Obrazy na stronie







I HAVE undertaken a great task, to teach men how to be happy in this life. I have undertaken, and performed it. Wherein I have followed Scneca ; and gone beyond him: followed him, as a Philosopher; gone beyond him, as a Christian, us a Divine : finding it a true censure of the best moralists, that they were like to goodly ships, graced with great titles, the Saveguard, the Triumph, the Goodspeed, and such like; when yet they have been both extremely sea-beaten, and at last wrecked. The volume is little ; perhaps the use, more. I have ever thought, according to the Greek Proverb, ubyee Bißríov Méya nenòy. What it is, even justice challengeth it to him, to whom the author hath devoted himself. The children of the bondman are the goods of the parent's master. I humbly betake it to your Honour's protection, and your Honour to the protection of the Highest

. .

Your Honour's most humbly devoted, in all duty and service,


[blocks in formation]

respect of

the displeasure of God. To do nothing doubtingly. To perform all required duties.

To depend wholly on the providence

our estate.

of God.

To account our own estate best.





Censure of Philosophers,

WHEN I had studiously read over the moral writings of some wise heathen, especially those of the Stoical profession, I must confess, I found a little envy and pity striving together within me: I envied nature in them, to see her so witty in devising such plausible refuges for doubting and troubled minds: I pitied them, to see that their careful disquisition of true rest led them, in the end, but to mere unquietness. Wherein, methought, they were as hounds swift of foot, but not exquisite in scent; which, in a hasty pursuit, take a wrong way; spending their mouths and courses in vain. Their praise of guessing wittily they shall not lose : their hopes, both they lost, and whosoever follows them.

If Seneca could have had grace to his wit, what wonders would he have done in this kind! what Divine might not have yielded him the chair, for Precepts of Tranquillity, without any disparagement? As he was, this he hath gained: never any heathen wrote more di vinely; never any philosopher more probably.

Neither would I ever desire better master, if, to this purpose, I needed no other mistress than nature. But this, in truth, is a task, which nature hath never, without presumption, undertaken; and never performed, without much imperfection: like to those vain and wandering empirics, which, in tables and pictures, make great ostentation of cures; never approving their skill to their credulous patients. And, if she could have truly effected it alone, I know not what employment in this life she should have left for grace to busy herself about, nor what privilege it should have been here be low to be a Christian: since this, that we seek, is the noblest work of the soul; and in which alone, consists the only heaven of this world: this is the sum of all human desires; which when we have attained, then only we begin to live, and are sure we cannot thenceforth live miserably. No marvel then, if all the heathen have diligently sought after it; many, wrote of it; none, attained it. Not Athens must teach this lesson; but Jerusalem,

SECT. II. What Tranquilliy is, and wherein it consists. Yet something grace scorneth not to learn of nature; as Moses may take good counsel of a Midianite.

Nature hath ever had more skill in the end, than in the way to it; and, whether she have discoursed of the good estate of the mind, which we call Tranquillity, or the best, which is happiness, hath more happily guessed at the general definition of them, than of the means to compass them.

She teacheth us therefore, without controulment, that the Tranquillity of the mind is, as of the sea and weather, when no wind stirreth, when the waves do not tumultuously rise and fall upon each other; but when the face, both of the heaven and waters, is still, fair, and equable: that it is such an even disposition of the heart, wherein the scales of the mind neither rise up towards the beam, through their own lightness, or the over-weening opinion of prosperity, nor are too much depressed with any load of sorrow; but, hanging equal and unmoved betwixt both, give a man liberty in all occurrences to enjoy himself.

Not that the most temperate mind can be so the master of his passions, as not sometimes to over-joy his grief, or over-grieve his joy, according to the contrary occasions of both : for not the even. est weights, but at their first putting into the balance, somewhat sway both parts thereof, not without some shew of inequality ; which yet, after some little motion, settle themselves in a meet poise. It is enough, that, after some sudden agitation, it can return to itself; and rest itself, at last, in a resolved peace.

And this due composedness of mind we require unto our Tranquillity, not for some short fits of good mood, which soon after end in discontentment; but with the condition of perpetuity : for there is no heart makes so rough weather, as not sometimes to admit of a calm; and, whether for that he knoweth no present cause of his trouble, or for that he knoweth that cause of trouble is countervailed with as great an occasion of private joy, or for that the multitude of evils hath bred carelessness, the man, that is most disordered, finds some respites of quietness. The balances, that are most ill matched, in their unsteady motions come to an equality, but not stay at it. The frantic man cannot avoid the imputation of madness, though he be sober for many moons, if he rage in one.

So then, the calm mind inust be settled in a habitual rest : not then firm, when there is nothing to shake it; but then least shaken, when it is most assailed,

SECT. II. Insufficiency of human precepts.--Seneca's rules of tranquillity abridged.

- Rejected as insufficient.--- Disposili n of the work. WHENCE easily appears, how vainly it hath been sought, either in such a constant estate of outward things, as should give no distaste to the mind, while all earthly things vary with the weather, and have no stay but in uncertainty ; or, in the natural temper of the soul, so ordered by human wisdom, as that it should not be affected with

any casual events to either part: since that cannot ever, by natural power, be held like to itself; but, one while, is cheerfui, stirring, and ready to undertake; another while, drowsy, dull, comfortless, prone to rest, weary of itself, loathing his own purposes, his own resolutions.

In both which, since the wisest philosophers have grounded all the rules of their Tranquillity, it is plain that they saw it afar off, as they did heaven itself, with a desire and admiration, but knew not the way to it: whereupon, alas, how slight and impotent are the remedies they prescribe for unquietness ! For what is it, that, for the inconstancy and laziness of the mind, still displeasing itself in what it doth; and, for that distemper thereof, which ariseth from the fearful, unthriving, and restless desires of it; we should ever be employing ourselves in some public affairs, choosing our business according to our inclination, and prosecuting what we have chosen? wherewith being at last cloyed, we should retire ourselves, and wear the rest of our time in private studies that we should make due comparative trials of our own ability, nature of our businesses, disposition of our chosen friends ? that, in respect of patrimony, we should be but carelessly affected; so drawing it in, as it may be least for shew, most for use; removing all pomp, bridling our hopes, cutting off superfluities ? for crosses, to consider, that custom will abate and mitigate them; that the best things are but chains and burdens to those that have them, to those that use them; that the worst things have some mixture of comfort, to those that groan under them? Or, leaving these lower rudiments that are given to weak and simple novices, to examine those golden rules of morality, which are commended to the most wise and able

practitioners : what it is, to account himself as a tenant at will; to foreimagine the worst, in all casual matters; to avoid all idle and impertinent businesses, all pragmatical meddling with affairs of state; not so to fix ourselves upon any one estate, as to be impatient of a change; to call back the mind' from outward things, and draw it home into itself; to laugh at and esteem lightly of others' misdemeanors; not to depend upon others' opinions, but to stand on our own bottons; to carry ourselves in an honest and simple truth, free from a curious hypocrisy, and affectation of seeming other than we are, and yet as free from a base kind of carelessness; to intermeddle retiredness with society, so as one may give sweetness to the other, and both to us, so slackening the mind that we may not loosen it, and so bending as we may not break it; to make the most of ourselves, cheering up our spirits with variety of recreations, with satiety of meals, and all other bodily indulgence, saving that drunkenness, methinks, can neither beseem a wise philosopher to prescribe, nor a virtuous man to practise ? All these, in their Linds, please well, profit much, and are as sovereign for both

« PoprzedniaDalej »