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neglect him, that threw it. If we take a blow at our equal, we return it with usury; if of a prince, we repine not. What matter is it, if God kill me, whether he do it by an ague, or by the hand of a tyrant? Again, in expectation of good, to look to the First Cause, without care of the second, argues idleness, and causeth want. As we cannot help ourselves, without God; so God will not ordinarily help us, without ourselves. In both, I will look up to God; without repining at the means in one, or trusting them in the other. XXVII.
If my money were another man's, I could but keep it: only the expending shews it my own. It is greater glory, comfort, and gain, to lay it out well, than to keep it safely. God hath made me, not his Treasurer, but his Steward.
Augustin's friend, Nebridius, not unjustly hated a short answer, to a weighty and difficult question; because the disquisition of great truths requires time, and the determining is perilous. I will as much hate a tedious and far-fetched answer, to a short and easy question. For, as that other wrongs the truth; so this, the hearer. XXIX.
Performance is a binder. I will request no more favour of any man, than I must needs. I will rather choose to make an honest shift, than overmuch enthral myself, by being beholding.
The world is a stage: every man an actor; and plays his part here, either in a Comedy or Tragedy. The good man is a Comedian; which, however he begins, ends merrily but the wicked man acts a Tragedy; and therefore ever ends in horror. Thou seest a wicked man vaunt himself on his stage: stay till the last Act; and look to his end, as David did; and see, whether that be peace. Thou wouldest make strange Tragedies, if thou wouldest have but one Act. Who sees an ox, grazing in a fat and rank pasture, and thinks not that he is near to the slaughter? whereas, the lean beast, that toils under the yoke, is far enough from the shambles. The best wicked 'man cannot be so envied in his first shews, as he is pitiable in the conclusion.
Of all objects of beneficence, I will choose either an old man, or a child; because these are most out of hope to requite. The one forgets a good turn; the other lives not, to repay it.
That, which Pythagoras said of Philosophers, is more true of Christians; for, Christianity is nothing but a divine and better philosophy: Three sorts of men come to the market; buyers, sellers, lookers-on. The two first are both busy, and carefully distracted about their market: only the third live happily; using the world, as if they used it not.
There be three things, which, of all other, I will never strive for; the wall, the way, the best seat. If I deserve well, a low place cannot disparage me so much, as I shall grace it: if not, the height of my place shall add to my shame; while every man shall condemn me of pride, matched with unworthiness.
I see, there is not so much difference betwixt a man and a beast, as betwixt a Christian and a natural man. For, whereas man lives but one life of reason, above the beast; a Christian lives four lives, above a natural man: the life of inchoate regeneration, by grace; the perfect life of imputed righteousness; the life of glory begun, in the separation of the soul; the life of perfect glory, in the society of the body with the soul, in full happiness: the worst whereof is better by many degrees, than the best life of a natural man, For, whereas the dignity of the life is measured by the cause of it, (in which regard the life of the plant is basest; because it is but from the juice, arising from the root, administered by the earth: the life of the brute creature better than it; because it is sensitive: of a man better than it; because reasonable,) and the cause of this life is the Spirit of God; so far as the Spirit of God is above reason, so far doth a Christian exceed a mere naturalist. I thank God much, that he hath made me a man; but more, that he hath made me a Christian without which, I know not whether it had been better for me, to have been a beast, or not to have been.
Great men's favours, friends' promises, and dead men's shoes, I will esteem; but not trust to.
It is a fearful thing, to sin; more fearful, to delight in sin; yet worse, to defend it; but worse than worst, to boast of it. If, therefore, I cannot avoid sin; because I am a man: yet I will avoid the delight, defence, and boasting of sin; because I am a Christian.
Those things, which are most eagerly desired, are most hardly both gotten and kept; God commonly crossing our desires, in what we are over-fervent. I will, therefore, account all things, as too good to have, so nothing too dear to lose.
A true friend is not born every day. It is best to be courteous to all; entire with few: so may we, perhaps, have less cause of joy; I am sure, less occasion of sorrow.
Secrecies, as they are a burden to the mind, ere they be uttered; so are they no less charge to the receiver, when they are uttered. I will not long after more inward secrets; lest I should pro
cure doubt to myself, and jealous fear to the discloser: but, as my mouth shall be shut with fidelity, not to blab them; so my ear shall not be too open to receive them.
As good physicians, by one receipt make way for another; so is it the safest course in practice: I will reveal a great secret to none, but whom I have found faithful in less.
I will enjoy all things in God, and God in all things; nothing in itself: so shall my joys neither change, nor perish. For, however the things themselves may alter or fade: yet he, in whom they are mine, is ever like himself; constant, and everlasting.
If I would provoke myself to contentation, I will cast down my eyes inferiors; and there see better men, in worse condition: if to humility, I will cast them up to my betters; and so much more deject myself to them, by how much more I see them thought worthy to be respected of others, and deserve better in themselves.
True virtue rests in the conscience of itself; either for reward, or censure. If, therefore, I know myself upright, false rumours shall not daunt me: if not answerable to the good report of my fa yourers, I will myself find the first fault; that I may prevent the shame of others.
I will account virtue the best riches, knowledge the next, riches the worst; and therefore will labour to be virtuous and learned, without condition: as for riches, if they fall in my way, I refuse them not; but if not, I desire them not.
