« AnteriorContinuar »
This descending to the grave is the lot of all men, “neither doth God respect the person of any man;' the rich is not protected for favour, nor the poor for pity, the old man is not reverenced for his age, nor the infant regarded for his tenderness; youth and beauty, learning and prudence, wit and strength, lie down equally in the dishonours of the grave. All men, and all natures, and all persons resist the addresses and solennities of death, and strive to preserve a miserable and unpleasant life; and yet they all sink down and die. For so have I seen the pillars of a building assisted with artificial props bending under the pressure of a roof, and pertinaciously resisting the infallible and prepared ruin,
Donec longa dies omni compage soluta
Ipsum cum rebus subruat auxilium, till the determined day comes, and then the burden sunk upon the pillars, and disordered the aids and auxiliary rafters into a common ruin and a ruder grave: so are the desires and weak arts of man; with little aids and assistances of care and physic we strive to support our decaying bodies, and to put off the evil day; but quickly that day will come, and then neither angels nor men can rescue us from our grave; but the roof sinks down upon the walls, and the walls descend to the foundation; and the beauty of the face, and the dishonours of the belly, the discerning head and the servile feet, the thinking heart and the working hand, the eyes and the guts together shall be crushed into the confusion of a heap, and dwell with creatures of an equivocal production, with worms and serpents, the sons and daughters of our own bones, in a house of dirt and darkness.
Let not us think to be excepted or deferred: if beauty, or
wit, or youth, or nobleness, or wealth, or virtue could have been a defence, and an excuse from the grave, we had not met here to-day to mourn upon the hearse of an excellent lady: and God only knows for which of us next the mourners shall go about the streets' or weep in houses.
We have lived so many years; and every day and every minute we make an escape from those thousands of dangers and deaths that encompass us round about, and such escapings we must reckon to be an extraordinary fortune, and therefore that it cannot last long. Vain are the thoughts of man, who when he is young or healthful thinks he hath a long thread of life to run over, and that it is violent and strange for young persons to die, and natural and proper only for the aged. It is as natural for a man to die by drowning as by a fever: and what greater violence or more unnatural thing is it that the horse threw his rider into the river, than that a drunken meeting cast him into a fever? And the strengths of youth are as soon broken by the strong sicknesses of youth, and the stronger intemperance, as the weakness of old age by a cough, or an asthma, or a continual rheum. Nay, it is more natural for young men and women to die than for old; because that is more natural which hath more natural causes, and that is more natural which is most common: but to die with age is an extreme rare thing; and there are more persons carried forth to burial before the five and thirtieth year of their age than after it. And therefore let no vain confidence make you hope for long life: if you have lived but little, and are still in youth, remember that now you are in your biggest throng of dangers both of body and soul; and the proper sins of youth, to which they rush infinitely and without consideration, are also the proper and immediate instruments of death. But if you be old you have escaped long and wonderfully, and the time of your escaping is out: you must not for ever think to live upon wonders, or that God will work miracles to satisfy your longing follies, and unreasonable desires of living longer to sin and to the world. Go home and think to die, and what you would choose to be doing when you die, that do daily: for
you will all come to that pass to rejoice that you or wish that you had : that will be the condition of every one of us; for God regardeth no man's person.'
PRAYER is the peace of our spirit, the stillness of our thoughts, the evenness of recollection; the seat of meditation, the rest of our cares, and the calm of our tempest ; prayer is the issue of a quiet mind, of untroubled thoughts, it is the daughter of charity, and the sister of meekness; and he that prays to God with an angry, that is, with a troubled and discomposed spirit, is like him that retires into a battle to meditate, and sets up his closet in the out-quarters of an army, and chooses a frontier garrison to be wise in. Anger is a perfect alienation of the mind from prayer, and therefore is contrary to that attention which presents our prayers in a right line to God.
For so have I seen a lark rising from his bed of grass, and soaring upwards, singing as he rises, and hopes to get to heaven, and climb above the clouds; but the poor bird was beaten back with the loud sighings of an eastern wind, and his motion made irregular and unconstant, descending more at every breath of the tempest, than it could recover by the libration and frequent weighing of its wings; till the little creature was forced to sit down and pant, and stay till the storm was over; and then it made a prosperous flight, and did rise and sing, as if it had learned music and motion from an angel as he passed sometimes through the air about his ministries here below: so is the prayer of a good man; when his affairs have required business, and his business was matter of discipline, and his discipline was to pass upon a sinning person, or had a design of charity, his duty met with infirmities of a man, and anger was its instrument, and the instrument became stronger than the prime agent, and raised a tempest, and overruled the man; and then his prayer was broken, and his thoughts were troubled, and his words went up towards a cloud, and his thoughts pulled them back again, and made them without intention; and the good man sighs for his infirmity, but must be content to lose the prayer, and he must recover it when his anger is removed, and his spirit is becalmed, made even as the brow of Jesus, and smooth like the heart of God; and then it ascends to heaven upon the wings of the holy Dove, and dwells with God, till it returns, like the useful bee, loaden with a blessing and the dew of heaven.
Forbearance in Little Things.
LET man and wife be careful to stifle little things, that as fast as they spring they be cut down and trod upon; for if they be suffered to grow by numbers, they make the spirit peevish, and the society troublesome, and the affections loose and easy by an habitual aversation. Some men are more vexed with a fly than with a wound; and when the gnats disturb our sleep, and the reason is disquieted but not perfectly awakened, it is often seen that he is fuller of trouble than if in the daylight of his reason he were to contest with a potent enemy. In the frequent little accidents of a family a man's reason cannot always be awake; and when his discourses are imperfect, and a trifling trouble makes him yet more restless, he is soon betrayed to the violence of passion. It is certain that the man or woman are in a state of weakness and folly then when they can be troubled with a trifling accident, and therefore it is not good to tempt their affections when they are in that state of danger. In this case the caution is to subtract fuel from the sudden flame; for stubble though it be quickly kindled, yet it is as soon extinguished if it be not blown by a pertinacious breath, or fed with new materials. Add no new provocations to the accident, and do not inflame this, and peace will soon return, and the discontent will pass away soon as the sparks from the collision of a flint: ever remembering that discontents proceeding from daily little things, do breed a secret undiscernible disease which is more dangerous than a fever proceeding from a discerned notorious surfeit.
I END with a story which I find in the Jews' books. When Abraham sat at his tent-door, according to his custom, waiting to entertain strangers; he espied an old man stooping and leaning on his staff, weary with age and travel, coming towards him, who was a hundred years of age. He received him kindly, washed his feet, provided supper, caused him to sit down; but observing that the old man eat and prayed not, nor begged for a blessing on his meat, he asked him why he did not worship the God of heaven: the old man told him that he worshipped the fire only, and acknowledged no other god; at which answer Abraham grew so zealously angry that he thrust the old man out of his tent, and exposed him to all the evils of the night and an unguarded condition. When the old man