Diſcourſe of Life
Written in French by .
A Tragœdie written alſo in French
Both done in Engliſh by the
Counteße of Pembroke.
Thou shalt labor for peace plentie
Printed for William Ponſonby.
A Diſcourſe of Life and Death, Written in French by Ph. Mornay. Sieur du Pleßis Marly.
It ſeemes to mee ſtrange, and a thing much to be marveiled, that the laborer to repoſe himſelfe haſteneth as it were the courſe of the Sunne: that the Mariner rowes with all force to attayne the porte, and with a joyfull crye ſalutes the deſcryed land: that the traveiler is never quiet nor content till he be at the ende of his voyage: and that wee in the meane while tied in this world to a perpetuall taske, toſſed with continuall tempeſt, tyred with a rough and comberſome way, cannot yet ſee the ende of our labour but with griefe, nor behold our porte but with teares, nor approch our home and quiet abode but with horrour and trembling. This life is but a Penelopes web, wherein we are alwayes doing and undoing: a ſea open to all windes, which ſometime within, ſometime without never ceaſe to torment us: a weary jorney through extreame heates, and coldes, over high mountaynes, ſteepe rockes, and theeviſh deſerts. And ſo we terme it in weaving at this web, in rowing at this oare, in paſsing A2 this 4 A2v this miſerable way. Yet loe when death comes to ende our worke, when ſhe ſtretcheth out her armes to pull us into the porte, when after ſo many dangerous paſſages, and lothſome lodgings ſhe would conduct us to our true home and reſting place: in ſteede of rejoycing at the ende of our labour, of taking comfort at the ſight of our land, of ſinging at the approch of our happie manſion, we would faine, (who would beleeve it?) retake our worke in hand, we would againe hoiſe ſaile to the winde, and willinglie undertake our journey anew. No more then remember we our paines, our ſhipwracks and dangers are forgotten: we feare no more the travailes nor the theeves. Contrarywiſe, we apprehende death as an extreame payne, we doubt it as a rocke, we flye it as a theefe. We doe as litle children, who all the day complayne, and when the medicine is brought them, are no longer ſicke: as they who all the weeke long runne up and downe the ſtreetes with payne of the teeth, and ſeeing the Barber comming to pull them out, feele no more payne: as thoſe tender and delicate bodyes, who in pricking pleuriſie complaine, crie out, and cannot ſtay for a Surgion, and when they ſee him whetting his Launcet to cut the throate of the diſeaſe, pull in their armes, and hide them in the bed, as, if he were come to kill them. We feare more the cure then the diſeaſe, the ſurgion then the paine, the ſtroke then the impoſtume. We have more ſence of the medicins bitternes ſoone gone, then of a bitter languiſhing long continued: more feeling of death the end of our miſeries, then the endleſſe miſery of our life. And whence proceedeth this folly and ſimplicitie? we neyther knowe life, nor death. We feare that we ought to hope for, and wiſh for that we ought to feare. We call life a continuall death: and death the iſſue of a living death, and the entrance of a never dying life. Now what good, I pray you, is there in life, that we ſhould ſo 5 A3r ſo much purſue it? or what evill is there in death, that we ſhould ſo much eſchue it? Nay what evill is there not in life? and what good is there not in death? Conſider all the periods of this life. We enter it in teares, we paſſe it in ſweate, we ende it in ſorow. Great and litle, ritch and poore, not one in the whole world, that can pleade immunitie from this condition. Man in this point worſe then all other creatures, is borne unable to ſupport himſelfe: neither receyving in his firſt yeeres any pleaſure, nor giving to others but annoy and diſpleaſure, and before the age of diſcretion paſsing infinite dangers. Only herein leſſe unhappy then in other ages, that he hath no ſence nor apprehenſion of his unhappines. Now is there any ſo weake minded, that if it were graunted him to live alwayes a childe, would make accompt of ſuch a life? So then it is evident that not ſimplie to live is a good, but well and happilie to live. But proceede. Growes he? with him growe his travailes. Scarcely is he come out of his nurſes hands, ſcarcely knowes he what it is to play, but he falleth into the ſubjection of ſome Schoolemaiſter: I ſpeake but of thoſe which are beſt and moſt preciſely brought up. Studies he? it is ever with repining. Playes he? never but with feare. This whole age while he is under the charge of an other, is unto him but as a priſon. He only thinks, and only aſpires to that time when freed from the maſtherſhip of another, he may become maiſter of himſelfe: puſhing onward (as much as in him lies) his age with his ſhoulder, that ſoone he may enjoy his hoped libertie. In ſhort, he deſires nothing more then the ende of this baſe age, and the beginning of his youth. And what elſe I pray you is the beginning of youth, but the death of infancy? the beginning of manhood, but the death of youth? the beginning of to morow, but the death of to day? In this ſort then deſires he his death, and judgeth his life miſerable: and ſo A3 cannot 6 A3v cannot be reputed in any happines or contentment. Behold him now, according to his wiſh, at libertie: in that age, wherein Hercules had the choiſe, to take the way of vertue or of vice, reaſon or paſsion for his guide, and of theſe two muſt take one. His paſsion entertains him with a thouſand delights, prepares for him a thouſand baites, preſents him with a thouſand worldly pleaſures to ſurprize him: and fewe there are that are not beguiled. But at the reconings ende what pleaſures are they? pleaſures full of vice which hold him ſtill in a reſtles feaver: pleaſures ſubject to repentance, like ſweete meates of hard diſgeſtion: pleaſures bought with pain and perill, ſpent and paſt in a moment, and followed with a long and lothſome remorſe of conſcience. And this is the very nature (if they be well examined) of all the pleaſures of this world. There is in none ſo much ſweetenes, but there is more bitternes: none ſo pleaſant to the mouth, but leaves an unſavery after taſte and lothſome diſdaine: none (which is worſe) ſo moderated but hath his coroſive, and caries his puniſhment in it ſelfe. I will not heere ſpeake of the diſpleaſures confeſſed by all, as quarells, debates, woundes, murthers, baniſhments, ſicknes, perils, whereinto ſometimes the incontinencie, ſometimes the inſolencie of this ill guided age conductes him. But if thoſe that ſeeme pleaſures, be nothing elſe but diſpleaſures: if the ſweetnes thereof be as an infuſion of wormewood: it is plaine enough what the diſpleaſure is they feele, and how great the bitternes that they taſte. Behold in ſumme the life of a yong man, who rid of the government of his parents and maiſters, abandons himſelfe to all libertie or rather bondage of his paſsion: which right like an uncleane ſpirit poſſeſsing him, caſts him now into the water, now into the fire: ſometimes caries him cleane over a rocke, and ſometime flings him headlong to the bottome. Now if he take and followe reaſon 7 A4r reaſon for his guide, beholde on the other part wonderfull difficulties: he muſt reſolve to fight in every part of the field: at every ſtep to be in conflict, and at handſtrokes, as having his enemy in front, in flanke, and on the reareward, never leaving to aſſaile him. And what enemy? all that can delight him, all