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Holy Living

by Jeremy Taylor





Of Alms.


Love is as communicative as fire, as busy and as active, and it hath four twin-daughters, extreme like each other; and but that the doctors of the school have done, as Thamar’s midwife did, who bound a scarlet thread, something to distinguish them, it would be very hard to call them asunder. Their names are, 1. Mercy; 2. Beneficence or well-doing; 3. Liberality; and, 4. Alms; which, by a special privilege, hath obtained to be called Charity. The first or eldest is seated in the affection; and it is that which all the others must attend, for mercy, without alms, is acceptable when the person is disabled to express outwardly what he heartily desires. But alms, without mercy, are like prayers without devotion, or religion without humility. 2. Beneficence or well-doing is a promptness and nobleness of mind, making us to do offices of courtesy and humanity to all sorts of persons, in their need or out of their need. 3. Liberality is a disposition of mind opposite to covetousness, and consists in the despite and neglect of money upon just occasions, and relates to our friends, children, kindred, servants, and other relatives. 4. But alms is a relieving of the poor and needy. The first and the last only are duties of Christianity. The second and third are circumstances and adjuncts of these duties; for liberality increases the degree of alms, making our gift greater; and beneficence extends it to more persons and orders of men, spreading it wider. The former makes us sometimes to give more than need by the necessity of beggars, and serves the needs and conveniences of persons and supplies circumstances; whereas properly alms are doles and largesses to the necessities of nature, and giving remedies to their miseries.

Mercy and alms are the body and soul of that charity which we must pay to our neighbour’s need; and it is a precept which God therefore enjoined to the world, that the great inequality which he was pleased to suffer in the possessions and accidents of men might be reduced to some temper and evenness; and the most miserable person might be reduced to some temper and evenness; and the most miserable person might be reconciled to some sense and participation of felicity.


Works of Mercy, or the several Kinds of corporal Alms.

The works of mercy are so many as the affections of mercy have objects, or as the world hath kinds of misery. men want meat, or drink, or clothes, or a house, or liberty, or attendance, or a grave. In proportion to these, seven works are usually assigned to mercy, and there are seven kinds of corporal alms reckoned: 1. To feed the hungry;[238] 2. To give drink to the thirsty; 3. Or clothes to the naked; 4. To redeem captives; 5. To visit the sick; 6. To entertain strangers; 7. To bury the dead.[239] But many more may be added. Such as are, 8. To give physic to sick persons; 9. To bring cold and starved people to warmth and to the fire - for sometimes clothing will not do it, or this may be done when we cannot do the other; 10. To lead the blind in right ways; 11. To lend money; 12. To forgive debts; 13. To remit forfeitures; 14. To mend highways and bridges; 15. To reduce or guide wandering travellers; 16. To ease their labours by accommodating their work with apt instruments, or their journey with beasts of carriage; 17. To deliver the poor from their oppressors; 18. To die for my brother;[240] 19. To pay maidens ‘dowries, and to procure for them honest and chast marriages.


Works of Spiritual Alms and Mercy are,

1. To teach the ignorant; 2. To counsel doubting persons; 3. To admonish sinners diligently, prudently, seasonably, and charitably: to which also may be reduced, provoking and encouraging to good works;[241] 4. To comfort the afflicted; 5. To pardon offenders; 6. To succour and support the weak;[242] To pray for all estates of men, and for relief to all their necessities. To which may be added, 8. To punish or correct refractoriness; 9. To be gentle and charitable in censuring the actions of others; 10. To establish the scrupulous, wavering, and inconstant spirits; 11. To confirm the strong; 12. Not to give scandal; 13. To quit a man of his fear; 14. To redeem maidens from prostitution and publication of their bodies.[243]

To both these kinds a third also may be added of a mixed nature, partly corporal and partly spiritual; such are, 1. Reconciling enemies;[244] 2. Erecting public schools of learning; 3. Maintaining lectures of divinity; 4. Erecting colleges of religion and retirement from the noises and more frequent temptations of the world; 5. Finding employment for unbusied persons and putting children to honest trades: for the particulars of mercy or alms cannot be narrower than men’s needs are, and the old method of alms is too narrow to comprise them all, and yet the kinds are too many to be discoursed of particularly; only our blessed Saviour, in the precept of alms, uses the instances of relieving the poor and forgiveness of injuries; and by proportion to these, the rest, whose duty is plain, simple, easy, and necessary, may be determined. But alms in general are to be disposed of according to the following rules:


Rules for giving Alms.

1. Let no man do alms of that which is none of his own;[245] for of that he is to make restitution that is due to the owners, not to the poor; for every man hath need of his own, and that is first to be provided for; and then you must think of the needs of the poor. He that gives the poor what is not his own, makes himself a thief, and the poor to be the receivers. This is not to be understood as if it were unlawful for a man that is not able to pay his debts to give smaller alms to the poor. He may not give such portions as can in any sense more disable him to do justice;[246] but such which, if they were saved, could not advance the other duty may retire to this, and do here what they may, since, in the other duty, they cannot do what they should. But, generally, cheaters and robbers cannot give alms of what they have cheated and robbed, unless they cannot tell the persons whom they have injured, or the proportions; and, in such cases, they are to give those unknown portions to the poor by way of restitution, for it is no alms; only God is the supreme Lord to whom those escheats devolve, and the poor are his receivers.

