Page images
PDF
EPUB
[blocks in formation]

3dly, The world is very bad as it is; so bad, that good men scarce know how to spend fifty or threescore years in it; but consider how bad it would probably be, were the life of man extended to six, seven, or eight hundred years. If so near a prospect of the other world, as forty or fifty years, cannot restrain men from the greatest villanies, what would they do if they could as reasonably suppose death to be three or four hundred years off? If men make such improvements in wickedness in twenty or thirty years, what would they do in hundreds ? And what a blessed place then would this world be to live in! We see in the old world, when the life of men was drawn out to so great a length, the wickedness of mankind grew so insufferable, that it repented God he had made man; and he resolved to destroy that whole generation, excepting Noah and his family. And the most probable account that can be given how they came to grow so universally wicked, is the long and prosperous lives of such wicked men, who by degrees corrupted others, and they others, till there was but one righteous family left, and no other remedy left but to destroy them all; leaving only that righteous family as the seed and future hopes of the new world.

And when God had determined in himself, and promised to Noah never to destroy the world again by such an universal destruction, till the last and final judgment, it was necessary by degrees to shorten the lives of men, which was the most effectual means to make them more governable, and to remove bad examples out of the world, which would hinder the spreading of the infection, and people and reform the world again by new examples of piety and virtue. For when there are such wicked successions of men, there are few ages but have some great and brave examples, which give a new and better spirit to the world.-On the Immortality of the Soul.

[DR. JOHN TILLOTSON. 1630-1694.] TRUTH ALWAYS CONSISTENT.

IT is hard to personate and act a part long; for where truth is not at the bottom, nature will always be endeavouring to return, and will peep out and betray herself one time or other. Therefore, if any man think it convenient to seem good, let him be so indeed, and then his goodness will appear to everybody's satisfaction; so that, upon all accounts, sincerity is true wisdom. Particularly as to the affairs of this world, integrity hath many advantages over all the fine and artificial ways of dissimulation and deceit; it is much the plainer and easier, much the safer and more secure way of dealing in the world; it has less of trouble and difficulty, of entanglement and perplexity, of danger and hazard in it; it is the shortest and nearest way to our end, carrying us thither in a straight line, and will hold out and last longest. The arts of deceit and cunning do continually grow weaker, and less effectual and serviceable to them that use them; whereas integrity gains strength by use; and the more and longer any man practiseth it, the greater service it does him, by confirming his reputation, and encouraging those with whom he has to do to repose the greatest trust and confidence in him, which is an unspeakable advantage in the business and affairs of life.

Truth is always consistent with itself, and needs nothing to help it out; it is always near at hand, and sits upon our lips, and is ready to drop out before we are aware; whereas a lie is troublesome, and sets a man's invention upon the rack, and one trick needs a great many more to make it good. It is like building upon a false foundation, which continually stands in need of props to shore it up, and proves at last more chargeable than to have raised a substantial building at first upon a true and solid foundation; for sincerity is firm and substantial, and there is nothing hollow or unsound in it, and because it is plain and open, fears no dis

covery; of which the crafty man is always in danger; and when he thinks he walks in the dark, all his pretences are SO transparent, that he that runs may read them. He is the last man that finds himself to be found out; and whilst he takes it for granted that he makes fools of others, he renders himself ridiculous.

And I have often thought that God hath, in his great wisdom, hid from men of false and dishonest minds the wonderful advantages of truth and integrity to the prosperity even of our worldly affairs. These men are so blinded by their covetousness and ambition, that they cannot look beyond a present advantage, nor forbear to seize upon it, though by ways never so indirect; they cannot see so far as to the remote consequences of a steady integrity, and the vast benefit and advantages which it will bring a man at last. Were but this sort of men wise and clearsighted enough to discern this, they would be honest out of very knavery, not out of any love to honesty and virtue, but with a crafty design to promote and advance more effectually their own interests; and therefore the justice of the divine providence has hid this truest point of wisdom from their eyes, that bad men might not be upon equal terms with the just and upright and serve their own wicked designs by honest and lawful

means.

Indeed, if a man were only to deal in the world for a day, and should never have occasion to converse more with mankind, never more need their good opinion or good word, it were then no great matter (speaking as to the concernments of this world) if a man spend his reputation all at once, and ventured it at one throw: but if he be to continue in the world, and would have the advantage of conversation whilst he is in it, let him make use of truth and sincerity in all his words and actions; for nothing but this will last and hold out to the end; all other arts will fail, but truth and integrity will carry a man through, and bear him out to the last.-Sermons.

IMMODERATE SELF-LOVE.

