« PreviousContinue »
breathed light upon the face of the matter or chaos; then he breathed light into the face of man; and still he breatheth and inspireth light into the face of his chosen. The poet that beautified the sect, that was otherwise inferior to the rest, saith yet excellently well: “It is a pleasure to stand upon the shore, and to see ships tossed upon the sea; a pleasure to stand in the window of a castle, and to see a battle, and the adventures thereof below: but no pleasure is comparable to the standing upon the vantage-ground of Truth (an hill not to be commanded, and where the air is always clear and serene); and to see the errors, and wanderings, and mists, and tempests, in the vale below :" so always that this prospect be with pity, and not with swelling or pride. Certainly it is beaven upon earth, to have a man's mind move in charity, rest in providence, and turn upon the poles of Truth.
* To pass from theological and philosophical Truth, to the Truth of civil business, it will be acknowledged, even by those who practise it not, that clear and round dealing is the honour of man's nature, and that mixture of falsehood is like allay in coin of gold and silver, which may make the metal work the better, but it embaseth it. For these winding and crooked courses are the goings of the serpent, which goeth basely upon the belly, and not upon the feet. There is no vice that doth
so cover a man with shame, as to be found false and perfidious. And therefore Montaigne saith prettily, when he inquired the reason why the word of the lie should be such a disgrace, and such an odious charge-saith he, “ If it be well weighed, to say that a man lieth, is as much as to say,
that he is' brave towards God, and a coward towards men.” For a lie faces God, and shrinks from man. Surely the wickedness of falsehood, and breach of faith, cannot possibly be so highly expressed, as in that it shall be the last peal, to call the judgments of God upon the generations of men ; it being foretold, that when Christ cometh, “ he shall not find faith upon the earth.”
Of Beaty. MEN fear Death, as children fear to go in the dark: and as that natural fear in children is increased with tales, so is the other. Certainly the contemplation of Death, as “the wages of sin," and passage to another world, is holy and religious; but the fear of it, as a tribute due unto nature, is weak. Yet in religious meditations, there is sometimes mixture of vanity and superstition. You shall read in some of the friars' books of mortification, that a man should think with himself, what the pain is, if he have but his finger's end pressed or tortured,
and thereby imagine what the pains of Death are, when the whole body is corrupted and dissolved; when many times Death passeth with less pain, than the torture of a limb; for the most vital parts are not the quickest of sense. And by him that spake only as a philosopher, and natural man, it was well said: “ The preparation of Death terrifies more than Death itself.” Groans, and convulsions, and a discoloured face, and friends weeping, and blacks, and obsequies, and the like, shew Death terrible. It is worthy the observing, that there is no passion in the mind of man so weak, but it mates and masters the fear of Death: and therefore Death is no such terrible enemy, when a man hath so many attendants about him, that can win the combat of him. Revenge triumphs over Death ; Love slights it; Honour aspireth to it; Grief flyeth to it; Fear pre-occupateth it. Nay we read, after Otho the Emperor had slain himself, Pity (which is the tenderest of affections) provoked many to die, out of mere compassion to their Sovereign, and as the truest sort of followers. Nay, Seneca adds Niceness and Satiety: “ Think how long you could bear to be doing the same things over and over again; not only a brave or a wretched man, but also a fastidious one, may be ing to die.” A man would die, though he were neither valiant nor miserable, only upon a
riness to do the same thing so. oft over and
It is no less worthy to observe, how little alteration in good spirits the approaches of Death make. For they appear to be the same men, till the last instant. Augustus Cæsar died in a compliment: “Livia, live ever mindful of our marriage, and farewell.” Tiberius in dissimulation, as Tacitus saith of him : “ Now the strength of the body left Tiberius, but not his dissimulation.” Vespasian in a jest, sitting upon the stool : “ In my opinion I am become God." Galba with a sentence:
Strike, if it should benefit the Roman people,” holding forth his neck. Septimius Severus in dispatch: “ Make haste, if any thing remains for me to do.” And the like. Certainly the Stoics bestowed too much cost upon Death, and by their great preparations made it appear more fearful. " Better," saith he, “ who considers Death, or the extreme end of life, among the common circumstances or gifts of nature.” It is as natural to die, as to be born ; and to a little infant perhaps the one is as painful as the other. He that dies in an earnest pursuit, is like one that is wounded in hot blood, who for the time scarce feels the hurt; and therefore a
* To illustrate this observation, I remember an anecdote of a man committing suicide, and giving as his reason, that he was tired of daily putting on and pulling off his clothes. This will explain the force of the sentence above. Editor.
mind fixed, and bent upon somewhat that is good, doth avert the dolours of Death. But above all, believe it, the sweetest canticle is,“ Lord, now · lettest thou thy servant depart in peace,” when a man hath obtained worthy ends and expectations. Death hath this also ; that it openeth the gate to good fame, and extinguisheth envy.
When dead, he shall be equally beloved.
Of Unity in Religion. RELIGION being the chief band of human society, it is a happy thing when itself is well contained within the true band of Unity. The quarrels and divisions about Religion were evils unknown to the heathen. The reason was, because the religion of the heathen consisted rather in rites and ceremonies, than in any constant belief. For you may imagine what kind of faith theirs was, when the chief doctors and fathers of their church were poets. But the true God hath this attribute, that he is a jealous God, and therefore his worship and Religion will endure no mixture nor partner. We shall therefore speak a few words concerning the Unity of the Church; what are the fruits thereof, what the bonds, and what the means.
The fruits of Unity (next unto the well-pleasing of God, which is all in all) are two; the one to