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Holy Living

by Jeremy Taylor





Of Contentedness in all Estates and Accidents.


Virtues and discourses are, like friends, necessary in all fortunes; but those are the best, which are friends in our sadnesses, and support us in our sorrows and sad accidents: and in this sense, no man that is virtuous can be friendless; nor hath any man reason to complain of the Divine Providence, or accuse the public disorder of things, or his own infelicity, since God hath appointed one remedy for all the evils in the world, and that is a contented spirit: for this alone makes a man pass through fire, and not be scorched; through seas, and not be drowned; through hunger and nakedness, and want nothing. For since all the evil in the world consists in the disagreeing between the object and the appetite, as when a man hath what he desires not, or desires what he hath not, or desires amiss; he that composes his spirit to the present accident, hath variety of instances for his virtues, but none to trouble him, because his desires enlarge not beyond his present fortune; and a wise man is placed in the variety of chances, like the nave or centre of a wheel, in the midst of all the circumvolutions and changes of posture, without violence or change save that it turns gently in compliance with its changed parts, and is indifferent which part is up, and which id down; for there is some virtue or other to be exercised, whatever happens, either patience or thanksgiving, love or fear, moderation or humility, charity or contentedness, and they are every one of them equally in order to his great end and immortal felicity: and beauty is not made by white or red, by black eyes and a round face, by a straight body and a smooth skin; but by a proportion to the fancy. No rules can make amiability; our minds and apprehensions make that; and so is our felicity; and we may be reconciled to poverty and a low fortune, if we suffer contentedness and the grace of God to make the proportions. For no man is poor that does not think himself so: but if, in a full fortune, with impatience he desires more, he proclaims his wants and his beggarly condition.[134] But because this grace of contentedness was the sum of all the old moral philosophy, and a great duty in Christianity, and of most universal use in the whole course of our lives, and the only instrument to ease the burdens of the world and the enmities of sad changes, it will not be amiss to press it by the proper arguments by which God hath bound it upon our spirits; it being fastened by reason and religion, by duty and interest, by necessity and conveniency, by example, and by the proposition of excellent rewards, no less than peace and felicity.

1. Contentedness in all estates is a duty of religion; it is the great reasonableness of complying with the Divine Providence, which governs all the world, and hath so ordered us in the administration of his great family. He were a strange fool that should be angry because dogs and sheep need no shoes, and yet himself is full of care to get some. God hath supplied those needs to them by natural provisions, and to thee by an artificial: for he hath given the reason to learn a trade, or some means to make or buy them, so that it only differs in the manner of our provision: and which had you rather want, shoes or reason? Any my patron, that hath given me a farm, is freer to me than if he gives a loaf ready baked. But, however, all these gifts come from him, and therefore it is fit he should dispense them as he pleases; and if we murmur here, we may, at the next melancholy fit, be troubled that God did not make us to be angels or stars. For if that which we are or have do not content us, we may be troubled for everything in the world which is besides our being or our possessions.

God is the master of the scenes; we must not choose which part we shall act; it concerns us only to be careful that we do it well, always saying, ‘If this please God, let it be as it is;’ and we, who pray that God’s will may be done in earth as it is in heaven, must remember that the angels do whatsoever is commanded them, and go wherever they are sent, and refuse no circumstances; and if their employment be crossed by a higher degree, they sit down in peace, and rejoice in the event; and when the angel of Judea could not prevail in behalf of the people committed to his charge, because the angel of Persia opposed it, he only told the story at the command of God, and was as content, and worshipped with as great an ecstasy in his proportion, as the prevailing spirit. Do thou so likewise: keep the station where God hath placed you, and you shall never long for things without, but sit at home, feasting upon the Divine Providence and thy own reason, by which we are taught that it is necessary and reasonable to submit to God.

For is not all the world God’s family? Are not we his creatures? Are we not as clay in the hand of the potter? Do we not live upon his meat, and move by his strength, and do our work by his light? Are we anything but what we are from him? And shall there be a mutiny among the flocks and herds, because their lord or their shepherd chooses their pastures, and suffers them not to wander into the deserts and unknown ways? If we choose, we do it so foolishly that we cannot like it long, and most commonly not at all: but God, who can do what he pleases, is wise to choose safely for us, affectionate to comply with our needs, and powerful to execute all his wise decrees. Here, therefore, is the wisdom of the contented man, to let God choose for him; for when we have given up our wills to him, and stand in that station of the battle where our great general hath placed us, our spirits must needs rest while our conditions have for their security the power, the wisdom, and the charity of God.

2. Contentedness in all accidents brings great peace of spirit, and is the great and only instrument of temporal felicity. It removes the sting from the accident, and makes a man not to depend upon chance and the uncertain dispositions of men for his well-being, but only on God and his own spirit. We ourselves make our fortunes good or bad; and when God lets loose a tyrant upon us, or a sickness, or scorn, or a lessened fortune, if we fear to die, or know not to be patient, or are proud, or covetous, then the calamity sits heavy on us. But if we know how to manage a noble principle, and fear not death so much as a dishonest action, and think impatience a worse evil than a fever, and pride to be the biggest disgrace, and poverty to be infinitely desirable before the torments of covetousness; then we who now think vice to be so easy, and make it so familiar, and think the cure so impossible, shall quickly be of another mind, and reckon these accidents amongst things eligible.