THERE is a love of ourselves which is founded in nature and reason, and is made the measure of our love to our neighbour; for we are to love our neighbour as ourselves; and if there were no due love of ourselves, there could be none of our neighbour. But this love of ourselves, which is so consistent with the love of our neighbour, can be no enemy to our peace: for none can live more quietly and peaceably than those who love their neighbours as themselves. But there is a self-love which the Scripture condemns, because it makes men peevish and froward, uneasy to themselves and to their neighbours, filling them with jealousies and suspicions of others with respect to themselves, making them apt to mistrust the intentions and designs of others towards them, and so producing ill-will towards them; and where that hath once got into men's hearts, there can be no long peace with those they bear a secret grudge and ill-will to. The bottom of all is, they have a wonderful value for themselves and those opinions, and notions, and parties, and factions they happen to be engaged in, and these they make the measure of their esteem and love of others. As far as they comply and suit with them, so far they love them, and no farther. If we ask, Cannot good men differ about some things, and yet be good still? Yes. Cannot such love one another notwithstanding such difference? No doubt they ought. Whence comes it, then, that a small difference in opinion is so apt to make a breach in affection? In plain truth it is, every one would be thought to be infallible, if for shame they durst to pretend to it; and they have so good an opinion of themselves, that they cannot bear such as do not submit to them. From hence arise quarrellings and disputings, and ill language, not becoming men or Christians. But all this comes from their setting up themselves and their own notions and practices, which they would make a rule to the rest of the world; and if others have the same opinion of themselves, it is

impossible but there must be everlasting clashings and disputings, and from thence falling into different parties and factions; which can never be prevented till they come to more reasonable opinions of themselves, and more charitable and kind towards others.-Ibid.

[SIR GEORGE MACKENZIE. 1636-1691.]

AVARICE.

THE best plea that avarice can make, is, that it provides against those necessities which otherwise would have made us miserable; but the love of money deserves not the name of avarice, whilst it proceeds no farther. And it is then only to be abhorred, when it cheats and abuses us, by making us believe that our necessities are greater than they are, in which it treats us as fools, and makes us slaves. But it is indeed most ridiculous in this, that ofttimes, after it has persuaded men that a great estate is necessary, it does not allow them to make use of any suitable proportion of what they have gained; and since nothing can be called necessary but what we need to use, all that is laid up cannot be said to be laid up for necessity. And so this argument may have some weight when it is pressed by luxury, but it is ridiculous when it is alleged by

avarice.

hopes, and refuse obstinately to enlarge, lest they should thus launch out into an ocean that has no shore.

To meditate much upon the folly of others who are remarkable for this vice, will help somewhat to limit it; and to rally him who is ridiculous for it, may influence him and others to contemn it. I must here beg rich and avaricious men's leave, to laugh as much at their folly as I could do at a shepherd who would weep and grieve because his master would give him no more beasts to herd, or at a steward, because his lord gave him no more servants to feed. Nor can I think a man, who, having gained a great estate, is afraid to live comfortably upon it, less ridiculous than I would do him, who, having built a convenient, or it may be a stately house, should choose to walk in the rain, or expose himself to storms, lest he should defile and profane the floor of his almost idolised rooms. They who think that they are obliged to live as well as others of the same rank, do not consider that every man is only obliged to live according to his present estate. And, therefore, this necessity will also grow with our estates; and this temptation rather makes our necessities endless, than provides against them. And he who, having a paternal estate of a hundred pounds a year, will not be satisfied to live according to it, will meet with the same difficulty when he comes to an estate of ten thousand pounds; and, like the wounded deer, he flies not from the dart, but carries it along with him. are but stewards, and the steward should not be angry that he has not more to manage; but should be careful to bestow what he has; and if he do so, neither his master nor the world can blame him.

I have, therefore, ofttimes admired how a person that thought it luxury to spend two hundred pounds, toiled as a slave to get four hundred a year for his heirs. Either he thought an honest and virtuous man should not exceed two hundred pounds in his expense, or not; if he thought he should not, why did he bribe his heir to be luxurious, by leaving him more? If he thought his heir could not-Moral Essays. live upon so little, why should he who gained it defraud himself of the true use?

I know some who preserve themselves against avarice, by arguing often with their own heart that they have twice as much as they expected, and more than others who they think live very contentedly, and who did bound their designs in the beginning with moderate

[SIR WILLIAM TEMPLE. 1628-1699.]

We

DISSUASION AGAINST EXCES-
SIVE GRIEF.

I KNOW no duty in religion more generally agreed on, nor more justly required by God Almighty, than a perfect

submission to His will in all things; nor do I think any disposition of mind can either please Him more, or become us better, than that of being satisfied with what He gives, and contented with all He takes away. None, I am sure, can be of more honour to God, nor of more ease to ourselves. For, if we consider Him as our Maker, we cannot contend with Him; if as our Father, we ought not to distrust Him; so that we may be confident, whatever He does is intended for good; and whatever happens that we interpret otherwise, yet we can get nothing by repining, nor save anything by resisting.