2. Of money unjustly taken, and yet voluntarily parted with, we may, and are bound to give alms; such as is money given and taken for false witness, bribes, and simoniacal contracts; because the receiver hath no right to keep it, nor the giver any right to recall it; it is unjust money, and yet payable to none but the supreme Lord, (who is the person injured,) and to his delegates, that is, the poor. To which I insert these cautions: 1. If the person injured by the unjust sentence of a bribed judge, or by false witness, be poor, he is the proper object and bosom to whom the restitution is to be made; 2. In the case of simony[247] the church, to whom the simony was injurious, is the lap into which the restitution is to be poured; and if it be poor and out of repair, the alms or restitution (shall I call it?) are to be paid to it.

3. There is some sort of gain that hath in it no injustice, properly so called; but it is unlawful and filthy lucre; such as is money taken for work done unlawfully upon the Lord’s day; hire taken for disfiguring one’s-self, and for being professed jesters; the wages of such as make unjust bargains, and of harlots. Of this money there is some preparation to be made before it be given in alms, the money is infected with the plague, and must pass through the fire or the water before it be fit for alms; the person must repent and leave the crime, and then minister to the poor.

4. He that gives alms must do it in mercy; that is, out of a true sense of the calamity of his brother, first feeling it in himself in some proportion, and then endeavouring to ease himself and the other of their common calamity.[248] Against this rule they offend who give alms out of custom, or to upbraid the poverty of the other, or to make him mercenary and obliged, or with any unhandsome circumstances.

5. He that gives alms must do it with a single eye and heart;[249] that is, without designs to get the praise of men; and if he secures that, he may either give them publicly or privately; for Christ intended only to provide against pride and hypocrisy when he bade arms to be given in secret, it being otherwise one of his commandments, ‘that our light should shine before men:’ this is more excellent; that is more safe.

6. To this also appertains that he who hath done a good turn should so forget it as not to speak of it; but he that boasts it, or upbraids it, hath paid himself and lost the nobleness of the charity.

7. Give alms with a cheerful heart and countenance; ‘not grudgingly or of necessity, for God loveth a cheerful giver;’[250] and therefore give quickly when the power is in thy hand, and the need is in thy neighbour, and thy neighbour at the door. He gives twice that relieves speedily.

8. According to thy ability give to all men that need;[251] and, in equal needs, give first to good men rather than to bad men; and if the needs be unequal, do so too, provided that the need of the poorest be not violent or extreme; but, if an evil man be in extreme necessity he is to be relieved rather than a good man who can tarry longer, and may subsist without it; and if he be a good man he will desire it should be so, because himself is bound to save the life of his brother with doing some inconvenience to himself; and no differences of virtue or vice can make the ease of one beggar equal with the life of another.

9. Give no alms to vicious persons if such alms will support their sin, as if they will continue in idleness; ‘if they will not work neither let them eat;’[252] or if they will spend it in drunkenness,[253] or wantonness, such persons, when they are reduced to very great want, must be relieved in such proportions as may not relieve their dying lust, but may refresh their faint or dying bodies.

10. The best objects of charity are poor housekeepers that labour hard, and are burdened with many children; or gentlemen fallen into poverty, especially if by innocent misfortune, (and if their crimes brought them into it, yet they are to be relieved according to the former rule,) persecuted persons, widows and fatherless children, putting them to honest trades or school of learning. And search into the needs of numerous and meaner families,[254] for there are many persons that have nothing left them but misery and modesty; and towards such we must add two circumstances of charity: 1. To inquire them out; 2. To convey our relief unto them so as we do not make them ashamed.

11. Give, looking for nothing again, that is, without consideration of future advantages; give to children, to old men, to the unthankful, and the dying, and to those you shall never see again; for else your alms or courtesy is not charity, but traffic and merchandise; and be sure that you omit not to relieve the needs of your enemy and the injurious; for so, possibly, you may win him to yourself; but do you intend the winning him to God.

12. Trust not your alms to intermedial, uncertain, and under-dispensers; by which rule is not only intended the securing your alms in the right channel, but the humility of your person, and that which the apostle calls ‘the labour of love.’ And if you converse in hospitals and alms-houses, and minister with your own hand what your heart hath first decreed, you will find your heart endeared and made familiar with the needs and with the persons of the poor, those excellent images of Christ.