But no man can be happy that hath great hopes and great fears of things without, and events depending upon other men, or upon the chances of fortune. The rewards of virtue are certain, and our provisions for our natural support are certain; or if we want meat till we die, then we die of that disease - and there are many whores than to die of an atrophy or consumption, or unapt and courser nourishment. But he that suffers a transporting passion concerning things within the power of others, is free from sorrow and amazement no longer than his enemy shall give him leave; and it is ten to one but he shall be smitten then and there where it shall most trouble him; for so the adder teaches us where to strike, by her curious and fearful defending of her head. The old Stoics, when you told them of a sad story, would still answer, “Yes, for the tyrant hath sentenced you also to prison. Well, what is that? he will put a chain upon my leg; but he cannot bind my soul. No, but he will kill you. Then I will die. If presently, let me go, that I may presently be freer than himself; but if not till anon or tomorrow, I will dine first, or sleep, or do what reason or nature calls for, as at other times.” This, in Gentile philosophy, is the same with the discourse of St. Paul,[135] “I have learned in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: everywhere and in all things I am instructed, both to be full and to be hungry; both to abound and suffer need.”[136]

We are in the world like men playing at tables, the chance is not in our power, but to play it is; and when it is fallen we must manage it as we can; and let nothing trouble us, but when we do a base action, or speak like a fool, or think wickedly - these things God hath put into our powers; but concerning those things which are wholly in the choice of another, they cannot fall under our deliberation, and therefore neither are they fit for our passions. My fear may make me miserable, but it cannot prevent what another hath in his power and purpose; and prosperities can only be enjoyed by them who fear not at all to lose them; since the amazement and passion concerning the future takes off all the pleasure of the present possession. Therefore, if thou hast lost thy land, do not also lose thy constancy; and if thou must die a little sooner, yet do not die impatiently. For no chance is evil to him that is content; and to a man nothing is miserable unless it be unreasonable. No man can make another man to be his slave unless be hath first enslaved himself to life and death, to pleasure or pain, to hope or fear: command these passions, and you are freer than the Parthian kings.

Instruments or Exercises to procure Contentedness.

Upon the strength of these premises, we may reduce this virtue to practice by its proper instruments first, and then by some more special considerations or arguments of content.

1. When anything happens to our displeasure, let us endeavour to take off its trouble by turning it into spiritual or artificial advantage, and handle it on that side in which it may be useful to the designs of reason; for there is nothing but hath a double handle, or at least we have two hands to apprehend it. When an enemy reproaches us, let us look on him as an impartial relater of our faults, for he will tell thee truer than thy fondest friend will; and thou mayest call them precious balms, though they break thy head, and forgive his anger, while thou makest use of the plainness of his declamation. The ox, when he is weary, treads surest; and if there be nothing else in the disgrace, but that it makes us to walk warily, and tread sure for fear of our enemies, that is better than to be flattered into pride and carelessness. This is the charity of Christian philosophy, which expounds the sense of the Divine Providence fairly, and reconciles us to it by a charitable construction; and we may as well refuse all physic, if we consider it only as unpleasant in the taste; and we may find fault with the rich valleys of Thasus, because they are circled by sharp mountains; but so also we may be in charity with every unpleasant accident, because, though it taste bitter, it is intended for health and medicine.

If, therefore, thou fallest from thy employment in public, take sanctuary in an honest, retirement, being indifferent to thy gain abroad, or thy safety at home. If thou art out of favour with thy prince, secure the favour of the King of kings, and then there is no harm come to thee. And when Zeno Citiensis lost all his goods in a storm, he retired to the studies of philosophy, to his short cloak and a severe life, and gave thanks to fortune for his prosperous mischance. When the north wind blows hard, and it rains sadly none but fools sit down in it and cry; wise people defend themselves against it with a warm garment, or a good fire and a dry roof. When a storm of a sad mischance beats upon our spirits, turn it into some advantage by observing where it can serve another end, either of religion or prudence, of more safety or less envy: it will turn into something that is good, if we list to make it so; at least it may make us weary of the world’s vanity, and take off our confidence from uncertain riches, and make our spirits to dwell in those regions where content dwells essentially. If it does any good to our souls, it hath made more than sufficient recompense for all the temporal affliction. He that threw a stone at a dog, and hit his cruel step-mother, said, that although he intended it otherwise, yet the stone was not quite lost; and if we fail in the first design, if we bring it home to another equally to content us, or more to profit us, then we have put our conditions past the power of chance; and this was called, in the old Greek comedy, “a being revenged on fortune by becoming philosophers,” and turning the chance into reason or religion: for so a wise man shall overrule his stars, and have a greater influence upon his own content than all the constellations and planets of the firmament.

