern hills, thrusting out his golden horns, like those, which decked the brows of Moses, when he was forced to wear a veil, because himself had seen the face of God; and still while a man tells the story, the sun gets up higher, till he shews a fair face and a full light, and then he shines one whole day, under a cloud often, and sometimes weeping great and little showers, and sets quickly: so is a man's reason and his life. He first begins to perceive himself to see or taste, making little reflections upon his actions of sense, and can discourse of flies and dogs, shells and play, horses and liberty: but when he is strong enough to
enter into arts and little institutions, he is at first entertained with trifles and impertinent things, not because he needs them, but because his understanding is no bigger, and little images of things are laid before him, like a cock-boat to a whale, only to play withal: but before a man comes to be wise, he is half dead with gouts and consumptions, with catarrhs and aches, with sore eyes and a worn-out body. So that if we must not reckon the life of a man but by the accounts of his reason, he is long before his soul be dressed; and he is not to be called a man without a wise and an adorned soul, a soul at least furnished with what is necessary towards his well-being: but by that time his soul is thus furnished, his body is decayed; and then you can hardly reckon him to be alive, when his body is possessed by so many degrees of death.
3. But there is yet another arrest. At first he wants strength of body, and then he wants the use of reason: and when that is come, it is ten to one, but he stops by the impediments of vice, and wants the strength of the spirit; and we know that body and soul and spirit are the constituent parts of every Christian man. And now let us consider, what that thing is, which we call years of discretion. The young man is past his tutors, and arrived at the bondage of a caitiff spirit; he is run from discipline, and is let loose to passion; the man by this time hath wit enough to choose his vice, to act his lust, to court his mistress, to talk confidently and ignorantly, and perpetually, to despise his betters, to deny nothing to his appetite, to do things, that, when he is indeed a man, he must for ever be ashamed of: for this is all the discretion, that most men shew in the first stage of their manhood; they can discern good from evil; and they prove their skill by leaving all that is good, and wallowing in the evils of folly and an unbridled appetite. And, by this time, the young man hath contracted vicious habits, and is a beast in manners, and therefore it will not be fitting to reckon the beginning of his life: he is a fool in his understanding, and that is a sad death; and he is dead in trespasses and sins, and that is a sadder: so that he hath no life but a natural, the life of a beast or a tree; in all other capacities he is dead; he neither hath the intellectual or the spiritual life, neither the life of a man nor of a Christian; and this
sad truth lasts too long.
seizes men, while they still retain the minds of boys and vicious youth, doing actions from principles of great folly, and a mighty ignorance, admiring things useless and hurtful, and filling up all the dimensions of their abode with businesses of empty affairs, being at leisure to attend no virtue: they cannot pray, because they are busy, and because they are passionate: they cannot communicate, because they have quarrels and intrigues of perplexed causes, complicated hostilities, and things of the world, and therefore they cannot attend to the things of God: little considering, that they must find a time to die in; when death comes, they must be at leisure for that. Such men are like sailors loosing from a port, and tossed immediately with a perpetual tempest lasting till their cordage crack, and either they sink, or return back again to the same place : they did not make a voyage, though they were long at sea. The business and impertinent affairs of most men steal all their time, and they are restless in a foolish motion: but this is not the progress of a man; he is no farther advanced in the course of a life, though he reckon many years b; for still his soul is childish, and trifling like an untaught boy.
If the parts of this sad complaint find their remedy, we have by the same instruments also cured the evils and the vanity of a short life. Therefore,
1. Be infinitely curious you do not set back your life in the accounts of God by the intermingling of criminal actions, or the contracting vicious habits. There are some vices, which carry a sword in their hand, and cut a man off before his time. There is a sword of the Lord, and there is a sword of a man, and there is a sword of the devil. Every vice of our own managing in the matter of carnality, of lust or rage, ambition or revenge, is a sword of Satan put into the hands of a man : these are the destroying angels; sin is the Apollyon, the destroyer that is gone out, not from the Lord, but from the tempter; and we hug the poison, and twist willingly with the vipers, till they bring us into the regions of an irrecoverable sorrow. We use to reckon persons as good as dead, if they have lost their limbs and their
Bis jam Consal trigesimus instat, Et uumerat paucos vix tua vita dies. Mart. i. 16.