13. Whatsoever is superfluous in thy estate is to be dispensed in alms.[255] He that hath two coats must give to him that hath none;’ that is, he that hath beyond his need must give that which is beyond it. Only among needs, we are to reckon not only what will support our life, but also what will maintain the decency of our estate and person, not only in present needs, but in all future necessities, and very probable contingencies, but no further: we are not obliged beyond this, unless we see very great, public, and calamitous necessities. But yet if we do extend beyond our measures, and give more than we are able, we have he Philippians and many holy persons for our precedent; we have St. Paul for our encouragement; we have Christ for our counsellor; we have God for our rewarder; and a great treasure in heaven for our recompense and restitution. But I propound it to the consideration of all Christian people that they be not nice and curious, fond and indulgent to themselves in taking accounts of their personal conveniences; and that they make their proportions moderate and easy, according to the order and manner of Christianity; and the consequent will be this, that the poor will more plentifully be relieved, themselves will be more able to do it, and the duty will be less chargeable, and the owners of estates charged with fewer accounts in the spending them. It cannot be denied but, in the expenses of all liberal and great personages, many things might be spared; some superfluous servants, some idle meetings, some unnecessary and imprudent feasts, some garments too costly, some unnecessary lawsuits, some vain journeys; and when we are tempted to such needless expenses, if we shall descend to moderation, and lay aside the surplusage, we shall find it with more profit to be laid out upon the poor members of Christ than upon our own with vanity. But this is only intended to be an advice in the matter of doing alms; for I am not ignorant that great variety of clothes always have been permitted to princes and nobility and others in their proportion; and they usually give those clothes as rewards to servants, and other persons needful enough, and then they may serve their own fancy and their duty too; but it is but reason and religion to be careful that they be given to such only where duty, or prudent liberality, or alms, determine them; but in no sense let them do it so as to minister to vanity, to luxury, to prodigality. The like also is to be observed in other instances; and if we once give our minds to the study and arts of alms, we shall find ways enough to make this duty easy, profitable, and useful.

1. He that plays at any game must resolve beforehand to be indifferent to win or lose; but if he gives to the poor all that he wins, it is better than to keep it to himself; but it were better yet that he lay by so much as he is willing to lose, and let the game alone, and, by giving so much alms, traffic for eternity. That is one way.

2. Another is keeping the fasting-days of the church, which if our condition be such as to be able to cast our accounts, and make abatements for our wanting so many meals in the whole year, (which by the old appointment did amount to one hundred and fifty-three, and since most of them are fallen into desuetude, we may make up as many of them as we please by voluntary fasts,) we may, from hence, find a considerable relief for the poor. But if we be not willing sometimes to fast, that our brother may eat, we should ill die for him. St. Martin had given all that he had in the world to the poor save one coat; and that also he divided between two beggars. A father in the mount of Mitria was reduced at last to the inventory of one Testament, and that book also was tempted from him by the needs of one whom he thought poorer than himself. Greater yet: St. Paulinus sold himself to slavery to redeem a young man for whose captivity his mother wept sadly; and it is said that St. Katherine sucked the envenomed wounds of a villain who had injured her most impudently. And I shall tell you of a greater charity than all these put together; Christ gave himself to shame and death to redeem his enemies from bondage and death and hell.

3. Learn of the frugal man, and only avoid sordid actions, and turn good husband, and change your arts of getting, into providence for the poor, and we shall soon become rich in good works; and why should we not do as much for charity as for covetousness; for heaven as for the fading world; for God and the holy Jesus as for the needless superfluities of back and belly?

14. In giving alms to beggars and persons of that low rank it is better to give little to each, that we may give to the more, so extending our alms to many persons; but in charities of religion, as building hospitals, colleges, and houses for devotion, and supplying the accidental wants of decayed persons, fallen from great plenty to great necessity, it is better to unite our aims than to disperse them; to make a noble relief or maintenance to one, and to restore him to comfort, than to support only his natural needs, and keep him alive only, unrescued from sad discomforts.

15. The precept of alms or charity binds not indefinitely to all the instances and kinds of charity; for he that delights to feed the poor, and spends all his portion that way, is not bound to enter into prisons and redeem captives; but we are obliged by the presence of circumstances, and the special disposition of Providence, and the pitiableness of an object, to this or that particular act of charity. The eye is the sense of mercy, and the bowels are its organ; and that enkindles pity, and pity produces alms: when the eye sees what it never say, the heart will think what it never thought; but when we have an object present to our eye, then we must pity; for there the providence of God hath fitted our charity with circumstances. He that is in thy sight or in thy neighbourhood is fallen into the lot of thy charity.

16. If thou hast no money,[256] yet thou must have mercy, and art bound to pity the poor, and pray for them, and throw thy holy desires and devotions into the treasure of the church; and if thou dost what thou art able, be it little or great, corporal or spiritual, the charity of alms or the charity of prayers, a cup of wine or a cup of water, if it be but love to the brethren,[257] or a desire to help all or any of Christ’s poor, it shall be accepted according to that a man hath, not according to that he hath not.[258] For love is all this, and all the other commandments; and where it cannot, yet it is love still; and it is also sorrow that it cannot.