2. Never compare thy condition with those above thee; but, to secure thy content, look upon those thousands with whom thou wouldest net, for any interest, change thy fortune and condition. A soldier must not think himself unprosperous if he be not as successful as the son of Philip, or cannot grasp a fortune as big as the Roman empire. Be content that thou art not lessened as was Pyrrhus, or, if thou beest, that thou art not routed like Crassus; and when that comes to thee, it is a great prosperity that thou art not caged and made a spectacle like Bajazet, or thy eyes were not pulled out like Zedekiah’s, or that thou wert not flayed alive like Valentinian. If thou admirest the greatness of Xerxes, look also on those that digged the mountain Atho, or whose ears and noses were cut off because the Hellespont carried away the bridge. It is a fine thing (thou thinkest) to be carried on men’s shoulders; but give God thanks that thou art not forced to carry a rich fool upon thy shoulders, as those poor men do whom thou beholdest. There are but a few kings in mankind; but many thousands who are very miserable if compared to thee. However, it is a huge folly rather to grieve for the good of others than to rejoice for that good which God hath given us of our own.

And yet there is no wise or good man that would change persons or conditions entirely with any man in the world. It may be, he would have one man’s health added to himself, or the power of a second, or the learning of a third; but still he would receive these into his own person, because he loves that best, and therefore esteems it best, and therefore overvalues all that which he is, before all that which any other man in the world can be. Would any man be Dives to have his wealth, or Judas for his office, or Saul for his kingdom, or Absalom for his bounty, or Achitophel for his policy? It is likely he would wish all these, and yet he would be the same person still. For every man hath desires of his own, and objects just fitted o them, without which he cannot be, unless he were not himself. And let every man that loves himself so well auto love himself before all the world, consider if he have not something for which in the whole he values himself far more than he can value any man else. There is therefore no reason to take the finest feathers from all the winged nation to deck that bird that thinks already she is more valuable than any of the inhabitants of the air. Either change all or none. Cease to love yourself best, or be content with that portion of being and blessing for which you can love yourself so well.

3. It conduces much to our content, if we pass by those things which happen to our trouble, and consider that which is pleasing and prosperous - that, by the representation of the butter, the worse may be blotted out; and, at the worst, you have enough to keep you alive, and to keep up and to improve your hopes of heaven. If I be overthrown in my suit at law, yet my house is left me still and my land; or I have a virtuous wife, or hopeful children, or kind friends, or good hopes. If I have lost one child, it may be I have two or three still left me. Or else reckon the blessings which already you have received, and therefore be pleased, in the change and variety of affairs, to receive evil from the hand of God as well as good Antipater, of Tarsus, used this art to support his sorrows on his death-bed, and reckoned the good things of his past life, not forgetting to recount it as a blessing, an argument that God took care of him, that he had a prosperous journey from Cilicia to Athens. Or else please thyself with hopes of the future;[137] for we were born with this sadness upon us, and it was a change that brought us into it, and a change may bring us out again. Harvest will come, and then every farmer is rich, at least for a month or two. It may be thou art entered into the cloud which will bring a gentle shower to refresh thy sorrows.

Now suppose thyself in as great a sadness as ever did load thy spirit, wouldest thou not bear it cheerfully and nobly if thou wert sure that within a certain space some strange excellent fortune would relieve thee, and enrich thee, and recompense thee, so as to overflow all thy hopes and thy desires and capacities? Now then, when a sadness lies heavy upon thee, remember that thou art a Christian designed to the inheritance of Jesus; and what dost thou think concerning thy great fortune, thy lot and portion of eternity? Dost thou think thou shalt be saved or damned? Indeed if thou thinkest thou shalt perish, I cannot blame thee to be sad, till thy heart-strings crack; but then why art thou troubled at the loss of thy money? What should a damned man do with money, which in so great a sadness it is impossible for him to enjoy? Did ever any man upon the rack afflict himself because he had received a cross answer from his mistress? or call for the particulars of a purchase upon the gallows? If thou dost really believe thou shalt be damned, I do not say it will cure the sadness of thy poverty, but it will swallow it up. But if thou believest thou shalt be saved, consider how great is that joy, how infinite is that change, how unspeakable is that glory, how excellent is the recompense, for all the sufferings in the world, if they were all laden upon thy spirit! So that let thy condition be what it will, if thou considerest thy own present condition, and comparest it to thy future possibility, thou canst not feel the present smart of a cross fortune to any great degree, either because thou hast a far bigger sorrow, or a far bigger joy. Here thou art but a stranger, travelling to the country where the glories of a kingdom are prepared for thee; it is, therefore, a huge folly to be much afflicted because thou hast a less convenient inn to lodge in by the way.