An honest word I account better, than a careless oath. I will say nothing, but what I dare swear, and will perform. It is a shame for a Christian, to abide his tongue a false servant, or his mind a loose mistress.
There is a just and easy difference, to be put betwixt a friend, and an enemy; betwixt a familiar, and a friend: and much good use to be made of all; but, of all, with discretion. I will disclose myself no whit, to my enemy; somewhat, to my friend; wholly, to no man: lest I should be more others', than mine own. Friendship is brittle stuff. How know I, whether he, that now loves me, may not hate me hereafter?
No man, but is an easy judge of his own matters: and lookerson oftentimes see the more. I will, therefore, submit myself to others, in what I am reproved; but in what I am praised, only to myself.
I will not be so merry, as to forget God; nor so sorrowful, as to forget myself.
As nothing makes so strong and mortal hostility, as discord in religions; so nothing in the world unites men's hearts so firmly, as the bond of faith. For, whereas there are three grounds of friendship; virtue, pleasure, profit, and, by all confessions, that is the surest, which is upon virtue: it must needs follow, that what is grounded on the best and most heavenly virtue, must be the safest: which, as it unites man to God so inseparably, that no temptations, no torments, not all the gates of hell can sever him; so it unites one Christian soul to another so firmly, that no outward occurrences, no imperfections in the party loved, can dissolve them. If I love not the child of God, for his own sake, for his Father's sake; more than my friend for my commodity, or my kinsınan for blood; I never received any spark of true heavenly love.
The good duty, that is deferred upon a conceit of present unfitness, at last grows irksome; and, thereupon, altogether neglected. I will not suffer my heart to entertain the least thought of lothness towards the task of devotion, wherewith I have stinted myself: but violently break through any motion of unwillingness, not without a deep check to myself, for my backwardness.
Hearing is a sense of great apprehension; yet far more subject to deceit, than seeing: not in the manner of apprehending; but in the uncertainty of the object. Words are vocal interpreters of the mind; actions real: and, therefore, however both should speak according to the truth of what is in the heart; yet words do more belie the heart, than actions. I care not what words I hear, when I see deeds. I am sure, what a man doth, he thinketh: not so always, what he speaketh. Though I will not be so severe a censor, that, for some few evil acts, I should condemn a man of false-heartedness; yet, in common course of life, I need not be so mopish, as not to believe rather the language of the hand, than of the tongue. He, that says well and doth well, is without exception commendable: but, if one of these must be severed from the other, I like him well that doth well, and saith nothing.
That, which they say of the pelican, That when the shepherds, in desire to catch her, lay fire not far from her nest; which she finding, and fearing the danger of her young, seeks to blow out with her wings, so long till she burn herself, and makes herself a prey in an unwise pity to her young: I see morally verified in experience, of those, which, indiscreetly meddling with the flame of dissension kindled in the Church, rather increase, than quench it; rather fire their own wings, than help others. I would rather be
wail the fire afar off, than stir in the coals of it. I would not grudge my ashes to it, if those might abate the burning: but, since I see it is daily increased with partaking, I will behold it with sorrow; and meddle no otherwise, than by prayers to God, and entreaties to men; seeking my own safety and the peace of the Church, in the freedom of my thought and silence of my tongue.
That, which is said of Lucilla's faction, That Anger bred it, Pride fostered it, and Covetousness confirmed it, is true of all schisms; though with some inversion. For, the most are bred through Pride; while men, upon a high conceit of themselves, scorn to go in the common road, and affect singularity in opinion: are confirmed through Anger; while they stomach and grudge any contradiction: and are nourished through Covetousness; while they seek ability to bear out their part. In some others, again, Covetousness obtains the first place; Anger, the second; Pride, the last. Herein, therefore, I have been always wont to commend and admire the humility of those great and profound wits, whom depth of knowledge hath not led to by-paths in judgment; but, walking in the beaten path of the Church, have bent all their forces to the establishment of received truths: accounting it greater glory, to confirm an ancient verity, than to devise a new opinion, though never so profitable, unknown to their predecessors. I will not reject a truth. for mere novelty; old truths may come newly to light; neither is God tied to times, for the gift of his illumination: but I will suspect a novel opinion, of untruth; and not entertain it, unless it may be deduced from ancient grounds.
The ear and the eye are the mind's receivers; but the tongue is only busied, in expending the treasure received. If, therefore, the revenues of the mind be uttered as fast or faster than they are received, it cannot be, but that the mind must needs be held bare, and can never lay up for purchase: but, if the receivers take in still with no utterance, the mind may soon grow a burden to itself, and unprofitable to others. I will not lay up too much, and utter nothing; lest I be covetous: nor spend much, and store up little; lest I be prodigal and poor.
It is a vain-glorious flattery, for a man to praise himself; an envious wrong, to detract from others: I will speak no ill of others; no good of myself.
That, which is the misery of travellers, to find many hosts and few friends, is the estate of Christians in their pilgrimage to a better life. Good friends may not, therefore, be easily forgone: neither must they be used as suits of apparel; which, when we have worn threadbare, we cast off, and call for new. Nothing, but death or villainy, shall divorce me from an old friend; but still I will fol