Motives to Charity.

The motives to this duty are such, as Holy Scripture hath propounded to us by way of consideration and proposition of its excellences and consequent reward. 1. There is no one duty which our blessed Saviour did recommend to his disciples with so repeated an injunction as this of charity and alms.[259] To which add the words spoken by our Lord, ‘It is better to give than to receive.’ And when we consider how great a blessing it is that we beg not from door to door, it is a ready instance of our thankfulness to God, for his sake, to relieve them that do. 2. This duty is that alone whereby the future day of judgment shall be transacted. For nothing but charity and alms is that whereby Christ shall declare the justice and mercy of the eternal sentence. Martyrdom itself is not there expressed, and no otherwise involved, but as it is the greatest charity. 3. Christ made himself the greatest and daily example of alms or charity. He went up and down doing good, preaching the gospel, and healing all diseases; and God the Father is imitable by us in nothing but in purity and mercy. 4. Alms given to the poor rebound to the emolument of the giver both temporal and eternal.[260] 5. They are instrumental to the remission of sins; our forgiveness and mercy to others being made the very rule and proportion of our confidence and hope, and our prayer to be forgiven ourselves.[261] 6. It is a treasure in heaven; it procures friends when we die. It is reckoned as done to Christ, whatsoever we do to our poor brother; and, therefore, when a poor man begs for Christ’s sake, if he have reason to ask for Christ’s sake, give it him if thou canst. Now every man hath title to ask for Christ’s sake whose need is great, and himself unable to cure it, and if the man be a Christian. Whatsoever charity Christ will reward, all that is given for Christ’s sake, and therefore it may be asked in his name; but every man that uses that sacred name for an endearment hath not a title to it, neither he nor his need. 7. It is one of the wings of prayer by which it flies to the throne of grace. 8. It crowns all the works of piety.[262] 9. It causes thanksgiving to God on our behalf; 10. And the bowels of the poor bless us and pray for us; 11. And that portion of our estate out of which a tenth, or a fifth, or a twentieth, or some offering to God for religion and the poor goes forth, certainly returns with a great blessing upon all the rest. It is like the effusion of oil by the Sidonian woman; as long as she pours into empty vessels it could never cease running; or like the widow’s barrel of meal, it consumed not as long as she fed the profit. 12. The sum of all it contained in the words of our blesses Saviour: ‘Give alms of such things as you have, and behold all things are clean unto you.’ 13. To which may be added, that charity or mercy is the peculiar character of God’s elect, and a sign of predestination, which advantage we are taught by St. Paul: ‘Put on, therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercy, kindness, etc. Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any.’[263] The result of all which we may read in the words of St. Chrysostom: “To know the art of alms is greater than to be crowned with the diadem of kings. And yet to convert one soul is greater than to pour out ten thousand talents into the baskets of the poor.”

But because giving alms is an act of the virtue of mercifulness, our endeavour must be, by proper arts, to mortify the parents of unmercifulness, which are - 1. Envy; 2. Anger; 3. Covetousness: in which we may be helped by the following rules or instruments:


Remedies against Unmercifulness and Uncharitableness.

1. Against Envy, by way of consideration.

Against envy I shall use the same argument we would use to persuade a man from the fever or the dropsy. 1. Because it is a disease; it is so far from having pleasure in it, or a temptation to it that it is full of pain, a great instrument of vexation: it eats the flesh, and dries up the marrow, and makes hollow eyes and lean cheeks and a pale face. 2. It is nothing but a direct resolution never to enter into heaven by the way of noble pleasure taken in the good of others. 3. It is most contrary to God. 4. And a just contrary state to the felicities and actions of heaven, where every star increases the light of the other, and the multitude of guests at the supper of the Lamb makes the eternal meal more festival. 5. It is perfectly the state of hell and the passion of devils; for they do nothing but despair in themselves,[264] and envy other’s quiet or safety, and yet cannot rejoice either in their good or in their evil, although they endeavour to hinder that and procure this with all the devices and arts of malice and of a great understanding. 6. Envy can serve no end in the world: it cannot please anything, nor do anything, nor hinder anything, but the content and felicity of him that hath. 7. Envy can never pretend to justice as hatred and uncharitableness sometimes may; for there may be causes of hatred and I may have wrong done me, and then hatred hath some pretence, though no just argument. But no man is unjust or injurious for being prosperous or wise. And therefore many men profess to hate another, but no man owns envy as being an enmity and displeasure for no cause, but goodness or felicity: envious men, being like cantharides and caterpillars, that delight most to devour ripe and most excellent fruits.[265] It is of all crimes the bassist: for malice and anger are appeased with benefits, but envy is exasperated, as envying to fortunate persons both their power and their will to do good, and never leaves murmuring till the envied person be levelled, and then only the vulture leaves to eat the liver. For if his neighbour be made miserable, the envious man is apt to be troubled: like him that is so long unbuilding the turrets, till all the roof is low or flat, or that the stones fall upon the lower buildings and do a mischief that the man repents of.