But these arts of looking forwards and backwards are more than enough to support the spirit of a Christian: there is no man but hath blessings enough in present possession to outweigh the evils of a great affliction. Tell the joints of thy body, and do not accuse the universal Providence for a lame leg, or the want of a finger, when all the rest is perfect, and you have a noble soul, a particle of divinity, the image of God himself; and by the want of a finger you may the better know how to estimate the remaining parts, and to account for every degree of the surviving blessings. Aristippus, in a great suit at law, lost a farm, and to a gentleman, who in civility pitied and deplored his loss; he answered, “I have two farms left still, and that is more than I have lost, and more than you have by one.” If you miss an office for which you stood candidate, then, besides that you are quit of the cares and the envy of it, you still have all those excellences which rendered you capable to receive it, and they are better than the best office in the commonwealth. If your estate be lessened, you need the less to care who governs the province, whether he be rude or gentle. I am crossed in my journey, and yet I escaped robbers; and I consider, that if I had been set upon by villains, I would have redeemed that evil by this which I now suffer, and have counted it a deliverance; or if I did fall into the hands of thieves, yet they did not steal my land. Or, I am fallen into the hands of publicans and sequestrators, and they have taken all from me: what now? let me look about me. They have left me the sun and moon, fire and water, a loving wife, and many friends to pity me, and some to relieve me, and I can still discourse; and, unless I list, they have not taken away my merry countenance, and my cheerful spirit, and a good conscience; they still have left me the providence of God, and all the promises of the gospel, and my religion, and my hopes of heaven, and my charity to them too; and still I sleep and digest, I eat and drink, I read and meditate; I can walk in my neighbour’s pleasant fields, and see the variety of natural beauties, and delight in all that in which God delights- that is, in virtue and wisdom, in the whole creation, and in God himself. And he that hath so many causes of joy, and so great, is very much in love with sorrow and peevishness, who loses all these pleasures, and chooses to sit down upon his little handful of thorns. Such a person is fit to bear Nero company in his funeral sorrow for the loss of one of Poppea’s hairs, or help to mourn for Lesbia’s sparrow; and because he loves it, he deserves to starve in the midst of plenty, and to want comfort while he is encircled with blessings.

4. Enjoy the present, whatsoever it be, and be not solicitous for the future; for if you take your foot from the present standing, and thrust it forward towards tomorrow’s event, you are in a restless condition: it is like refusing to quench your present thirst by fearing you shall want drink the next day. If it be well to-day, it is madness to make the present miserable by fearing it may be ill to-morrow - when your belly is full of to-day’s dinner, to fear you shall want the next day’s supper; for it may be you shall not, and then to what purpose was this day’s affliction? But if to-morrow you shall want, your sorrow will come time enough, though you do not hasten it: let your trouble tarry till its own day comes. But if it chance to be ill to-day, do not increase it by the care of to-morrow. He, therefore, that enjoys the present if it be good, enjoys as much as is possible; and if only that day’s trouble leans upon him, it is singular and finite. ‘Sufficient to the day (said Christ) is the evil thereof’: sufficient but not intolerable. But if we look abroad, and bring into one day’s thoughts the evil of many, certain and uncertain, what will be, and what will never be, our load will be as intolerable as it is unreasonable. To reprove this instrument of discontent, the ancients feigned that in hell stood a man twisting a rope of hay; and still he twisted on, suffering an ass to eat up all that was finished - so miserable is he who thrusts his passions forwards towards future events, and suffers all that he may enjoy to be lost and devoured by folly and inconsideration, thinking nothing fits to be enjoyed but that which is not or cannot be had. Just so, many young persons are loath to die, and therefore desire to live to old age, and when they are come thither, are troubled that they are come to that state of life, to which before they were come they were hugely afraid they should never come.

5. Let us prepare our minds against changes, always expecting them, that we be not surprised when they come; for nothing is so great an enemy to tranquillity and a contented spirit as the amazement and confusions of unreadiness and inconsideration; and when our fortunes are violently changed our spirits are unchanged, if they always stood in the suburbs and expectations of sorrows. ‘O death, how bitter art thou to a man that is at rest in his possessions!’ And to the rich man who had promised to himself ease and fulness for many years, it was a sad arrest that his soul was surprised the first night; but the apostles, who every day knocked at the gate of death, and looked upon it continually, went to their martyrdom in peace and evenness.

6. Let us often frame to ourselves, and represent to our considerations, the images of those blessings we have, just as we usually understand them when we want them. Consider how desirable health is to a sick man, or liberty to a prisoner; and if but a fit of the toothache seizes us with violence, all those troubles which in our health afflicted us disband instantly, and seem inconsiderable. He that in his health is troubled that he is in debt, and spends sleepless nights, and refuses meat because of his infelicity, let him fall into a fit of the stone or a high fever, he despises the arrest of all his first troubles, and is as a man unconcerned. Remember then that God hath given thee a blessing, the want of which is infinitely more trouble than thy present debt, or poverty, or loss; and therefore is now more to be valued in the possession, and ought to outweigh thy trouble. The very privative blessings, the blessings of immunity, safeguard, liberty, and integrity, which we commonly enjoy, deserve the thanksgiving of a whole life. If God should send a cancer upon thy face, or a wolf into thy side, if he should spread a crust of leprosy upon thy skin, what wouldest thou give to be but as now thou art? Wouldest thou not, on that condition, be as poor as I am, or as the meanest of thy brethren? Would you not choose your present loss or affliction as a thing extremely eligible, and a redemption to thee, if thou mightest exchange the other for this? Thou art quit from a thousand calamities, every one of which, if it were upon thee, would make thee insensible of thy present sorrow: and therefore let thy joy (which should be as great for thy freedom from them, as is thy sadness when thou feelest any of them) do the same cure upon thy discontent. For if we be not extremely foolish or vain, thankless or senseless, a great joy is more apt to cure sorrow and discontent than a great trouble is. I have known an affectionate wife, when she hath been in fear of parting with her beloved husband, heartily desire of God his life or society upon any conditions that were not sinful; and choose to beg with him rather than to feast without him; and the same person hath, upon that consideration, borne poverty nobly, when God hath heard her prayer in the other matter. What wise man in the world is there who does not prefer a small fortune with peace before a great one with contention and war and violence? And then he is no longer wise if he alters his opinion when he hath his wish.