that he ſees neere, or farre off: briefly the greateſt enemy of the world, the world it ſelfe. But which is worſe, a thouſand treacherous and dangerous intelligences among his owne forces, and his paſsion within himſelfe deſperate: which in that age growne to the higheſt, awaits but time, houre, and occaſion to ſurprize him, and caſt him into all viciouſnes. God only and none other, can make him chooſe this way: God only can hold him in it to the ende: God only can make him victorious in all his combats. And well we ſee how fewe they are that enter into it, and of thoſe fewe, how many that retire againe. Follow the one way, or follow the other, he muſt either ſubject himſelfe to a tyrannicall paſsion, or undertake a weery and continuall combate, willingly caſt himſelfe to deſtruction, or fetter himſelfe as it were in ſtockes, eaſily ſincke with the courſe of the water, or painefully ſwimme againſt the ſtreame. Loe here the young man, who in his youth hath drunke his full draught of the worlds vaine and deceivable pleaſures, overtaken by them with ſuch a dull heavines, and aſtonoſhment, as drunkards the morow after a feaſt: either ſo out of taſte, that he will no more, or ſo glutted, that he can no more: not able without griefe to ſpeake, or thinke of them. Loe him that ſtoutly hath made reſiſtance: he feeles himſelfe ſo weery, and with this continuall conflict ſo bruſed and broken, that either he is upon the point to yeeld himſelfe, or content to dye, and ſo acquit himſelfe. And this is all the good, all the contentment of this floriſhing age, by children ſo earneſtlie deſired, and by old folkes ſo hartely lamented. Now commeth 8 A4v commeth that which is called perfit age, in the which men have no other thoughts, but to purchaſe themſelves wiſedome and reſt. Perfit in deede, but herein only perfit, that all imperfections of humane nature, hidden before under the ſimplicitie of childhood, or the lightnes of youth, appeere at this age in their perfection. We ſpeake of none in this place but ſuch as are eſteemed the wiſeſt, and moſt happie in the conceit of the world. We played as you have ſeene in feare: our ſhort pleaſures were attended on with long repentance. Behold, now preſent themſelves to us avarice, and ambition, promiſing if wee will adore them, perfect contentmēent of the goods and honors of this world. And ſurely there are none, but the true children of the Lord, who by the faire illuſions of the one or the other caſt not themſelves headlong from the top of the pinnacle. But in the ende, what is all this contentment? The covetous man makes a thouſand voiages by ſea and by lande: runnes a thouſand fortunes: eſcapes a thouſand ſhipwrackes in perptuall feare and travell: and many times he either looſeth his time, or gaineth nothing but ſickneſſes, goutes, and oppilations for the time to come. In the purchaſe of this goodly repoſe, he beſtoweth his true reſt: and to gaine wealth looſeth his life. Suppoſe he hath gained in good quantitie: that he hath ſpoiled the whole Eaſt of pearles, and drawen dry all the mines of the Weſt: will he therefore be ſetled in quiet? can he ſay that he is content? All charges and journeys paſt, by his paſſed paines he heapeth up but future diſquietnes both of minde and body: from one travell falling into another, never ending, but changing his miſeries. He deſired to have them, and now feares to looſe them: he got them with burning ardour, and poſſeſſeth in trembling colde: he adventured among theeves to ſeeke them, and having found them, theeves and robbers on all ſides, runne mainely on him: 9 B1r him: he laboured to dig them out of the earth, and now is enforced to redig, and rehide them. Finally comming from all his voiages he comes into a priſon: and for an ende of his bodely travels, is taken with endleſſe travails of the minde. And what at length hath this poore ſoule attained after ſo many miſeries? This Devill of covetiſe by his illuſions, and enchantments, beares him in hand that he hath ſome rare and ſinguler thing: and ſo it fareth with him, as with thoſe ſeely creatures, whome the Devill ſeduceth under couler of releeving their povertie, who finde their hands full of leaves, ſuppoſing to finde them full of crownes. He poſſeſſeth or rather is poſſeſſed by a thing, wherein is neither force nor vertue: more unprofitable, and more baſe, then the leaſt hearbe of the earth. Yet hath he heaped togither this vile excrement, and ſo brutiſh is growne, as therewith to crowne his head, which naturally he ſhould tread under his feete. But howſoever it be, is he therewith content? Nay contrarywiſe leſſe now, then ever. We commend moſt thoſe drinks that breede an alteration, and ſooneſt extinguiſh thyrſt: and thoſe meates, which in leaſt quantitie do longeſt reſiſt hunger. Now hereof the more a man drinkes, the more he is a thirſt, the more he eates, the more an hungred: It is a dropſie, (and as they tearme it) the dogs hunger: ſooner may he burſt then be ſatiſfied. And which is worſe, ſo ſtrange in ſome is this thyrſt, that it maketh them dig the pits, and painefully drawe the water, and after will not ſuffer them to drinke. In the middeſt of a river they are dry with thirſt: and on a heape of corne cry out of famine: they have goodes and dare not uſe them: they have joyes it ſeemes, and do not enjoy them: they neither have for themſelves, nor for another: but of all they have, they have nothing: and yet have want of all they have not. Let us then returne to that, that the attaining of all theſe deceivable goods is nothing else B but 10 B1v but weerines of body, and the poſſeſsion for the moſt part, but weerines of the minde: which certenly is ſo much the greater, as is more ſenſible, more ſubtile, and more tender the ſoule then the body. But the heape of all miſery is when they come to looſe them: when either ſhipwracke, or ſacking, or invaſion, or fire, or ſuch like calamities, to which theſe fraile things are ſubject, doth take and cary them from them. Then fall they to cry, to weepe, and to torment themſelves, as little children that have loſt their play-game, which notwithſtanding is nothing worth. One cannot perſwade them, that mortall men have any other good in this world, but that which is mortall. They are in their owne conceits not only ſpoyled, but altogither flayed. And for aſmuch as in theſe vaine things they have fixed all their hope, having loſt them, they fall into deſpaire, out of the which commonly they cannot be withdrawen. And which is more, all that they have not gained according to the accompts they made, they eſteeme loſt: all that which turnes them not to great and extraordinary profit, they accompt as damage: whereby we ſee ſome fall into ſuch deſpaire, as they caſt away themſelves. In ſhort, the recompence that Covetiſe yeelds thoſe that have ſerved it all their life, is oftentimes like that of the Devill: whereof the ende is, that after a ſmall time having gratified his diſciples, either he gives them over to a hangman, or himſelfe breakes their neckes. I will not heere diſcourſe of the wickednes and miſchiefes whereunto the covetous men ſubject themſelves to attaine to theſe goodes, whereby their conſcience is filled with a perpetuall remorſe, which never leaves them in quiet: ſufficeth that in this over vehement exerciſe, which buſieth and abuſeth the greateſt part of the world, the body is ſlaine, the minde is weakened, the ſoule is loſt without any pleaſure or contentment.