2. Remedies against Anger, by way of exercise.

The next enemy to mercifulness and the grace of alms is anger, against which there are proper instruments both in prudence and religion.

1. Prayer is the great remedy against anger; for it must suppose it in some degree removed before we pray, and then it is the more likely it will be finished when the prayer is done. We must lay aside the act of anger as a preparatory to prayer; and the curing the habit will be the effect and blessing of prayer; so that if a man, to cure his anger, resolves to address himself to God by prayer, it is first necessary that, by his own observation and diligence, he lay the anger aside before his prayer can be fit to be presented; and when we so pray, and so endeavour, we have all the blessings of prayer which God hath promised to it to be our security for success.

2. If anger arises in thy breast, instantly seal up thy lips and let it not go forth;[266] for, like fire when it wants vent, it will suppress itself. It is good, in a fever, to have a tender and a smooth tongue; but it is better that it be so in anger; for if it be rough and distempered, there it is an ill sign, but here it is an ill cause. Angry passion is a fire, and angry words are like breath to fan it; together they are like steel and flint sending out fire by mutual collision. Some men will discourse themselves into passion; and if their neighbour be enkindled too, together they flame with rage and violence.

3. Humility is the most excellent natural cure for anger in the world; for he, that by daily considering his own infirmities and failings, makes the error of his neighbour or servant to be his won case, and remembers that he daily needs God’s pardon and his brother’s charity, will not be apt to rage at the levities, or misfortunes, or indiscretions, of another, greater than which he considers that he is very frequently and more inexcusably guilty of.

4. Consider the example of the ever-blessed Jesus, who suffered all the contradictions of sinners, and received all affronts and reproaches of malicious, rash, and foolish persons, and yet in all of them was as dispassionate and gentle as the morning sun in autumn; and in this also be propounded himself imitable by us. For if innocence itself did suffer so great injuries and disgraces, it is no great matter for us quietly to receive all the calamities of fortune and indiscretion of servants, and mistakes of friends, and unkindnesses of kindred, and rudeness of enemies, since we have deserved these and worse, even hell itself.

5. If we be tempted to anger in the actions of government and discipline to our inferiors, (in which case anger is permitted so far as it is prudently instrumental to government, and only is a sin when it is excessive and unreasonable, and apt to disturb our own discourse, or to express itself in imprudent words or violent actions,) let us propound to ourselves the example of God the Father, who, at the same time, and with the same tranquility, decreed heaven and hell, the joys of blessed angels and souls, and the torments of devils and accursed spirits; and, at the day of judgment, when all the world shall burn under his feet, God shall not be at all inflamed or shaken in his essential seat and centre of tranquility and joy. And if a first the cause seems reasonable, yet defer to execute they anger till thou mayst better judge. For, as Phoeion told the Athenians, who, upon the first news of the death of Alexander were ready to revolt, “Stay a while, for if the king be not dead, your stay cannot prejudice your affairs, for he will be dead tomorrow as well as to day;” so if thy servant or inferior deserves punishment, staying till to-morrow will not make him innocent; but it may, possibly, preserve thee so, by preventing thy striking a guiltless person, or being furious for a trifle.

6. Remove from thyself all provocations and incentives to anger; especially, I. Games of chance and great wagers. Patroclus killed his friend,[267] the son of Amphidamas, in his rage and sudden fury, rising upon a cross-game at table. Such also are petty curiosities, and worldly business and carefulness about it; but manage thyself with indifferency or contempt of those external things, and do not spend a passion upon them, for it is more than they are worth. But they that desire but few things can be crossed but in a few.[268] In not heaping up, with an ambitious or curious prodigality, any very curious or choice utensils, seals, jewels, glasses, precious stones; because those very many accidents which happen in the spoiling or loss of these rarities, are, in event, an irresistible cause of violent anger. 3. Do not entertain nor suffer tale-bearers; for they abuse our ears first, and then our credulity, and then steal our patience, and, it may be, for a lie; and, if it be true, the matter is not considerable; or if it be, yet it is pardonable. And we may always escape with patience at one of these outlets; either, 1. By not hearing slanders; or, 2. By not believing them; or, 3. By not regarding the thing; or, 4. By forgiving the person. 4. To this purpose also it may serve well, if we choose (as much as we can) to live with peaceable persons, for that prevents the occasions of confusion; and if we live with prudent persons, they will not easily occasion our disturbance. But because these things are not in many men’s power, therefore I propound this rather as a felicity than a remedy or a duty, and an act of prevention than of cure.

7. Be not inquisitive into the affairs of other men, nor the faults of thy servants, nor the mistakes of thy friends; but what is offered to you, use according to the former rules; but do not thou go out to gather sticks to kindle a fire to burn thine own house. And add this: “If my friend said or did well in that for which I am angry, I am in the fault, not he; but if he did amiss, he is in the misery, not I; for either he was deceived, or he was malicious; and either of them both is all one with a miserable person; and that is an object of pity not of anger.”