7. If you will secure a contented spirit, you must measure your desires by your fortune and condition, not your fortunes by your desire - that is, be governed by your needs, not by your fancy; by nature, not by evil customs and ambitious principles.[138] 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 storehouse 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?[139] 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; 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 wails 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 where 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 everything 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 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 not, therefore, be governed by external, and present, and seeming things; not 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,[140] 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 circumstance 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 or 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.

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 excellencies and all felicities.[141] 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 Ahimanz. For it is an unreasonable discontent to be troubled that I have not so good cocks, or dogs, or horses, as my neighbor, 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 his 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 must 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 Chioue, and the hair of Paegnium, and Tarsia’s lip, Philenitum’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 in the whole they made a most ugly face. The dispersed excellencies 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 Ituraea, 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 childbirth, to show that there is no state exempt from sorrow, and et 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 swaddling-clothes 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 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 Egina and Megara, Pyraus 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,[142] 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 publicly 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 soul - or health and our virtue remain entire, our life 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 broken 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 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 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 country.

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 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 corssed, 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 recompense 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 to 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 moral 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 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 troublesome. 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.[143] However, certain it is that a great fortune is a great vanity, and riches are nothing but danger, trouble, and temptation; like a garment 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.[144] 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 toothache, 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,[145] saying, “that all our tragedies are of kings and princes, and rich or ambitious personages; but you never see a poor man have a part, unless it be as a chorus, or to fill up the scenes, to dance or to be derided; but the kings and the great generals. First, says he, they begin with joy, crown the houses, but about the third or fourth act they cry out, O Citheron! why didst thou spare my life to reserve me for this more sad calamity?” And this is really true in the great accidents of the world; for a great estate hath great crosses, and a mean fortune hath but small ones. It may be the poor man loses a cow; or if his child dies he is quit of his biggest care; but such an accident in a rich and splendid family doubles upon the spirits of the parents. Or, it may be the poor man is troubled to pay his rent, and that is his biggest trouble; but is is a bigger care to secure a great fortune in a troubled estate, or with equal greatness, or with the circumstances of honour and the niceness of reputation, to defend a lawsuit; and that which will secure a common man’s whole estate is not enough to defend a great man’s honour.

And therefore it was not without mystery observed among the ancients, that they who made gods of gold and silver, of hope and fear, peace and fortune, garlic and onions, beasts and serpents, and a quartan ague, yet never deified money; meaning that however wealth was admired by common or abused understandings, yet from riches, that is from that proportion of good things which is beyond the necessities of nature, no moment could be added to a man’s real content or happiness. Corn from Sardinia, herds from Calabrian cattle, meadows through which pleasant Liris glides, silks from Tyrus, and golden chalices to drown my health in, are nothing but instruments of vanity or sin; and suppose a disease in the soul of him that longs for them or admires them. And this I have otherwhere represented more largely; to which I here add, that riches have very great dangers to their souls not only to them who covet them, but to all that have them. For if a great personage undertakes an action passionately and upon great interest, let him manage it indiscreetly, let the whole design be unjust, let it be acted with all the malice and impotency in the world, he shall have enough to flatter him, but not enough to reprove him. He had need be a bold man that shall tell his patron he is going to hell; and that prince had need be a good man that shall suffer such a monitor; and though it be a strange kind of civility, and an evil dutifulness in friends and relatives to suffer him to perish without reproof or medicine, rather than to seem unmannerly to a great sinner, yet it is none of their least infelicities that their wealth and greatness shall put them into sin, and yet put them past reproof. I need not instance in the habitual intemperance of rich tables, nor the evil accidents and effects of fulness, pride and lust, wantonness and softness of disposition, huge talking and an imperious spirit, despite of religion, and contempt of poor persons; at the best, it is a great temptation for a man to have in his power whatsoever he can have in his sensual desires;[146] and therefore riches is a blessing like to a present made of a whole vintage to a man in a hectic fever; he will be much tempted to drink of it, and if he does, he is inflamed, and may chance to die with the kindness.

Now besides what hath been already noted in the state of poverty, there is nothing to be accounted for but the fear of wanting necessaries; of which, if a man could be secured that he might live free from care, all the other parts of it might be reckoned amongst the advantages of wise and sober persons, rather than objections against that state of fortune.

