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XXVII. Nothing is more absurd than that epicurean resolution, Let us eat and drink ; tomorrow we shall die : as if we were made only for the paunch, and lived that we might live ; yet there was never any natural man found savour in that meat, which he knew should be his last : whereas they should say, " Let us fast and pray; to-morrow we shall die:” for,
purpose is the body strengthened, that it may perish; whose greater strength makes our death more violent? No man bestows a costly roof on a ruinous tenement: that man's end is easy and happy, whom death finds with a weak body and a
XXVIII. Sometime, even things, in themselves naturally good, are to be refused for those, which, being evil, may be an occasion to a greater good. Life is in itself good, and death evil: else David, Elijah, and many excellent Martyrs would not have fled, to hold life and avoid death ; nor Hezekiah have prayed for it, nor our Saviour have bidden us to flee for it, nor God promised it to his for a reward: yet, if, in some cases, we hate not life, we love not God, nor our souls. Herein, as much as in any thing, the perverseness of our nature appears, that we wish death or love life, upon wrong causes: we would live for pleasure, or we would die for pain. Job, for his sores; Elijah, for his persecution ; Jonah, for his gourd, would presently die, and will needs outface God that it is better for him to die than to live : wherein, we are like to garrison soldiers, that, while they live within safe walls and shew themselves once a day rather for ceremony and pomp than need or danger, like warfare well enough; but, if once called forth to the field, they wish themselves at home.
XXIX. Not only the least, but the worst is ever in the bottom. What should God do with the dregs of our age? When sin will admit thee his client no longer, then God shall be beholden to thee for thy service. Thus is God dealt with in all other offerings: the worst and least sheaf must be God's tenth : the deformedest or simplest of our children must be God's ministers: the uncleanliest and most careless house must be God's temple: the idlest and sleepiest hours of the day must be reserved for our prayers: the worst part of our age, for devotion. We would have God give us still of the best; and are ready to murmur, at every little evil he sends us : yet nothing is bad enough for him, of whom we receive all. Nature condemns this inequality; and tells us, that he, which is the Author of Good, should have the best; and he, which gives all, should have his choice.
XXX. When we go about an evil business, it is strange, how ready the Devil is to set us forward ; how careful, that we should want no furtherances : so that, if a man would be lewdly witty, he shall be sure to be furnished with store of profane jests ; wherein a loose heart hath double advantage of the conscionable: if he would be voluptuous, he shall want neither objects nor opportunities. The current passage of ill enterprises is so far from giving cause of encouragement, that it should justly fright a man to look back to the author ; and to consider, that he therefore goes fast, because the Devil drives him.
XXXI. In the choice of companions for our conversation, it is good dealing with men of good natures : for, though grace exerciseth her power in bridling nature, yet, since we are still men at the best, some swinge she will have in the most mortified. Austerity, sullenness, or strangeness of disposition, and whatsoever qualities may make a man unsociable, cleave faster to our nature, than those, which are morally evil. True Christian love may be separated from acquaintance, and acquaintance from entireness: these are not qualities to hinder our love, but our familiarity.
XXXII. Ignorance, as it makes bold, intruding men carelessly into unknown dangers ; so also it makes men ofttimes causelessly fearful. Herod feared Christ's coming, because he mistook it: if that tyrant had known the manner of his spiritual regiment, he had spared both his own fright and the blood of other. And, hence it is, that we fear death; because we are not acquainted with the virtue of it. Nothing, but innocency and knowledge, can give sound confidence to the heart.
XXXIII. Where are divers opinions, they may be all false: there can be but one true: and that one truth ofttimes must be fetched by piece-meal out of divers branches of contrary opinions. For, it falls out not seldom, that truth is, through ignorance or rash vehemency, scattered into sundry parts; and, like to a little silver melted amongst the ruins of a burnt house, must be tried out from heaps of much superfluous ashes. There is much pains in the search of it; much skill in finding it: the value of it once found, requites the cost of both.
XXXIV. Affectation of superfluity is, in all things, a sign of weakness:
as, in words, he, that useth circumlocutions to express himself, shews want of memory and want of proper speech ; and much talk argues a brain feeble and distempered. What good can any earthly thing yield us, beside his use? and what is it, but vanity ; to affect that, which doth us no good ; and what use js in that, which is superfluous? It is a great skill, to know what is enough ; and great wisdom, to care for no more.
XXXV. Good things, which in absence were desired, now offering themselves to our presence, are scarce entertained ; or, at least, not with our purposed cheerfulness. Christ's coming to us, and our going to him, are, in our profession, well esteemed, much wished : but, when he singleth us out by a direct message of death, or by some fearful sign giveth likelihood of a present return, we are as much affected with fear, as before with desire. All changes, although to the better, are troublesome for the time, until our settling. There is no remedy hereof, but inward prevention: our mind must change, before our estate be changed.
XXXVI. Those are greatest enemies to religion, that are not most irreligious. Atheists, though in themselves they be the worst, yet are seldom found hot persecutors of others: whereas those, which in some one fundamental point be heretical, are commonly most violent in oppositions. One hurts by secret infection; the other, by open resistance: one is careless of all truth; the other, vehement for some untruth. An Atheist is worthy of more hatred; a Heretic, of more fear; both, of avoidance.
XXXVII. Ways, if never used, cannot but be fair ; if much used, are made commodiously passable; if before oft used and now seldom, they become deep and dangerous. If the heart be not at all inured to meditation, it findeth no fault with itself; not for that it is innocent, but secure: if often, it findeth comfortable passage for his thoughts: if rarely and with intermission, tedious and troublesome. In things of this nature, we only escape complaint, if we use them either always or never.
XXXVIII. Our sensual hand holds fast whatsoever delight it apprehendeth : our spiritual hand easily remitteth; because appetite is stronger in us than grace: whence it is, that we so hardly deliver ourselves of earthly pleasures, which we have once entertained ; and with such difficulty draw ourselves to a constant course of faith, hope, and spiritual joy, or to the renewed acts of them once intermitted. Age is naturally weak, and youth vigorous: but, in us, the old man is strong; the new, faint and feeble: the fault is not in grace; but in us : faith doth not want strength ; but we want faith.
XXXIX. It is not good in worldly estates, for a man to make himself necessary; for, hereupon, he is both more toiled and more suspected: but in the sacred Commonwealth of the Church, a man cannot be engaged too deeply by his service. The ambition of spiritual well-doing breeds no danger. He, that doth best, and may worst be spared, is happiest.
XL. It was a fit comparison of worldly cares, to thorns; for, as they choke the word, so they prick our souls : neither the word can grow up amongst them, nor the heart can rest upon them : neither body nor soul can find ease, while they are within or close to us. Spiritual cares are as sharp; but more profitable: they pain us, but leave the soul better. They break our sleep, but for a sweeter rest: we are not well, but either while we have them, or after we had them. It is as impossible to have spiritual health without these, as to have bodily strength with the other.
XLI. In temporal good things, it is best to live in doubt; not making full account of that, which we hold in so weak a tenure: in spiritual, with confidence; not fearing that, which is warranted to us by an infallible promise and sure earnest. He lives most contentedly, that is most secure for this world; most resolute for the other.
XLII. God hath, in nature, given every man inclinations to some one particular calling ; which if he follow, he excels; if he cross, he proves a non-proficient and changeable : but all men's natures are equally indisposed to grace, and to the common vocation of Christianity; we are all born Heathens. To do well, nature must, in the first, be observed and followed ; in the other, crossed and overcome.
XLIII. Good-man is a title given to the lowest : whereas, all titles of Greatness, Worship, Honour, are observed and attributed with choice. The speech of the world bewrays their mind;
and shews the common estimation of goodness, compared with other qualities. The world, therefore, is an ill herald ; and unskilful in the true stiles. It were happy, that goodness were so common; and pity, that it either should not stand with greatness, or not be preferred to it.
XLIV. Amongst all actions, Satan is ever busiest in the best, and most in the best part of the best : as in the end of prayer; when the heart should close up itself with most comfort. He never fears us, but when we are well employed : and, the more likelihood he sees of our profit, the more is his envy, and labour, to distract us.
We should love ourselves as much as he hates us; and therefore strive so much the more towards our good, as his malice striveth to interrupt it. We do nothing, if we contend not, when we are resisted. The good soul is ever in contradiction; denying what is granted, and contending for that which is denied ; suspecting when it is gainsaid, and fearing liberty.
XLV. God forewarns, ere he try; because he would be prevented: Satan steals upon us suddenly by temptations ; because he would foil us. If we relent not upon God's premonition, and meet not the lingering pace of his punishments, to forestal them; he punisheth more, by how much his warning was more evident and more large. God's trials must be met, when they come; Satan's must be seen, before they come; and, if we be not armed ere we be assaulted, we shall be foiled ere we can be armed.
XLVI. It is not good to be continual in denunciation of judgment: the noise to which we are accustomed, though loud, wakes us not; whereas a less, if unusual, stirreth us.
The next way to make threatenings contemned, is, to make them common. It is a profitable rod, that strikes sparingly; and frights somewhat oftener than it smiteth.
XLVII. Want of use causeth disability ; and custom, perfection. Those, that have not used to pray in their closet, cannot pray in public, but coldly and in form. He, that discontinues meditation, shall be long in recovering: whereas the man inured to these exercises, who is not dressed till he have prayed nor hath supped till he hath meditated, doth both these well, and with ease. He, that intermits good duties, incurs a double