8. Use all reasonable discourses to excuse the faults of others, considering that there are many circumstances of time, of person, of accident, of inadvertency, of infrequency, of aptness to amend, of sorrow for doing it; and it is well that we take any good in exchange for the evil done or suffered.

9. Upon the rising of anger, instantly enter into a deep consideration of the joys of heaven, or the pains of hell; for “fear and joy naturally apt to appease this violence.”[269]

10. In contentions be always passive, never active; upon the defensive, not the assaulting part: and then also give a gentle answer, receiving the furies and indiscretions of the other, like a stone into a bed of moss and soft compliance, and you shall find it sit down quickly; whereas anger and violence, make the contention loud and long, and injurious to both the parties.

11. In the actions of religion, be careful to temper all thy instances with meekness, and the proper instruments of it; and if thou beest apt to be angry, neither fast violently, nor entertain the too forward heats of zeal, but secure thy duty with constant and regular actions, and a good temper of body, with convenient refreshments and recreations.

12. If anger rises suddenly and violently, first restrain it with consideration and then let it end in a hearty prayer for him that did the real or seeming injury. The former of the two stops its growth, and the latter quite kills it, and makes amends for its monstrous and involuntary birth.

Remedies against Anger, by way of consideration.

1. Consider that anger is a professed enemy to counsel; it is a direct storm in which no man can be heard to speak or call from without; for if you counsel gently, you are despised; if you urge it and be vehement, you provoke it more. Be careful, therefore, to lay up beforehand a great stock of reason and prudent consideration,[270] that, like a besieged town, you may be provided for, and be defensible from within, since you are not likely to be relieved from without. Anger is not to be suppressed but by something that is as inward as itself, and more habitual. To which purpose add, that, 2. Of all passions it endeavours most to make reason useless. 3. That it is a universal poison of an infinite object; for no man was ever so amorous as to love a toad, none so envious as to repine at the condition of the miserable, no man so timorous as to fear a dead bee; but anger is troubled at everything, and every man, and every accident, and, therefore, unless it be suppressed it will make a man’s condition restless. 4. If it proceeds from a great cause it turns to fury; if from a small cause it is peevishness; and so is always either terrible or ridiculous. 5. It makes a man’s body monstrous, deformed, and contemptible, the voice horrid, the eyes cruel, the face pale or fiery, the gait fierce, the speech clamorous and loud. 6. It is neither manly nor ingenuous. It proceeds from softness of spirit and pusillanimity, which makes that women are more angry than men, sick persons more than the healthful, old men more than young, unprosperous and calamitous people than the blessed and fortunate. 8. It is a passion fitter for flies and insects than for persons professing nobleness and bounty. 9. It is troublesome not only to those that suffer it, but to them that behold it; there being no greater ineivility of entertainment than for the cook’s fault,[271] or the negligence of the servants, to be cruel or outrageous, or unpleasant in the presence of the guests. 10. It makes marriage to be a necessary and unavoidable trouble; friendships and societies and familiarities to be intolerable. 11. It multiplies the evils of drunkenness, and makes the levities of wine to run into madness. 12. It makes innocent jesting to be the beginning of tragedies. 13. It turns friendship into hatred; it makes a man lose himself and his reason and his argument, in disputation. It turns the desires of knowledge into an itch of wrangling. It adds insolency to power. It turns justice into cruelty, and judgment into oppression. It changes discipline into tediousness and hatred of liberal institution. It makes a prosperous man to be envied and the unfortunate to be unpitied. It is a confluence of all the irregular passions; there is in it envy and sorrow, fear and scorn, pride and prejudice, rashness and inconsideration, rejoicing in evil and a desire to inflict it, self-love, impatience, and curiosity. And, lastly, though it be very troublesome to others, yet it is most troublesome to him that hath it.

In the use of these arguments, and the former exercises, be diligent to observe lest, in your desires to suppress anger, you be passionate and angry at yourself for being angry; like physicians[272] who give a bitter potion when they intend to eject the bitterness of the choler, for this will provoke the person and increase the passion. But placidly and quietly set upon the mortification of it, and attempt it first for a day, resolving that day not at all to be angry, and to be watchful and observant, for a day is no great trouble; but, then, after one day’s watchfulness it will be as easy to watch two days as at first it was to watch one day, and so you may increase till it becomes easy and habitual.