But concerning this, I consider that there must needs be great security to all Christians, since Christ not only made express promises that we should have sufficient for this life, but took great pains and used many arguments to create confidence in us; and such they were, which by their own strength were sufficient, though you abate the authority of the speaker. The Son of God told us, his Father takes care of us: he that knew all his Father’s counsels, and his whole kindness towards mankind, told us so. How great is that truth, how certain, how necessary, which Christ himself proved by arguments! The excellent words and most comfortable sentences which are our bills of exchange, upon the credit of which we lay our cares down and receive provisions for our need, are these, ‘Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air, for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feedeth them! Are ye not much better than they? Which of you, by taking thought, can add one cubit to his stature? and why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow - they toil not, neither do they spin; and yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Therefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field which to-day is, and to-morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat, or what shall we drink, or wherewithal shall we be clothes? (for after all these things do the gentiles seek); for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow, for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself: sufficient to the day is the evil thereof.” The same discourse is repeated by St. Luke;[147] and accordingly our duty is urged, and our confidence abetted, by the disciples of our Lord, in divers places of Holy Scripture. So St. Paul - ‘Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God.” And again, “Charge them that are rich in this world that they be not high-minded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy. And yet again, “Let your conversation be without covetousness, and be content with such things as ye have; for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee: so that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper.”[148] And all this is by St. Peter summed up in our duty thus: “Cast all your care upon him, for he careth for you.” Which words he seems to have borrowed out of the fifty-fifth Psalm, ver. 23, where David saith the same thing almost in the same words; to which I only add the observation made by him, and the argument of experience: ‘I have been young, and now am old, and yet saw I never the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging their bread.’ And now after all this, a fearless confidence in God, concerning a provision of necessaries, is so reasonable, that it is become a duty; and he is scarce a Christian whose faith is so little as to be jealous of God and suspicious concerning meat and clothes - that man hath nothing in him of the nobleness or confidence of charity.

Does not God provide for all the birds and beasts and fishes? Do not the sparrows fly from their bush, and every morning find meat where they laid it not? Do not the young ravens call to God, and he feeds them? And were it reasonable that the sons of the family should fear the father would give meat to the chickens and the servants, his sheep and his dogs, but give none to them? He were a very ill father that should do so; or he were a very foolish son that should think so of a good father. But besides the reasonableness of this faith and this hope, we have infinite experience of it. How innocent, how careless, how secure, is infancy! and yet how certainly provided for! We have lived at God’s charges all the days of our life, and have (as the Italian proverb says) set down to meat at the sound of a bell; and hitherto he hath not failed us: we have no reason to suspect him for the future; we do not use to serve men so; and less time of trial creates great confidences in us towards them, who for twenty years together never broke their word with us: and God hath so ordered it, that a man shall have had the experience of many years’ provision before he shall understand how to doubt; that he may be provided for an answer against the temptation shall come, and the mercies felt in his childhood may make him fearless when he is a man. Add to this, that God hath given us his Holy Spirit; he hath promised heaven to us; he hath given us his Son; and we are taught from Scripture to make this inference from hence, ‘How should not he with him give us all things else?’

The Charge of many Children.

We have a title to be provided for, as we are God’s creatures, another title as we are his children, another because God hath promised - and every of our children hath the same title; and therefore it is a huge folly and infidelity to be troubled and full of care because we have many children. Every child we have to feed is a new revenue, a new title to God’s care and providence; so that many children are a great wealth; and if it be said they are chargeable, it is no more than all wealth and great revenues are. For what difference is it? Titus keeps ten ploughs, Cornelia hath ten children: he hath land enough to employ and feed all his hinds; she, blessings and promises, and the provisions and the truth of God to maintain all her children. His hinds and horses eat up all his corn, and her children are sufficiently maintained with her little. They bring in and eat up, and she indeed eats up, but they also bring in from the store-houses of heaven, and the granaries of God; and my children are not so much mine as they are God’s - he feeds them in the womb, by ways secret and insensible, and would not work a perpetual miracle to bring them forth, and then to starve them.

Violent Necessities.