Come we to ambition, which by a greedines of honornor 11 B2r nor fondly holdeth occupied the greateſt perſons. Thinke we there to finde more? nay rather leſſe. As the one deceiveth us, geving us for all our travaile, but a vile excrement of the earth: ſo the other repayes us, but with ſmoke and winde: the rewards of this being as vaine, as thoſe of that were groſſe. Both in the one and the other, we fall into a bottomles pit; but into this the fall by ſo much the more dangerous, as at the firſt ſhewe, the water is more pleaſant and cleare. Of thoſe that geve themſelves to courte ambition, ſome are great about Princes, others commanders of Armies: both ſorts according to their degree, you ſee ſaluted, reverenced, and adored of thoſe that are under them. You ſee them appareled in purple, in ſcarlet, and in cloth of gould: it ſeemes at firſt ſight there is no contentment in the world but theirs. But men knowe not how heavy an ounce of that vaine honor weighes, what thoſe reverences coſt them, and how dearely they pay for an ell of thoſe rich ſtuffes: who knewe them well, would never buy them at the price. The one hath attained to this degree, after a long and painfull ſervice hazarding his life upon every occaſion, with loſſe ofttimes of a legge or an arme, and that at the pleaſure of a Prince, that more regards a hundred perches of ground on his neighbours frontiers, then the lives of a hundred thouſand ſuch as he: unfortunate to ſerve who loves him not: and fooliſh to thinke himſelfe in honor with him, that makes ſo litle reckening to looſe him for a thing of no worth. Others growe up by flattering a Prince, and long ſubmitting their toongs and hands to ſay and doe without difference whatſoever they will have them: whereunto a good minde can never commaund it ſelfe. They ſhall have indured a thouſand injuries, received a thouſand diſgraces, and as neere as they ſeeme about the Prince, they are nevertheles alwayes as the Lions keeper, who by long patience, a B2 thouſand 12 B2v thouſand feedings and a thouſand clawings hath made a fierce Lion familiar, yet geves him never meate, but with pulling backe his hand, alwayes in feare leaſt he ſhould catch him: and if once in a yere he bites him, he ſets it ſo cloſe, that he is paid for a long time after. Such is the ende of all princes favorites. When a Prince after long breathings hath raiſed a man to great height, he makes it his paſtime, at what time he ſeemes to be at the top of his travaile, to caſt him downe at an inſtant: when he hath filled him with all wealth, he wrings him after as a ſponge: loving none but himſelf, and thinking every one made, but to ſerve, and pleaſe him. Theſe blinde courtiers make themſelves beleeve, that they have freends, and many that honor them: never conſidering that as they make ſemblance to love, and honor every body, ſo others do by them. Their ſuperiors diſdaine them, and never but with ſcorne do ſo much as ſalute them. Their inferiors ſalute them becauſe they have neede of them (I meane of their fortune, of their foode, of their apparell, not of their perſon) and for their equalls betweene whome commonly frendſhip conſiſts, they envy each other, accuſe each other, croſſe each other; continually greeved either at their owne harme, or at others good. Nowe what greater hell is there, what greater torment, then envie? which in truth is nought elſe but a feaver Hectique of the minde: ſo they are utterly fruſtrate of all frendſhip, ever judged by the wiſeſt the cheife and ſoveraigne good among men. Will you ſee it more clearely? Let but fortune turne her backe, every man turnes from them: let her frowne, every man lookes aſide on them: let them once be diſroabed of their triumphall garment, no body will any more knowe them. Againe, let there be apparelled in it the moſt unworthie, and infamous whatſoever: even he without difficultie by vertue of his robe, ſhall inherit all the honours the other had done him. In the meane 13 B3r meane time they are puffed up, and growe proude, as the Aſſe which caried the image of Iſis was for the honors done to the Goddeſſe, and regard not that it is the fortune they carry which is honored, not themſelves, on whome as on Aſſes, many times ſhe will be caried. But you will ſay: At leaſt ſo long as that fortune endured, they were at eaſe, and had their contentment, and who hath three or foure or more yeeres of happy time, hath not bin all his life unhappie. True, if this be to be at eaſe continually to feare to be caſt downe from that degree, whereunto they are raiſed: and dayly to deſire with great travaile to clime yet higher. Thoſe (my friend) whome thou takeſt ſo well at their eaſe, becauſe thou ſeeſt them but without, are within farre otherwiſe. They are faire built priſons, full within of deepe ditches, and dungeons: full of darknes, ſerpents, and torments. Thou ſuppoſeſt them lodged at large, and they thinke their lodgings ſtraite. Thou thinkeſt them very high, and they thinke themſelves very lowe. Now as ſicke is he, and many times more ſicke, who thinkes himſelfe ſo, then who in deed is. Suppoſe them to be Kings: if they thinke themſelves ſlaves, they are no better: for what are we but by opinion? you ſee them well followed and attended: and even thoſe whome they have choſen for their guard, they diſtruſt. Alone or in company ever they are in feare. Alone they looke behinde them: in company they have an eye on every ſide of them. They drinke in gould and ſilver; but in thoſe, not in earth or glaſſe is poiſon prepared and dronke. They have their beds ſoft and well made: when they lay them to ſleepe you ſhall not heare a mouſe ſtur in the chamber: not ſo much as a flie ſhall come neere their faces. Yet nevertheles, where the countreyman ſleepes at the fall of a great river, at the noiſe of a market, having no other bed but the earth, nor covering but the heavens, theſe in the middeſt of all this ſilence B3 and 14 B3v and delicacie, do nothing but turne from ſide to ſide, it ſeemes ſtill that they heare ſome body, there reſt it ſelfe is without reſt. Laſtly, will you knowe what the diverſitie is betwene the moſt hardly intreated priſoners and them? both are inchained, both loaden with fetters, but that the one hath them of iron, the other of gould, and that the one is tied but by the body, the other by the mind. The priſoner drawes his fetters after him, the courtier weareth his upon him. The priſoners minde ſometimes comforts the paine of his body, and ſings in the midſt of his miſeries: the courtier tormented in minde weerieth inceſſantly his body, and can never give it reſt. And as for the contentment you imagine they have, you are therein yet more deceived. You judge and eſteeme them great, becauſe they are raiſed high: but as fondly, as who ſhould judge a dwarfe great, for being ſet on a tower, or on the top of a mountaine. You meaſure (ſo good a Geometrician you are) the image with his baſe, which were convenient, to knowe his true height, to be meaſured by it ſelfe: whereas you regard not the height of the image, but the height of the place it ſtands upon. You deeme them great (if in this earth there can be greatnes, which in reſpect of the whole heavens is but a point.) But could you enter into their mindes, you would judge, that neither they are great, true greatnes conſiſting in contempt of thoſe vaine greatneſſes, whereunto they are ſlaves: nor ſeeme unto themſelves ſo, ſeeing dayly they are aſpiring higher, and never where they would be. Some one ſets downe a bound in his minde. Could I attaine to ſuch a degree, loe, I were content: I would then reſt my ſelfe. Hath he attained it? he geves himſelfe not ſo much as a breathing: he would yet aſcend higher. That which is beneath he counts a toy: it is in his opinion but one ſtep. He reputes himſelfe lowe, becauſe there is ſome one higher, in ſtead of reputing himſelfe high, becauſe there 15 B4r there are a million lower. And ſo high he climes at laſt, that either his breath failes him by the way, or he ſlides from the top to the bottome. Or if he get up by all his travaile, it is but as to finde himſelfe on the top of the Alpes: not above the cloudes, windes and ſtormes: but rather at the devotion of lightnings, and tempeſts, and whatſoever elſe horrible, and dangerous is engendred, and conceived in the aire: which moſt commonly taketh pleaſure to thunderbolt and daſh into pouder that proude height of theirs. It may be herein you will agree with me, by reaſon of the examples wherewith both hiſtories, and mens memories are full. But ſay you, ſuch at leaſt whome nature hath ſent into the world with crownes on their heads, and ſcepters in their hands: ſuch as from their birth ſhe hath ſet in that height, as they neede take no paine to aſcend: ſeeme without controverſie exempt from all theſe injuries, and by conſequence may call themſelves happie. It may be in deed they feele leſſe ſuch incommodities, having bene borne, bred and brought up among them: as one borne neere the downfalls of Nilus becomes deafe to the ſound: in priſon, laments not the want of libertie: among the Cimmerians in perpetuall night, wiſheth not for day: on the top of the Alpes, thinks not ſtraunge of the miſtes, the tempeſts, the ſnowes, and the ſtormes. Yet free doubtles they are not whēen the lightening often blaſteth a flowre of their crownes, or breakes their ſcepter in their handes: when a drift of ſnowe overwhelmes them: when a miſte of heavines, and griefe continually blindeth their wit, and underſtanding. Crowned they are in deede, but with a crowne of thornes. They beare a ſcepter: but it is of a reede, more then any thing in the world pliable, and obedient to all windes: it being ſo far off that ſuch a crowne can cure the maigrims of the minde, and ſuch a ſcepter keepe off and fray away the griefes and cares which hoveruer 16 B4v ver about them: that it is contrariwiſe the crowne that brings them, and the ſcepter which from all partes attracts them. O crowne, ſaid the Perſian Monarch, who knew howe heavy thou ſitteſt on the head, would not vouchſafe to take thee up, though he found thee in his way. This Prince it ſeemed gave fortune to the whole world, diſtributed unto men haps and miſhaps at his pleaſure: could in ſhow make every man content: himſelfe in the meane while freely confeſsing, that in the whole world, which he held in his hand there was nothing but griefe, and unhappines. And what will all the reſt tell us, if they liſt to utter what they found? We will not aske them who have concluded a miſerable life with a diſhonorable death: who have beheld their kingdomes buried before them, and have in great miſery long overlived their greatnes. Not of Dionyſe of Sicill, more content with a handfull of twigs to whip little children of Corinth in a ſchoole, then with the ſcepter, wherewith he had beaten all Sicill: nor of Sylla, who having robbed the whole ſtate of Rome, which had before robbed the whole world, never found meanes of reſt in himſelfe, but by robbing himſelfe of his owne eſtate, with incredible hazard both of his power and authoritie. But demaund we the opinion of King Salomon, a man indued with ſinguler gifts of God, rich and welthie of all things: who ſought for treaſure from the Iles. He will teach us by a booke of purpoſe, that having tried all the felicities of the earth, he found nothing but vanitie, travaile, and vexation of ſpirit. Aske we the Emperour Auguſtus, who peaceably poſſeſſed the whole world. He will bewaile his life paſt, and among infinite toiles wiſh for the reſt of the meaneſt man of the earth: accounting that day moſt happy, when he might unloade himſelfe of this inſupportable greatnes to live quietly among the leaſt. Of Tiberius his ſucceſſor, he will confeſſe unto us, that he holdes the Empire as a wolfe 17 C1r wolfe by the eares, and that (if without danger of biting he might) he would gladly let it goe: complayning on fortune for lifting him ſo high, and then taking away the ladder, that he could not come downe agayne. Of Diocleſian, a Prince of ſo great wiſedome and vertue in the opinion of the world: he will preferre his voluntary baniſhment at Salona, before all the Romaine Empire. Finally, the Emperour Charles the fifth, eſteemed by our age the moſt happy that hath lived theſe many ages: he will curſe his conqueſtes, his victories, his triumphes: and not be aſhamed to confeſſe that farre more good in compariſon he hath felt in one day of his Monkiſh ſolitarines, then in all his triumphant life. Now ſhall we thinke thoſe happie in this imaginate greatnes, who themſelves thinke themſelves unhappie? ſeeking their happines in leſſening themſelves, and not finding in the world one place to reſt this greatnes, or one bed quietly to ſleepe in? Happie is he only who in minde lives contented: and he moſt of all unhappie, whome nothing he can have can content. Then miſerable Pyrrhus King of Albanie, who would winne all the world, to winne (as he ſayd) reſt: and went ſo farre to ſeeke that which was ſo neere him. But more miſerable Alexander, that being born King of a great Realme, and Conqueror almoſt of the earth, ſought for more worlds to ſatiſfye his fooliſh ambition, within three dayes content, with ſixe foote of grounde. To conclude, are they borne on the higheſt Alpes? they ſeeke to ſcale heaven. Have they ſubdued all the Kings of the earth? they have quarels to pleade with God, and indevour to treade under foote his kingdome. They have no end nor limit, till God laughing at their vaine purpoſes, when they thinke themſelves at the laſt ſtep, thunderſtriketh all this preſumption, breaking in ſhivers their ſcepters in their hands, and oftentimes intrapping them in their owne crownes. At C a 18 C1v a word, whatſoever happines can be in that ambition promiſeth, is but ſuffering much ill, to get ill. Men thinke by dayly climing higher to plucke themſelves out of this ill, and the height whereunto they ſo painefully aſpire, is the height of miſery it ſelfe. I ſpeake not heere of the wretchednes of them, who all their life have held out their cap to receive the almes of court fortune, and can get nothing, often with incredible heart griefe, ſeeing ſome by leſſe paines taken have riches fall into their hands: of them, who juſtling one an other to have it, looſe it, and caſt it into the hands of a third: Of thoſe, who holding it in their hands to hold it faſter, have loſt it through their fingers. Such by all men are eſteemed unhappie, and are indeed ſo, becauſe they judge themſelves ſo. It ſufficeth that all theſe liberalities which the Devill caſteth us as out at a windowe, are but baites: all theſe pleaſures but embuſhes: and that he doth but make his ſport of us, who ſtrive one with another for ſuch things, as moſt unhappie is he, that hath beſt hap to finde them. Well now, you will ſay, the Covetouſe in all his goodes, hath no good: the Ambitious at the beſt he can be, is but ill. But may there not be ſome, who ſupplying the place of Juſtice, or being neere about a Prince, may without following ſuch unbrideled paſsions, pleaſantly enjoy their goodes, joyning honor with reſt and contentment of minde? Surely in former ages (there yet remayning among men ſome ſparkes of ſinceritie) in ſome ſort it might be ſo: but being of that compoſition they nowe are, I ſee not how it may be in any ſorte. For deale you in affayres of eſtate in theſe times, either you ſhall do well, or you ſhall do ill. If ill, you have God for your enemy, and your owne conſcience for a perpetually tormenting executioner. If well, you have men for your enemies, and of men the greatest: whoſe envie and malice will ſpie you out, and whoſe 19 C2r whoſe crueltie and tyrannie will evermore threaten you. Pleaſe the people you pleaſe a beaſt: and pleaſing ſuch, ought to be diſpleaſing to your ſelfe. Pleaſe your ſelfe, you diſpleaſe God: pleaſe him, you incurr a thouſand dangers in the world, with purchaſe of a thouſand diſpleaſures. Whereof it growes, that if you could heare the talke of the wiſeſt and leaſt diſcontent of this kinde of men, whether they ſpeake adviſedly, or their words paſſe them by force of truth, one would gladly change garment with his tenaunt: an other preacheth how goodly an eſtate it is to have nothing: a third complaining that his braines are broken with the noiſe of Courte or Pallace, hath no other thought, but as ſoone as he may to retire himſelfe thence. So that you ſhall not ſee any but is diſpleaſed with his owne calling, and envieth that of an other: readie nevertheleſſe to repent him, if a man ſhould take him at his word. None but is weerie of the buſsineſſes whereunto his age is ſubject, and wiſheth not to be elder, to free himſelfe of them: albeit otherwiſe hee keepeth of olde age as much as in him lyeth.
What muſt we then doe in ſo great a contrarietie and confuſion of mindes? Muſt wee to fynde true humanitie, flye the ſocietie of men, and hide us in forreſtes among wilde beaſtes? to avoyde theſe unrulie paſsions, eſchue the aſſemblye of creatures ſuppoſed reaſonable? to plucke us out of the evills of the world, ſequeſter our ſelves from the world? Coulde wee in ſo dooing live at reſt, it were ſomething.
But alas! men cannot take heerein what parte they woulde: and even they which do, finde not there all the reſt they ſought for. Some would gladly doo, but ſhame of the world recalls them. Fooles to be aſhamed of what in their heartes they condemne: and more fooles to be adviſed by the greateſt enemye C2 they 20 C2v they can or ought to have. Others are borne in hande that they ought to ſerve the publique, not marking that who counſell them ſerve only themſelves: and that the more parte would not much ſeeke the publique, but that they founde their owne particular. Some are told, that by their good example they may amende others: and conſider not that a hundred ſound men, even Phiſitions themſelves, may ſooner catch the plague in an infected towne, then one be healed: that it is but to tempt God, to enter therein: that againſt ſo contagious an aire there is no preſervative, but in getting farre from it. Finally, that as litle as the freſhe waters falling into the ſea, can take from it his ſaltnes: ſo little can one Lot or two, or three, reforme a court of Sodome. And as concerning the wiſeſt, who no leſſe carefull for their ſoules, then bodies, ſeeke to bring them into a ſound and wholeſome ayre, farre from the infection of wickednes: and who led by the hande of ſome Angell of God, retire themſelves in ſeaſon, as Lot into ſome little village of Segor, out of the corruption of the world, into ſome countrie place from the infected townes, there quietlie employing the tyme in ſome knowledge and ſerious contemplation: I willinglie yeeld they are in a place of leſſe daunger, yet becauſe they carie the danger, in themſelves, not abſolutelie exempt from danger. They flie the court, and a court folowes them on all ſides: they endevoure to eſcape the world, and the world purſues them to death. Hardly in this world can they finde a place where the world findes them not: ſo gredelie it ſeekes to murther them.
And if by ſome ſpeciall grace of God they ſeeme for a while free from theſe daungers, they have ſome povertie that troubles them, ſome domeſticall debate that torments them, or ſome familiar ſpirit that tempts them: brieflie the world dayly in ſome ſorte 21 C3r ſorte or other makes it ſelfe felt of them. But the worſt is, when we are out of theſe externall warres and troubles, we finde greater civill warre within our ſelves: the fleſh againſt the ſpirit, paſsion againſt reaſon, earth againſt heaven, the worlde within us fighting for the world, evermore ſo lodged in the botome of our owne hearts, that on no ſide we can flie from it. I will ſay more: he makes profeſsion to flie the worlde: who ſeekes thereby the praiſe of the worlde: hee faineth to runne away, who according to the proverbe, By drawing backe ſets himſelfe forward: he refuſeth honors, that would thereby be prayed to take them: and hides him from men to the ende they ſhould come to ſeeke him. So the world often harbours in diſguiſed attire among them that flie the world. This is an abuſe. But follow wee the company of men, the worlde hath his court among them: ſeeke we the Deſerts, it hath there his dennes and places of reſorte, and iin the Deſert it ſelfe tempteth Christ Jeſus. Retire wee our ſelves into our ſelves, we find it there as uncleane as anywhere. Wee can not make the worlde die in us, but by dieng our ſelves. We are in the world, and the worlde in us, and to ſeperate us from the worlde, wee muſt ſeperate us from our ſelves. Nowe this ſeperation is called Death. Wee are, wee thinke, come out of the contagious citie, but wee are not adviſed that we have ſucked the bad aire, that wee carry the plague with us, that we ſo participate with it, that through rockes, through deſarts, through mountaines, it ever accompanieth us. Having avoyded the contagion of others, yet we have it in our ſelves. We have withdrawen us out of men: but not withdrawen man out of us. The tempeſtuous ſea torments us: we are grieved at the heart, and deſirous to vomit: and to be diſcharged thereof, we remove out of one ſhip into another, from a greater to leſſe: we promiſe our ſelves reſt in vaine: they being always the ſame C3 windes 22 C3v winds that blow, the ſame waves that ſwel, the ſame humors that are ſtirred. To al no other port, no other mean of tranquilitie but only death. We were ſicke in a chamber neere the ſtreet, or neere the market: we cauſed our ſelves to be carried into ſome backer cloſet, where the noiſe was not ſo great. But though there the noiſe was leſſe: yet was the feaver there nevertheleſſe: and thereby loſt nothing of his heate. Change bedde, chamber, houſe, country, againe and againe: we ſhall every where finde the ſame unreſt, becauſe every where we finde our ſelves: and ſeek not ſo much to be others, as to be other wheres. We folow ſolitarines, to flie carefulnnes. We retire us (ſo ſay we) from the wicked: but cary with us our avarice, our ambition, our riotouſnes, all our corrupt affecti ōons: which breed in us 1000. remorſes, & 1000. times each day briing to our remembrance the garlike & onions of Egipt. Daily they paſſe the Ferry with us: ſo that both on this ſide, and beyond the water, we are in continual combat. Now could we caſſere this cōompany, which eats and gnaws our mind, doubtles we ſhould be at reſt, not in ſolitarines onely, but even in the thicket of men. For the life of māan upon earth is but a continual warfare. Are we delivered from externall practizes? Wee are to take heed of internall eſpials. Are the Greekes gone away? We have a Sinon within, that wil betray them the place. Wee muſt ever be waking, having an eie to the watch, and weapons in our hands, if wee will not every houre be ſurpriſed, & given up to the wil of our enimies. And how at laſt can we eſcape? Not by the woodes, by the rivers, nor by the mountaines: not by throwing our ſelves into a preſſe, nor by thruſting our ſelves into a hole. One only meane there is, which is death: which in ende ſeperating our ſpirite from our fleſh, the pure and clean part of our ſoule from the uncleane, which within us evermore bandeth it ſelfe for the worlde, appeaſeth by this ſeperation that, which conjoyned in one and the ſame 23 C4r ſame perſon coulde not, without utter choaking of the ſpirit, but be in perpetuall contention.
And as touching the contentment that may be in the exerciſes of the wiſeſt men in their ſolitarineſſe, as reading divine or prophane Bookes, with all other knowledges and learnings: I hold well that it is indeed a far other thing, then are thoſe madde huntings, which make ſavage a multitude of men poſſeſſed with theſe or the like diſeaſes of the minde. Yet muſt they all abide the judgement pronounced by the wiſeſt among the wiſe, Salomon, that all this nevertheleſſe applied to tomans naturall diſpoſition, is to him but vanitie and vexation of minde. Some are ever learning to correct their ſpeach, and never thinke of correcting their life. Others diſpute in their Logique of reaſon, and the Arte of reaſon: and looſe thereby many times their naturall reaſon. One learnes by Arithmetike to divide to the ſmalleſt fractions, and hath not skill to part one ſhilling with his brother. Another by Geometry can meaſure fields, and townes, and countries: but can not meaſure himſelfe. The Muſitian can accord his voyces, and ſoundes, and times togither: having nothing in his heart but diſcordes, nor one paſsion in his ſoule in good tune. The Aſtrologer lookes up on high, and falles in the next ditch: fore-knowes the future, and forgoes the preſent: hath often his eie on the heavens, his heart long before buried in the earth. The Philoſopher diſcourſeth of the nature of all other things: and knowes not himſelfe. The Hiſtorian can tell of the warres of Thebes and of Troy: but what is doone in his owne houſe can tell nothing. The Lawyer will make lawes for all the world, and not one for himſelfe. The Phyſition will cure others, and be blinde in his owne diſeaſe: finde the leaſt alteration in his pulſe, and not marke the burning feavers of his minde. Laſtlie, the Divine will ſpend the greateſt parte of his time in diſputing of faith, 24 C4v faith and cares not to heare of charity: wil talke of God, and not regard to ſuccor men. Theſe knowledges bring on the mind an endleſſe labour, but no contentment: for the more one knowes, the more he would know.
They pacify not the debates a man feeles in himſelfe they cure not the diſeaſes of his minde. They make him learned, but they make not him good: cunning, but not wiſe. I ſay more. The more a man knowes, the more knowes he that he knowes not: the fuller the minde is, the emptier it findes it ſelfe: foraſmuch as whatſoever a man can knowe of any ſcience in this worlde is but the leaſt part of what he is ignorant: all his knowledge conſiſting in knowing his ignorance, al his perfection in noting his imperfections, which who beſt knowes and notes, is in truth among men the moſt wiſe, and perfect. In ſhort we muſt conclude with Salomon, that the beginning and end of wiſedome is the feare of God: that this wiſedome neuuvertheleſſe is taken of the world for meere folly, and perſecuted by the world as a deadly enemy: and that as who feareth God, ought to feare no evill, for that all his evils are converted to his good: ſo neither ought he to hope for good in the worlde, having there the devil his profeſſed enemy, whom the Scripture termeth Prince of the world.