Only observe that such an anger alone is criminal which is against charity to myself or my neighbour; but anger against sin is a holy zeal, and an effect of love to God and my brother, for whose interest I am passionate, like a concerned person; and if I take care that my anger makes no reflection of scorn or cruelty upon the offender, or of pride and violence, or transportation to myself, anger becomes charity and duty. And when one commended Charilaus, the king of Sparta, for a gentle, a good, and a meek prince, his colleague said well, “How can he be good who is not an enemy even to vicious persons?”[273]


3. Remedies against Covetousness, the third Enemy of Mercy.

Covetousness is also an enemy to alms, though not to all the effects of mercifulness; but this is to be cured by the proper motives to charity before mentioned, and by the proper rules of justice, which being secured, the arts of getting money are not easily made criminal. To which also we may add:

1. Covetousness makes a man miserable, because riches are not means to make a man happy;[274] and unless felicity were to be bought with money, he is a vain person who admires heaps of gold and rich possessions. For what Hippomachus said to some persons who commended a tall man as fit to be a champion in the Olympic games, “It is true,” said he, “if the crown hang so high that the longest arm could reach it;” the same we may say concerning riches; they were excellent things, if the richest man were certainly the wisest and the best; but as they are they are nothing to be wondered at, because they contribute nothing towards felicity; which appears, because some men choose to be miserable, that they may be rich, rather than be happy with the expense of money and doing noble things.

2. Riches are useless and unprofitable; for beyond our needs and conveniences nature knows no use of riches: and they say the princes of Italy, when they sup alone eat out of a single dish, and drink in a plain glass, and the wife eats without purple; for nothing is more frugal than the back and belly, if they be used as they should; but when they would entertain the eyes of strangers, when they are vain, and would make a noise, then riches come forth to set forth the spectacle, and furnish out the comedy of wealth, of vanity. No man can with all the wealth in the world, buy so much skill as to be a good lutenist; he must go the same way that poor people do, he must learn and take pains; much less can he buy constancy or chastity or courage; nay, not so much as the contempt of riches: and by possessing more than we need, we cannot obtain so much power over our souls as not to require more. And certainly riches must deliver me from no evil, if the possession of them cannot take away the longing for them. If any man be thirsty, drink cools him; if he be hungry, eating meat satisfies him; and when a man is cold, and calls for a warm cloak, he is pleased if you give it him; but you trouble him if you load him with six or eight cloaks. Nature rests and sits still when she hath her portion; but that which exceeds it is a trouble and a burden; and, therefore, in true philosophy, no man is rich but he that is poor according to the common account; for when God hath satisfied those needs which he made, that is, all that is natural, whatsoever is beyond it is thirst and a disease; and, unless it be sent back again in charity or religion, can serve no end but vice or vanity: it can increase the appetite to represent the man poorer, and full of a new and artificial, unnatural need; but it never satisfies the need it makes, or makes the man richer. No wealth can satisfy the covetous desire of wealth.

3. Riches are troublesome; but the satisfaction of those appetites which God and nature hath made are cheap and easy; for who ever paid use-money for bread and onions and water to keep him alive?[275] but when we covet after houses of the frame and design of Italy, or long for jewels, or for our next neighbour’s field, or horses from Barbary, or the richest perfumes of Ababia, or Galatian mules, or fat eunuchs for our slaves from Tunis, or rich coaches from Naples, then we can never be satisfied till we have the best things that are fancied, and all that can be had, and all that can be desired, and that we can lust no more; but before we come to the one-half of our first wild desires, we are the bondmen of usurers, and of our worse-tyrant appetites, and the tortures of envy and impatience. But I consider that those who drink on still when their thirst is quenched, or eat not only their superfluity, but even that which at first was necessary: so those that covet more than they can temperately use, are oftentimes forced to part even with that patrimony which would have supported their persons in freedom and honour, and have satisfied all their reasonable desires.

4. Contentedness is therefore health, because covetousness is a direct sickness: and it was well said of Aristippus, (as Plutarch reports him,) if any man, after much eating and drinking, be still unsatisfied, he hath no need of more meat or more drink, but of a physician; he more needs to be purged than to be filled: and therefore, since covetousness cannot be satisfied, it must be cured by emptiness and evacuation. The man is without remedy, unless he be reduced to the scantling of nature, and the measures of his personal necessity. Give to a poor man a house, and a few cows, pay his little debt, and set him on work, and he is provided for, and quiet; but when a man enlarges beyond a fair possession, and desires another lordship, you spite him if you let him have it; for by that he is one degree the further off from the rest in his desires and satisfaction; and now he sees himself in a bigger capacity to a larger fortune; and he shall never find his period, till you begin to take away something of what he hath; for then he will begin to be glad to keep that which is left; but reduce him to nature’s measures, and there he shall be sure to find rest; for there is no man can desire beyond his bellyful; and, when he wants that, any one friend or charitable man can cure his poverty, but all the world cannot satisfy his covetousness.