But some men are highly tempted, and are brought to a strait, that without a miracle, they cannot be relieved - what shall they do? It may be their pride or vanity hath brought the necessity upon them, and it is not a need of God’s making: and if it be not, they must cure it themselves, by lessening their desires and moderating their appetites: and yet if it be innocent, though unnecessary, God does usually relieve such necessities; and he does not only upon our prayers grant us more than he promised of temporal things, but also he gives many times more than we ask. This is no object for our faith, but ground enough for a temporal and prudent hope; and if we fail in the particular, God will turn it to a bigger mercy if we submit to his dispensation and adore him in the denial. But if it be a matter of necessity, let not any man, by way of impatience, cry out that God will not work a miracle; for God, by miracle, did give meat and drink to his people in the wilderness, of which he made no particular promise in any covenant; and if all natural means fail, it is certain that God will rather work a miracle than break his word; he can do that - he cannot do this. Only we must remember that our portion of temporal things is but food and raiment. God hath not promised us coaches and horses, rich houses and jewels, Tyrian silks and Persian carpets; neither hath he promised to minister to our needs in such circumstances as we shall appoint, but such as himself shall choose. God will enable thee either to pay thy debt (if thou beggest it of him), or else he will pay it for thee; that is, take thy desire as a discharge of thy duty, and pay it to thy creditor in blessings, or in some secret of his providence. It may be he hath laid up the corn that shall feed thee in the granary of thy brother, or will clothe thee with his wool. He enabled St. Peter to pay his gabel by the ministry of a fish, and Elias to be waited on by a crow, who was both his minister and his steward for provisions; and his holy Son rode in triumph upon an ass that grazed in another man’s pastures. And if God gives to him the domination, and reserves the use to thee, thou hast the better half of the two; but the charitable man serves God and serves thy need, and both join to provide for thee, and God blesses both. But if he takes away the flesh-pots from thee, he can also alter the appetite, and he hath given thee power and commandment to restrain it; and if he lessens the revenue, he will also shrink the necessity; or if he gives but a very little, he will make it go a great way; or if he sends thee but a course diet, he will bless it and make it healthful, and can cure all the anguish of thy poverty by giving thee patience and the grace of contentedness. For the grace of God feeds and supports the spirit in the want of provisions; and if a thin table be apt to enfeeble the spirits of one used to feed better, yet the cheerfulness of a spirit that is blessed will make a thin table become a delicacy, if the man was as well taught as he was fed, and learned his duty when he received the blessing. Poverty, therefore, is in some senses eligible, and to be preferred before riches; but in all senses it is very tolerable.

Death of Children, or nearest Relatives and Friends.

There are some persons, who have been noted excellent in their lives and passions, rarely innocent, and yet hugely penitent for indiscretions and harmless infirmities; such as was Paulina, one of the ghostly children of St. Jerome; and yet, when any of her children died, she was arrested with a sorrow so great as brought her to the margin of her grave. And the more tender our spirits are made by religion, the more easy we are to let in grief, if the cause be innocent, and be but in any sense twisted with piety and due affections; to cure which we may consider that all the world must die, and therefore to be impatient at the death of a person concerning whom it was certain and known that he must die, is to mourn because thy friend or child was not born an angel; and when thou hast awhile made thyself miserable by an importunate and useless grief, it may be thou shalt die thyself, and leave others to their choice whether they will mourn for thee or no; but by that time it will appear how impertinent that grief was which served no end of life, and ended in thy own funeral. But what great matter is it if sparks fly upward, or a stone falls into a pit; if that which was combustible be burned, or that which was liquid be melted, or that which is mortal to die? It is no more than a man does every day; for every night death hath gotten possession of that day,and we shall never live that day over again; and when the last day is come, there are no more days left for us to die. And what is sleeping and waking, but living and dying? what is spring and autumn, youth and old age, morning and evening, but real images of life and death, and really the same to many considerable effects and changes?

Untimely Death.

But it is not mere dying that is pretended by some as the cause of their impatient mourning: but that the child died young, before he knew good and evil, his right hand from his left, and so lost all his portion of this world, and they know not of what excellency his portion in the next shall be. If he died young, he lost but little, for he understood but little, and had not capacities of great pleasures or great cares; but yet he died innocent and before the sweetness of his soul was deflowered and ravished from him by the flames and follies of a forward age; he went out from the dining-room before he had fallen into error by the intemperance of his meat, or the deluge of drink; and he hath obtained this favor of God, that his soul hath suffered a less imprisonment, and her load was sooner taken off, that he might, with lesser delays, go and converse with immortal spirits - and the babe is taken into paradise before he knows good and evil (for that knowledge threw our great father out, and this ignorance returns the child thither). But (as concerning thy own particular) remove thy thoughts back to those days in which thy child was not born, and you are now but as then you was, and there is no difference, but that you had a son born; and if you reckon that for evil, you are unthankful for the blessing; if it be good, it is better that you had the blessing for awhile, than not at all; and yet, if he had never been born, this sorrow had not been at all.[149] But be no more displeased at God for giving you a blessing for awhile, than you would have been if he had not given it at all; and reckon that intervening blessing for a gain, but account it not an evil; and if it be a good, turn it not into sorrow and sadness. But if we have great reason to complain of the calamities and evils of our life, then we have the less reason to grieve that those whom we loved have so small a portion of evil assigned to them. And it is no small advantage that our children dying young receive; for their condition of a blessed immortality is rendered to them secure by being snatched from the dangers of an evil choice, and carried to their little cells of felicity, where they can weep no more. And this the wisest of the Gentiles understood well, when they forbade any offerings of libations to be made for dead infants, as was usual for their other dead; as believing they were entered into a secure possession, to which they went with no other condition but that they passed into it through the way of mortality, and, for a few months, wore an uneasy garment. And let weeping parents say if they do not think that the evils their little babes have suffered are sufficient. If they be, why are they troubled that they were taken from those many and greater which in succeeding years are great enough to try all the reason and religion which art, and nature, and the grace of God have produced in us, to enable us for such sad contentions? And, possibly, we may doubt concerning men and women, but we cannot suspect that to infants death can be such an evil, but that it brings to them much more good than it takes from them in this life.