But with what exerciſe ſoever we paſſe the time, behold old age unwares to us coms upon us: which whether we thruſt our ſelves iinto the preaſe of men, or hide us ſomewhere out of the way, never failes to find us out. Every man makes accompt in that age to reſt himſelfe of all his travailes without further care, but to keepe himſelfe at eaſe and in health. And ſee contrariwiſe in this age, there is nothing but an after taſte of all the fore going evils: and moſt commonly a plentifull harveſt of all ſuch vices as in the whole courſe of their life, hath held and poſſeſſed them. There you have the unabilitie and weakeneſſe of infancie, and (which is worſe) many 25 D1r many times accompanied with authoritie: there you are payed for the exceſſe and riotouſnes of youth, with gowts, palſies, and ſuch like diſeaſes, which take from you limme after limme with extreame paine and torment. There you are recompenced for the travailes of mind, the watchings and cares of manhoode, with loſſe of ſight, loſſe of hearing, and all the ſences one after another, except onely the ſence of paine. Not one parte in us but death takes in gage to be aſſured of us, as of bad pay-maiſters, which infinitely feare their dayes of payment. Nothing in us which will not by and by bee dead: and nevertheleſſe our vices yet live in us, and not onely live, but in deſpite of nature daily growe yoong againe. The covetous man hath one foote in his grave, and is yet burieng his money: meaning belike to finde it againe another day. The ambitious in his will ordaineth unprofitable pompes for his funeralles, making his vice to live and triumph after his death. The riotous no longer able to daunce on his feete, daunceth with his ſhoulders, all vices having lefte him, and hee not yet able to leave them. The childe wiſheth for youth: and this man laments it. The yong man liveth in hope of the future, and this feeles the evill preſent, laments the falſe pleaſures paſt, and ſees for the time to come nothing to hope for. More fooliſh then the childe, in bewailing the time he cannot recall, and not remembring the evill hee had therein: and more wretched then the yongman, in that after a wretched life not able, but wretchedly to die, he ſees on all ſides but matter of diſpaire. As for him, who from his youth hath undertaken to combate againſt the fleſh, and againſt the world: who hath taken ſo great paines to mortifie himſelfe and leave the worlde before his time: who beſides thoſe ordinarie evilles findes himſelfe vexed with this great and inncurable diſeaſe of olde age, and feeles notwithſtanding his fleſh howe weake ſoever, ſtronger oftentimes D then 26 D1v then his ſpirite: what good I pray can hee have buut onlie herein: that hee ſees his death at hand, that hee ſees his combate finiſhed, that he ſees himſelfe readie to departe by death ouut of this loathſome priſon, wherein all his life time hee hath beene racked and tormented? I will not heere ſpeake of the infinite evilles wherewith men in all ages are annoyed, as loſſe of friendes and parents, baniſhments, exiles, diſgraces, and ſuch others, common and ordinarie in the world: one complayning of looſing his children, an other of having them: one making ſorrow for his wifes death, an other for her life, one finding faulte, the hee is too high in Courte, an other, that hee is not high enough. The worlde is ſo full of evilles, that to write them all, woulde require an other worlde as great as it ſelfe. Sufficeth, that if the moſt happie in mens opinions doe counterpoize his happs with his miſhaps, he ſhall judge himſelfe unhappy: and hee judge him happy, who had he beene ſet three dayes in his place would give it over to him that came next: yea, ſooner then hee, who ſhall conſider in all the goodes that ever hee hath had the evilles hee hath endured to get them, and having them to retaine and keepe them (I ſpeake of the pleaſures that may be kept, and not of thoſe that wither in a moment) wil judge of himſelfe, and by himſelfe, that the keeping it ſelfe of the greateſt felicitie in this worlde, is full of unhappineſſe and infelicitie. Conclude then, that Childhoode is but a fooliſh ſimplicitie, Youth, a vaine heate, Manhoode, a painefull carefulneſſe, and Olde-age, a noyſome languiſhing: that our playes are but teares, our pleaſures, fevers of the minde, our goodes, rackes, and torments, our honors, heavy vanities, our reſt, unreſt: that paſsing from age to age is but paſsing from evill to evill, and from the leſſe unto the greater: and that alwayes it is but one wave driving on an other, untill we be arrived at 27 D2r at the Haven of death. Conclude I ſay, that life is but a wiſhing for the future, and a bewailing of the paſt: a loathing of what wee have taſted, and a longing for that wee have not taſted, a vaine memorie of the ſtate paſt, and a doubtfull expectation of the ſtate to come: finally, that in all our life there is nothing certaine, nothing aſſured, but the certaintie and uncertaintie of death. Behold, now comes Death unto us: Behold her, whoſe approch we ſo much fear. We are now to cōonſider whether ſhe be ſuch as wee are made beleeve: and whether we ought ſo greatly to flie her, as commonly wee do. Wee are afraide of her: but like little children of a vizarde, or of the Images of Hecate. Wee have her in horror: but becauſe wee conceive her not ſuch as ſhe is, but ougly, terrible, and hideous: ſuch as it pleaſeth the Painters to repreſent unto us on a wall. Wee flie before her: but it is becauſe foretaken with ſuch vaine imaginations, wee give not our ſelves leiſure to marke her. But ſtaie wee, ſtande wee ſtedfaſt, looke wee her in the face: wee ſhall finde her quite other then ſhee is painted us: and altogether of other countentaunce then our miſerable life. Death makes an ende of this life. This life is a perpetuall miſery and tempeſt: Death then is the iſſue of our miſeries and entraunce of the porte where wee ſhall ride in ſafetie from all windes. And ſhoulde wee feare that which withdraweth us from miſery, or which drawes us into our Haven? Yea but you will ſay, it is a payne to die. Admit it bee: ſo is there in curing of a wounde. Such is the worlde, that one evill can not bee cured but by an other, to heale a contuſion, muſt bee made an inciſion. You will ſay, there is difficultie in the paſſage: So is there no Haven, no Porte, whereinto the entraunce is not ſtraite and comberſome. No good thing is to be bought in this worlde with other then the coyne of labour and paine. The entraunce indeede is hard, if D2 our 28 D2v our ſelves make it harde, comming thither with a tormented ſpirite, a troubled minde, a wavering and irreſolute thought. But bring wee quietneſſe of minde, conſtancie, and full reſolution, wee ſhall not finde anie daunger or difficultie at all. Yet what is the paine that death brings us? Nay, what can ſhee doe with thoſe paines wee feele? Wee accuſe her of all the evilles wee abide in ending our life, and conſider not howe manie more greevous woundes or ſickeneſſes wee have endured without death: or howe many more vehement paines wee have ſuffered in this life, in the which wee called even her to our ſuccour. All the paines our life yeeldes us at the laſt houre wee impute to Death: not marking that life begunne and continued in all ſortes of paine, muſt alſo neceſſarily ende in paine. Not marking (I ſaie) that it is the remainder of our life, not death, that tormenteth us: the ende of our navigation that paines us, not the Haven wee are to enter: which is nothing elſe but a ſafegarde againſt all windes. Wee complayne of Death, where wee ſhoulde complayne of life: as if one havyng beene long ſicke, and beginning to bee well, ſhoulde accuſe his health of his laſt paynes, and not the reliques of his diſeaſe. Tell mee, what is it elſe to bee dead, but to bee no more living in the worlde? Abſolutelie and ſimplie not to bee in the worlde, is it anie payne? Did wee then feele any paine, when as yet wee were not? Have wee ever more reſemblaunce of Death, then when wee ſleepe? Or ever more reſt then at that time? Now if this be no paine, why accuſe we Death of the paines our life gives us