5. Covetousness is the most fantastical and contradictory disease in the whole world: it must, therefore, be incurable; because it strives against its own cure. No man, therefore, abstains from meat, because he is hungry; nor from wine, because he loves it and needs it; but the covetous man does so, for he desires it passionately, because he says he needs it, and when he hath it, he will need it still, because he dares not use it. He gets clothes, because he cannot be without them; but when he hath them, then he can; as if he needed corn for his granary, and clothes for his wardrobes, more than for his back and belly. For covetousness pretends to heap much together for fear of want; and yet, after all his pains and purchase, he suffers that really, which, at first, he feared vainly; and by not using what he gets, he makes that suffering to be actual, present, and necessary, which, in his lowest condition, was but future, contingent, and possible. It stirs up the desire, and takes away the pleasure of being satisfied. It increases the appetite, and will not content it: it swells the principal to no purpose, and lessens the use to all purposes; disturbing the order of nature, and the designs of God; making money not to be the instrument of exchange or charity, nor corn to feed himself or the poor, nor wool to clothe himself or his brother, nor wine to refresh the sadness of the afflicted, nor his oil to make his own countenance cheerful; but all these to look upon, and to tell over, and to take accounts by, and make himself considerable, and wondered at by fools; that while he lives he may be called rich, and when he dies may be accounted miserable; and, like the dish-makers of China, may leave a greater heap of dirt for his nephews, while he himself hath a new lot fallen to him in the portion of Dives. But thus the ass carried wood and sweet herbs to the baths, but was never washed or perfumed himself: he heaped up sweets for others, while himself was filthy with smoke and ashes. And yet it is considerable; if the man can be content to feed hardly, and labour extremely, and watch carefully, and suffer affronts and disgrace, that he may get money more than he uses in his temperate and just needs, with how much ease might this man be happy? and with how great uneasiness and trouble does he make himself miserable? For he takes pains to get content, and when he might have it he lets it go. He might better be content with a virtuous and quiet poverty, than with an artificial, troublesome, and vicious. The same diet and a less labour would, at first, make him happy, and for ever after rewardable.

6. The sum of all is that which the apostle says, “Covetousness is idolatry;” that is, it is an admiring money for itself, not for its use; it relies upon money, and loves it more than it loves God and religion: and it is ‘the root of all evil;’ it teaches men to be cruel and crafty, industrious in evil, full of care and malice; it devours young heirs, and grinds the face of the poor, and undoes those who specially belong to God’s protection, helpless, craftless, and innocent people; it inquires into our parent’s age, and longs for the death of our friends; it makes friendship an art of rapine, and changes a partner into a vulture, and a companion into a thief; and, after all this, it is for no good to itself; for it dares not spend those heaps of treasure which it snatched: and men hate serpents and basilisks worse than lions and bears; for these kill because they need the prey, but they sting to death and eat not. And if they pretend all this care and heap for their heirs, (like the mice of Africa, hiding the golden ore in their bowels, and refusing to give back the indigested gold, till their guts be out,) they may remember, that what was unnecessary for themselves in unnecessary for their sons; and why cannot they be without it, as well as their fathers, who did not use it? And it often happens that to the sons it becomes an instrument to serve some lust or other; that, as the gold was useless to their fathers, so may the sons be to the public, fools or prodigals, loads to their country, and the curse and punishment of their father’s avarice: and yet all that wealth is short of one blessing; but it is a load, coming with a curse, and descending from the family of a long-derived sin. However, the father transmits it to the son, and it may be the son to one more; till a tyrant, or an oppressor, or a war, or change of government, or the usurer, or folly, or an expensive vice, makes holes in the bottom of the bag, and the wealth runs out like water, and flies away like a bird from the hand of a child.

7. Add to these the consideration of the advantages of poverty;[276] that it is a state freer from temptation, secure in dangers, but of one trouble, safe under the Divine Providence, cared for in heaven by a daily ministration, and for whose support God makes every day a new decree; a state, of which Christ was pleased to make open profession, and many wise men daily make vows; that a rich man is but like a pool, to whom the poor run, and first trouble it, and then draw it dry: that he enjoys no more of it than according to the few and limited needs of a man; he cannot eat like a wolf or an elephant; that variety of dainty fare ministers but to sin and sicknesses; that the poor man, feasts oftener than the rich,[277] because every little enlargement is a feast to the poor, but he that feasts every day feasts no day, there being nothing left to which he may, beyond his ordinary, extend his appetite; that the rich man sleeps not so soundly as the poor labourer; that his fears are more, and his needs are greater, (for who is poorer, he that needs 5/. or he that needs 5000/.?) the poor man hath enough to fill his belly, and the rich hath not enough to fill his eye; that the poor man’s wants are easy to be relieved by a common charity, but the needs of rich men cannot be supplied but by princes; and they are left to the temptation of great vices to make reparation of their needs; and the ambitious labours of men to get great estates are but like the selling of a fountain to buy a fever, a parting with content to buy necessity, a purchase of an unhandsome condition at the price of infelicity; that princes, and they that enjoy most of the world, have most of it but in title, and supreme rights, and reserved privileges, peppercorns, homages, trifling services, and acknowledgments, the real use descending to others, to more substantial purposes. These considerations may be useful to the curing of covetousness; that, the grace of mercifulness enlarging the heart of a man, his hand may not be contracted, but reached out to the poor in alms.




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