Death unseasonable.

But others can well bear the death of infants; but when they have spent some years of childhood or youth, and are entered into arts and society, when they are hopeful and provided for, when the parents are to reap the comfort of all their fears and cares, then it breaks the spirit to lose them. This is true in many; but this is not love to the dead, but to themselves; for they miss what they had flattered themselves into by hope and opinion; and if it were kindness to the dead, they may consider, that since we hope he is gone to God and to rest, it is an ill expression of our love to them that we weep for their good fortune. For that life is not best which is longest: and when they are descended into the grave it shall not be inquired how long they have lived, but how well: and yet this shortening of their days is an evil wholly depending upon opinions.[150] For if men did naturally live but twenty years, then we should be satisfied if they died about sixteen or eighteen; and yet eighteen years now are as long as eighteen years would be then: and if a man were but a day’s life, it is well if he lasts till even song, and then says his compline an hour before the time - and we are pleased, and call not that death immature, if he lives till seventy; and yet this age is as short of the old periods before and since the flood, as this youth’s age (for whom you mourn) is of the present fulness. Suppose, therefore, a decree passed upon this person, (as there have been many upon all mankind,) and God hath set him a shorter period; and then we may as well bear the immature death of the young man as the death of the oldest men; for they also are immature and unseasonable in respect of the old periods of many generations. And why are we troubled that he had arts and sciences before he died? or are we troubled that he does not live to make use of them? The first is cause of joy, for they are excellent in order to certain ends; and the second cannot be cause of sorrow, because he hath no need to use them, as the case now stands, being provided for with the provisions of an angel and the manner of eternity. However, the sons and the parents, friends and relatives, are in the world like hours and minutes to a day. The hour comes, and must pass; and some stay by minutes, and they also pass, and shall never return again. But let it be considered, that from the time in which a man is conceived, from that time forward to eternity he shall never cease to be; and let him die young or old, still he hath an immortal soul, and hath laid down his body only for a time, as that which was the instrument of his trouble and sorrows and the scene of sicknesses and disease. But he is in a more noble manner of being after death than he can be here; and the child may with more reason be allowed to cry for leaving his mother’s womb for this world, than a man can for changing this world for another.

Sudden Death, or Violent.

Others are yet troubled at the manner of their child’s or friends death. He was drowned, or lost his head, or died of the plague; and this is a new spring of sorrow. But no man can give a sensible account how it shall be worse for a child to die with drowning in half an-hour, than to endure a fever of one-and-twenty days. And if my friend lost his head, so he did not lose his constancy and his religion, he died with huge advantage.

Being Childless.

But by this means I am left without an heir. Well, suppose that: thou hast no heir, and I have no inheritance; and there are many kings and emperors that have died childless, many royal lines are extinguished; and Augustus Caesar was forced to adopt his wife’s son to inherit all the Roman greatness. And there are many wise persons that never married; and we read nowhere that any of the children of the apostles did survive their fathers; and all that inherit anything of Christ’s kingdom come to it by adoption, not by natural inheritance: and to die without a natural heir is no intolerable evil, since it was sanctified in the person of Jesus, who died a virgin.

Evil or unfortunate Children.

And by this means we are exposed to the greater sorrow of having a fool, a swine, or a goat, to rule after us in our families; and yet even this condition admits of comfort. For all the wild Americans are supposed to be the sons of Dodoniam; and the sons of Jacob are now the most scattered and despised people in the whole world. The son of Solomon was but a silly weak man; and the son of Hezakiah was wicked: and all the fools and barbarous people, all the thieves and pirates, all the slaves and miserable men and women of the world, are the sons and daughters of Noah; and we must not look to be exempted from that portion of sorrow which God gave to Noah, and Adam, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob: I pray God send us into the lot of Abraham. But if anything happens worse to us, it is enough for us that we bear it evenly.

Our own Death.

And how, if you were to die yourself? You know you must. Only be ready for it by the preparations of a good life; and then it is the greatest good that ever happened to thee; else there is nothing that can comfort you. But if you have served God in a holy life, send away the women and the weepers; tell them it is as much intemperance to weep too much as to laugh too much; and when thou art alone, or with fitting company, die as thou shouldest, but do not die impatiently, and like a fox catched in a trap. For if you fear death, you shall never the more avoid it, but you make it miserable. Fannius, that killed himself for fear of death, died as certainly as Portia, that ate burning coals, or Cato, that cut his own throat. To die is necessary and natural, and it may be honourable; but to die poorly, and basely, and sinfully, that alone is it that can make a man unfortunate. No man can be a slave, but he that fears pain, or fears to die. To such a man nothing but chance and peaceable times can secure his duty, and he depends upon things without for his felicity; and so is well but during the pleasure of his enemy, or a thief, or a tyrant or it may be of a dog or a wild bull.



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