at our departure? Unleſſe alſo we wil fondly accuſe the time when as yet we were not, of the paines we felt at our birth ¿? If the comming in be with teares, is it wonder that ſuch be the going out? If the beginning of our being, be the beginning of our paine, is it marvell that ſuch 29 D3r ſuch be the ending? But if our not being in times paſt hath bene without payne, and all this being contrarywiſe full of paine: whome ſhould we by reaſon accuſe of the laſt paines, the not being to come, or the remnant of this preſent being? We thinke we dye not, but when we yeeld up our laſt gaſpe. But if we marke well, we dye every day, every houre, every moment. We apprehend death as a thing unuſuall to us: and yet have nothing ſo common in us. Our living is but continuall dyeng: looke how much we live, we dye: how much we encreaſe, our life decreaſes. We enter not a ſtep into life, but we enter a ſtep into death. Who hath lived a third part of his yeares, hath a third part of himſelfe dead. Who halfe his yeares, is already half dead. Of our life, all the time paſt is dead, the preſent lives and dies at once, and the future likewiſe ſhall dye. The paſt is no more, the future is not yet, the preſent is, and no more is. Briefely, this whole life is but a death: it is as a candle lighted in our bodies: in one the winde makes it melt away, and in an other blowes it cleane out, many times ere it be halfe burned: in others it endureth to the ende. Howſoever it be, looke how much it ſhineth, ſo much it burneth: her ſhining is her burning: her light a vaniſhing ſmoke: her laſt fire, hir laſt wike, and her laſt drop of moiſture. So is it in the life of man, life and death in man is all one. If we call the laſt breath death, ſo muſt we all the reſt: all proceeding from one place, and all in one manner. One only difference there is betweene this life, and that we call death: that during the one, we have alwayes wherof to dye: and after the other, there remaineth only wherof to live. In ſumme, even he that thinketh death ſimply to be the ende of man, ought not to feare it: in aſmuch as who deſireth to live longer, deſireth to die longer: and who feareth ſoone to die, feareth (to ſpeake properlie) leſt he may not longer die.D3 But 30 D3v
But unto us brought up in a more holy ſchoole, death is a farre other thing: neither neede we as the Pagans of conſolations againſt death: but that death ſerve us, as a conſolation againſt all ſorts of affliction: ſo that we muſt not only ſtrengthen our ſelves, as they, not to feare it, but accuſtome ourſelves to hope for it. For unto us it is not a departing frōom pain & evil, but an acceſſe unto all good: not the end of life, but the end of death, & the beginning of life. Better, ſaith Salomon, is the day of death, then the day of birth, and why? becauſe it is not to us a laſt day, but the dawning of an everlaſting day. No more ſhall we have in that glorious light, either ſorow for the paſt, or expectation of the future: for all ſhall be there preſent unto us, and that preſent ſhall never more paſſe. No more ſhal we powre out our ſelves in vaine & painfull pleaſures: for we ſhal be filled with true & ſubſtantiall pleaſures. No more ſhal we paine our ſelves in heaping togither theſe exhalatiōons of the earth: for the heavens ſhall be ours, and this maſſe of earth, which ever drawes us towards the earth, ſhal be buried in the earth. No more ſhal we overwearie our ſelves with mounting from degree to degree, and from honor to honor: for we ſhall highlie be rayſed above all heights of the world; and from on high laugh at the folly of all thoſe we once admired, who fight together for a point, and as litle childrēen for leſſe then an apple. No more to be brief ſhal we have combates in our ſelves: for our fleſh ſhall be dead, and our ſpirit in full life: our paſsion buried, and our reaſon in perfect libertie. Our ſoule delivered out of this foule & filthie priſon, where, by long continuing it is growen into an habite of crookednes, ſhall againe draw her owne breath, recognize her ancient dwelling, and againe remember her former glory & dignity. This fleſh my frend which thou feeleſt, this body which thou toucheſt is not man: Man is from heaven: heaven is his countrie and his aire. That he is in his body, is but by way of exile & confinement. Man in deed is ſoule and ſpirit: 31 D4r ſpirit: Man is rather of celeſtiall and divine qualitie, wherin is nothing groſſe nor materiall. This body ſuch as now it is, is but the barke & ſhell of the ſoule: which muſt neceſſarily be broken, if we will be hatched: if we wil indeed live & ſee the light. We have it ſemes, ſome life, and ſome ſence in us: but are ſo croked and contracted, that we cannot ſo much as ſtretch out our wings, much leſſe take our flight towards heaven, untill we be disburthened of this earthlie burthen. We looke, but through falſe ſpectacles: we have eyes but overgrowen with pearles: we thinke we ſee, but it is in a dreame, wherin we ſee nothing but deceit. All that we have, and all that we know is but abuſe and vanitie. Death only can reſtore us both life and light: and we thinke (ſo blockiſh we are) that ſhe comes to robbe us of them. We ſay we are Chriſtians: that we beleeve after this mortall, a life immortall: that death is but a ſeparation of the body and ſoule: and that the ſoule returnes to his happie abode, there to joy in God, who only is all good: that at the laſt day it ſhall againe take the body, which ſhal no more be ſubject to corruptiōon. With theſe goodly diſcourſes we fill all our bookes: and in the meane while, whēen it comes to the point, the very name of death as the horribleſt thing in the world makes us quake & tremble. If we beleve as we ſpeak, what is that we feare? to be happy? to be at our eaſe? to be more content in a momēent, then we might be in the longeſt mortal life that might be? or muſt not we of force confeſſe, that we beleve it but in part? that all we have is but words? that all our diſcourſes, as of theſe hardie trencher knights, are but vaunting and vanitie? Some you ſhall ſee, that wil ſay: I know well that I paſſe out of this life into a better: I make no doubt of it: only I feare the midway ſtep, that I am to ſtep over. Weak harted creatures! they wil kill thēemſelves to get their miſerable living: ſuffer infinite paines, and infinite wounds at another mans pleaſure: paſſe infinit deaths without dying, for things of 32 D4v of nought, for things that periſh, and perchance make them periſh with them. But when they have but one pace to paſſe to be at reſt, not for a day, but for ever: not an indifferent reſt, but ſuch as mans minde cannot comprehende: they tremble, their harts faile them, they are affrayde: and yet the ground of their harme is nothing but feare. Let them never tell me, they apprehend the paine: it is but an abuſe: a purpoſe to conceale the litle faith they have. No, no, they would rather languiſh of the goute, the ſciatica, any diſeaſe whatſoever: then dye one ſweete death with the leaſt paine poſsible: rather pininglie dye limme after limme, outliving as it were, all their ſences, motions, and actions, then ſpeedily dye, immediatly to live for ever. Let them tell me no more that they would in this world learne to live: for every one is thereunto ſufficiently inſtructed in himſelfe, and not one but is cunning in the trade. Nay rather they ſhould learne in this world to dye: and once to dye well, dye dayly in themſelves: ſo prepared, as if the ende of every dayes worke, were the ende of our life. Now contrarywiſe there is nothing to their eares more offenſive, then to heare of death. Senſeleſſe people! we abandon our life to the ordinarie hazards of warre, for ſeaven franks pay: are formoſt in an aſſault, for a litle bootie: goe into places, whence there is no hope of returning, with danger many times both of bodies and ſoules. But to free us from all hazards, to winne things ineſtimable, to enter an eternall life, we faint in the paſſage of one pace, wherein is no difficultie, but in opinion: yea we ſo faint, that were it not of force we muſt paſſe, and that God in deſpite of us will doe us a good turne, hardly ſhould we finde in all the world one, how unhappy or wretched ſoever, that would ever paſſe. Another will ſay, had I lived till 50. or 60. yeares, I ſhould have bin contented: I ſhould not have cared to live longer: but to dye ſo yong is no reaſon. 