But if it were for us to reason with God Almighty, and your ladyship's loss were acknowledged as great as it could have been to any one, yet, I doubt, you would have but ill grace to complain at the rate you have done, or rather as you do; for the first emotions or passions may be pardoned; it is only the continuance of them which makes them inexcusable. In this world, madam, there is nothing perfectly good; and whatever is called so, is but either comparatively with other things of its kind, or else with the evil that is mingled in its composition; so he is a good man who is better than men commonly are, or in whom the good qualities are more than the bad; so, in the course of life, his condition is esteemed good, which is better than that of most other men, or in which the good circumstances are more than the evil. By this measure, I doubt, madam, your complaints ought to be turned into acknowledgments, and your friends would have cause to rejoice rather than to condole with you. When your ladyship has fairly considered how God Almighty has dealt with you in what he has given, you may be left to judge yourself how you have dealt with Him in your complaints for what he has taken away. It is true you have lost a child, and all that could be lost in a child of that age; but you have kept one child, and you are likely to do so long; you have the assurance of another, and the hopes of many more. You have kept a husband, great in employment, in fortune, and in the esteem of good men. You

[ocr errors]

have kept your beauty and your health, unless you have destroyed them yourself, or discouraged them to stay with you by using them ill. You have friends who are as kind to you as you can wish, or as you can give them leave to be. You have honour and esteem from all who know you; or if it fails in any degree, it is only upon that point of your seeming to be fallen out with God and the whole world, and neither to care for yourself, nor anything else, after what you have lost. Christianity teaches and commands us to moderate our passions; to temper our affections towards all things below; to be thankful for the possession, and patient under the loss, whenever HE who gave shall see fit to take away. Your extreme fondness was perhaps as displeasing to God before, as now your extreme affliction is; and your loss may have been a punishment for your faults in the manner of enjoying what you had. It is at least pious to ascribe all the ill that befalls us to our own demerits, rather than to injustice in God. And it becomes us better to adore the issues of His providence in the effects, than to inquire into the causes; for submission is the only way of reasoning between a creature and its Maker; and contentment in His will is the greatest duty we can pretend to, and the best remedy we can apply to all our misfortunes.

But, madam, though religion were no party in your case, and for so violent and injurious a grief you had nothing to answer to God, but only to the world and yourself, yet I very much doubt how you would be acquitted. We bring into the world with us a poor, needy, uncertain life; short at the longest, and unquiet at the best. All the imaginations of the witty and the wise have been perpetually busied to find out the ways to revive it with pleasures, or to relieve it with diversions; to compose it with ease, and to settle it with safety. To these ends have been employed the institutions of lawgivers, the reasonings of philosophers, the inventions of poets, the pains of labouring, and the extravagances of voluptuous men. All the world is perpetually

at work, that our poor mortal lives may pass the easier and happier for that little time we possess them, or else end the better when we lose them. On this account riches and honours are coveted, friendship and love pursued, and the virtues themselves admired in the world. Passions are perhaps the stings without which, it is said, no honey is made. Yet

I think all sorts of men have ever agreed, they ought to be our servants and not our masters; to give us some agitation for entertainment or exercise, but never to throw our reason out of its seat. It is better to have no passions at all than to have them too violent; or such alone as, instead of heightening our pleasures, afford us nothing but vexation and pain.

so contrary to our own designs; for we all design to be well and at ease, and by grief we make ourselves troubles most properly out of the dust, whilst our ravings and complaints are but like arrows shot up into the air at no mark, and so to no purpose, but only to fall back upon our own heads and destroy ourselves.-Essays.

[JOHN LOCKE. 1632-1704.] PRACTICE AND HABIT. WE are born with faculties and powers capable almost of anything, such at least as would carry us farther than can be easily imagined; but it is only the exercise of those powers which gives us ability and skill in anything, and leads us towards perfection.

A middle-aged ploughman will scarce ever be brought to the carriage and language of a gentleman, though his body be as well proportioned, and his joints as supple, and his natural parts not any

In all such losses as your ladyship's has been, there is something that common nature cannot be denied; there is a great deal that good nature may be allowed. But all excessive and outrageous grief or lamentation for the dead was accounted among the ancient Christians to have something heathenish; and, among the civil nations of old, to have something barbarous and therefore it has been the way inferior. : care of the first to moderate it by their precepts, and of the latter to restrain it by their laws. . . . Yet, after all, madam, I think your loss so great, and some measure of your grief so deserved, that, would all your passionate complaints, all the anguish of your heart, do anything to retrieve it; could tears water the lovely plant, so as to make it grow again after once it is cut down; could sighs furnish new breath, or could it draw life and spirits from the wasting of yours, I am sure your friends would be so far from accusing your passion, that they would encourage it as much, and share it as deeply as they could. But alas! the eternal laws of creation extinguish all such hopes, forbid all such designs; Nature gives us many children and friends to take them away, but takes none away to give them to us again. And this makes the excesses of grief to be universally condemned as unnatural, because so much in vain; whereas Nature does nothing in vain: as unreasonable, because

The legs of a dancing

master, and the fingers of a musician, fall, as it were, naturally, without thought or pains, into regular and admirable motions. Bid them change their parts, and they will in vain endeavour to produce like motions in the members not used to them, and it will require length of time and long practice to attain but some degrees of a like ability. What incredible and astonishing actions do we find rope-dancers and tumblers bring their bodies to! not that but sundry in almost all manual arts are as wonderful; but I name those which the world takes notice of for such, because, on that very account, they give money to see them. All these admired motions, beyond the reach and almost the conception of unpractised spectators, are nothing but the mere effects of use and industry in men, whose bodies have nothing peculiar in them from those of the amazed lookers-on.

As it is in the body, so it is in the mind; practice makes it what it is; and most even of those excellencies which

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »