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Fathers; whose volumes I confess not to open, without a secret reverence of their holiness and gravity: sometimes, to those later Doctors, which want nothing but age to make them classical: always to God's Book. That day is lost, whereof some hours are not improved in those Divine Monuments : others, I turn over, out of choice; these, out of duty.
Ere I can have sat unto weariness, my family, having now overcome all household distractions, invites me to our common devotions; not without some short preparation.
These, heartily performed, send me up with a more strong and cheerful appetite to my former work; which I find made easy to me by intermission and variety.
Now, therefore, can I deceive the hours with change of pleasures, that is, of labours. One while, mine eyes are busied; another while, my hand; and, sometimes, my mind takes the burden from them both; wherein I would imitate the skilfullest cooks, which make the best dishes with manifold mixtures. One hour is spent in textual divinity; another, in controversy: histories relieve from both. Now, when the mind is weary of other labours, it begins to undertake her own: sometimes, it meditates and winds up for future use; sometimes, it lays forth her conceits into present discourse; sometimes for itself, often for others. Neither know I, whether it works or plays, in these thoughts: I am sure no sport hath more pleasure; no work more use: only, the decay of a weak body makes me think these delights insensibly laborious.
Thus could I, all day, as ringers use, make myself music, with changes; and complain sooner of the day for shortness, than of the business for toil; were it not that this faint monitor interrupts me still in the midst of my busy pleasures, and enforces me both to respite and repast. I must yield to both: while my body and mind are joined together in these unequal couples, the better must follow the weaker.
Before my meals, therefore, and after, I let myself loose from all thoughts; and now, would forget that I ever studied. A full mind takes away the body's appetite, no less than a full body makes a dull and unwieldy mind. Company, discourse, recreations, are now seasonable and welcome.
These prepare me for a diet; not gluttonous, but medicinal: the palate may not be pleased, but the stomach; nor that, for its own sake. Neither would I think any of these comforts worth respect, in themselves; but in their use, in their end : so far, as they may enable me to better things. If I see any dish to tempt my palate, I fear a Serpent in that Apple; and would please myself in a wilful denial.
I rise capable of more; not desirous : not now immediately from my trencher to my book, but after some intermission. Moderate speed is a sure help to all proceedings; where those things which are prosecuted with violence of endeavour or desire, either succeed not, or continue not.
After my latter meal, my thoughts are slight: only my memory may be charged with her task, of recalling what was committed to her custody in the day; and my heart is busy in examining my hands, and mouth, and all other senses, of that day's behaviour.
And, now the evening is come, no tradesman doth more carefully take in his wares, clear his shopboard, and shut his windows, than I would shut up my thoughts and clear my mind. That student shall live iniserably, which, like a camel, lies down under his burden. All this done, calling together my family, we end the day with God. Thus do we rather drive away the time before us, than follow it.
I grant, neither is my practice worthy to be exemplary, neither are our callings proportionable. The lives of a nobleman, of a courtier, of a scholar, of a citizen, of a countryman, differ no less than their dispositions; yet must all conspire in honest labour. Sweat is the destiny of all trades; whether of the brows, or of the mind. God never allowed any man to do nothing. How miserable is the condition of those men, which spend the time as if it were given them, and not lent;-as if hours were waste creatures, and such as should never be accounted for;—as if God would take this for a good bill of reckoning : "Item, spent upon my pleasures forty years”! These men shall once find, that no blood can privilege idleness; and that nothing is more precious to God, than that which they desire to cast away-Time.
Such are my common days.—But God's day calls for another respect. The same sun rises on this day, and enlightens it: yet, because that Sun of Righteousness arose upon it, and gave a new life unto the world in it, and drew the strength of God's moral precept unto it; therefore, justly do we sing, with the Psalmist, This is the day which the Lord hath made. Now, I forget the world; and, in a sort, myself; and deal with
my wonted thoughts, as great men use, who, at some times of their privacy, forbid the access of all suitors. Prayer, meditation, reading, hearing, preaching, singing, good conference, are the businesses of this day; which I dare not bestow on any work or pleasure, but heavenly. I hate superstition on the one side, and looseness on the other: but I find it hard to offend in too much devotion; easy, in profaneness. The whole week is sanctified by this day; and, according to my care of this, is my blessing on the rest.
I show your Lordship what I would do, and what I ought. I commit my desires to the imitation of the weak; my actions, to the censures of the wise and holy; my weaknesses, to the pardon and redress of my merciful God.
The Country Parson, as soon as he awakes on Sun. day morning, presently falls to work; and seems to himself so as a market-man is, when the market-day comes; or a shopkeeper, when customers use to come in. His thoughts are full of making the best of the day, and contriving it to his best gains. To this end, besides his ordinary prayers, he makes a peculiar one for a blessing on the exercises of the day; nothing befall him unworthy of that Majesty, before which he is to present himself; but that all may
be done with reverence to His glory, and with edification to his flock; humbly beseeching his Master, that how, or whenever, he punish him, it be not in his ministry.” Then he turns to request, for his people, “ that the Lord would be pleased to sanctify them all; that they may come with holy hearts, and awful minds, into the congregation; and that the good God would pardon all those who come with less prepared hearts than they ought."