« ZurückWeiter »
Darkness and light divide the course of time, and oblivion shares with memory a great part even of our living beings; we slightly remember our felicities, and the smartest strokes of affliction leave but short smart upon us. Sense endureth no extremities, and sorrows destroy us or themselves. To weep into stones are fables. Afflictions induce callosities; miseries are slippery, or fall like snow upon us, which, notwithstanding, is no unhappy stupidity. To be ignorant of evils to come, and forgetful of evils past, is a merciful provision in nature, whereby we digest the mixture of our few and evil days; and our delivered senses not relasping into cutting remembrances, our sorrows are not kept raw by the edge of repetitions. A great part of antiquity contented their hopes of subsistency with a transmigration of their souls-a good way to continue their memories, while, having the advantage of plural successions, they could not but act something remarkable in such variety of beings; and, enjoying the fame of their passed selves, make accumulation of glory unto their last durations. Others, rather than be lost in the uncomfortable night of nothing, were content to recede into the common being and make one particle of the public soul of all things, which was no more than to return into their unknown and divine original again. Egyptian ingenuity was more unsatisfied, contriving their bodies in sweet consistencies to attend the return of their souls. But all was vanity, feeding the wind, and folly. The Egyptian mummies, which Cambyses or time hath spared, avarice now consumeth. Mummy is become merchandise; Mizraim cures wounds, and Pharaoh is sold for balsams.
There is nothing strictly immortal but immortality. Whatever hath no beginning may be confident of no end, which is the peculiar of that necessary essence that cannot destroy itself, and the highest strain of omnipotency to be so powerfully constituted as not to suffer even from the power of itself; all others have a dependent being, and within the reach of destruction. But the sufficiency of Christian immortality frustrates all earthly glory, and the quality of either state after death makes a folly of posthumous memory. God, who can only destroy our souls, and hath as sured our resurrection, either of our bodies or names hath directly promised no duration; wherein there is so much of chance, that the boldest expectants have found unhappy frustration, and to hold long subsistence seems but a scape in oblivion. But man is a noble animal, splendid in ashes, and pompous in the grave, solemnising nativities and deaths with equal lustre, nor omitting ceremonies of bravery in the infamy of his nature.
Pyramids, arches, obelisks were but the irregularities of vainglory, and wild enormities of ancient magnanimity. But the most magnanimous resolution rests in the Christian religion, which trampleth upon pride, and sits on the neck of ambition, humbly pursuing that infallible perpetuity, unto which all others must diminish their diameters, and be poorly seen in angles of contingency.
Pions spirits, who passed their days in raptures of futurity, made little more of this world than the world that was before it, while they lay obscure in the chaos of pre-ordination and night of their fore-beings. And if any have been so happy as truly to understand Christian annihilation, ecstasies, exolution, liquefaction, transformation, the kiss of the spouse, gustation of God, and ingression into the divine shadow, they have already had a handsome anticipation of heaven: the glory of the world is surely over, and the earth in ashes unto them.
To subsist in lasting monuments, to live in their productions, to exist in their names, and predicament of chimeras, was large satisfaction unto old expectations, and made one part of their elysiums. But all this is nothing in the metaphysics of true belief. To live indeed is to be again ourselves, which being not only a hope but an evidence in noble believers, 'tis all one to lie in St. Innocent's churchyard, as in the sands of Egypt; ready to be anything in the ecstasy of being ever, and as content with six foot as the moles of Adrianus.
Light the Shadow of God.
Light, that makes things seen, makes some things invisible. Were it not for darkness, and the shadow of the earth, the noblest part of creation had remained unseen, and the stars in heaven as invisible as on the fourth day, when they were created above the horizon with the sun, and there was not an eye to behold them. The greatest mystery of religion is expressed by adumbration, and in the noblest part of Jewish types we find the cherubim shadowing the mercy-seat. Life itself is
but the shadow of death, and souls departed but the shadows of the living. All things fall under this name. The sun itself is but the dark Simulachrum, and light but the shadow of God.
Study of God's Works.
The world was made to be inhabited by beasts, but studied and contemplated by man; it is the debt of our reason we owe unto God, and the homage we pay for not being beasts; without this, the world is still as though it had not been, or as it was before the sixth day, when as yet there was not a creature that could conceive or say there was a world. The wisdom of God receives small honour from those vulgar heads that rudely stare about, and with a gross rusticity admire his works; those highly magnify him whose judicious inquiry into his acts, and deliberate research into his creatures, return the duty of a devout and learned admiration.
I believe that the whole frame of a beast doth perish, and is left in the same state after death as before it was materialed into life; that the souls of men know neither contrary or corruption; that they subsist beyond the body, and outlive death by the privilege of their proper natures, and without a miracle; that the souls of the faithful, as they leave earth, take possession of heaven; that those apparitions and ghosts of departed persons are not the wandering souls of men, but the unquiet walks of devils, prompting and suggesting us unto mischief, blood, and villainy, instilling and stealing into our hearts; that the blessed spirits are not at rest in their graves, but wander aolicitous of the affairs of the world; but that those phantasms appear often, and do frequent cemeteries, charnel-houses, and churches, it is because those are the dormitories of the dead, where the devil, like an insolent champion, beholds with pride the spoils and trophies of his victory over Adam.
For my life it is a miracle of thirty years, which to relate were not a history, but a piece of poetry, and would sound to common ears like a fable. For the world, I count it not an inn, but an hospital, and a place not to live, but to die in. The world that I regard is myself; it is the microcosm of my own frame that I can cast mine eye on-for the other, I use it but like my globe, and turn it round sometimes for my recreation. . . . The earth is a point not only in respect of the heavens above us, but of that heavenly and celestial part within us. That mass of flesh that circumscribes me, limits not my mind. That surface that tells the heavens it hath an end, cannot persuade me I have any...... Whilst I study to find how I am a microcosm, or little world, I find myself something more than the great. There is surely a piece of divinity in us-something that was before the heavens, and owes no homage unto the sun. Nature tells me I am the image of God, as well as Scripture. He that understands not thus much, hath not his introduction or first lesson, and hath yet to begin the alphabet of man.
But to return from philosophy to charity: I hold not so narrow a conceit of this virtue as to conceive that to give alms is only to be charitable, or think a piece of liberality can comprehend the total of charity. Divinity hath wisely divided the acts thereof into many branches, and hath taught us in this narrow way many paths unto goodness: as many ways as we may do good, so many ways we may be charitable; there are infirmities, not only of body, but of soul and fortunes, which do require the merciful hand of our abilities. I cannot contemn a man for ignorance, but behold him with as much pity as I do Lazarus. It is no greater charity to clothe his body, than apparel the nakedness of his soul. It is an honourable object to see the reasons of other men wear our liveries, and their borrowed understandings do homage to the bounty of ours. It is the cheapest way of beneficence, and, like the natural charity of the sun, illuminates another without obscuring itself. To be reserved and caitift in this part of goodness, is the sordidest piece of covetousness, and more contemptible than pecuniary avarice. To this, as calling myself a scholar, I am obliged by the duty of my condition: I make not, therefore, my head a grave, but a treasure of knowledge; I intend no monopoly, but a community in learning; I study not for my own sake only, but for theirs that study not for themselves. I envy no man that
knows more than myself, but pity them that know less. I instruct no man as a 1 exercise of my knowledge, or with an intent rather to nourish and keep it alive in mine own head, than beget and propagate it in his; and in the midst of all my endeavours, there is but one thought that dejects me, that my acquired parts must perish with myself, nor can be legacied among my honoured friends. I cannot fall out, or contemn a man for an error, or conceive why a difference in opinion should divide an affection; for controversies, disputes, and argumentations, both in philosophy and in divinity, if they meet with discreet and peaceable natures, do not infringe the laws of charity
SIR MATTHEW HALE.
SIR MATTHEW HALE (1609-1676) not only acquired some repa tion as a literary man, but is celebrated as one of the most upright judges that ever sat upon the English bench. Both in his studies and in the exercise of his profession he displayed uncommon industry, which was favoured by his acquaintance with Selden, who esteemned him so highly as to appoint him his executor. Hale was a judge both in the time of the Commonwealth and under Charles II.; he was appointed Chief-baron of the Exchequer in 1660, and Lord Chiefjustice of the King's Bench eleven years afterwards. In the former capacity, one of his most notable and least creditable acts was the condemnation of some persons accused of witchcraft at Bury St. Edmunds in 1664. Amidst the immorality of Charles II.'s reign, Sir Matthew Hale stands out with peculiar lustre as an impartial, incorruptible, and determined administrator of justice. His works are various, but relate chiefly to natural philosophy, divinity, and law. His religious opinions were Calvinistic; and his chief theological work, entitled Contemplations, Moral and Divine,' retains considerable popularity. As a specimen of his style, we present part of a letter of advice to his children, written about the year 1662.
DEAR CHILDREN-I thank God I came well to Farrington this day, about five o'clock. And as I have some leisure time at my inn, I cannot spend it more to my own satisfaction and your benefit, than, by a letter, to give you some good counsel. The subject shall be concerning your speech; because much of the good or evil that befalls persons arises from the well or ill managing of their conversation. When I have leisure and opportunity, I shall give you my directions on other subjects.
Never speak anything for a truth which you know or believe to be false. Lying is a great sin against God, who gave us a tongue to speak the truth, and not falsehood. It is a great offence against humanity itself; for, where there is no regard to truth, there can be no safe society between man and man. And it is an injury to the speaker; for, besides the disgrace which it brings upon him, it occasions so much baseness of mind, that he can scarcely tell truth, or avoid lying, even when he has no colour of necessity for it; and, in time, he comes to such a pass, that as other people cannot believe he speaks truth, so he himself scarcely knows when he tells a falsehood. As you must be careful not to lie, so you must avoid coming near it. You must not equivocate, nor speak anything positively for which you have no authority but report, or conjecture, or opinion.
Be not too earnest, loud, or violent in your conversation. Silence your opponent with reason, not with noise. Be careful not to interrupt another when he is speaking; hear him out, and you will understand him the better, and be able to give him the better answer. Consider before you speak, especially when the business is of moment; weigh the sense of what you mean to utter, and the expressions you in
tend to use, that they may be significant, pertinent, and inoffensive. Inconsiderate persons do not think till they speak; or they speak, and then think.
Some men excel in husbandry, some in gardening, some in mathematics. In conversation, learn, as near as you can, where the skill or excellence of any person lies; put him upon talking on that subject, observe what he says, keep it in your memory, or commit it to writing By this means you will glean the worth and knowledge of everybody you converse with; and at an easy rate, acquire what may be of use to you on many occasions.
When you are in company with light, vain, impertinent persons, let the observing of their failings make you the more cautious both in your conversation with them and in your general behaviour, that you may avoid their errors.
If a man, whose integrity you do not very well know, makes you great and extraordinary professions, do not give much credit to him. Probably, you will find that he aims at something besides kindness to you, and that when he has served his turn, or been disappointed, his regard for you will grow cool.
Beware also of him who flatters you, and commends you to your face, or to one who, he thinks, will tell you of it; most probably he has either deceived and abused you, or means to do so. Remember the fable of the fox commending the singing of the crow, who had something in her mouth which the fox wanted.
Be careful that you do not commend yourselves. It is a sign that your reputation is small and sinking, if your own tongue must praise you; and it is fulsome and unpleasing to others to hear such commendations.
Speak well of the absent whenever you have a suitable opportunity. Never speak ill of them, or of anybody, unless you are sure they deserve it, and unless it is necessary for their amendment, or for the safety and benefit of others.
Avoid, in your ordinary communications, not only oaths, but all imprecations and earnest protestations. Forbear scoffing and jesting at the condition or natural defects of any person. Such offences leave a deep impression; and they often cost a man dear.
Never utter any profane speeches, nor make a jest of any Scripture expressions. When you pronounce the name of God or of Christ, or repeat any passages or words of Holy Scripture, do it with reverence and seriousness, and not lightly, for that is 'taking the name of God in vain.' If you hear of any unseemly expressions used in religious exercises, do not publish them; endeavour to forget them; or, if you mention them at all, let it be with pity and sorrow, not with derision or reproach.
I have little further to add at this time but my wish and command that you will remember the former counsels that I have frequently given you. Begin and end the day with private prayer; read the Scriptures often and seriously; be attentive to the public worship of God. Keep yourselves in some useful employment; for idleness is the nursery of vain and sinful thoughts, which corrupt the mind, and disorder the life. Be kind and loving to one another. Honour your minister. Be not bitter nor harsh to my servants. Be respectful to all. Bear my absence patiently and cheerfully. Behave as if I were present among you and saw you. Remember, you have a greater Father than I am, who always, and in all places, beholds you, and knows your hearts and thoughts. Study to requite my love and care for you with dutifulness, observance, and obedience; and account it an honour that you have an opportunity, by your attention, faithfulness, and industry, to pay some part of that debt which, by the laws of nature and of gratitude, you owe to me. Be frugal in my family, but let there be no want; and provide conveniently for the poor.
I pray God to fill your hearts with his grace, fear, and love, and to let you see the comfort and advantage of serving him; and that his blessing, and presence, and direction, may be with you, and over you all.-I am your ever loving father.
JOHN EARLE (1601-1665), a native of York, bishop of Worcester, and afterwards of Salisbury, was a very successful miscellaneous writer. He was a man of great learning and eloquence, extremely agreeable and facetious in conversation, and of such excellent moral and religious qualities, that—in the language of Walton-there had
lived since the death of Richard Hooker no man whom God had blessed with more innocent wisdom, more sanctified learning, or a more pious, peaceable, primitive temper.' He was at one period chaplain and tutor to Prince Charles, with whom he went into exile during the Civil War, after being deprived of his whole property for his adherence to the royal cause. His principal work is entitled 'Microcosmography, or a Piece of the World Discovered, in Essays and Characters,' published about 1628, and often reprinted; it is a valuable storehouse of particulars illustrative of the manners of the times. Among the characters drawn are those of an antiquary, a carrier, a player, a pot-poet, a university dun, and a clown. We shall give the last.
The plain country fellow is one that manures his ground well, but lets himself lie fallow and untilled. He has reason enough to do his business, and not enough to be idle or melancholy. He seems to have the punishment of Nebuchadnezzar, for his conversation is among beasts, and his talons none of the shortest, only he eats not grass, because he loves not sallets. His hand guides the plough, and the plough his thoughts, and his ditch and land-mark is the very mound of his meditations. He expostulates with his oxen very understandingly, and speaks gee and ree better than English. His mind is not much distracted with objects; but if a good fat cow come in his way, he stands dumb and astonished, and though his haste be never so great, will fix here half an hour's contemplation. His habitation is some poor thatched roof, distinguished from his barn by the loopholes that let out smoke, which the rain had long since washed through, but for the double ceiling of bacon on the inside, which has hung there from his grandsire's time, and is yet to make rashers for posterity. His dinner is his other work, for he sweats at it as much as at his labour; he is a terrible fastener on a piece of beef, and you may hope to stave the guard off sooner. His religion is a part of his copyhold, which he takes from his landlord, and refers it wholly to his discretion: yet if he give him leave, he is a good Christian, to his power (that is), comes to church in his best clothes, and sits there with his neighbours, where he is capable only of two prayers, for rain and fair weather. He apprenends God's blessings only in a good year or a fat pasture, and never praises him but on good ground. Sunday he esteems a day to make merry in, and thinks a bagpipe as essential to it as evening-prayer, where he walks very solemnly after service with his hands coupled behind him, and censures the dancing of his parish. His compliment with his neighbour is a good thump on the back, and his salutation commonly some blunt curse. He thinks nothing to be vices but pride and ill-husbandry, from which he will gravely dissuade the youth, and has some thrifty hobnail proverbs to clout his discourse. He is a niggard all the week, except only marketday, where. if his corn sell well he thinks he may be drunk with a good conscience. He is sensible of no calamity but the burning a stack of corn, or the overflowing of a meadow, and thinks Noah's flood the greatest plague that ever was, not because it drowned the world, but spoiled the grass. For death he is never troubled, and if he get in but his harvest before, let it come when it will, he cares not.
Among those clerical adherents of the king, who, like Bishop Earle, were despoiled of their goods by the parliament, was PETER HEYLIN (1600–1662), born near Oxford. This industrious writer, who figures at once as a geographer, a divine, a poet, and an historian, composed not fewer than thirty-seven publications, of which one of the most celebrated is his 'Microcosmus, or a Description of the Great World,' first printed in 1621. Among his other works are ‘A