33 E1r reaſon. I ſhould have knowen the world before I had left it. Simple ſoule! in this world there is neither young nor olde. The longeſt age in compariſon of all that is paſt, or all that is to come, is nothing: and when thou haſt lived to the age thou now deſireſt, all the paſt will be nothing: thou wilt ſtill gape, for that is to come. The paſt will yeeld thee but ſorrowe, the future but expectation, the preſent no contentment. As ready thou wilt then be to redemaund longer reſpite, as before. Thou flieſt thy creditor from moneth to moneth, and time to time, as readie to pay the laſt daye, as the firſt: thou ſeekeſt but to be acquitted. Thou haſt taſted all which the world eſteemeth pleaſures: not one of them is new unto thee. By drinking oftener, thou ſhalt be never awhit the more ſatisfyed: for the body thou carieſt, like the bored paile of Danaus daughters, will never be full. Thou mayſt ſooner weare it out, then weary thy ſelfe with uſing, or rather abuſing it. Thou craveſt long life to caſt it away, to ſpend it on worthles delights, to miſpend it on vanities. Thou art covetous in deſiring, and prodigall in ſpending. Say not thou findeſt fault with the Court, or the Pallace: but that thou deſireſt longer to serve the commonwealth, to ſerve thy countrie, to ſerve God. He that ſet thee on worke knowes untill what day, and what houre, thou ſhouldeſt be at it: he well knowes how to direct his worke. Should he leave thee there longer, perchance thou wouldeſt marre all. But if he will pay thee liberally for thy labour, as much for halfe a dayes worke, as for a whole: as much for having wrought till noone, as for having borne all the heate of the day: are thou not ſo much the more to thanke and prayſe him? but if thou examine thine owne conſience, thou lamenteſt not the cauſe of the widdow, and the orphan, which thou haſt left depending in judgement: not the dutie E of 34 E1v of a ſonne, of a father, or of a frend, which thou pretendeſt thou wouldeſt performe: not the ambaſſage for the common wealth, which thou wert even ready to undertake: not the ſervice thou deſireſt to doe unto God, who knowes much better howe to ſerve himſelfe of thee, then thou of thy ſelfe. It is thy houſes and gardens thou lamenteſt, thy imperfect plottes and purpoſes, thy life (as thou thinkeſt) imperfect: which by no dayes, nor yeares, nor ages, might be perfected: and yet thy ſelfe mightſt perfect in a moment, couldeſt thou but thinke in good earneſt, that where it ende it skilles not, ſo that it end well.
Now to end well this life, is onely to ende it willingly: following with full conſent the will and direction of God, and not ſuffering us to be drawen by the neceſsitie of deſtenie. To end it willingly, we muſt hope, and not feare death. To hope for it, we muſt certainely looke after this life, for a better life. To looke for that, wee muſt feare God: whome whoſo well feareth, feareth indeede nothing in this worlde, and hopes for all things in the other. To one well reſolved in theſe points death can be but ſweete and agreeable: knowing that through it hee is to enter into a place of all joyes. The griefe that may be therein ſhall bee allaied with ſweetnes: the ſufferance of ill, ſwallowed in the confidence of good: the ſting of Death it ſelfe ſhall bee dead, which is nothing elſe but Feare. Nay, I wil ſay more, not onely all the evilles conceived in death ſhall be to him nothing: but he ſhall even ſcorne all the miſhappes men redoubt in this life, and laugh at all theſe terrors. For I pray what can he feare, whoſe death is his hope? Thinke we to baniſh him his country? He knows he hath a country other-where, whence wee cannot baniſh him: and that all theſe countries are but Innes, out of which he muſt part at the wil of his hoſte. To put him in 35 E2r in priſon? a more ſtraite priſon he cannot have, then his owne body, more filthy, more darke, more full of rackes and torments. To kill him and take him out of the worlde? that is it he hopes for: that is it with all his heart he aſpires unto. By fire, by ſworde, by famine, by ſickeneſſe: within three yeeres, within three dayes, within three houres, all is one to him: all is one at what gate, or at what time he paſſe out of this miſerable life. For his buſineſſes are ever ended, his affaires all diſpatched, and by what way he ſhall go out, by the ſame hee ſhall enter into a moſt happie and everlaſting life. Men can threaten him but death, and death is all he promiſeth himſelfe: the worſt they can doe, is, to make him die, and that is the beſt hee hopes for. The threatnings of tyrants are to him promiſes, the ſwordes of his greateſt enemies drawne in his favor: foraſmuch as he knowes that threatning him death, they threathen him life: and the moſt mortall woundes can make him but immortall. Who feares God, feares not death: and who feares it not, feares not the worſt of this life.
By this reckoning, you will tell me death is a thing to be wiſhed for: and to paſſe from ſo much evill, to ſo much good, a man ſhoulde as it ſeemeth caſt away his life. Surely, I feare not, that for any good wee expect, we will haſten one ſtep the faſter: though the ſpirite aſpire, the body it drawes with it, withdrawes it ever ſufficiently towardes the earth. Yet is it not that I conclude. We muſt ſeeke to mortifie our fleſh in us, and to caſt the world out of us: but to caſt our ſelves out of the world is in no ſort permitted us. The Chriſtian ought willingly to depart out of this life but not cowardly to runne away. The Chriſtian is ordained by God to fight therein: and cannot leave his place without incurring reproch and infamie. But if it pleaſe the grande E2 Captaine 36 E2v Captaine to recall him, let him take the retrait in good part, and with good will obey it. For hee is not borne for himſelfe, but for God: of whome he holdes his life at farme, as his tenant at will, to yeeld him the profites. It is in the landlord to take it from him, not in him to ſurrender it, when a conceit takes him. Dieſt thou yong? praiſe God as the mariner that hath had a good winde, ſoone to bring him to Porte. Dieſt thou olde? praiſe him likewiſe, for if thou haſt had leſſe winde, it may be thou haſt alſo had leſſe waves. But thinke not at thy pleaſure to go faſter or ſofter: for the winde is not in thy power, and in ſteede of taking the ſhorteſt way to the Haven, thou maieſt happily ſuffer ſhipwracke. God calleth home from his worke, one in the morning, an other at noone, and an other at night. One he exerciſeth til the firſt ſweate, another he ſunneburneth, another he roſteth and drieth throughly. But of all his he leaves not one without, but brings them all to reſt, and gives them all their hire, every one in his time. Who leaves his worke before God call him, looſes it: and who importunes him before the time, looſes his reward. We muſt reſt us in his will, who in the middeſt of our troubles ſets us at reſt.
To ende, we ought neither to hate this life for the toiles therein, for it is ſlouth and cowardiſe: nor love it for the delights, which is follie and vanitie: but ſerve us of it, to ſerve God in it, who after it ſhall place us in true quietneſſe, and repleniſh us with pleaſures whiche ſhall never more periſh. Neyther ought we to flye death, for it is childiſh to feare it: and in flieng from it, wee meete it. Much leſſe to ſeeke it, for that is temeritie: nor every one that would die, can die. As much deſpaire in the one, as cowardiſe in the other: in neither any kinde of magnanimitie. It is enough that we conſtantly and continually waite for her comming, 37 E3r comming, that ſhee may never finde us unprovided. For as there is nothing more certaine then death, ſo is there nothing more uncertaine then the houre of death, knowen onlie to God, the onlie Author of life and death, to whom wee all ought endevour both to live and die.
The 1590-05-1313. of May 1590. At Wilton.